Asoka ruled his empire for about forty years. Coming to the throne in 273 B.C. he died in about 233 B.C.
Historical evidences about the last years of his reign did not survive. But, there grew up many legends around him about those closing years of his remarkable career.
According to some such legends, Asoka recklessly gave away the wealth of his empire as gifts and donations to monks and monasteries, till at last he had almost nothing to give.
The legends also suggest that the ministers of Asoka wanted to replace the old monarch by his grandson Samprati, son of Kunala, perhaps to check the emperor’s unlimited charity. According to a Tibetan tradition, Asoka died in the city of Taxila.
There are confusing accounts about the successors of Asoka to the throne of the Maurya Empire. It is known that his eldest son Mahendra, whom the Chinese pilgrim Hieuen Tsang wrongly described as his brother many centuries later, became a Buddhist bhikshu and went out as a missionary to preach Buddhism outside the empire. Among the other sons of Asoka, we get the name of Tivara from his pillar Edict VII. The names of two other sons, besides that of Mahendra, are known from literary sources. They were Kunala and Jalauka.
From the accounts of Vayu Purana, it is understood that Kunala ruled for eight years. According to Buddhist and Jaina traditions, Kunala was made blind during the life time of Asoka as a victim of intrigues without the emperor’s knowledge, and therefore, his son Samprati succeeded to the throne after Asoka’s death. Might be, while the blind Kunala ruled in name, his son Samprati ruled in reality.
About Asoka’s another son Jalauka, it is written by Kalhana in his famous work Rajatarangini that he ruled over Kashmir after the death of his father. Among the grandsons of Asoka, two names stand out prominently, Bandhupalita and Dasaratha.
The last of the Maurya rulers was Brihadratha Maurya who was killed by his own commander-in-chief, Pushyamitra by name, who established a new dynasty known as the Sunga Dynasty. It is evident that the successors of Asoka were no great kings. Within less than half a century after the death of Asoka, the Maurya rule came to an end with the death of Brihadratha in about 185 B.C. The total period of the Maurya rule covered 137′ years since Chandragupta Maurya laid the foundation of the Maurya Empire.