Chandragupta Maurya

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    In News 

    • Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister recently said that Chandragupta Maurya, who founded the Mauryan empire in the 4th century BC, had defeated Alexander of Macedon in battle — and yet, it is the latter whom historians have chosen to call “great”.

    Historical findings in this context 

    • Historically, there is little evidence of the Greek conqueror and the Mauryan emperor having crossed paths at all. 
    • In fact, Alexander died in 323 BC, and it is generally accepted that Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne in 321 BC.
    • The only anecdotal rumours of their meeting refer to the historically-contested incident, where a very young Chandragupta met Alexander in the latter’s barracks.
      • However, there is no solid historical corroboration for that incident. 

    The use of the suffix ‘great’ in history 

    • Alexander was referred to as “great” by early historians just as several other conquerors and prominent rulers have been called across empires and ages
      • Prominent examples are the Roman emperor Constantine; the Persians Cyrus and Darius; Herod, king of Judea; and in more modern times, Catherine and Peter of Russia, and Frederick of Prussia.
      • In Indian history, ‘great’ has been used for the emperors Ashoka, Rajaraja and Rajendra Chola, and Akbar, among others.
    • The use of the suffix ‘great’ has become less common in modern history-writing however, as historians have moved their focus away from the political triumphs of individual rulers to the society, economy, art and architecture of their times.
    • They have also subjected the rulers’ apparent greatness to new perspectives and to more rigorous historical scrutiny through a re-evaluation of old sources and by referencing those that have been discovered more recently.

    Chandragupta Maurya 

    • Chandragupta was the founder of the Mauryan dynasty and the first emperor to unify most of India under one administration. 
    • He is credited with saving the country from maladministration and freeing it from foreign domination
    • Early Life: 
      • Chandragupta was born into a family left destitute by the death of his father, chief of the migrant Mauryas, in a border fray. 
        • Buddhist texts say Chandragupta Maurya belonged to the Kshatriya Moriya clan associated with the Shakyas. Brahmanical texts, however, refer to the Mauryas as Shudras and heretics.
      • He was trained by a Brahman politician, Kautilya (also called Chanakya) in  Taxila (now in Pakistan).
        • A major treatise on political economy in Sanskrit is the Artha-shastra of Kautilya. 
    • Ascending the throne: 
    • After ascending the throne of the Magadha kingdom he destroyed the sources of Nanda power and eliminated opponents through well-planned administrative schemes that included an effective secret service. 
      • Chandragupta overthrew the unpopular last king of the Nandas, Dhana Nanda, and occupied his capital, Pataliputra. 
    • Expansion of empire: 
      • Chandragupta overthrew the Nanda power and then campaigned in central and northern India. 
      • Greek sources report that he engaged in a conflict in 305 BCE in the trans-Indus region with Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander’s generals, who, following the death of Alexander, had founded the Seleucid dynasty in Iran. 
        • The result was a treaty by which Seleucus ceded the trans-Indus provinces to the Maurya and the latter presented him with 500 elephants. 
          • A marriage alliance is mentioned, but no details are recorded.
        • The treaty ushered in an era of friendly relations between the Mauryas and the Seleucids, with exchanges of envoys.
          •  One among them, the Greek historian Megasthenes, left his observations in the form of a book, the Indica. 
    • Ranging from the Himalayas and the K?bul River valley (in present-day Afghanistan) in the north and west to the Vindhya Range in the south, Chandragupta’s Indian empire was one of history’s most extensive.
      • Chandragupta’s son, Bindusara, continued to expand the empire to the south.
    • Acceptance of Jainism 
    • Traditionally, Chandragupta was influenced to accept Jainism by the sage Bhadrabahu I, who predicted the onset of a 12-year famine. 
      • When the famine came, Chandragupta made efforts to counter it, but, dejected by the tragic conditions prevailing, he left to spend his last days in the service of Bhadrabahu at Shravanabelagola, a famous religious site in southwestern India, where Chandragupta fasted to death.
    • Legacy: 
      • Chandragupta laid the foundations of an extensive and efficient system of centralised administration and tax-collection that formed the basis of his empire.
      •  Trade and agriculture were reformed and regulated with the building of infrastructure and standardisation of weights and measures, and provisions were made for a large standing army.

    Alexander 

    • Alexander the Great was one of the greatest military strategists and leaders in world history. 
      • He was also ruthless, dictatorial, and ambitious to the point of regarding himself as divine. 
      • His conquests of the Mediterranean states, the Persian empire, and parts of India spread Hellenistic culture across these regions.
    • Early Life: Alexander was born in 356 BCE in Pella, Macedonia, the son of King Philip II and Queen Olympias.
      • He was taught by Aristotle. 
    • Expansion of Empire
      • He showed military brilliance, helping win the Battle of Chaeronea at age 18. 
        • In 336 Philip was assassinated. Alexander was acclaimed by the army and succeeded to the throne without opposition.
      • In 334 he crossed to Persia and defeated a Persian army at the Granicus River. 
        • The wealth of Persia attracted him and the Persian army was less disciplined and poorly led.
    • At the Battle of Issus in 333, he defeated another army, this one led by the Persian king Darius III, who managed to escape. 
    • In 332 Alexander conquered Syria, Phoenicia, Tyre.
    • Conquest of the Mediterranean coast and Egypt
    • In control of the eastern Mediterranean coast, in 331 he defeated Darius in a decisive battle at Gaugamela, though Darius again escaped.
    • He continued eastward, quashing real or imagined conspiracies among his men and taking control to the Oxus and Jaxartes rivers, founding cities (most named Alexandria) to hold the territory. 
    • Invasion of India: In the summer of 327 BC Alexander invaded India with a newly reinforced army. 
    • His ultimate ambition was to reach the Indian Ocean. He impressed the local Indian rulers by storming the nearly impregnable pinnacle of Aornos, a few miles west of the Indus River. 
    • On June 1, 326, Alexander fought his last great battle on the banks of the Hydaspes River
      • He defeated a far larger army led by King Porus, who later became a strong ally. 
    • Alexander’s retreat
    • After the defeat of Porus, Alexander wished to march on into the heartland of the Gangetic basin — but upon reaching the Beas, the last of the five rivers of Punjab, his generals refused to go further.
      • Alexander was forced to turn back, and he followed the Indus southward to its delta, where he sent part of his army to Mesopotamia by the sea while leading the other part overland along the Makran coast.
      • He reached Susa in Persia in 324 BC, and in the following year, died in the ancient city of Babylon, to the south of today’s Baghdad.
    • Legacy and ‘greatness’ 
    • Alexander came to be called ‘great’ because of his stupendous military conquests which dazzled European writers and chroniclers of the ancient world.
    • His reign marked a turning point in European and Asian history. Alexander’s expeditions brought advances in geography and natural sciences and helped shift the major centres of civilization eastward. 
    • His greatest contribution was spreading Hellenistic culture from Gibraltar to Punjab. 
    • Greek language and coinage served as common links across these vast trading and cultural networks. 
    • In a real sense, Alexander’s achievements helped pave the way for the rise of the Roman Empire, the spread of Christianity, and centuries of Byzantine rule.

    Source: IE