Timeline History


Magadha was an ancient Indo-Aryan kingdom of Mahajanapadas in Ancient India, mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It was also one of the four main kingdoms of India at the time of the Buddha, having risen to power during the reigns of Bimbisara (c. 544-491 BCE) and his son Ajatashatru (c. 491-460 BCE). The core of the kingdom was that portion of Bihar lying south of the Ganges, with its capital at Rajagriha (modern Rajgir). Magadha expanded to include most of Bihar and Bengal with the conquest of Anga, and then expanded up the Ganges valley annexing Kosala and Kashi. Magadha formed one of the sixteen so-called Mahajanapadas (Sanskrit, 'great country'). The Magadha empire included republican communities such as Rajakumara. Villages had their own assemblies under their local chiefs called Gramakas. Their administrations were divided into executive, judicial, and military functions. Bimbisara was friendly to both Jainism and Buddhism and suspended tolls at the river ferries for all ascetics after the Buddha was once stopped at the Ganges River for lack of money


There is little certain information available on the early rulers of Magadha. The most important sources are the Buddhist Chronicles of Sri Lanka, the Puranas, and various Buddhist and Jain holy texts. Based on these sources, it appears that Magadha was ruled by the Sisunaga dynasty for some 200 years, c. 550 - 350 B.C.E. The Sisunaga dynasty was overthrown by Ugrasena Mahapadma Nanda, the first of the so-called nine Nandas (a.k.a. the Nanda or Nava Nanda dynasty). He was followed by his eight sons, whose names were (according to the Mahabodhivamsa) Panduka, Pandugati, Bhutapala, Ratthapala, Govisanaka, Dasasiddhaka, Kevatta, and Dhana Nanda. According to the Sri Lankan Chronicles, the Nanda dynasty was in power for mere 22 years, while the Puranas state that Mahapadma ruled for 28 years and his eight sons for only 12.
King Bimbisara of the Shishunaga dynasty led an active and expansive policy, conquering Anga in what is now West Bengal.
Siddhartha Gautama himself was born a prince of Kapilavastu in Kosala around 563 BCE. As the scene of many incidents in his life, Magadha was a holy land.
After the death of Bimbisara at the hands of his son, Ajatashatru, the widowed princess of Kosala also died of grief, causing King Prasenajit to revoke the gift of Kashi and triggering a war between Kosala and Magadha. Ajatashatru was trapped by an ambush and captured with his army; but in a peace treaty he, his army, and Kashi were restored to Magadha, and he married Prasenajit's daughter.
Accounts differ slightly as to the cause of Ajatashatru's war with the Licchavi republic. It appears that Ajatashatru sent a minister, who for three years worked to undermine the unity of the Licchavis at Vaishali. To launch his attack across the Ganga River (Ganges), Ajatashatru had to build a fort at a new capital called Pataliputra, which the Buddha prophesied would become a great center of commerce. Torn by disagreements the Licchavis were easily defeated once the fort was constructed. Jain texts tell how Ajatashatru used two new weapons a catapult and a covered chariot with swinging mace that has been compared to modern tanks.
In 326 BCE, the army of Alexander the Great approached the boundaries of the Magadhan Empire. The army, exhausted and frightened by the prospect of facing another giant Indian army at the Ganges River, mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas) and refused to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, was convinced that it was better to return, and turned south, conquering his way down the Indus to the Ocean.
A short while later, Magadha was the seat of the powerful Maurya dynasty, founded by Chandragupta, which extended over most of Southern Asia under Asoka; and, later, of the powerful Gupta Empire. The capital of the Mauryan Empire, Pataliputra (modern Patna), was begun as a Magadhan fortress and became the capital sometime after Ajatashatru's reign. Chandragupta destroyed the Nanda dynasty around 321 BCE, and became the first king of the great Mauryan Empire.

Magadha Empire

Amongst the sixteen Mahajanapadas, the kingdom of Magadha rose to prominence under a number of dynasties that peaked in power under the reign of Asoka Maurya, one of India's most legendary and famous emperors. The kingdom of Magadha had emerged as a major power following the subjugation of two neighbouring kingdoms, and possessed an unparalleled military.

Shishunaga dynasty

According to tradition, the Shishunaga dynasty founded the Magadha Empire in 684 BCE, whose capital was Rajagriha, later Pataliputra, near the present day Patna. This dynasty lasted till 424 BCE, when it was overthrown by the Nanda dynasty. This period saw the development of two of India's major religions. Gautama Buddha in the 6th or 5th century BCE was the founder of Buddhism, which later spread to East Asia and South-East Asia, while Mahavira founded Jainism.

Nanda dynasty

The Nanda dynasty was established by an illegitimate son of the king Mahanandin of the previous Shishunaga dynasty. Mahapadma Nanda died at the age of 88, ruling the bulk of this 100-year dynasty. The Nandas were followed by the Maurya dynasty.

Maurya dynasty

In 321 BCE, exiled general Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya dynasty after overthrowing the reigning king Dhana Nanda to establish the Maurya Empire. During this time, most of the subcontinent was united under a single government for the first time. Capitalising on the destabilization of northern India by the Persian and Greek incursions, the Mauryan empire under Chandragupta would not only conquer most of the Indian subcontinent, but also push its boundaries into Persia and Central Asia, conquering the Gandhara region. Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara, who expanded the kingdom over most of present day India, barring the extreme south and east, which may have held tributary status.
The kingdom was inherited by his son Ashoka The Great who initially sought to expand his kingdom. In the aftermath of the carnage caused in the invasion of Kalinga, he renounced bloodshed and pursued a policy of non-violence or ahimsa after converting to Buddhism. The Edicts of Ashoka are the oldest preserved historical documents of India, and from Ashoka's time, approximate dating of dynasties becomes possible. The Mauryan dynasty under Ashoka was responsible for the proliferation of Buddhist ideals across the whole of East Asia and South-East Asia, fundamentally altering the history and development of Asia as a whole. Ashoka the Great has been described as one of the greatest rulers the world has seen.

Shunga dynasty

The Sunga dynasty was established in 185 BCE, about fifty years after Ashoka's death, when the king Brihadratha, the last of the Mauryan rulers, was brutally murdered by the then commander-in-chief of the Mauryan armed forces, Pusyamitra Sunga, while he was taking the Guard of Honour of his forces. Pusyamitra Sunga then ascended the throne.

Kanva dynasty

The Kanva dynasty replaced the Shunga dynasty, and ruled in the eastern part of India from 71 BCE to 26 BCE. The last ruler of the Sunga dynasty was overthrown by Vasudeva of the Kanva dynasty in 75 BC. The Kanva ruler allowed the kings of the Sunga dynasty to continue to rule in obscurity in a corner of their former dominions. Magadha was ruled by four Kanva rulers. In 30 BC, the southern power swept away both the Kanvas and Sungas and the province of Eastern Malwa was absorbed within the dominions of the conqueror. Following the collapse of the Kanva dynasty, the Satavahana dynasty of the Andhra kindgom replaced the Magandhan kingdom as the most powerful Indian state.

Deepthi.com, 2003-2005. All Rights Reserved.
Contact webmaster@deepthi.com for comments and suggestions.