The Decline of the Mauryan Empire

Asoka’s death in 232 B.C. was followed by the division of the Mauryan Empire into two parts – western and eastern. The western part was ruled by Kunala, son of Asoka and the eastern part by Dasaratha, one of the grand sons of Asoka.

Due to the Bactrian invasions, the western part of the empire collapsed. The eastern part was intact under Samprati successor of Dasaratha. The last Mauryan king was Brihatratha, who was assassinated by Pushyamitra Sunga.

After the death of Asoka, his successors were not able to keep the vast Mauryan Empire intact. The provinces started declaring their independence. The northwest India slipped out of the control of the Mauryas and a series of foreign invasions affected this region. Kalinga declared its independence and in the further south the Satavahanas established their independent rule. As a result, the Mauryan rule was confined to the Gangetic valley and it was soon replaced by the Sunga dynasty.

Causes for the Decline of the Mauryas

The causes for the decline of the Mauryan empire have been widely debated by scholars. The traditional approach attributes the decline to Asoka’s policies and his weak successors. Another approach holds the inadequate political and economic institutions to sustain such a vast empire.

It was said that Asoka’s pro-Buddhist policies antagonized the Brahmins who brought about a revolution led by Pushyamitra Sunga. But Asoka was never acted against Brahmins. That Asoka’s policy of non-violence reduced the fighting spirit of his army was another charge against him. But Asoka had never slackened his control over his empire despite following a pacifist policy. Therefore solely blaming Asoka for the decline of the Mauryan empire may not be correct because Asoka was more a pragmatist than an idealist.

There are multiple causes for the decline of the Mauryan empire such as weak successors, partition of empire and administrative abuses after Asoka’s reign. The combination of these factors speeded up the breakup of the Mauryan empire and facilitated Pushyamitra Sunga to drive away the Mauryan power and establish the Sunga dynasty.

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