TN History Textbook: The Rise of Magadha and Alexander's Invasion Notes | Study Must Read (Old & New) NCERTs for IAS Preparation - UPSC

UPSC: TN History Textbook: The Rise of Magadha and Alexander's Invasion Notes | Study Must Read (Old & New) NCERTs for IAS Preparation - UPSC

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 Page 1


47
In the beginning of the 6
th
 century B.C., the northern India
consisted of a large number of independent kingdoms.  Some of
them had monarchical forms of government, while some others were
republics. While there was a concentration of monarchies on the
Gangetic plain, the republics were scattered in the foothills of the
Himalayas and in northwestern India.  Some of the republics
consisted of only one tribe like the Sakyas, Licchavis and Mallas.
In the republics, the power of decision in all matters of state vested
with the Public Assembly which was composed of the tribal
representatives or heads of families.  All decisions were by a
majority vote.
The Buddhist literature Anguttara Nikaya gives a list of sixteen
great kingdoms called ‘Sixteen Mahajanapadas’. They were Anga,
Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala,
Matsya, Surasena, Asmaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kambhoja. The
LESSON 5
THE RISE OF MAGADHA AND
ALEXANDER’S INVASION
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The rise of Magatha under the Haryanka, Saisunaga and
Nanda dynasties.
2. The achievements of Bimbisara and Ajatasatru.
3. The Persian invasions and their impact.
4. Causes and course of Alexander’s invasion.
5. Effects of Alexander’s invasion.
Page 2


47
In the beginning of the 6
th
 century B.C., the northern India
consisted of a large number of independent kingdoms.  Some of
them had monarchical forms of government, while some others were
republics. While there was a concentration of monarchies on the
Gangetic plain, the republics were scattered in the foothills of the
Himalayas and in northwestern India.  Some of the republics
consisted of only one tribe like the Sakyas, Licchavis and Mallas.
In the republics, the power of decision in all matters of state vested
with the Public Assembly which was composed of the tribal
representatives or heads of families.  All decisions were by a
majority vote.
The Buddhist literature Anguttara Nikaya gives a list of sixteen
great kingdoms called ‘Sixteen Mahajanapadas’. They were Anga,
Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala,
Matsya, Surasena, Asmaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kambhoja. The
LESSON 5
THE RISE OF MAGADHA AND
ALEXANDER’S INVASION
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The rise of Magatha under the Haryanka, Saisunaga and
Nanda dynasties.
2. The achievements of Bimbisara and Ajatasatru.
3. The Persian invasions and their impact.
4. Causes and course of Alexander’s invasion.
5. Effects of Alexander’s invasion.
49 48
Magadha
Of all the kingdoms of north India, Magadha emerged
powerful and prosperous. It became the nerve centre of political
activity in north India. Magadha was endowed by nature with certain
geographical and strategic advantages. These made her to rise to
imperial greatness. Her strategic position between the upper and
lower part of the Gangetic valley was a great advantage. It had a
fertile soil. The iron ores in the hills near Rajgir and copper and iron
deposits near Gaya added to its natural assets. Her location at the
centre of the highways of trade of those days contributed to her
wealth. Rajagriha was the capital of Magadha. During the reign of
Bimbisara and Ajatasatru, the prosperity of Magadha reached its
zenith.
Bimbisara (546 - 494 B.C.)
Bimbisara belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. He consolidated
his position by matrimonial alliances. His first matrimonial alliance
was with the ruling family of Kosala. He married Kosaladevi, sister
of Prasenajit. He was given the Kasi region as dowry which yielded
large revenue. Bimbisara married Chellana, a princess of the Licchavi
family of V aisali. This matrimonial alliance secured for him the safety
of the northern frontier. Moreover, it facilitated the expansion of
Magadha northwards to the borders of Nepal.  He also married
Khema of the royal house of Madra in central Punjab. Bimbisara
also undertook many expeditions and added more territories to his
empire. He defeated Brahmadatta of Anga and annexed that
kingdom. He maintained friendly relations with Avanti. He had also
efficiently reorganized the administration of his kingdom.
Bimbisara was a contemporary of both Vardhamana Mahavira
and Gautama Buddha. However, both religions claim him as their
supporter and devotee. He seems to have made numerous gifts to
the Buddhist Sangha.
Jain texts also contain references to the existence of sixteen
kingdoms. In course of time, the small and weak kingdoms either
submitted to the stronger rulers or gradually got eliminated. Finally
in the mid 6
th
 century B.C., only four kingdoms – Vatsa, Avanti,
Kosala and Magadha survived.
Vatsa
The Vatsa kingdom was situated on the banks of the river
Yamuna. Its capital was Kausambi near modern Allahabad. Its most
popular ruler was Udayana. He strengthened his position by entering
into matrimonial alliances with Avanti, Anga and Magadha. After
his death, Vatsa was annexed to the Avanti kingdom.
Avanti
The capital of Avanti was Ujjain. The most important ruler of
this kingdom was Pradyota. He became powerful by marrying
Vasavadatta, the daughter of Udayana. He patronized Buddhism.
The successors of Pradyota were weak and later this kingdom was
taken over by the rulers of Magadha.
Kosala
Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala. King Prasenajit was its
famous ruler. He was highly educated. His position was further
strengthened by the matrimonial alliance with Magadha. His sister
was married to Bimbisara and Kasi was given to her as dowry.
Subsequently there was a dispute with Ajatasatru. After the end of
the conflict, Prasenajit married the daughter of Bimbisara. After the
death of this powerful king, Kosala became part of the Magadha.
Page 3


47
In the beginning of the 6
th
 century B.C., the northern India
consisted of a large number of independent kingdoms.  Some of
them had monarchical forms of government, while some others were
republics. While there was a concentration of monarchies on the
Gangetic plain, the republics were scattered in the foothills of the
Himalayas and in northwestern India.  Some of the republics
consisted of only one tribe like the Sakyas, Licchavis and Mallas.
In the republics, the power of decision in all matters of state vested
with the Public Assembly which was composed of the tribal
representatives or heads of families.  All decisions were by a
majority vote.
The Buddhist literature Anguttara Nikaya gives a list of sixteen
great kingdoms called ‘Sixteen Mahajanapadas’. They were Anga,
Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala,
Matsya, Surasena, Asmaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kambhoja. The
LESSON 5
THE RISE OF MAGADHA AND
ALEXANDER’S INVASION
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The rise of Magatha under the Haryanka, Saisunaga and
Nanda dynasties.
2. The achievements of Bimbisara and Ajatasatru.
3. The Persian invasions and their impact.
4. Causes and course of Alexander’s invasion.
5. Effects of Alexander’s invasion.
49 48
Magadha
Of all the kingdoms of north India, Magadha emerged
powerful and prosperous. It became the nerve centre of political
activity in north India. Magadha was endowed by nature with certain
geographical and strategic advantages. These made her to rise to
imperial greatness. Her strategic position between the upper and
lower part of the Gangetic valley was a great advantage. It had a
fertile soil. The iron ores in the hills near Rajgir and copper and iron
deposits near Gaya added to its natural assets. Her location at the
centre of the highways of trade of those days contributed to her
wealth. Rajagriha was the capital of Magadha. During the reign of
Bimbisara and Ajatasatru, the prosperity of Magadha reached its
zenith.
Bimbisara (546 - 494 B.C.)
Bimbisara belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. He consolidated
his position by matrimonial alliances. His first matrimonial alliance
was with the ruling family of Kosala. He married Kosaladevi, sister
of Prasenajit. He was given the Kasi region as dowry which yielded
large revenue. Bimbisara married Chellana, a princess of the Licchavi
family of V aisali. This matrimonial alliance secured for him the safety
of the northern frontier. Moreover, it facilitated the expansion of
Magadha northwards to the borders of Nepal.  He also married
Khema of the royal house of Madra in central Punjab. Bimbisara
also undertook many expeditions and added more territories to his
empire. He defeated Brahmadatta of Anga and annexed that
kingdom. He maintained friendly relations with Avanti. He had also
efficiently reorganized the administration of his kingdom.
Bimbisara was a contemporary of both Vardhamana Mahavira
and Gautama Buddha. However, both religions claim him as their
supporter and devotee. He seems to have made numerous gifts to
the Buddhist Sangha.
Jain texts also contain references to the existence of sixteen
kingdoms. In course of time, the small and weak kingdoms either
submitted to the stronger rulers or gradually got eliminated. Finally
in the mid 6
th
 century B.C., only four kingdoms – Vatsa, Avanti,
Kosala and Magadha survived.
Vatsa
The Vatsa kingdom was situated on the banks of the river
Yamuna. Its capital was Kausambi near modern Allahabad. Its most
popular ruler was Udayana. He strengthened his position by entering
into matrimonial alliances with Avanti, Anga and Magadha. After
his death, Vatsa was annexed to the Avanti kingdom.
Avanti
The capital of Avanti was Ujjain. The most important ruler of
this kingdom was Pradyota. He became powerful by marrying
Vasavadatta, the daughter of Udayana. He patronized Buddhism.
The successors of Pradyota were weak and later this kingdom was
taken over by the rulers of Magadha.
Kosala
Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala. King Prasenajit was its
famous ruler. He was highly educated. His position was further
strengthened by the matrimonial alliance with Magadha. His sister
was married to Bimbisara and Kasi was given to her as dowry.
Subsequently there was a dispute with Ajatasatru. After the end of
the conflict, Prasenajit married the daughter of Bimbisara. After the
death of this powerful king, Kosala became part of the Magadha.
51 50
Nandas
The fame of Magadha scaled new heights under the Nanda
dynasty. Their conquests went beyond the boundaries of the Gangetic
basin and in North India they carved a well-knit and vast empire.
Mahapadma Nanda was a powerful ruler of the Nanda
dynasty. He uprooted the kshatriya dynasties in north India and
assumed the title ekarat. The Puranas speak of the extensive
conquests made by Mahapadma. The Hathigumpha inscription of
Kharavela of Kalinga refers to the conquest of Kalinga by the
Nandas. Many historians believe that a considerable portion of the
Deccan was also under the control of the Nandas. Therefore,
Mahapadma Nanda may be regarded as a great empire builder.
According to the Buddhist tradition, Mahapadma Nanda ruled
about ten years. He was succeeded by his eight sons, who ruled
successively. The last Nanda ruler was Dhana Nanda. He kept the
Magadhan empire intact and possessed a powerful army and
enormous wealth. The fabulous wealth of the Nandas is also
mentioned by several sources. The enormous wealth of the Nandas
is also referred to in the Tamil Sangam work Ahananuru by the
poet Mamulanar. The flourishing state of agriculture in the Nanda
dominions and the general prosperity of the country must have
brought to the royal treasury enormous revenue. The oppressive
way of tax collection by Dhana Nanda was resented by the people.
Taking advantage of this, Chandragupta Maurya and Kautilya
initiated a popular movement against the Nanda rule. It was during
this time that Alexander invaded India.
Ajatasatru (494 - 462 B.C.)
The reign of Ajatasatru was remarkable for his military conquests.
He fought against Kosala and V aisali. His won a great success against
a formidable confederacy led by the Lichchavis of Vaisali. This had
increased his power and prestige. This war lasted for about sixteen
years. It was at this time that Ajatasatru realised the strategic importance
of the small village, Pataligrama (future Pataliputra). He fortified it to
serve as a convenient base of operations against V aisali.
Buddhists and Jains both claim that Ajatasatru was a follower
of their religion.  But it is generally believed that in the beginning he
was a follower of Jainism and subsequently embraced Buddhism.
He is said to have met Gautama Buddha. This scene is also depicted
in the sculptures of Barhut. According to the Mahavamsa, he
constructed several chaityas and viharas. He was also instrumental
in convening the First Buddhist Council at Rajagriha soon after the
death of the Buddha.
The immediate successor of Ajatasatru was Udayin. He laid
the foundation of the new capital at Pataliputra situated at the
confluence of the two rivers, the Ganges and the Son. Later it became
famous as the imperial capital of the Mauryas. Udayin’s successors
were weak rulers and hence Magadha was captured by Saisunaga.
Thus the Haryanka dynasty came to an end and the Saisunaga
dynasty came to power.
Saisunaga dynasty
The genealogy and chronology of the Saisunagas are not clear.
Saisunaga defeated the king of Avanti which was made part of the
Magadhan Empire. After Saisunaga, the mighty empire began to
collapse. His successor was Kakavarman or Kalasoka. During his
reign the second Buddhist Council was held at Vaisali. Kalasoka
was killed by the founder of the Nanda dynasty.
Page 4


47
In the beginning of the 6
th
 century B.C., the northern India
consisted of a large number of independent kingdoms.  Some of
them had monarchical forms of government, while some others were
republics. While there was a concentration of monarchies on the
Gangetic plain, the republics were scattered in the foothills of the
Himalayas and in northwestern India.  Some of the republics
consisted of only one tribe like the Sakyas, Licchavis and Mallas.
In the republics, the power of decision in all matters of state vested
with the Public Assembly which was composed of the tribal
representatives or heads of families.  All decisions were by a
majority vote.
The Buddhist literature Anguttara Nikaya gives a list of sixteen
great kingdoms called ‘Sixteen Mahajanapadas’. They were Anga,
Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala,
Matsya, Surasena, Asmaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kambhoja. The
LESSON 5
THE RISE OF MAGADHA AND
ALEXANDER’S INVASION
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The rise of Magatha under the Haryanka, Saisunaga and
Nanda dynasties.
2. The achievements of Bimbisara and Ajatasatru.
3. The Persian invasions and their impact.
4. Causes and course of Alexander’s invasion.
5. Effects of Alexander’s invasion.
49 48
Magadha
Of all the kingdoms of north India, Magadha emerged
powerful and prosperous. It became the nerve centre of political
activity in north India. Magadha was endowed by nature with certain
geographical and strategic advantages. These made her to rise to
imperial greatness. Her strategic position between the upper and
lower part of the Gangetic valley was a great advantage. It had a
fertile soil. The iron ores in the hills near Rajgir and copper and iron
deposits near Gaya added to its natural assets. Her location at the
centre of the highways of trade of those days contributed to her
wealth. Rajagriha was the capital of Magadha. During the reign of
Bimbisara and Ajatasatru, the prosperity of Magadha reached its
zenith.
Bimbisara (546 - 494 B.C.)
Bimbisara belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. He consolidated
his position by matrimonial alliances. His first matrimonial alliance
was with the ruling family of Kosala. He married Kosaladevi, sister
of Prasenajit. He was given the Kasi region as dowry which yielded
large revenue. Bimbisara married Chellana, a princess of the Licchavi
family of V aisali. This matrimonial alliance secured for him the safety
of the northern frontier. Moreover, it facilitated the expansion of
Magadha northwards to the borders of Nepal.  He also married
Khema of the royal house of Madra in central Punjab. Bimbisara
also undertook many expeditions and added more territories to his
empire. He defeated Brahmadatta of Anga and annexed that
kingdom. He maintained friendly relations with Avanti. He had also
efficiently reorganized the administration of his kingdom.
Bimbisara was a contemporary of both Vardhamana Mahavira
and Gautama Buddha. However, both religions claim him as their
supporter and devotee. He seems to have made numerous gifts to
the Buddhist Sangha.
Jain texts also contain references to the existence of sixteen
kingdoms. In course of time, the small and weak kingdoms either
submitted to the stronger rulers or gradually got eliminated. Finally
in the mid 6
th
 century B.C., only four kingdoms – Vatsa, Avanti,
Kosala and Magadha survived.
Vatsa
The Vatsa kingdom was situated on the banks of the river
Yamuna. Its capital was Kausambi near modern Allahabad. Its most
popular ruler was Udayana. He strengthened his position by entering
into matrimonial alliances with Avanti, Anga and Magadha. After
his death, Vatsa was annexed to the Avanti kingdom.
Avanti
The capital of Avanti was Ujjain. The most important ruler of
this kingdom was Pradyota. He became powerful by marrying
Vasavadatta, the daughter of Udayana. He patronized Buddhism.
The successors of Pradyota were weak and later this kingdom was
taken over by the rulers of Magadha.
Kosala
Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala. King Prasenajit was its
famous ruler. He was highly educated. His position was further
strengthened by the matrimonial alliance with Magadha. His sister
was married to Bimbisara and Kasi was given to her as dowry.
Subsequently there was a dispute with Ajatasatru. After the end of
the conflict, Prasenajit married the daughter of Bimbisara. After the
death of this powerful king, Kosala became part of the Magadha.
51 50
Nandas
The fame of Magadha scaled new heights under the Nanda
dynasty. Their conquests went beyond the boundaries of the Gangetic
basin and in North India they carved a well-knit and vast empire.
Mahapadma Nanda was a powerful ruler of the Nanda
dynasty. He uprooted the kshatriya dynasties in north India and
assumed the title ekarat. The Puranas speak of the extensive
conquests made by Mahapadma. The Hathigumpha inscription of
Kharavela of Kalinga refers to the conquest of Kalinga by the
Nandas. Many historians believe that a considerable portion of the
Deccan was also under the control of the Nandas. Therefore,
Mahapadma Nanda may be regarded as a great empire builder.
According to the Buddhist tradition, Mahapadma Nanda ruled
about ten years. He was succeeded by his eight sons, who ruled
successively. The last Nanda ruler was Dhana Nanda. He kept the
Magadhan empire intact and possessed a powerful army and
enormous wealth. The fabulous wealth of the Nandas is also
mentioned by several sources. The enormous wealth of the Nandas
is also referred to in the Tamil Sangam work Ahananuru by the
poet Mamulanar. The flourishing state of agriculture in the Nanda
dominions and the general prosperity of the country must have
brought to the royal treasury enormous revenue. The oppressive
way of tax collection by Dhana Nanda was resented by the people.
Taking advantage of this, Chandragupta Maurya and Kautilya
initiated a popular movement against the Nanda rule. It was during
this time that Alexander invaded India.
Ajatasatru (494 - 462 B.C.)
The reign of Ajatasatru was remarkable for his military conquests.
He fought against Kosala and V aisali. His won a great success against
a formidable confederacy led by the Lichchavis of Vaisali. This had
increased his power and prestige. This war lasted for about sixteen
years. It was at this time that Ajatasatru realised the strategic importance
of the small village, Pataligrama (future Pataliputra). He fortified it to
serve as a convenient base of operations against V aisali.
Buddhists and Jains both claim that Ajatasatru was a follower
of their religion.  But it is generally believed that in the beginning he
was a follower of Jainism and subsequently embraced Buddhism.
He is said to have met Gautama Buddha. This scene is also depicted
in the sculptures of Barhut. According to the Mahavamsa, he
constructed several chaityas and viharas. He was also instrumental
in convening the First Buddhist Council at Rajagriha soon after the
death of the Buddha.
The immediate successor of Ajatasatru was Udayin. He laid
the foundation of the new capital at Pataliputra situated at the
confluence of the two rivers, the Ganges and the Son. Later it became
famous as the imperial capital of the Mauryas. Udayin’s successors
were weak rulers and hence Magadha was captured by Saisunaga.
Thus the Haryanka dynasty came to an end and the Saisunaga
dynasty came to power.
Saisunaga dynasty
The genealogy and chronology of the Saisunagas are not clear.
Saisunaga defeated the king of Avanti which was made part of the
Magadhan Empire. After Saisunaga, the mighty empire began to
collapse. His successor was Kakavarman or Kalasoka. During his
reign the second Buddhist Council was held at Vaisali. Kalasoka
was killed by the founder of the Nanda dynasty.
53 52
Asoka’s edicts were written in that script.  We are able to see the
influence of Persian art on the art of the Mauryas, particularly the
monolithic pillars of Asoka and the sculptures found on them.  The
very idea of issuing edicts by Asoka and the wording used in the
edicts are traced to Iranian influence. In short, the Iranian connection
with India proved more fruitful than the short-lived Indo-
Macedonian contact.
Alexander’s Invasion of India (327-325 B.C.)
Political Condition on the eve of Alexander’s Invasion
After two centuries of the Persian invasion, Alexander from
Macedonia invaded India. On the eve of his invasion, there were a
number of small kingdoms in northwestern India. The leading kings
were Ambhi of Taxila, the ruler of Abhisara and Porus who ruled
the region between the rivers of Jhelum and Chenab. There were
many republican states like Nysa. In short, the northwestern India
remained the most disunited part of India and the rulers were fighting
with one another. They never come together against common enemy.
Yet, it was not easy for Alexander to overcome so many sources of
opposition.
Causes of the Invasion
Alexander ascended the throne of Macedonia after the death
of his father Philip in 334 B.C. He conquered the whole of Persia
by defeating Darius III in the battle of Arbela in 330 B.C. He also
aimed at further conquest eastwards and wanted to recover the lost
Persian Satrapy of India. The writings of Greek authors like
Herodotus about the fabulous wealth of India attracted Alexander.
Moreover, his interest in geographical enquiry and love of natural
history urged him to undertake an invasion of India. He believed
that on the eastern side of India there was the continuation of the
sea, according the geographical knowledge of his period. So, he
PERSIAN AND GREEK INVASIONS
Persian Invasions
Cyrus (558 – 530 B.C)
Cyrus the Great was the greatest conqueror of the
Achaemenian Empire. He was the first conqueror who led an
expedition and entered into India. He captured the Gandhara region.
All Indian tribes to the west of the Indus river submitted to him and
paid tribute. His son Cambyses had no time to pay attention towards
India.
Darius I (522 – 486 B.C.)
Darius I, the grandson of Cyrus, conquered the Indus valley
in 518 B.C. and annexed the Punjab and Sindh. This region became
the 20
th
 Satrapy of his empire. It was the most fertile and populous
province of the Achaemenian Empire. Darius sent a naval expedition
under Skylas to explore the Indus.
Xerxes (465-456 B.C.)
Xerxes utilized his Indian province to strengthen his position.
He deployed Indian infantry and cavalry to Greece to fight his
opponents. But they retreated after Xerxes faced a defeat in Greece.
After this failure, the Achaemenians could not follow a forward policy
in India. However, the Indian province was still under their control.
Darius III enlisted Indian soldiers to fight against Alexander in 330
B.C. It is evident that the control of Persians slackened on the eve
of Alexander’s invasion of India.
Effects of the Persian Invasion
The Persian invasion provided an impetus to the growth of
Indo-Iranian commerce. Also, it prepared the ground for
Alexander’s invasion. The use of the Kharoshti script, a form of
Iranian writing became popular in northwestern India and some of
Page 5


47
In the beginning of the 6
th
 century B.C., the northern India
consisted of a large number of independent kingdoms.  Some of
them had monarchical forms of government, while some others were
republics. While there was a concentration of monarchies on the
Gangetic plain, the republics were scattered in the foothills of the
Himalayas and in northwestern India.  Some of the republics
consisted of only one tribe like the Sakyas, Licchavis and Mallas.
In the republics, the power of decision in all matters of state vested
with the Public Assembly which was composed of the tribal
representatives or heads of families.  All decisions were by a
majority vote.
The Buddhist literature Anguttara Nikaya gives a list of sixteen
great kingdoms called ‘Sixteen Mahajanapadas’. They were Anga,
Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala,
Matsya, Surasena, Asmaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kambhoja. The
LESSON 5
THE RISE OF MAGADHA AND
ALEXANDER’S INVASION
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The rise of Magatha under the Haryanka, Saisunaga and
Nanda dynasties.
2. The achievements of Bimbisara and Ajatasatru.
3. The Persian invasions and their impact.
4. Causes and course of Alexander’s invasion.
5. Effects of Alexander’s invasion.
49 48
Magadha
Of all the kingdoms of north India, Magadha emerged
powerful and prosperous. It became the nerve centre of political
activity in north India. Magadha was endowed by nature with certain
geographical and strategic advantages. These made her to rise to
imperial greatness. Her strategic position between the upper and
lower part of the Gangetic valley was a great advantage. It had a
fertile soil. The iron ores in the hills near Rajgir and copper and iron
deposits near Gaya added to its natural assets. Her location at the
centre of the highways of trade of those days contributed to her
wealth. Rajagriha was the capital of Magadha. During the reign of
Bimbisara and Ajatasatru, the prosperity of Magadha reached its
zenith.
Bimbisara (546 - 494 B.C.)
Bimbisara belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. He consolidated
his position by matrimonial alliances. His first matrimonial alliance
was with the ruling family of Kosala. He married Kosaladevi, sister
of Prasenajit. He was given the Kasi region as dowry which yielded
large revenue. Bimbisara married Chellana, a princess of the Licchavi
family of V aisali. This matrimonial alliance secured for him the safety
of the northern frontier. Moreover, it facilitated the expansion of
Magadha northwards to the borders of Nepal.  He also married
Khema of the royal house of Madra in central Punjab. Bimbisara
also undertook many expeditions and added more territories to his
empire. He defeated Brahmadatta of Anga and annexed that
kingdom. He maintained friendly relations with Avanti. He had also
efficiently reorganized the administration of his kingdom.
Bimbisara was a contemporary of both Vardhamana Mahavira
and Gautama Buddha. However, both religions claim him as their
supporter and devotee. He seems to have made numerous gifts to
the Buddhist Sangha.
Jain texts also contain references to the existence of sixteen
kingdoms. In course of time, the small and weak kingdoms either
submitted to the stronger rulers or gradually got eliminated. Finally
in the mid 6
th
 century B.C., only four kingdoms – Vatsa, Avanti,
Kosala and Magadha survived.
Vatsa
The Vatsa kingdom was situated on the banks of the river
Yamuna. Its capital was Kausambi near modern Allahabad. Its most
popular ruler was Udayana. He strengthened his position by entering
into matrimonial alliances with Avanti, Anga and Magadha. After
his death, Vatsa was annexed to the Avanti kingdom.
Avanti
The capital of Avanti was Ujjain. The most important ruler of
this kingdom was Pradyota. He became powerful by marrying
Vasavadatta, the daughter of Udayana. He patronized Buddhism.
The successors of Pradyota were weak and later this kingdom was
taken over by the rulers of Magadha.
Kosala
Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala. King Prasenajit was its
famous ruler. He was highly educated. His position was further
strengthened by the matrimonial alliance with Magadha. His sister
was married to Bimbisara and Kasi was given to her as dowry.
Subsequently there was a dispute with Ajatasatru. After the end of
the conflict, Prasenajit married the daughter of Bimbisara. After the
death of this powerful king, Kosala became part of the Magadha.
51 50
Nandas
The fame of Magadha scaled new heights under the Nanda
dynasty. Their conquests went beyond the boundaries of the Gangetic
basin and in North India they carved a well-knit and vast empire.
Mahapadma Nanda was a powerful ruler of the Nanda
dynasty. He uprooted the kshatriya dynasties in north India and
assumed the title ekarat. The Puranas speak of the extensive
conquests made by Mahapadma. The Hathigumpha inscription of
Kharavela of Kalinga refers to the conquest of Kalinga by the
Nandas. Many historians believe that a considerable portion of the
Deccan was also under the control of the Nandas. Therefore,
Mahapadma Nanda may be regarded as a great empire builder.
According to the Buddhist tradition, Mahapadma Nanda ruled
about ten years. He was succeeded by his eight sons, who ruled
successively. The last Nanda ruler was Dhana Nanda. He kept the
Magadhan empire intact and possessed a powerful army and
enormous wealth. The fabulous wealth of the Nandas is also
mentioned by several sources. The enormous wealth of the Nandas
is also referred to in the Tamil Sangam work Ahananuru by the
poet Mamulanar. The flourishing state of agriculture in the Nanda
dominions and the general prosperity of the country must have
brought to the royal treasury enormous revenue. The oppressive
way of tax collection by Dhana Nanda was resented by the people.
Taking advantage of this, Chandragupta Maurya and Kautilya
initiated a popular movement against the Nanda rule. It was during
this time that Alexander invaded India.
Ajatasatru (494 - 462 B.C.)
The reign of Ajatasatru was remarkable for his military conquests.
He fought against Kosala and V aisali. His won a great success against
a formidable confederacy led by the Lichchavis of Vaisali. This had
increased his power and prestige. This war lasted for about sixteen
years. It was at this time that Ajatasatru realised the strategic importance
of the small village, Pataligrama (future Pataliputra). He fortified it to
serve as a convenient base of operations against V aisali.
Buddhists and Jains both claim that Ajatasatru was a follower
of their religion.  But it is generally believed that in the beginning he
was a follower of Jainism and subsequently embraced Buddhism.
He is said to have met Gautama Buddha. This scene is also depicted
in the sculptures of Barhut. According to the Mahavamsa, he
constructed several chaityas and viharas. He was also instrumental
in convening the First Buddhist Council at Rajagriha soon after the
death of the Buddha.
The immediate successor of Ajatasatru was Udayin. He laid
the foundation of the new capital at Pataliputra situated at the
confluence of the two rivers, the Ganges and the Son. Later it became
famous as the imperial capital of the Mauryas. Udayin’s successors
were weak rulers and hence Magadha was captured by Saisunaga.
Thus the Haryanka dynasty came to an end and the Saisunaga
dynasty came to power.
Saisunaga dynasty
The genealogy and chronology of the Saisunagas are not clear.
Saisunaga defeated the king of Avanti which was made part of the
Magadhan Empire. After Saisunaga, the mighty empire began to
collapse. His successor was Kakavarman or Kalasoka. During his
reign the second Buddhist Council was held at Vaisali. Kalasoka
was killed by the founder of the Nanda dynasty.
53 52
Asoka’s edicts were written in that script.  We are able to see the
influence of Persian art on the art of the Mauryas, particularly the
monolithic pillars of Asoka and the sculptures found on them.  The
very idea of issuing edicts by Asoka and the wording used in the
edicts are traced to Iranian influence. In short, the Iranian connection
with India proved more fruitful than the short-lived Indo-
Macedonian contact.
Alexander’s Invasion of India (327-325 B.C.)
Political Condition on the eve of Alexander’s Invasion
After two centuries of the Persian invasion, Alexander from
Macedonia invaded India. On the eve of his invasion, there were a
number of small kingdoms in northwestern India. The leading kings
were Ambhi of Taxila, the ruler of Abhisara and Porus who ruled
the region between the rivers of Jhelum and Chenab. There were
many republican states like Nysa. In short, the northwestern India
remained the most disunited part of India and the rulers were fighting
with one another. They never come together against common enemy.
Yet, it was not easy for Alexander to overcome so many sources of
opposition.
Causes of the Invasion
Alexander ascended the throne of Macedonia after the death
of his father Philip in 334 B.C. He conquered the whole of Persia
by defeating Darius III in the battle of Arbela in 330 B.C. He also
aimed at further conquest eastwards and wanted to recover the lost
Persian Satrapy of India. The writings of Greek authors like
Herodotus about the fabulous wealth of India attracted Alexander.
Moreover, his interest in geographical enquiry and love of natural
history urged him to undertake an invasion of India. He believed
that on the eastern side of India there was the continuation of the
sea, according the geographical knowledge of his period. So, he
PERSIAN AND GREEK INVASIONS
Persian Invasions
Cyrus (558 – 530 B.C)
Cyrus the Great was the greatest conqueror of the
Achaemenian Empire. He was the first conqueror who led an
expedition and entered into India. He captured the Gandhara region.
All Indian tribes to the west of the Indus river submitted to him and
paid tribute. His son Cambyses had no time to pay attention towards
India.
Darius I (522 – 486 B.C.)
Darius I, the grandson of Cyrus, conquered the Indus valley
in 518 B.C. and annexed the Punjab and Sindh. This region became
the 20
th
 Satrapy of his empire. It was the most fertile and populous
province of the Achaemenian Empire. Darius sent a naval expedition
under Skylas to explore the Indus.
Xerxes (465-456 B.C.)
Xerxes utilized his Indian province to strengthen his position.
He deployed Indian infantry and cavalry to Greece to fight his
opponents. But they retreated after Xerxes faced a defeat in Greece.
After this failure, the Achaemenians could not follow a forward policy
in India. However, the Indian province was still under their control.
Darius III enlisted Indian soldiers to fight against Alexander in 330
B.C. It is evident that the control of Persians slackened on the eve
of Alexander’s invasion of India.
Effects of the Persian Invasion
The Persian invasion provided an impetus to the growth of
Indo-Iranian commerce. Also, it prepared the ground for
Alexander’s invasion. The use of the Kharoshti script, a form of
Iranian writing became popular in northwestern India and some of
55 54
thought that by conquering India, he would also conquer the eastern
boundary of the world.
Battle of Hydaspes
In 327 B.C. Alexander crossed the Hindukush Mountains
and spent nearly ten months in fighting with the tribes. He crossed
the Indus in February 326 B.C. with the help of the bridge of boats.
He was warmly received by Ambhi, the ruler of Taxila. From there
Alexander sent a message to Porus to submit. But Porus refused
and decided to fight against Alexander. Then Alexander marched
from Taxila to the banks of the river Hydaspes (Jhelum). On the
other side of the river he saw the vast army of Porus. As there were
heavy floods in the river, Alexander was not able to cross it. After a
few days, he crossed the river and the famous battle of Hydaspes
was fought on the plains of Karri. It was a well-contested battle.
Although Porus had a strong army, he lost the battle. Alexander
was impressed by the courage and heroism of this Indian prince,
treated him generously and reinstated him on his throne.
Alexander continued his march as far as the river Beas
encountering opposition from the local tribes.  He wanted to proceed
still further eastwards towards the Gangetic valley. But he could not
do so because his soldiers refused to fight. Hardships of prolonged
warfare made them tired and they wanted to return home. Alexander
could not persuade them and therefore decided to return. He made
arrangements to look after his conquered territories in India. He
divided the whole territory from the Indus to the Beas into three
provinces and put them under his governors. His retreat began in
October 326 B.C. and the return journey was not free from ordeals.
Many republican tribes attacked his army. Anyhow he managed to
reach beyond the Indus. On his way he reached Babylon where he
fell seriously ill and died in 323 B.C.
Mediterranean
Sea
Greece
Macedonia
Black Sea
Armenia
Mesopatomia
Egypt
Syriya
Babylon
India
Drangiana
Markanda
Bactria
Pushkalavathi
Alexander’s Campaigns
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