Chandragupta, Ashoka and the Maurya Empire | World History | Khan Academy


– [Instructor] We’re
now going to talk about the Maurya Empire, which is not just one of the greatest empires in Indian history, and really the first truly great empire. It’s also one of the great
empires of world history. And just for a little bit of context, we can see where it
fits in in the large arc of ancient Indian
history, and in particular we see here the life of
Buddha, and the actual dates of Buddha’s life are under some debate. But we can see that his,
his life and his teachings were roughly 150 to 200 years
before the establishment of the Maurya Empire which lasts for another 150 or so years. And this is important to keep in mind, because as we’ll see, Buddhism
has a strong influence on the Maurya Empire, and
maybe just as important, the Maurya Empire has
a very large influence on spreading Buddhism in
a very significant way. So let’s zoom in on what
the Indian subcontinent looked like near the end
of the fourth century BCE. So, in most of north
India you have control by the Nanda Empire, which
had its capital at the city Pataliputra, which was in
the region, or the kingdom, of Magada, which is this
ancient region that has been the seat of power in
north India for some time. You also have other
kingdoms, like Kalinga. You have several kingdoms
in south India, as well. There are counts of a kingdom
potentially quite powerful in Bengal named the Gangaridai. You also might remember in our
videos on Alexander the Great that it was around this time,
around 326, that Alexander came and conquered much
of modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and was at the borders of the Nanda Empire in India. And you might also remember
that that was about the time that Alexander the Great and
his soldiers decided to stop. They were tired, some accounts
are that they were fearful of trying to conquer another empire, especially that far from home. So it was also around the
time that Alexander the Great decided to turn back, and
leave the region under the control of some of his
governors and generals. And it was in that context
that the Maurya Empire emerges. And the actual events of how it emerges are still shrouded in
history a little bit. But what eventually happens
is a conqueror by the name of Chandragupta Maurya is able
to conquer the Nanda Empire, and then not just the Nanda Empire, but as Alexander the Great retreats, he is able to conquer some
of the territory former, formerly conquered by Alexander the Great. And so this here is a statue
of what Chandragupta Maurya may have looked like, and you
can see by within a decade of establishing the empire,
it had conquered most of the Nanda Empire, and had
even reclaimed a significant amount of land from the
Greeks from what would eventually become the Seleucid Empire. Remember, Seleucus was one
of Alexander’s generals, who essentially sets
up a dynasty in Persia, the Middle East, after
the death of Alexander. And Chandragupta Maurya
actually fights several battles with Seleucus, and is victorious, and he actually marries
one of Seleucus’ daughters. But this is what essentially
establishes the Maurya, sometimes referred to or
as, the Mauryan Empire. Now Chandragupta Maurya
in 297, or roughly in 297, he, he decides to become
a more devout Jain, and in other videos
we’ll talk about Mahavira and the Jain religion. But he essentially becomes an ascetic and leaves the kingdom, or the empire, in the hands of his son Bindusara. Now, Bindusara is able
to conquer more of India, in particular he starts growing
the empire into the south. But Bindusara is not able to
conquer the kingdom of Kalinga. Bindusara dies in around 273, or 272 BCE, and then a civil war erupts
for who should take charge, and the civil war is essentially amongst the sons of Bindusara. But the son who is victorious
ends up being Ashoka. Now Ashoka is one of, if
not, the most significant historical character in
the history of India. So, Ashoka is able to take
power roughly around 270 BCE, after as legend has it, a
fairly bloody civil war. Early in his life he is
viewed as a potentially cruel figure, killing many
of his brothers in order to come to power, and
he is set on conquering the kingdom of Kalinga. So, in 262, 261, he has a significant war, and he is able to successfully
conquer the kingdom of Kalinga, which is this
area right over here. Now, that ends up, according
to historical records and really Ashoka’s own accounts, ends up becoming a
significant turning point in the life of Asoka, and
potentially in the life of India or the world, because here
are his direct accounts of his feelings about
what happened in Kalinga. And we get this account from what are known as Ashoka edicts. As the Maurya Empire
expanded under Ashoka, it had peace and prosperity. He put his edicts throughout the empire on what are often known as Ashoka pillars, where he wrote what his beliefs
and the things that he did. He would also write them on rocks and stone throughout the empire. But this is the one where he
talks about the conquering of Kalinga, and it’s pretty interesting. Beloved of the Gods King
Piyadasi, and he refers to himself as beloved of the Gods King Piyadasi, conquered the Kalingas eight
years after his coronation. And so you see he was
coronated roughly in 270. He conquers roughly in 262. 150,000 were deported,
100,000 were killed, and many more died from other causes. After the Kalingas had been conquered, beloved of the Gods came to feel, he’s talking about himself,
beloved of the Gods came to feel a strong
inclination towards the Dhamma. So Dhamma is the same word
that we use today, dharma. And dharma you could ref,
you can, you can view it as the cosmic order of things. It also, to a Buddhist, refers
to the teachings of Buddha, or the Buddhist religion. So, beloved of the Gods came
to feel a strong inclination towards the Dhamma, a love for the Dhamma, and for the instruction in Dhamma. Now beloved of the Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas. So this is really interesting. You don’t have a lot of conquerors, especially in ancient history, after killing several hundred thousand, or maybe being responsible for the death of several hundred thousand, for feeling remorse about
it, and writing about it. And so not only is this
profound to be coming from a conqueror, but
also reminds us how bloody some of these ancient wars were. But this is a turning point for him. He turns to Buddhism, and
he really then becomes anti violence, not just towards humans, but even towards animals. He becomes a devoted Buddhist, and sponsors Buddhist temples
throughout his empire. He sends Buddhist missionaries
throughout the world, and is viewed as one of the main people responsible for the spread of Buddhism from Europe all the way to the far east. We already talked about
his edicts of Ashoka. He started doing a bunch
of public works projects, digging of wells, hospitals,
and public gardens, education including for women. During his reign you
have the maximum extent of any empire that ever ruled over India. 50% larger than modern, than the modern day country of India. There were roughly 50 million people under the Mauryan Empire under his rule. Now, eventually after his death, the empire goes under
weaker and weaker rulers, and by about 184, 185
BCE, it falls to another less significant dynasty in
the whole scope of history. But just to appreciate
what a big deal Ashoka is in the scope of history,
here is a quote by H.G. Wells from his Outline of History. “Ashoka worked for the real needs of men. Amidst the tens of thousands
of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, the name of Asoka, or Ashoka, shines, and shines almost alone, a star. From the Volga to Japan
his name is still honored.” A lot because of his spread of Buddhism. “More living men cherish his memory today than have ever heard the name of Constantine or Charlemagne.” And just to appreciate
the impact of Ashoka, even on modern day India,
and this right over here is called the Ashoka
chakra, and if you look at the flag of India,
the Ashoka chakra sits at the center of it, and
this is actually part of the, the modern day emblem of
the republic of India, because after his turn to
becoming a more benevolent ruler, he’s considered as the model,
ideal ruler in Indian history, and by many historians in all of history.

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