Chandragupta Maurya Biography

Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire, was a significant ruler in Indian history. He successfully unified small states to create a vast kingdom, except for Kalinga and the Tamil regions. At just 20 years old, he overthrew the Nanda dynasty and expanded his empire by seizing Macedonian and eastern territories. His empire spanned from Kashmir to Deccan Plateau and Afghanistan to Bengal. Despite his accomplishments, Chandragupta voluntarily abdicated his throne and embraced Jainism. His grandson, Ashoka, continued his legacy by conquering Kalinga and the Tamil kingdom. Unlike Ashoka, Chandragupta was known for being less bloodthirsty.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Chandragupta
  • Died At Age: 43
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Durdhara
    • Father: Sarvarthasiddhi Maurya
    • Mother: Mura Maurya
    • Children: Bindusara
  • Born Country: India
  • Died on: 297 BC
  • Place of death: Shravanabelagola, India
  • Founder/Co-Founder: Maurya Empire

Childhood & Early Life

Chandragupta Maurya was born in 340 BC in Pataliputra, in modern-day Bihar. His background is, however, uncertain. Some claim that he was born to a Nanda prince and his maid-servant, Mura, from the Shudra caste, while others state that he belonged to the Moriya tribe of Peacock-tamers. Being a brave and determined leader since childhood, he was very well guided by Chanakya, a great Brahmin scholar of economics and political science at Takshashila University, who later became his mentor.

Accession & Reign

He raised an army with assistance from Chanakya, who went on to become his chief advisor and prime minister after establishing the Maurya Empire. Chandragupta was able to overcome the Nanda army after a series of battles and finally laid siege of Patliputra, the capital city. The conquest of the Nanda Empire enabled him to lay the foundation of the Maurya Empire in North India at the young age of 20. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, his empire was divided into three satrapies among his generals, with the Macedonian territories, including Punjab, falling under the control of Seleucus I Nicator. Since Seleucus was busy on the western borders, Chandragupta took this opportunity to attack and assassinate two Macedonian satrapies, Nicanor of Parthia and Philip, son of Machatas. After defeating Seleucus, Chandragupta signed a peace treaty with him, according to which he got hold of Punjab in exchange of 500 war elephants. With most of the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent under his rule, he moved southwards conquering independent Indian states in the Vindhya Range and Deccan Plateau by 300 BC. While he succeeded in unifying most of the Indian subcontinent, he failed to annex Kalinga (modern-day Odisha) on the east coast and the Tamil kingdom on the southernmost tip, which was eventually done by his grandson, Ashoka. According to Megasthenes and Strabo, he is believed to have raised an army of 400,000 soldiers, while Pliny reported the figure to be 600,000 foot-soldiers, 30,000 cavalry and 9,000 war elephants.

Major Battles

After a series of unsuccessful attempts, he defeated the forces of Dhana Nanda and his army commander, Bhadrasala, in 321 BC thereby ending the Nanda Dynasty and conquering its capital, Pataliputra.

Achievements

By conquering most of the Indian subcontinent, he went on to establish one of the largest empires in Indian history, extending from Central Asia in the west to Burma in the east and Himalayas in the north to Deccan Plateau in the south.

Personal Life & Legacy

He married Seleucus’ daughter, which further enhanced his friendly relations with the Hellenistic kingdoms apart from improving India’s trade with the western world. He abandoned his throne and converted to Jainism, eventually becoming a Muni under Shrutakevali Bhadrabahu with whom he traveled to Shravanabelagola (in modern Karnataka), where he meditated and fasted to death in 298 BC. He was succeeded by his son, Bindusara, who was later succeeded by his grandson, Ashoka who became one of the most influential rulers of ancient India.

Trivia

His reign formed the base of Dr. Mysore N. Prakash’s historic/spiritual novel ‘The Courtesan and the Sadhu’. His bonding with Chanakya was adapted into a 1977 Telugu film ‘Chanakya Chandragupta’. Famous Telugu actor Akkineni Nageswara Rao played the role of Chanakya, while another legendary Telugu actor N. T. Rama Rao portrayed as Chandragupta. In 2011, a commemorative postage stamp was released by the Indian Postal Service in his honor. TV series ‘Chanakya’ (based on the play Mudra Rakshasa) is an account of life and times of Chanakya.

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