Maurya Empire is no doubt the most formidable dynasties that ruled many parts of world. However, when it comes to origins of Maurya Empire, our history has very little facts and more often than not it is difficult to separate facts from fiction.
Suryagupta Maurya was the father of the great Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta. Suryagupta Maurya along with his wife Mura Maurya were said to be from a ‘Shudra’ class. There are various opinions amongst historians when it comes to origin of Suryagupta Maurya, who was the father of Chandragupta Maurya.
Suryagupta Maurya – Early years
Thanks to various opinions, Suryagupta Maurya has been called as a non-Kshatriya (Shudra) others say that he was a Nanda prince. These two opinions about him are poles apart. For instance, an old Sanskrit play namely Mudrarakshasa implies that Suryagupta is from Nanda Empire. Jain and Buddhist records like Mahavamsha attribute Suryagupta to Kshatriya family called as Moriya.
Suryagupta Maurya – Prince of a Forest Kingdom or Nanda Dynasty?
Religious records of the Maurya times state Suryagupta as ruler of Pipallivana which is the present day Uttar Pradesh. The religious texts states that Suryagupta was a warrior king who belonged to the warrior clan of Moriya based out of Pipallivana which was a Forest Empire.
Moriyas were said to be the distant relatives of Shakya Clan to which Gautam Buddha belonged. Some other historical records place Suryagupta as a prince or a powerful commander in Nanda Dynasty. In both the cases it is clear that Suryagupta held a position of importance as a commander or prince. He was certainly not a commoner.
Suryagupta in Folklore
According to a well-known folklore, it was Suryagupta’s assassination by Nandh or Mahapadmananda that led to the destruction of Nanda Dynasty by Chandragupta Maurya as a revenge for his father’s murder.
The story describes how Suryagupta and Mura entered Magadha on an invitation by the Magadha King and end up as victims of a conspiracy by Mahapadma Nanda that resulted in Suryagupta’s killing. It is said that either Nandh killed Suryagupta due to jealousy which was created by Nandh’s romantic interest in Mura, Suryagupta’s wife or it was due to the fact that Suryagupta was aware of Nandh’s conspiracy to kill Nanda King so that the thrown can be usurped.
It is strongly believed that Chandragupta Maurya upon learning the misfortune bestowed on his family by the Mahapadma Nanda and Dhanananda, vowed to destroy the Nanda Dynasty and Chandragupta Maurya did rightly so with the help of his mentor Chanakya.
Apart from mentions in few religious records and contemporary literature, Suryagupta Maurya’s name is not found elsewhere. It appears that his ancestral history is unclear and there are not enough evidence to ascertain his contribution to the Maurya Empire.