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Rise of Magadha



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Magadha Between the sixth and the fourth centuries BCE, Magadha (in present day Bihar) became the most powerful Mahajanapada. The Haryankas: Magadha came into prominence under the leadership of Bimbisara (542-493 BC), who belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. He strengthened his position by marriage alliances. He took three wives. His first wife was the daughter of the king of Kosala and the sister of Prasenajit. His second wife Chellana was a Lichchhavi Princess from Vaishali, and his third wife was the daughter of the chief of the Madra clan of Punjab. Marriage relations with the different princely families gave enormous diplomatic prestige and paved the way for the expansion of Magadha westward and northward.

The earliest capital of Magadha was at Rajgir, which was called Girivraja at that time. It was surrounded by five hills, the openings in which were closed by stone walls on all sides. This made Rajgir impregnable.

Bimbisar was succeeded by his son Ajatasatru (492-460 BC). Ajatasatru killed his father and seized the throne for himself. Throughout his reign, he pursued an aggressive policy of expansion.

Ajatasatru was succeeded by Udayin (460-444 BC), His reign is important because he built the fort upon the confluence of the Ganga and Son at Patna. This was done because Patna lay in the centre of the Magadhan kingdom.

The Sisunagas: Udayin was succeeded by the dynasty of Sisunagas, who temporarily shifted the capital to Vaishali. Their greatest achievement was the destruction of the power of the Avanti with its capital at Ujjain. This brought to an end the 100 years old rivalry between Magadha and Avanti.

The Nandas: The Sisunagas were succeeded by the Nandas, who proved to be the most powerful rulers of Magadha. So great was their power that Alexander, who invaded Punjab at that time, did not dare to move towards the east. The Nandas added to the Magadhan power by the conquering Kalinga from where they brought an image of the Jina as a victory trophy. All this took place in the reign of Mahapadma Nanda. He claimed to the ekarat, the sole sovereign who destroyed all the other ruling princes.

The Nandas were the first non-kshatriya rulers. The last Nanda ruler was defeated by Chandragupta Maurya who founded the Maurya Empire.

Causes for the rise of Magadha
  • Advantages geographical location with both Rajgir and Pataliputra situated at strategic locations.
  • Abudance of natural resources, such as iron, enabled Magadhan rulers to equip with effective weapons.
  • The alluvial soil of the Gangatic plains and sufficient rainfall were they conductive for agriculture produces.
  • Rise of town and use of metallic money boosted trade and commerce. The princess could levy tolls and accumulate wealth to pay and maintain their army.
  • Use of elephants on a large scale in wars with its proximity to ancient Kalinga.
  • Unorthodox character of Magadhan society
  • Contribution of several enterprising and ambitious rulers.
  • Ambitious rulers and their policies.

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