THE MAURYAN EMPIRE


The mauryan empire was the first and one of the greatest empires to be established in Indian history.

This vast empire stretching from the valley of oxus of kaveri delta in the south.
Chandra Gupta Maurya (CGM) is the first Indian ruler who followed up the political unification of north India by extending his conquests beyond the barriers of vindhyas so as to bring both north and the south under the umbrella of one paramount power.

I.SOURCES OF MAURYAN HISTORY

1. Epigraphical evidence

The edicts of asoka are the oldest, the best preserved and the most precisely dated epigraphic records in India. the mystery of these epigraphs was unveiled by james princep in 1837, whe he deciphered the asokan brahmi script of these epigraphs and identified king “piyadassi” of the edicts with the asoka on the testimony of sri lankan chronicle dipavamsa and mahavastu, in which the title of piyadassi was given to asoka.

Asokan ins’s are of two types:

1. The smaller group consists of the declarations of the king as a lay Buddhist, which describe his own acceptance of Buddhism and his relationship the samgha.

2. The second group of imp ins’s described as proclamations (sasanas), consisting of the major and minor rock edicts and the pillar edicts describe his famous policy of dhamma.

A few ins’s were shifted from their original places. Two pillars – one from Topra (Haryana) and another from meerut (UP) were shifted to delhi by FST.

The Allahabad pillar was believed to have been originally at kaushmabi and was shifted to Allahabad by akbar.

The bairat was removed to Calcutta by cunninghan. On the basis of their content, character and chronology, these edicts are classified into nine groups.

(i) Fourteen major rock edicts: these 14 major rock edicts inscribed on large boulders were located at:

Kalsi (dehradun, UP), mahsehra (hazra dist, pakistan) and shahbazgiri (in Peshawar dist, Pakistan), Girnar (Gujarat), Sopara (near Bombay, MH), Dhauli and Jaugada (both in orissa), maski and yerragudi (both in AP).

(ii) Minor Rock Edicts: these minor rock edicts and ins’s have been found at Bairat, rupnath, sahsaram, rupnath, brahmagiri, gavimath, jatinga-rameshwar, maski (which for the first time mention king’s personal name Asoka), palkigundu, rajula-mandagiri, suvarnagiri, siddapura, yerragudi, gujjara and ahraura.

(iii) Northern Edicts: of the two northern edicts, the one found at taxila (Pakistan) is written in aramic script and the other found at kandahar (afghanistan) is bilingual, being inscribed in greek and aramic.

(iv) seven pilla edicts: seven pillar edicts exist at Allahabad, delhi-topra, delhi-meerut, nigali-sagar, lauriya-araraja, lauriya-nandangarh and rampurva.

The Asokan pillar at Allahabad contains two more later ins’s: one of the gupta ruler Samudragupta (prayaga prashasti written by harisena) describing his conquests and another form of the mughal emperor jahangir.

(v) minor pillar edicts: the minor pillar edicts have been found at sarnath, sanchi and kausambi.

The fourth minor pillar edict is known as the ‘Queen’s edict”.

These edicts were inscribed to check schism in the Buddhist samga. For instance, in the first three edicts asoka ordered that “whosoever, monk or nun, breaks up the samgha must be made to wear white garments and and to take up abode in a place other than a monastry”.

The commemorative pillar ins’s have been found at rummmindei (lummini or lumbini), the birth place of Buddha and at nigliva, where asoka enlarged the stupa of Buddha konakmana.

(vi) two kalinga rock edicts: two separate kalinga rock edicts, which supplement the series of 14 rock edicts are found at dauli and jaugada (orissa). These edicts describe asoka’s paternal concept of monarchy. These edicts further describe the humane principles of governanace on which the newly conquered province of kalinga was to be governed.

(vii) bhabru edict: it is incised on a boulder, now in Calcutta, which was removed from the top of a hill at bairat. This shows asoka’s reverence for Buddhism.

(viii) cave ins’s: these cave ins’s of asoka have been found in the barabara hills near gaya in bihar, which describe the donation of these caves by asoka to the sect of the ajivikas. The name of the barabara hill in the time of asoka was khalatika hill. The adjoining nagarjuni cave has three ins’s of dasaratha, the granandson of asoka.

(ix) sannatai minor rock edicts: the latest discovery of three more asokan minor rock edicts was made from sannati village in gulbarga dist of knk. With this discovery, historians believe that asoka had annexed the northern part of knk and the adjoining portions of “Andhra desa” during the third century BC. The rock edicts are identical in content, script, style and language to those found at yerragudi in kurnool dist.

Post-Mauryan ins:

Priyadarshi ins at taxila, lampaka or lamghan ins (on the bank of Kabul river near jalabad, afgh), the sohgaura (gorakhpur dist, UP) copper plate ins, and mahasthan ins of bogra dist of the third century BC. The last two ins’s deal with the relief measures to be adopted during a famine.

The junagarh rock ins of rudradaman of AD 150 contains an incidental reference to the Mauryas.

The script and language of the asokan ins’s:

The asokan ins’s are written in two scripts known as kharosthi and brahmi. The kharosthi is a cursive script written from right to left.

Of the asokan ins’s, only those at shahbazgarhi and manshera are written in this script. The other ins’s of asoka are well written in popular brahmi running from left to right, the mother of all Indian scripts, including Burmese, Tibetan, Sinhalese, etc.

Two northern ins’s found near taxila and kandahar are written in Aramaic and greek scripts.

Except for the kandahar ins, the language used in each case is prakrit with regional variations.

Asoka consistently used prakrit, the language spoken by the common masses.

2. Literary Sources

The literary sources on the history of the mauryas can be classified into the religious and secular literature.

Buddhist and Jain texts

The jataka stories tell us about the prevalent social order, existence of guilds, popular customs, a general picture of social and economic conditions of the Buddhist period, which continued broadly till the mauryan age.

The asokavadana and divyavadana are other two Buddhist texts, containing a collection of legends build around the personality of asoka and preserverd outside India mainly in Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist sources. These two avadanas contain information about bindusara, asoka’s expeditions to taxila to suppress a rebellion and about his conversion to Buddhism.

The sri lankan chronicles, the dipavamsa and the mahavamsa may also regarded as source materials, since they describe in great detail the part played by asoka in the spreading of Buddhism in sri lanka.

The dipavamsa was compiled between third century BC and fourth century AD, and the mahavamsa, historically a superior work, is believed to have been written in the 5th century AD.

A commentary on mahavamsa, known as mahavamsatika or vamsatthapakasini, composed in about the 10th century AD contains many legends on the mauryas.

Among the Buddhist non-canonical works mention may be made of the Mahayana work manjusrimulkalpa which covers a wide historical period from the seventh century BC to the eighth century AD and contains many imp facts including those of nandas and mauryas.

The jain work sthaviravali-charita or parisisthaparvan (a biography of chanakya) of hemachandra, provides very interesting information on CGM, such as his early life, conquest of magadha, and conversion to Jainism in the latter part of his reign.

The Vishnu purana describes the origin of nandas and their overthrow by kautilya and CGM.

Arthasashtra of kautilya

Of all the secular literary sources on the history of mauryas, the single most imp source is arthasashtra written by Kautilya also known as vishnugupta and chanakya.

This is a comprehensive treatise on statecraft and public administration.

It is divided into fifteen adhikaranas (sections) and 180 prakaranas (chapters) and is written in prose as well as in verse in Sanskrit.

There is no mention of CGM or mauryan rulers of pataliputra in the arthasashtra, but at the colophon it is recorded that the book was composed by “a person who owned the land and that was under the control of the nanda kings”.

Discovery of arthasashtra by R. Sama Shastri in 1924.

Of the remaining literary sources the mudrarakshasa of visakhadatta, a Sanskrit drama of the 4th century AD, describes the overthrow of the nandas by kautilya.

Among other secular literary sources dealing with mauryan history mention may be made of rajatarangini of kalhana written in the 12th century AD, the kathasaritasagara of somadeva nd brihatkathamanjari of kshemendra.

3. Foreign Sources
As a consequence of alexander’s invasion of India a number of greek travelers visited India. of the companions of Alexander on his campaigns, three are noted for their writings on India, viz.,

(i) Nearchus, whom Alexander deputed to explore the coast between the Indus and the Persian gulf.

(ii)Onesicritus, who took part in the voyage with Nearchus and afterwards wrote a book about it and India.

(iii) Arisobulus, whom Alexander entrusted with specific jobs in India.
Subsequent to these writers came the ambassadors from the Hellenistic kingdoms to the mauryan court.

Megasthenes, who was sent an ambassador to the court of CGM by Seleucus Nikator, the greek ruler of Persia and Babylon.

Other greek ambassadors or travelers who followed megasthenes were:

1. Deimachus, who resided for a long time in pataliputra as ambassador to the court of Bindusara.

2. Patrocles, the admiral of Seleucus

3. Timosthenes, admiral of the fleet of Ptolemy Philadelphus,

4. Dionysius, who was also sent as an ambassador to India.

As megasthenes original work indika has been lost, we learn about his observations from the quotations of the later greek authors among whom the following may be noted:

(i) Strabo (64 BC– 19 AD) wrote an imp geographical work on which chapter I deals with India on the basis of material drawn from the companions of Alexander and Megasthenes. Strabo refers to the matrimonial alliance between seleucus and CGM and women body guards of CGM.

(ii)Diodorous (1st century BC) who lived up to 36 BC and wrote an account of India taken from Megasthenes. His account is the earliest available greek account of India.

(iii)Pliny the Elder (1st Century AD), the author of natural history, an encyclopaedic work published about 75 AD gives the account of India based on greek sources and reports of western merchants.

(iv)Arrian (130-172 AD) who narrated the best available account of alexander’s expedition and india’s geography and social life, drawn extensively from the writings of nearchus, megasthenes and Eratosthenes, a greek geographer (276-195 BC).

(v) Plutarch (45-125 AD) whose lives includes chapters on life of Alexander and general account of India mentions CGM as Androkottus and writes that as a “youth he had seen Alexander”.

(vi) Justin (2nd century AD), author of an epitome, gives an account of alexander’s campaigns in India and CGM rise to power. Writing about CGM’s role in overthrowing the greek rule from the north-west India, Justin writes: “India, after the death of Alexander had shaken, as it were, the yoke of servitude from its neck, had put his governors to death. The architect of this liberation was sandrocottus (CGM)”.

J.W. McCrindle has compiled these greek and latin sources in his three famous books:

1. Ancient India as described by megasthenes and arrain.

2. Ancient India as described by Ptolemy

3. Ancient India as described in classical literature.

Besides the sources mentioned above, the travel accounts of the celebrated Chinese travelers fahien and huen-tsang who visited India during the fourth and seventh century AD respectively, are also relevant to the study of mauryan history.

4. Archaeological Excavation

A number of mauryan sites in north-west India and the ganges basin.

In the excavations conducted at Kumrahar and bulandi bagh near patna the remnants of the grand palace of CGM have been found.

The northern black polished (NBP) ware was the common pottery type used throughout the mauryan empire with the exception of southernmost area.

5. Art Evidence

Remains of the mauryan stupas, viharas and the animal capitals surmounting the pillars.

6. Numismatic Evidence

In the arthasashtra the silver pana with its sub-divisions is evidently recognized as the standard coin, while the copper mashaka with its divisions ranks as a token currency.

The coins in circulation during the mauryan period are known as punch-marked coins which neither bear the name of any of the mauryan rulers nor do they carry any date.

Most of these coins have only symbols like tree-in railing, sun, moon, mountain, animals birds, etc.

Punch-marked coins exists only in silver and copper, but the latter are later.

From most of the mauryan sites the NBP ware and punch-marked coins are found together during excavations.

Regarding the monetary conditions of the mauryan empire in asoka’s last years, we have a valuable data in the shape of the taxila hoard of punch-marked coins.

II. DYNASTIC HISTORY OF THE MAURYAS

The northern and eastern part of India, with capital at pataliputra, was under the powerful and extremely rich, but unpopular and oppressive, rule of the nandas.
The last nanda ruler was nicknamed as dhana nanda on account of the vast treasure accumulated by him by means of excessive taxation and exactions. The puranas refer to him as mahapadma nanda or mahapadmapati while the greek sources call him as agrammes, which has been translated as ugrasena nanda by some modern historians.

The Buddhist sources and mudrarakshasa refer to a well known story mentioning the last nanda king insulting Brahman chanakya.

CGM (BC 321-298)

The Buddhist source mahavamsa describes CGM as a scion of kshatriya clan of the moriyas of pipphalivana.

The jain tradition given in hemachandra’s parisisthaparvan relates CGM a son of a daughter of “the chief of peacock tamers”.

The mudrarakshasa of vishakadatta uses the term vrishala and kulahina for CGM.
Majority of the Buddhist sources connect CGM to the moriya clan and describe his humble early life. A2 these accounts CGM’s father was killed in a border fray and he was brought up by his maternal uncle.

Chanakya, finding the signs of royality in child CGM, brought him from his foster father and got him educated at Taxila, which was a great learning centre.

A2 Justin CGM was “born in humble life”.

Conquests of CGM

A2 the jain and greek sources it appears that CGM first liberated Punjab first from the greeks.

The jain work parisisthaparvan describes that chanakya made CGM enter into an alliance with a neighbouring king parvataka and the allied armies besieged pataliputra and forced nandas to capitulate. The nanda king was spared his life and permitted to leave pataliputra with his family and as much treasure as he could carry off in a single chariot.

The Sanskrit drama mudrarakshasa centres around chanakya’s “battle of intrigues” for the conquest of magadha.

The Buddhist work milinda-panho, describing the tale of war between the contending forces of the mauryas and nandas, mentions that the nanda army was led by its general baddasala.

“not long afterwards, androcottus who had by that time mounted the throne, presented seleucus with 500 elephants and overran and subdued the whole of India with an army of 600,000” – Plutarch.

CGM’s war with Seleucus (304 BC)

Seleucus, one of the generals of Alexander, who secured himself the throne of Babylon after the death of Alexander.

In or about 304-5 BC, he planned for the recovery of the Indian conquests of Alexander.

Taking the route along the Kabul river, he crossed the Indus. But the expedition proved abortive and ended in an alliance.

By the terms of the treaty, seleucus ceded to CGM the satrapies of Arachosis (kandahar) and the paropanisade (Kabul), together with portions of aria (heart) and gedrosia (baluchistan).

CGM on his part cemented this alliance by making a present to seleucus of 500 war-elephants.

There is a suggestion by Appian that there was a marriage alliance between the two kings so that seleucus became either the father-in-law or the son-in-law of CGM.
Seleucus further confirmed this alliance by sending megasthenes as an ambassador to the mauryan court.

Conquest of western and south India:

The girnar rock ins of rudradaman I of about 150 AD mentions the construction of a dam or reservoir by pushyagupta, the provincial governor (rashtriya) of CGM over the province of anarta and saurashtra (Gujarat).

CGM’s conquest of south India is first proved by the findspots of asoka’s ins’s in south India. secondly, asoka in his rock edicts II and XIII mentions his borders or immediate byas, satyaputras and keralaputras.

CGM in his old age abdicted the throne and retired to sravanbelgola in knk with his teacher, the jain saint bhadrabahu. He lived at sravanabelgola where some local ins’s still perpetuate his memory. The hill where he lived is still known as chandragiri.

Paltaliputra known to greek and latin writers as palibotra, palibothra, and palimbothra. The care of this metropolis was entrusted to a corporation of 30 members.

A2 the chronology of the mauryas given in puranas, CGM ruled for 24 years and his rule ended in either BC 301-300 or 298-97.

Bindusara

CGM was succeeded by his son bindusara. If jain tradition is to be believed the name of his mother was durdhara. The greek historian athenacs calls him amitrochates (Sanskrit Amitraghata ‘slayer of foes’ or amitrakhada ‘devourer of foes’).

The jain scholar hemachandra and the Tibetan historian taranath state that chanakya outlived CGM and continued as a minister of bindusara.

Bindusara appointed his eldest son sumana (also named susima) as his viceroy at taxila and asoka at ujjain.

The divyavadana tells the story of a revolt in taxila. When it went out of control for sumana or susima, bindusara deputed asoka to restore order.

A2 Greek sources, bindusara asked the Syrian king Antiochus I scoter “to buy and sent him sweet wine, dried figs and a philosopher”. Thereupon the Syrian king replied “we shall send you figs and wine, but the Greece laws forbid a philosopher to be sold”.

Pliny mentions that Ptolemy philladelphus of Egypt sent Dionysius as his ambassador to India to the court of bindusara.

Bindusara had a large family. Asoka states in his fifth rock edict that he had served his brothers and sisters.

Two of his brothers are named in divyavadana as susima and vigatasoka, whom the sri lankan chronicles name summan and tisya; the former was asoka’s step brother.
Asoka’s mother name was subhadrangi or dharma, and tishya was his yongest brother.
Asoka

After serving the viceroy in ujjaini and taxila, asoka succeeded bindusara to the mauryan throne.

Name: the name asoka (sorrow-free) occurs only once in the ins’s in the maski edict.
In the puranas he is referred to as asokavardhana.

In the girnar ins of rudradaman (AD 150), he is mentioned as asoka the maurya.
In the Calcutta-Bhabru ins asoka refers to himself as piyadasi laja magadhe, i.e., piyadasi, the king of magadha.

In his edicts, asoka assumed two titles, devanampiya and piyadassi (full form of his title in Sanskrit, devanampriyah priyadarsi raja).

Early life:

A2 buddhist accounts his mother was janapada kalyani or subhadrangi.

As a prince asoka served as viceroy of ujjaini and taxila. During the viceroyalty of ujjaini he fell in love with the daughter of a merchant of vidisa, referred to as devi or vedisa mahadevi, whom he married.

Asoka’s two other well-known queens were kuruvaki and asandhimitra.

The second queen kuruvaki is mentioned in the queen’s edict inscribed on a pillar at
Allahabad, in which her religious and charitable donations are referred to. She is described as the mother of prince tivara, the only son of asoka to be mentioned by name in ins’s.

Accession:

An interval of four years between the death of bindusara and the accession of asoka.

The sri lankan chronicle mahavamsa says that he seized the throne by killing 99 of his brothers and sparing only the youngest, namely, Tishya. There are also other stories in divyavadana of a similar nature and are not quite trustworthy.

Asoka in his edicts speaks of his brothers and sisters and their families, many years after his coronation.

There is a unexplained interval between the death of bindusara in 273-72 BC and the coronation of asoka in 269-68 BC.

Chronology

BC 273-72: death of bindusara and accession of asoka.

BC 269-68: coronation of asoka.

BC 261-60: kalinga war – the first recorded event of the reign of asoka. The 13th rock edict says states clearly states that this event took place “eight years after his consecration”. This edict also mentions five hellenic kings, all contemporary of asoka.

BC 259-58: issue of minor rock edict I mentioning asoka’s conversion to the Buddhist faith.

BC 256-55: issue of fourteen rock edicts. We learn from the 6th pillar edict that asoka began to issue his major rock edicts in his 13th regnal year.
BC 250 called the third Buddhist council and dispatched Buddhist missions to various parts of India and sri lanka.

BC 249-48: piligrimage to lumbini, the birth place of the Buddha (Rummindei pillar ins). Erection of a commemorative pillar.

BC 242-41: issue of seven pillar edicts in the 27th (Pillar edict I, IV, V and VI) and 28th year (Pillar Edict VII) of his reign. The pillar edict VII is the last issued by asoka.

BC 233-32: Death of Asoka.

Kalinga War

The earliest event of asoka’s reign that we find recorded in his ins’s is his conquest of kalinga.

Asoka conquered kalinga eight years after his coronation – i.e., in the ninth year of his reign.

The kingdoms of south India were on very friendly terms with the mauryan empire.

The 13th rock edict vividly describes the horrors and miseries of this war and the deep remorse it caused to asoka. “a hundred and fifty thousand people were deported, a hundred thousand were killed and many times that number perished”.

In the 13th rock edict asoka declares that a true conquest is not that by arms but a conquest by piety and virtue (Dharma Vijaya).

Asoka changed his personal religion and adopted Buddhism.

Asoka and Buddhism

Asoka become a convert to Buddhism probably in the ninth of his coronation.

A2 sri lankan chronicle mahavamsa asoka was converted to Buddhism by nigrodha, a boy monk who was just seven years old, and afterwards he came into contact with moggaliputta tissa, who presided over the third Buddhist council called by asoka.

Mahavamsa relates that after this council asoka sent Buddhist missions to various parts of India and to sri lanka, where he sent his son mahendra and daughter sangamitra for the propagation of Buddhism.

Buddhism for the first time went out side India during the reign of asoka.

Asoka’s brother tissa, his son, daughter and queen karuvaki also became converts to Buddhism.

The famous queen’s (Minor/Pillar) edict describes the sacred donation made to the Buddhist samgha by his second queen karuvaki.

Asoka’s policy of religious tolerance:

Asoka policy of religious tolerance evident from the seventh rock edict: “all sects desire both self-control and purity of mind”.

In the twelth rock edict he pronounces the policy of religious tolerance more clearly: “the beloved of the gods, the king piyadassi, honours all sects and both ascetics and laymen, with gifts and various forms of recognition”.

In pillar edict VI he asserts: “I devote my attention to all communities, for the followers of all denominations are hounoured by me. Nevertheless, showing personal regard for them is the chief thing in my opinion”. What he clearly wishes for is the growth of the essentials, sara vadhi, amongst all religions.

Asoka’s Dhamma:

The dhamma as explained in asoka’s edicts in not a religious or religious system, but a ‘moral law’, ‘a common code of conduct’ or an ‘ethical order’.

In Pillar edict II, asoka himself puts the question: dhamma is good. And what is dhamma (Dhamme sadhu kiyam chu dhamma ti)? Then he enumerates the two basic attributes or constituents of dhamma: less evils or sins (apansinave) and many good deeds (bahu kayane).

Asoka in Rock Edict XIII and many other edicts describes the code of duties or practical dhamma, comprising the following:

1. susrusa: obidence to mother and father, elders, teachers and other respectable persons.

2. apachiti: respect towards teachers.

3. sampratipatti: proper treatment towards ascetics, both brahmanas and
sramanas, relations, slaves, servants and dependents, the poor and the miserable, friends, acquaintances and companions.

4. danam: liberality towards ascetics, friends, comrades, relatives and the aged.

5. anarambho prananam: abstention from killing of living beings.

6. avihimsa bhutanam: non-injuty to all living creatures.

7. apa-vyayata apa-bhandata cha: to spend little and to accumulate little wealth or moderation in spending and saving (Rock Edict III).

8. mardavam: mildness in case of all living creatures.

9. satyam: truthfulness (Minor rock edict II, Pillar Edicts II and VII)

10. Dhamma-rati: attachments to morality.

11. bhava-suddhi: purity of heart.
Asoka dhamma is not sectarian in any sense, but is completely cosmopolitan, capable of universal application and acceptance as essence of all religions.

In Pillar Edict I, he sums up with his intentions by saying that he wants the maintenance, governance, happiness and protection of the people to be regulated by dhamma.

He further stressed the concept of paternal concept of monarchy.

Asoka’s dhamma was intented to strengthen social solidarity and or social relationships. It was intended as an ethical concept.

Measures for the propagation of dhamma:

1. issue of dhamma lipis and dhamma stambhas.

2. appointment of Dhamma-mahamatras.

3. dhamma-yatras, royal tours for the propagation of dhamma.

4. dhamma-mangala, public welfare activities in accordance with the spirit of dhamma.

5. preaching of dhamma.

6. administrative measures.

Welfare measures and administrative reforms introduced by asoka:

1. banning of samaja or pleasure festivals, slaughter of animals for the royal kitchen except two peacocks and a deer (Rock Edict I).

2. institution of quinquennial circuits or inspection tours by officers for missionary as well as administrative wrok (Rock Edict III).

3. appointment of dhamma mahamatras among own subjects as well as among foreigners (Rock Edict V).

4. appointment of stri-ashyakshamahamatras for the welfare of women.

5. institution of pious royal tours.

6. regulations restricting slaughter and mutilation of animals and birds. Slaughter, catching, branding and castration of some animals were also banned on certain specific days of the month (Pillar Edict V). Banning of sacrificial slaughter of animals in the capital (Rock Edict I).

7. premature release of prisoners on humane considerations on anniversaries of asoka’s coronation (Pillar Edict V).

8. grant of reprieve of three days of convicts sentenced to death.

9. judicial reforms relating to fair justice, uniformity in judicial preocedure and punishment. Measures for checking abuse of justice.

10. works of public utility, opening of hospitals for human beings and animals, botanical gardens for the culture of medicinal plants (Rock Edict II).

11. program of public works which comprised of planting of shade-giving banyan trees and groves of mango-trees on the roads, digging of wells at every half-kos of the roads, construction of rest-houses, providing water-huts for use of human beings and animals (Pillar Edict VII).

Administrative terms and officials mentioned in asoka’s edcits

Centres of provincial administration

Pataliputra was the capital, as in the days of asoka’s grandfather CGM.

Kosambi, ujjaini, suvarnagiri, tosali (dauli) and samapa (near jaugada) in kalinga were imp centres of provincial administration.

In the junagarh rock ins of rudradaman of 150 AD one yavanaraja tushaspa is said to have represented asoka’s authority in saurashtra.

The viceroys of tosali and ujjaini are called kumaras in separate kalinga edicts; and aryaputa (aryaputra) is the term by which the viceroy of suvarnagiri is addressed in the brahmagiri-siddhipura edicts.

Tosali, suvarnagiri, ujjaini and takshasila were each under a prince of the royal family.

Officers

1. Mahamahamatras and other officers of this category such as dhamma-mahamatras, amta-mahamatras and stri-adhyaksha-mahamatras.

2. rajukas and rathikas.

3. pradesikas or pradestras.

4. yuktas.

5. prativedakas.

6. pulisas.

7. vachabhumikas.

8. nagala-viyohalakas (nagar vyavaharikas).

Mahamatras:

The office of DMM was created by asoka thirteen after his coronation as he states in Rock Edict V.

The Pillar Edict VII throws further light on the duties of DMMs and on their activities that they were also ordered “to look after the activities of the Buddhist samgha and various other seacts”.

The anta-MMs, who were the warden of marches posted on borders, preached dhamma among the tribes on the borders and elsewhere.

The ithijhaka-MMs (stri-ashyakshaMMs) – control of women.

The rajukas are found mentioned in the rock edict III and the pillar edicts I and IV.

The pillar Edict IV refers to the rajukas as officers “set over many hundred thousand of people and charged with the duty of promoting the welfare of the janapadas”.

Rajukas performed judicial duties.

The yuktas mentioned in the rock edict III appear to have been subordinate officials and were entrusted with the secretarial work and accounting.

The prativedakas, found mentioned in the rock edict VI were special reporters of king or central govt and they had direct access to the king.

The pulisas, functioned as modern public relations officers.

The vachabhumikas were the inspectors of cowpens charged with the superintendence of cattle-wealth.

In the kalinga edict certain MMs were designated as the nagala-viyohalakas or nagar vyavaharikas. They were appointed at tosali and samapa. They administered justice in the cities.

Rock edict VI – the responsibility of man to his fellow beings.
Successors of asoka

Tivara, the only son of asoka named in his ins’s, is not heard of again.
The puranas, the jain and Buddhist sources have different tales to tell, and later writers like kalhana, the author of rajatharangini, and Tibetan historian taranath give their versions of what happened.

After the death of asoka in 233-32 BC, the empire was divided into eastern and western parts.

The puranas state that altogether nine mauryan rulers ruled for 37 yrs (324-185 BC).
Dasaratha is mentioned in the purana list but is ignored by jaina and Buddhist accounts.

Dasaratha is, however, the only name borne out by epigraphy.

Three ins’s relate his bestowing on the ajivika caves in the nagarjuni hills (near barabar) immediately after his coronation.

The Buddhist tradition mentions one samprati but the jains claim him as a convert to their creed and says that he did as much for Jainism as asoka for Buddhism.

Samprati’s capital is given as pataliputra by some and ujjaini by others.

Jalauka (or jaluka), son of asoka, is famous in Kashmir history as a propagator of shaivism and persecutor of Buddhists.

A2 puranas, salisuka succeeded samprati.

The gargi samhita states that his rule was very oppressive.

Taranath mentions virasena as ruling in gandhara. He was probably of the same line as subhagasena (sophagasenus) of the greek accounts.

There were evidently a division of the mauryan empire and the north-west, while the eastern line of magadha may have held out somewhat longer till about 185-84 BC when the last mauryan ruler brihadratha was overthrown and killed by the mauryan commander-in-chief pushyamitra sunga.

Bana’s harshacharitha and Vishnu-purana both mentions the treacherous assassination of brihadratha.

The fall of brihadratha must be taken to mark the end of the mauryan empire in 185-84 BC.

A2 romila thaper, mauryan empire was partitioned into western and eastern halves.

The former was governed by kunala, samprati etc and later on this part was threatened by the greeks from the north-west.

In the eastern half of the empire, with the capital at pataliputra, six later mauryan kings, from dasaratha to brihadratha ruled.

The first three mauyras ruled for 85 yrs and the later mauryas, after asoka’s death, for a total of 52 yrs.

On the basis of this chronology the mauryas ruled for 137 yrs.

III. THE CAUSES FOR THE DECLINE OF THE MAURYAN EMPIRE

1. the partition of the maurya empire.

2. weak later-mauryan rulers.

3. asoka’s responsibility for the decline.

H.C. Raychaudhuri maintains that asoka’s pacifist policies.
Hariprasad Sastri holds the view mauryan empire was a result of the brahmanical revolt.

4. pressure on mauryan economy: view of D.D.Kosambi.

5. highly centralized administration: Prof. Romilla Thaper view was the weakening of the central control under the later mauryas and the divison of the
mauryan empire.

6. brahmanical revolt against the pro-buddhist policies of asoka and his successors.

7. oppressive provincial governaments and people’s revolt against mauryan oppression

8. lack of representative institutions.

IV. MAURYAN ADMINISTRATION

The mauryan empire was the largest state in the whole of the ancient world and for the first time it ushered in a new form of govt i.e., centralized govt.

The king:

The mauryan king didn’t claim any divine orign.

King was described as devanampriya, beloved of the gods.

A2 kautilya, an ideal rulers is one who is a native of the territory, who follows the teachings of the shastras, who is free from disease, is brave, strong, confident, truthful and of noble birth.

The central govt:

The mauran govt was completely centralized. It is managed through several officers of different ranks.

Kautily ahas said: “administration cannot be the work of one man, as one wheel cannot drive the vehicle”.

The normal administrative machinery:

(i) the king.

(ii) The viceroys and governors functioning as king’s representatives.

(iii) The ministers.

(iv) The heads of departments.

(v) The subordinate civil service

(vi) The officers in charge of rural administration.

Council of ministers

the king was assisted by a council of ministers called the mantriparishad; the ministers themselves known as matrins.

Their salary was 48,000 panas per year.

The arthasashtra gives a list of the quantities that a minister should posses, and stresses on those of birth, integrity and intelligence.

The mantriparishad consisted of purohit (high priest), senapati (commander-in-chief), yuvaraj (heir-apparent) and a few other ministers.

The council or mantriparishad had its secretary in charge of its office, who has been called by kautilya as mantriparishadadhyasha.

Asoka in his rock edict III and VI mentions his parishad for the disposal of urgent matters by the council . the arthashastra lists the CM or the mahamantri and also distinguishes between the ministers and the council of ministers.
Secretaries

The amatyas of the arthashastras have been equated with secretaries. These amatyas may be compared with the “seventh caste” of megasthenes which consisted of counselors and assessors of the king.

Bureaucracy

The machinery of central govt dealt with by kautilya in the adhyakshaprachara (Book

It is worthy of a modern manual of administration.

Superintendents of Adhyakshas

Central admn was divided into several departments, each headed by an adhyaksha or a superintendent.

Kautilya in his second book of his Arthasashtra gives an account of the working of nearly thirty two adhyakshas, viz. those of:

Accountant-General – akahapaladhyaksha
Mines – akara
Gold – suvarna
Stores – kosthagara
Commerce – panya
Forest products – kupya
Armoury – ayudhagara
Weights and measures – tulamanapantava
Spinning and weaving industry – sutra
Agriculture – sita
Excise – sura
Shipping – nau
Passports – mudra
Ports – pattan
Mint – lakshana
General trade and trade routes samstha.

Imp officials of the central govt

Sannidhata – head of royal treasury

Samaharta – chancellor of the exchequer; responsible for the collection of revenue

Akshapataladhyaksha – accountant general who was in charge of the two offices of currency and accounts. The fiscal year was from asadha (july), and 354 working days were reckoned in each year.

Sitadhyaksha – the director of agriculture and incharge of crown lands or of govt agricultural farms.

Akaradhyaksha – superintendent of mining.

Lavanadhyaksha – salt superintendent. The manufacture of salt was a govt monopoly.

Navadhyaksha – superintendent of ports. He also policed the rivers and seashores.

Panyadhyaksha – controller of commerce

Sulkadhyaksha – collector of customs or tolls.

Suradhyaksha – superintendent of excise.

Pautavadhyaksha – superintendent of weights and measures.
Intelligence and espionage

Detectives – gudhapurushas.

Kautilya divides espionage into sansthan (stationary) and sanchari (wandering) types.

They used cipher writing, code words, secret language.

The spies were “the ears and the eyes of the king”.

A2 strabo, “there were overseers to overlook what is done throughout the country and in the cities and to report privately to the king”.

Military organization

Pliny records that the mauryan army consisted of 6,00,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, 9000 war elephants and 1,000 chariots.

It has been wrongly suggested that the mauryan army was inspired by the greek model.

It was purely indigenous.

There was a war council comprising thirty members, divided into six sub-councils of five members each. The first formulated the rules and regulations for the infantry, the second for the cavalry, the third for the elephantry, the fourth for the charitory, the fifth for the navy, and the sixth for the commissariat.

The navy, transport and commissariat were mauryan innovations.
Public works

The cattle tracks and paths for pedestrians were 1 or 2 metres wide, the roads for chariots and other wheeled traffic were 10 metres wide, and the trunk roads were 20 metres wide.

Irrigation

the most famous ‘sudarshan lake’ at girnar in Gujarat was constructed by pushygupta,
the provincial governor of CGM. This lake was provided with supplementary channels by tushaspa, the governor in the days of asoka.

Census

Both megasthenes and kautilya inform us that there was a regular dept of census.
This is probably the first mention of census in the world.

A census officer of the cities was called nagaraka. A register of immigration and emigration of foreign travelers, traders, or students was maintained and they were provided all help.

Public health

Hospitals for men and animals were set up at all imp places.

The treatment was universally free.

Postmortem was done in doubtful cases to determine the cause of death.

Revenue

“a full treasure is a guratnee of the prosperity of the state” says kautilya.

The taxes were levied both in cash and in kind.

The chief source of revenue was the land tax which was one-sixth to one-fourth, collected by the revenue officer, agronomoi. For irrigated land the tax was slightly more, but reduced if it was less productive.

The second major source of income was toll tax which was imposed on all articles(except grain, cattle and a few other items) which are brought for sale. This tax was approximately 10%.

Those who could not pay in cash or kind were to contribute their share in the form of labour. Mechanics, artisans, shudras and others who survived on manual labour had to work free for one day in each month.

Strabo mentions that craftmen (except ‘royal craftmen’), herdsmen and husbandmen, all paid taxes.

The king’s own estate or royal lands yielded income called sita.

Two kinds of taxes, bali and bhaga, are referred to in the edicts of asoka. The rummaindei edicts records that the village of lumbini, was exempted from bali and was to pay only one-eigth of the bhaga. Bhaga was levied on agriculture produce and the cattle at the rate of one-sixth (shadbaga) and was called the king’s share (rajabhaga).

Bali was a religious tribute.

The land tax, according to kautilya, could be raised from one-sixth to one-fourth in
case of financial difficulties. The Brahmins, women, children, armourers, the blind, the deaf, and other handicapped persons, and the king’s men were exempted from paying tax, according to the arthasashtra.

Expenditure

A large expense was incurred on the salaries of army personnel and govt officials and on the allowances and gifts given to the artisans and on the allowances and gifts given to the artisans and the needy.

Public welfare acts such as the construction of roads, hospitals, rest-houses, temples, educational institutions, canals, wells, etc. were given priority.

Feudatory states

a number of conquered states were left more or less autonomous on a feudatory basis.

The term sangha used by kautilya for saurashtra, kambhoja and some clans in the
Punjab conforms to these non-monarchial self-governing states.

Alongside monarchies there existed republican formations called sanghas and ganas.

Some distinctive features of these political organizations were: absence of autocratic laws; election of the elders and the head; existence of democratic or oligarcchial form of govt; considerable influence of the council of elders etc.

Crime and maintenance of law and order

Kauitilya has called these anti-social elements as kantakas or throns in the body politic of the empire.

The weeding of these thorns, kantakasodhana, i.e., th suppression of criminals and
other anti-social elements, was a basic function of the state.

The arthashastra devotes the entire fourth book of this topic.

Megasthenes has commented that “there are rarity of law suits among Indians. They are not litigious. Witnesses and seals are unnecessary when a man make a depost. There houses are unguarded”.

The pradesika were the principal police officers.

Justice

The king was the head of justice.

There were special courts in the cities and villagers presided over by the
pradesika, mahamatras and rajukas.

There were two kinds of courts: dharmastheya dealing with civil matters and kantakssodhana deciding cases of a criminal nature.

There were eighteen kinds of tortures including seven of whipping. The criminal code was very harsh.

Magasthenes is all praise “for the mauryan law and order. He records that “there were few crimes; murders and thefts were almost unknown, people seldom locked their doors and the security of life and property was guaranteed by the state”.

Provincial administration

the empire was divided into a number of provinces, probably five.

The northern province, called uttarapatha, had taxila as its capital; western province known as avantipatha, had its capital in ujjaini; prachyapatha was its capital toshali (kalinga) formed the eastern province while dakshinapatha with its capital suvarnagiri was the southernmost province.

The central province magadha, with its capital pataliputra.

The most imp provinces were under the direct command of kumars (princes).

A2 junagadh ins of rudradaman, saurashtra (or kathiawara) was governed by pushyagupta, the vaishya, at the time of CGM and by the yavana king tushaspa at the time of asoka.

District administration

Provinces were sub-divided into districts.

Three major officials, the pradesika, the rajuka and the yukta.

The status of the rajukas was subordinate to that of the pradesika. Among the duties of pradesik was included that of making a tour every five years to inspect the entire administration of areas under his control.

The rajuka belonged to the dept of administration responsible for surveying and assessing land.

The yukta mentioned in Rock Edict III appears to have been a subordinate official.

There was an intermediate level of admn between the district level and that of the village.

The unit here formed by a group of five or ten villages.

The two imp officials concerned with the admn of this units were the gopa and the sthanika.

The gopa worked as an account to the unit.

The tax was collected by the snatika who worked directly under the pradesika.
Village admn

Village (grama) was the smallest unit of admn and enjoyed autonomy to a great extent.

The head of a village was called gramika who was assisted by gramviddhas or ‘village elders’.

Gramika was not a paid servant; he was elected by the people.

Above the gramika was a gopa who was the head of ten villages, and the sthanika who controlled a janapada or a dist comprising one hundred villages.

Muncipal Administration

A number of cities are mentioned in the edicts of asoka such as pataliputra, taxila, ujjaini, tosali, suvarnagiri, samapa, isila, kausambi etc and the arthashastra devotes a full chapter (II. 36) to the ‘Rules for the city superintendence’.

Megasthenes has described in detail the administrative set-up of pataliputra and it is presumed that, by and large, similar municipal admn would be applicable to other cities as well.

There was local self-govt with some autonomy. The imp affairs of the city of pataliputra were conducted by a body consisting of thiry commissioners (astynomi or ‘city council’) who had formed themselves into six boards of five members each.

The first board looked provided raw material, fixed the wages and second board was for the visitors, specially the foreign tourists.
The third carefully recorded in the register.

The fourth board kept a vigil on the manufactured goods and the sale of commodities.

The fifth board regulated trade, issued licenses to the mechants and checked their weights and measurements.

The sixth board collected tithes which was a tenth of all the good sold in the city.

The members of the city council were not elected but appointed; still these cities enjoyed some autonomy. Taxila, for example, was nigama and issued its own coins.

The officer incharge of the city was nagaraka (town prefect).

V. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS OF MAURYAN INDIA

Social conditions

Kautilya is not as regid on the varna system as the earliest smriti writers.

It is remarkable that the arthashastra refers to troops recruited from all the the four varnas.

The arthashastra looked upon the shudras as an Aryan community, which is distinguished from mlechha or non-aryan community.

The text forbids the sale or pledging of a minor belonging to any of the four varnas, adding that the mlechhas may sell or pledge their children, but that no Arya shall be made a slave.

In the arthashastra an attempt is made to assimilate the masses of settled communities in the Aryan fold.

Greek and Latin sources refer to caste system in India.

The majority of these references may be traced largely to the account of megasthenes, who states that Indian society was divided into seven classes.

These he lists as philosophers, farmers, soldiers, herdsmen, artisans, magistrates and councillors. The classes mentioned above appear to have been economic than social.

The kashatriyas or fighting class, who were “second in point of numbers to the husbandsmen, led, A2 Arrian, a life of supreme freedom and enjoyment. They had only military duties to perform”.

A2 megasthenes the second class among the seven Indian castes was that of the farmers, which were numberically a large class and was devoted to the land.

The sixth and the seventh castes – magistrates and councillers – noticed by megasthenes are misnomers.

Those two castes are really made up of govt servants of different grades. The seventh caste is made up of what are called the councilors and assessors.

The orthodox terms for the four varnas are not found in the asoka ins’s. they speak of Brahmins and sramanas but not of kshatriyas, vaishyas, or sudras.

Family and marriage

Kautilya forbade the practice of abandoning domestic life, and made it a rule that only old men could become ascetics.

Eight kinds of marriage are enumerated, of which only four are regular, though kautilya adds that there is no prohibition against any form of marriage that produces to all concerned.

In the absence of a male issue, a man was free to take another wife without paying compensation to his first wife.

The law concerning marriage and the relations between husband and wife is fully stated in three chapter’s of kautilya’s arthashastra.

Position of women

Women occupied a high position and freedom in the mauryan society.

Divorce is unlikable in the smritis, kautilya has permitted it.

Women were employed as personal body-guards of the king, spies and for other diverse jobs.

Sati, noticed by greek writers, was rarely practiced and would appear to have been limited to the women of the higher classes.

Slavery

Megasthenes has stated that slavery did not exist in India, which is not proved by historical facts.

Superimpositions

From the arthashastra we learn that there was a widespread belief in magical practices and superimpositions of all kinds in the mauryan society.

Most of book fourteen of the arthashastra, called aupanisadika, describes a number of rites and practices which are supposed to produce occult manifestations or miraculous effects.

Economic condition

The political unification of India, the creation of a strong centralized govt, restoration of law and order, opening up of the western trade-routes by Alexander, measures taken by the mauryan state for the promotion of agriculture, trade, commerce, industries, and crafts gave great impetus to economic development during the period.

Agriculture

The land-revenue on agricultural land varied from one-fourth to one-sixth of the produce.

Among the crops grown in the villages are mentioned of rice or different varieties, coarse grain (kodrava), sesamum, pepper and saffron, pulses, wheat, linseed, mustard, vegetables and fruits of various kinds, and sugarcane.

Trade routes

The arthashastra devotes considerable attention to roads and maket towns.

It makes an intelligent appreciation of the relative value of different trade routes. The routes leading to the Himalayas were better than those leading to the
dakshinapatha.

With the establishment and spread of the mauryan power, the balance of trade shifted in favour of the south.

The royal highway from the north-west to pataliputra was considered an imp one. It
has continued to be so through the centuries, being popularly known as the grand trunk road.

Megasthenes refers to govt officers-in-charge of roads and records how signboards were set up at intervals to indicate turnings and distances. He also refers to the royal road from the north-west to pataliputra as a road existing in earlier times.
Tamluk (tamralipti) on the east coast and broach and sopara on the west coast were the most imp sea-ports of India in those times.

Trade

India supplied the western countries, Syria and Egypt in particular, with indigo, and various medicinal substances, and cotton and silk.

To facilitate the Bactrian trade with India, Antiochus I, at the time of his joint rule with seleucus (285-280 BC), issued coins of the Indian instead of the attic standard.

Kautilya does not agree with the view that water route is preferred to land route for the transport of goods. He classifies sea-ways into the ways along the coast and the ways through mid-ocean to foreign countires. Of these he prefers the former as a source of great profit.

Bridges were unknown, but only ferries and boats.

The organization of trade

The eighteen chief handicrafts were organized in guilds called srenis each under its president called pramukha and the alderman called jatthaka.

A2 kautilya they flourished on vartta, a term which included agriculture, cattle-raising and trade.

Ship-building

It was known to the Indians in the pre-mauryan period. Alexander on his return
journey was supplied with a large number of boats and ships by the Indians.

Strabo writes that the mauryans maintained ship building as a state monopoly.

The pali books mention ‘shore-sighting birds’ used when ship’s location became doubtful.

Crafts and industries

Textiles

The malavas presented a vast quantity of cotton cloth, among other things, to Alexander.

The pali books speaks very highly of benares cloth, as well as cloth from the sibi country.

Kautilya mentions madhura, the pandyan capital, aparanta (on the west coast), kasi, vanga, vatsa and mahisha as the sources of the finest cotton fabrics.

He refers to the varieties of dukula produced respectively in vanga (East Bengal), pundra (west Bengal) and suvarnakudya (in assam).

Kasi and pundra were noted for linen fabrics (kshauma), and textiles from fabrics of trees patroma were made in magadha, pundra and suvarnakudya.

Among costlier textiles silk cloth is frequently referred to in pali Buddhist books.
Kautilya mentions kauseya from the chinhumi which seems to mean not china but the land of the shin tribe.

Silk may have come from china as well, the latter being called china-patta.
Wooden manufacture of different kinds, including varieties of blankets and rain proof cloth, came chiefly from Nepal.

A wide variety of skins, particularly from the Himalayan regions, is listed by kautilya.

Arrian alludes to the skill of Indian leather-workers by saying that the Indians ‘wear shoes made of white leather and these are elaborately trimmed, while the soles are variegated, and of great thickness to make the wearer seems taller’.

Forest produce included fragrant woods of various kinds which entered largely into international trade.

Kautilya speaks of chandana, agaru, taila-parnika, bhadrari and kaleyaka, and distinguishes them according to their places of origin, colour and other qualities.
Stone-cutting was another highly developed art in which mauryan craftsmen reached a height never surpassed since.

Mining and metal work

The bell or lotus-shaped capital of asokan pillar of ramapurva is joined on to the
shaft by a bolt of pure copper of the form of a barrel.

Pearls, jewels, diamonds and coral are discussed at length by kautilya.
Labour

Industrial labour included free labours (kammakaras) who worked on the basis of a wage contract and serfs (dasas).

The Indian dasa was not identical with greek doulos, since the former could own property and earn for himself.

Currency

In the arthashastra, the silver pana with its sub-divisions is evidently recognized as the standard coin, while the copper mashaka with its division ranks as a token currency.

The mashaka was one-sixteenth in value of the silver pana.

The punch-marked silver coins that have been found in large numbers all over India have been identified with silver karshapana or pana, mashaka and dharana of the arthashastra.

VI. THE MAURYAN ART

The description of the city of pataliputra and of the royal palace we read in the accounts of classical writers like megasthenes, arrian, and strabo, and the excavations at the site of the old city which is discussed at a later stage, may be taken to suggest that CGM, the first mauryan ruler may have been responsible for the original planning and execution of the building of the city as well as the royal palace.

Features of the mauryan sculptural and architectural remains are:

1. They are all monumental in conception and design, inordinately fine and precise in execution.

2. all the mauryan sculptures, including the monolithic pillars, were executed in hard sand stone mostly quarried at chunar near varanasi (UP). They were always very finely chiseled and very highly polished to a glossiness.

3. the mauryan art was basically a royal or court art. Anand Coomaraswamy has made a distinction between court art and a more popular art during the mauryan period. Court art is represented by the pillars and their capitals and popular art by superb individual icons such as yakshi of besanagar, the yaksha of parkham and chauri-bearer from didarganj.

4. most of the scholars have suggested that the mauryan art, particularly the pillars and animal figures, were greatly influenced by the art of the achaemenid dynasty of iran.

The sum total of the mauryan treasure of art may said to include:

(i) the remains of the royal palace and city of pataliputra.

(ii) The rock-cut chaitya-halls or cave dwellings in the barabar and nagarjuni hills of gaya (Bihar).

(iii) The edict-bearing and the non-edict bearing asokan pillars.

(iv) The animal sculptures crowning the pillars with animal and vegetal reliefs decorating the abaci of the capitals.

(v) Other individual mauryan sculptures and the terracotta figures discovered from various sites.

The mauryan royal palace and city of pataliputra

The famous metropolis of pataliputra, known to the greek and latin writers as palibothra, palibotra and palimbothra, siturated at the confluence of sone and the ganges, strectched in the form of a parallelogram.

The approaches to the city consisted of 64 gates.

If arrain is to be believed the royal palace, “where the greatest of all kings” of India resided, was a marvel of workmanship with which “neither memnomian susa with all its costly splendor, nor ekbatana with all its magnificence can vie”.

Fahien commented the wooden palace as “a work of spirits”.

The palace seems to have been destroyed by fire as may be inferred from the ashes and burnt fragments of wooden pillars found at kumrahar near patana.

Rock-cut architecture

Seven rock-cut sanctuaries in the hills about 31 kms to the north of gaya, four on barabar hills, and three on the nagarjuni hills belong to the time of asoka and his grandson dasaratha. These are the earliest known examples of the rock-cut architecture. Some of these caves dedicated for the use of the monks of the ajivika sect.

Three caves bearing asoka’s ins’s belong to barabar group, which are named as: the karna Chaupar Cave, the sudama cave and the lomasa rishi cave. Of all the caves, the largest known as the gopika cave, with its both ends semicircular.

Asokan pillars

The pillars are made of two types of stone. Some are of the spotted red and white sand stone from the region of mathura and others of buff-coloured fine grained hand grey sand stone quarried at chunar near varanasi.

They generally consist of round and a monolithic shaft tampering from the base with a diameter ranging about 90 cm to 125 cm to a total height of between 12 and 15 metres.

Havell describes the capital of these pillars as “Persian bell-shaped capital”.
The animals represented on the top of these pillars are:

1. at lauriyanandangarh the crowning figure is a single lion, while the abacus is adorned by a row of brahmagiri geese or hamsas pecking their food. A single lion also adorns the top of the asokan pillars at koluha (bakhra) and rampurwa.

2. there are four lions set back to back on the top of the pillars at sanchi and sarnath.

3. at sankisa (UP) there is an elephant as the capital.

4. at rampurwa a bull has been represented.

5. the capital of lauryia-araraj pillar had a garuda A2 V.A. Smith but many other historians believe it to be a single lion.

The Chinese travelers fa-hien and huen-tsang noticed lion-capitals at sankisa and kapilvastu; at pataliputra wheel capital; ox-capital at sravasti; horse capital at lumbini; and an elephant-capital at rajagraha.

The sarnath pillar raised in the deer park is the finest mauryan pillar. Its capital is surmounted by four lions standing back to back and in their middle was represented a large stone wheel, the symbol of the dharma-chakra, of which only fragments are left. The lions are sitting on a drum showing figures of four animals carved on it viz. a lion, an elephant, a bull and a horse, placed between four wheels.

Figure sculpture

At parkhan near mathura was found a colossal statue of a man, 7 feet high, in grey and highly polished sand stone and bearing an ins in asokan brahmi script.

A complementary female statue was also found at besanagar.

The two statues of yakshas have been found at patina and a statue of a chauri-bearer of yakshini from didarganj.

Two male heads and three small fragments of head have been found from sarnath. Anand coomarswamy considers these figure sculptures as popular art.

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