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Distributed for UCL Press

Chandragupta Maurya

The Creation of a National Hero in India

Distributed for UCL Press

Chandragupta Maurya

The Creation of a National Hero in India

An account of the rise from obscurity to icon of Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya.

The writing and reception of history fundamentally influence how we engage with the past, and nowhere is that more clear than in the rise from obscurity of Chandragupta Maurya (350–295 BCE), the first emperor of the Mauryan Empire. The key moment in the transformation of Chandragupta into a contemporary national icon was a peace-making meeting between Chandragupta and Seleucus, founder of the Seleucid empire and one of Alexander the Great’s generals. But no reliable account exists in early sources, and it is not even clear which ruler was victorious in battle. That uncertainty enabled British and Indian historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to interpret the sources in radically different ways. With Chandragupta representing India and Seleucus standing in for Britain, British scholars argued that Seleucus defeated Chandragupta, while Indian academics contended the opposite. In India, the image of Chandragupta as an idealized hero who vanquished the foreign invader has prevailed and found expression in contemporary popular culture. In plays, films, television series, comic books, and historical novels, Chandragupta is the powerful and virtuous Hindu ruler par excellence. Sushma Jansari shows how that transformation came about and points out the lessons we can learn from it for understanding other historical figures.

240 pages | 19 color plates | 6.125 x 9.1875

Culture Studies

History: Asian History

Media Studies

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Table of Contents

Figures and tables

Part I: Setting the scene in antiquity
1 Chandragupta and Seleucus: a clash by the banks of the Indus
2 Megasthenes: travelling between empires

Part II: Establishing the narrative
3 Sir William Jones and James Mill: synchronising histories and creating a divide
4 Embedding the divide: Writing under the shadow of the British Raj
5 Reaction and transformation: reshaping history for a new era

Part III: Antiquity, art and contemporary popular culture
6 A national project of a different sort: Representations of Chandragupta in the Birla Mandirs
7 Wimbledon to New Delhi: A statue of Chandragupta in the Indian Parliament
8 Chandragupta on Stage and Screen
9 Chandragupta in popular literature


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