Susima (also Sushima or Sushim; c. 305 to 270 BCE) was a prince of the Maurya Empire and the eldest son and heir-apparent of the second Mauryan emperor Bindusara. He was next in line for his father's throne, but was assassinated by his younger half-brother, Ashoka, who eventually succeeded Bindusara as the third Mauryan emperor.
Birth and family
Susima was the eldest son of the second Mauryan emperor Bindusara. Not only was Susima the crown prince, but also his mother was a princess as opposed to Ashoka's mother, Subhadrangi, who was a Brahmin’s daughter. All these facts made Susima highly favourable in Bindusara’s eyes and also made him a strong contender for his father's throne. In contrast, Ashoka's chances of succeeding Bindusara were pretty slim : his mother was a Brahmin’s daughter and Bindusara is said to not be too fond of Ashoka but he loved Ashoka’s mother the most amongst all his queens due to she was the most beautiful and she had once saved Bindusara’s life which is another reason why Bindusara married Subhadrangī. Susima is said to have 100 younger half brothers.
He had been the viceroy/governor to Takshashila during the reign of his father Bindusara as his younger brother Ashoka was to Ujjain. The Maurya Empire was divided into four provinces, which looked like giant crescents with the imperial capital at Pataliputra. From Ashoka's edicts, the names of the four provincial capitals are Tosali (in the east), Ujjain (in the west), Suvarnagiri (in the south), and Takshashila (in the north). The head of the provincial administration was the royal prince, who governed the provinces as the emperor's representative. The prince was assisted by Mahamatyas and Council of Ministers. This organizational structure was reflected at the imperial level with the Emperor and his Council of Ministers.
Divyavadana refers to Ashoka putting down a conflict in Ujjain due to activities of some ministers. This may have been a suppression of a revolt in Bindusara's time, but some historians consider this as a part of Bindusara's conquest of the Deccan. Following this Ashoka was stationed at Ujjain as governor.
It is said that a popular revolt occurred at Takshashila during Susima's time as the Governor which has been blamed upon his administration. However, this was quelled by Emperor Bindusara. Another revolt at Takshashila (the reason for the second revolt is unknown, but Bindusara could not suppress it in his lifetime) is said to have been crushed by Ashoka after Bindusara's death.
Civil war after Bindusara's death
Bindusara's death in 273 BCE led to a civil war over succession. According to Divyavadana, Bindusara wanted Susima to succeed him but Ashoka was supported by his father's ministers due to Susima had insulted them and Ashoka’s mother was a Brahmin from birth. A minister named Radhagupta seems to have played an important role in this succession. One of the Ashokavandana states that Ashoka managed to become the Emperor by getting rid of the legitimate heir to the throne, by killing poisoning them. It is said that Sushima was killed by Ashoka where the latter tricked him into a pit which was set on fire.
The Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa refer to Ashoka killing 6 of his brothers, sparing only one, his uterine Vitashoka or Tishya. Although there is no clear proof about this incident. The coronation of Ashoka only happened in 269 BCE, four years after his succession to the throne.
Some say that in 285 BC Susima assassinated Ashoka’s mother which made Ashoka furious and eagled him to get revenge. Which he got by killing Susima in the Civil war. Ashoka’s anger calmed down after becoming king in 268 BC.