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Chapter 07. The Mauryan Empire (Indian History Notes)



There are two important sources of Mauryan history. One is the ‘Arthashastra’, written by Kautilya also known as Chanakya, the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya, which describes how a good government should be organized. The other source is ‘Indica’ written in Greek by Megasthenes, the ambassador of Seleucus Necator at the court of Chandragupta. Megasthenes wrote not only about the capital city of Pataliputra but also about the Maurya Empire as a whole and about the society. The history of Ashoka’s reign can be framed on the basis of his edicts.
Other source is the ‘Mudrarakshasa’ written by Vishakhadatta in 5th century A.D. gives an interesting account of how Chandragupta with the help of Kautilya and a Paurava prince defeated the Nandas. Jain and Buddhist traditions also throw light on the history of the Mauryas. Jain scriptures refer to Chandragupta’s death and the Buddhist work, ‘Mahavamsa’, relates an account of the life and work of the king Ashoka. Malvikagnimitram written by Kalidasa throws enough light on the last years of the Mauryan rule and the ascendance of Pushyamitra Sunga.
Apart from the above sources, inscription of Junagarh and other inscriptions of Ashoka on rocks and pillars help us much in building the story of this age. The monuments belonging to the Mauryan period speak of the culture and civilization of this period. The stupas, viharas, and caves tell us about the development of art and architecture of this period. Let’s sec a glimpse of mauryan empire in the chart.

Introduction Chandragupta Maurya Bindusura Aftermath of Maurya Ashoka Mauryan Administration Mauryan Art and Architecture The Mauryan Empire CHANDRAGUPTA MAURYA (322-297 B.C.)

Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of Mauryan dynasty.
He took advantage of the growing weakness and unpopularity of the Nandas in the last days of their rule. With the help of Chanakya, he defeated the Nandas and established the rule of the Maurya dynasty.
Chandragupta erected a big empire which was not limited in Bihar but also extended to western and north-western India, and the Deccan. The Mauryas ruled over the whole of the subcontinent. In the north-west they penetrated over certain areas which were not included even in the British rule.
Chandragupata was a just king. He himself attended the court and gave justice. He appointed all the high officials of the states such as, the ‘Sachivas’ or ‘Amatyas’ ‘Mantrins’ or the High Ministers, the ‘Purohita’ or the High Priest, Spies, ‘Adhayakshas’, Who maintained correspondence with the Mantri parishad.
The administration of Patliputra was carried by six committees entrusted with sanitation care of foreigners, registration of birth and death, regulation of weights and measures and similar other functions. Chandragupta’s government was divided into two parts, the Central and the Provincial Governments. The empire was divided into a number of provinces which were subdivided into districts. But the exact number of provinces are not known.
According to the Jaina literature, in his last days Chandragupta
converted into Jainsim and giving up his throne in favour of his son Bindusara and became a monk.
Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara. He defeated the rulers of 16 kingdoms and added their lands to his empire. Under him, the Mauryan Empire spread across the whole of Indian subcontinent. Except for Kalinga (Orissa) and a few kingdoms in the south.

ASHOKA (273–232 B.C.)

Ashoka’s Dhamma
Dhamma is the Prakrit word form of the Sanskrit term ‘Dharma’ which means religious duty. Ashoka gave up the policy of conquest through war (dig-vijaya) and began to follow a policy of conquest through dharma (dharma-vijaya).
Ashoka’s Dhamma was related to norms of social behaviour and activities. Its norms are mentioned in Ashoka’s edits. Due to this policy, his name shines with unique brilliance.
Ashoka’s Contemporaries
Anitochus II Theos – Syria Ptolemy II Philadelpus – Egypt Magas – Cyme Antigonus Gonatas – Macedonia Alexander – Epirus Post Ashoka period
According to Buddhist texts, Ashoka ruled for twenty-seven years. The subsequent history of the Mauryas under his successors is very inadequately known. This is because a state of disintegration seemed to have set in immediately after Ashoka’s death. The post-Ashokan period is a dark chapter in Indian history and no first-rate source-material is available on the period. Pillar Edict VII mentions Tivara as a son of Ashoka.
Three other sons-Junala, Jaluka and Mahendra are known to literature. It appears on the evidence of the Vayu Purana that Junala ruled for eight years, but the extent of his dominions is not indicated therein. Moreover, Jain and Buddhist writers tell us that Samprati, the son of Junal, who was incapable of ruling because of blindness, immediately succeeded Ashoka to the throne of Patliputra.
The tenth and the last of the Mauryas was Brihadratha who, according to the testimony of Banabhatta, was murdered by his general Pushyamitra and who ascended the throne in 187 B.C. The empire founded by him is known as Sunga
Dynasty. With Brihadratha’s death (185 B.C.) this historic rule of the Mauryas came to an end within less than half a century of Ashoka’s death and 137 years since its foundation by Chandragupta Maurya.
Decline of Mauryan Empire
(i) Harprasad Shastri holds that Brahmanical reaction was responsible for the downfall of the Mauryan empire.
(ii) D.D. Koshambi says that heavy economic pressure was the chief cause for the downfall of the Mauryan empire.
(iii) Ghosal says that propagation of Buddhism during Ashoka’s period disturbed brahmanical social and religious order, which weakened the state.
(iv) Romila Thapar says that nature of organisation or administration and the faulty conception of state ultimately caused the downfall of the empire.

BINDUSARA (297–273 B.C.)

Ashoka was the most famous Mauryan king and one of the greatest rulers. The British historian H.G Wells had this to say about Ashoka—Amidst the tens of thousands names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history… the name of Ashoka shines and shines almost alone, like a star.
Ashoka governed his kingdom well. His numerous rock and pillar edict, spread over a large part of India, give a lot of information about this great ruler.
Kalinga War (261 B.C.): When Ashoka became the king, Kalinga was the only kingdom which was not under Mauryan control. Kalinga was important as it controlled the land and sea routes to south India and south-east Asia. Ashoka attacked Kalinga and conquered it after a fierce battle.
The war with Kalinga was a turning point in the life of Ashoka. The death, destruction and suffering that he saw in the war made him very sad. He realized the futility of fighting a war and vowed not to fight any more wars. He devoted the rest of his life to serve his people.
Like his predecessors, Ashoka asumed the title of Priyadarshi
(pleasing to look at) and Devanampriya (beloved of Gods). In the Sarnath inscription, he adopted the third title, i.e. Dharmshoka.
Ashoka’s Rock Edicts
Major rock edicts (a set of 14 inscription) found at following 8 places: Dhauli, Givnav, Jauguda, Kalsi, Mansehra, Shahbazgarhi, Sopara and Yenagrdi.
► Minor rock edicts found at 13 places: Bairat, Brahmagiri, Gavimath Gajarra, Jatinga-Rameshwar, Maski, Palkigunda, Meadagiri, Rupanath, Sasaram, Siddhapur, Suvarnagiri and Verragudi.
Contents of Rock Edicts
1st Major Rock Edict– Prohibition of animal sacrifice.
2nd Major Rock Edict- Related to measures of social welfare.
3rd Major Rock Edict- Respecting one’s parents.
4th Major Rock Edict- Impact of Dhamma, Non-violence towards animals.
5th Major Rock Edict- Appointment of Dhamma Mahamantras to spread Dhamma.
6th Major Rock Edict- Welfare measures of efficient administration.
7th Major Rock Edict- Peace, balance of mind and faith, tolerance.
8th Major Rock Edict- Details of Bodhi tree, Dhammasutras.
9th Major Rock Edict- Ceremony of Dhamma.
10th Major Rock Edict- Ashoka’s desire to Popularise Dhamma.
11th Major Rock Edict- Appraisal of Dhamma, Religious tolerance.
12th Major Rock Edict- Promoting religion of different faith.
13th Major Rock Edict- Kalinga’s destruction, mention of Greek rulers.
14th Major Rock Edict- Nature of all other rock edicts.
The Mauryan administration can be divided into four divisions— central, provincial, district and village. The administration of the city of Pataliputra was separate.
The king was the supreme authority. He took all important decisions concerning the empire. He was assisted by a council of ministers. They acted as the king’s advisors.
The empire was divided into many provinces each headed by a prince. He ruled the province as the representative of the king and was assisted by many officers.
Provinces were further divided into districts. The ‘Pradishikas’ was the head of the district. He was assisted by the ‘Yuktas’ and the ‘Rajukas’. He measured the land, collected tax and maintained law and order.
A number of villages made up a district. Villagers assisted government official in making the village boundaries, maintaining land records and collecting taxes. Each village had a headman who was chosen by the villagers themselves.
Mauryan Mantriparishad
Mantrin – Chief Minister Purohita – High Priest Senapati – Commander-in-charge Yuvaraj – Crowned Prince Samaharta – Collector of Revenue Yukta – Subordinate Officer-in-charge of Revenue of the king Prashasti – Head of Prisons Sannidata – Head of Treasury Nayaka – Head of City Security Paur – City Police Byabharika – Chief Judge Karmantika – Head of Industries and Factories Dandapala – Head of Police Durgapala – Head of Royal Fort Annapala – Head of the Food Grains Department Rajjukas – Officers responsible for land measurement and fixing its boundary.
Pradesika – Head of District Administration Judicial Administration
Justice was provided by the king, Pradeshika and Rajukas; at lowest level was the village headman. There were two types of courts:
(i) The civil courts redressing cases of marriage, contracts etc. were called ‘Dharmasthas’, (ii) Kantakasodhana: the criminal courts which tried criminal cases and tax evasion.
Mauryas owned a big army. According to Plinny, Chandragupta maintained 6,00,000 foot soldiers, 30, 000 cavalry and 900 elephants. According to Meghasthenese, the army was administered by six committees consisting of five members each, taken from a board of 30 officers.
It was important part of the Maurya administration; and was of two types-Santha and Sanchar, the former worked by remaining stationed at a public place and the latter by moving from place to place. The spies were the ears and eyes of the king. They were also called ‘Cudhapurshas’.
Revenue Administration
There were various sources of state revenues: cities (durga), rural areas (rashtra), mines (khan), road and traffic (vanikpatha), pastures (Vraja), Plantations (setu) and forests (vana).
Import Duties
Prabeshya or import duties were fixed at 20 per cent of the cost price. Panyadhyaksha and Pattanadhyaksha was respectively responsible to verify every import to the state. They were also responsible for the export of each article from the state and collected the revenue known as nishkramya.
Sales Tax: Taxes were imposed on every article before it was sold or purchased by Sulkadhyaksha. 9.5 per cent on items sold on the basis of calculation, 5 per cent on the items sold on the basis of measurement, and 6.5 per cent on the goods sold on the basis of weight.
Besides these, there were many other taxes collected by the state such as taxes on artisans and artist, taxes on animal slaughter-houses, taxes on manufacturing houses, taxes on gambling houses, on prostitutes, on the income of temples and on the additional incomes of the wage earners.
Social, Religious and Economic, Conditions Under The Mauryas
Kautilya’s Arthashastra and Megasthene’s Indica give a detailed view about the society and social condition of the people.
Varna or the caste-system and stages of religious discipline took a definite shape, which corresponds to Hindu castesystem.
Slavery was an established institution. Women were placed in high esteem. Yet, prostitution was in established institution. Festivals and merry gatherings were common. The people led simple and peaceful life and were inspired by the sense of morality and idealism.
The Jainism and Buddhism were the main religions. In addition, several minor religions including Ajivikas were also in existence. The Mauryan rulers took much pain to spread education and to set up literary standard of their subjects as well. The universities of Taxila and Banaras earned world fame for teaching Brahmanical and Buddhist literature.
Economic Conditions under the Mauryas
It was mainly based on agriculture as cultivators formed a majority of population, though trade was also important.
Some lands were owned by state called Sita Lands which were either cultivated by labourers or leased out to cultivators.


► Private Land owners required to pay taxes in the form of bali, bhaga, shulka, kara, etc.
State was also big traders.
► It also collected tolls through officials.
► Trade was also internal and to foreign countries.
► It exported spices, pearls, diamonds, cotton textiles, ivory works to Grees and Verma.
► It imported horses, gold, glass, linen, etc. from other countries.
► Balance of trade was very much in favour of India.


The period of Mauryas contributed significantly in the field of arts including architecture, sculpture, engineering, polishing, etc. The palace of Chandragupta was made of wood. Ashoka during his long reign further improved the wooden walls and buildings of the capital and added many attractive edifices, which could be traced from the site at Kumrahar. Ashoka constructed as good as 84,000 stupas. These buildings were solid and domic, made of rock or bricks. The art of sculpture or rock cutting also reached its zenith during Ashoka’s time.
Seven rock-cuts sanctuaries lying about 25 miles north of Gaya, Bihar, four on the Barabar hills and three on the Nagarjuna hills belong to the time of Ashoka and his successors. The caves are fine example of Mauryan art. The caves were used for religious ceremonies and also as assembly halls.
► The Mauryans introduced stone masonry on large scale.
► Fragments of stone pillars and stumps indicating the existence of an 80 pillared hall have been discovered at Kumrahar on outskirts of Patna.
► The pillars represent the masterpiece of Mauryan sculpture.
Each pillar is made of single piece of sandstone, only their capitals which are beautiful pieces of sculpture in the form of lion or bulls are joined with pillar on the top.
Single lion capital at Rampurva at Lauriya Nandangarh.
► Single bull capital at Rupurva.
Four lion capital at Sarnath and Sanchi.
► A carved elephant at Dhauli and engraved elephant at Kalsi.
► The Mauryan artisans also started the practice of hewing out caves from rocks for monks to live in. The earliest example is Barabar caves in Gaya.
► Stupas were built throughout the empire to enshrine the relics of Buddha. Of these, the most famous are at Sanchi and Barhut.
Categories of Ashoka’s Inscription
► Bhabru- Conversion to Buddhism.
Barabar Hills – Enjoins toleration.
Tarai Pillars – Respect to Buddhism.
14 Rock Edicts – Administration and ethics. Minor Rock Edict IV declares Dhammaghosh and not the Bherighosh to be ideal of human beings.
Minor Rock Edicts – Personal history of Ashoka and summary of Dhamma.
7 Pillar Rock Edicts – Appendix to Rock Edicts.
Another remarkable feature was the art of polishing monuments, pillars, caves made of hard rocks, etc. Art of engineering equally flourished. Civil Engineering was in highly advanced state and, therefore, so many spectacular buildings, stupas, pillars could be constructed with perfection and efficiency.
Also the art of jewellery attained a remarkable progress.
The punched marked silver coins of the Mauryas which carry the symbols of the peacock, and the hill and crescent were also a part of Court Art.
The other type of arts included the folk tradition of arts represented by figures of Yaksha and Yakshinis found from Besnagar, Daidrganj, etc. The abundance of beautiful pottery called Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) and terracotta figurines were another item of popular art.


The period which started in about 200 B.C. did not have any large empire like that of the Mauryas. In eastern India, central India and the Deccan, the Mauryas were succeeded by a number of native rulers such as the Sungas, the Kanvas and the Satavahanas. In north-western India they were succeded by a number of ruling dynasties from Central Asia.
Sunga Dynasty (185 – 71 B.C.)
The Sunga dynasty was founded by Pushyamitra who ruled for 36 years and his reign ended in 149 or 148 B.C. Pushyamitra was succeeded by his son, Agnimitra who was the governor of Vidisha during his father’s reign. He ruled for eight years.
Agnimitra was succeeded by Jyeshtha. The next important king of this dynasty was Vasumitra, who was the son of Agnimitra.
Another important king of this dynasty was Bhagabhadra. The ninth important king of this dynasty was Bhagvata who ruled for 32 years. The last king of this dynasty was Devabhuti or Devabhumi. He was put to death by his minister or amatya called Vasudeva Kanva. Thus, the kingdom of Magadha passed from the Sungas to Kanvas.
The Sunga dynasty occupies a very important place in the history of India. Their greatest achievement was the safeguarding of India from the invasion of Hunas. The Sunga Kings greatly encouraged the Brahman religion and literature.
Hunas were one of the fierce tribes from Central Asia. They have been periodically invading India since the Sunga period.
They were resisted by the rulers uptil the second half of the 5th century A.D. But the weakness of Gupta empire provided them with a chance and by A.D. 485 they were able to occupy eastern Malwa and a good portion of central India.
Kanva Dynasty (72 B.C. – 27 B.C.)
The rule of the Kanvas lasted for about 45 years. Four kings ruled during this period. Vasudeva ruled for a period of nine years and Bhumimitra for 14 years. Narayana held the reigns of administration for almost 12 years— Shusarma was the last of the Kanvas. During the Kanva dynasty, the Brahmanical reaction persisted.
Cheta (Chetis) Dynasty Of Kalinga
The history of Kalinga is not known with any degree of certainty till the first century B.C. The veil of obscurity is lifted by the far famed but damaged Hatigumpha (in the Udaygiri hill near Bhubaneswar) inscription. It records the exploits of Kharavela belonging to the Cheta or Cheti line of kings, founded by Maha Meghavahana. According to the testimony of the inscription of Kharavela, aged 24, ascended the throne of Kalinga probably in 25 B.C. after having served apprenticeship as Yuvaraja for eight years. The inscription which accounts for the 13 years of Kharavela’s rule, describes in detail the digvijaya of the Kalinga prince.
Age of Satvahanas (235 B.C. – 100 B.C.)
The most important of the native successors of the Mauryas in the Deccan and in central India were the Satavahanas. The Satvahanas also known as Andhras ruled the Deccan for 300 years. Pratisthana was their capital. Some powerful rulers were Sri Sata-karni, Vasishtaputra Palimahi, Yajunasri Sata- Karni and Gautmiputra Sri Sata-karni. The most powerful among them all was satavahanas. He fought against the other kingdoms and expanded his empire.
The Satavahanas established a powerful empire. Continuous military conflicts, especially against the Shakas, however, gradually weakened them. Eventually, the empire broke up into many smaller kingdoms.
The Satavahana kingdom had three grades of feudatories. The highest grade was formed by the king who was called raja who had the right to strike coins. The second grade was formed by the mahabhoja and the third grade by the senapati. It seems that these feudatories and landed beneficiaries enjoyed some authority in their respective localities.
Increasing craft and commerce in this period brought many merchants and artisans to the forefront. Both artisans and merchants made generous donations to the Buddhist cause.
They set up small memorial tablets. Among the artisans, the ganghikas or the perfumers are repeatedly mentioned as donor.
At a later stage the term gandhika became so general as to denote all kinds of shopkeepers.
Many temples and monasteries were cut out of the solid rock in the north-western Deccan or Maharashtra with great skill and patience. The two common structures were the temple which was called chaitya vihara. The chaitya was a large hall with a number of columns, and the vihara consisted of a central hall entered by a doorway from a verandah in front.
Invasions from The Central Asia
The Indo-Greek (190 B.C.)
The first invaders were the Greeks, who are called the Indo- Greeks or Bactrian Greeks. In the Beginning of the second century B.C., the Indo-Greeks occupied a large part of northwestern India, much larger than that conquered by Alexander.
Two Greek dynasties ruled north-western India on parallel lines at one and the same time. The most famous Indo-Greek ruler was Menander (165- 145 B.C.) with his capital of Sakala
in Punjab. We know this, from the famous treatise ‘Milinda Panha’ written by Nagasena.
The Indo-Greeks were the first rulers in India to issue coins which can be definitely attributed to the kings. The earlier punch marked coins were though in gold definitely attributed to the kings. The earlier coins were not easy to be assigned with any dynasty. The Indo-Greeks were the first to issue gold coins in India, which increased in number under the Kushans. The Greek rule is also memorable on account of the introduction of Hellenistic features in the north-west frontier of India, giving rise to the Gandhara art.
The Sakas (90 B.C. – Ist A.D.)
The most famous Saka ruler in India was Rudradaman-I (A.D. 130-150). Rudradaman was a great lover of sanskrit.
Although a foreigner settled in India, he issued the first-ever long inscription in chaste Sanskrit.
The Parthians (19-45 A.D.)
The Saka kingdom in north-western India was followed by that of the Parthians, and in many ancient Indian Sanskrit texts the two peoples are together mentiones as Saka-Pahlavas.
In fact, they ruled over this country on parallel lines for some time. The most famous Parthian king was Gondophernes.
The Kushanas (45 A.D. – 73 A.D.)
The Parthians were succeeded by the Kushans. The Kushans established a powerful empire in north India. They defeated the Indo-Greeks, the Pahlavas and the Shakas and established themselves in the region around Takshashila and Peshawar.
Later, they occupied Kashmir, Punjab and parts of present day Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
The greatest of the Kushana rulers was Kanishka. He established a vast empire which included parts of central Asia.
Purashapura (modern Peshawar) was the capital of his empire.
Mathura was another important city in his empire.
There were two successive dynasties of the Kushans. The first dynasty was founded by a house of chiefs who were called Kadphises and who ruled for 28 years from about A.D. 50. It had two kings. The First was Kadphises I, who issued coins in the south of the Hindukush.
The house of Kadphises was bigger by that of Kanishka. Its kingdom extended the Kushan power over upper India and the lower Indus basin. The early Kushan kings issued numerous gold coins with higher gold content than is found in the Gupta coins.
Impact of Central Asian Contacts
The impact of Saka-Kushana period can be witnessed in various fields such as pottery, trade and technology, polity, religion, art, science and technology, literature and learning.
Buddhist missionaries followed the merchants and due to this, the communication and trade with China improved.
The foreign rulers established relationship between Central Asia and India. The Central Asian conquerors implemented their rule on various petty native princes. This led to the development of a feudatory organization. The Sakas and the Kushans strengthened the idea of the divine origin of kingship.
Gradually, the Greeks, the Sakas, the Parthians and the Kushans lost their own identity and became completely Indianized. Some of the foreign rulers were converted to Vaishnavism and a few other adopted Buddhism. There were also some changes in Indian religions, i.e. Buddhism which developed a new form called the Mahayana and Hinayana, Kanishaka, an important Kushan ruler became a Buddhist convert and held the fourth Buddhist Council.
Indian craftsmen came into contact with the Greeks and the Romans, which gave rise to a new art called Gandhara School of Art. The Mathura Schools of Art flourished in the early centuries of the Christian era, and its products made of red sandstone are found even outside Mathura. In the south, Amravati Art became famous.
The foreign rulers patronized and cultivated Sanskrti literature.
Asvaghosha wrote the ‘Buddhacharita’, a biography of Buddha and composed ‘Saundarananda’ in Sanskrit kavya form. The progress of ‘Mahayana’ Buddhism led to the composition of several ‘avadanas’. Some of the important books of this genere were the ‘Mahavastu’ and the ‘Divyavadana’.
These foreigners introduced turban, tunic, trousers and heavy long coat, along with cap, helmets and boots used by the warriors.
Indian astronomy and astrology were more flourished due to the contact with the Greeks. Indian astrology in Sanskrit derived the term ‘horasastra’ from the Greek term ‘horoscope’. We also find that the Kushan copper coins in India were imitation of the Roman coins. Working on glass during this period was especially influenced by foreign ideas and practices.
Art and Architecture
The art and architecture were closely associated with religion.
As the society was predominantly Buddhist, the building of temples was least done. However, we find many important temples of the period, such as at Jhandial, Taxila, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh. The Sankarshan temple at Nagari, Apsita temple at Nagarjunakonda and the Besnagar temple are worth mentioning.
Rock Cut Architecture : According to British historian V.A.
Smith—“The art of polishing hard stone was carried out with such perfection that it is said to have become a lost art beyond modern powers.” Udayagiri caves are the most famous Jain cave temples situated in the hills of Khandagiri and Udaygiri and built by Kharavela, the Jain ruler of Kalinga. Out of 17 caves, the four most important Udaygiri caves are Rani Gumpha, Hathi Gumpha, Bag Gumpha and Machipuri Gumpha. The most important and distinct features of the Kalinga Rock cut architecture is the complete absence of Chaityas or a shrine cell with a stupa in the centre.
Stupas were normally built to enshrine the sacred relics of the Buddha or Bodhisattavas. The railings and gateway of Sanchi stupa was later enlarged by Sunga rulers. Other important stupas of the period are Bodh Gaya, Taxila, Amravati, Nagarjunakonda, etc.
Schools of Art
Kishana (Mathura) School of Art
From the beginning of the Christian era, Mathura became an important centre of artistic activity. The five centuries of indigenous art traditions were preserved and improved upon by the Mathura sculptors. Artist at Mathura used a purely indigenous style. They used spotted red sandstone. Apart from Buddhism, the artists also made statues of Hindu and Jain deities. The images produced at Mathura became models for succeeding generations of artists.
Gandhara School of Art
Besides Mathura arts, an important art was associated with Gandhara in the north-west. After the Greek invasion and during the period of the Kushanas, many artists from west Asia migrated to north-west India. This distinctive style which grew in the region of Gandhara is known as the Gandhara School of
Art. Since Mahayana, Buddhism encouraged image worship, artists created sculptures adopting themes from Buddha’s life and the Jataka stories. The school produced several pieces of fine sculpture in which this distinct style is clearly visible.
Evidence of Gandhara art has been found in Taxila and in ancient cities of Afghanistan.
Amravati School of Art
Apart from these arts there was the Amaravati school of Buddhist art which flourished in western Andhra Pradesh under the patronages of Satavahana rulers.
Crafts, Trade and Towns In The Post-Maurya Age
In ancient India, the age of the Sakas, Kushans, Satavahans (200 B.C.-A.D. 200) and the first Tamil states was the most flourishing period in the history of crafts and commerce.
Technological knowledge about the work of iron had made great progress. Cloth-making, silk-weaving and the making of arms and luxury articles also made progress.
The development in the field of crafts and commerce and the increasing use of money promoted the prosperity of numerous towns during this period. The important towns in north India such as Vaishali, Pataliputra, Varanasi, Kaushambi, Shravasti, Hastinapur, Mathura, Indraprastha are all mentioned in literary texts.
Tagar (Ter), Paithan, Dhanyakataka, Amaravati, Nagarjunakonda, Broach, Sopara, Arikamedu, Kaveripattanam were prosperous towns in the Satvahana period in western and south India.
Points to remember
► “Arthashastra” written by Kautilya and “Indica” by Megasthenes are two important sources of Mauryan history.
► Mauryan dynasty was founded by Chandra Gupta Maurya, who with the help of Chanakya defeated Nandas and established Mauryan empire.
► Mauryan empire was a vast empire which was extended to western and north-western India, and Deccan.
► Bindusara (293-273 BC) and Ashoka (273-232 BC) are among famous Mauryan Kings.
► Mauryan empire weakened gradually after Ashoka and came to an end within less than half a century after Ashoka death.
► Mauryan administration was divided into four division: central, provincial, district and village.
► Mauryan administration include king, Pradeshika and Rajukas.
► Mauryan owned a big army which consisted 6,00,000 foot soldiers, 30,000 cavalry and 700 elephants.
► Espionage was an important part of Mauryan administration and was of two types –Santha and Sanchar.
► Other important rulers after the Mauryas were– the Sungas (185-71 BC), ths Hunas, the kanvas, the Chetas, the Satvahanas.
► Many invaders from central Asia also ruled India—the Indo-Greek (190 BC), the Saka, (90 BC – 1st AD). The Parthians (19-45 AD), the Kushanas (45 B.C. – 73 AD)
► There has been a considerable impact of centre Asian contact in various fields e.q.–pottery, trade, technology, polity, art, religion, painting, architecture, etc.


The kingdom of the Cholas with its capital at Kaveripattanam
was started from Kavery delta to the adjoining region of modern Tanjore and Trichinopoly. One of their early kings, Karikala (A.D. 190), who figures very prominently in ancient literature, is credited with victories over the rulers of the neighbouring Pandya and Chera kingdoms and is believed to have even extended his authority over Ceylon. Towards the beginning of the fourth century A.D., the power of the Cholas began to decline mainly because of the rise of Pallavas on one hand and the continuous wars waged by the Pandyas and the Cheras on the other.


The kingdom of the Pandyas with its capital at Madurai extended to the modern districts of Madura, Ramnad, Tinnevelly and the southern parts of Travancore. References to the Pandyas occur in ancient literary works like the Mahabharata and the Jatakas as well as in Indica of Megasthenes. According to Ashokan edicts, the Pandyas were independent people living beyond the southern border of the Maurya empire. A Pandya king is also known to have sent as embassy to the court of the Roman emperor Augustus and Trojan.
The Three Southern Kingdoms

Kingdoms Capital Emblems Famous port
CholasUraiyur, late
CherasVanji or
BowMuzris, Tondi,
PandayasMaduraiCarpKorkai, Saliyur


The earliest reference to the Chera (Keralaputra) kingdom can be traced in the Ashokan inscriptions. It comprised the modern districts of Malabar, Cochin and Northerm Travancore. Its capital was Vanji, which is identified by some with a site of Periyar River, by others with Karur or Karuvur located in the western most Taluq of the Trichinopoly district.

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