Expansion of the Mauryan Empire

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Empire Expansion

Conquest of the Nanda Empire

Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu texts which claim Magadha was ruled by the Nanda dynasty, which, with Chanakya's counsel, Chandragupta conquered Nanda Empire.The army of Chandragupta and Chanakya first conquered the Nanda outer territories, and finally besieged the Nanda capital Pataliputra. In contrast to the easy victory in Buddhist sources, the Hindu and Jain texts state that the campaign was bitterly fought because the Nanda dynasty had a powerful and well-trained army.

Conquest of the Eastern Seleucid Empire

Greek historians mentioned the result of Seleucid–Mauryan war where Seleucid Empire's eastern satrapies( Gedrosia,Arachosia, Aria, and Paropamisadae) ceded to Mauryan Empire :

" Seleucus crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of he Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship. Some of these exploits were performed before the death of Antigonus and some afterward."
AppianHistory of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55
" The geographical position of the tribes is as follows: along the Indus are the Paropamisadae, above whom lies the Paropamisus mountain: then, towards the south, the Arachoti: then next, towards the south, the Gedroseni, with the other tribes that occupy the seaboard; and the Indus lies, latitudinally, alongside all these places; and of these places, in part, some that lie along the Indus are held by Indians, although they formerly belonged to the Persians. Alexander [III 'the Great' of Macedon] took these away from the Arians and established settlements of his own, but Seleucus Nicator gave them to Sandrocottus [Chandragupta], upon terms of intermarriage and of receiving in exchange five hundred elephants. " — Strabo 15.2.9 [1]

Greecian historian Pliny also quoted a passage from Megasthanes work about Chandragupta Empire boundaries:

Most geographers, in fact, do not look upon India as bounded by the river Indus, but add to it the four satrapies of the Gedrose, the Arachotë, the Aria, and the Paropamisadë, the River Cophes thus forming the extreme boundary of India. According to other writers, however, all these territories, are reckoned as belonging to the country of the Aria.

— Pliny, Natural History VI, 23 [2][3]

The conquest of the south by Chandragupta Maurya may also perhaps be inferred from the following statement of Plutarch. "The throne" in the context is the Magadhan throne, the occupation of which by Chandragupta is thus followed by two other events, viz., the defeat of Selucus, and the conquest of the remaining part of India not included in the Magadhan empire of the Nandas:

"Not long afterwards Androkottos, who had by that time mounted the throne, presented Selukos with 500 elephants, and overran and subdued the whole of India with an army of 600,000."

-Chapter LXII ,Life of Alexander, Plutarch [4]

Megasthenes defined the region that Chandragupta won from Seleucus as likely western side Gedrosia which shares boundaries with the Euphrates River, and eastern side Arachosia shares boundaries with the Indus. The northern frontier boundary formed by Hindukush mountain range:

India, which is in shape quadrilateral, has its eastern as well as its 'western side bounded by the great sea, but on the northern side it is divided by Mount Hemôdos from that part of Skythia which is inhabited by those Skythians who are called the Sakai, while the fourth or western side is bounded by the river called the Indus.

- Book I Fragment I , Indica, Megasthanes [5]

Satrapian provinces in northwestern India which ceaded to Chandragupta by Selucus due to Treaty of Indus.

Sandrokottos the king of the Indians, India forms the largest of the four parts into which Southorn Asia is divided, while the smallest part is that region which is included between the Euphrates and our own sea. The two remaining parts, which are separated from the others by the Euphrates and the Indus, and lie between these rivers... India is bounded on its eastern side, right onwards to the south, by the great ocean; that its northern frontier is formed by the Kaukasos range(Hindukush Range) as far as the junction of that range with Tauros; and that the boundary.

- Book I Fragment II , Indica, Megasthanes [6]

Treaty of the Indus

The ancient historians Justin, Appian, and Strabo preserve the three main terms of the Treaty of the Indus:[1]

(i) Seleucus transferred to Chandragupta's kingdom the easternmost satrapies of his empire, certainly Gandhara, Parapamisadae, and the eastern parts of Gedrosia, Arachosia and Aria as far as Herat.

(ii) Chandragupta gave Seleucus 500 Indian war elephants.

(iii) The two kings were joined by some kind of marriage alliance (ἐπιγαμία οι κῆδος); most likely Chandragupta wed a female relative of Seleucus.

Other account

  • Tibbetan Lama Taranatha (1575–1634)
Ashoka brought under his rule without bloodshed all the countries including those to the south of the Vindhya. And he conquered the northern Himalayas, the snowy ranges beyond Li-yul (Khotan)," the entire land of Jambudvipa bounded by seas on east, south and west, and also fifty small islands.

-History Of Buddhism In India ,Taranatha[2]

Conquest of the Saurashtra

Chandragupta conquered Southern-Western part of India. Especially his conquest over Saurashtra and Sudarshana lake construction is preseved in later Satrapian king Rudradaman inscription:

(L.8) Transliteration: mauryasya rājyaḥ candra-guptasya rāṣṭriyena vaiśyena puṣpa-guptena kāritam śokasya mauryasya kṛte yavana-raj tuṣāra-saphenādhāyā

(L.8) for the sake of ordered to be made by the Vaishya Pushyagupta, the provincial governor of the Maurya king Chandragupta; adorned with conduits for Ashoka the Maurya by the Yavana king Tushaspha while governing; and by the conduit ordered to be made by him, constructed in a manner worthy of a king (and) seen in that breach.

—Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman[3]

Conquest of the Kalinga

Kalinga War plays a very important role in Mauryan history which changes a cruel Emperor Chanda-Ashoka to Priyadarshi Ashoka.

"Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Priyadarsi(Ashoka)conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dharma, a love for the Dharma and for instruction in Dharma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas. "

— Ashoka, Major Rock Edict No. 13 [7]

Boundaries sharing territories

Even though Ashoka defined the boundaries of his empire four times in various inscriptions (with same lines) but he never mentioned any inner hole or unconquered region inside his empire.This suggests that Ashoka's empire was likely contiguous, with no significant unconquered regions within its borders :

Sav[r]atravijite [De]va[nam]priyasaPriyadrashisa y[e] cha [a]mtayatha [Choda] PamdiyaSatiyaputro KeradaputroTambapamni…,

-Second Rock-Edict: Shahbazgarhi [8]

Sav[a]ta vijitsi Devanampiyas[a] Piyadasis[a] lajine ye cha amta [a]tha Choda Pam[di]yaSatiyaputo Ke[lala]putoTamba[pa]mni..

-Second Rock Edict: Kalsi [9]

sa[vatra vi]jitasi Devanapriyasa Priyadrashisarajine ye cha ataatha [Choda] Pa[mdiya] Sa[ti]ya[p]u[tra] Keralaputra [Tam]bapani..

-Second Rock Edict: Mansehra [10]

Sav[r]atravijite [De]va[nam]priyasaPriyadrashisa Ye Ca anta ataChoda, Pandiya, Satiyaputo, Ketalaputo, Tam bapanni, Antiyogonaama, Yonalaja....

-Second Rock Edict :Girnar [11]

—Translation: Everywhere in the conquered dominions of king Priyadarsin, the beloved-of the gods, and the dominions on the boarders as those of the Choda (the Colas), Pandiya (the Pandyas). Satiyaputo (The Satiyaputras) and the Ketalaputo (the Keralaputras), as far as Tamraparni, the Yavana king named Antiyogonaama (Antiyoka) and the other neighbouring kings of this king Antiyoka.

Possible Mauryan Empire size according to details given in Ashoka Second Rock Edict of Shahbazgarhi , Kalsi ,Mansera and Girnar.

Empire reconstruction from fragments

According to the account of Fa Hein who was the first Chinese pilgrim to visit India during 399 and 414 CE. His work "The travels of Fa-Hian (400 A.D.)"mentioned that Ashoka constructed 84,000 Buddhist stupas and pillars after destroying seven stupas that initially housed Buddha relics. Ashoka divided the relics from these seven stupas into 84,000 parts :

" King Asoka having destroyed seven (of the original) pagodas, constructed 84,000 others. The very first which he built is the great tower which stands about three li to the south of this. city. In front of this pagoda is an impression of Buddha’s foot, (over which) they have raised a chapel, the gate of which faces the north. To the south of the tower is a stone pillar, about a chang and a half in girth (18 feet), and three cluing or so in height (35 feet). On the surface of this pillar is an inscription to the following effect: “King Asoka presented the whole of Jambudvipa to the priests of the four quarters, and redeemed it again with money, and tins he did three times.” Three or four hundred paces to the north of the pagoda is the spot where Asoka was horn (or resided). On this spot he raised the city of Ni-li, and in the midst of it erected a stone pillar, also about 35 feet in height, on the top of which he placed the figure of a lion, and also engraved an historical record on the pillar giving an account of the successive events connected with Ni-li, with the corresponding year, day, and month." ~Chapter XXVII , The travels of Fa-Hian (400 A.D)[12]

" When King Asoka was living he wished to destroy the eight towers and to build eighty-four thousand others. Having destroyed seven, he next proceeded to treat this one in the same way."

~Chapter XXIII ,The travels of Fa-Hian (400 A.D)[13]

Ashoka built one pillar beside every stupa :

" In after times Asoka, wishing to discover the utmost depths to which these ladders went, employed men to dig down and examine into it. They went on digging till they came to the yellow spring (the earth's foundation), but yet had not come to the bottom. The king, deriving from this an increase of faith and reverence, forthwith built over the ladders a and facing the middle flight he placed a standing figure (of Buddha) sixteen feet high. Behind the vihara, he erected a stone pillar thirty cubits high, and on the top placed the figure of a lion. Within the pillar on the four sides are figures of Buddha; both within and without it is shining and bright as glass. It happened once that some heretical doctors had a contention with the Sramanas respecting this as a place of residence. Then the argument of the Sramanas failing, they all agreed to the following compact: "If this place properly belongs to the Sramanas, then there will he some supernatural proof given of it." Immediately on this the lion on the top of the pillar uttered a loud roar." ~Chapter XVII, The travels of Fa-Hian (400 A.D)[14]

Ashoka commissioned the construction of 84,000 stupas for the preservation of Buddha's relics. However, over time, many of the Ashoka pillars , inscriptions and stupas have been subject to complete destruction and deterioration. According to the British historian Charles Allen, historical records of Ashoka were effectively cleansed to the extent that his name was largely forgotten for nearly two thousand years. However, very few mysterious stone monuments and inscriptions miraculously survived, preserving his historical legacy :

" Pg.2 - Ashoka Maurya—or Ashoka the Great as he was later known—holds a special place in the history of Buddhism and India. At its height in around 250 BCE, his empire stretched across the Indian subcontinent to Kandahar in the east, and as far north as the Himalayas. Through his quest to govern by moral force alone, Ashoka transformed Buddhism from a minor sect into a major world religion, while simultaneously setting a new yardstick for government that had lasting implications for all of Asia. His bold experiment ended in tragedy, however, and in the tumult that followed the historical record was cleansed so effectively that his name was largely forgotten for almost two thousand years. Yet, a few mysterious stone monuments and inscriptions miraculously survived the purge. "[4]

According to the Indian historian Ram Sharan Sharma, the Mauryans maintained a large army and implemented a strict judicial system to exercise control over tribal populations under their Empire :

" Pg.355 The biggest fact of Maurya political history was the establishment of the Magadha Empire, which included the whole of India except the far south. This empire was established with the strength of the sword and it could be protected only with the strength of the sword. Strong military power was necessary for both external security and internal peace..The tribal people living inside the empire and on its borders were equally a cause of trouble. So for this, there was a huge permanent army and tight judicial system."[5]

Indian New Parliament already have carved Mauryan Empire over mural which represents Indian integrity and glorious past: [15][16]. Several historians have reconstructed the map of the Mauryan Empire based on details from Ashoka's inscriptions and accounts from Greek historians, among other sources. For example :

  • ASI (Archeological Survey Of India) referenced rough map of Mauryan Empire :[17]
  • British Historian Geoffrey Parker created map on Mauryan Empire :[18]
  • British historian Patrick K. O'Brien created Mauryan Empire Map: [19] ,
  • American historian Gerald Danzer created Mauryan Empire Map: [20]
  • British Historian Charles Allen created Mauryan Empire Map: [21]

Sources of Mauryan History

Mauryan History Sources Authentic Names
Jain Scriptures

1 - Brihatkalpa Sutra

2 - Brihatkathakosha

3 - Aradhana Satkathaprabandh

4 - Shri Chandravirachita Kathakosha

5 - Nemichandrakrita Kathakosha

6 - Parishishtaparvana

7 - Vividhtirthakalpa

8 - Punyashravakathakosha

9 - Nisitha Sutra

Buddhist Scriptures

1 - Mahavansha

2‌‌ - Dipavansha

3‌‌ - Mahabodhivansha

4 - Tripitaka

5 - Divyavadana

6 - Ashokavadana

7 ‌- Vinayapitaka

8 - Mahavansatika (Vansatthappakasini)

9 - Uttara Vihara Attakatha

Vedic Scriptures

1 - Matsya Purana

2 - Vishnu Purana

3‌ - Bhagavata Purana

4 - Bhavishya Purana

5 - Brahmanda Purana

6 - Vayu Purana

7 - Kamandaka Neetisara

Inscriptions / Rock Edicts Evidence

1 - Ashoka's Rock Edicts, Cave Inscriptions, Pillar Edicts

2 - Kharavela's Hathigumpha Rock Edicts

3 - Rudradaman Inscription of Junagarh

Ancient Historical Books

1 - Arthashastra, Kautilya

2 - Mudrarakshasa, Vishakhadatta

3 - Mahabhashya, Patanjali

4 - Malavikagnimitram, Kalidasa

5 - Harshacharita, Banabhatta

6 - Rajatarangini, Kalhana

7 - Indica, Megasthenese

8 - Naturalis Historia, Pliny

9 - Epitome of Trogus, Justin

10 - Geographica, Strabo

11 - Anabasis Alexandri, Arrian

12 - The travels of Fa-Hian, Fa Hian


  1. Kosmin, Paul J. (2014-06-23) (in en). The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-72882-0. https://books.google.co.in/books?id=9UWdAwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  2. https://archive.org/details/TaranathasHistoryOfBuddhismInIndia/page/n89/mode/2up
  3. "Junagadh Rock Inscription of Rudradaman", Project South Asia.February 2009/https://web.archive.org/web/20090223182107/http://projectsouthasia.sdstate.edu/Docs/HISTORY/PRIMARYDOCS/EPIGRAPHY/JunagadhRockInscription.htm Archived February 23, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Allen, Charles (2012-02-21) (in en). Ashoka: The Search for India's Lost Emperor. Little, Brown Book Group. ISBN 978-1-4087-0388-5. https://books.google.co.in/books?id=K4vHjbUtf_4C&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:%22Charles+Allen%22&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&source=gb_mobile_search&ovdme=1&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  5. Sharma, Ramsharan (1990). Prachin Bharat Me Rajneetik Vichar Avam Sansthae. http://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.401527.