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ABSTRACT

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

The Mauryan Empire, an early South Asian polity, was once presumed to have exerted control over most of the Indian subcontinent. A reexamination of both archaeological and historical evidence suggests a different interpretation of Mauryan imperialism - one that has less to do with territorial control and instead looks to a relational network perspective. This perspective allows a view of the Mauryan polity that goes beyond the political dimension to examine long-term patterns of interaction during the Early Historic period (ca. 600 B.C.E.–C.E. 600). Additionally, this model may be extended to include parallel networks of interaction that existed independently of political authority and would endure beyond the decline of various dynastic powers. [Mauryan Empire, sovereignty, territoriality, Early Historic period, South Asia]

The Mauryan Empire, an early imperial polity that developed out of the early state of Magadha in the Ganges valley in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent during the mid-third century B.C.E., provides the backdrop in this chapter for an examination of the nature of sovereignty and territoriality. For a century and a half, this empire was ruled by a dynasty of kings known as the Mauryas, who are presumed to have extended their power over much of the Indian subcontinent. The political history of the Mauryan Empire is well attested in early Indian literature and is also referenced in numerous foreign and later texts (for discussion of historical sources, see Bongard-Levin 1985). In terms of the archaeological record, however, there is very little material evidence that can directly be ascribed to the Mauryan dynasty as a political power aside from a collection of inscriptions associated with the third Mauryan king, Asoka. These inscriptions, known as the Asokan edicts, were carved on boulders and polished stone pillars and erected across the Indian subcontinent and well beyond the Ganges valley, from Kandahar in the northwest, to Girnar and Sopara in the west, to a cluster of rock edicts found at sites in the south such as Maski, Brahmagiri, Nittur, and Udegolam (Figure 9.1).

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Figure 9.1. Distribution of Asokan edicts (inset: Southern Deccan).

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Erected between 258 B.C.E. and 243 B.C.E., the edicts are presented as a series of direct statements by Asoka and describe the social, religious, and political reforms he instituted, as well as details of his life as both a reigning king and follower of Buddhism. Because of their wide geographical distribution, the Asokan edicts are often interpreted as markers delineating the territorial boundaries of Mauryan imperialism. However, many models based directly on the Mauryas raise significant questions about their empire's territorial unity (e.g., Bongard-Levin 1985; Fussman 1987–88–88; Ray 2008; Sinopoli 2001b; M. L. Smith 2005; Thapar 1987); this has led to a reexamination of the extent to which the rulers of this early polity were able to exert power over various regions of the Indian subcontinent.

The research presented here adds to this scholarship by examining nonterritorial models of empire in an analysis that incorporates the results of an archaeological investigation in the Southern Deccan, a region often considered peripheral to the Mauryan imperial polity. Despite its distance from the Mauryan heartland in the Ganges valley, the Southern Deccan is often considered a part of Mauryan territory in the standard narrative of Indian history, largely because of the 11 Asokan edicts that have been found at numerous sites across the region (see Figure 9.1, inset). However, close examination of the archaeological evidence suggests a different interpretation of Mauryan imperialism, one that has less to do with territorial control during the reign of a particular dynasty. Instead, this model focuses on the networks of relationships that were generated and supported by processes of imperialism in order to extend Mauryan influence across the Indian subcontinent and throughout time via their historical legacy.

The case for an alternative model to characterize Mauryan imperialism begins with a discussion of territory and sovereignty and their relation to the definition of empire. Archaeologists are often cautious about employing terms like empire and state without significant qualifiers, since many such terms have specific historical associations. As a result, the archaeological literature is filled with models that attempt to depict the singular nature of particular societies and simultaneously provide a framework that can “fill in the blanks” with select generalizations. Such generalizations often include assumptions about territorial control and the nature of political sovereignty.

This is certainly the case for the Mauryan Empire, which is poorly represented in the archaeological record and often simplified by conventional political historiography. Despite our sketchy understanding of this period, the Mauryan Age is frequently depicted as a “Golden Age” of early national unity (e.g., V. Smith 1901), so much so that Mauryan images—such as the dharmacharka (“wheel of morality”) and the lion capital of the Asokan pillar edict at Sarnath—stand as the symbols of the modern Indian state today. As discussed below, a nonterritorial reconstruction of Mauryan imperialism does not negate the historical legacy of this dynasty and corresponds with the term dhamma vijaya, which is found in the Asokan edicts. This term can be loosely translated as “moral conquest,” and it provides a hint of some of the spatial and nonspatial political ideals of sovereignty and empire in circulation during the Early Historic period in South Asia. Based on these concepts, I argue that a network approach is the best way to characterize the Mauryan Empire, as well as many other forms of imperialism. I do so by placing a discussion of relational perspectives in the context of early South Asia. This alternative to the conventional model of a pan-Indian empire is supported by focusing on the archaeology of a “peripheral” area. Of particular significance is the contrast between the archaeological history of this “peripheral” area (the Southern Deccan) and a broader examination of the Early Historic period (ca. sixth century B.C.E. through sixth century C.E.) both during and subsequent to the time of the Mauryan Empire.

The Early Historic Period

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

The eighth through sixth centuries B.C.E. saw the emergence of a number of expansive complex polities in the northeast and central parts of the Indian subcontinent that are referred to as mahajanapadas or “great states” in early Indian literature (Allchin 1995). Constant competition among these mahajanapadas led to the eventual rise of one, Magadha, whose core area centered on the Ganges valley in the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent. Under the rule of a number of dynasties, the Magadha mahajanapada expanded its influence to incorporate much of North and Central India, reaching its height during the reign of the Mauryas. The Mauryan dynasty came to power during the beginning of the Early Historic period, an extremely dynamic time that witnessed the formation of complex polities across the subcontinent, the development and spread of significant new religious traditions, and a general widening of existing economic, political, and social networks of interaction. General overviews of Early Historic archaeology, and of the archaeology of the Indian subcontinent, demonstrate this variability in a way not always evident from site-specific or region-specific studies (e.g., Allchin 1995; Chakrabarti 1999, 2006; Ghosh 1990).

Politically, the beginning of the Early Historic correlates with the reemergence of urban centers in North India,1 and its end is marked by the decline of the Gupta imperial polity. The early centuries of the Early Historic period also witnessed a proliferation of heterodox sects in North India that substantially diverged from the Vedic orthodox practices that had flourished during the preceding Iron Age, or Vedic period (ca. 1200–700 B.C.E.). Of the many North Indian heterodox sects, Buddhism and Jainism are perhaps the best known. In its early days during the sixth through fourth centuries B.C.E., Buddhism was confined to the region of its origin in the Ganges valley. The Mauryas are often credited with the propagation of the religion across the Indian subcontinent, from which it quickly spread south to Sri Lanka and east into China and Southeast Asia. Jainism followed a similar trajectory, though it remained restricted to the Indian subcontinent. The historical founder of Jainism, the Mahavira, is believed to have lived around the time of the Buddha, and was born into a ruling family in a small part of Magadha (Heehs 2002). In later centuries, Jainism spread to many parts of the Indian subcontinent, taking particular hold in parts of the south and west.

The expansion of both religious traditions, and of later traditions of Hindu devotional (bhakti) practice, is clear evidence of interregional interaction across South and Southeast Asia during this time, both in the actual spread of these ideologies and in the networks of religious pilgrimage and patronage that they generated. Additionally, there is much evidence for long-distance trade that clearly indicates the existence of widespread economic networks linking the Indian subcontinent among its various regions and also to the wider world (Chakravarti 2002; Liu 1988; Morrison 1995; Ray 1994; M. L. Smith 1999, 2000). As will be discussed further, these networks should be considered independently of various political powers, and they provide the backdrop for a nonterritorial model of Mauryan imperialism.

Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

Part of the process of examining nonterritorial models involves dissociating definitions from anachronistic or etymological assumptions about territorial control—for example, avoiding the projection of modern national boundaries onto past political formations by using the term polity instead of state. The concept of “territory” as it is generally understood is unambiguously material, originating from the word for land (i.e., Latin terra) (see VanValkenburgh and Osborne, this volume, for discussion on an additional etymological link to terrere “to frighten”). The adoption of a nonterritorial approach is not an effort to disregard the importance of physical land in the consideration of early South Asian polities or any other cohesive social entity. Rather, it is an attempt to highlight the more intangible relationships that traverse physical space in order to bind together communities and institutions. As the case of Mauryan imperialism demonstrates, these nonmaterial links may sometimes be more substantial than any claimed territorial control, and they are certainly far more enduring.

The next term, sovereignty, is perhaps the most adaptable of the three under question. Etymologically, the term denotes supremacy (from Latin super) but does not have any explicit spatial association. However, its contemporary meaning was linked to the notion of territory with the emergence of the modern nation-state in the mid-17th century (see VanValkenburgh and Osborne, this volume). Sovereign nations, by this definition, possess absolute authority within the bounds of their territory. This has both internal and external implications specifically related to the delineation of physical space.

Sovereignty, as power, can be exercised in nonspatial ways, however. In addition to territorial associations, sovereignty is also often connected to the power of a ruling individual or collective. In a literal sense, the term simply implies authority or preeminence over something else. This allows a much broader scope for the characterization of premodern political dynamics when detached from the concept of a territorially discrete nation-state.

The discussion of empires goes through a similar transformation when separated from the Roman notion of imperium, a term bound up with both territory and sovereign power. Several assumptions are implicit within the definition of imperial. Over time, these assumptions have developed from general ideas of authority to the idea of an expansive polity incorporating a significant amount of internal variability and ethnic diversity (Morrison 2001; Pagden 2001; Sinopoli 2001a). Imperium, originating from the verb impero “to command,” came to denote “the exercise of supreme power or authority” (Oxford Latin Dictionary [1983]), representing both the expression of power by Roman rulers and magistrates and the dominion within which that authority held sway. This more specific use of the term is first seen in Latin literature during the later years of the Roman republic (ca. second century B.C.E.) at the height of Roman territorial expansion and with the accession of Augustus and the establishment of the Imperium Romanum in the first century B.C.E. (Gibbon 2001; Woolf 2001:313–316).

The character of the Roman Empire and its use of the term imperium to denote both territory and sovereign power has been adopted in many subsequent definitions and models of empire, including those projected back to earlier polities such as the third millennium B.C.E. Akkadian empire of Sargon, later polities such as Assyria (seventh century B.C.E.; see Parker, this volume) and Achaemenid Persia (sixth to fourth centuries B.C.E.; Kuhrt 1995, 2001; Pollock 1999), and many others. Under the influence of theoretical frameworks such as world-systems theory, archaeologists began to formulate models examining the relationship that existed between “core” and “peripheral” areas within ancient empires and states (e.g., Blanton and Feinman 1984; Chase-Dunn and Hall 1991, 1993, 1997; Ekholm and Friedman 1979; Kohl 1987a, 1987b; Peregrine 1992, 1996a, 1996b; Schortman and Urban 1996; M. E. Smith 2001; Stein 1998, 1999). These approaches moved beyond the individual state view to the larger perspective of interregional and interpolity interaction but, nevertheless, often maintained an explicit focus on “cores” and “peripheries” as territorially defined entities.

More recently, there has been a shift away from examinations of the core–periphery dichotomy toward an interest in the actual processes and relationships constituting political systems. This has been approached in numerous ways, including the examination of imperial formations by means of their inherent dynamics and practices (Morrison 2001), and through the adoption of a landscape perspective that focuses on the spatial dimension of political relationships that constitute early polities (A. T. Smith 2003). What many of these tactics share is a break from bounded (and often evolutionary) definitions of states or empires and a deeper concern with understanding sovereign authority and the way in which it was constructed and maintained in early polities. These approaches shift attention away from territorial models toward interpretations that consider the many other links forming intrapolity and interpolity interactions throughout time.

Networks

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

The detachment of physical territory from political authority is highlighted in Monica Smith's application of a network model to the representation of ancient states (M. L. Smith 2005; see also Biersteker and Weber 1996; Wilkinson 2003), and her work serves as the starting point to the theoretical reformulation of Mauryan imperialism presented here, as it does for Bradley Parker in his study of the Mesopotamian Assyrian Empire in this volume. Studies of networks have been conducted in a wide range of disciplines, though definitions of a “network” and the nature of its links vary widely. Networks may be viewed somewhat vaguely in terms of “diffuse relationships” (Cohn and Marriott 1958) or as a highly formalized set of structures that bind together, and drive forward, social systems. The concept has been expanded as a distinct research perspective within social and behavioral sciences termed social network analysis (Carrington et al. 2005; Freeman 2004; Scott 2000; Wasserman and Faust 1994; Wellman and Berkowitz 1988) but can vary widely, with an emphasis on both quantitative and qualitative approaches to relational information.

Within the discipline of archaeology, quantitative applications linked more closely to formal network theory currently form the greater part of the literature (e.g., Mizoguchi 2009; Munson and Macri 2009; Munson and Scholnick 2008), though several recent reviews of archaeological network analysis have commented on the limits of this approach (Brughmans 2010; Orser 2005). In particular, it seems important to further clarify how these formal methods differ in substance from earlier systems theory that viewed society as an interconnected network of elements that could be described with predictive models and analyzed using quantitative techniques (e.g., Flannery 1968). Qualitative approaches to network analysis in archaeology are more flexible, but also more difficult to classify (e.g., Sindbaek 2007). Relational perspectives are often reliant on the availability of large regional and interregional data sets, leading Orser (2005) to suggest that network approaches are more suited to historical archaeology than to the study of prehistoric societies. While the addition of written evidence can be of much value to a network analysis of the past, it is certainly not a requisite, and what seems more crucial is an emphasis on the heterogeneity of relationships that existed in the past and the way they may be discerned from a range of evidence, both material and textual.

In the context of the early South Asian state, several characteristics associated with network models have been proposed by anthropologists and historians (e.g., Gordon 2007; Rudolph and Rudolph 1985). The network perspective employed here is heavily influenced by Monica Smith's (2007) discussion of network models of ancient states, but whereas Smith's ideas about networks developed from a biological model, the approach adopted in this chapter is drawn from network theories in the social sciences, and an emphasis on qualitative relational perspectives. The flexibility of the latter approach seems particularly appropriate to the study of early polities in South Asia, where timescales are often only understood in terms of centuries, obscuring smaller shifts not discernable in the broader patterns of sociopolitical change. This also provides a way of examining the legacy of Mauryan imperialism that is able to account for its continued prominence in the narrative of Indian national history.

The Mauryas

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

According to conventional history, the first of the Mauryas, Chandragupta Maurya, came to power in the mahajanapada of Magadha in the fourth century B.C.E. (e.g., Raychaudhuri 1996; Thapar 1997). Having consolidated many neighboring states into one large polity, he ruled for two and a half decades (ca. 324–300 B.C.E.) before passing control on to his son Bindusara (ca. 300–272 B.C.E.). Bindusara is reputed to have extended control to include most of India with the exception of the eastern state of Kalinga (part of modern-day Orissa) and the southernmost part of the peninsula (Bongard-Levin 1985:79–81; Thapar 1997:17–18). It was under Bindusara's son, Asoka (ca. 268–232 B.C.E.), that the Mauryan polity is alleged to have reached its greatest extent. After brutally crushing the Kalinga state in military conquest, Asoka reputedly became intensely devoted to the practice of Buddhism and the policy of conquest by dharma (Thapar 1997). The edicts he established during his reign proclaim his concepts of dharma, which may be loosely translated as “morality” or “righteous deeds.” A translation of Major Rock Edict XIII, which details Asoka's conquest of Kalinga and his subsequent remorse and transformation, is included in the notes below for the reader's reference.2

The Asokan Edicts

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

The Asokan edicts constitute one of the first extant forms of decipherable writing on the Indian subcontinent and are typically divided into four groups based on their content as well as on the materials on which they are inscribed. Statements made in the edicts date the first set, the minor rock edicts (MRE I and II), to the 11th and 12th years of Asoka's reign (ca. 258 B.C.E.). The second set of edicts, known as the major rock edicts (RE I–XIV), are dated to the 12th and 13th years (ca. 257 B.C.E.). These early inscriptions are carved onto immovable boulders and have mostly been found in situ. In many cases, the major and minor rock edicts seem quite modest, as they are carved onto unprepared surfaces and in locations that are not immediately visible. The varying shapes and sizes of the letters making up the inscriptions also contribute to their somewhat awkward appearance. This is so particularly in comparison to the third set of edicts, the much more stylized pillar edicts (PE), which were carved onto columns of polished sandstone from either the Mathura or Chunar region of North India and erected during the 26th year of Asoka's reign (ca. 243 B.C.E.). A fourth set of edicts, known as the separate Kalinga rock edicts (SKRE I and II), are found only in the region of the ancient Kalinga state (in modern Orissa) at two places and at Sannati in the Southern Deccan.

As material objects of empire, the Asokan edicts have tremendous significance in Mauryan studies. Not only are they used by historians to infer details of political life and administrative organization, but most, if not all, models of the Mauryan polity define its territory by geographical distribution of the edicts. For example, Habib and Habib (1989–90–90:78) rely heavily on the edicts in their discussion of sources used in the cartographic representation of India during the late fourth and third centuries B.C.E. and provide a clear demonstration of the way that “the limits of the Mauryan Empire are shown essentially by drawing a line to include all places where Asokan inscriptions are found” (see also Fussman 1987–88–88).

To date, 31 sites with Asokan rock edicts (either major or minor, or both) and 19 pillar edicts (including both in situ and displaced pillar edicts) have been recorded across the Indian subcontinent. The latest edict discovery was made in 2009 at the site of Ratanpurwa in Bihar (Thaplyal 2009), and it is quite likely that other edicts exist but remain undocumented.

With some minor variations, the content of the Asokan edicts is remarkably similar from one to another. Most of the edicts are written in the Magadhi dialect using Brahmi script, although versions inscribed in Greek and Aramaic and using Karoshti script are found in the northwestern regions at Kandahar, Laghman, Taxila, and Pul-i-Darunta (Falk 2006). Linguistic variation in the edicts is often attributed to differences in either regional tradition or the individual habit of the inscriber (e.g., Tieken 2002; Woolner 1993). Nevertheless, the uniformity of text seen in the edicts is most often presumed to indicate a common author in the Ganges valley during the earlier stages of the Early Historic period.

Similar to the way in which many imperial inscriptions are interpreted (e.g., Kuhrt 2001; Pollock 1999; Sinopoli 1994), a common hypothesis has been that Asoka's intention in establishing the edicts was to assert some form or claim of power over the surrounding landscape, but whether this assertion was openly declared or somewhat more discreet remains debatable. From a historical perspective, it is also unclear from the text of the edicts what the nature of any such power may have been. A literal translation of the edicts coupled with an archaeological analysis of the region around a cluster of edicts in the Southern Deccan found little evidence of overt political content or imperial interaction, suggesting that Mauryan influence may have been more limited in nature than previously assumed (Sugandhi 2003).

The edicts primarily detail reforms instituted by King Asoka during his reign and provide recommendations for leading a moral life according to the principle of dharma. Asoka's connection to Buddhism is well attested in the literary and epigraphic record. He is credited with the spread of Buddhism across South and Central Asia and the construction of thousands of stupas and other Buddhist structures (Thapar 1997). Regardless of its secular or Buddhist association, however, it is Asoka's concept of dharma, as referenced in his edicts, that provides the original argument for this chapter's concern with a nonterritorial interpretation of Mauryan imperialism.

From the text of the edicts, as well as from other early historic literature from South Asia, it is evident that there was indeed some notion of territory attached to the expression of political power. In the edicts, Asoka frequently refers to vijita, which literally translates as “what has been conquered” and is often glossed as “dominion” or “territory” (e.g., Woolner 1993). Other terms such as pracamta (“borderers”), samamta (“neighbors”), and janapade (“country”) may also be read as spatial idioms. Nevertheless, these presumed expressions of territoriality should be questioned both in terms of how imperial sovereignty was actually realized in practice and in terms of how it may have differed from modern conceptions of political territoriality. For example, in Major Rock Edict XIII, Asoka makes reference to “forest people” or tribal groups who occupied alleged Mauryan territory but evidently remained independent from its imperial authority. This is particularly significant when contrasting Asoka's statements about dhamma vijaya with archaeological data characterizing the heterogeneous nature of the Indian subcontinent during Mauryan times.

Dhamma vijaya or “moral conquest” is a compound word that occurs in Major Rock Edict XIII. This edict relates what is perhaps one of the best known stories of Asoka's life—his conquest of the Kingdom of Kalinga. According to both the edict and Buddhist legend, Asoka was so overcome by the devastation and bloodshed wrought by his campaign that he renounced violence in favor of Buddhist piety, vowing to pursue a path of conquest by dharma, which would extend far and wide. The nature of “moral conquest” is certainly debatable, and the interpretation that it does not correspond to territorial control is further strengthened by Asoka's statement in Major Rock Edict XIII that his conquest reached the lands of the four kings called Tulamaya, Antekina, Maka, and Alikasudara. These four kings have been identified as Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt, Antigonaus Gonatas of Macedonia, Magas of Cyrene, and either Alexander of Corinth or Alexander of Epirus. As a link to an external historical record, their mention makes this edict a particularly valuable anchor in the chronology of the Early Historic period. However, it is unlikely that Mauryan territorial control would have extended to these distant regions, despite Asoka's assertions. In the text of the edicts, there are no territorial claims associated with dhamma vijaya. Instead, it is depicted as a code of general good behavior, admonishing people to respect elders and teachers, speak the truth, and uphold general principles of dharma. An examination of Buddhist and other early Indian concepts of kingship and sovereignty helps to clarify some of the intentions and underlying notions that may have influenced the composition and placement of the Asokan edicts in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. It is quite evident that the “moral conquests” of Asoka did not directly translate to political conquest or control. This conclusion has significant implications for our understanding of political geography during Mauryan times and is also of value in understanding the legacy of the Mauryan dynasty that existed independently of their territorial sovereignty.

Interpreting the Mauryan State

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

Recent theorizations of the Mauryan Empire have revised the conventional depiction of a strong, centralized Mauryan Empire and now suggest alternative models of loosely bound provincial territories under the (sometimes vaguely defined) sovereignty of the Mauryan kings. Nevertheless, most Mauryan scholarship can still be characterized as adhering to conventional, anachronistic understandings of political territoriality.

Stanley Tambiah's (1976) application of the “galactic polity” to the Mauryan Empire argues for a Buddhist conception of political structure that establishes kingship as the foundation of civil society, and is a stark contrast to the conventional model of a centralized unified state (cf. V. Smith 1901; but see Prasad 1968 and Dikshitar 1932 for early alternative views). The “galactic polity” is based on the Indo-Tibetan concept of the mandala and consists of a “galactic picture of a central planet surrounded by differentiated satellites which are more or less ‘autonomous’ entities held in orbit and within the sphere of influence of the center” (Tambiah 1976:113).

Similarly, Romila Thapar (1987:4) depicts the Mauryan Empire as a complex form comprised of (1) the “metropolitan state” (Magadha), which developed from a smaller kingdom and then spread its hegemony through a plan of conquest; (2) a “core area” of previously existing, or incipient, “submetropolitan” states; and (3) “a large number of variegated, peripheral areas” with a wide range of differentiated political and economic systems. What is key to the argument for a nonterritorial model is Thapar's suggestion that the structure of empires should be studied in terms of the variety of flexible relationships among the metropolitan state, core, and peripheral areas (Thapar 1981:410–411). This view is echoed in the work of G. M. Bongard-Levin (1985), who bases his interpretation of Mauryan history on the Asokan edicts and on texts such as the early Indian political treatise known as the Arthasastra and fragments of the Indika, which was written by Megasthenes, the Seleucid ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya. He also looks to the wider corpus of Buddhist, Jain, and Brahmanical literature concerned with the role of the king and the administrative structure of the state, and he defines the metropolitan state as vijita “conquered area” (Bongard-Levin 1985).

Relational interpretations can also be seen in the work of several other historians in their depiction of the Mauryan state structure. Chattopadhyaya suggests that several locations (which are either sites of edicts or groups of people mentioned in the edicts) served as “nodes” in a dynamic Mauryan state, which is “schematized in the mandala concept of political theories that locates the vijigisu (‘conquered place’) at the core of the mandala” (Chattopadhyaya 1995:213). In a later essay, he also discusses the different “spaces of authority” in premodern India that created autonomous spaces within a state structure and “even when sharply different from one another, existed in a relationship of constant interaction and change” (Chattopadhyaya 2003:147). This is an interesting perspective, which focuses on peripheral areas in terms of local dominance rather than imperial limitations. Like the model suggested by Thapar, Chattopadhyaya's interpretation of Mauryan imperialism is also flexible in addressing questions about general structure and wider relationships during the Early Historic period.

Similar to Chattopadhyaya, H. P. Ray (2008; see also 1989, 1994, 2006) examines the issue of autonomy within the limits of the Mauryan Empire, but focuses on the politically autonomous activities of trade and religious practice. What is pertinent for the discussion here is Ray's argument that society during the time of the Mauryan Empire was characterized by “multiple nodes of power” (Ray 2008:14). Her model is compelling in that these nodes were founded not only on localized or centralized political authority but also on politically autonomous entities such as merchants, landowners, and religious functionaries.

This brief historiography of the Mauryan state reveals how even flexible and discontinuous perspectives of Mauryan sovereignty remain linked to assumptions of territorial control, often in the form of provincial organization or metropolitan “core” and “periphery” models. In the following section, an archaeological examination of two edict sites in the Southern Deccan provides a contrast to this idea of Mauryan territorial imperialism and demonstrates the way in which the relational models put forward by earlier scholars may be interpreted without recourse to explicit assumptions about territorial control.

The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

The Southern Deccan is part of the large plateau that stretches across much of peninsular India. This region does not emerge in the historical record until the rise of the Satavahana dynasty in the post-Mauryan period, but the region has a rich tradition of prehistoric or “proto-historic” cultures that date to Paleolithic times (Nagaraja Rao 1984, 1996; Parasher 1992; Parasher-Sen 1993). Because of its 11 Asokan rock edicts, the region is conventionally depicted as the southern limit of the Mauryan Empire in both centralized and provincial models of imperial sovereignty.

Current understandings of the Southern Deccan sequence divide the chronology into Neolithic (ca. 3000–1200 B.C.E.), Iron Age/Early Historic (ca. 1200 B.C.E.–C.E. 300), and Middle periods (ca. C.E. 300–1500),3 whose dates differ somewhat from the sequence of North India. Chronological designations are based on the identification of particular ceramics such as micaceous Grey Wares (Neolithic), Black and Red Wares (Iron Age, though suggested dates have now been widely expanded), and Russet Coated Painted Ware (Early Historic). Despite a very broad classification scheme, the presence of these ceramic types at many sites in the Southern Deccan helps demonstrate their very long occupation sequences and also provides evidence for enduring traditions of craft production and exchange in the region.

Two significant features of the archaeological landscape in the Southern Deccan are ashmounds, which are typically attributed to the Neolithic period, and megaliths, enigmatic stone alignments and constructions that may date to a wide range of periods. Neolithic ashmounds are large heaps of vitrified cow dung and are most often found in close proximity to Neolithic occupation sites and water collection areas. Their distribution in the Southern Deccan is mainly limited to Bellary, Raichur, and Kopal districts in Karnataka (Morrison 2009). Although interpretations of ashmounds vary, it is most likely that these features served as some form of public or ritual display, evidencing the importance of cattle and herding in the Neolithic economy of the region (Johansen 2004; Morrison 2009; Paddayya 1993). Megaliths are found throughout peninsular India and are constructed in a variety of shapes and sizes, from simple stone alignments to large cist hole dolmen structures (Figure 9.2). These features are often associated with the Iron Age in South India (ca. 1200–300 B.C.E.), but at present the chronological range of megaliths is poorly understood and may possibly be extended to both earlier and later periods. Megaliths often mark burials and are associated with artifacts such as Black and Red Ware vessels and iron objects. However, the limited excavations that have been carried out have shown that not all megalith features contain human remains (Moorti 1994). Based on these results, some archaeologists have suggested that in addition to burial markers, megalithic features also served as commemorative ritual features (Lycett and Morrison 1998). In general, megalithic features are linked to the emergence of social stratification and inherited status across South India (Brubaker 2001; Moorti 1994). Though the geographic range of megalith construction is much wider than that of ashmounds, the two features are similar in that they serve as evidence for changing patterns of labor mobilization, social hierarchy, and monumentality from the Neolithic through later periods (Bauer 2011; Bauer et al. 2007).

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Figure 9.2. Megalithic dolmen structure at Hire Benekal, Karnataka.

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In order to archaeologically investigate the limits of Mauryan imperial territoriality in the Southern Deccan, I conducted a survey and surface collection project in 2005 around two Asokan edicts in Bellary district, Karnataka (Figure 9.3). The survey covered an approximately 64-square-kilometer area surrounding the Nittur and Udegolam edicts (Figure 9.4) and included Tekkalakota, a modern-day village well known in South Indian archaeology from the Neolithic period excavations conducted by M. S. Nagaraja Rao in the surrounding hills that are known by the same name (Nagaraja Rao and Malhotra 1965). Also included was Lakshmipura island in the Tungabhadra River and the hills of Halekote, which lie to the west and north of the edict sites, respectively. Earlier surveys documented evidence for prehistoric settlement in the region (Nagaraja Rao 1996), but this was the first survey to target later Iron Age and Early Historic remains.

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Figure 9.3. Asokan minor rock edicts at Nittur (left) and Udegolam (right). Note: surrounding structures are modern constructions.

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Figure 9.4. Map of project area (Google Earth image).

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The topography of the project area is diverse and includes cultivated dry fields, rice paddies, areas of modern occupation, and numerous rocky outcrops. Survey maps were derived from Survey of India topographic maps and the survey area was divided into an eight-by-eight unit grid made up of one-square-kilometer blocks. Blocks were surveyed using a combination of strategies that included walking transects, selective intensive exploration, and tracing around the base of rocky outcrops. The goal of the survey was to identify any cultural activity that could be associated with the Iron Age/Early Historic, or with earlier periods. Of particular interest was evidence of cultural activity in the area immediately around the edicts and any evidence for large-scale settlement. Chronological identifications were based on the presence of diagnostic cultural features and ceramic types. The analysis of the sites and materials recovered during surface collection was designed to investigate evidence for any changes that could be associated with Mauryan imperial processes such as evidence for early Buddhist practice or dramatic shifts in production or settlement strategies.

Cultural activity was identified throughout the project area (Figure 9.5) and ten specific locales were selected for intensive documentation (including surface collection) and analysis. These included the sites of the two Asokan minor rock edicts, areas of Neolithic and Iron Age/Early Historic occupation (as evidenced by surface remains), and significant features such as ashmounds and megalithic alignments and structures. Approximately 60 percent of the survey area was either rice paddy or modern occupation and could only be minimally surveyed. Most visible artifact scatters were observed in plowed fields that were either fallow or under dry cultivation, and around the base of outcrops. Artifact scatters were mainly made up of ceramic sherds, with lithics and iron slag often present as well. Although no excavation was conducted in this project, particular attention was paid to any cuts in the land or dug-up areas. Observations about geophysical and cultural processes were also recorded in order to better evaluate some of the ways in which the landscape and its distribution of surface remains were transformed over time. Features such as rock paintings (Figure 9.5a) and rock “bruisings,” created by scraping away the oxidized surface of the granite boulders in the region (Figure 9.5b), were also documented on numerous rocky outcrops across the project area.

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Figure 9.5. Cultural activity documented in project area: a, Rock painting; b, rock bruising; c, megalithic alignment; d, megalithic cairn structure; e, Neolithic ashmound; f, archaeological remains near modern Udegolam village and river.

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Survey of the area around the two edicts found little evidence of early large-scale occupation, though several megalithic alignments were documented on the hill directly behind the Nittur edicts (Figure 9.5c). The edicts are mostly surrounded by rice paddy, but three dry fields immediately to the south of the edicts were mapped and surface remains were collected from 42 units two by two meters in size. While some samples of Black and Red Ware and Russet Coated Painted Ware were identified, more than 70 percent of the assemblage was categorized as eroded/indeterminate. In general, the distribution and composition of surface artifacts around the Nittur edicts seemed characteristic of the random and low-density surface scatters documented throughout the project area as a result of modern agricultural activities such as plowing and manuring.

The area surrounding the edicts at Udegolam also has evidence for megalithic activity but was similarly lacking in significant surface finds and occupational debris. The area was mapped, but no surface collections were taken. The small outcrops surrounding the edicts have largely been destroyed due to modern processes of quarrying, but one cairn-type structure was noted on one of the remaining outcrops nearby (Figure 9.5d). Additionally, a small, mostly eroded, ashmound was identified approximately one kilometer to the northeast of the Udegolam edicts, at the base of another small hill (Figure 9.5e). There are reports of an Early Historic mound in the vicinity of the Udegolam edicts (Ghosh 1990; Nagaraja Rao 1996), but efforts to locate this mound during the survey led to the conclusion that it has most likely been destroyed in recent years due to rice paddy cultivation (Figure 9.5f). Several transects were walked in all directions of the Udegolam edicts, but no significant artifact density was observed anywhere in the vicinity.

Although the survey determined that there was no major settlement in the immediate area of the Nittur or Udegolam edicts during Mauryan times, evidence of megalithic activity and ashmound construction on and around the rocky outcrops adjacent to the inscriptions suggests that these may have been locations of enduring ritual significance or political activity. This is important for understanding the relationship between Southern Deccan society and the Mauryan Empire as one structured by local traditions rather than imperial control. Many Asokan edicts in the south are found in locations with documented megalithic activity, suggesting that these places were selected because of local commemorative or ritual significance. However, the continuation of megalithic construction into post-Mauryan periods also demonstrates the enduring nature of many regional and local practices, even after the spread of clearly identifiable “Pan-Indic” religious traditions.

Survey results demonstrate that the largest permanent settlement lay at three to five kilometers east of the edicts, around the hills surrounding the village of Tekkalakota. Nagaraja Rao's earlier excavations on the hilltops of Tekkalakota, conducted in the 1960s, provided a wealth of data with which to study the Neolithic period in the Southern Deccan. The published site report briefly mentions that some Early Historic remains lay at the base of the hills (Nagaraja Rao and Malhotra 1965), and one radiocarbon sample—taken from the base—yielded a date with a calibrated range between 550 B.C.E. and C.E. 50 (Nagaraja Rao 1996). However, as with many projects focusing on a particular prehistoric period, these later materials were largely viewed as an “intrusion” and remained unstudied until 2005.

Identification of Iron Age/Early Historic occupation areas around Tekkalakota was based on the presence of very dense scatters (greater than 50 sherds/square meter) of ceramic sherds such as Black Polished Ware, Red Polished Ware, Black and Red Ware, and Russet Coated Painted Ware. Iron slag, worked sherds, lithic tools, and small finds such as beads were also collected. The two largest sites are located in sheltered areas on opposite sides of the central hill of the Tekkalakota range and were designated Tek III and Tek VIII.

Tek III is located on the western side of the hill and measures approximately 435 by 360 meters. The site was mapped, and 79 units two by two meters in size were collected for analysis, with the most intensive and systematic collection directed toward the northern and southern portions of the site, where visibility and artifact density were highest. By far, the highest density of ceramics was observed in the northern portion of Tek III and ranged from 45 grams to more than a kilogram of ceramics per surface collection unit. Identifiable ceramics from this portion of Tek III included Russet Coated Painted Ware and Black and Red Ware. Red Slipped Ware and Black Slipped Ware were also present in abundance, with the former occurring at three times the frequency of the latter; this is considered a general ceramic trend of the later centuries of the Early Historic period in the Southern Deccan. A number of worked sherds were also noted, along with a high density of iron slag in some parts. This suggests that some type of craft production may have been carried out at this location.

The assemblage from the southern end of Tek III is quite different in nature, with very little Russet Coated Painted Ware or Black and Red Ware recovered. Additionally, Black Slipped Ware occurs at almost twice the frequency of Red Slipped Ware in this portion of the site; this pattern is associated with earlier periods of time. A significant quantity of microlithic flakes, blades, and cores was also collected from this area, but no iron slag was recovered. These results suggest that the remains at the southern end of Tek III are not related to the Iron Age/Early Historic evidence found at the northern end and most likely are related to the Neolithic period site (designated Tek IV in the survey) that is located on the top of the hill just to the south of Tek III.

The only structural feature documented at Tek III is a small reservoir in the northwestern part of the site. A second, larger reservoir is accessible via a steep path north of the site and connects to the largest site documented during the survey, Tek VIII. Both reservoirs have elements that date to the later Middle period but are most likely areas of natural water collection that were used during earlier times and periodically reinforced by the construction of retaining walls and sluice gates. A very dense scatter of iron slag measuring approximately 20 by 25 meters was noted along the southern edge of the large reservoir, supporting the idea that the Iron Age/Early Historic occupants of Tekkalakota engaged in some form of iron production. Tek VIII is the most extensive site documented during the survey, and 99 two-by-two-meter units were systematically collected from this area. The western part of the site closest to the base of the hill yielded the densest distributions of surface artifacts and measures approximately four hectares. Analysis of the ceramic assemblage recovered from this part of Tek VIII showed close similarity to the ceramics from the northern portion of Tek III. In the northern and eastern parts of Tek VIII, artifact density drops and surface remains are mixed with Middle period ceramics and modern debris, making the boundaries of the Iron Age/Early Historic occupation difficult to precisely define. This is not surprising as the modern village lies directly to the north, with some contemporary occupation to the east as well. This location is also believed to be the site of a Middle period village, as evidenced by an early Middle period inscription, a few small shrines, and a late Middle period temple. According to local residents, this earlier settlement was burned to the ground several hundred years ago; this may account for the ashy nature of the fields in this area.

In addition to these two larger sites, which were most likely areas of significant occupation during the Iron Age/Early Historic, two additional sites were documented in sheltered areas at the eastern base of the hills, just south of Tek VIII. In comparison to Tek III and Tek VIII, surface remains were extremely limited at these two sites, designated Tek VI and Tek VII.

Tek VI was given some importance during the survey because of the presence of a small reservoir on the west side of the site. A sample of ceramics collected from an eroding portion of the reservoir embankment had a high percentage of Black and Red Ware (43 percent of the assemblage), but because of ongoing agricultural activities, it was not possible to conduct a systematic surface collection at this site and only ten two-by-two-meter units were collected.

Forty-four units were collected from Tek VII, which lies southwest of Tek VI in another small sheltered area measuring approximately 68 by 106 meters. The density of surface artifacts was extremely low (less than 5 sherds/square meter) at Tek VII, but importance was given to the area during survey because of the discovery of a silver punch-marked coin. Punch-marked coins are a characteristic economic feature of Early Historic polities in North India and, though it is an isolated surface find, the coin at Tek VI is significant as it provides evidence for a link between Tekkalakota and the Ganges valley in addition to the edicts.

With the exception of the edicts and this stray find, however, there is no other material evidence for Mauryan imperial influence anywhere in the project area. The material culture of Tekkalakota analyzed in this project matches well with documented culture historical classification schemes for the Southern Deccan as defined by research at sites such as Brahmagiri, Maski, and Kadebakele. The first two sites have associated Asokan edicts, while the latter does not. The extremely long occupation sequence seen at Tekkalakota also seems typical of the region, though the sites themselves remain relatively small. In general, larger urban settlements are not seen in the Southern Deccan until long after the Mauryan period, that is, during the early centuries of the Common Era (Parasher-Sen 1993). This is in marked contrast to settlement patterns in North and Central India, which witnessed the reemergence of cities much earlier and also demonstrate a hierarchy of settlement types on a regional scale (Erdosy 1988).

Overall, the results of the survey show that Tekkalakota was the site of relatively large-scale continuous occupation and an important regional center throughout numerous prehistoric and historic periods. The area surrounding Tekkalakota village and its adjacent hills was most likely used by inhabitants for their daily activities, with smaller settlements or places of symbolic significance at various locations accounting for the cultural remains noted across the landscape of the project area. Analysis of the remains at Tekkalakota supports the claim that this area shared regional traditions of ceramic production and distribution with other sites in the Southern Deccan during the Iron Age and Early Historic periods. These shared traditions demonstrate the lasting connections between the numerous “autonomous territorial polities” (Sinopoli 2007) making up the landscape of the Late Prehistoric and Early Historic periods.

Though the presence of Asokan edicts and a single numismatic find attest to some form of interaction between agents of the Mauryan Empire and some sites in the Southern Deccan, it is clear that in general, inhabitants continued to follow previously established regional and local traditions of political, economic, and social life, remaining largely independent of Mauryan influence or control. No significant shifts in settlement patterning, production, or ritual practice seem to occur during the Iron Age/Early Historic period, although continued exploration of sites that date to this time may contribute a more nuanced view to this picture. This perspective corresponds both with a nonterritorial network model of Mauryan imperialism that considers edict sites as nodes of contact, and with Asoka's own statements about dhamma vijaya, which do not imply any form of territorial sovereignty.

Discussion

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

During the time of the Mauryan Empire, there was a significant amount of variability in political, economic, and social organization across the Indian subcontinent. The centuries following Mauryan rule saw significant continuities in many regional and local traditions but also the introduction of many shared developments throughout the subcontinent. This included the spread of Sanskrit literary and political traditions, the intensification of long-distance trade, and the spread of heterodox religions such as Buddhism and Jainism (Liu 1988; Morrison 1995; Pollock 1996; Ray 1994; M. L. Smith 1999, 2000). Although Mauryan authority may have been limited territorially, it may have played a key role in shaping these networks of interregional relationships. Conversely, the expansion of multiple networks of interaction and exchange that existed outside of Mauryan control may also have facilitated the spread of imperial ideology and inscription along politically autonomous regional networks of kinship, faith, and trade. Regardless, the transformation of the Southern Deccan from a region characterized by territorial polities and local ritual traditions of ashmound and megalith construction to a society circumscribed by Sanskrit political and literary traditions and Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Jain religious practices was most certainly a transformation that occurred over several centuries and involved a number of different processes and relationships. The results of the survey and surface-collection project also support the suggestion that these shifts did not occur until after the decline of the Mauryan Empire. This has significant implications for our understanding of Mauryan influence in peripheral areas such as the Southern Deccan.

Conclusions

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References

The argument presented here suggests that the nature of Mauryan imperialism in the Southern Deccan consisted of tenuous and, at times, indirect relationships between various Mauryan representatives and certain communities or individuals. These relationships most likely did not involve overt political domination but may instead have been composed of more informal networks of exchange and propaganda. At the same time, the autonomous polities of the Southern Deccan engaged in their own regional networks linking settlement centers or nodes into patterns that would endure for centuries, both prior and subsequent to the time of Mauryan imperialism. Over time, these networks and patterns extended to form relationships with other networks, eventually connecting different parts of South Asia to one another and to the wider world.

When considering the Mauryan imperial legacy in the centuries following the decline of the empire, it is quite clear that this memory persists well into the present day. In terms of accounting for the way knowledge about the Mauryas has contracted, expanded, and shifted over time, a perspective that focuses less on the territorial and more on the relational also allows early periods of Indian history to be characterized in a way that looks beyond individual dynastic sequences and presumed spatial representations. This approach focuses on both the synchronic and diachronic relations between institutions and actors rather than static claims over the space between them, and creates a view that may be extended to many political and nonpolitical formations in premodern and modern periods. Once conceptions of political and other forms of sovereignty are divested from assumptions of territoriality and spatial control, it becomes possible to better account for phenomena that transcend cartographic boundaries, connecting various communities and individuals to one another around the world.

The relational interpretation of Mauryan imperialism presented here is a good match to the archaeological record in regions such as the Southern Deccan and is also able to take into account the enduring social memory of the Mauryas. In this way, a network perspective is capable of discarding inaccurate territorial assumptions without denying the significance of Mauryan imperialism and allows us to better understand and characterize the broader context of political, economic, and social change in South Asia during its early history.

Notes
  1. 1

    Often referred to as the “second urbanization,” in reference to the cities of the Indus civilization, which flourished until the mid-second millennium B.C.E.

  2. 2

    A translation of Major Rock Edict XIII is as follows:

    When the Beloved of the Gods King Priyadarsi was anointed for eight years, the Kalingas were conquered. One hundred fifty thousand beings were carried away from there, one hundred thousand in number were harmed there and just so many died. After this, when the Kalingas have been obtained, there is of the Beloved of the Gods, a strong wind of dharma, desire for dharma and dharma instruction. Having conquered the Kalingas, there is this remorse of the Beloved of the Gods. When an unconquered place has been conquered there is the killing, death, and carrying away of people—this is thought to be very painful and thought very serious by the Beloved of the Gods. But this is thought more serious than that—that Brahmins or ascetics or other sects or householders among whom there is the practice of obedience to elders, obedience to mother and father, obedience to teachers, proper conduct and firm devotion with respect to friends, acquaintances, companions, relatives, slaves, and servants. Then there is injury and killing of and separation from their loved ones. And also of those who are of good practices and of whom there is undiminished attachment if their friends, acquaintances, companions, and relatives obtain disaster, then there is also violence for them. This is the fate that comes to all men and is thought serious by the Beloved of the Gods. There is not a country, except among the Yonas, where there are not these groups—Brahmins and ascetics. And there is not anywhere in the country where there is not faith of men in one sect or another. Therefore—as many people were killed/harmed, died, or were carried away at Kalinga—from that even one hundredth or one thousandth a part is now thought serious by the Beloved of the Gods. Now it is thought by the Beloved of the Gods that should one injure it is to be forgiven by he who is able to forgive. And even the forest people that are in the territory of the Beloved of the Gods, he is friendly with them and causes them to understand. The repentance and also the might of the Beloved of the Gods is told to them so that they might be ashamed and so that they might not be killed. The Beloved of the Gods wishes for equality and gentleness for all living creatures. This is thought by the Beloved of the Gods to be the best conquest—that is the dharma conquest. That again is obtained by the Beloved of the Gods here and among the borders even as far as six hundred yojanas where there is the Yona king called Antiochus and also beyond that Antiochus the four kings called Tulamaya, Antekina, Maka, and Alikasudara and also below, the Colas, Pandyas up to Tambraparni and in the same way, here in the king's settlement among the Yonas, Kambojas, Nabhakas, Nabhapamtisus, Bhojas, Pitinikas, Andhras, and Paradas—everywhere they follow the dharma instruction of the Beloved of the Gods. Even where the messengers of the Beloved of the Gods do not go, having heard of the dharma speech, practice, and dharma instruction of the Beloved of the Gods, they act in conformity with dharma and will follow it. Everywhere this conquest is obtained by this way—in every way there is a feeling of joy. This joy is obtained in the dharma conquest. But that joy is indeed insignificant. The Beloved of the Gods thinks the great fruit is in the next world. For this purpose this dharma writing was written—so that my sons and great-grandsons may not think of a new conquest and even in conquest by arms may forgiveness and light punishment please them, and let them think of victory as dharma victory. This indeed is in this world and the next. And let what joy there is be the pleasure of dharma. This indeed is in this world and the next. [translation by author]

  3. 3

    A “Chalcolithic” period is sometimes included in this scheme, but this designation has only been made on the individual site level and more often than not is collapsed into the Neolithic.

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  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. The Early Historic Period
  4. Key Words: Territory, Sovereignty, Empire
  5. Networks
  6. The Mauryas
  7. The Asokan Edicts
  8. Interpreting the Mauryan State
  9. The Mauryas in the Southern Deccan
  10. Discussion
  11. Conclusions
  12. References
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