Mauryan Empire Tour India - Birth of Mighty India - 326 BCE–184 BCE - Megasthenes Tales

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Mauryan Empire Tour India - Birth of Mighty India - 326 BCE–184 BCE - Megasthenes Tales - Package Overview

Mauryan Empire Tour India - Birth of Mighty India - 326 BCE–184

BCE - Megasthenes Tales

Maurya Empire Tour India - The Birth of Mighty India - Megasthenes tales

Main Destinations of Mauryan Empire Tour

  • Imperial capital at Pataliputra ( Now patna)

Four provincial capitals

  • Tosali (in the east)
  • Ujjain (in the west)
  • Suvarnagiri (in the south)
  • Taxila (in the north) - Now pakistan
  • Sanchi Complex - The stupa, which contained the relics of Buddha, at the center of the Sanchi complex was originally built by the Maurya Empire
  • Bhadrabahu Cave, Shravanabelagola where Chandragupta is said to have died - Chandragupta Maurya embraced Jainism after retiring. At an older age, he renounced his throne and material possessions to join a wandering group of Jain monks. Chandragupta was a disciple of the Jain monk, Bhadrabahu. It is said that in his last days, he observed the rigorous but self-purifying Jain ritual of santhara i.e. fast unto death, at Shravana Belgola in Karnataka.
  • An early stupa, 6 meters in diameter at Chakpat, near Chakdara.
  • The most important stupas located at Sanchi, Bharhut, Amaravati, Bodhgaya and Nagarjunakonda. 
  • famous Ashoka pillar at Nandangarh and Sanchi Stupa.

Patliputra - Patna - Mauryan Empire Sight Seeing Tour of Mauryan Empire

Partiputra or patna is the epicentre of Mauryan Empire, It is first site to be explored to have full idea of the mauryan Empire. Though parts of the ancient city have been excavated, much of it still lies buried beneath modern Patna. Various locations have been excavated, including Kumhrar, and Bulandi Bagh.During the Mauryan period, the city was described as being shaped as parallelogram, approximately 1.5 miles wide and 9 miles long. Its wooden walls were pierced by 64 gates. Archaeological research has found remaining portions of the wooden palisade over several kilometers, but stone fortifications have not been found.

Main Mauryan Excavated sites of Pataliputra

  • Kumhrar
  • Bulandi Bagh
  • Agam Kuan

About Kumhrar

Kumrahar is the name of an area of Patna, where remains of the ancient city of Pataliputra were excavated. It is located 5 km east of Patna Railway Station. Archaeological remains of the Mauryan period (322–185 BCE) have been discovered here, this include the ruins of a hypostyle 80-pillared hall, The excavation finding here dates back to 600 BCE,and marks the ancient capital of Ajatshatru, Chandragupta and Ashoka, and collectively the relics range from four continuous periods from 600 BCE to 600 CE.

Assembly Hall of 80-pillars - The Great Site

Following the excavation of nearby Bulandi Bagh by L.A. Waddell in 1895, American archaeologist David Brainard Spooner excavated in 1912-1913 in Kumhrar one pillar of polished stone, and a very large number of fragments. The excavators were able to trace 72 'pits' of ash and rubble on the site which marked the position in which other pillars must once have stood. During the subsequent excavation, done by K P Jaiswal, 1951-1955, eight more such pits were found, giving the hall its present name – “Assembly hall of 80 pillars”.

The pillars are arranged in 8 rows of 10 pillars each. The pillars are separated with each other by a distance of 4.57 meters. Each pillar is made of fine sandstone from Chunar, and was 9.75 meters in height, of which 2.74 meters were below the surface for grounding. Since no other stone works were recovered, it is thought that the pillars sustained a wooden roof, and that there were no surrounding walls, making it an open-air hall. South of the pillared hall, seven wooden platforms were excavated, which are thought to have supported a staircase going into the canal to welcome guests.

All the ruins are attributed to the Mauryan period, though historians vary regarding the use of the 80-pillar hall, some suggest that it was in this hall that Third Buddhist Council was held, in 250 BCE, at Ashokarama in Patiliputta (Pataliputra), under the reign of Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka (r. 273-232 BCE). The pillared hall seems to have been located about 350 meters south of the wooden palisades of the city of Pataliputra (discovered in the area of Bulandi Bagh), and was standing by the banks of the former Son river, and therefore cannot have been the Mauryan palace, but probably only "a pleasure hall outside the city walls".

Other structures worth Seeing

Anand Bihar: The foundations of the brick Buddhist monastery were excavated, apart from wooden beams and clay figures, which are now kept for public display in the surrounding park.

Arogya Vihar: Also found during the excavations, are the presence of an Arogya Vihar headed by Dhanvantari, an early Indian medical practitioner, considered the source of Ayurveda.

Durakhi Devi Temple – Excavations in 1890s, by Laurence Waddell, revealed a detached piece of a carved stone railing of a stupa, with female figures on both the sides, giving it the name, 'Durukhi' or 'Durukhiya' (double faced) Devi, a specimen of Shunga art 2-1st century BCE. The figures are shown grabbing and breaking branches of trees, are Shalabhanjikas (the breaker of branches), the young women under a fertility ritual. These images were later brought to their present location, at Naya Tola (Kankarbagh), a kilometer west to the site, where they are presently worshipped in a temple-like structure; a replica of these figures has also been kept in Patna Museum.

About Agam Kuan (Ashoka's Hell chambers) - Patna

Agam Kuan is an ancient well and archaeological site in Patna, India. It is said to date back to the period of Mauryan emperor, Ashoka (304–232 BCE). Circular in shape, the well is lined with brick in the upper 13 metres (43 ft) and contains wooden rings in the remaining 19 metres (62 ft).

The Agam Kuan is set within an archaeological site identified by the Archaeological Survey of India which also contains the adjacent Shitala Devi temple where the folk deity Shitala Devi is venerated. Inside this temple, the pindas of the Saptamatrikas (the seven mother goddesses) are worshipped. The temple is widely revered for its belief in curing smallpox and chicken pox.Agam Kuan is situated close to the Gulzarbagh railway station, on the way to Panch Pahadi, on the outskirts of Patna, Bihar state. It is east of Patna and south-west of Gulzarbagh Station.

History and legend of Agam Kuan

During the 1890s, the British explorer, Laurence Waddell, while exploring the ruins of Pataliputra, identified Agam Kuan as the legendary well built by Ashoka for the purpose of torture before he embraced Buddhism, as part of Ashoka's Hell chambers.The torture practice was also reported by Chinese travellers (most probably Fa Hien) of the 5th and 7th centuries A.D.The well is stated to have been used to torture convicts by throwing them into the fire that used to emanate from the well. Ashoka's Edict no. VIII makes mention of this well, which was also known as "fiery well" or "hell on earth".Another popular legend states that this was the well where Ashoka threw 99 of his elder half-brother's heads and put the heads in the well to obtain the throne of the Mauryan Empire.

According to a myth, the well has a subterranean link with the Patala (netherworld) or hell; this was inferred on the basis that a saint found a heavy log in the well which was supposed to have been lost in the sea. 

Bulandi Bagh - Patna

Bulandi Bagh is located in the northwestern corner, just above the railroad, of the 1895 excavation plan at Pataliputra (marked "Bulandhi Bagh" and "I").

Bulandi Bagh is an area of the archaeological site of Pataliputra (north of railway station of the modern city of Patna). It is mainly known for the discovery of the monumental Pataliputra capital, unearthed in 1895 by L.A. Waddell, as well as the excavation of wooden palissades thought to have formed the protective walls of ancient Pataliputra. Bulandhi Bagh is thougt to have been part of the Maurya dynasty royal palace in Pataliputra.

Other excavations in 1912-1913 took place in the area of Bulandi Bagh under American archaeologist David Brainard Spooner, working for the British Archaeological Survey of India. Spooner devoted most of his resources to the site of Kumrahar to the south, but in Bulandi Bagh, he found a wooden palissade, punch-marked coins and terracotta figures (head of smiling boy and dancing figure), and various beads and seals.

In 1926-1927, J .A. Page and M. Ghosh for the Archaeological Survey of India excavated the area again leading to the discovery of large wooden palissades (137 meters were excavated), also thought to be of the Mauryan period. It is thought that it is the palissade seen by Megasthenes during his visit to Pataliputra.[3] Strabo in his Geographia, quoting Megasthenes:

"At the confluence of the Ganges and of another river is situated Palibothra, in length 80, and in breadth 15 stadia. It is in the shape of a parallelogram, surrounded by a wooden wall pierced with openings through which arrows may be discharged. In front is a ditch, which serves the purpose of defence and of a sewer for the city." Strabo, "Geographia"

According to Arrian, also quoting Megasthenes:

"Megasthenes says that on one side where it is longest this city extends ten miles in length, and that its breadth is one and threequarters miles; that the city has been surrounded with a ditch in breadth 600 feet, and in depth 45 feet; and that its wall has 570 towers and 64 gates." Arrian, "The Indica"

Barabar Caves
Bulandi Bagh (location of the city palisade, and the Pataliputra capital)

Barabar Caves - Gaya

The Barabar Caves are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India dating from the Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), some with Ashokan inscriptions, located in Makhdumpur Block of Jehanabad district, Bihar, India, 24 km north of Gaya.

These caves are situated in the twin hills of Barabar (four caves) and Nagarjuni (three caves) – caves of the 1.6 km distant Nagarjuni Hill sometimes are singled out as Nagarjuni Caves. These rock-cut chambers date back to the 3rd century BCE, Maurya period,of Ashoka (r. 273–232 BCE) and his grandson Dasharatha Maurya. Though Buddhists themselves, they allowed various Jain sects to flourish under a policy of religious tolerance.

The caves were used by ascetics from the Ajivika sect,founded by Makkhali Gosala, a contemporary of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and of Mahavira, the last and 24th Tirthankara of Jainism.Also present at the site are several rock-cut Buddhist and Hindu sculptures.

Most caves at Barabar consist of two chambers, carved entirely out of granite, with a highly polished internal surface and exciting echo effect. The first chamber was meant for worshippers to congregate in a large rectangular hall, and the second, a small, circular, domed chamber for worship, this inner chamber probably had a small stupa like structure, at some point, though they are now empty.

Barabar Hill contains four caves, namely, Karan Chaupar, Lomas Rishi, Sudama and Visva Zopri. Sudama and Lomas Rishi Caves are the earliest examples of rock-cut architecture in India, with architectural detailing, made in the Mauryan period, and became a trend the subsequent centuries,like the larger Buddhist Chaitya, that were found in Maharashtra, such as in Ajanta and Karla Caves, and greatly influenced the tradition of South Asian rock-cut architecture.[3] Barabar caves have magnanimous arches which are few in ancient history.

Barabar Caves

Lomas Rishi cave: The arch-like shape facade of Lomas Rishi Caves, imitate the contemporary timber architecture. On the doorway, a row of elephants proceed towards stupa emblems, along the curved architrave.

Sudama cave: This cave was dedicated by Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka in 261 BCE. The arches of Sudama cave are of bow shape. The caves consist of a circular vaulted chamber with a rectangular mandapa.
Karan Chaupar (Karna Chaupar): Consists of single rectangular room with polished surfaces, contains inscription which could be dated to 245 BCE.
Visva Zopri: Reachable by Ashoka steps hewn in cliff, consists of two rectangular rooms.

Vaishali Ashoka Edict Bihar, single lion, with no inscription

Allahabad pillar

Location    Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
Type    Pillar
Material    Sandstone
Width    35 inches (0.9 m)
Height    35 feet (10.7 m)

Completion date    c. 3rd century BCE

The Allahabad pillar is an Ashoka Stambha, one of the pillars of Ashoka, an emperor of the Maurya dynasty who reigned in the 3rd century BCE. While it is one of the few extant pillars that carry his edicts,it is particularly notable for containing later inscriptions attributed to the Gupta emperor, Samudragupta (4th century CE).Also engraved on the stone are inscriptions by the Mughal emperor, Jahangir, from the 17th century.

At some point of time, the pillar was moved from its original location and installed within Akbar's Allahabad Fort in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. As the fort is now occupied by the Indian Army, the public are only allowed limited access to the premises and special permission is required to view the pillar.

About Maurya Empire

The Maurya Empire was one of the largest empires of the world in its time.The empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, to the east into Assam, to the west into Balochistan (south west Pakistan and south east Iran) and the Hindu Kush mountains now Afghanistan. The Empire was expanded into India's central and southern regions by the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara.

The Maurya Empire was founded by Chandragupta Maurya which dominated ancient India between c. 322 and 185 BCE, it basically falls in bronze age. The empire was the largest to have ever existed in the Indian subcontinent, spanning over 5 million square kilometres at its zenith under Ashoka. The empire had its capital city at Pataliputra (modern Patna).

Chandragupta Maurya, raised an army and become victorious with the assistance of Chanakya. By 316 BCE the empire had fully occupied Northwestern India, defeating all opponents including Alexander's & Seleucus 

About Chanakya

The Maurya Empire history is incomplete without Chanakya, Chanakya travelled to Magadha, a kingdom that was large and militarily powerful and feared by its neighbors, but he was insulted by its king Dhana Nanda, of the Nanda Dynasty. Chanakya swore revenge and vowed to destroy the Nanda Empire. He did it with Help of Chandergupt maurya.

Chanakya encouraged Chandragupta Maurya and his army to take over the throne of Magadha. Using his intelligence network, Chandragupta gathered many young men from across Magadha and other provinces, men upset over the corrupt and oppressive rule of king Dhana, plus the resources necessary for his army to fight a long series of battles. These men included the former general of Taxila, accomplished students of Chanakya, the representative of King Porus of Kakayee, his son Malayketu, and the rulers of small states. 

As Chanakya wrote in his text Chanakya Niti, "Humbly bowing down before the almighty Lord Sri Vishnu, the Lord of the three worlds, I recite maxims of the science of political ethics (niti) selected from the various satras (scriptures)".

About Megasthenes's India

Megasthenes describes a disciplined multitude under Chandragupta, who live simply, honestly, and do not know writing:

"The Indians all live frugally, especially when in camp. They dislike a great undisciplined multitude, and consequently they observe good order. Theft is of very rare occurrence. Megasthenes says that those who were in the camp of Sandrakottos, wherein lay 400,000 men, found that the thefts reported on any one day did not exceed the value of two hundred drachmae, and this among a people who have no written laws, but are ignorant of writing, and must therefore in all the business of life trust to memory. They live, nevertheless, happily enough, being simple in their manners and frugal. They never drink wine except at sacrifices. Their beverage is a liquor composed from rice instead of barley, and their food is principally a rice-pottage." Strabo XV. i. 53–56, quoting Megasthenes.

About  Bindusara - Second Muryan Emperor

Bindusara was the son of the first Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya and his queen Durdhara. During his reign, the empire expanded southwards. According to the Rajavalikatha a Jain work, the original name of this emperor was Simhasena. According to a legend mentioned in the Jain texts, Chandragupta's Guru and advisor Chanakya used to feed the emperor with small doses of poison to build his immunity against possible poisoning attempts by the enemies. One day, Chandragupta not knowing about poison, shared his food with his pregnant wife queen Durdhara who was 7 days away from delivery. The queen not immune to the poison collapsed and died within few minutes. Chanakya entered the room the very time she collapsed, and in order to save the child in the womb, he immediately cut open the dead queen's belly and took the baby out, by that time a drop of poison had already reached the baby and touched its head due to which the child got a permanent blueish spot (a "bindu") on his forehead. Thus, the newborn was named "Bindusara".

Bindusara, just 22 years old, inherited a large empire that consisted of what is now, Northern, Central and Eastern parts of India along with parts of Afghanistan and Baluchistan. Bindusara extended this empire to the southern part of India, as far as what is now known as Karnataka. He brought sixteen states under the Mauryan Empire and thus conquered almost all of the Indian peninsula (he is said to have conquered the 'land between the two seas' – the peninsular region between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea). Bindusara didn't conquer the friendly Tamil kingdoms of the Cholas, ruled by King Ilamcetcenni, the Pandyas, and Cheras. Apart from these southern states, Kalinga (modern Odisha) was the only kingdom in India that didn't form the part of Bindusara's empire. It was later conquered by his son Ashoka, who served as the viceroy of Ujjaini during his father's reign.[citation needed]

Bindusara's life has not been documented as well as that of his father Chandragupta or of his son Ashoka. Chanakya continued to serve as prime minister during his reign. According to the medieval Tibetan scholar Taranatha who visited India, Chanakya helped Bindusara "to destroy the nobles and kings of the sixteen kingdoms and thus to become absolute master of the territory between the eastern and western oceans.During his rule, the citizens of Taxila revolted twice. The reason for the first revolt was the maladministration of Susima, his eldest son. The reason for the second revolt is unknown, but Bindusara could not suppress it in his lifetime. It was crushed by Ashoka after Bindusara's death.

Ambassadors from the Seleucid Empire (such as Deimachus) and Egypt visited his courts. He maintained good relations with the Hellenic World.[citation needed]

Unlike his father Chandragupta (who at a later stage converted to Jainism), Bindusara believed in the Ajivika sect. Bindusara's guru Pingalavatsa (alias Janasana) was a Brahmin of the Ajivika sect. Bindusara's wife, Queen Subhadrangi (alias Queen Aggamahesi) was a Brahmin also of the Ajivika sect from Champa (present Bhagalpur district). Bindusara is accredited with giving several grants to Brahmin monasteries (Brahmana-bhatto).

Bindusara died in 272 BCE (some records say 268 BCE) and was succeeded by his son Ashoka.

About Ashoka - 3rd Mauryan Emperor

As a young prince, Ashoka (r. 272 – 232 BCE) was a brilliant commander who crushed revolts in Ujjain and Takshashila. As monarch he was ambitious and aggressive, re-asserting the Empire's superiority in southern and western India. But it was his conquest of Kalinga (262–261 BCE) which proved to be the pivotal event of his life. Although Ashoka's army succeeded in overwhelming Kalinga forces of royal soldiers and civilian units, an estimated 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the furious warfare, including over 10,000 of Ashoka's own men. Hundreds of thousands of people were adversely affected by the destruction and fallout of war. When he personally witnessed the devastation, Ashoka began feeling remorse. Although the annexation of Kalinga was completed, Ashoka embraced the teachings of Buddhism, and renounced war and violence. He sent out missionaries to travel around Asia and spread Buddhism to other countries.[citation needed]

Ashoka implemented principles of ahimsa by banning hunting and violent sports activity and ending indentured and forced labor (many thousands of people in war-ravaged Kalinga had been forced into hard labour and servitude). While he maintained a large and powerful army, to keep the peace and maintain authority, Ashoka expanded friendly relations with states across Asia and Europe, and he sponsored Buddhist missions. He undertook a massive public works building campaign across the country. Over 40 years of peace, harmony and prosperity made Ashoka one of the most successful and famous monarchs in Indian history. He remains an idealized figure of inspiration in modern India.

The Edicts of Ashoka, set in stone, are found throughout the Subcontinent. Ranging from as far west as Afghanistan and as far south as Andhra (Nellore District), Ashoka's edicts state his policies and accomplishments. Although predominantly written in Prakrit, two of them were written in Greek, and one in both Greek and Aramaic. Ashoka's edicts refer to the Greeks, Kambojas, and Gandharas as peoples forming a frontier region of his empire. They also attest to Ashoka's having sent envoys to the Greek rulers in the West as far as the Mediterranean. The edicts precisely name each of the rulers of the Hellenic world at the time such as Amtiyoko (Antiochus), Tulamaya (Ptolemy), Amtikini (Antigonos), Maka (Magas) and Alikasudaro (Alexander) as recipients of Ashoka's proselytism.[citation needed] The Edicts also accurately locate their territory "600 yojanas away" (a yojanas being about 7 miles), corresponding to the distance between the center of India and Greece (roughly 4,000 miles).

Decline iof Mauryan Empire

Ashoka was followed for 50 years by a succession of weaker kings. Brihadratha, the last ruler of the Mauryan dynasty, held territories that had shrunk considerably from the time of emperor Ashoka. Brihadratha was assassinated in 185 BCE during a military parade by the Brahmin general Pushyamitra Shunga, commander-in-chief of his guard, who then took over the throne and established the Shunga dynasty.

Main Emperors/Kings during Mauryan Empire
322–298 BCE    Chandragupta
298–272 BCE    Bindusara
268–232 BCE    Ashoka
232–224 BCE    Dasharatha
224–215 BCE    Samprati
215–202 BCE    Shalishuka
202–195 BCE    Devavarman
195–187 BCE    Shatadhanvan
187–185 BCE    Brihadratha

Area of the Mauryan Empire
5,000,000 km² (1,930,511 sq mi)