The Maurya Empire ruled over India for 135 year. During this period it saw some of the greatest emperors in Indian History. Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka the Great were two of the most prominent kings of this dynasty. During Maurya dynasty, Magadha Empire expanded itself to having the largest boundaries, it was one of the largest kingdom of the ancient world and the largest of ancient India.
The story begins like this, during 327 BC -326 BC India was attacked by Alexander the Great from North-West. The king of Magadha at that time, Dhana Nanda, was reluctant and not paying attention to this and was busy in his own kingly pleasures. This attitude of the king led to a flow of negative sentiments amongst common man, army personnel and army generals of the mighty Nanda Dynasty.
Chandragupta Maurya, a young man at that time and an activist, along with Vishnugupta (Chanakya), united a number of people against Dhana Nanda, which included Army Generals and other Army infantry and was able to overthrow Dhana Nanda, and Nanda king was sent on an exile in 322 BC. Right after the change at the center, Chanakya gave a speech in public that the dormant king has been overthrown and Chandragupta Maurya is the new emperor.
After becoming the Emperor, Chandragupta Maurya adopted Jainism. The kingdom was ruled by Jain laws of non-violence (ahimsha). Chandragupta Maurya believed more in diplomacy. He was lesser inclined toward battles and wars and was a master of forgiveness. During his reign Maurya Empire was covered from Bengal in the east to Persia in the west, to the south it covered till Deccan Plateau, only a kingdom of Kalinga (modern Orissa) was not the part of Maurya Empire.
Bindusara inherited the kingdom after Chandragupta Maurya. Bindusara was a Ajivika and ruled the empire on the basis of this religious belief. During his empire Maurya Empire extended further south to modern Karnataka and Andra Pradesh. Bindusara died at the age of 48 and his younger son, Ashoka, who was the viceroy of Ujjain at that time, became the ruler of Magadha.
Ashoka the Great (reign, 274 BC – 232 BC) is supposed to be the most successful ruler of Ancient India his principles and leadership qualities are considered to be exemplary even today. Ashoka was an aggressive and ambitious ruler initially, who aimed at conquering the whole world, during his reign Mauryan Empire expanded far south, allied Sri Lanka. In the east, the empire spread till Burma and Iran to the west.
A turning point in the life of Ashoka the Great was the war of Kalinga. In the war 1,00,000 people lost their lives. Out of which 20,000 were Ashoka’s own men. After this gruesome battle Magadha was able to occupy Kalinga, though the war changed the life of Ashoka, he became a Buddhist and adopted non-violence. Ashoka, started giving incentives on spreading Buddhism all over the world. He constructed the Sanchi Stupa. His peace policies made him one of the most respected rulers in the world.
Ashoka died in 232 BC. After his death a number of weak rulers ruled the kingdom, as a result the kingdom first divided in two and later in the reign of Brihadrata, the commander-in-chief of his guard, the ‘Brahmin’ general Pusyamitra Sunga assassinated him and took over the throne and established the Sunga Dynasty.
There are no apparent reasons for the coup but some say Pusyamitra was fed up of being ruled by Buddhists and he was a persecutor against Buddhism. Sunga dynasty is supposed to have revived Hinduism back to India.