3.3 Powerful Empires Emerge in India

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.

Photo of ancient domed building in a tropical desert setting.

These are the remains of a stupa in Bihar, India, built during the Maurya period.


  • Analyze how Mauryan rulers created a strong central government for their empire.
  • Explore the kingdoms that arose across the Deccan.
  • Explain why the period of Gupta rule in India is considered a golden age.
  • Understand how family and village life shaped Indian society.

Key Terms

  • Chandragupta Maurya
  • dissent
  • Asoka
  • missionaries
  • golden age
  • decimal system
  • joint family
  • dowry

The Maurya Empire Builds a Strong Government

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 Unites India

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.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments