Monday, August 6, 2012

Chandragupta Maurya (#99)


Chandragupta Maurya was born around the year 340 BC in India. He is said to have come from the Moriya (or Maurya) section of the Khattya clan. Chandragupta was a prince of the Maurya family. Chandragupta was known by Greeks and Romans as Sandracottos, and Plutarch even said that in 326 BC, Chandragupta met Alexander the Great during Alexander's invasion of India.

Chanakya and Empire Formation

Chanakya was an advisor in the Nanda court. The Nanda kingdom was one of the larger clans in India at the time. For one reason or another, Chanakya was thrown out of the court by the king. Chanakya went to Magadha, the hometown of Chandragupta. When he met Chandragupta, Chanakya saw the potential Gupta had as a leader. Chanakya took the role as Chandragupta's teacher, hoping that Chandragupta would help him to one day get his revenge on the Nanda king. Chanakya helped Maurya to defeat the Magadha kings and the Chandravanshi clan. These areas became the foundation of the empire Chandragupta would create. At the same time, Alexander the Great and his generals were conquering western India. Several of the kings of India had signed peace treaties with Alexanders, while others, like the king of Punjab, were defeated in battle. Chanakya believed the only way to defeat the foreign invaders was to unite the kingdoms in an alliance and fight, but when none of the kings agreed to the alliance, Chandragupta decided that he needed to build an empire to protect the Indian territories. The first major kingdom for Chandragupta to conquer was the Nanda Empire. Nanda was so large and powerful that Alexander the Great's men simply refused to fight them. Chandragupta made an alliance with king Parvatka, who ruled a kingdom in the Himalayas. Though Bhadrasala, the commander of the Nanda army, originally had the upper hand in the war, Chandragupta pulled through and in 321 BC, he had captured Pataliputra, the capital of the Nanda Empire. The conquest of the Nanda Empire turned the Maurya kingdom into the Maurya Empire.


When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, Chandragupta turned to Northwestern India, now in the hands of Greek generals left in charge by Alexander. By 316 BC, Chandragupta had conquered everything East of the Indus River. Chandragupta continued his expansion into Seleucid Persia, the most powerful of the territories left by Alexander. Seleucus I Nicator entered confrontation with Chandragupta in 305 BC, eventually going to war with him. Seleucus did not do too well in battle, and Seleucus had to cede a large amount of territory east of the Indus to Chandragupta. This stretched the Mauryan Empire into Pakistan and Afghanistan. Chandragupta is said to have married Seleucus's daughter to formalize the alliance, which would explain the 500 war-elephants that Chandragupta sent to Seleucus. These elephants helped Sleucus to win the Battle of Ipsus in 302 BC against other generals of Alexander. After expanding in the Northwest, Chandragupta moved to the South, on the Deccan Plateau, where he conquered most of the kingdoms there as well. 

The End

In 298 BC, Chandragupta gave up his throne to become an ascetic. Chandragupta migrated to southern India to what is now Karnataka. A temple marks the Bhadrabahu cave, the place where Chandragupta is said to have died while fasting. After he left, Chandragupta's son, Bindusara, took over the throne of the Mauryan empire. Chandragupta's grandson, Ashoka the Great, is said to have been one of the most influential kings in the history of India and the world. Chandragupta Maurya is on our list for founding on of the greatest empires in Indian history and in the world. Maurya tried to build an empire at the same time and place as Alexander the Great, and succeeded.