The rise of Magadha among the sixteen Mahajanapadas is very significant in Indian History. The sixth century BC was a major landmark in the history of ancient India. Aryan India in North was divided into sixteen Mahajanapadas or Kingdoms, a number of republican and autonomous states.
Of the sixteen Mahajanapadas, Magadha, Kosala, Avanti, and Vatsa were more powerful than the others. They fought among themselves for political preeminence for about a hundred years.
Finally, under the leadership of Bimbisara (542BC – 493BC) and Ajatsatru (493BC – 461BC), Magadha conquered victory. The victory of Magadha was the victory of monarchical system.
Reasons for the rise of Magadha Empire:
The factors that contributed to the rise of Magadha were both internal as well as external. Let’discuss them together.
1. Geographical position
- The geographical position contributed significantly to the rise of Magadha empire. Magadha was situated on the land connecting Eastern India with the West. Therefore Magadha could easily control the trade between Eastern India and Western India.
- The iron mines were located around Rajgir and Pataliputra. The ready availability of rich iron ores in the neighborhood enriched Magadha to equip very effective weapons which were unavailable to their rivals.
- Though iron mines were also located in eastern MP which was not too far from Avanti. That’s because Avanti proved to be Magadha’s most serious competitor & Magadha took around 100 years to vanquish Ujjain, the capital of Avanti.
- Due to the availability of Elephant, Magadha used it in the war against its enemies.
2. Two Capitals were located in a very advantageous position
- Two capitals of Magadha, first Rajgir and second Pataliputra were located at very advantageous positions. The old capital Rajgir was surrounded by a group of five hills and cyclopean stone walls.
- The new capital Pataliputra was more strategically invincible than Rajgir. Pataliputra was situated at the Sangam of the Ganges, the Gandak, the Son, and a fourth river called the Ghagra joined Ganga very near from Pataliputra. During that period, as communications were difficult, the army could easily move south, north, west, and east through the rivers.
3. Significance of the Ganges
- The rise of Magadha was connected with the establishment of her supremacy over the Ganges. After annexing Champa, Magadha established its supremacy over the upper Gangetic region. Bimbisara and Ajatsatru defeated Kosala and annexed Kasi, which was a famous river port. The ascendancy over Kasi gave Magadha the opportunity to make economic growth in Kosala kingdom or U.P.
- As Magadha was situated at the centre of the mid-Gangetic plain, this enriched Magadha in both transport and agriculture. The plain was very fertile which yielded the rich harvest. When a state is rich in agriculture, it provides a regular and substantial source of income to the state and ng to maintain a big army.
4. Energetic and Ambitious rulers
- The credit for the rise of Magadha empire goes to the energetic & competent rulers of Magadha kingdom. An unbroken chain of ambitious rulers ascended the throne. Shishunaga, Bimbisara, Ajatsatru, Mahapadma, and Chandragupta were exceptionally very brave and able Kings.
- Not only Magadha, the rulers were also fortunate to have great ministers and diplomats like Kautilya, Radha Gupta, Chanakya, Vassakara. Without these great men, Magadha would have suffered.
These are the reasons for the rise of Magadha, and why it became so dominant and powerful kingdom above all during sixth century B.C. In the next article, we will discuss the dynasties that ruled Magadha over a decade.