Decline of Mauryan Empire

by Mar 12, 2020

The decline of the Mauryan Empire is one of the important historical case studies. How has such a vast kingdom periodically vanished? It is fascinating to know about. The Mauryan Empire was the powerful Kingdom before the Shunga dynasty. There were several kings of the Maurya dynasty who kept his kingdom free from enemies.

One of them was the founder of the Mauryan Empire, that was Chandragupta Maurya. Second was Bindusara did not have ambition but was mighty enough to maintain the existing kingdom. We can read in History, that there were some revolts happen but that successfully tackled by prince Ashoka. When the third Emperor Ashoka came to the throne, he was very ambitious and wanted to expand his empire. But as I discussed in his biography he changed his mind after Kalinga war.

This was the background you must know before discussing the reasons behind the disintegration and decline of the Mauryan Empire.

Reasons for Decline of Mauryan Empire

1) Lack of Proper Leader

After those mighty emperors, the kingdom did not get any mighty kings. Moreover, in the absence of a proper leader it became difficult to handle the massive kingdom.

2) Sedentary Nature of Emperor and Army

Ashoka was a mighty king. After the battle of Kalinga, Emperor Ashoka accepted the Buddhist religion. Even after the follower of Buddhism, nobody dared to attack on his province. That means he didn’t forget how to fight a battle? Because, philosophy of Buddhism like peace, nonviolence is not proved useful when, after someone comes to battlefield.

After that, his successors of him also followed Buddhist religion. As a result, subsequently after a period of time, the emperor along with army became idle. As a result, because of the lack of practicing weapons, the Mauryan Empire went towards destruction.

3) Disappointment in Bramhan Society

Rituals performed during reign of Ashoka sculpted in stone
Image Credits: Vijay Tiwari

As Ashoka adopted a tolerance policy, & under it, he prohibited the birds and animal killing. As sacrifice was not allowed during ritual, but without sacrifice ritual cannot be assumed as complete. So, Ashoka indirectly banned rituals. He was also opposed to the unnecessary rituals performed by women.

It directly affected the loss to Bramhin society. Therefore, Bramhanical society gets disappointed.

4) Bankruptcy of Mauryan Empire

During the reign of Ashoka, probably, he opened the royal treasury to donate Buddhist monks. Because there are so many Stupas (Tope), and monasteries called “Viharas” specially built for Buddhist monks, which proved the fact. Most Viharas were built within stone caves which were spendthrift.

Another reason for financial crisis was the large military of the Kingdom. After the death of Ashoka his successors were unable to maintain its burden.

5) Tyrannous rule of Bureaucrats

During the reign of Bindusara there were so many revolts happening in outlying provinces like Ujjain, Taxila, etc. Before Ashoka became Emperor, he broke the revolt and made peace in those provinces. He did this several times during the reign of Bindusara.

After the war of Kalinga, he was really worried about the Tyrannous behavior of bureaucrats. That’s why he made strict rules against oppression. He sent the trustworthy officers to observe the administrators. Ashoka himself used to wander in his own province to observe the people’s situation and bureaucratic behavior.

However, these efforts of Ashoka didn’t affect the long distant regions. As a result, immediately after the death of Ashoka, those provinces got separated from central imperial.

6) Improvement of war material in outside provinces

Best Quality Sword during Mauryan Period
Image Credits: Public.Resource.Org, Source: Flickr

Gangetic basin was special for Magadha Empire. As because of its material advantage. As there was extensive forest, easily available War elephants along with other advantages. That region was really advantageous for rulers.

Due to massive expansion of kingdom, connected to outside area through trading. Good quality Iron weapons and tools made those regions strong. Subsequently, for new kingdoms it was easy to establish their existence using material wealth of Magadha Empire. This was the prominent reason for the decline of the Mauryan Empire.

Sword During the Mauryan Period
Image Credits: US Army Heritage and Education Center / Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army, Source: Wikimedia

7) Ignoring the North-Western region of the Empire

Ashoka was busy in spreading Buddhism throughout the empire and abroad. Therefore, he didn’t give enough time to protect the distant regions from the Magadha.

I hope you like the post on reasons behind the decline of the Mauryan Empire.

Featured Image Credits: Wikimedia

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