The Rise Of Magadha embraces the districts of Patna and Gaya in the southern part of Bihar. It was bounded on the North and the West by the rivers Ganges and Son, on the south by the spurs of the Vindhyas and on the east by the river Champa. Its earliest capital was Giri Vraja or Rajagriha near Rajgir. The other names for the city were Madhepura. Brihadratha Pura, Vasumati, Kushagra Pura and Bimbisara Puri.
According to Dr. H.C. Raychaudhuri, “The early dynastic history of Magadha is shrouded in darkness. We have occasional glimpses of war-lords and statesmen, some probably entirely mythical, others having more appearance of leader. The history commences with the famous Bimbisara of the Haryanka Kula.” (Age of the Nandas and Mauryas by Nilakanta Sastri, pp. 10-11). There is a reference in the Rigveda to a territory called Kikata which was ruled by a chief named of Propaganda. Kikata is described as a synonym of Magadha. There is a prayer in the Atharvaveda that fever may go to Magadha. The Yajur Veda refers to the bards of Magadha.
The Brihadratha:- According to the Mahabharata and the Puranas, the earliest dynasty of Magadha was founded by Brihadratha, the father of Jarasandha and son of Vasu. According to the Ramayana, Vasu himself was the founder of Giri Vraja or Vasumati. We come across in the Puranas the lists of the kings of this dynasty. The number of the future Brihadratha is given as 16, 22 or 32 and the total length of their rule is fixed at 723 or 1,000 years. The chronology of the kings as given in the Puranas and the order of their succession may not be true and there is no corroboration of the same. However, it is stated that the Brihadratha had passed away when Pulika put his son Pradyota on the throne of Avanti or Ujjain. As Pradyota was a contemporary of Buddha. It is presumed that the Brihadratha dynasty came to an end in the sixth century B.C.
The Jain writers refer to two early kings of Rajagriha named Samudra Vijaya and Gaya. The latter is stated to have been taught by the Jains and reached perfection. However, there is no corroboration of the facts stated by the Jian writers.
Controversy in Rise of Magadha
There is some controversy with regard to the next dynasty which ruled Magadha. According to the Puranas, the Sisunaga dynasty was founded by a king named Sisunaga. In some texts, he is mentioned as Sisunaga. He was succeeded by Kavarna, Kshemadharman and Udasin, Nandivardhan and Mahanandi. According to the Matsya Purana, the Saisu Nagas ruled for 360 years. Dr. V.A. Smith accepts the chronology of the Saisu Nagas at given in the Puranas as correct although he does not accept the duration of their reigns as given in the Puranas.
However, the critics of this view point out that according to Asvaghosha, who is an earlier authority than the Puranas, Bimbisara was the descendant of the Haryanka dynasty and not the Sisunaga dynasty. According to the Mahavamsa, Sisunaga himself was the founder of another dynasty which succeeded that of Bimbisara. It is also stated in the Puranas that Sisunaga “will take away the glory of the Pradyot” who were the contemporaries of Bimbisara. If the above view of the Vayu Purana is correct, Sisunaga must come after Chand Pradyota Mahasena who was a contemporary of Bimbisara. It is stated in the Puranas that Vaisali and Varanasi were included in the dominion of Sisunaga. These territories were acquired by Bimbisara and Ajatasatru and under the circumstances Sisunaga must be placed after them and not before them. There are some contradictory statements in the Puranas themselves. It is stated therein that Pradyota was anointed when the Viti Ras had passed away. Sisunaga destroyed the prestige of the Pradyota and became king. Another statement is that contemporaneously with the Sisunaga king 20 Viti Ras succeeded at the same time. Kalasoka, the son and successor of Sisunaga, is stated to have ruled at Pataliputra. Udaya is stated to have been the founder of that city. In that case also Kalasoka must come after Udaya. Under the circumstances, it is presumed by scholars like Dr. Raychaudhuri, Dr. Majumdar and Dr. Mookerji that Bimbisara was the founder of the Haryanka dynasty and Sisunaga was the founder of another dynasty which came after that.
The Haryanka Dynasty
There is no definite data regarding the origin of the Haryanka dynasty. Bimbisara was not the founder of the dynasty as it is stated in the Mahavamsa that he was anointed king by his father when he was 15 years of age. According to Turnour and N.L. Dey, the name of Bimbisara’s father was Bhatiya, or Bhattiyat. He is called Mahapadma by the Tibetans. According to the Puranas, the name of Bimbisara’s father was Kshema Jit, Hema jit, Kshatriya or Kshetra. Another name of Bimbisara was Srenika.
Bimbisara was an ambitious king and he added to the prestige and strength of Magadha by his policy of matrimonial alliances and annexations. One of his queens was the sister of Prasenjit, the ruler of Kosala. She brought with her a village in Kashi yielding a revenue of a hundred thousand for bath and perfume money. Another wife was called Chellana and she was the youngest of the seven daughters of Chetaka, the ruler of Vaisali. According to a Tibetan writer, Bimbisara had another wife called Vasavi. It is stated that she saved the life of her husband by giving him food when the latter was imprisoned by Ajatasatru. She may be the same woman as Chellana. Another wife was probably from the Punjab. Her name was Khema, the daughter of the King of Madda on Madra. The matrimonial alliances must have helped Bimbisara to extend is influence both eastwards and westwards.
Bimbisara had many sons and they gave him a lot of trouble. According to the Jain writers, the sons of Bimbisara were Kunika or Ajatasatru, Halla, Vehalla, Abhaya, Nandisena and Megha Kumara. The first three were the sons of Chellana and the fourth was that of Amrapali, the Lichchhavi courtesan. The Buddhist writers refer to Ajatasatru, Vimala, Kondanna, Vehalla and Silavat.
The King of Taxila was harassed by his enemies and he asked Bimbisara to help him. Although the ambassador from Taxila was well received, no help was given to the king as Bimbisara was not prepared to alienate other rulers. It is stated that Bimbisara sent his physician Jivaka to cure the king of Avanti who was suffering from jaundice. Bimbisara conquered and annexed the kingdom of Anga after defeating Brahmadatta. The conquest of Anga is proved by the evidence of the Digha Nikaya and Mahavagga. According to Hemachandra, the Jain writer, Anga was governed as a separate province by the Crown prince, who had his headquarters at Champa. The conquest of Anga must have added to the material prosperity of Bimbisara. It is stated that Champa was one of the six cities of the Buddhist world. There are references to its gate, walls and a watch tower. Its traders went as far as Suvarnabhumi. The other important towns of Anga were Apana and Assapino.
The territory of Bimbisara included 80,000 villages and covered an area of 300 leagues. A number of republican communities under the Rajakumaran were also included within the territory.
Bimbisara had an efficient system of administration and that must have contributed to his success as a ruler. He exercised rigid control over his While he rewarded the efficient, he dismissed those who were inefficient. The Rajabhat or high officers of Bimbisara were divided into four categories, viz., Sambathika or officer in charge of general affairs, Sena-Nayak Mahamatras or generals, Viharika Mahamatras or judges and Mahamatras who were responsible for the levy of tithes on produce. Rough and ready justice was given to the criminals. The Penal Code was Provision was made for the imprisonment of criminals in jails and also their punishment by scourging branding, beheading, breaking of ribs and cutting the tongue.
The various provinces in the kingdom were given a lot of autonomy. The Crown-prince was put in-charge of Anga with his headquarters at Champa. There are also references to the Mandalika Rajas. Bimbisara got the help of his sons in the work of administration. Abhaya foiled the the machinations of King Pradyota. Bimbisara summoned a meeting of 80,000 headmen of his kingdom with a view to put a check on the centrifugal tendencies. Means of communication were improved. A new royal residence was constructed after the burning of Kusagrapura.
Bimbisara religion:- There is no unanimity of opinion with regard to the religion of Bimbisara and the Jain and Buddhist writers give different versions. According to the Uttaradhyayana Sutra, Bimbisara visited Mahavira, the lion of homeless monks, at Mandi Kukshi Chaitya and “together with his wives, servants and relations, became a staunch believer in his law.” According to Hemachandra, “When the country was under a blight of cold, the king accompanied by Devi Chellana, went to worship Mahavira.”
The Buddhist writers refer to two meetings of Bimbisara with the founder of Buddhism. When Bimbisara met for the first time, Gautama had still not got enlightenment. In spite of that Bimbisara was so much impressed by the personality of Gautama that he offered to make him a chief and also give him a lot of wealth. The second meeting took place after Gautama had become Buddha. On that occasion Buddha had a large number of followers along with him. Bimbisara also came to see him with a large number of citizens and Brahmanas. Buddha and his followers were entertained and the king served food with his own hands. A park was donated to Buddha and his Sangha. Bimbisara appointed his own physician Jivaka as the physician of Buddha and his followers. He remitted the ferry charges for ascetics out of regard for Buddha. The Brahmanas also claimed that Bimbisara was a follower of Brahmanism.
There are different accounts with regard to the death of Bimbisara. According to the Avashyak Sutra of the Jains, Bimbisara decided to appoint Ajatasatru as his successor in preference to his other sons. However, Ajatasatru became impatient and imprisoned his father where he was looked after by Queen Chellana. Later, Ajatasatru came to know from his mother that his father had loved him very much and on one occasion had sucked his swollen finger to relieve his pain. Ajatasatru was very sorry for his treatments of his father and ran to break his fetters with an iron club. However, Bimbisara suspected foul play on the part of his son and committed suicide by taking poison.
According to Vinaya Pitaka, Ajatasatru was incited by Devadatta, a cousin of Buddha who appears as a malignant plotter and wicked schismatic, to kill his father. Ajatasatru was told that life was short and he may not be getting his throne for a long time to come. To quote, “So do you, prince, kill your father and become the Raja.” It is stated that when Ajatasatru was about to kill his father with a sword, he was caught by the Ministers and he confessed his guilt. Bimbisara was advised by his ministers to kill all the conspirators but in spite of that Bimbisara pardoned Ajatasatru and abdicated in his favour and retired into private life. However, in spite of this, Ajatasatru killed his father. It is also stated in the Mahavamsa that Ajatasatru killed his father 8 years before the death of Buddha. According to Dr. V.A. Smith, “It is probable, however, that the story is the product of odium theologicum or sectarian rancour which has done so much to falsify the history of ancient India.”
It is stated in the Mahavamsa that Bimbisara ruled for 52 years and Dr. R.K. Mookerjee fixed the same from 603 to 551 B.C. According to V.A. Smith, Bimbisara ruled for 28 years from 582 B.C. to 544 B.C.
Ajatashatru is stated to have ruled from about 551 to 519 B.C. It was during his reign that the Haryanka dynasty reached its high watermark. Ajatasatru added to the prestige and glory of his dynasty by his conquests.
He had to fight against Kosala. According to the Buddhist tradition. When Bimbisara was murdered by his son, his queen Kosala Devi also died on account of her love for her husband. A village in Kashi had been given to Bimbisara as bath and perfume money for Kosala Devi. After the death of that lady, the king of Kosala decided to take away that village from the murderer. There were many ups and downs in the war. It is stated that on one occasion the king of Kosala was defeated and he had to run away to his capital. On another occasion, Ajatasatru was defeated and captured. However, the king of Kosala agreed to marry his daughter, Vajra, to Ajatasatru and bestow upon her the village in Kashi for her bath and perfume money. It is further stated that the king of Kosala was ousted from his throne by his commander-in-chief who put prince Vidudabha on the throne. The king of Kosala decided to seek the help of his son-in-law and set out for the capital of Magadha but unfortunately he died outside the gates of the capital of Magadha due to exposure.
Ajatasatru had also to fight against Vaishali. It is stated by the Jain writers that Bimbisara gave to Halla and Vehalla, his two young sons, his elephant called Seyanaga or Sechanaka and a large necklace of 18 strings of jewels. Halla and Vehalla were born from Queen Chellana, the daughter of king Chetaka of Vaisali. When Ajatasatru became king after the death of his father, he asked Halla and Vehalla to return the elephant and the necklace. They refused and Ajatasatru put pressure the Chetaka to hand over Halla and Vehalla to him but he refused to do so. Under the circumstances, war started between Magadha and Vaisali. According to Buddhaghosa, there was a mine of gems at the foot of a hill near a port on the Ganges. There was an agreement between Ajatasatru and the Lichchhavis that they were to divide the gems equally. However, the Lichchhavis did not keep their promise and took away all the gems. That led to a war between the countries. It is also stated that Ajatasatru was instigated to start war against the Lichchhavis by his wife Padmavati.
The war against the Lichchhavis was not an easy one and is stated to have lasted for at least 16 years. The Lichchhavis were at the height of their power and prosperity. Buddha’s own view was that the Lichchhavis were invincible because they were observing all those conditions which could bring strength to a republic “such as holding full and frequent assemblies, unity of counsel and policy, maintaining other traditions, institutions, and worship, reverence to elders, honouring women and ascetics.” Buddha is stated to have been consulted by Ajatasatru in the matter of the conquest of Vaisali. Vassakara, a minister of Ajatasatru, pretended to have quarrelled with his master and took refuge with the Lichchhavis. After winning over their confidence, he tried to create dissensions among them. This he was able to accomplish within three years and when the attack was made by Ajatasatru, the Lichchhavis were defeated.
This story is given in Mahaparinibbana Sutta of Digha Nikaya and Buddhaghosa commentary on it. See also pp. 72-79. Studies in Indian History and Culture by A.L. Basham for further details of this war.
It is stated that Ajatasatru was very bitter against the Lichchhavis. He is stated to have remarked thus on the occasion: “I will root out and destroy these Vajjians, mighty and powerful though they may be, and bring them to utter ruin.” He made preparations on a large scale. He constructed a new city and fort before starting the war. Thus, the foundations of Pataliputra were laid.
It is stated that when Ajatasatru decided to attack Vaishali, Chetak of Vaishali summoned the 18 Gana Rajas of Kashi and Kosala together with the Lichchhavis and Mallakis and asked then whether the demands of Ajatasatru be accepted or battle be given to him. It appears that all of them advised to offer resistance and actually helped Vaishali. It is stated that Ajatasatru used the Mahasilakantaga and Redhamusla. The Mahasilakantaga was a kind of catapult which hurled big pieces of stone on the enemy. Regarding the Redhamusla, Hoernle remarks thus: “It seems to have been provided with some kind of self-acting machinery to propel it, as it is described to have moved without horses and driver; though possibly, as in similar contrivances in the Middle Ages, it was moved by a person concealed inside who turned the wheels.” Although the war was a prolonged one, Ajatasatru was ultimately the victor. Thus, Vaishali was conquered by one of her own sons, Vaidehi-Putto Ajatasatru.
Ajatasatru had also to fight against Avanti. King Pradyota of Avanti made preparations to avenge the death of Bimsara. It is stated in the Majjhima Nikaya that on one occasion Ajatasatru had to fortify his capital as he was afraid of an invasion of Pradyota. It is not clear whether the invasion actually took place or not. However, the fact remains that Ajatasatru was not able to conquer Avanti.
Religion followed by Ajatashatru
According to the Jain writers, Ajatasatru was devoted to Jainism. It is stated that Ajatasatru visited Mahavira many a time along with his queen and followers. He praised the work of the Jain monks, and declared that the path to true religion had been found by Mahavira alone.
However, the Buddhists also claim that Ajatasatru believed in Buddhism. It is stated that Ajatasatru started as a bitter enemy of Buddha on account of the influence of Devadatta. To quote, “Then Devadatta went to prince Ajatasatru and said: ‘Give such order, O KIng, to our men that I may deprive the Samana Gotama of life’; and Ajatasatru, the prince gave orders to his men: ‘whatsoever the worthy Devadatta tells you, that do’.” Buddha is also stated to have remarked thus: “Monks, the King of Magadha, Ajatashatru, is a friend to, and an intimate of, mixed with, whatever is evil.”
However, there was a change in the attitude of Ajatasatru towards Buddhism later on. It is stated that on one occasion Ajatasatru paid a visit to Buddha and expressed remorse for the murder of his father. He asked Buddha to accept his confession of sin. The interview of Ajatasatru with Buddha is given in these words in the Samannaphala Sutta: “And when he had thus spoken, Ajatasatru the king said to the Blessed One: ‘Most excellent, Lord, most excellent! Just as if a man were to set up that which has been thrown down, or were to reveal that which is hidden away, or were to point out the the right road to him who has gone astray, or were to bring a lamp into the darkness so that those who have eyes could see external forms just even so, Lord, has the truth been made known to me, in many a figure, by the Blessed One. And now I betake myself, Lord, to the Blessed One as my refuge, to the Truth, and to the Order. May the Blessed One accept me as a disciple, as one who, from this day forth, as long as life endures, has taken his refuge in them. Sin has overcome me Lord, weak and foolish and wrong that I am, in that for the sake of sovereignty. I put to death my father, that righteous king: May the Blessed One accept it or me, Lord, that I do so acknowledge it as a sin, to the end that in future I may restrain myself.”
“Verily, O King, it was sin that overcame you in acting thus. But inasmuch as you look upon it as sin, and confess it according to what is right, we accept your confession as to that.
“For that, O King, as custom in the discipline of the noble ones, that whatsoever looks upon his fault as a fault, and rightfully confesses it, shall attain to self-restraint in future.”
“When he had thus spoken, Ajatasatru the king said to the Blessed One, ‘Now, Lord, we would fain go. We are busy, and there is much to do.”
“Do, O King, whatever seemeth to thee fit.”
“Then Ajatasatru the king, pleased and delighted with the words of the Blessed One, arose from his seat, and bowed to the Blessed One, and keeping him on the right hand as he passed him, departed thence.
“Now the Blessed One, not long after Ajatasatru the king had gone, addressed the brethren, and said: ‘This king, brethren, was deeply affected, he was touched in heart. If, brethren, the king had not put his father to death, that righteous man and righteous king, then would the clear and spotless eye for the truth have been arisen in him, even as he sat here.’
“Thus spoke the Blessed One. The brethren were pleased and delighted at his words.”
It is stated in the Digha Nikaya that once upon a time King Ajatasatru was persuaded by his physician Jivaka to see Buddha in a mango grove. As there was too much of silence, Ajatasatru suspected some foul play and addressed Jivak thus: “You are playing me no tricks, Jivak. You are not betraying me to my foes? How can it be that there should be no sound at all, not a sneeze, nor a cough, in so large an assembly, among 1,250 of the brethren?” Jivak assured him of his bona fides and the king was pleased to find the assembly as calm as a clear lake.
It is stated that when Ajatasatru heard of the news of the death of Buddha, he asserted his claim to a share of his relics and sent the following message: “The Lord was a Kshatriya: I too am a Kshatriya; I am worthy of a share of the relics of the Lord. I will erect a Stupa over the relics of the Lord and make a feast.” According to the Mahavamsa, Ajatasatru constructed Dhatu Chaityas round Rajgriha. He accepted 18 Maha Viharas. He helped the Buddhist monks to hold their first Buddhist Council under his patronage.
The story of Ajatashatru interview with Buddha is also stated in the Bharhut sculptures of the second century B.C. The following words are inscribed on one of the sculptures: “Ajatasatru bows down to the Lord.” The sculpture also shows the king on an elephant followed by ladies on elephants in a procession. He also bows down before Buddha.
The view of Dr. Smith was that “Probably Ajatasatru, like many later Indian sovereigns, did not confine his royal favour to any one sect, but at different times patronised the followers of the ‘former Buddhas’ led by Devadatta, the adherents of Gautam’s reformed Buddhism and the Jains. Later when in consequence of Asoka’s patronage, Buddhism became preeminent in northern India, leanings towards Jainism became criminal in the eyes of ecclesiastical chroniclers, who were ready to blacken the memory of persons deemed heretical with unfounded accusation of the gravest character.”
According to the Puranas, Ajatasatru was succeeded by Darshaka and he ruled for 25 years. According to Geiger, it is a mistake to say that Ajatasatru was succeeded by Darshaka as it is definitely stated in Pali literature that Udayi-bhada was the son of Ajatasatru and probably his successor also. In the Kathakosha and the Parisishtaparavan, Udaya or Udayin has been mentioned as the son of Ajatasatru and also his immediate successor. It is stated in the Svapna-Vasavadatta that Darshaka was a ruler of Magadha and a contemporary of Udayana. However, on account of what is to be found in Buddhist and Jain literature, it cannot be stated definitely that Darshaka was the immediate successor of Ajatasatru on the throne of Magadha. It is possible that he might have been merely a Mandalika Raja. Dr. D.R. Bhandarkar identifies Darshaka with Naga-Darshana who is mentioned in the Ceylonese chronicles as the last king of Bimbisara’s line. It is to be noted that the Divyavadana does not mention the name of Darshaka in the list of the Bimbisar Ids.
Udyain or Udayabhadra
According to the Mahavamsa, Udayabhadra ruled 16 years. The Katha Kosha describes him as the son of Ajatasatru by his wife Padmavati. He is represented in the Buddhist literature as a parricide like his father. Hemchandra states that Udayabhadra as a parricide like his father. Hemchandra states that Udayabhadra was overwhelmed with grief at the death of his father whom he was serving as his viceroy at Champa.
According to Parishishta Paravan of Hemchandra, Udain founded a new capital on the banks of the river Ganges and it came to be known as Pataliputra. The Gargi Samhita and the Vayu Purana also state that he built the city Kulsumpura or Pataliputra in the fourth year of his reign. The situation of the place at the confluence of the Ganges and the Son made it important from the point of view of commerce and strategy.
It is stated in the Parishishta Paravan that the king of Avanti was an enemy of Udyain. The fall of Anga Vaishali and the defeat of Kosala had left Avanti as the only rival of Magadha and consequently there was bound to be rivalry and enmity between the two countries. The war of nerves begun in the time of Ajatasatru must have been continued in the time of Udayan also. It was finally decided in the time of Sisunaga.
According to the Avashyak-Sutra, Udyami was responsible for the constructruction of a chaitya griha or a Jain shrine in the heart of the capital. He also observed fast on eighth and fourteenth Tithis. On one of those days, a teacher came to his place to give him a discourse. He was accompanied by a novice who murdered the king with his dagger. It is stated that the king of Avanti was responsible for the plot which resulted in the death of Udyain.
It is stated in the Avashyak-Sutra that the king of Ujjain was defeated by Udayan on many occasions.
According to Dr. Jayaswal, one of the Patna statues in the Bharhut Gallery of the Indian Museum in Calcutta is that of Udyain. His view is based on his reading of the inscription. However, his interpretation has not been accepted by others. Cunningham and R.P. Chanda differ from him.
According to the Puranas, Udyan was succeeded by Nandivardhana and Mahanandi. However, it is stated in the Parishishta Paravan that Udyan left no heir. The Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa put Anuruddha, Munda and Naga Dasaka after Udyan. It is also stated in the Anguttara Nikaya that Munda was the king of Pataliputra. The name of Munda is also mentioned in the Divyavadana.
Sisunaga or Sisunaga
It is stated in the Ceylonese chronicles that Sisunaga was at Amatya and was acting as a Governor at Banaras. He was put on the throne of Magadha by the people who revolted against the dynasty of parricides from Ajatasatru to Naga Dasaka. According to the Puranas, “Placing him on at Banaras he will repair to Giri Vraja.” He had a second royal residence at Vaishali which ultimately became his capital. “That monarch (Sisunaga), not unmindful of his mother’s origin, reestablished the city of Vaishali and fixed in it the royal residence. From that time Rajagaha (Rajagriha-Giri Vraja) lost her rank of royal city which she never afterwards recovered.”
The most important achievement of Sisunaga was that he destroyed the glory of the Pradyota dynasty of Avanti. The dynasty must have been humbled in the time of king Avanti Vardhana. The victory of Sisunaga must have been helped by the putting of Aryaka on the throne of Ujjain.
The Puranas seem to be wrong in making Sisunaga a predecessor of Bimbisara and Ajatasatru. It is stated in the Puranas that Susunaga destroyed the fame of the Pradyot As of Avanti and also started living at Giri Vraja after placing his son at Banaras. The hostility between Magadha and Avanti dates from the time of Ajatasatru and not that of Bimbisara. Bimbisara was conquered by Ajatasatru and was a part of Magadha under Sisunaga. All this fits in properly only if we put Sisunaga after Bimbisara and Ajatasatru and not before them as contended by V.A. Smith on the authority of the Puranas.
According to the Puranas, Sisunaga was succeeded by Kavarna but according to the Ceylonese chronicles, he was succeeded by Kalasoka. It is suggested by Bhandarkar, Jacobi and Geiger that Kavarna and Kalasoka are one and the same person. According to Asokavadana, Munda was succeeded by Kavarna. However, there is no mention of Kalasoka in that book.
The second Buddhist Council met at Vaishali in the time of Kalasoka. He also transferred his capital finally to Pataliputra. It is stated in Bana’s Harshacharita that Kavarna was killed by a dagger thrust into his throat in the neighbourhood of his city. It is stated by Curtius that the father of “A grammes” was a barber who became the lover of the queen. On account of her influence, he was advanced to too near a place him. Under the pretence of acting as a guardian to the royal children, he usurped the supreme authority. Having put the young princes to death, he begot the present king. According to Diodorus, “The king of the Gandaridal (i.e., King Nanda) was a man of quite worthless character, and held in no respect, as he was thought to be the son of a barber. This man, the king’s father was a comely person, and of him the Queen had become deeply enamoured. The old king having been treacherously murdered by his wife, the succession had devolved on him who now reigned.”
Most probably, the successors of Kala Kosa were his ten sons who ruled simultaneously. According to the Maha Bodhi Vamsa, their names were Bhadrasana, Koranda Varna, Mangura, Sarvanjaha, Jalika, Ubhaka, Sanjaya, Koravyo, Nandivardhana and Panchamakara. However, the name of Nandivardhana alone has been mentioned in the Puranas. Efforts have been made to read his name in a Patna statue and also in the Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela of Kalinga. However, it is pointed out that there is nothing in the Puranas to show that Nandivardhana had anything to do with Kalinga. The only thing that is stated there is that while the Saisu Nagas and their predecessors were reigning in Magadha, 32 kings ruled in Kalinga at the same time. “It is not Nandivardhana but Mahapadma Nanda who is said to have brought ‘all under his sole sway’ and ‘uprooted all Kshatriyas.’ ” So we should identify Nadaraja of the Hathigumpha inscription who held possession of Kalinga either with the all conquering Mahapadma Nanda or one of his sons.”
The Nandas:- The Nandas were the successors of the Sisunaga dynasty. The Puranas refer to 9 Nandas who ruled for 100 years. The 9 Nandas mentioned in the Maha Bodhi Vamsa are Ugrasena, Panduka, Pandugati, Bhutapala, Rashtrapala, Govishanaka, Dasaisddhaka, Kaivarta and Dhana. While the Maha Bodhi Vamsa calls the first Nanda by the name of Ugrasena, the Puranas call him by the name of Mahapadma or Maha Padmapati.
The Puranas also describe him as a son of the last Khatri Bandhu, king of the preceding line by a Sudra mother. According to the Parishishta Parvan, the first Nanda was the son of a courtesan by a barber. Curtius refer to A grammes in these words: “His father was in fact a barber scarcely starving of hunger by his daily earning, but who from his being not uncomely in person, had gained the affections of the queen, and was by her influence advanced to too near a place in the confidence of the reigning monarch. Afterwards, however, he treacherously murdered his sovereign, and then under the pretence of acting as guardian to the royal children, usurped the supreme authority, and having put the young princes to death begot the present king.”
He has been described in the Puranas as the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas (Sarva Kshatrantaka). He has been described as a second Parshurama or Bhargava and the sole sovereign (Eka-rat) who brought the whole earth under one umbrella of his authority (Ekan Chha-tra). He defeated the Ikshvakus, Panchalas, Kasis, Haihayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Susenas, Vitihotras, etc.
The Jain written also refer to the extensive territory of Mahapadma Nanda. The classical writers also refer to the Parisii (Prachyas) and the Cantharidae as being under one sovereign with their capital at Pataliputra. According to Pliny, the Presi excelled every other people in India and their capital was of Pali Bothra or Pataliputra. The Katha Sarit Sagar refers to the camp of king Nanda in Ayodhya.
There are some inscriptions from Mysore which state that Kuntala was ruled by the Nandas. The Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela refers to the constructive activity of Nanda Raja in Kalinga and his conquest of some place in that country or the removal of some sacred object. It is possible that Mahapadma was responsible for the conquest of Asmaka and other regions lying further south. It is also possible that his dominion covered a considerable part of the Deccan.
According to Grotius, the first Nanda king was keeping 20,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 four-horsed chariots and more than 3,000 elephants.
According to the Matsya Purana, Mahapadma Nanda ruled for 88 years. However, the Vayu Purana says that he ruled only for 28 years. According to Taranath, he reigned for 29 years. According to the Ceylonese chronicles, the Nandas ruled only for 22 years. Dr. Raychaudhury allows only 28 years for the reign of Mahapadma Nanda.
According to the Maha Bodhi Vamsa, Dhana Nanda was the last king of Nanda dynasty. It is suggested that he should be identified with the A grammes or Xandrames of the classical writers. Turner has given the following information on the basis of the Mahavamsa ; “The youngest brother was called Dhana Nanda from his being addicted to hoarding treasure. . . . .He collected riches to the amount of eighty kotis in a rock in the bed of the river (Ganges). Having caused a great excavation to be made, he buried the treasure there. . . .Levying taxes, among other articles, even on skins, gums, and stones, he amassed further treasure which he disposed of similarly.”
It is stated that Alexander got information regarding the military strength and unpopularity of the last Nanda king. King Poros stated that the king of the Gangaridai was a man of worthless character and was not held in respect. He was considered to be the son of a barber. Plutarch tells us that Sandrokottos or Chandragupta Maurya had stated that the Nanda king was hated and despised by his subjects on account of the wickedness of his disposition and the meanness of his origin. It is possible that the cause of the unpopularity of the Nandas was their financial extortion.
The Puranas refer to a dynastic revolution by which the Nandas were overthrown by the Mauryas. A detailed account of the same is given in the Mudra Rakshasa. According to the Milinda-Panho, “There was Bhadrachala, the soldier in the service of the royal family of Nanda, and he waged war against king Chandragupta. Now in that war, Nagasena, there were eighty Corpse dances. For they say that when one great Head Holocaust has taken place (by which is meant the slaughter of ten thousand elephants, and a lack of horses and five thousand charioteers, and a hundred kotis of soldiers on foot, then the headless corpses arise and dance in frenzy over the battlefield.” This obviously refers to the bloody fight between the Nandas and the Mauryas.
The Puranas refer to the Nandas as irreligious or Adharmikah. It appears that they had their leanings towards Jainism. The Nandas had Jain ministers. It is stated that minister Kalpaka was instrumental in the execution of the programme of the extermination of all the Kshatriya dynasties of the times. The other ministers were his descendants. Sakala was the minister of the 9th Nanda. It is stated in the Mudrarakshasa that Chanakya selected a Jain as one of his chief agents. Jain influence is visible in the whole of the drama.
The Nandas are also stated to have possessed a lot of wealth. A reference has already been made to the riches of Dhana Nanda. Aiyengar refers to the wealth of the Nandas in “Beginnings of South Indian History.” Hiuen Tsang tells us that the Nandas had five treasures. The Katha-Sarit Sagar also says that the Nandas had 990 millions of gold pieces. There are similar references in the accounts of the classical writers.