Building An Empire

Objects as History Week 12

Today’s class was a continuation of where we left off in the last one. An overview of the things we discussed:

  1. Chanakya being the mastermind behind Chandragupta Maurya’s rise to power. We discussed the features of Arthashastra written by him using his pen name,Kautilya. The Arthashastra was a 150-page long document, acting like an instruction manual for a ruler. We concluded that it was way ahead of its time, discussing concepts like employment, salaries, roadways, fortifications, and military strategies.
  2. Chandragupta ending his association with Chanakya, and the birth story of Bindusara.
  3. Feudalism in the Mauryan empire, extents of Mauryan territory, and Patliputra as the capital.
  4. Bindusara’s rule, and struggle for power after he descended the throne. Bindusara had several sons and a fierce competition among them ensued. Out of this arose the third and the greatest descendant of the Mauryan Empire, Ashoka.
  5. Discussion on Ashoka’s life, and his rule. Ashoka’s decision to attack Kalinga, and the path to Buddhism.
  6. Emergence of the first welfare state by Ashoka, which flourished greatly, bringing the Mauryan rule to the height of its power.
  7. “Samrat Cakravartin”, a title given to Ashoka. Here we had an argument about how the spelling sounds completely wrong, and thus discussed the concept of transliteration.Using my name as an example, we saw that Ashlesha would be written as Ashleshā.
  8. Discussion about how Buddhism was popularized during Ashoka’s reign, and reasons for it’s spread. Missionary led by Ashoka’s children to Ceylon, present day Sri Lanka.
  9. Talking about how the ruler of a region adapting a religion results in the entire country adapting it. Examples are Constantine and Roman Paganism to Christanity, and Ashoka and Hinduism to Buddhism.
  10. Decline of the Mauryan Rule.
  11. Establishment of the Satvhahanas, and transition to the Gupta Age.Revival of Hinduism., along with re-emphasizing the culture derived from the two Great Epics.

  1. Meanwhile,in 500 AD, in a desert in the Middle East, emergence of tribes in the desert. These tribes would ride horses, and would kill Romans with swords in hand. They came to be known as the Rub-Al-Khali(Empty Quarter).
  2. Rise of Prophet Muhammed, claiming to deliver the word of God to the people. The rippling effect of Islam.

My favourite part of the class was the story of Bindusara’s birth. It really got me thinking about how a monarch’s life is basically handed to his subjects, and they will always be his first priority. Chandragupta had to sacrifice his wife, because Chanakya knew that an heir to the throne was more important than saving Chandragupta’s wife. Another interesting concept was the reason for the spread of Buddhism. People began realizing how Hinduism was becoming expensive, and thus changed to a religion that did not discriminate based on a rigid caste system and was very liberal. This is interesting because Hinduism continues to be expensive even today, and we have definitely seen a decline in it’s practice over the last several years. But along with this, just like the Gupta Age, we still revive the two epics, and have a lot to learn from them.

The origin of Islam is a part of history that is very interesting to me. This is because of how detailed it is today, and how facts have been added over time, almost making the religious and mythical aspects sound real. In addition to this, the concepts that Islam discusses see an overlap with Christianity, and it is fascinating how a single story has split its ways, alive and thriving even today.

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