History and Achievements of Chandragupta Maurya: Early Life, Empire Expansion and Legacy

Dr.Santosh Kumar Sain

Chandragupta Maurya was born in 345 BC and went on to establish the Maurya Empire, unifying the whole of India under one rule. He ruled for about 24 years and his reign ended around 285 BC. According to the Indian calendar, his reign begins in 1534 BC.

History and Achievements of Chandragupta Maurya: Early Life, Empire Expansion and Legacy

Chandragupta Maurya and Greek Ambassador Megasthenes 

Greek Ambassador Megasthenes served in the court of Chandragupta for four years and in Greek and Latin texts, Chandragupta is known as Sandrocottes and Endocottes, respectively. Before Chandragupta ascended the throne, Alexander had invaded the northwestern Indian subcontinent, leaving the region ruled by Indo-Greeks and local rulers. Chandragupta directly handled the legacy.

The Mauryan Empire and Chandragupta's Leadership

Chandragupta, along with his guru Chanakya, created a new empire, implemented the principles of the Rajyachakra, built a large army, and continued to expand the boundaries of his empire. They ended the Nanda dynasty with a huge Vijayvahini and Chanakya is credited with 'Nandonmulan' in Brahmin texts.

Chandragupta's Army and Conquest of India

According to the Arthashastra, Chandragupta recruited soldiers from categories such as thieves, mlecchas, Atviks, and armed forces. Mudrarakshas reveals that Chandragupta made a treaty with King Parvataka of the Himalayan region. Shakas, Yavanas, Kirats, Kambojs, Parsiks, and Vahlikas were also believed to be part of his army. According to Plutarch, Sandrocottus conquered the whole of India with a corps of 6,00,000 soldiers. According to Justin, India was under the authority of Chandragupta.

Death and Legacy

Chandragupta Maurya left his mortal body through Sallekhana in 297 BCE, ending his days of self-starvation. Bindusara, his son, succeeded him and gave birth to Ashoka, who became one of the most powerful kings of the Indian subcontinent. Chandragupta Maurya remains one of the most important and influential emperors of ancient India.


NameChandragupta Maurya (in Greek - Sandrocottes and Endocottes)
BirthplacePiplivan Republic, present Gorakhpur region, Uttar Pradesh
Father's NameMaharaj Chandravardhan Maurya
Mother's NameMaharanai Madhura alias Mura
Guru's NameChanakya
Wife's NameDurdhara (Daughter of Mahapadmananda and Helena, Daughter of Seleucus Nictar)
GrandsonEmperor Ashoka
FounderMaurya Dynasty
Jain GuruBhadravahu
Died298 BC (age 47–48)
Cause of DeathStarvation according to Jainism
Place of DeathShravanabelagola, Mysore Chandragiri Hills, Karnataka

Chandragupta Maurya: India's Great Emperor

Chandragupta Maurya is widely acknowledged as the founder of the Maurya Empire, which was a prominent ancient Indian empire. He is attributed to the unification of the numerous small states in the country and amalgamating them into a single, extensive empire. The Mauryan Empire, under his reign, spanned across Bengal and Assam in the east, Afghanistan and Baluchistan in the west, Kashmir and Nepal in the north, and the Deccan Plateau in the south.

 Alongside his mentor Chanakya, Chandragupta Maurya overthrew the Nanda Empire and established the Maurya Empire. After a successful 23-year reign, Chandragupta Maurya renounced his material possessions and transformed into a Jain monk. It is believed that he performed the 'Sallekhna' ritual, which involves fasting until death.

Rise of the Maurya Dynasty

The Maurya dynasty, one of the most prominent ancient Indian dynasties, rose to power during a period of political turmoil and fragmentation. Here are some facts about the rise of the Maurya dynasty:

Origins of Chandragupta Maurya

Most of the information about Chandragupta Maurya's lineage comes from ancient texts of Greek, Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu Brahmanism. Historians have put forth various theories about his origins.

Illegitimate Child of a Nanda Prince and Maidservant

Some historians believe that Chandragupta Maurya was an illegitimate child of a Nanda prince and his maidservant Mura.

Related to the Moriyas

Others believe that Chandragupta Maurya was related to the Moriyas, a Kshatriya (warrior) clan from the ancient republic of Piplivana, located between Rummindei (Nepalese Terai) and Kasaya (Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh).

Muras or Kshatriya of Indo-Scythian Descent
Two other views suggest that he was either a Muras (or Moors) or a Kshatriya of Indo-Scythian descent.

Abandoned Background

Another claim is that Chandragupta Maurya abandoned his parents and came from a humble background. According to legend, he was brought up by a pastoral family and later taken in by Chanakya, who taught him the rules of administration and everything else needed to become a successful emperor.

Despite the various theories, the rise of the Maurya dynasty under Chandragupta Maurya's leadership is undisputed. He brought together the fragmented states of the country and established a vast empire that extended from Bengal and Assam in the east to Afghanistan and Baluchistan in the west, Kashmir and Nepal in the north, and the Deccan Plateau in the south.

Early Life of Chandragupta Maurya

Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya dynasty, had an eventful early life that eventually led to his rise to power. Here's a closer look at his early years:

Encounter with Chanakya

According to various historical records, Chanakya, a prominent scholar, and advisor, was searching for a suitable candidate to overthrow the ruling Nanda dynasty. While scouting for a potential leader, Chanakya came across a young Chandragupta playing with his friends in the Magadha kingdom. Impressed by Chandragupta's natural leadership skills, Chanakya decided to adopt him and train him in various aspects of governance and warfare.

Training under Chanakya

Under the guidance of Chanakya, Chandragupta received comprehensive training in different fields. He learned about military strategy, economics, politics, and diplomacy. Chanakya also instilled in him the values of integrity, courage, and leadership.

Journey to Takshashila

After years of rigorous training, Chanakya and Chandragupta journeyed to Takshashila (now in modern-day Pakistan), which was a renowned center of learning and scholarship. There, Chandragupta had access to some of the finest mentors and teachers in various disciplines.

Formation of an Army

At Takshashila, Chanakya advised Chandragupta to convert all his wealth into an army to challenge the powerful Nanda dynasty. Following his mentor's advice, Chandragupta amassed a large army with soldiers drawn from different parts of India. After his preparations were complete, he launched an attack on the Nanda dynasty, eventually emerging victorious and establishing the Maurya dynasty.

The early life of Chandragupta Maurya was shaped by his encounter with Chanakya, who recognized his potential and provided him with the necessary training and guidance to establish a powerful empire. Chandragupta's journey to Takshashila and the formation of a massive army were instrumental in his eventual victory over the Nanda dynasty.

 Maurya Empire: Rise to Power

In 324 BC, Alexander the Great and his troops left India, leaving behind a legacy of Greek rulers who controlled parts of the ancient Indian subcontinent. Taking advantage of this power vacuum, Chandragupta Maurya, with the help of his advisor Chanakya, formed alliances with local rulers and began to defeat the armies of the Greek rulers. This marked the beginning of the rise of the Maurya Empire.

End of the Nanda Empire

Chanakya, an astute political strategist, saw an opportunity to overthrow the Nanda Empire and helped Chandragupta establish the Maurya Empire with the aim of destroying the Nandas. Following Chanakya's advice, Chandragupta formed an alliance with King Parvataka, the ruler of the Himalayan region of ancient India. Together, they launched a military campaign and successfully defeated the Nanda kingdom in approximately 322 BCE, ending their reign and paving the way for the Maurya Empire to emerge as a dominant power in ancient India.

Expansion of the Maurya Empire:

Chandragupta Maurya's Conquests

Chandragupta Maurya, after defeating the Macedonian satraps in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, launched a war against Seleucus, a Greek ruler who controlled most of the territories earlier captured by Alexander the Great. Seleucus offered his daughter's hand in marriage to Chandragupta and entered into an alliance with him, which helped Chandragupta acquire many territories and expand his empire to encompass all of South Asia. As a result of this extensive expansion, Chandragupta Maurya's empire was said to be the most extensive in the whole of Asia.

Chandragupta Maurya and Seleucus Nicator: The Encounter and Alliance

After the death of Alexander the Great, his territories in India were divided among his generals, and one of the most capable of them was Seleucus Nicator. In 305 B.C., Seleucus invaded India with the aim of conquering more territories. However, he was defeated by Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, who established the vast Maurya Empire by occupying several regions such as Aria, Arakosia, Jedrosia, Paris, and Pemiai.

As a result of his defeat, Seleucus made a peace agreement with Chandragupta and ceded some of his territories to him in exchange for 500 elephants. He even went on to marry his daughter Helen to Chandragupta as a symbol of their alliance.

Seleucus also appointed Megasthenes, a Greek historian, as an ambassador to the court of Chandragupta. Megasthenes wrote a book called Indica, which provided valuable insights into the administration and culture of the Mauryan Empire. This encounter between Chandragupta Maurya and Seleucus Nicator played a significant role in shaping the political and cultural history of India.

Conquest of South India

After receiving the provinces west of the Indus River from Seleucus, Chandragupta's empire spread over the northern parts of southern Asia. His conquests began in the south beyond the Vindhya range and extended to most parts of India, except for parts of present-day Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Maurya Empire Administration:

System of Government under Chandragupta Maurya

Chandragupta Maurya, who established the Maurya Empire, was a great emperor of ancient India. His system of governance was primarily derived from the residual parts of the description of Megasthenes and Kautilya's Arthashastra. Here are some key features of the system of government under Chandragupta Maurya:

King as the Head of Government Organs


The king was the head of various organs of the government. He was tirelessly busy in the work of governance. In the Arthashastra, the ideal periodization of the daily routine of the king has been given. According to Megasthenes, the king does not sleep during the day but remains in the court throughout the day for justice and other works of governance.

Importance of Kingship over Religion, Behavior, and Character
Against the tradition of Smritis, in Arthashastra, kingship has been given more importance than religion, behavior, and character. The king was expected to be just and fair in his decisions.

Protection of the King

It is known from both Megasthenes and Kautilya that there was proper arrangement to protect the life of the king. Armed women used to protect the king's body. Megasthenes says that the king is constantly in danger of death, due to which he changes his bedroom every night.

Limited Public Appearance of the King

The king used to come out of his palace only for war travel, yagya rituals, justice, and hunting. At the time of hunting, the path of the king was surrounded by ropes, whose crossing was punishable by death.

Defeat of Macedonian Satraps

By 317 BC, Chandragupta had also defeated the remaining Macedonian satraps in the north-west of India, thus establishing his control over the entire subcontinent.

The Maurya Empire was one of the largest empires in ancient India, spanning from 322 BCE to 185 BCE. The administration of the Maurya Empire was highly organized and efficient, with a well-established bureaucracy and a hierarchy of officers.

Here are some of the key officers in the Maurya administration and their functions:

King: The Maurya Empire was an absolute monarchy, and the king was the supreme authority. The king was responsible for the overall governance of the empire, including maintaining law and order, defense, and the administration of justice.

Yuvaraj or Crown Prince: The Yuvaraj was the designated successor to the throne and was often given important administrative responsibilities to prepare them for the role of king.

Amatya or Prime Minister: The Amatya was the chief minister and was responsible for the day-to-day administration of the empire. They advised the king on matters of policy and governance and oversaw the work of other officials.

Senapati or Commander-in-Chief: The Senapati was responsible for the defense of the empire and led the army in times of war. They also oversaw the training and recruitment of soldiers.

Samaharta or Treasurer: The Samaharta was responsible for the collection of taxes and revenues and the management of the treasury. They also oversaw the distribution of funds for various projects and initiatives.

Rajuka or Superintendent of Mines: The Rajuka was responsible for the administration of mines and minerals. They oversaw the extraction of resources and ensured that they were used for the benefit of the empire.

Dharma Mahamatra or Chief Justice: The Dharma Mahamatra was responsible for the administration of justice and the enforcement of laws. They oversaw the work of judges and magistrates and ensured that justice was delivered fairly.

Pradesika or Governor: The Pradesika was responsible for the administration of a province or region of the empire. They oversaw the work of other officials and ensured that the needs of the people were met.

These are just some of the key officers in the Maurya administration, and there were many others who played important roles in the governance of the empire. 

Council of Ministers and Governance in Ancient India

In ancient India, there was a provision for a council of ministers to assist the king in economics. According to Kautilya, the king should accept the majority and measures should be taken to know the opinion of absent ministers on important questions. Special care was taken to keep the advice of the Council of Ministers secret. Megasthenes mentions two types of officers – ministers, and secretaries. 

Their number was not much but they were very important and were appointed to high positions in the state. The Arthashastra mentions 18 Tirthas as authorities of governance. There were separate departments for different works of governance, such as treasury, size, symptom, salt, gold, treasury, commodity, kupy, armory, potav, honor, fee, sutra, sita, sura, sun, currency, vivid, gambling, vandhanagar, Gau, Nau, Pattan, Ganika, Sena, Sanstha, Devta etc., who were under their respective presidents.

Spying and Economics in Ancient India

According to Megasthenes, there was a large army of spies in the service of the king. They kept a close eye on other employees and informed the king about everything. In economics, too, special importance has been given to the placement of variables and their functions.

City Government and Unit of Governance in Ancient India

Megasthenes has described the city government of Pataliputra which may have been prevalent in other cities in one form or the other. (See 'Pataliputra') In the Arthashastra, the ruler of the city is called Nagarik and under him, there were localities and Gopas.

The unit of governance was the village, which was ruled by the villagers with the help of the village elders. Above the Gramik were the Gopas and the Sthanikas respectively.

Nyayasabhas and Punishment in Ancient India

The Arthashastra mentions two types of Nyayasabhas and gives a detailed description of their procedure and jurisdiction. Ordinarily, Dharmasthiya can be called civil and Kantakshodhan a criminal court. The punishment was harsh. There was a law of the death penalty for mutilating artisans and deliberately not paying state tax on sales. Betrayal and adultery were punishable by amputation.

Land Ownership and Economics in Ancient India

Megasthenes has called the king the master of the land. The owner of the land was the farmer. The income of the state from its private land was called Sita and the land tax received from the rest was called Bhag. Apart from this, the state also had income from octroi, customs, sales tax, tax on instruments of weight and measure, gambling, prostitutes, taxes on industries and crafts, fines and taxes, and forest.

Public Welfare Works and Military Organization in Ancient India

The idea of economics is that the happiness and well-being of the king lie in the happiness and well-being of the subjects. In the Arthashastra, there are instructions for many types of public welfare works by the king, such as arranging work for the unemployed, arranging for the upbringing of widows and orphans, and controlling wages and prices. 

Megasthenes mentions officials who measured the land and supervised canal systems so that everyone would receive a fair share of canal water for irrigation. Chandragupta made special efforts for the arrangement of irrigation, this is supported by Rudradaman's Junagarh inscription. This article mentions the construction of Sudarshan Lake by Chandragupta by stopping the water of a mountain river in Saurashtra.

Megasthenes has also described in detail the military organization of Chandragupta. There were more than six lakh.


Engineering Marvels

The Maurya Empire was known for its engineering marvels, including temples, irrigation systems, reservoirs, roads, and mines. Since Chandragupta Maurya preferred roads to waterways, he built a network of highways connecting his capital to places such as Nepal, Dehradun, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. A highway connecting Pataliputra to Taxila was a thousand miles long and enabled large vehicles like bullock carts to pass easily. Such infrastructure led to a strong economy that fueled the entire empire.


Art and Architecture

Although there is no historical evidence identifying the style of art and architecture during the Chandragupta Maurya era, archaeological finds such as the Didarganj Yakshi suggest that the art of his era was influenced by the Greeks. Historians argue that most of the art and architecture related to the Maurya Empire was from ancient India.

Army of Chandragupta Maurya

Emperor Chandragupta Maurya is said to have had a massive army, consisting of over 500,000-foot soldiers, 9,000 war elephants, and 30,000 cavalry, as reported by several Greek accounts. The entire army was well-trained, well-paid, and enjoyed a special status as advised by Chanakya. Chandragupta and Chanakya brought with them weapons manufacturing facilities, making them almost invincible in the eyes of their enemies. However, Chandragupta mostly used his power to intimidate his opponents and relied on diplomacy rather than war.

Unification of India

Under the rule of Chandragupta Maurya, the whole of India and a large part of South Asia were united. Buddhism, Jainism, Brahmanism (ancient Hinduism), and Ajivika flourished under his rule. The uniformity in the administration, economy, and infrastructure of the entire empire resulted in a prosperous and happy empire. As a result, the subjects regarded Chandragupta Maurya as the greatest emperor.

Stories related to Chandragupta Maurya and Chanakya

According to a Greek text, Chandragupta Maurya was a mystic who could control the behavior of aggressive wild animals such as lions and elephants. One account tells of a lion appearing before him when he was resting after a war with his Greek opponents. The lion licked the sweat of Chandragupta Maurya, and then went in the opposite direction, much to the surprise of the Greek soldiers.

Regarding Chanakya, there are numerous mystical legends. It is said that Chanakya was an alchemist and could convert one piece of gold coin into eight different gold coins. He also used alchemy to turn a small fortune into his treasury, which was later used to buy a large army, becoming the military platform on which the Maurya Empire was built. 

Chanakya was born with a full row of teeth, indicating his destiny to become a great king. His father, however, did not want his son to become a king and therefore broke one of his teeth. Chanakya's father believed he would be the reason behind the establishment of an empire.

Chandragupta Maurya Personal Life

Chandragupta Maurya was married to Dudhara and lived a happy married life. Chanakya added small amounts of poison to Chandragupta Maurya's food to train his body to get used to the poison, to prevent his enemies from poisoning him. Unfortunately, during the last stage of her pregnancy, Queen Durdhara consumed some of the food items that were meant for Chandragupta Maurya. Chanakya entered the palace and realized that Durdhara would not survive, so he cut her womb with a sword to save the unborn child, who was named Bindusara. Chandragupta Maurya later married Seleucus' daughter Helena as part of his diplomacy and entered into an alliance with Seleucus.


When Bindusara became an adult, Chandragupta Maurya decided to make him the new emperor and left Pataliputra after requesting Chanakya to continue his services as the chief advisor of the Mauryan dynasty. He renounced all worldly pleasures and became a hermit, following the tradition of Jainism. He traveled to the south of India before settling in Shravanabelagola (present-day Karnataka).
Death of Chandragupta Maurya

Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Empire, decided to embrace Sallekhana, a Jain practice of fasting to death, under the guidance of his spiritual master Bhadrabahu in 297 BCE. He fasted until his last breath inside a cave located in Shravanabelagola. Today, a small temple stands at the site as a tribute to his legacy.


Chandragupta Maurya's son Bindusara succeeded him to the throne, and Bindusara's son, Ashoka, became one of the most powerful kings of the Indian subcontinent. Under Ashoka's reign, the Mauryan Empire reached its zenith and became the largest in the world. The empire continued to flourish for over 130 years, leaving a lasting impact on Indian history. 

Chandragupta Maurya's unification of most of present-day India was a significant achievement, as prior to the establishment of the Mauryan Empire, the region was ruled by several Greek and Persian kings who had created their own territories. Even today, Chandragupta Maurya's contributions to ancient India continue to be celebrated and revered.


Q: Who was Chandragupta Maurya?

A: Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire, which was one of the largest empires in ancient India.

Q: When did Chandragupta Maurya live?

A: Chandragupta Maurya is believed to have lived from 340 BCE to 298 BCE.

Q: What was Chandragupta Maurya's most significant achievement?

A: Chandragupta Maurya's most significant achievement was the establishment of the Mauryan Empire, which was known for its vast size and efficient administration.

Q: Who was Chanakya, and what was his role in Chandragupta Maurya's life?

A: Chanakya was a statesman and advisor who played a significant role in the rise of Chandragupta Maurya. He is credited with helping Chandragupta Maurya defeat the Nanda dynasty and establish the Mauryan Empire.

Q: What was the Arthashastra, and what was its significance during the Mauryan Empire?

A: The Arthashastra was an ancient Indian treatise on statecraft, economics, and military strategy. It was written by Chanakya and served as a guidebook for the administration of the Mauryan Empire.

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