also known as Sandrocottus/Sandrokottas/Sandrokottos/Sandrakoptos
Chandragupta Mauryan, a 4th-century B.C.E. Indian emperor, ushered in a golden age of Indian history and founded the Mauryan dynasty. Chandragupta ruled from 322 until 298 B.C.E., while the Mauryan dynasty lasted nearly 200 years and formed a massive empire that would crumble in the absence of strong leadership.
Chandragupta's career began as an army commander under Danananda, the last king of the Nanda dynasty. After an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Danananda and seize the throne, Chandragupta fled. He defected to the invading army, led by Alexander the Great. He urged Alexander to take action against Danananda, but Alexander refused. The Indian commander, with the aid of a cunning and unscrupulous Brahman named Kautilya (Chanakya), raised an army and overthrew Danananda in 321 B.C.E. Kautilya was later made prime minister and was one of Chandragupta's highest advisors.
In 305 B.C.E., Chandragupta's realm was threatened by Seleucus Nicator, the Macedonian satrap of Babylonia. Seleucus announced his intention to invade northwest India. Chandragupta not only defended against these attacks, he pushed the border farther west, to modern Iran and Afghanistan. Afraid of losing his entire domain, Seleucus offered a peace treaty, which included the marriage of Seleucus' daughter to Chandragupta's son, Bindusara. Seleucus aso agreed to cede modern Afghanistan, Pakistan and all lands east of the Sindhu River. In exchange, Seleucus received 500 war elephants for use in his western campaigns.
Seleucus also sent Megasthenes, a Greek historian, to Chandragupta's court at Pataliputra (Patna). Most of our information on his reign comes from Greek sources: Megasthenes' book, Indica, and snippets from Plutarch's biography of Alexander the Great.
Under Chandragupta's rule, the world saw an independent, unified India for the first time. He expanded the empire northwards and westwards, encompassing Pakistan and other surrounding areas. He established the Mauryan dynasty, which ruled the Indian empire until 187 B.C.E. India's trade and agriculture flourished. The state owned massive farms, and employed laborers and slaves to work the land. Income flowed in from taxes levied on crops, land, commerce and industrial products, including arms, farming implements and handicrafts. Standard weights and measures were established, and India's first coins were minted. The technique of punching these coins is unique, and thus the coins are known as "punch mark coins." They were often adorned with symbols, such as elephants, hills, trees and suns.
Chandragupta divided his empire into administrative districts or zones, each of which had a hierarchy of officials. The highest-ranking officers from these districts or zones directly reported to the Mauryan ruler. These officials were responsible for collecting taxes, maintaining the army, completing irrigational projects and maintaining law and order.
To preserve the empire, Chandragupta commanded an enormous military and frequently used espionage, as his advisor Kautilya wrote in his Arthashastra. The army was extremely large--it reportedly numbered as many as 600,000--and was comprised of the four traditional divisions: mounted on elephants, in chariots, calvalry and infantry.
Chandragupta's empire was very tolerant of a variety of religions, including Buddhism and Jainism. The rulers of the Mauryan dynasty were actually influential in the growth of these religions: Chandragupta's grandson, Asoka, spread Buddhism as an enthusiastic convert. According to tradition, after ruling for about 25 years, Chandragupta abdicated the throne to his son, Bindusara and converted to Jainism. He became a devout ascetic disciple of the Jain saint, Bhardrabahu. Twelve years after the death of his teacher, Chandragupta died on the same hill after fasting to death in a Jain rite of penance.
Chandragupta's grandson, Asoka, the son of Bindusara, is significantly more famous and is considered the greatest emperor of the Mauryan dynasty.