Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire. He, at the young age of 25, captured Pataliputra from the last ruler of the Nanda dynasty, Dhanananda. In this task he was assisted by Kautilya, who was also known as Chanakya or Vishnugupta. After firmly establishing his power in the Gangetic valley, he marched to the northwest and subdued the territories up to the Indus. Then he moved to central India and occupied the region north of Narmada river.
In 305 B.C., he marched against Selukas Niketar, who was Alexander's General controlling the northwestern India. Chandragupta Maurya defeated him and a treaty was signed. By this treaty, Selukas Niketar ceded the trans-Indus territories - namely Aria, Arakosia and Gedrosia - to the Mauryan Empire. He also gave his daughter in marriage to the Mauryan prince. Chandragupta made a gift of 500 elephants to Selukas. Megasthenes was sent to the Mauryan court as Greek ambassador.
Chandragupta embraced Jainism towards the end of his life and stepped down from the throne in favour of his son Bindusara. Then he went to Sravana Belgola, near Mysore along with Jain monks led by Bhadrabhagu and starved himself to death.
Bindusara (298 - 273 B.C.)
Bindusara was called by the Greeks as 'Amitragatha' meaning slayer of enemies. He is said to have conquered the Deccan up to Mysore. Taranatha, the Tibetan monk states that Bindusara conquered 16 states comprising 'the land between the two seas'. The Sangam Tamil literature also confirms the Mauryan invasion of the far south. Therefore, it can be said that the Mauryan Empire under Bindusara extended up to Mysore.
Bindusara received Deimachus as ambassador from the Syrian king Antiochus I. Bindusara wrote to Antiochus I asking for sweet wine, dried figs and a sophist. The latter sent all but a sophist because the Greek law prohibited sending a sophist. Bindusara supported the Ajivikas, a religious sect. Bindusara appointed his son Asoka as the governor of Ujjain.
There is little information regarding the early life of Asoka. He acted as Governor of Ujjain and also suppressed a revolt in Taxila during his father Bindusara's reign. There was an interval of four years between Asoka's accession to the throne (273 B.C.) and his actual coronation (269 B.C.). Therefore, it appears from the available evidence that there was a struggle for the throne after Bindusara's death. The Ceylonese Chronicles, Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa state that Asoka captured power after killing his ninety nine brothers including the his elder brother Susima. The youngest brother Tissa was spared. But according to Taranatha of Tibet, Asoka killed only six of his brothers. Asoka's Edict also refers to his brothers acting as officers in his administration. However, it is clear that the succession of Asoka was a disputed one.
The most important event of Asoka's reign was his victorious war with Kalinga in 261 B.C. Although there is no detail about the cause and course of the war, the effects of the war were described by Asoka himself in the Rock edict XIII: 'A hundred and fifty thousand were killed and many times that number perished' After the war he annexed Kalinga to the Mauryan Empire. Another most important effect of the Kalinga war was that Asoka embraced Buddhism under the influence of Buddhist monk, Upagupta.