The Rise of The Magadha Kingdom

THE RISE OF THE MAGADHA KINGDOM (60 TO 300 B.C.) HARYANKA DYNASTY 

Originally founded in 566 BC by the grandfather of Bimbisara,    But actual foundation led by Bimbisara.

BIMBISARA (544 BC-492 BC)

  • He was a contemporary of Mahavira and Gautama Buddha. 
  • He acquired Anga after defeating Brahmadatta and placed it under the viceroyalty of his son Ajatashatru, with its capital at Champa. 
  • King Bimbisara was a disciple of Mahaveer and frequently sought his teachings. 
  • According to Buddhist scriptures, King Bimbisara met the Buddha for the first time prior to the Buddha's enlightenment, and later became an important disciple. 
  • As per Jainism texts, he is referred to as King Shrenik of Rajgrih (being the possessor of a large army). 
  • Bimbisar sent Jivaka to Ujjain for medical treatment of King Prodyot, the king of Avanti.
  • He strengthened his position by matrimonial alliance with the ruling families of Kosala, Vaishali, and Madra (Three wives).
  • His capital was surrounded by five hills, the openings in which were closed by stone walls on all sides. This made Ranjgir impregnable.

AJATSHATRU (492- 460 BC)

  • Son of Bimbisara killed his father and seized the throne.
  • Annexed Vaishali and Kosala (annexed Vaishali with the help of a war engine, which wasused to throw stones like catapults. Also possessed a chariot to which a mace was attached, thus facilitating mass killings). Prasenajit ruled Kosala at that time.
  • He was a great warrior, who conquered 36 republican states surrounding his kingdom and firmly established the predominance of Magadha in Eastern India.  
  • The most important war waged by Ajatashatru to gain supremacy over his neighbours was that with the powerful Lichchhavi Republic, ruled democratically by a group of noblemen.
  • Buddha died during his reign; arranged the first Buddhist Council. UADYIN (460-444 BC)
  • He founded the new capital at Pataliputra, situated at the confluence of the Ganga and Son.

SHISHUNAGA DYNASTY

  • Shishunaga was the founder of the Shishunaga dynasty of the Magadha Empire.
  • He was an amatya (official) of the Magadha Empire under the Haryanka dynasty.  
  • He was placed on the throne by the people who revolted against the Haryanka dynasty rule.  
  • The Puranas tell us that he placed his son at Varanasi and himself ruled from Girivraja.  
  • His son Kalasoka (ll Buddhist council) succeeded him.  

 

Dynasty lasted for two generations only.

  • Greatest achievement was the destruction of power of Avanti.

NANDA DYNASTY

  • It is considered first of the non-Kshatriya dynasties.
  • Founder was Mahapadma Nanda. He added Kalings to his empire.  
  • He claimed to be the ekarat, the sole sovereign who destroyed all the other ruling princes.
  • Alexander attacked India in their reign. Dhanananda was there at that time.
  • At its greatest extent, the Nandas extended from Bengal in the east, Punjab in the west and as far south as the Vindhya Range.  
  • Chandragupta Maurya who founded the Maurya Empire later conquered the Nanda Empire.
  • Nanda were fabulously rich and enormously powerful. They had 200,000 infantry 60,000 cavalry and 6,000 war elephants.  
  • This is supposed to have checked Alexander’s army from advancing towards Magadha.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT 

  • Alexander (356 BC – 323 BC) was the son of Philip of Macedonia (Greece) who invaded India in 326 BC.  
  • At that time, North-West India was divided into a number of small independent states like Taxila, Punjab (Kingdom of Porus) and Gandhara.  
  • Except Porus who fought the famous battle of Hydaspas (on banks of Jhelum) with Alexander, all other kings submitted meekly.
  • When Alexander reached Beas, his soldiers refused to go further, so he was forced to retreat.  
  • To mark the farthest point of his advance, he erected 12 huge stones altars on the northern bank of Beas.  
  • Remained in India for 19 months and died in 323 BC at Babylon.

MAURYA DYNASTY

  • The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive and powerful empire in ancient India, ruled by the Mauryan dynasty from 321 to 185 BC.
  • It was one of the world's largest empires in its time. 
  • At its greatest extent, the empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it probably reached beyond modern Pakistan, annexing Baluchistan and much of what is now Afghanistan, including the modern Herat and Kandahar provinces. 

CHANDRAGUPTA MAURYA

  • In 305 BC, Chandragupta defated Selucus Nikator, who surrounded a vast terriotory.
  • The Nanda Dynasty dominated the middle and lower basin of the Ganges.  

After Chandragupta's conquests, the Maurya Empire extended from Bengal and Assam in the east, to Afghanistan and Baluchistan in the west, to Kashmir and Nepal in the north, and to the Deccan Plateau in the south.  

  • Megasthanesse was a Greek ambassador sent to the court of Chandragupta Maurya by Seleucus.  
  • Chandragupta became a Jain and went to Sravanbelgola with Bhadrabahu, where he died by slow starvation (Salekhan).

CHANAKYA

  • Chandragupta's adviser or Prime Minister Chanakya who is also known as Kautilya and was the author of the Arthashastra, is regarded as the architect of Chandragupta's early rise to power. 
  • Chandragupta Maurya, with the help of Chanakya, began laying the foundation of the Maurya Empire. 
  • In all forms of the Chanakya legend, he was thrown out of the Nanda Court by the king, where upon he swears revenge. 

BINDUSARA

  • Bindusara was the second Mauryan emperor (Born c. 320 BC, ruled: 298 - c.272 BC) after Chandragupta Maurya the Great. 
  • During his reign, the empire expanded southwards. 
  • He had two sons, Susima and Ashoka, who were the viceroys of Taxila and Ujjain. 
  • The Greeks called him Amitrochates or Allitrochades - the Greek transliteration for the Sanskrit word 'Amitraghata' (Slayer of enemies). 
  • He was also called 'Ajatashatru' (Man with no enemies) in Sanskrit. 
  • Bindusara is said to be first child born by surgery. 
  • Bindusara partonised Ajivikas.

ASHOKA

  • Ashoka (304–232 BC), popularly known as Ashoka the Great, was of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from 269 BC to 232 BC.  
  • One of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over most of present-day India after a number of military conquests.  
  • His empire stretched from present-day Pakistan, Afghanistan in the west, to the present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam in the east, and as far south as northern Kerala and Andhra.  
  • He conquered the kingdom named Kalinga, which no one in his dynasty had conquered starting from Chandragupta Maurya.  
  • He embraced Buddhism from the prevalent Vedic tradition after witnessing the mass deaths of the war of Kalinga, which he himself had waged out of a desire for conquest.  
  • He was later dedicated to the propagation of Buddhism across Asia and established monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha.  
  • Ashoka was a devotee of ahimsa, love, truth, tolerance and vegetarianism.  
  • Ashoka is remembered in history as a philanthropic administrator.  

In the history of India Ashoka is referred to as Samraat Chakravartin Ashoka- the Emperor of Emperors Ashoka.

  • According to the Budhist tradition, Ashoka usurped the throne after killing his 99 brothers and spared Tissa, the youngest one. Radhagupta, a minister of Bindusara helped him in fratricidal struggle.

Ashoka’s Dhamma

  • Ashoka’s Dhamma cannot be regarded as sectarian faith, its broad objective was to preserve the social order; it ordained that people should obey their parents, pay respect to Brahamanas and Buddhist monks and show mercy to slave and servants.  
  • He held that if people behaved well, they would attain Swarga (heaven). He never said that they would Nirvana, which was goal of Buddhist teaching.

MAURYAN ART

    The pre-Asokan monuments were most made of wood or some other perishable medium and the general use of stone started from the time of Asoka. The artistic remains of the Mauryan period may be seen under the following heads:

1. Pillars

  • The pillars set up by Asoka furnish the best, the most beautiful and characteristic specimens of the remians of the Mauryan. These were placed either in sacred enclosers or near towns.
  • The pillars are made of two type stones – red and white sandstone. Mathura and buffcoloured hard sandstone quarried in Chunar near Banaras. 
  • Each pillar has three parts- the prop under the foundation, the shaft or the column and the capital. The capital itself consists of three items-finely executed one or more animal figures, the sacred ‘dharmachakra’ (with 24 spokes) symbol engraved with animal sculptures in relief, and the inverted or bell-shaped lotus.
  • The capital of Sarnath Pillar is undoubtedly the most magnificent and the best piece of the series. The wonderful like-like figures of the four lions standing back to back, and the smaller graceful and stately figures of four animals (lion, elephant, horse and bull) in relief on the abacus, and the inverted lotus, all indicate a highly advanced from of art. (The Indian government adopted this capital with some modifications as its state emble).

 

2. Stupas

  • A ‘stupa’ is a solid domical structure of brick or stone, resting on a round base. A plain or ornamented stone railing running all round having one or more gateways surrounds it. 
  • The main purpose of building was to enshrine some relics of the Buddha or some great Buddhist monk or to commemorate some Buddhist sacred place.
  • Asoka is credited with building 84,000 ‘stupus’ all over India and Afghanistan, but majority of them have not come down to us. However, a few enclosed and enlarged later by the people and the princes alike have survived.
  • The best example of these is the famous ‘stupa’ at ‘Sanchi’ (near Bhopal). The original brick ‘stupa’ built by Asoka was probably of not more than half the present dimensions

 

which were subsequently enlarged in the time of Pushyamitra Sunga by the addition of a stone-casting laced with concrete.

 

3. Caves

  • The interior walls of the Mauryan caves are well polished that they shine like mirrors. These monuments were meant to be residences for monks (viharas) and served the purpose of churches and assembly halls (chaityas).
  • Asoka and his grandson Dasartha got several such cave-dwellings built in the Baraber

Hills near Bodh Gaya, and donated them to the monks of Buddhism and the Ajivika sect. The details of two famous Barabar Caves (Sudama and Lomas Rishi Caves) show a clear influence of wooden architecture on rock-cut architecture. Thus, the Barabar caves are the earliest examples of the rock-cut method.

 

4. Palaces

  • Contemporary Greek writers refer to the magnificent places and halls in the capital city. Even Fashien, the Chinese piligrim in the 4th century AD, was wonder-struck by the Mauryan edifices. 
  • All of them have perished, but in recent times, excavations have laid bare their ruins.

 

5. Terracotta Objects

  • Terracotta objects of various sizes have been found at Mauryan sites. 
  • They consist of primitive idols or images, votive reliefs with deities, toys, dice ornaments and beads. 
  • Toys were mostly wheeled-animals, the elephant being a particular favourite. 

 

THE DECLINE

  • The Mauryan Empire lasted a little over a century and broke up fifty years after the death of Ashoka.
  • In 185 BC, the Mauryan king was overthrown by Pushyamitra Shunga an ambitious commander-in-chief of armed forces.

He started the Shunga dynasty in Magadha.