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Mauryan Period (321-184 BC)

Mauryan Period (321-184 BC)

Archaeological remains:

  • Use of Iron was on a more extensive scale
  • Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) use continued with increase in variety, number and area.
  • Burnt bricks were used for the first time in the Mauryan period.
  • Ring wells were also identified for the first time in the Mauryan Period.
  • Even in the Mauryan period, we have no evidence of usage of gold coins. Rupyarupa and Pana were the silver coins whereas Tamarupa were the copper coins used in the Mauryan period.
  • Many wooden palaces and halls were unearthed from the Mauryan period.

Kautilya’s Arthasastra:

  • It is the most important literary source of the Mauryan period. It is a book on political economy. It was written in Sanskrit. Arthasastra was divided into 15 adhikamas (parts). It gives us an idea of the functioning of the Mauryan state.
  • Kautilya is also known by names as Chanakya and Vishnugupta. Kautilya is considered as Indian Machiavelli. Chanakya also wrote a book called ChandraGuptaKatha highlighting the achievements of the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Megasthenes’s Indica:
    • Megasthenes was the Greek ambassador of Selucus Nikator to the court of Chandragupta Maurya. His book ‘Indica’ is the foremost among all the foreign accounts for Mauryas. But its original is lost and it has survived only as quotations in the texts of classical Greek and Latin writers. It gives an outline of Mauryan polity, society and economy.  Mauryan Period (321-184 BC)
  • Deimachus:
    • Antiochus I, the successor of Selucus Nikator removed Megasthenes and appointed Deimachus as ambassador to the court of Bindusara. He wrote a separate account of India.
  • Justin:
    • He was the Greek author of the book ‘Epitome’. He writes about the Mauryan period and calls Chandragupta Maurya as Sandracottus. He says that Sandracottus visited the court of Alexander and went on the liberate India from Greek rule.
  • Plutarch:
    • He was also a Greek who in his book ‘Lives’ talks about the Mauryan period. Plutarch says that Chandragupta Maurya with an army of 6,00,000 soldiers overran the whole of India.
    • Strabo:
      • He was also a Greek who wrote the book ‘Geography’. In this book he gives frequent references to the Mauryan period. He often quotes from Megasthenes Indica.

    Indian Buddhist Literature [Mauryan Period (321-184 BC)]

    • Jatakas reveal a general picture of socio-economic conditions of the Mauryan period — Jatakas are stories of previous births of the Buddha.
    • Digha Nikaya helps in determining the influence of Buddhist ideas on Mauryan polity.
    • Vamsathapakasini gives us information about the Kshatriya origin of the Mauryas.
    • Arya Manjusri Mool Kalpa, a Buddhist book written later also contains references to the Mauryans and the Guptas.

    Ceylonese Chronicles:

    • Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa are Buddhist works in Pali which describe the part played by Ashoka in spreading Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Mahavamsa Tika and Mahabodhi Vamsa also narrate the Mauryan role in promoting Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

    Tibetan Buddhist Sources: [Mauryan Period (321-184 BC)]

    • Books such as Ashokavadana and Divyavadana written in Tibet in Sanskrit give an account of the Mauryan emperors.


    • It is a book written by Hemachandra. This Jaina work talks about the conversion of Chandragupta Maurya to Jainism. He then renounced the throne in favour of his son, Bindusara and is said to have gone to Shravanabelagola near Mysore, where he deliberately starved to death in the approved Jaina fashion.

    Vishakhadatta’s Mudrarakshasa: [Mauryan Period (321-184 BC)]

    • This book written in the Gupta period deals with the strategies of Kautilya and mentions Chandragupta Maurya as being of lowly origin. He calls Chandragupta Maurya as ‘Vrishala’ or ‘Kulhina’.


    • Puranas being composed by the Brahmanas are biased against the Mauryas and call them not only Sudras and unrighteous, they give us the Chronology and list of Mauryan rulers.

    Ashokan Edicts:

    • There are 14 Major Rock Edicts, 7 Major Pillar Edicts, 3 Minor Rock Edicts, 3 Minor Pillar Edicts and 3 Cave Edicts located at various places in the Indian Subcontinent. They were deciphered by James Prinsep of the English East India Company in 1837. Majority of them are in the nature of Ashoka’s proclamations to the public at large. Though Prakrit is the language used in them, the script varied from region to region (Kharoshti in the north-west, Greek and Aramaic in the west and Brahmi in the rest of India).

    Other Inscriptions  [Mauryan Period (321-184 BC)]

    • Junagarh rock inscription of Rudradaman-I informs us that the famous Sudarsana lake was consutrcted by Pushyagupta, the brother-in-law and governor of Chandragupta Maurya at the orders of the latter.
    • Sohagura and Mahasthan inscriptions which probably belonged to Chandragupta Maurya’s reign deal with famine relief measures.
    • Nagarjuna hill cave inscription of Dasaratha talks about the dedication of caves to Ajivikas.


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