Magadha Empire

Magadha was one of the 16 great kingdoms in ancient India with its core in the area of present day Bihar.
Created On: May 16, 2014 12:40 IST

Magadha was one of the 16 great kingdoms in ancient India with its core in the area of present day Bihar. It expanded to include the modern day districts of Aurangabad, Gaya (southern Bihar), Jehanabad, Nalanda, Nawadah and Patna along with parts of eastern Bengal. The first capital of the Magadha Empire was Rajagriha and then Patliputra.The Magadha Empire has been mentioned in the religious texts of Buddhism and Jainism as well as in Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Many great empires have originated from the kingdom of Magadh and have seen advancement in various fields of ancient India, such as religion, astronomy, science, mathematics and philosophy.

Little history and concrete texts are available regarding the Magadha Empire’s early rules. However, it has seen the growth of a number of dynasties. The rise and fall of these dynasties that constituted the Magadh Empire have been discussed as follows:

Haryanka Dynasty was prevalent in 600 BC. Its capital was Rajagriha and then it shifted to Patliputra. Some of the major religions practiced in India developed during this period. Buddhism and Jainism arose. Bimbisara expanded the kingdom’ boundaries via conquests and matrimonial alliances. Under his son Ajatashatru’s rule the dynasty reached its largest extent. Under Udayabhadra, Ajatashatru’s son, Patliputra become the largest city in the world. After some blood shed, Anuruddha took succession and he was succeeded by his son Munda who was succeeded by his son Nagadasaka in the same manner. The Haryanka dynasty lasted till 424 BC.

Next, Shishunaga Dynasty began in 430 BC under the king Shishunaga. In its time, this dynasty become one of the largest empires of the subcontinent of India. Shishunaga dynasty was followed by Nanda dynasty established by the illegitimate son of king Mahanandin.Nandas are regarded as the first empire builders in India. They extended the empire to distant frontiers.Dhana Nanda led the greatest extent of this dynasty. Then the Maurya dynasty came into existence in 321 BC. In this duration, the Indian subcontinent was, for the first time, under the rule of a single government. In fact, under Chandragupta Maurya, the dynasty expanded to Central Asia and Persia as well. Bindusara, Chandragupta’s son and successor, expanded the empire’s boundaries to the east and south extremes. AshokaThe Great, his son, expanded the kingdom further. However, after witnessing the carnage of Kalinga invasion, he started pursuing ahimsa and later converted to Buddhism.

Sunga Dynasty came next. It was established in 185 BC after the assassination of king Brihadratha by Commander-in-chief Pusyamitra Sunga. Pusyamitra ascended the throne and the Sunga dynasty reined for a long time. It was then replaced by Kanva Dynastywhen the last ruler Vasudeva was overthrown in 75 BC. This dynasty rules from 71 BC to 26 BC in the eastern part of India. The ruler of Kanva dynasty allowed the kings of the former Sunga dynasty to continue their rule but in an obscure corner of their previous dominions only. The Kanva dynasty came to an end in 30 BC. The Magadha Empire was replaced by Andhra kingdom’s Satayahana dynasty.

The Golden Age of India came around 240 AD when the Gupta Dynasty was established. It was one of the largest military and political empires of ancient India. During this time, India make immense progress in the field of science, mathematics, logic, literature, dialectic, art, engineering, philosophy, religion and astronomy. Prosperity and peace was established. Scholars like Aryabhata, Kalidasa, Vatsyayana, Vishnu Sharma and Varahamihitra were born during this period. Trade was also booming. It also brought about the dilution of Indian culture. The rules patronized Buddhism, performed Vedic sacrifices, etc.

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