History - Maurya Period (322 BC-185BC)
Sources for Mauryan History
1. Literary Sources
(a) Kuatilya’s Arthasastra
It is a book written by Kautilya (other name of Chanakya) on polity and governance. It reveals the economic and political conditions of the Mauryan period. Kautilya was the Prime Minister of Chandragupta Maurya, founder of Mauryan dynasty.
(b) Mudra Rakshasa
The book was written by Visakha Datta in Gupta period. The book gives an account of how Chandragupta Maurya defeated Nandas with help from Chanakya besides throwing light on socio-economic conditions.
Indica was authored by Megasthenese who was the ambassador of Selecus Nikator in Cahndraqgupta Maurya’s court. It depicts administration in Mauryan Empire, 7-caste system and absence of slavery in India.
(d) Buddhist Literature
Buddhist texts such as Jatakas reveal socio-economic conditions of Mauryan period while Buddhist chronicles Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa throws light on the role of Ashoka in spreading Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Divyavadam, the Tibetan Buddhist text informs us about Ashoka’s efforts in spreading Buddhism.
2. Archaeological Sources
(a) Ashokan Edicts
Ashokan Edicts in the form of Rock Edicts, Pillar Edicts and Cave Inscriptions are found at different places in Indian Sub-continent. These edicts were deciphered by James Princep in 1837 AD. The majority of the edicts are mainly Ashoka’s proclamations to the public while few of them describes Ashoka’s acceptance of Buddhism.
(b) Material Remains
Material remains such as NBPW (Northern Black Polished Ware), silver and copper punch-marked coins throws light on Maurya period.
3. Foreign sources
Foreign sources are accounts gathered from classical writings in Greek and Latin of the memoirs of travellers who visited India during the Mauryan period.
The main sources are thewritings of Megasthenes, Strabo, Diodorous, Nearchus, Arrian, Pliny, Plutarch, Justine,Appian, etc.
The most valuable account has been left by Megasthenes, ambassador of Seleukas to the court of Chandragupta Maurya. His original work ‘Indica’ is unfortunately lost. But few extracts from his work have been extensively found incorporated in the writings of many subsequent Greek and Roman writers.
Origin of Maurya Empire:
Ashoka the Great : 273 BC-232 BC