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Ancient History / Pre-Mauryan Era

Magadha Empire and Its History

The factors that were responsible for the rise of Magadha Empire are both external and internal. The Magadha empire was surrounded by three rivers, Son, Champa and Ganga on the three sides, so the enemies could not attack it easily. It had a huge population, so it could easily employ them into its army. All the dynasties of Magadha kingdom were following the expansion policy. To its fortune, very strong and able monarchs ascended its throne continuously.

Dynasties of Magadha Kingdom

Initially, Magadha kingdom was ruled by 3 strong dynasties namely, the Haryanka dynasty, the Shisunaga dynasty and the Nanda dynasty and later it was ruled by the Mauryan dynasty, the Shunga dynasty and the Kanva dynasty.

Dynasties of Magadha Empire

Haryanka Dynasty

  • Bimbisara is the founder of Magadha empire as well as founder of Haryanka dynasty. He conquered Anga kingdom. He strengthened the Magadha kingdom through matrimonial alliances. He married Kosala Mahadevi (princess of Kosala) and got Kashi as dowry. Famous physician Jivaka was there in his court. Jivaka studied medicine in Taxila for 6 years.

  • Ajatashatru has taken over forcefully the Magadha empire from his father Bimbisara and imprisoned him. He is said to be the inventor of two weapons that were used in wars. These weapons are Mahshilakantaka (weapon to throw big stones) and Rathamusala (blade chariot). He conquered Kosala, Malla and Vajji kingdoms. Ajatashatru's son Udayin, who built Pataliputra, came to power after him.

  • The last ruler of this dynasty is Nagadasaka. During his reign, there was a civil rebellion that led to the emergence or arrival of the Shishunaga dynasty.

Shishunaga Dynasty

  • Shishunaga is the founder of this dynasty. He was a minister of Magadha king Nagadasaka, the last king of Haryanka dynasty. He conquered the Avanti kingdom.

  • Kalashoka, the son of Shishunaga, succeeded him. During his reign, the second Buddhist conference was held at Vaishali. It is Kalashoka, who shifted the capital of Magadha empire from Rajgriha to Pataliputra.

  • Mahanandin was the last king of Shishunaga dynasty. He was killed by Mahapadma Nanda.

Nanda Dynasty

  • Mahapadma Nanda is the founder of Nanda dynasty. He is the first shudra king of India. Nandas are the first Shudras to rule over India. He conquered all the leftover kingdoms including Asmaka and became a Samrat. He is the greatest among all the Magadha empire kings. Mahapadma Nanda did not conquer Gandhara and Kamboja.

  • Dhana Nanda, the son of Mahapadma Nanda succeeded him. Dhana Nanda is the last ruler of Nanda dynasty. Chandragupta Maurya defeated Dhana Nanda to form the Mauryan Empire in 321 BC. Chandragupta Maurya invaded Magadha with the help of Chanakya, the author of Arthasastra.

Extra Information

Persian Invasion of India

  • During 600 BC to 300 BC, Gandhara and Kamboja were part of Persian or Iranian Empire and later Greek Empire.

  • In 6th Century BC, a king named Cyrus, who is the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, invaded India and conquered some parts of India. He was the first foreigner to conquer India.

  • During the reign of Darius I, entire Gandhara and Kamboja kingdoms were part of Iranian kingdom. He reached up to Punjab. For more than 200 years, Gandhara and Kamboja kingdoms were part of Iranian Empire.

Greek Invasion of India

  • In 336 BC, Alexander (The Greatest king, who conquered the world) became the ruler of Macedonia. When Alexander came to India, Darius III was the king of Persia.

  • Alexander conquered Persia in 329 BC and stayed there for some time. During this time, the king of Taxila named "Ambhi" invited Alexander to invade India because of his rivalry with "Porus".

  • Alexander was in India for two years (327 - 325 BC) conquering entire North West India. In 326 BC, the Battle of Hydaspes (name of Jhelum in Greek) was fought between Porus and Alexander The Great. Porus was defeated in the war. Alexander conquered all the territories west of river Beas, which was the boundary for Magadhas.

  • By this time, King Dhana Nanda was there at Magadha. But Alexander's soldiers refused to fight with Magadhas. On his way to Macedonia, Alexander died at Babylonia (near the modern Baghdad) in 323 BC at the age of 32.

  • Three very important Greek Empires were built after the death of Alexander, Macedonia (comprising of entire Europe), Egypt (comprising the territories of Africa) and Seleucid Empire (comprising of Asian territories). Seleucus Nicator was the founder of Seleucid Empire.