Chapter 5: RISE OF MAGADHA AND
The 6th century BC saw rise of many
kingdoms in the north. Some were republican where decisions were
made in a public assembly by majority vote. The others were
monarchies where the decisions were made by the king assisted by
The republics were scattered in Himalayas or
northwest. The monarchies were concentrated in the Gangetic
The Buddhist literature talks about 16 Mahajanapadas.
The smaller of these submitted to the larger and in
the end there were only four – Magadha, Avanti, Kosala and
Fig 1: Mahajanpadas
Rise of Magadha
Magadha was the most powerful amongst them.
There were some geographic and strategic factors too that
enhanced this advantage of Magadha like
Her location between the upper and lower part of
the Gangetic valley
Fertile soil. Iron from Rajgir and copper from Gaya
too added to her advantage.
Her location at the centre of the trade highways
added to her advantage and increased her wealth.
First to use elephants in warfare.
Bimbisara was the first important king of
Magadha. He was the contemporary of Vardhaman Mahavir and
Ajatashatru imprisoned his father and
ascended the throne. His rule was strengthened by many military
conquests. Initially he was a supporter of Jainism and later
became a supporter of Buddhism.
Later the Aryankas and Saisunaga followed
by Nandas ruled Magadha. The last Nanda ruler
was Dhana Nanda who was resented by the people.
Taking advantage of this Chanakya and
his disciple Chandragupta launched a popular
movement and dislodged him. This was the time when Alexander
Persian invasions and their impact on India:
Persian invasions started from 550 BC to 450 BC and
were restricted to the Northwest Provinces and Punjab.
The kings Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes led
The Persian impacted trade between India and Iran.
Kharoshti script a form of Iranian writing
[left to right] became famous and Asoka edicts were written in
Persian art had an impact on Mauryan art especially
on Ashok's pillars and the sculptors found on them.
Idea of issuing edicts and wordings on these bore
Pillars of Mauryan were lustrous and polished like
Persian. They had bell shaped capitals like the victory pillars
of Achaemenid emperors.
Ceremonial head bath on birthday was of Persian
King consulted ascetic or physician who sat in a
room of fire. This came from Zoroastrians the
religion of Persia.
Fig 2: Persian invasions
The political conditions in the North West India
and Punjab allowed the invasion of Alexander. The small kingdoms
present in those areas were disunited and couldn’t unite in face
of a common enemy. However this doesn’t mean that Alexander's
invasion was easy.
Causes of the invasion:
He was attracted by the fabulous Indian wealth; he
also wanted to conquer the entire Persian satrapy of India after
defeating the Persians.
He was interested in geographical inquiry and
natural history. He believed that on the eastern side of India
there was a continuous sea so he had the desire of conquering
eastern border of the world.
The battle of Alexander and the tribes of Indus
resulted in victory for him. But his real test was against Porus.
In spite of having a strong army Porus was defeated.
But Alexander treated him with respect and
reinstated him. Alexander wanted to move further east but his
soldiers were tired of prolonged hardship and wanted to return
home. He relented but his return journey too was difficult.
He was attacked by republican tribes. He fell ill
and died on way home.
Immediate unification of North West frontier under
Mauryans was seen.
The small independent kingdoms came to an end.
It also started direct contact between India and
Greece. Naval expeditions increased and additional trade routes
came into existence.
Influence on architecture:
- Art of well shaped, beautiful
silver and gold coins came from Greeks.
- Influence on Indian astrology.
- Ashok’s edicts were in Greek and
inscribed on stone pillars made of single column.
The effect of Persians was higher than the