Rise of Magadha : Haryanka – Sisunaga – Nanda dynasties


  • Magadha ( Bihar) became the most powerful Mahajanapada between the 6th and the 4th centuries BC.

  • Magadha Empire grasped the former districts of Patna, Gaya & parts of Shahabad, grew to be the leading state of the time.

Haryanka dynasty

Bimbisara (542-493 BC):

  • laid the real foundation of Haryanka dynasty.

  • Contemporary of Buddha.

  • He strengthened his position by marriage connections with three wives i.e..,

  • First wife was the daughter of the king of Kosala,

  • Second wife Chellana was a Lichchhavi Princess from Vaishali, and

  • Third wife was the daughter of the chief of the Madra clan of Punjab.

  • Marriage relations with the different princely families gave enormous diplomatic prestige and paved the way for the expansion of Magadha westward and northward.

  • The earliest capital of Magadha was at Rajgir (Girivraja). It was surrounded by five hills, the openings in which were closed by stone walls on all sides.

Ajatasatru (492-460 BC):

  • He killed his father Bimbisara and taken the throne for himself.
  • Throughout his reign, he pursued an aggressive policy of expansion.
  • Annexed Vaishali with the help of a war engine, which was used to throw stones like catapults.
  • Also possessed a chariot to which a mace was attached, thus facilitating mass killings.
  • He also annexed Kosala was ruled by Prasenjit at that time.
  • Buddha died during his reign only. He arranged the First Buddhist council.

Udayin (460-444 BC):

  • His reign is important because he built the fort upon the merging of the Ganga and Son at Patna.
  • This was done because Patna lay in the centre of the Magadha kingdom.
  • He founded the new capital at Pataliputra, situated at the merging of the Ganga & Son.

Sisunaga dynasty


  • He was the founder of Sisunaga dynasty.
  • Udayin succeeded by Sisunaga.
  • He temporarily shifted the capital to Vaishali.
  • Before becoming king of magadha he was a minister in udayin court.


  • In his time he arranged second Buddhist council.

  • Sisunagas  greatest achievement was the destruction of the power of the Avanti.
Nanda Dynasty

Mahapadma Nanda:

  • Mahapadma Nanda was theFounder of Nanda dynasty.

  • He added Kalinga to his empire.

  • He claimed to be the ekarat, the sole sovereign who destroyed all the other ruling princes.

  • Nandas were fabulously rich & enormously powerful.

  • Maintained 200,000 infantry, 60,000 cavalry & 6,000 war elephants. This is supposed to have checked Alexander’s army from advancing towards Magadha.

  • They were the first non-kshatriya rulers.
Dhana Nanda:
  • Alexander attacked India in his reign only.

  • He was the last ruler of Nanda dynasty.

  • He was defeated by Chandragupta Maurya who founded the Maurya Empire.

Causes for the rise of Magadha:

  • Advantages geographical location with both Rajgir (surrounded by five hills, the openings in which were closed by stone walls on all sides)
  • And Pataliputra (Surrounded by Ganga, Gandhak, Son & Ghagra river which is Jaladurga) situated at strategic locations.
  • Abundance of natural resources, such as iron, enabled Magadha rulers to fit with effective weapons.
  • Rise of town and use of metallic money boosted trade and commerce.
  • Use of elephants on a large scale.
  • Unorthodox character of Magadha society
  • Ambitious rulers and their policies.

NOTE: Archaeologically, 6th century BC marks the beginning of NBPW phase (Northern Black Polished Ware) which was very glossy, shinning type of pottery. This marked the beginning of Second Urbanization in India.

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