Block 3 -- India: Buddhism and Unification of India

The Mauryan Family and the Unification of India


Check out this video on the Mauryan Empire! 


The Mauryas were the first family to unify India under one ruler.  This was a huge accomplishment because India was a very large and diverse area that covered over one million square miles.




In 315 B.C.E., India was divided into many small kingdoms controlled by different leaders.  These leaders had become weak and wasted their resources fighting amongst themselves. In the early 320's, Chandragupta Maurya noticed this and used an army of 700,000 soldiers and 9,000 elephants to overthrow the rulers of these kingdoms.  He eventually conquered all of the kingdoms of northern India and united them under his rule, creating the Mauryan empire.


Chandragupta was a very harsh and forceful ruler.  He was incredibly scared of his enemies, so he used a powerful army, spies, and even torture to keep his subjects in line.  However, Chandragupta also did a few things to benefit his people.  He created a strong central government, wrote laws, helped farmers make sure they had plenty of water, and built a road over 1,000 miles long to connect the parts of his empire.


Towards the later part of his life, he gave up all of his power.  Indian legend says that he became an ascetic (a person who has given up all worldly pleasures).  He lived in poverty and travelled with monks (simple holy men).  Meanwhile, his descendants made his empire grow larger.  By the time of his grandson, King Ashoka, it included nearly the entire Indian subcontinent.


 This is a map of the Mauryan Empire.  The blue area is the area conquered by Chandragupta.  The purple area was the extent of the empire at the time of Ashoka.




The Mauryan Empire reached its height during the reign of King Ashoka. He ruled from about 269 to 232 B.C.E. Ashoka expanded the empire to the south and east through a series of wars. Ashoka decided to embrace Buddhism. He supported the Buddhist value of love, Peace, and nonviolence and became a vegetarian. Not all of Ashoka actions reflected Buddhist values. He was a practical ruler. He allowed slavery and permitted people to be executed for serious crimes. He still kept a strong army, although he gave up conquest. Never again would the great King Ashoka attack another kingdom for his own. Ashoka asked others to follow the Buddhist path. He urged his subjects to be kind, respectful, and moral (in other words, he wanted them to behave right). He instructed them to respect their elders, to tolerate other religions, and to treat servants well. He often referred to his people as his wonderful "children" and of himself as their loving "father". Ashoka's Buddhism wasn't perfect, but it was deeply felt.

 A picture of King Ashoka


Ashoka's Four Edicts:

Ø  edict- a command that is obeyed like a law

Ø  the edicts were carved into walls, tall pillars, or public places where everyone could see them.

Ø  edicts were designed to promote four main goals:

  1. Buddhist Values:

          ·         be loving & respectful, practice non-violence

          ·         don’t get too attached to worldly things (like money)

          ·         do right rather than wrong

    2.  General Welfare

          ·         intended to make sure people had good health, shelter, clean water, and enough food

    3.  Justice

          ·         Concerned with fair laws

          ·         Described how people were to be treated in court & jail

    4.  Security

          ·        Delt with enemies, peace, & conquest

Ø  Ashoka's dream of a United Empire did not last, 45 years after death, his once great empire fell apart into small kingdoms

Ø  Buddhism than spread from India to Central Asia than to China, Korea, & Japan

How Buddhism Affected the Indian Empire

                Buddha, (a.k.a. Prince Siddhartha) discovered the eightfold path. The eightfold path is eight values that are important to every Buddhist. The values of the eightfold path also greatly influenced the Indian empire. Similar to the Hebrew’s Ten Commandments, the eightfold path is what the Buddhists live their lives by. The (Chart copied from History Alive! The Ancient World)


The Eightfold Path

Right understanding

Develop a deep understanding for the four noble truths.

Right purpose

Live a life of selflessness, love, and non-violence.

Right speech

Be careful and truthful in what you say.

Do not lie or gossip.

Right action

Do not kill, steal, or lie. Be honest.

Right way to earn a living

Do not work at a job that causes harm to living people or living creatures.

Right effort

Promote good actions and prevent evil ones.

Right mindfulness

Be aware of but not attached to your thoughts, emotions, and feelings.

Right concentration

Focus your mind with practices like meditation.