Dasharatha Maurya or Dasaratha 232 BC – 224 BC succeeded the great Emperor Ashoka, the Great 268 BC – 232 BC, and presided over the throne from 232 BCE to 224 BCE. Dasharatha was Ashoka’s grandson and he was the last Mauryan ruler to have issued royal inscriptions. A lot of information regarding Dasharatha was found from these inscriptions that he had promulgated during his rule. During his reign, many of the territories broke away from the central rule, and he had to preside over a declining kingdom. He was known to have continued the religious and social policies which were adopted by Ashoka. Dasharatha was succeeded by his cousin Samprati (224 – 215 BCE) in 224 BCE.
Dasharatha Maurya – Religious views – Buddhist and Devanampriya
Ashoka was known to be an ardent follower of Buddhism, but he called himself Devanampriya, which meant ‘Beloved of the Gods’ in Pali. The Pali language is widely studied, as most of the ancient literature related to Buddhism is written in Pali. Dasharatha, too, considered himself Devanampriya, and the three caves of Nagarjuni Hills, located 24 km north of Gaya, Bihar, have inscriptions which refer to him as Devanampriya. The hills were dedicated by Dasharatha to the Ajivikas after he came to power. The Ajivikas were an ancient sect of wandering ascetics. The sect enjoyed considerable following before religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism came up but it disappeared gradually and was only followed by the lower castes of the society. Some beliefs and practices of the sect seem to have found their way into Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism.
Dasharatha Maurya – Rule and Administration – Supervision of a Declining Kingdom
During Ashoka’s rule several dynasties of the south like the Satavahana Dynasty had been feudatories of the Mauryan Empire. The death of Ashoka marked the period of decline of imperial power in the south. After Ashoka’s death, Dasharatha was able to control only very few kingdoms down south as many of them split and became independent. The Mahameghavahana dynasty in the central part of Kalinga also broke away from imperial rule after Ashoka’s death. It is believed that Dasharatha appointed three Mauryan rulers – Badhupalita, Indrapalita and Dasona as regional governors for convenience of administration. There is very little information about these rulers, but they are believed to be from a branch line of the Mauryan dynasty.
Adding to the difficulties of Dasharatha, one of his uncles, Jaluka, set up an independent kingdom in Kashmir. Jaluka was Ashoka’s son and had chosen to be a Buddhist monk in his early life. But after Ashoka’s death, Dasharatha seized the opportunity of the weak administration and started a kingdom. He was against Ashoka’s religious views and persecuted Buddhism. Dasharatha was an active promoter of Shaivism. Shaivism is one of the four popular sects of Hinduism where Lord Shiva is considered as the Supreme Being.
King Dasharatha gave up his kingdom around 224 BC and became a Hindu Muni.
Famous historians, Vincent Smith and Romila Thapar, advanced the theory that the Mauryan Empire underwent a split post the death of Ashoka. The eastern parts, including the capital of Pataliputra, was given to Dasharatha and the western parts, including the capital of Ujjain, was given to Kunala. Kunala’s son, Samprati is said to have united the divided kingdom and succeeded the throne from Dasharatha in 224 BCE.