From Academic Kids

Magadha was an ancient kingdom of India, mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It was also one of the four main kingdoms of India at the time of Buddha, having risen to power during the reigns of Bimbisara (c. 544-491 BCE) and his son Ajatashatru (c. 491-460 BCE). The core of the kingdom was that portion of Bihar lying south of the Ganges, with its capital at Rajagriha (modern Rajgir). Magadha expanded to include most of Bihar and parts of Bengal with the conquest of Anga, and then expanded up the Ganges valley annexing Kosala and Kashi. Magadha formed one of the sixteen so-called Mahājanapadas (Sanskrit, 'great country'). The Magadha empire included republican communities such as Rajakumara. Villages had their own assemblies under their local chiefs called Gramakas. Their administrations were divided into executive, judicial, and military functions. Bimbisara was friendly to both Jainism and Buddhism and suspended tolls at the river ferries for all ascetics after the Buddha was once stopped at the Ganges River for lack of money.


There is little certain information available on the early rulers of Magadha. The most important sources are the Buddhist Chronicles of Sri Lanka, the Puranas, and various Buddhist and Jain holy texts. Based on these sources, it appears that Magadha was ruled by the Śiśunāga dynasty for some 200 years, c. 550 - 350 B.C.E. The Śiśunāga dynasty was overthrown by Ugrasena Mahāpadma Nanda, the first of the so-called nine Nandas (a.k.a. the Nanda or Nava Nanda dynasty). He was followed by his eight sons, whose names were (according to the Mahābodhivamsa) Panduka, Pandugati, Bhūtapāla, Ratthapāla, Govisānaka, Dasasiddhaka, Kevatta, and Dhana Nanda. According to the Sri Lankan Chronicles, the Nanda dynasty was in power for mere 22 years, while the Puranas state that Mahāpadma ruled for 28 years and his eight sons for only 12.

King Bimbisara of the Shishunaga dynasty led an active and expansive policy, conquering Anga in what is now West Bengal.

Gautama Buddha himself was born a prince of Kapilavastu in Magadha around 563 BCE. As the scene of many incidents in his life, Magadha was a holy land.

After the death of Bimbisara at the hands of his son, Ajatashatru, the widowed princess of Kosala also died of grief, causing King Prasenajit to revoke the gift of Kashi and triggering a war between Kosala and Magadha. Ajatashatru was trapped by an ambush and captured with his army; but in a peace treaty he, his army, and Kashi were restored to Magadha, and he married Prasenajit's daughter.

Accounts differ slightly as to the cause of Ajatashatru's war with the Licchavi republic. It appears that Ajatashatru sent a minister, who for three years worked to undermine the unity of the Licchavis at Vaishali. To launch his attack across the Ganga River (Ganges)Ajatashatru had to build a fort at a new capital called Pataliputra, which the Buddha prophesied would become a great center of commerce. Torn by disagreements the Licchavis were easily defeated once the fort was constructed. Jain texts tell how Ajatashatru used two new weapons – a catapult and a covered chariot with swinging mace that has been compared to modern tanks.

In 326 BCE, the army of Alexander the Great approached the boundaries of Magadha. The army, exhausted and frightened by the prospect of facing another giant Indian army at the Ganges River, army mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas) and refused to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, was convinced that it was better to return, and turned south, conquering his way down the Indus to the Ocean.

Magadha was also the seat of the Mauryan Empire, founded by Chandragupta, which extended over nearly all India under Asoka; and, later, of the powerful Gupta Empire. The capital of the Mauryan Empire, Pataliputta (modern Patna), was begun as a Magadhan fortress and became the capital sometime after Ajatashatru's reign. Chandragupta destroyed the Nanda dynasty around 321 BCE, and became the first king of the great Mauryan Empire.

Kings of Magadha

A list of kings according to the Sri Lankan Chronicles follows:

  1. Bimbisāra (ruled for 52 years)
  2. Ajātaśatru (32 years; The Buddha is thought to have died in the 8th year of Ajātaśatru's reign.)
  3. Udāyin or Udāyibhadra (16 years)
  4. Anuruddha (c. 4 years)
  5. Munda (c. 4 years)
  6. Nāgadāsaka (24 years)
  7. Śiśunāga (18 years)
  8. Kālāśoka (28 years)
  9. Ten sons of Kālāśoka, Nandivardhana being the most prominent (22 years). The names for the other eight are given in the Mahābodhivamsa as follows: Bhaddasena, Korandavanna, Mangura, Sabbańjaha, Jālika, Ubhaka, Sańjaya, Korabya, and Pańcamaka.

The Puranas give a rather different list with long reigns, making the Śiśunāga dynasty 321 years long:

  1. Śiśunāga (ruled for 40 years)
  2. Kākavarna (26 years)
  3. Ksemadharman (36 years)
  4. Ksemajit or Ksatraujas (24 years)
  5. Bimbisāra (28 years)
  6. Ajātaśatru (27 years)
  7. Darśaka (24 years)
  8. Udāyin (33 years)
  9. Nandivardhana (40 years)
  10. Mahānandin (43 years)

Template:Middle kingdoms of India

See also

fr:Magadha sa:मगध sv:Magadha


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