Rise of Magadha Empire




Rise of Magadha Empire:


The excavations at Hastinapur made by Prof B.B. Lal and at Taxila by Sir John Marshall brought forth several new facts about the commercial operations, social conditions and international contacts of the Mauryan rulers. Stupas like that of Sanchi constructed by Ashoka and the Ashokan pillar and rock edicts with their animal motifs such as lion, horse, bull and elephant also throw some light on the Mauryan history. The Ashokan edicts found within the country and outside are the most authentic sources, giving firsthand information. Over 150 edicts of Ashoka have been located so far. There are rock edicts and pillar edicts. Although they have been engraved in different scripts and languages, they are mostly engraved in the Pali language and the Brahmi script. There is also the Junagadh inscription of Rudradaman I of about 150 CE, providing information about the irrigation policies of the Mauryas. The coins of the Mauryan period mainly comprised of silver and copper. Panna was a silver coin, Mashaka was a copper coin while Kakani was a gold coin. They were punch-marked coins (Ahata), and were not attributed to any ruler. The wide circulation of these coins all over India testifies to the political and economic presence of the Mauryas across current-day India. Curtius, Strabo, Plutarch, Justin, Diodorus, Arian, Pliny, Deimachus, Nearchus, Aristobulus, Dionysius and other scholars have recorded their impressions on India by collecting information from contemporary reports and traditions. The Chinese travellers Fa-Hien and Hiuen-Tsang, have described many Mauryan monuments in their travelogues. Gargi Samhita, Matsya Purana, Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana, These texts include information on the social, religious and political organization of the Mauryas.

Magadha Empire:

Magadha was an important kingdom among the mahajanapadas that existed in ancient India. Fertile and rich land, perennial rivers, excellent facilities of navigation, availability of commercial markets etc. were the reasons for the rise of Magadha as an empire. In the 6th century BCE, the Haryanka dynasty ruled over Magadha. The Haryanka dynasty is mentioned in the Mahabharata. Bimbisara was the first well-known king. His father Mahapadma built the fort at Girivraja and established the first capital of Magadha. After ascending the throne, Bimbisara started building the foundation of the Magadha Empire. He attacked the neighbouring kingdom of Anga and conquered it.

This victory increased the power of Magadha. Bimbisara established matrimonial relations with many royal houses such as Kosala, Lichchhavi, Videh, Madra to support his expansionist policy. At the foot of the fort of Girivraja, he established the new capital of Rajgriha. After killing Bimbisara, his son Ajatashatru became the king. He adopted the expansionist policy of his father. He expanded the Magadha kingdom up to the foot of Vindhya ranges. Ajatashatru built a small fort on the bank of Ganga at Pataligrama. It became a centre of trade of local commodities. In the later period, Pataligrama came to be known as Pataliputra. It became the capital of the Mauryan Empire. Later the people deposed Ajatashatru and selected his minister Shishunaga as the king. The Shishunaga dynasty ruled between 430 B.C.E. to 364 B.C.E. and then Mahapadmananda usurped the throne and established the Nanda dynasty. Political stability as well as other factors were responsible in the strengthening of Magadha as an empire.

Magadha had control over all the prominent regions in the Ganga Valley. By conquering the kingdom of Anga, the regions of the east coast came under their control and Magadha succeeded in increasing the trade with the distant regions. Magadha was blessed with natural resources. Its land was fertile, especially for rice cultivation. There was a rise in revenue due to the expansion of the kingdom. The abundance of sources for timber, ivory, iron and copper gave momentum to the local industries. The political ambitions of the rulers, combined with wealth and prospering trade were the reasons for the development of Magadha rule and establishment of a huge empire.


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The concept of ‘Chakravarti’ occurs in the literature on ancient Indian polity. The sovereign ruler whose chariot could roll in all four directions without any obstruction was known as Chakravarti. It was expected that his rule should be ethical and for the welfare of the State. During his tenure, the wheel of ‘Ruta’ remains intact. His rule is on an extended territory. Chandragupta Maurya was the first Chakravarti Emperor.

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