Bindusara was the son of Chandragupta Maurya (founder of the Maurya Empire) and Queen Durdhara. According to a Jain work Rajavalikatha his original name was Simhasena. During his reign the Maurya Empire saw significant expansion southwards. But we are not here to discuss what history books have already told us.
There is a mystery over the birth of Bindusara. As the tale goes after Chandragupta Maurya became king of Magadha after defeating Nandas, his chief advisor was Chanakya. Now Chanakya feared that there would be assassination plots hatched against Chandragupta by other power hungry kings. To protect Chandragupta, Chanakya wanted to make him immune from poisoning. He added small amounts of poison in Chandragupta’s food everyday so that he would get used to it. But Chandragupta was unaware of the poison he consumed every day. One day while dining the Emperor shared his food with Queen Durdhara. She was just seven days away from delivery. The pregnant Queen who did not have poison as her staple diet started collapsing with some shrieks. Chanakya was passing by and he heard the screams. When he came inside the dining hall he found the Queen collapsing. He understood the importance of saving the child within her womb. So first of all he slit the Queen’s head so that the poison could not penetrate into her body and harm the child. Then he cut open her belly and took out the baby prince. But it seemed that one drop of poison had penetrated through and it touched the forehead of baby Bindusara. This caused a blue mark on his forehead. Thus the prince was saved.
Though many scholars denounce this as a tale but references of such an event are found in many Jain works. It was a remarkable feat when we consider its timeline i.e. 320 BC.
As Bindusara reached a fitting age to ascend the throne, Chandragupta in lieu of a famine took up a begging bowl and walked away to Deccan. But Chanakya remained minister and advisor to Bindusara. This was not liked by Bindusara’s minister Subandhu. Subandhu revealed to Bindusara that Chanakya had murdered the king’s mother. Hearing this Bindusara was enraged. Chanakya on the other hand gave all his possessions and wealth to poor, orphans and widows. He sat on a dung and prepared to die from fasting without any water or food. When the nurses revealed the real story to Bindusara he apologised to Chanakya.
Bindusara was angry with Subhandhu who mislead him. The king asked him to seek forgiveness from Chanakya. Though Subandhu still hated Chanakya but he agreed. When he visited Chanakya’s fastinbg spot he slipped a burning charcoal ember inside the heap of dung. With wind as its aid the fire caught and killed the man who masterminded the Mauryan Empire.