Chandragupta Maurya, fl.c.325-290 BC

Chandragupta Maurya (fr.c.325-290 BC) was the founder of the Mauryan Empire, the first great power to dominate the Indian sub-continent.

Two traditions survive about his origins. In one his father was a member of the Nanda family, then the rulers of the kingdom of Magadha, while his mother, Mura, was of lower caste. Maurya thus means 'son of Mura'. In the other he was a member of a nomadic Himalayan tribe, the Mauryas.

The young Chandragupta served Danananda, the last Nanda ruler, possibly becoming commander in chief of his armies, before attempting to seize power for the first time. This attempt failed, and Chandragupta was forced into exile. In the Punjab he met Alexander the Great, and is said to have told him that he could easily conquer Magahda, as its ruler was unpopular and incompetent.

The death of Alexander in 323 BC removed any chance that his conquests in India would remain under Macedonian control. Alexander left arrangements in place for the rule of the Indus valley, effectively acknowledging the authority of Porus and Ambhi, king of Taxila. Chandragupta seems to have raised an army in this area, possibly with the help of the ruler of the Himalayan northern part of the Punjab, and used this army to invade Magadha, overthrowing Danananda.

By around 305 BC Chandragupta's empire stretched across most of northern India, from the Indus to the Bay of Bengal, although the exact sequence of his conquests is unclear (it is even possible that he had become ruler of the western part of this empire before taking Magadha).

In around 305 BC India was once again invaded from the west, this time by Seleucus I Nicator, one of the more successful of Alexander's successors. After regaining control of his satrapy of Babylon in 312 Seleucus attempted to regain command of the eastern parts of the Persian Empire. This campaign eventually led him across the Indus, where he encountered the massive armies of Chandragupta. The details of the campaign are unknown, but must have ended with an Indian victory, for Seleucus gave Chandragupta the provinces of Parapanisadai (the Kabul valley), Aria (around Herat), Arachosia (around Kandahar) and part of Gedrosia. Chandragupta's empire now stretched up to the Hindu Kush.

Some of the best evidence about life in the Mauryan Empire comes from an account written by Megasthenes, an ambassador sent by Seleucus after the war, and who spent some time living at the court in Pataliputra. He recorded a war office run by thirty members of six boards, with responsibility for the navy, infantry, cavalry, war-chariots, elephants and support services. These ran an army that some sources give as containing 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry and 9,000 elephants

According to Jain tradition Chandragupta was converted to Jainism late in life, retired from public life and fasted to death during a long famine. He was succeeded by his son Bindusara.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 February 2010), Chandragupta Maurya, fl.c.325-290 BC ,

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