(Last Updated on : 19/04/2014)
In ancient times Magadha was an important city of India because it was the centre of cultural change. The kings who ruled Magadha in the 7th century BC were enterprising. It was the seat of the Brihadratha dynasty, Pradyota dynasty, Shishunaga dynasty, Nanda Dynasty
, Maurya Empire
, Shunga Dynasty
, Kanva Dynasty
and the Gupta dynasty. Magadha formed one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas
or regions in ancient India. Magadha covers the portion of Bihar lying south of the Ganges, with its capital at Rajgir. With the conquest of Licchavi and Anga, the kingdom of Magadha expanded to include Bihar
and Bengal. The capital of Magadha was Rajgriha but in the later ages the capital of Magadha was Pataliputra
Location of Magadha
Magadha was situated in the eastern division of the nine portions into which the sub-continent of India was divided. Magadha was bounded by the Ganges on the north, by the district of Varanasi
on the west, by Hiranyaparvata or Monghyr on the east, and by Kirana Supavana or Singhbhum on the south. Magadha was a narrow strip of country of some considerable length from north to south, and of an area greater than that of Kosala. Just as Kosala
corresponded very nearly to the present province of Oudh, but was somewhat larger, so Magadha corresponded at the time of Lord Buddha
to the modern district of Patna
, but with the addition of the northern half of the modern district of Gaya
. The inhabitants of this region used to call it Maga, a name doubtless derived from Magadha.
History of Magadha
The kingdom of Magadha was ruled by a number of kingdoms and in the process was headed by a number of kings belonging to several dynasties. Magadha and its ancient capital Rajagriha were intimately associated with Lord Buddha. Magadha was the scene of the real birth of Buddhism. The Buddha's chief disciples, Sariputta and Moggallana, were natives of Magadha, and it was at Rajagrha that they were converted by Lord Buddha.
The Anguttara Nikaya has mentioned Magadha as one of the sixteen great janapadas or provinces of ancient India, stating that it was full of seven kinds of gems, and had immense wealth and power. The soil was rich and yielded luxurious crops. It produced a kind of rice with large grain of extraordinary fragrance. The land was low and moist, and the towns were on plateaux. From the beginning of summer to the middle of autumn, the plains were flooded, and boats could be used. The climate was hot, and the inhabitants were honest, esteemed learning, and revered Buddhism
. There were above 50 Buddhist monasteries and more than 10,000 ecclesiastics, for the most part adherents of the Mahayana system. There were some deva temples, and the adherents of the various sects were numerous. The language that was spoken in Magadha was a Magadhi language.
People of Magadha
The Magadhas occupied a prominent position in very ancient times. Though the Rig Veda
does not mention them as such, yet Vedic literature generally contains innumerable references to them as a people. In the Atharvaveda Samhita the Magadha is said to be connected with the Vratya. In the Taittirlya Brahmana it has been said that that the people of Magadha were famous for their loud voice. The people of Magahdha were also known as bards and traders in the Manava Dharmasashtra. It has been recorded that the people of Magadha were engaged in trade and commerce.
The later texts recognise the Magadhas as a special caste, inventing their origin from intermarriage among the old established castes. In the Apastamba Srauta Sutra, the Magadhas are mentioned along with other peoples both of north and of west India, viz. the Kalingas, the Gandharas, the Paraskaras and the Sauviras.
In the various epics of India, the Magadhas have been mentioned largely. It has been stated that the Magadha king was well versed in the Sashtras. It has been said that the dynasties of Magadha and the adjoining countries were descended from Kuru's son Sudhanyan. The Puranas assert that the successors of Jarasandha ruled over Magadha for a thousand years. Kalidasa
, who had derived his materials from the Puranas and Epics, speaks of the intermarriage of the early kings of Kosala with the ruling family of Magadha. He says that Dilipa, the father of Raghu had married Sudaksina, daughter of the king of Magadha.
Magadha was famous for conch shells. White elephants were used there by the royal family. Agriculture was prosperous, and that some Brahmins used to cultivate land themselves in Magadha. Magadha was also well divided for the purpose of cultivation.