Megasthenes account is testimony to the peace and tranquillity that
prevailed throughout the empire. The richness of the soil and abundance of
mineral sources combined with the soil of hardworking and jungle people as
well as good governance were all factors that contributed to the quality of
life. It was a wine of plenty and scarcity and famine were unknown to
     On the other hand Megasthenes’ observation that all Indians were free
and that not one of them was a slave was an idealistic picture wholly
inconsistent with reality. Slavery did exist in India but here its abject form as
prevalent in Europe, where slaves were considered as chattels of their
masters, was absent.
Asoka (268–232 BC) Till the beginning of the 20th century, Asoka was just
one of the Mauryan kings mentioned in the Puranas. In 1837 James Prinsep
deciphered an inscription written in Brahmi script referring to a king called
‘Devanampiya Piyadassi’ (beloved of the gods). Later, many more similar
inscriptions were discovered. Initially these records could not be attributed to
     However, in 1915 was discovered another inscription, the Maski Edict,
which speaks of Asoka Piyadassi. This, corroborated by the Ceylonese
Chronicle Mahavamsa, established that Asoka used ‘Piyadassi’, as his second
name in the inscriptions.
     It appears from the available evidence (Buddhist literature mainly) that
there was a struggle for the throne among the princes after the death of
Bindusara or a little prior to it, that this involved Asoka, who had to remove
those of his brothers who were opposing him but not all as some of the
Buddhist sources would like us to believe. Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa state
that Asoka captured power after killing his ninety nine brothers, including his
elder brother Susima (who was earlier the viceroy at Taxila when the revolt
took place). According to these Cylonese sources only his youngest brother,
Tissa, remained unhurt. But, according to Taranatha, Asoka killed only six of
his brothers. Evidently, six brothers   seem to be closer to the truth than ninety