Description of Magadha Mahajanapada

  • In the 6th century BC, just before the birth of Lord Buddha, India was divided into 16 Mahajanapadas. We find mention of this in the ‘Anguttarnikaya’ of the Buddhist text. Among these 16 Mahajanapadas, Magadha was the most powerful Mahajanapada. Presently ‘Patna’ and ‘Gaya’ districts were included in this.
  • The first mention of the Magadha kingdom is found in the Atharvaveda. It was one of the powerful monarchies during the time of Lord Buddha, which later became the most powerful Mahajanapada of North India.
  • The Magadha Mahajanapada extended from the Ganges in the north to the Vindhya Mountains in the south and from Champa in the east to the Son River in the west.
  • The ancient capital of the Magadha Empire was ‘Rajgriha’, a city surrounded by five hills. Later the capital of Magadha Empire became ‘Pataliputra’ which is presently known as Patna.

Dynasties of Magadha Empire

  1. Haryanka dynasty (545 BC to 412 BC) | Haryak Dynasty (545 BC to 412 BC)-

  • Bimbisara- The most powerful and majestic king of the Haryanka dynasty was Bimbisara. The reign of Bimbisara was from 545 BC to 493 BC. He made Giribraj his capital. Bimbisara’s nickname was ‘Srenik’. Bimbisara’s wife Kosala was the sister of Devi Prasenjit, from whom he received the revenue of Kashi Nagar. His second wife ‘Chellana’ was the sister of Chetak, the Lichchavi chief of Vaishali. After this, he established the cooperation of the Madras by marrying Kshema, the princess of the country of Madra. The mention of his 500 wives is found in the Mahabagh. According to the Puranas, Bimbisara ruled for about 28 years. After meeting Buddha he converted to Buddhism and donated the garden named Beluvan to Buddha and Sangha. Bimbisara founded a new city named ‘Rajgriha’. At the last moment ‘Ajatashatru’ killed his father Bimbisara.
  • Ajatashatru- The reign of Ajatashatru was from 493 BC to 461 BC. Ajatashatru is also called ‘Kunik’. He ascended the throne of Magadha after killing his father Bimbisara. According to the Puranas, Ajatashatru ruled for 28 years while according to Buddhist evidence, he ruled for 32 years. At last Ajatashatru was murdered by his son.
  • Udayin- The reign of Udayin was from 461 BC to 445 BC. According to the Puranas and Samhitas, Udayin established a capital named ‘Pataliputra’ at the confluence of the Ganges and the Son River, which is presently known as ‘Patna’. According to the Puranas, Udayin ruled Pataliputra for 33 years and for the Mahavansh. Udayin was a follower of Jainism. According to Buddhist literature, after Udayin, Anuruddha, Munda and Nagadasaka ruled together till about 412 BC. In this, all three are called Pitruhanta.

2. Shishunaga Dynasty (412 BC to 344 BC) Shishunag Dynasty (412 BC to 344 BC)

  • Shishunag- Shishunaga of the Shishunaga dynasty conquered Avanti and Vatsa Raj in the Magadha Empire and merged it with Magadha, due to which the Magadha Empire expanded from Malwa to Bengal in North India. He made Vaishali his capital.
  • Kalashoka or Kakavarna- The reign of Kalashoka was from 394 BC to 344 BC. In the Puranas, another name for Kalashoka is found Kakavarna. He made ‘Pataliputra’ his capital in place of Vaishali. According to the Sihali epic, in 383 BC, 100 years after the Mahaparinirvana of Lord Buddha, the second Buddhist council was held in Vaishali during the reign of Kalashoka, in which the Buddhist sangha was divided into sthavira and mahasanghik. According to Deepvansh and Mahavansh, Kalashok ruled for about 28 years. The last ruler of this dynasty was probably Nandivardhana, whose successor was Mahanandin. Mahapadmanand established the Nanda dynasty by killing it.

3. Nanda Dynasty (344 BC to 322 BC) Nanda Dynasty (344 BC to 322 BC)

  • According to the Puranas, Mahapadmananda, the founder of the Nanda dynasty, was a Shudra ruler. According to Jain texts, Napit was the son of father and Vaishya was the son of mother. In the essential formula, he is called the Napit Das, he is called Napit Das, that is, the slave of the barber. In the Mahavansh commentary, he is said to be of an unknown clan. In the Puranas, it has been called as Anulanghit ruler (King of the only earth), Bhargava (like Parashurama, Sarvakshatrantak (destroyer of Kshatriyas) etc. Due to his victories, Mahapadmananda converted Magadha into a vast empire. ‘Kharavela’ The ‘Hathigumpha inscription’ is an indicator of his Kalinga conquest. The last of the eight sons of Mahapadmananda, Ghanananda, was contemporary to Alexander. Greek writers have called it Agrameez and Jandramij. It was during Ghanananda’s reign that Alexander conquered the west coast in about 325 BC. Chandragupta Maurya ended Ghananand.


Q: Which Buddhist text gives information about the sixteen Mahajanapadas?

Ans: Angutarnika

Q: Which ruler of Haryanka dynasty is called Kunik?

Ans: Ajatashatru

Q: Which ruler established the salt city ‘Pataliputra’ at the confluence of the Ganges and Son rivers?

Ans: Udayin

Q: Which ruler of the Shishunaga dynasty, during whose time the second Buddhist concert was organized in Vaishali, was also known as Kakavarna?

Ans: Kalashok

Q: Who was called the ‘Agramen’ by the Greek writers?

Ans: Mahapadmanand

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