The Mauryans

Mauryan Empire

  • Chandragupta Maurya

Originated from the kingdom of Magadha, which in 321 B.C. Chandragupta Maurya overthrew and then declared himself the ruler.
He made his capital at Pataliputra, he expanded the Mauryan Empire, developed roads, and bridges which all helped the empire flourish for almost 150 years.
There are many legends of Chandraguptas life; some claim his family was related to the Buddha, while others say that he met Alexander the Great and was imprisoned for offending him. Most versions of his death recount that Chandragupta left his throne to become a Jain monk and fasted until he died. After Chandragupta's death, his son Bindasura and grandson Ashoka the Great increased the empire's power and its lands.
Chandragupta was considered the first unifier of India and its first genuine emperor.
  • Ashoka ( Asoka) the Great

Changdragupta's grandson Ashoka expanded the empires borders to include about two thirds of the Indian sub-continent. Ashoka was one of India's greatest rulers and he ruled for an estimated forty years.
As Ashoka grew older he converted to Buddhism and taught his people to have regard for human life. After Ashoka's death the Mauryan empire began to decline; his successors made heavy taxes and treated the people harshly. The harsh ways led to revolts, and the last Mauryan king was killed in 184 B.C. which ended the Mauryan Empire.
  • Mauryan Legacy

Megasthenes, a Greek ambassador was sent about 300 BCE, to the Mauryan Empire.
The Greek Ambassador Megasthenes

Megasthenes was sent by the ruler of the eastern part of the Hellenistic Greek empire after Alexander the Great's death.
Megasthenes' account of his visit has provided scholars with an understanding of the nature of Mauryan rule under Chandragupta.
Megasthenes described the Indian caste system, the absolute rule of the Mauryan king and the sophisticated bureaucracy that had been developed to enforce this rule.
He also discussed the standing army that he says comprised 60,000 professional soldiers.
Megasthenes' accounts of more mundane Indian produce such as sugarcane and cotton plants drew disbelief among his readers back in Greece who could not believe in plants that produced sugar syrup and wool.
Political unity and military security allowed for a common economic system, enhanced trade and commerce.
Construction of roads, waterways, canals, hospitals, and other public works.
Taxation and crop collection helped increase productivity and economic activity across the empire.

Indian Economy, Society, and Religion


  • Economy

Post-Mauryan India was the center of the worlds trade and Chinese and Romans had high demands for goods such as:
Jewels, semi-precious stones, sandalwood, teak, spices, cotton and silk textiles, exotic animals, and slaves.
Coin minting increased after Mauryan time and banking prospered.
  • Society

Houses were made of brick with flat roofs, they were single or two stories with a courtyard and a bathroom with well-connected drainage systems. People wore colorful robes with women wearing gold and precious stone jewelry. The food consisted of wheat bread, rice and barley.
  • Religion
    Religion of Buddhism

Hinduism came about by the Indo-Aryan people who moved south through India bringing their Hindu beliefs.
The most ancient sacred literature of Hinduism is called the Vedas which is a collection of hymns, poems, and ceremonial formulas that represented the beliefs of several Aryan tribes. Hinduism is based upon three primary texts:
  1. The Vedas written in 1400-1000 B.C.
    Religion of Hinduism
  2. The Upanishads written in 900-500 B.C.
  3. The Mahabharata written in 400 B.C. to 400 A.D.
Siddhartha Gautama founded a new religion out of Hinduism, he based his religion and his new social system on four noble truths:
  1. The existence of suffering
    Gandharan Art
  2. The origin of suffering
  3. The cessation of suffering (elimination of desire)
  4. The path to the cessation of suffering


Buddhism primarily influenced the arts and culture.
For Example: Gandharan art primarily represented Buddhists themes. Gandhara is the name of an ancient kingdom located in northern Pakistan and eatern Afghanistan which is where the art gets its name.
The Mahabharata; which is ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and The Ramayana are the two greatest epics of Indian

Click here for some Indian music! Hariprasad

The Seleucid's at war.


Inner Asia

  • The Seleucids

After Alexander the Great's death his
empire was divided by his generals, one being
Their Zoroastrian religion declined and the focus on individual salvation brought religions such as Christianity and Buddhism.
Always at war with outsiders they had to maintain control with mercenary troop; eventually they were taken over by the Mauryans.
  • The Indo-Greeks

The Indo-Greek Kingdom covered various parts of northern India.

The most famous ruler was the successor of Demetrius, Menander ( Milinda)
The Indo-Greeks were invaded by the Parthians about 130-100 B.C.
Although they were invaded they left Graeco-Buddhist art and examples of cross-cultural influence.


Graeco-Buddhist art.


  • Parthians

Parthians defeated Alexander the Great's successors, the Seleucids, conquered most of the Middle East and southwest Asia
Much of what we know about the Parthians comes from their coins.
War was always a threat by the Romans but the Parthians was never conquered.

Parthian coins.

Eventually constant war and pressure from the Kushan Empire weakened them and a Persian Empire replaced them.
  • Sakas and Kushans

The Saka Empire ruled in parts of northwest and western India.
the Scythian (Saka)
The Scythian Empire ruled in parts of northwest and western India.
Horse riding nomadic pastoralits (livestock farmers) thought to have originated from Central Asia.
There are three periods of the Scythian:
Scythian (Saka) Empire

  1. Pre-Scythian 9th to middle of 7th century
  2. Early Scythian 7th-6th century
  3. Classical Scythian 5th-4th century
Scythians were known as being an extremely barbaric and bloodthirsty race. Skinning and beheading slain adversaries and shaping their skulls into drinking cups.
Known for their archers, many were hired mercenaries. Funerals were highly ceremonial and even more blood-drenched. A fallen warrior's wife and entire household were often killed and placed inside the kurgan to serve in the afterlife.
They lived in confederated tribes (the tribes lived separate but were allies to each other), they worshiped a fire deity Tabiti; a part of their spritual rituals.
It is from this amazing group of people, that history gives us the legend (or myth) of the Amazon Warrior Women.
The Amazon Warrior Women
Greek mythology describes the Amazons as decendants of the god of war, Ares, and the sea nymph, Harmonia. They worshipped Artemis, goddess of the hunt, and exactly where the
territory is has always been disputed. Herodotus believed they may have occupied the sweeping steppes of Southern Russian. Other stories claim they lived in Thrace or along the lower Caucasus Mountains in northern Albania. The Thermonodon River, in Asia Minor, known today as the coast of Turkey, seems to be the most frequently mentioned territory of the Amazons.
Amazon society was stringently matriarchal; males were of no use other than for mating purposes and as slaves, doing work that was traditionally performed by women. Men's outer extremities were often mutilated to prevent them from taking up arms against their captors or escaping. Male babies were either given away at birth to neighboring tribes or killed.
From an early age Amazons were trained in the arts of war. Some myths and stories say that during adolescence a young Amazon's right breast would be cauterized or entirely removed by her mother so that once the girl reached adulthood she could wield bows and throw javelins more accurately. Experts disagree, claiming that the Amazons would not have had the medical know how to prevent massive hemorrhage or infection if such drastic mutilations actually occurred.
The Amazon were said to be the first humans to tame and ride horses. They were fearless and expert warriors, on horseback or as foot soldiers, and the Greeks fiercest enemies. They dedicated themselves to endless hours of training in the art of combat, their favored weapons; bows, spears, and double-sided battle axes.

Amazon Warrior Woman.
Amazon Warrior Woman

The Kushan drove the Saka away from western China and Bactria.
The Kushan Empire the land of Jammu and Kashmir.
Kanishka ruler of the Kushan Dynasty achieved the historical division between two versions of Buddhism it took place through the great Buddhist council that was organized under the supervision of Kanishka.

Kushan coin.
Kushan Empire.