Northern India was often a battleground where rival rajahs fought for control of the rich Ganges valley. But in 321 B.C., a young adventurer, Chandragupta Maurya (chun druh GUP tuh MOWR yuh), forged the first Indian empire.
These are the remains of a stupa in Bihar, India, built during the Maurya period.
We know about Chandragupta largely from reports written by Megasthenes (muh GAS thuh neez), a Greek ambassador to the Mauryan court. He described the great Mauryan capital at Pataliputra. It boasted schools and a library as well as splendid palaces and temples. An awed Megasthenes reported that the wall around the city “was crowned with 530 towers and had 64 gates.”
Chandragupta first gained power in the Ganges valley, then conquered northern India. His son and grandson later pushed south, adding much of the Deccan to their empire. From 321 B.C. to 185 B.C., the Maurya dynasty ruled over a vast, united empire.
Chandragupta maintained order through a well-organized bureaucracy. Royal officials supervised the building of roads and harbors to benefit trade. Other officials collected taxes and managed state-owned factories and shipyards. People sought justice in royal courts and from the emperor himself.