Rajgriha was the ancient capital of Magadha Kingdom. The capital was later shifted to Patliputra. Both Pataliputra and Rajgriha are now part of the modern Bihar state.
The capital of Magadha Kingdom had some distinct geographical advantages, such as :
- Ancient Capital Rajgriha was surrounded by five hills.
- Pataliputra was flanked by river Ganges.
Magadha Kindgom included the modern district of Patna and part of Gaya. The regular history of the dynasties of Magadha Kindgom begins with the Haryanka dynasty, established before 600 B.C., perhaps in 642 B.C. by a chieftain of Banaras named, Sisunaga who fixed his capital at Girivraja or old Rajgriha.
The first important king at Magadha Kingdom who belonged to this dynasty was Bimbisara. He was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha. He extended the limits of his kingdom by annexing Anga, the modern Bhagalpur and Monghyr districts. Dynastic relations based on marriage both with the royal house of Kosala and with a princess from Vaisali assisted him in his expansionist policy.
Ajatasatru, the son and successor of Bimbisara, seems to have been a strong and capable ruler. He was determined to continue his father’s policy of expansion through military conquest. He annexed Vaisali, humbled, Kosala, and built a small fort, Pataligrama, in the Vicinity of the Ganges. The last one was later to become the famous Mauryan capital of Pataliputra.
The next to rule Magadha Kindgom were the kings of Sisunaga dynasty. This Sisunaga dynasty lasted barely half a century and gave way to the usurper Mahapadma Nanda who established a new dynasty called the Nandas. The Nandas are sometimes described as the first empire builder of India. They inherited the large kingdom of Magadha and the conquest of Kalinga (Orissa) and perhaps considerable portions of the Deccan by Mahapadma Nanda may well be taken to mark the principal stages, in the rise and expansion of Magadha before the Maurya. Chandragupta seized the throne of that kingdom.
Chandragupta, the founder of the Maurya dynasty, really raised Magadha Kingdom to the imperial position towards the closing years of the fourth century B.C. The Magadhan sway was extended from the Hindukush on the west to Kalinga on the east and probably extended over the Deccan as well.
Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara. The latter is said to have conquered `the land between the two seas’, presumably the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. He also campaigned in the Deccan, extending the Mauryan control in the peninsula as far south as Mysore.
Chandragupta’s grandson Asoka’s inscriptions credit him with only one conquest. But the geographical distribution of his inscriptions as well as their internal evidence shows that the empire extended to Mysore in the south and beyond the natural boundaries of India up to the border of Persia in the north-west.
Rise of Magadha Kingdom
Various causes have been suggested for the rise of Magadha Kingdom as an imperial power in the sixth century B.C.
- Among these the first and foremost had been the strategic advantages. Magadha was enriched by two rivers, the Ganges and the son, which provided a natural barrier against the enemy. Its ancient capital Rajgriha was surrounded by five hills. Her new capital Pataliputra also became invulnerable because of being flanked by the Ganges, Son and Gandak.
- Second important factor had been the part played by a successive line of ruling dynasties. There were many outstanding rulers, conquerorst, strategists and diplomats.
- Third was the role of the Ganga. It made the land fertile.
- Fourth factor was the trade-internal trade with countries of South East Asia did prosper. Kasi became penetrating points of Magadha. Magadha had very rich timber forest and her iron mines were sources of her power.
- Last important factor had been the roles of the army. The army was really efficient and vast in number.