Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit
Subject: History (Optional)
Topic: The Rise of the Magadha
Period 600-325 BC is a major landmark. North India
experienced far reaching changes in political, socio-economic and cultural
life.Mahagovinda Sutta of Digha Nikaya describe the shape of India as
rectangular in the north and triangular in the south, just like a bullock cart.
The lists of Janapadas preserved in the Jain texts Bhagvatisutra, and
Sutrakntang, great Grammarian Panini’s Ashtadhyayi (sixth sentury B.C.),
Baudhayandharmasutra (seventh century B.C.), and in the Mahabharata, The
Buddhist Nikayas mention the five-fold division of India into Uttarapatha
north-western), Madhyadesha (central), Prachi (eastern), Dakshinapath (south),
and Apranta (western), which confirms that the geographical unity of India had
been visualised much before the sixth century B.C.
Towns and cities like Sravasti, Ayodhya, Kapilavastu,
Varanasi, Vaisali, Rajgir, Pataliputra etc., grew in the middle Gangetic Valley,
marking the second urbanization in the Indian subcontinent. Extension and
improvements in agriculture due to the regular use of iron implements. All these
economic changes resulted in the growth of the institution of private property
which in turn led to sharp economic inequalities. Further strengthening of this
four-fold system during this period; sharp distinction between the Dvija
twice-born, consisting of the Brahmins, Kashatriyas and Visyas) and the Non-Dvija
Sudras). Both civil and criminal law came o be based on the varna.
The use of coined money is more frequently associated with urban centres. The
coin of highest value in circulation was the silver satamana but the more
standard coins were the silver karshapana and the copper masha and kakani.
The karshapana is said to equal sixteen mushas and was
divided into a half (ardha or addha) and a quarter (pada). The kakani was half a
masha and the smallest denomination was the ardha-kakani. The distribution of
punch-marked coins, which were in circulation from , sixth century B.C. to
second century B.C. shows that by the fourth century B.C. there was only one
currency for the whole ‘of India. It shows political and economic unification
for the entire territory.
State Formation and Rise of 16 Mahajanapadas
The Buddhist texts also speak of nine ganas of the Mallas and
nine of Kashi.The Mallas of Kusinagara and Pava were the Kshatriyas of the
Ikshvaku dynasty.The Sakyas of Kapilavastu, modern Piparahwa in the
Siddharthanagar district of Uttar Pradesh on the Nepal border, were also
lkshvaku Kshatriyas. Gautama Buddha was born in the Sakya family and Suddhodana
was the ‘King’ of the Sakyas. The Koliyas of Ramagrama were eastern neighbours
of the Sakyas. The Moriyas of the Pipphalivana also claimed to be Kshatriya.
According to Mahavamsa.
Chandragupta Maurya belonged to this Kshatriya clan. The
Vajjis were the most important republican state during the period of Buddha.
Vajji was a confederation of eight ganas among which the Lichchhavis were most
prominent. These were called astakulika (eight families) Vajjis, Lichchhavis,
Videhas and Jnatrika were important families. Mahavira the twenty-fourth Jaina
tirthankara was born during the time of Buddha, the Lichchhavis, under the
leadership of Chetaka were the most prominent gana in the Vajji sangha. They are
also called Kshatriyas. The Vajjis were defeated and assimilated in the Magadha
empire by Ajatasattu.
Of the sixteen Mahajanapadas, Magadha, Kosala, Vatsa and
Avanti were more powerful. They fought amongst themselves for political
pre-eminence for about a hundred years. Ultimately, Magadha, under the
leadership of Bimbisar’a (542 BC - 493 BC) and Ajatshatru (493 BC - 461 BC)
emerged victorious. The victory of Magadha was a victory for the monarchical
system, which was now firmly established in the Ganges plain.
Magadhan ascendancy began with Bimbisara of the Haryanka
dynasty. Harvanka dynasty was founded in Magadha by Bimbisara after
overthrowing the Brihadrathas.He married the princesses of Kosala, Vaishali and
Madia, which helped him in his expansionist policy. His one and only conquest
was that of Anga. He also gained a part of Kashi as (he dowry in his marriage
with the sister of King Prasenajit of Kosala. Bimbisara was murdered by his own
son. Ajatasatru (492-460 BC). He defeated Prasenajit, married his daughter, and
annexed Kashi. Ajatasatru was succeeded by Udayin (460-444 BC), who founded the
new capital at Pataliputra.
The Haryanka dynasty was succeeded by the Sisunaga dynasty,
which destroyed the power of Avanti and incorporated it in the Magadhan empire.
Thus, the 100-year-old rivalry between Avanti and Magadha came to an end. The
Puranas take Sisunaga to be the founder of the royal line to which Bimbisara
belonged, and hence calls it the Sisunaga Dynasty. Kalasoka was the son and
succesor of Sisunaga.
Kalasoka, the son and succesor of Sisunaga, was succeeded by
a barber (according to some accounts) named Mahapadma Nanda, who found a new
dynasty known as the Nandas. Nandas annexed Kalinga to the empire. Mahapadma
Nanda was the most important king of his dynasty.
The Nandas are said to have checked Alexander’s army from ad-
vancing towards Magadha. Their rule was supplanted by that of the Mauryas,
Mahapadma defeated and destroyed the far-famed Kshatriya families, such as the
Pauravas, the Ikshvakus, and the Pradyotas, who were ruling in Kausambi, Koshala
and Avanti and established an empire which included the greater part of northern