May 24

Samprati Maurya and the spread of Jainism

Over time, each king of the Mauryan Empire has been a prominent patron of religion and religious activities. Chandragupta Maurya was attracted towards Jainism, on the other hand, the contribution and devotion of Ashoka towards Buddhism is noticeable. In the same way, King Samprati Maurya, the second successor of Ashoka is also considered the great patron of Jainism. He was the only king after Ashoka who was a great patron of Jainism. He was even referred to as ‘Jain Ashoka’ due to his contributions made towards Jainism.

Samprati Maurya, Jainism, Mauryan empire, Mauryan dynasty, King Ashoka,

Succession of Samprati Maurya

Ashoka left one of the largest empires of that time in the hands of his two sons - Tivala Maurya, the son of Queen Kaurwaki, and Kunala, the son of Rani Padmavati. The successor of Ashoka – Dasharatha Maurya, was the son of Ashoka’s favourite, king Tivala, and was nominated by Ashoka himself as the successor. Kunala, the other son of Ashoka was blinded by his stepmother, Tishyaraksha due to jealousy, and Samprati, his son, was denied any claim on the throne due to Kunala’s blindness.

Kunala and Samprati approached Ashoka in an attempt to claim the throne. Impressed by the administrative and battle skills of Samprati, he declared Samprati to be the successor of Dasharatha. Hence, due to this declaration, Samprati claimed the throne after the death of Dasharatha in 224 BCE. The reign of Samprati lasted for about nine years.

On the other hand, some historians also suggest that the Mauryan Empire was divided among the grandsons of Ashoka – Dasharatha and Samprati. Dasharatha might have got the Eastern part of the empire including Patliputra while Samprati got the Western part of the empire with the capital Ujjain, which was his birthplace. But still, there is no clear evidence of this.

Reign of Samprati

Samprati had all the traits of an able ruler. Like his grandfather Ashoka, he was a peace-loving, affectionate, and brave king. The Jain texts mention that the provinces of Saurashtra, Maharashtra, Andhra, and Mysore had broken away from the Mauryan Empire after the death of Ashoka, but Samprati was successful in re-conquering all of them and developed an espionage system to keep regular supervision in these areas. Samprati is said to have been running his administration through both – Ujjain and Patliputra.

Samprati Maurya, Jainism, Mauryan empire, Mauryan dynasty, King Ashoka,

Contribution to Jainism

Samprati is given the title of ‘Jain Ashoka’, due to the efforts he made to patronize and spread the Jain religion and Jain culture as Ashoka had done for Buddhism. Samprati and his administration were very inspired by a Jain monk ‘Suhastin’. He worked very hard to spread Jainism and even sent ambassadors to other regions of the world for this purpose. Samprati also repaired the old Jain temples and further added to their beauty. He maintained close relations with Acharya Suhastisuri and followed his directions in life and administration.

History describes the Mauryan king Samprati to have constructed about 1500 Jain temples, repaired thirty-six thousand temples, and installed ninety-five thousand metal structures within a short period of three and a half years. He also gave due importance to Anjankala, one of the most important among the Jain ceremonies which is still considered necessary in the modern era.

Samprati’s life story can be described in Jain scripture like ‘Sampratikatha’, ‘Parishistaparva’, and ‘Prabhavakcharita’.

Though the Jain traditions mention that the rule of Samprati lasted for 53 years, according to historical research he ruled for nine years and then was succeeded by a cruel king, Salisuka Maurya.

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