The decline of the Mauryan Empire

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The decline of the Mauryan Empire

No political empire lasts forever. Every empire in history broke down for certain obvious causes. Among these causes, some causes appear almost as common, namely, the weak successors, vastness of the empire, independence of the provinces, foreign invasion, and internal revolt. The causes for the downfall and decline of Maurya Empire are discussed below:

Vastness of the Empire

The Maurya Empire was too vast in its extent. While extending to the farthest corners of the Indian sub-continent it also included territories outside the natural frontiers of India.

This vastness was itself a source of weakness rather than of strength because of the lack of communication. Distances were so great that the empire could not remain a closely integrated political unit for a longer time.

Weak Successors of Ashoka

The first three Maurya Emperor were Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara and Ashoka the Great. They were men of exceptional abilities. As heroes, conquerors, and administrators, they were indeed great. But, heredity in succession does not guarantee ability in character for all time or all successors to follow. Ashoka’s sons and grandsons did not prove themselves worthy of the Great Mauryas.

Independence of the Provinces

Though the Maurya administration from the days of Chandragupta was strong enough to control the distant provinces bound to a centralized system, it was also necessary for the provincial governments to enjoy sufficient power. When the centre declined and its authority became weak, the provinces assumed independent character.

Internal Revolt

When the Maurya rule was thus weakening and the empire was breaking up within the half century after Asoka’s death, there finally came a death blow to it by an internal revolt. This revolt was led by the chief of the Maurya army, General Pushyamitra Sunga  in about 185 or 186 B.C. when the Maurya King Brihadratha ruled in Magadha.

Bana, the famous author of Harsha-Charita describes the incident saying that Pushyamitra held a parade of the army which he invited the King to witness, and thus created an occasion to kill him on the spot with the support of the army.

Thus, ended the dynasty of the Mauryas. The fall of the Maurya Empire was a tragedy no doubt.

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