Karol Bagh | IAS GS Foundation Course | 29 May, 6 PM Call Us
This just in:

State PCS


  • 22 Dec 2022 GS Paper 1 Indian Heritage & Culture

    Day 38

    Question 1. Mauryan empire was one of the greatest empires of ancient India. Assess the significance of the Mauryan Empire in the history of India and discuss the causes of its decline. (250 words)

    Question 2. It is said that the post-Mauryan age was a Dark Age. Critically analyse the statement regarding the development of the post-Mauryan age.

    Answer 1


    • Introduce briefly about the Mauryan Empire of ancient India.
    • Assess the significance of the Mauryan Empire in the history of India and discuss the causes of its decline.
    • Conclude suitably.


    The Mauryan dynasty was founded by Chandragupta Maurya. He took advantage of the growing weakness and unpopularity of the Nandas in the last days of their rule. With the help of Chanakya, who is known as Kautilya, he overthrew the Nandas and established the rule of the Maurya dynasty. The machinations of Chanakya against Chandragupta's enemies are described in detail in the Mudrarakshasa, a drama written by Vishakhadatta in the ninth century. Several plays have been based on it in modern times.


    The significance of the Mauryan Empire:

    • Administration: In order to control all spheres of life the state had to maintain a vast bureaucracy. In no other period of ancient history, we hear of so many officers as in Maurya times.
      • Important functionaries were called tirthas.
      • It seems that most functionaries were paid in cash. The highest functionaries were minister (mantrin), high priest (purohita), commander-in-chief (senapati) and crown- prince (yuvaraja), who were paid generously.
      • The administrative mechanism was backed by an elaborate system of espionage. Various types of spies collected intelligence abut foreign enemies and kept an eye on numerous officers.
    • Elaborated Geographical kingdom: The Mauryan empire was divided into four provinces, apart from Magadha with its capital at Pataliputra. During the reign of Ashoka, a fifth province of Kalinga was incorporated.
      • Uttarapatha (northwestern India) – capital at Taxila
      • Dakshinapatha (southern India) – capital at Suvarnagiri
      • Eastern India – capital at Tosali
      • Avantiratha – capital at Ujjain
      • Kalinga – capital at Tasali/Dhauli
    • Economic Regulations: If we rely on the Arthashastra of Kautilya it would appear that the state appointed 27 superintendents (adhyakshas) mostly to regulate the economic activities of the state.
      • The state also provided irrigation facilities and regulated water supply for the benefit of agriculturists.
    • Mauryan Art: Implies architectural works (in the form of pillars, stupas and palaces) commissioned by Mauryan rulers for political as well as religious reasons.
    • Justice/Force: The king was the head of justice – the fountainhead of law and all matters of grave consequences were decided by him. Kautilya refers to the existence of two types of courts – Dharmasthiyas (dealing with civil matters) and Kantakasodhanas (dealing with criminal cases).
      • Ashoka promulgated dharma and appointed officials to inculcate and enforce its essentials throughout the country.

    Causes of decline of Mauryan Empire:

    • Brahmanical Reaction: As a result of the tolerant policy of Ashoka like prohibited killing of animals and birds, and derided superfluous rituals performed by women. Eventually, some of the new kingdoms that arose on the ruins of the Maurya empire, were ruled by the brahmanas. The Satavahanas, Shungas and the Kanvas were brahmanas.
    • Financial Crisis: The enormous expenditure on the army, bureaucracy (as Mauryas maintained the largest army and regiment of officers) and grants to the Buddhist monks by Ashoka created a financial crisis for the Maurya empire.
      • In order to meet expenses in the last stage they had to melt the images made of gold.
    • Oppressive Rule: In the provinces, like in the reign of Bindusara the citizens of Taxila bitterly complained against the misrule of wicked bureaucrats (dushtamatyas).
      • Their grievance was redressed by the appointment of Ashoka.
    • New Knowledge in the Outlying Areas: The regular use of iron tools and weapons in the peripheral provinces coincided with the decline and fall of the Maurya empire.
    • Neglect of the North-West Frontier and the Great Wall of China: Missionary activities of Ashoka at home and abroad, he could not pay attention to the safeguarding of the passage on the north-western frontier. Consequently, tribes of Central Asia in the third century B.C. like Scythians were in a state of constant flux.
      • The Chinese ruler Shih Huang Ti (247-210 B.C.) constructed the Great Wall of China in about 220 B.C. to shield his empire against the attacks of the Scythians. Such measures were not taken by Ashoka.


    The Maurya empire was finally destroyed by Pushyamitra Shunga in 185 B.C. The Shungas ruled in Pataliputra and central India and they performed several Vedic sacrifices in order to mark the revival of the brahmanical way of life. It is said that they persecuted the Buddhists. They were succeeded by the Kanvas who were also brahmanas.

    Answer 2


    • Introduce briefly about the post Mauryan age.
    • Discuss why this age is supposed to be a Dark age and also mention the significance of the age.
    • Conclude suitably


    The period from the decline of the Mauryas to the rise of the Guptas (2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE) is known as the post – Mauryan period. This period witnessed the clash, the rise and fall of a number of smaller kingdoms. The native dynasties like Shungas, Satavahanas, and the Kanvas ruled in eastern India, central India and the Deccan region. Foreigners like Indo-Greeks or Bactrians, Sakas, the Parthians and the Kushanas ruled in north-western India.


    The period was marked by elements of change and continuity. The concept of Dark Age was developed by colonial historians to justify the establishment of colonial British rule in India.

    The arguments to support the concept of Dark Age in Post Mauryan Age:

    • The post Mauryan age was the period of political fragmentation of India. India was invaded by numerous foreign groups e.g., Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Kushans etc.
      • There was absence of highly organized, strong and efficient centralized administration like Mauryan rulers.
    • Social rigidity was also of very high order and evils like untouchability and child marriage commenced during this period.
    • On the foreign trade, there was growing discontent among Romans about Indian steel and cutlery because nobles paid very high price.
    • There was decline of urban towns by middle of 3rd century A.D. due to ban on trade with India imposed by the Roman Empire in 3rd century A.D. and towns could not support the Artisans and Merchants who lived there.

    But in spite of the fact that north India underwent political fragmentation. The post Mauryan age was the age of remarkable developments in politico administrative life. Like:

    • Satvahana kingdom emerged and ruled over extensive territory.
    • For the first time the state formation took place in Tamil land. The Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas emerged. The rulers of Chola kingdom invaded Sri Lanka during this period.
    • Sangam literature provides details about their administrative and political set up.
      • The Indian culture reached beyond its frontiers. Buddhism reached up to Afghanistan and central Asia.
    • Though the period witnessed invasions, the invaders gradually absorbed Indian culture. They ruled over extensive territories and Indian rule controlled the parts of central Asia for the first time.
    • In the field of art and architecture also this period saw remarkable progress.
      • The stupa architecture was developed. Numerous schools of art like Gandhara, Mathura and Amravati emerged during this period.
    • The economy was flourished by external trade and could be evidenced by Pliny’s remark that Romans been drained of its riches by Indian trade.
      • The economy also saw the increased monetization. The gold coins were issued during this period on large amount.
      • Apart from trading in local made goods, Indian were act as a mediator in trade of Chinese goods with Romans.


    Though some negative aspects were witnessed in social life but everything was not negative here as well because close interaction with outside world resulted in cultural assimilation. This liberal and progressive assimilatory culture was clearly visible in coastal towns and cities.

SMS Alerts
Share Page