Services (Prelims) Examination Special
Quick Revision Notes
Ascedancy And Beyond (Indian
History forms an important part of the General
Awareness paper of Civil Services (Prelims) Examination. Based on analysis of
types of questions asked in previous years, we have compiled this feature
to help you to be better prepared for the examination, as also to make your
preparation easier. This will be a regular feature in the magazine and in coming
months we will also provide you with similar notes on Indian Constitution and
of Magadhan Ascendancy and beyond
Magadha kingdomâ€™s most
remarkable king was Srenika or Bimbisara, who was anointed king by his
father at the young age of 15.
The capital of Bimbisaraâ€™s
kingdom was Girivraja. It was girded with stone walls which are among the
oldest extant stone structures in India.
The most notable achievement of
Bimbisara was the annexation of neighbouring kingdom of Anga or East
Bihar. He also entered into matrimonial alliances with ruling families of
Kosala and Vaishali. The Vaishali marriage paved the
way for expansion of Magadha northword to the borders
Gautama Buddha and Vardhaman
Mahavira preached their doctrines during the reign of Bimbisara.
The modern town of Rajgir in
the Patna district was built by Bimbisara. He had named it Rajagriha
or the kingâ€™s house.
Bimbisara was succeeded by his son
Ajatshatru. Tradition affirms that Bimbisara was murdered by
To repel the attacks of the Vrijis
of Vaishali, Ajatshatru fortified the village of Pataligrama, which stood
at the confluence of Ganga and Sona rivers. This fortress, within a generation,
developed into the stately city of Pataliputra (modern day Patna).
According to the Puranas, the immediate
successor of Ajatshatru was Darsaka, after whom came his son Udayi.
The name of Darsaka also
occurs in a play named Svapna-Vasavadatta, attributed to Bhasa, which
represents him as a brother-in-law and contemporary of Udayana, king of
Kausambi. However, Jain and Buddhist writers assert that Udayi was
son of Ajatshatru.
Bimbisaraâ€™s dynastic lineage
ended with the Nanda dynasty taking over the reigns of Magadha. The
first king of Nanda dynasty was Mahapadma or Mahapamapati Nanda.
He was succeeded by his eight sons, of whom the last was named Dhana-
was overthrown by Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of a new and
more illustrious dynasty.
Among the State functionaries, the
Purohit was of special importance in Kasi-Kosala, as we
learn from Ramayan and several Jatakas. In Kuru-Panchal and Matsya
countries it was the Senapati who held the special place.
The armies of the period usually
consisted of infantry, cavalry, chariots and elephants. While
rulers of deltaic regions were known to maintain small naval fleets, a big
naval department came into being only during the reign of
The Indian infantry usually
carried long bows and iron-tipped arrows made of cane. They used to
wear cotton garments. The chariots of the cavalry were drawn by
horses or wild asses and carried six soldiers apieceâ€”two bowmen, two shield
bearers and two charioteers.
Greek writers bear testimony to
the fact that in the art of war Indians were far superior to other peoples of
Asia. Their failure against foreign invaders was often
due to inferiority in cavalry. Indian commanders pinned their
faith more in elephants than horses.
The oldest source of revenues
was the bali. Bhaga, the kingâ€™s share of reaped corn, became
the most important source of State revenue in course of time. Among the most
important revenue officials was the Grama-bhojaka or village head-man.
The early Buddhist texts refer to six
big cities that flourished during the days of the Buddha. These were: Champa
(near Bhagalpur), Rajagriha (in Patna district), Sravasti (Saheth- Maheth),
Saketa (Oudh), Kausambi (near Allahabad) and Benaras (Varanasi).
The usual recreations of
women during the agadhan era were singing, dancing and music. Little
princesses used to play with dolls called panchalikas.
The chief pastimes of
knights were gambling, hunting, listening to tales of war and tournaments in
amphitheatres. Buddhist texts refer to acrobatic feats, combats of animals and a
kind of primitive chess play.
The principal seaports of
the period were: Bhrigukachcha (Broach), Surparaka (Sopara, north of Mumbai),
and Tamralipti (Tamluk in West Bengal).
The chief articles of trade
during the Magadhan era were: silk, muslin, embroidery, ivory,
jewellery and gold. The standard unit of value was the copper
Karshapana, weighing a little more than 146 grains. Silver coins, called Purana
or Dharana, were also in circulation. The weight of a silver coin was
a little more than 58 grains, which is one-tenth of that of the Nishka known
to the Vedic texts.
The first undoubted historical
reference to image-worship by an Aryan tribe occurs in passage of Curtis,
who states that an image of Herakles was carried in front of Paurava
army as it advanced against Alexander.
The early Magadhan period saw
development of variant languages from Sanskrit. In the towns and the villages a
popular form of Sanskrit, Prakrit, was spoken. This had local variations;
the chief western variety was called Shauraseni and the eastern variety Magadhi.
Pali was another local language. The Buddha, wishing to reach wider
audience, taught in Magadhi. Persian and Macedonian Invasions.