During the time of Buddha, India was a divided land. Princes called rajahs ruled over large city-states rich in foods, jewels, and metals. This wealth brought invaders first the Persians from Asia and then the Greeks from Europe. For more than 200 years after the death of Buddha, parts of the Indian subcontinent were held by outsiders. Finally, a young Indian leader drove the invaders out of India and conquered all the rajahs.
India's First Empire
About 320 B.C. a ruler named Chandragupta Maurya (chuhn*druh«GUP*tuh MOW»ree»uh) united India and formed the Maurya Empire. Chandragupta Maurya ruled the new empire harshly. He made peasants work as slaves to chop down forests, drain swamps, and farm the newly cleared land. He then taxed the crops that were grown. Chandragupta's cruelty made him many enemies in the empire. He feared for his own safety. Because of this he appeared in public only during a few important festivals. He also had servants taste all his food before he ate it. To protect himself from assassination, Chandragupta slept in a different room every night. Assassination (uh • sa • suh • NAY • shun) is murder for a political reason. No attack came, however. In 297 B.C. Chandragupta quietly gave up the throne to his son.
Both Chandragupta and his son governed the empire according to a book called the Arthashastra (ar• thu h • SHAH • stru h). The Arthashastra said that rulers should govern with a firm hand. "Government is the science of Punishment, " it stated. It also said that war was an acceptable way for rulers to reach their goals. Ruling by the Arthashastra, both Chandragupta and his son expanded the Maurya Empire to include what is today western Pakistan and southern India.
What kind of ruler was Chandragupta?