King Bindusara was a good king. But he was both a son of a great king and father to another. His father was the founder of the Maurya kingdom, Chandragupta Maurya. And his son was the great Ashoka. History seems to be a bit neglected towards Bindusara as much more is written about his father and his son. But nonetheless, he was the bridge between their greatness. And for close to three decades he remained a good king of a great empire.
Bindusara was born as a miracle. Chandragupta had married a princess of Macedonia, Helena, to form a strategic alliance with the Macedonian forces. Chanakya, the mentor of Chandragupta used to give him small doses of poisons with his food. He did this to create a natural immunity against poison. Back in the day, poisoning a king was a very popular way of assassination. One day a pregnant Helena mistakenly ate Chandragupta’s food. She was immediately given the proper remedy. But everyone including Chanakya thought that the child inside her would not survive. But to everyone’s surprise, seven days later, the child was born. And hence he was named Bindusara, one who digested a drop of poison.
Bindusara was a very fortunate man. He had a heritage of both Indian and Macedonian descent. The Macedonian army was the only contemporary force that could have given a Bindusara a run for his money. He was also fortunate enough to learn the way of politics and military management from the very best, Chanakya.
It was Chanakya who advised him to do many marriages and have many sons. Marriage was supposed to be a part of diplomacy while many sons ensure the continuity of the Maurya dynasty. In the end, Bindusara had eight wives and at least 7 sons. One of his sons was Ashoka. Bindusara disliked him for his ill-formed limbs and dark colour. He would send Ashoka to the most difficult battles hoping Ashoka might not make it back. Instead, those battles destined him to become the greatest.
Very little is known about the administrative approach of Bindusara. It is believed that he had a massive council of 500 men and women. His council also had members of all religions. Buddhism and Jainism had a period of growth under Bindusara. It is believed that Chandragupta admired the ways of Jainism and Ashoka did the same with Buddism. This clearly proves the role religion played in the Mauryan empire.
When Bindusara succeeded Chandragupta, he already had the largest kingdom in the Indian subcontinent under his reign. But he went on to expand it a little further. With no threat from the Macedonians from the Northwest, Bindusara was able to concentrate on the south of India. He expanded the Maurya Empire to modern-day Karnataka. The only missing piece to his puzzle was the kingdom of Kalinga, modern-day Odisha. Later, Kalinga was infamously taken over by Ashoka.
Bindusara was given the title of ‘Amitraghata’ meaning the one who reduces enemies. Bindusara was not a slayer of enemies, he reduced his opposition through diplomatic tools. While Chandragupta showcased Chankya’s principles for becoming a king, Bindusara showcased the principles of running a kingdom successfully. Though Bindusara might not be remembered as a great king, he surely is worthy. Sometimes running a great empire is as difficult as creating one.