A pall of darkness falls over the Mauryan history after Asoka.
The scarcity of contemporary epigraphs and the conflicting statements
made in ancient literary sources render it difficult to establish a clear
sequence of rulers and of historical events. The practice of recording
imperial activities on imperishable surfaces, such as rocks and pillars.
seems to have been given up by Asoka’s successors. Of them, only
Dasaratha left brief epigraphs recording as gifts of three caves in
Nagarjunikanda hills to the Ajivikas. Tivara, the only prince mentioned
by Asoka in one of his inscriptions is not heard of again. The Puranas
are our main source of information on this period. Some fragmentary,
but vivid, details are supplied by the Yuga-Puraa of the Garg
Samhita. Of the Buddhist literature, the Divyaradana and the History
of Buddhism of the Tibetan historian, Taranatha, give us a list of
Asoka’s successors. The latter mentions only Kunala, Vigatasoka
and Virasena, the last two of whom do not belong to the main line
ruling in Magadha. The Diyyavadana tradition is even less reliable.
It makes even Pushyamitra a descendant of Asoka, and the rulers listed by it between Sampadi and Pushyamitra do not figure in the Puranas and other sources at all. The list is
1. Kunala (son of Asoka)
2. Sampadi (son of 1)
3. Brihaspati (son of 2)
4. Vishasena (son of 3)
5. Pushyadharman (son of 4)
6. Pushyamitra (son of 5)
The Buddhist chronicles create the impression that the whole
glory of the Maurya dynasty vanished after Asoka, and generally do not carry the history beyond him. The interest of the Jaina writers, namely Hemachandra and Jinaprabhasuri, is centred in Samprati, who displayed the same zeal for the propagation of Jainism as Asoka did for Buddhism. Jinaprabhasuri, the author of the Tirtha-Kalpa, apparently exaggerates the achievements of this prince when he states in the Pataliputra- Kalpa. In Pataliputra flourished the great king
Samprati, son of Kunata, lord of Bharata, with its continents. the
great Arahanta, who established Viharas for the Sramanas, even in
non-Aryan countries.” Because of ecclesiastical bias, the Buddhist and
Jain sources, cannot be accepted as reasonably authentic sources of
history. Curiously enough, Dasaratha the lone Maurya to leave
behind a personal epigraph, does not at all figure in the Buddhist and
Thus we have to fall back mainly on the Puranas for reconstructing the history of the post-Asokan period, supplementing their
information from stray references elsewhere, in particular Bana’s
Harsha-Charita, the Rajatarangini and Polybus. But the Puranic
genealogies, too, have not come down to us in an undamaged condition,
Losses of names of kings and additions are evident in the contradictory versions even of the same Purana.
Asoka, according to a Tibetan tradition, died at Taxila, most probably in 237 B.C. All sources agree in placing Kunala on the Magadhan throne after him. The Puranas assign him a brief reign
of eight years. The blind king could not have held effective Sway over the vast empire The probability is that the provincial governors assumed wide powers, and soon after him set themselves up as independent rulers. It may be kept in mind that the Mauryas followed the age old practice of appointing royal Princes asG overnors. Asoka and Bindusara, both, we know, had served in this capacity before coming to the throne. Thus, when the central authority became weak after Kunala, the royal princes governing the outlying provinces noto nly declared independence, but also proclaimed themselves as the kings of Magadha, claiming to be heirs to the emperor, That must
explain the varying lists of successors of Kunala supplied by different
sources, each one of which was apparently upholding the pretensions of one or the other of the viceroys. Pargiter has summarised the
Paurani lists into two main branches after Bandhupalita. After giving Chandragupta a reign of 24 years, Bindusara of 25 years, Asoka
of 36 years and Kunala for 8 years, These lists bifurcate as under:-
A. Matsya amd e Vayu
1. Kunala’s son Bandhupalita
will enjoy the kingdom.
2. Their grandson Dasona will
reign 7 years.
3. His son Dasaratha will be
king 8 years
4. His Son Samprati will reign four years
5. Salisuka will be king
6. Devarman will be king
7. His son Satadhanvan will
be king 8 years.
8. Brihadratha will 70 years.
B. Vayu generally and Brahmanda
1. Kunala’s son Bandhupalita
will enjoy the kingdom
2. Bandhupalita’s heir Indra-
palita will reign 10 years.
3. Devadharman will be king
4. His son Satadhanus will be
5. His son Satadhanus will be king 8 years
6. Brihadratha will be king
These are the 10 Mauryas
These 9 Mauryas will enjoy
the earth full 137 years
After them it will go to the
Thus we note that these two Purdnas have no generally no difference of opinion on the order of succession of the first five rulers.
on the order of succession of the first five rulers, and the length of their reign, which come to: 101 years. They are also agreed on the total duration of Maurya rule, which was 137 years. These may be accepted as reliable facts of history. Accordingly, after Bandhupalita, the Maurya rule endured for another 36 years.There is divergence of opinion regarding the successors of
Bandhupalita. The Matsya and one recension of the Vayu record seven reigns instead of four or five, thus contradicting their own statement, further down, that there were ten Maurya rulers in all, That
is Suspicious. Salisuka we know from Gargi samhita, was the last Maurya ruler at Pushpapura, e, Pataliputra, when the Yavana hordes of Dharmamita (Demetrius) pillaged the whole country. This line, therefore, ended with him.Curiously enough, Salisuka completes nine reigns and 137 years of the Maurya rule.
The next three rulers
in this list, therefore, do not belong to this line. It appears that these
three, namely, Devadharman, Satadhanvan and Brihadratha, did not
figure in the original list of the Matsya-Purana, but were later appended to it by some overzealous scribe, who was familiar with the Vayu and the Brahmanda texts, and thought that the Matsya text had come to
him in a damaged condition and needed restoration. In fact, the two
Puranic versions were upholding the claims to sovereignty of two rival
branches of the Maurya family, one ruling at Pataliputra and the
other, presumably, at Saketa.
It is clear from he texts of the Puranas that whereas Dasona was the grandson, Indrapalita was a mere dayada, a word denoting
at best, an heir or claimant and, at worst, a pretender. The situation
can be summed up as follows:-
Bandhupalita left in, Dasona, a very young son or grandson to
succeed him to the throne of Pataliputra. The tender age of the lawful heir gave the viceroys of royal blood an opportunity to claim independent status. Indrapalita ruled, presumably at Saketa, as the viceroy
of Avadha and Panchala. The palita ending of his name suggests that
he was a brother of Bandhupalita and claimed succession as the
legitimate heir of Kuņala. The Vayu and the Brahmanda uphold the claim of Indrapalita and his line of pretenders, though they were never in physical possession of the ancestral seat at Pataliputra. Brihadratha, the last ruler of this branch was slain, by his Commander-in-Chief,
Pushyamitra Sunga. The Matsya-Purana, on the other band, supported the claims of the direct line which continued to rule over eastern India from Pataliputra, till the end of Salisuka’s reign. The Yuga-Purana
of the Gargi-Samhita places the latter in Pushpapura, and Dasaratha,
another ruler of this line, has left inscriptions on Nagarjuni hill caves
near Barabar in South Bihar.,
We can thus reconstruct the Maurya genealogy as follows:-
1. Chandragupta – 24 years.
2. Bindusara – 25 years.
3. Asoka. – 36 years.
4 Kunala. – 8 years.
5. Bandhapalita – 8 years.
6. Daśona: – 1 year
7 Devavarman. -. 7 years
8. Satadhanus – 8 years
9. Brihadratha – 7 years
Total 133 years
6 Indrapalita (dayada or
heir to 5, possibly a
son of Kunala). -. 10 years
(s/o Kunala) – 8 years
(s/o Kunala). -. 9 years
9. Salisuka – 13 years
Total 138 years
The four pretenders of the Saketa line, thus, ruled only for 32 years, giving us the span of Maurya rule as 133 instead of 137 years.
Possibly, the reigns were reckoned here in whole years, i.e., part of the
year, at the end of each reign was ignored. The Yuga-Purana of the
Gargi-Samhita records the advance of the Indo-Greek king, Demetrius
(Dharmamita) across the middle country right up to Pushpapura, when
Salisuka was on the throne. Both the Maurya lines seem to have
fallen in the wake of Greek invasion, and Salisuka, who was further in
the line of advance must have survived a little longer than Brihadratha.
But the time lag in public memory, was not sufficient to justify giving
a longer duration to the rule of the Pataliputra branch. Accepting
323 B.C. as the year of commencement ol Maurya rule, the dynasty
came to an end about 187-86 B.C., both at Saketa and Patliputra.
According to the Divyavadana, Kunala’s son and successor was
Brihaspati, who may well be identical with the Bahasatimita of the
Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela. But both the Divyavadana
tradition and the readings of the Hathigumpha inscription are doubtful.
The outlying provinces of the far-flung Maurya empire must also
have asserted independence about the same time as Saketa. We know
from Polybius that about 206 B.C. a certain Sophagasenos (Skt.
Subbagasena) Was ruling over Paropamisadae, i.e., Kapisi is in northern Aghanistan, where Antiochus-3, of Syria met him to renew his ancestral relationship, The reference is, apparently, to the relationsbip between the Seleucid house of Syria and the Mauryas dating back to the times of Chandragupta. Evidently a Maurya prince, Subhagasena
was ruling independently in Afghanistan. His name-ending suggests that he was a son or a brother of Virasena, represented by Taranatha
as a descendant of Kunala and ruling in Gandhara. The Rajatarangini mentions Jalauka, a son of Asoka, as ruling
Kashmir. He was a propagator of Saivism and for a time persecutor
of the Buddhists. He is reputed to have freed the country from an
invasion of the Mlechchhas, who, would be Greeks, and extended his
dominions as far as Kanyakubja, i.e., Kannauj. It is evident that he
must have been born in the last years of Asoka’s life and may have
been one of his youngest sons. Otherwise, he was sure to come under
the religious influence of the great emperor. The fact that he drove
out the Bactrian Greeks confirms our hypothesis. About 190 B.C.
when Demetrius carried out his first raid into Sakala, Jalauka was
youthful enough to conduct successfully the strenuous operations
against the Greeks. He must have been a senior contemporary of
We are not sure, how far to the north-west the rule of the Saketa
house, extended Panchanekame coins, indicate that eastern Gandhara,
including perhaps Takshashila, was, for a short period before the Greek
invasion, left to look after itself. The rest of the Panjab may stil
have owed allegiance to Jalauka or the Saketa throne, when Demetrius,
during his second raid about 187 B.C., swept across the Indo-Gangetic
plains, and in the process, shattered the remaining power and prestige
of the Maurya rulers, and gave Pushyamitra, the chief general of
Brihadratha Maurya, an opportunity to eliminate his master and
occupy the throne. After a bitter struggle, Pushyamitra succeeded in
driving the Greeks beyond the Swat valley. He then performed the
first of his two Asvamedha sacrifices and in the process wiped out
the remaining pockets of Maurya power.
Dr M V D Mohan, North West India of second century BC, page 102 ff, for the first and second invasions of Demetrius.