Mahapadma Nanda was the founder of Nanda Empire in Magadha. Mahapadma Nanda was the first historical emperor of Northern India.
Ancestors of Mahapadma Nanda
The ancestry of the first Nanda is a controversial question. We have twofold versions of his origin.
According to the Puranas, Mahapadma Nanda was the son of the last king of Saisunaga line by a Sudra woman.
The Jaina work `Parisishtaparvana’ represents him as the son of a courtesan by a barber.
Magadha under Mahapadma Nanda
Mahapadma Nanda was styled master of terrible army. The Magadhan kingdom over which destiny placed Mahapadma as the king was a very prosperous and fertile tract of land watered by the life giving streams of the Ganges and its tributaries, the Son, Gandak, etc.
Moreover, Mahapadma could collect a substantial amount of land tax from his extensive kingdom which he could utilize for the maintenance of a big army.
Magadha had a natural defence line in her river system. It became the high-way of communication between Upper India and the East. Mahapadma established a strong government in Magadha. He could depend upon the structure of government built by Bimbisara, which he remodeled according to the changing circumstances. Mahapadma Nanda himself was a very able and vigorous ruler. All these factors contributed to the forward march of Magadha under him.
The Expansion of Magadha under Mahapadma Nanda
Mahapadma was destined to realize the dream of Ekrat, the sole ruler. He gave a new life to the ideal of Magadhan imperialism which was running in a low key since the death of Ajatasatru.
It is implied that Mahapadma uprooted all the Kshatriya dynasties which were contemporary to him. It is said that Mahapadma had an army camp in Kosala.
Extent of Empire of Mahapadma Nanda empire and his achievement
Mahapadma Nanda was the first great historical emperor of Northern India. The glory of the Nandas reached the highest watermark under Mahapadma Nanda whose empire extended from the Kuru, near Punjab, in the north to the Godavari valley in the south and from Magadha in the east to the Narmada on the west. He left an integrated monarchy as a legacy to his successors.
The date of Mahapadma Nanda
There is no unanimity among the authorities in regard to the chronology of the Nanda dynasty. The `Matsya Purana’ assigns 88 years to the reign of Mahapadma which is improbable for single reign.
The ‘Vayu Purana’ assigns 28 years to Mahapadma’s reign and 12 years for his sons.
The Ceylonese chronicle on the other hand assign a total reign period of 22 years to the Nanda dynasty which is in conflict with the Puranic statement.
The Jaina authorities assign a total reign period of 155 years to the Nandas which is too high.
It appears that Mahapadma probably died in 338 B.C.