Sandrocottus: Chandragupta of the Greeks
Emperor Chandragupta Maurya: a Royal Ascetic
Chandragupta Maurya (Sanskrit: चन्द्रगुप्त मौर्य), (born c. 340 BCE, ruled c. 320 BCE, – 298 BCE) was the founder of the Maurya Empire. Chandragupta succeeded in conquering most of the Indian subcontinent. According to some ancient Buddhist texts, he claims descent from the Shakya rulers of solar race. Buddhist texts describes about his lineage with the "Moriya" clan of Shakya rulers hence he was the scion of the solar race of Kshatriya's. Having defeated the Greek satrap in the Khyber mountains around 303 BCE, Chandragupta was crowned King at Taxila. As a result, Chandragupta is considered the first unifier of India and its first genuine emperor. In foreign Greek and Latin accounts, Chandragupta is known as Sandrokyptos (Σανδρόκυπτος), Sandrokottos (Σανδρόκοττος) or Androcottus.
Prior to Chandragupta's consolidation of power, small regional kingdoms dominated the northwestern subcontinent, while the Nanda Dynasty dominated the middle and lower basin of the Ganges. After Chandragupta's conquests, the Maurya Empire extended from Bengal and Assam in the east, to Afghanistan and Balochistan in the west, to Kashmir and Nepal in the north, and to the Deccan Plateau in the south.
His achievements, which ranged from conquering Macedonian satrapies in the northwest and conquering the Nanda Empire by the time he was only about 20 years old, to achieving an alliance with Seleucus I Nicator and establishing centralized rule throughout South Asia, remain some of the most celebrated in the history of India. Over two thousand years later, the accomplishments of Chandragupta and his successors, including Ashoka the Great, are objects of great study in the annals of South Asian and world history.
Little, if anything, is known for certain about Chandragupta Maurya's origins. Many Indian historians held the view that Chandragupta was an illegitimate child of the Nanda Dynasty of Magadha in eastern India, born to a Nanda prince and a maid named "Mura", later literary traditions imply that Chandragupta may have been raised by peacock-tamers (Sanskrit: Mayura-Poshaka), which earned him the Maurya epithet.
Both the Buddhist as well as Jain traditions testify to the supposed connection between the Moriya (Maurya) and Mora or Mayura (Peacock). .This literary traditions according to which Chandragupta belonged to Moriyas, a Kshatriya clan of a little ancient republic of Pippalivana ("Piparahiyan" in modern day in Gorakhpur) located between Rummindei in the Nepali Terai and Kasia in the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
A kshatriya people known as the "Mauryas" who had received the relics of the Gautama Buddha are also mentioned in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Digha Nikaya: "Then the Moriyas of Pipphalivana came to know that at Kusinara (known as KushiNagar as a district of Uttar Pradesh near Gorakhpur) the Blessed One had died. And they sent a message to the Mallas of Kusinara, saying: "The Blessed One was of the warrior caste, and we are too. We are worthy to receive a portion of the relics of the Blessed One. We will erect a stupa over the relics of the Blessed One and hold a festival in their honor.
The Buddhist text of the Mahavamsa calls Chandragupta a section of the Khattya (Kshatriya) clan named Moriya (Maurya). Divyavadana calls Bindusara, son of Chandragupta, an anointed Kshatriya, Kshatriya Murdhabhishikata, and in the same work, king Ashoka, son of Bindusara, is also styled a Kshatriya. The Mahaparinnibhana Sutta of the Buddhist canon states that the Moriyas (Mauryas) belonged to the Kshatriya community of Pippalivana. These traditions, at least, indicate that Chandragupta has come from a Kshatriya lineage. The Mahavamshatika connects him with the Sakya clan of the Buddha, a clan which also claimed to belong to the race of Aditya i.e. solar race.
A medieval inscription represents the Maurya clan as belonging to the solar race of Kshatriyas. It is stated that the Maurya line sprang from Suryavamsi Mandhatri, son of prince Yuvanashva of the solar race .
“ The first statue installed in the courtyard opposite Gate No. 5 of Parliament House, is of the great Indian Emperor Chandragupta Maurya It is incribed on it that "Shepherd Boy Chandragupta Maurya dreaming of the India he was to create".
Historically, founder of the Mauryan dynasty Chandragupta Maurya was a (Shepherd) boy who with the help of the Brahmin Chanakya revolted against the atrocities of the Nanda kings and established the Mauryan Empire.
Very little is known about Chandragupta's youth. what is known about his youth is gathered from later classical Sanskrit literature, as well as classical Greek and Latin sources which refer to Chandragupta by the names "Sandracottos" or "Andracottus". He was paragon for later rulers.
According to traditional accounts, Chanakya, a teacher at Takshasila University at the time of Alexander's invasion, found the boy Chandragupta from the Magadha kingdom in eastern India. As the story goes, Chandragupta was playing as a king with his friends and was giving justice to another boy playing criminal. He also saw the kindness inside him to help others. Chanakya saw this and was impressed with Chandragupta's sense of justice. Chanakya asked his mother about him. His mother told him that his father, Dhamashah used to work as a servant of the Nanda king who ruled over the kingdom of Maghada and due to some fault he was sent into the prison. Chanakya told her to take him to the king and ask him to give some education to Chandragupta. Then she went to his court. There Chandragupta solved a problem for the king. The king was impressed and told his minister to join him in the best university at that time, The Vishvavidhyalay of Takshasila[often known as the Takshasila University]
Plutarch reports that he met with Alexander the Great, probably around Takshasila in the northwest, and that he viewed the ruling Nanda Empire in a negative light:
“ "Androcottus, when he was a stripling, saw Alexander himself, and we are told that he often said in later times that Alexander narrowly missed making himself master of the country, since its king was hated and despised on account of his baseness and low birth." ”
—Plutarch, Parallel Lives: Life of Alexander 62.9
By this statement, it shows the noble or high origin of Chandragupta Maurya .
According to this tradition, the encounter would have happened around 326 BCE, suggesting a birth date for Chandragupta around 340 BCE.
Junianus Justinus (Justin) describes the humble origins of Chandragupta, and explains how he later led a popular uprising against the Nanda king:he was known as king of the time.
“ "He was of humble origin, but was pushing to acquiring the throne by the superior power of the mind. When after having offended the king of Nanda by his insolence, he was condemned to death by the king, he was saved by the speed of his own feet... He gathered bandits and invited Indians to a change of rule." ”
—Junianus Justinus, Historiarum Philippicarum libri XLIV, XV.4.15
Foundation of Mauryan Empire
Chandragupta Maurya with the help of Chanakya defeated the Magadha kings and the bulk army of Chandravanshi clan and defeated generals of Alexander settled in Gandhara (Kamboja kingdom of Aryan Mahajanpad) which is called as Afghanistan now. At the time of Alexander's invasion, Chanakya was a teacher at Takshasila University. The king of Takshasila and Gandhara, Ambhi (also known as Taxiles), made a treaty with Alexander and did not fight against him. Chanakya saw the foreign invasion against the Indian culture and sought help from other kings to unite and fight Alexander. Porus (Parvateshwar), a king of Punjab, was the only local king who was able to challenge Alexander at the Battle of the Hydaspes River, but was defeated.
Chanakya then went to Magadha further east to seek the help of Dhana Nanda, who ruled a vast Nanda Empire which extended from Bihar and Bengal in the east to eastern Punjab in the west, but he denied any such help. After this incident, Chanakya began sowing the seeds of building an empire that could protect Indian territories from foreign invasion into his disciple Chandragupta.
Kautilya's role in the formation of the Mauryan Empire is the essence of a historical/spiritual novel The Courtesan and the Sadhu by Dr. Mysore N. Prakash.
According to Plutarch, at the time of Alexander's Battle of the Hydaspes River, the size of the Nanda Empire's army further east numbered 200,000 infantry, 80,000 cavalry, 8,000 chariots, and 6,000 war elephants, which was discouraging for Alexander's men and stayed their further progress into India:
“ "As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was •thirty-two furlongs, its depth •a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at‑arms and horsemen and elephants. For they were told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants. And there was no boasting in these reports. For Androcottus, who reigned there not long afterwards, made a present to Seleucus of five hundred elephants, and with an army of six hundred thousand men overran and subdued all India." ”
—Plutarch, Parallel Lives, "Life of Alexander" 62.1-4
In order to defeat the powerful Nanda army, Chandragupta needed to raise a formidable army of his own.
Conquest of Nanda Army
Chanakya had trained Chandragupta under his guidance and together they planned the destruction of Dhana Nanda. The Mudrarakshasa of Visakhadutta as well as the Jaina work Parisishtaparvan talk of Chandragupta's alliance with the Himalayan king Parvatka, sometimes identified with Porus.
It is noted in the Chandraguptakatha that the protagonist and Chanakya were initially rebuffed by the Nanda forces. Regardless, in the ensuing war, Chandragupta faced off against Bhadrasala – commander of Dhana Nanda's armies. He was eventually able to defeat Bhadrasala and Dhana Nanda in a series of battles, ending with the siege of the capital city Kusumapura and the conquest of the Nanda Empire around 321 BCE, thus founding the powerful Maurya Empire in Northern India by the time he was about 20 years old.
Conquest of Macedonian territories in India
After Alexander's death in 323 BCE, Chandragupta, turned his attention to Northwestern India (modern Pakistan), where he defeated the satrapies (described as "prefects" in classical Western sources) left in place by Alexander (according to Justin), and may have assassinated two of his governors, Nicanor and Philip.[disambiguation needed] The satrapies he fought may have included Eudemus, ruler in western Punjab until his departure in 317 BCE; and Peithon, son of Agenor, ruler of the Greek colonies along the Indus until his departure for Babylon in 316 BCE. The Roman historian Justin described how Sandrocottus (Greek version of Chandragupta's name) conquered the northwest:
“ "Some time after, as he was going to war with the generals of Alexander, a wild elephant of great bulk presented itself before him of its own accord, and, as if tamed down to gentleness, took him on its back, and became his guide in the war, and conspicuous in fields of battle. Sandrocottus, having thus acquired a throne, was in possession of India, when Seleucus was laying the foundations of his future greatness; who, after making a league with him, and settling his affairs in the east, proceeded to join in the war against Antigonus. As soon as the forces, therefore, of all the confederates were united, a battle was fought, in which Antigonus was slain, and his son Demetrius put to flight. " ”
—Junianus Justinus, Historiarum Philippicarum libri XLIV, XV.4.19
By the time he was only about 20 years old, Chandragupta, who had succeeded in defeating the Macedonian satrapies in India and conquering the Nanda Empire, had founded a vast empire that extended from the Bay of Bengal in the east, to the Indus River in the west, which he would further expand in later years.
Conquest of Seleucus' eastern territories
Silver coin of Seleucus I Nicator, who fought Chandragupta Maurya, and later made an alliance with him.
Chandragupta extended the borders of his empire towards Seleucid Persia after his conflict with Seleucus c. 305 BCE.Seleucus I Nicator, a Macedonian satrap of Alexander, reconquered most of Alexander's former empire and put under his own authority eastern territories as far as Bactria and the Indus (Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55), until in 305 BCE he entered in a confrontation with Chandragupta:
“ "Always lying in wait for the neighboring nations, strong in arms and persuasive in council, he acquired Mesopotamia, Armenia, 'Seleucid' Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, and other adjacent peoples that had been subdued by Alexander, as far as the river Indus, so that the boundaries of his empire were the most extensive in Asia after that of Alexander. The whole region from Phrygia to the Indus was subject to Seleucus. He crossed the Indus and waged war with Sandrocottus [Maurya], king of the Indians, who dwelt on the banks of that stream, until they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship. Some of these exploits were performed before the death of Antigonus and some afterward." ”
—Appian, History of Rome, The Syrian Wars 55
The exact details of engagement are not known. As noted by scholars such as R. C. Majumdar and D. D. Kosambi, Seleucus appears to have fared poorly, having ceded large territories west of the Indus to Chandragupta. Due to his defeat, Seleucus surrendered Arachosia, Gedrosia, Paropamisadae, and Aria.
Mainstream scholarship asserts that Chandragupta received vast territory west of the Indus, including the Hindu Kush, modern day Afghanistan, and the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Archaeologically, concrete indications of Mauryan rule, such as the inscriptions of the Edicts of Ashoka, are known as far as Kandhahar in southern Afghanistan.
“ "After having made a treaty with him (Sandrakotos) and put in order the Orient situation, Seleucos went to war against Antigonus." ”
—Junianus Justinus, Historiarum Philippicarum libri XLIV, XV.4.15
It is generally thought that Chandragupta married Seleucus's daughter, or a Greek Macedonian princess, a gift from Seleucus to formalize an alliance. In a return gesture, Chandragupta sent 500 war-elephants, a military asset which would play a decisive role at the Battle of Ipsus in 302 BCE. In addition to this treaty, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta, and later Deimakos to his son Bindusara, at the Mauryan court at Pataliputra (modern Patna in Bihar state). Later Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt and contemporary of Ashoka the Great, is also recorded by Pliny the Elder as having sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court.
Classical sources have also recorded that following their treaty, Chandragupta and Seleucus exchanged presents, such as when Chandragupta sent various aphrodisiacs to Seleucus:
“ "And Theophrastus says that some contrivances are of wondrous efficacy in such matters [as to make people more amorous]. And Phylarchus confirms him, by reference to some of the presents which Sandrakottus, the king of the Indians, sent to Seleucus; which were to act like charms in producing a wonderful degree of affection, while some, on the contrary, were to banish love." ”
—Athenaeus of Naucratis
After annexing Seleucus' eastern Persian provinces, Chandragupta had a vast empire extending across the northern parts of Indian Sub-continent, from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. Chandragupta then began expanding his empire further south beyond the barrier of the Vindhya Range and into the Deccan Plateau except Tamil Country,Kalinga(modern day Orissa). By the time his conquests were complete, Chandragupta succeeded in unifying most of Southern Asia. Megasthenes later recorded the size of Chandragupta's acquired army as 400,000 soldiers, according to Strabo:
“ "Megasthenes was in the camp of Sandrocottus, which consisted of 400,000 men" ”
—Strabo, Geographica, 15.1.53
On the other hand, Pliny, who also drew from Megasthenes' work, gives even larger numbers of 600,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 war elephants:
“ "But the Prasii surpass in power and glory every other people, not only in this quarter, but one may say in all India, their capital Palibothra, a very large and wealthy city, after which some call the people itself the Palibothri,--nay even the whole tract along the Ganges. Their king has in his pay a standing army of 600,000-foot-soldiers, 30,000 cavalry, and 9,000 elephants: whence may be formed some conjecture as to the vastness of his resources." ”
—Pliny, Natural History VI, 22.4
Chandragupta gave up his throne towards the end of his life and became an ascetic under the Jain saint Bhadrabahu, migrating south with them and ending his days in sallekhana at Shravanabelagola, in present day Karnataka; though fifth-century inscriptions in the area support the concept of a larger southern migration around that time. A small temple marks the cave (Bhadrabahu Cave) where he is said to have died by fasting.
Footprints of Chandragupta at Shravanbelagola
There are two hills in Shravanabelagola, Chandragiri (Chikkabetta) and Vindyagiri. The last shruta-kevali, Bhadrabahu Swami, and his pupil, Chandragupta Maurya (formerly the King), are believed to have meditated here. Chandragupta Basadi, which was dedicated to Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, was originally built there by Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC.
Chandragupta Maurya renounced his throne to his son, Bindusara, who became the new Mauryan Emperor. Bindusara later became the father of Ashoka the Great, who was one of the most influential kings in history due to his important role in the history of Buddhism. Ashoka the Great left his life of war to study the art of Buddhism. Ashok's grandson Samprati ruled from Ujaain. He was staunch supporter of Jainism and helped the Jain monks to spread Jainism all over India under guidence of his teacher Acharya Suhasti.
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10 Biographies: Chandragupta Maurya
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Sandrocottus: Chandragupta of the Greeks
Emperor Chandragupta Maurya: a Royal Ascetic