The Magadha Empire

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Magadha Empire in India

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Period of Magadha Empire : 6th Century – 4th Century BC.


Extent of Magadha Empire :
Magadha embraced the former districts of Patna, Gaya & parts of Shahabad & grew to be the leading state of the time.

Haryanka Dynasty : Originally founded in 566 BC by the grand father of Bimbisara, but actual foundation by Bimbisara.

King Bimbisara of Magadha (544 BC – 492 BC):

  • Contemporary of Buddha.
  • He conquered Anga (E.Bihar) to gain control over trade route with the southern states.
  • His capital was Rajgir (Girivraja). He strengthened his position by matrimonial alliance with the ruling families of Kosala, Vaishali, and Madra (3 wives).
  • His capital was surrounded by 5 hills, the openings in which were closed by stone walls on all sides. This made Rajgir impregnable.

Ajatshatru History (492 BC – 460 BC):

  • Son of Bimbisara killed his father & seized the throne.
  • Annexed Vaishali and Kosala (annexed Vaishali with the help of a war engine, which was used to throw stones like catapults. Also possessed a chariot to which a mace was attached, thus facilitating mass killings). Kosala was ruled by Prasenajit at that time.
  • Buddha died during his reign; arranged the first Buddhist Council.

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History of Udayin (460 – 444 BC): He founded the new capital at Pataliputra, situated at the confluence of the Ganga & Son.

Shishunaga Dynasty :

  • Founded by a minister Shishunaga. He was succeeded by Kalasoka (II Buddhist council). Dynasty lasted for two generations only.
  • Greatest achievement was the destruction of power of Avanti.

Nanda Dynasty :

  • It is considered first of the non-Kshatriya dynasties.
  • Founder was Mahapadma Nanda. He added Kalinga to his empire. He claimed to be the ekarat, the sole sovereign who destroyed all the other ruling princes.
  • Alexander attacked India in their reign. Dhana Nanda was there at that time.
  • Nandas were fabulously rich & enormously powerful. Maintained 200,000 infantry, 60,000 cavalry & 6,000 war elephants. This is supposed to have checked Alexander’s army from advancing towards Magadha.

Causes of Magadha’s Success :

  • Enjoyed advantageous geographical position, i.e., near richest iron deposits (thus effective weapons).
  • The 2 capitals of Magadha, Rajgir and Patliputra, were situated at very strategic points.
  • Fertile soil of the lower Ganga regions.
  • First used elephants in wars.

Note:
Archaeologically, 6th century BC marks the beginning of NBPW phase (Northern Black Polished Ware) which was very glossy, shinning type of pottery. This marked the beginning of Second Urbanization in India.