The Mauryan Empire was the first major empire in the history of India and ruled the land from 322 BC to 185 BC. Important rulers of this dynasty were Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara, and King Ashoka. Bindusara was succeeded by his son Ashoka, the most famous of the Mauryan Kings who reign from- 273 - 232 B.C. He extended the boundaries of his empire considerably - stretching from Kashmir and Peshawar in the North and Northwest to Mysore in the South and Orissa in the East - but his fame rests not so much on military conquests as on his celebrated renunciation of war. After witnessing the carnage at the battle field of Kalinga (269 B.C.) in Orissa, Ashoka resolved to dedicate himself to Dhamma - or righteousness. The war of Kalinga was the turning point in the life of Ashoka to the extent that he shunned all forms of violence and became a strict vegetarian.
As Ashoka became a devout Buddhist, he began to spread the teachings of Buddha by issuing edicts. These edicts were sent to different parts of the empire, where they were engraved on rocks or pillars, for the common people to see and read them. These edicts were written in different scripts. Most of them were in Brahmi, which was common in most parts of the empire. The language was generally Prakrit (ancient language), as it was spoken by the common people, whereas Sanskrit was spoken by educated upper caste people.
The great Mauryan Empire did not last long after the death of Ashoka and ended in 185 BC. Weak kings on one hand and the unmanageability of a vast empire on the other caused the rapid decline of the Mauryas.
Ashoka died around 232 B.C. and the empire began to disintegrate under weak successors. Pushyamitra Shunga, a Brahmin general usurped the throne after slaying the last Maurya king and presided over a loosely federal polity. In subsequent centuries India suffered a series of invasions, and in the absence of a strong central authority, often fell under the spell of foreign rulers - Indo Bactrians, the Sakas and others.