The Magadhan empire, which had been reared by successive wars culminating in the conquest of Kalinga, began to disintegrate after the exit of Ashoka in 232 BC. Several causes seem to have brought about the decline and fall of the Maurya empire.
- The brahmanical reaction began as a result of Ashoka’s policy. He issued his edicts in Prakrit and not in Sanskrit. The antisacrifice attitude of Buddhism adopted by Ashoka adversely affected the incomes of brahmanas. Further, Ashoka appointed rajukas to govern the countryside and introduce vyavaharasamata and dandasamata. This meant the same civil and criminal law for all varnas. But the Dharmashastra compiled by the brahmanas prescribed varna discrimination. Naturally this policy infuriated the brahmanas.
- The enormous expenditure on the army and payment to the bureaucracy created a financial crisis for the Maurya empire. It seems that Ashoka made large donations to the Buddhist monks which left the royal treasury empty. Towards the end, in order to meet expenses, they were obliged to melt gold images.
- Oppressive rule in the provinces was an important cause of the break-up of the empire. In the reign of Bindusara, the citizens of Taxila bitterly complained against the misrule of wicked bureaucrats (dushtamatyas).
NEW KNOWLEDGE IN THE OUTLYING AREAS
- The regular use of iron tools and weapons in the peripheral provinces coincided with the decline and fall of the Maurya empire. On the basis of the material culture acquired from Magadha, new kingdoms could be founded and developed.
NEGLECT OF THE NORTH-WEST FRONTIER AND THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
Ashoka was unable to pay attention to safeguard the passes through the northwestern frontier .The Scythians were in a state of constant flux. Due to the use of the horse, they posed a serious danger to the settled empires in China and India.
The Chinese ruler Shih Huang Ti (247–10 BC) constructed the Great Wall of China in about 220 BC to shield his empire against the attacks of the Scythians, but Ashoka took no such measures.
Naturally, when the Scythians made a push towards India, they forced the Parthians, the Shakas, and the Greeks to move towards this subcontinent.