Several assumptions describe Bindusara’s death. But, most records support that he had a natural death after fasting for 12 days and died in his 47th year in 272 BC. According to historians, he was sorrowful due to disputes in the royal family over the throne.
But before we know about the reason, we should go through the brief history of King Bindusara.
He was the son of the founder of the Mauryan Dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya. And he was the father of the famous ruler Ashoka the great.
Bindusara’s life is not well documented as those of his father Chandragupta and his son Ashoka. We come to know about his from the Jain legends focused on Chandragupta and from the Buddhist legends focused on Ashoka.
Bindusara had two wives – Durdhara and Subhadrangi(popularly known as Devi Dharma). Queen Durdhara gave birth to Sushim. Sushim was the eldest son of King Bindusara and the legal heir of the throne. The second queen Subhadrangi had two sons- Ashoka and Vigatashoka.
Bindusara always wanted his eldest son Sushim to ascend him. But, a large number of courtiers and subjects wished that Ashoka ascended the throne after Bindusara.
Sushim and Ashoka: Difference
Ashoka had good manners. He had a friendly relationship with the courters and subjects. People loved him due to his prowess and personality. And due to these reasons, Ashoka became the most favorite prince of the empire.
On the contrary, Sushim was ill-mannered. He was not as powerful as compared to Ashoka. He was heavy headed and disrespected the ministers and subjects. Nobody liked him.
Ministers against Sushim
The prose version of Ashokavadana suggests that once Sushim playfully threw his gauntlet at the prime minister, Khallataka.
The minister thought that Sushim was not worthy to become an emperor. So, he approached the 500 royal councilors and suggested to appoint Ashoka as the emperor after the death of Bindusara.
Sushim and Ashoka: Conflicts
Sushim was given the responsibility of Taxila and Ashoka was sent as the ruler of Ujjain. The people of Taxila grew tired of the ignorance of the Sushim and the ministers. As a result, a revolt broke there.
Sushim was unable to control the revolt. So, Ashoka went there to suppress the revolt. When Ashoka reached Taxila, the revolutionaries calmly surrendered to him and prayed for his pardon. They stated that they were never against King Bindusara or the royal family, they are only disturbed by the strategies of the ministers.
Through Ashoka’s goodness, he captured their hearts. To set right the whole scene, he punished and replaced the corrupt ministers.
Bindusara fell ill and he wanted Sushim to ascend the throne. At that time, Sushim was feeling unsecured and wanted to end the life of Ashoka. In a fight between them, Ashoka killed Sushim and some other brothers who were against him. This war for succession lasted for four years and Ashoka ascended the throne.
Bindusara could not see his son Sushim missing his chance at the throne. So, he determined to end his life by fasting for 12 days and died in his 47th year.