Read this article to learn about the Mahajanapadas (Monarchies and Republics) during the Post Vedic Period in Indian History !
Formation of States:
The tribal political organisation of the Rig Vedic phase gave way to the rise of territorial state towards the end of the Vedic period.
But the territorial idea was gradually strengthened in the sixth century B.C. with the rise of large state with towns as their seats of power.
Permanent settlement in a particular area gave a geographical identity to a tribe or a group of tribes and subsequently this identity was given concrete shape in the possession of the area, which was generally named after the tribe. To maintain this possession required political organization, either as a republic or a monarchy.
From the sixth century B.C. onwards, the widespread use of iron in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Western Bihar, as evidenced from excavations at Raj ghat and Chirand, led to the formation of large territorial states which were better equipped militarily and in which warrior class played the main role.
New agricultural tools and implements enabled the peasants to produce a good amount of surplus which not only met the needs of the ruling class but also supported numerous towns. Towns came into existence as centres of industry and trade. Some such as Shravasti, Champa, Rajagriha, Ayodhya, Kausambi, Kashi and Pataliputra were of substantial importance to the economy of the Ganges plains.
Others such as Vaishali, Ujjain, Taxila and the port of Bharukachchha (Broach) had a wider economic reach. A passage from Panini, makes it clear that the people owed their allegiance to the Janapada (territory) to which they belonged and not to the Jana or the tribe to which they belonged.
The Mahajanapadas (Monarchies and Republics):
In the post-Vedic period, the entire northern territory mostly situated north of the Vindhyas and extending from the North-West frontier to Bihar was divided into sixteen states called Sodasha Mahajanapadas. These Mahajanapadas were either monarchical or republican in character.
Whereas the monarchies were concentrated in the Gangetic Plains, the republics were ranged round the northern periphery of these kingdoms-in the foothills of the Himalayas and just south of these, and in north-western India in modern Punjab.
The Buddhist literature, particularly the Anguttara Nikaya lists the sixteen mahajanapadas given as – Gandhara, Kamboja, Assaka, Vatsa, Avanti, Surasena, Chedi, Malla, Kuru, Panchala, Matsya, Vajji, Anga, Kosala and Magadha.
With its capital as Banaras, Kashi was at first the most powerful among the sixteen states and perhaps played an important part in the subversion of the Videhan monarchy. Eventually it had to submit to the power of Kosala and later annexed by Ajatasatru to Magadha.
It embraced the area occupied by eastern Uttar Pradesh and has its capital at Shravasti, which is identical with Sahet – Mahet in the borders of Gonda and Bahraich districts in Uttar Pradesh. Kosala was bounded on the west by the river Gomati, on the south by the Sarpika or Syandika (Sai), on the east by the Sadanira (Gandak) which separated it from Videha and on the north by the Nepal hills.
Ayodhya, Saketa and Shravasti were three important Kosalan cities. Prasenjit, the Kosalan king was the contemporary of king Bimbisara and king Ajatasatru of Magadha. Prasenjit’s sister was married to Bimbisara the king of Magadha, and Kashi was given to her as dowry. However, a dispute with Ajatasatru, son of Bimbisara through another wife, soon led to discord. Ajatasatru put his father to death whose wife, sister of Prasenjit, died due to grief. Prasenjit, in retaliation, confiscated Kasi.
A war broke out with varying results in favour of both sides. However, the conflict finally ended with reconciliation. Prasenjit’s daughter Vajjira was married to Ajatasatru and Kashi was given as dowry to the bride. Though Prasenjit did not embrace Buddhism, one of the Bharhut sculptures highlights cordiality between Prasenjit and Buddha. Finally it was annexed by Magadha during Ajatasatru’s reign after the death of Prasenjit.
Anga in the east of Magadha roughly corresponds to the modern districts of Monghyr and Bagalpur. Its capital Champa, situated on the bank of the river of the same name, was noted for its wealth and commerce. It was annexed to Magadha in the time of Bimbisara.
Between Anga and Vatsa there lay the kingdom of Magadha, corresponding to modern Patna and Gaya districts, bounded on the north and west by the rivers Ganga and Son, on the south by the Vindhya outcrop and on the east by the river Champa. Rajagriha or Girivraja, rendered impregnable by a perimeter of five hills, was the Magadhan capital. The earliest dynasty of Magadha was founded by Brihadratha. However, Magadha came into prominence under Bimbisasra and Ajatsatru.
The Vatsa country had a monarchical form of government. Its capital was Kausambi (identified with the village of Kosam, 38 miles from Allahabad. Kausambi, a very prosperous city was the most important entre pot of goods and passengers from the south and the west. Udayana, the ruler of this country in the sixth century B.C. had to struggle against king Ajatasatru of Magadha and king Pradyota of Avanti.
Udayana entered into a matrimonial alliance with the king of Magadha. The ruler of Avanti invaded Kausambi and as he was unsuccessful, he had to marry his daughter to Udayana. To begin with, Udayana was opposed to Ruddhism, but later on he became a follower of Buddha and made Buddhism the state religion. Later, during the reign of Palaka, Vatsa was annexed to the Avanti kingdom.
The state of Avanti roughly corresponded to modern Malwa. The river Vetravati divided Avanti into north and south. Terrirorially, it was a big kingdom and its capital was Ujjayini or modern Ujjain. The ruler of Avanti in the time of Buddha was Chanda Pradyota. He was a contemporary of Udayana of Kausambi. Although he was given the nickname of Chanda on account of his ferocity, he became a convert to Buddhism.
Avanti became a very important centre of Buddhism. The kingdom of Avanti was finally annexed to Magadhan Empire by Sishunaga.
The state of Gandhara roughly corresponded to modern Kashmir and extended upto the Kabul valley. Its capital was Taxila which was a famous seat of learning where scholars came from all over the world. According to the Buddhist tradition, the Gandhara King Pukkusati exchanged gifts with Bimbisara in Magadha and went on foot to see the Buddha. Later it formed the twentieth province of the Achaemenid Empire (Persian) according to the Greek historian, Herodotus.
It was the country adjoining Gandhara in the extreme North-West with Dwarka as its capital. A little before 530 B.C. Cyrus, the Achaemenid emperor of Persia, crossed the Hindukush and received tributes from the people of Kamboja, Gandhara and the trans-Indus area. During Kautilya’s time, Kamboja transformed from a monarchy to a republic.
The Matsyas were to the south of the Kurus and west of the Yamuna. The Matsya country corresponded roughly to the former state of Jaipur in Rajasthan.
The Kuru country roughly corresponded to the modern Delhi and the adjoining doab region. It was the most important kingdom of the later Vedic period but during the sixth century B.C. the Kurus did not occupy the same position. They set up their capital at Hastinapur situated in the district of Merrut.
The Panchala kingdom, which covered the modern districts of Bareilly, Badaun and Farukhabad lost its prominent position as in the Vedic period. Their capital was at Kampilla, perhaps modern Kampil in Farrukhabad district.
12 & 13 Surasena and Chedi:
The Surasena kingdom was south of the Matsyas with its capital at Mathura. The .kingdom of the Chedis corresponded roughly to the eastern parts of Bundelkhand and adjoining areas, and their king lists occur in the Jatakas.
The Vajji territory lay north of the Ganga and stretched as far as the Nepal hills. Its western limit was the river Sadanira (Gandak), which separated it from the Malla and Kosalan cities. In the east it extended up to the forests on the banks of the river Koshi and Mahananda. The Vajji state is said to have been a confederation of eight clans (atthakula), of whom the Videhans, the Lichchhavis, the Jnatrikas and the Vrijjis proper were the most important.
In all likelihood the Vajji confederation was organised after the decline and fall of the Videhan monarchy and was a republican state in the time of Mahavira and Gautama Buddha. The most powerful of them were the Lichchhavis with their capital at Vaishali which is identical with the village of Basarh in the district of Vaishali.
The territory of the Mallas, a republican, was divided into two parts, each having its own capital. The two capital cities were Kushinara (identified with Kasia in the Gorakhpur district), and Pava (modern Padrauna). The importance of these two cities is very great in the history of Buddhism as Buddha took his last meals and was taken ill at Pava, and at Kusinara, he died.
The kingdom of Assaka (Asmaka) was situated nearthe river Godavari in the South, and it became commercially important in course of time. Its capital was Patlia or Potna. All the 16 Mahajanapadas did not play the same role in contemporary politics, Kashi, which was most important at first, lost its position to Kosla and Magadha. These two kingdoms vied with each other for control of the Ganga basin, which, owing to the riverine commercial traffic, had certain clear strategic and economic advantages.
In the sixth century B.C. only 4 states-Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala and Magadha survived. The political history of India from the sixth century B.C. onwards is the history of struggles between these states for supremacy. Ultimately the kingdom of Magadha emerged to be the most powerful and succeeded in founding an empire.
Rise of Urban Centres:
Archaeologically, the sixth century B.C. marks the beginning of the Northern Black Polished (NBP) phase, which was characterised by a glossy, shining type of pottery. This phase also saw the use of iron implements and the beginning of metallic money.
After Harappan towns, the NBP phase marked the beginning of the second phase of urbanisation in India with the emergence of towns in the Middle Gangetic basin like Kausambi, Sravasti, Ayodhya, Rajgir, Pataliputra, Champa, etc.
The period produced texts dealing with measurement (Sulvasutras), which presupposes writing. The peasants had to pay one-sixth of their produce as tax, which was collected directly by royal agents.
Rice was the staple cereal. Thus, the iron-ploughshare-based food producing economy provided subsistence not only to direct producers but also, to many others. This made possible collection of taxes and maintenance of armies on a long term basis, and created conditions in which large territorial States could be formed and sustained.
Another factor that helped the process was the use of coins. Although literary evidences regarding the use of coins in the form of Nishka or Satamana are found, the use of coins became regular during the period of Buddha. The first coins in India, called punchmarked coins, came at this time. Towards the end of this period a script was also developed.
Pali texts refer to sea-voyages and of trading journeys to the coast of Burma, the Malay world (Suvarna-bhumi), Ceylon (Tamraparni) and even to Babylon (Baveru). The principal sea-ports were Bharukachcha (Broach) Suparaka (Sopara, north of Bombay) and Tamralipti (Tamluk in West Bengal).
Of the riparian ports, Sahajati (in Central India), Kausambi on the Yamuna, Banaras, Champa and later Pataliputra on the Ganges and Pattala on the Indus, deserve special mention. The great inland routes mostly radiated from Banaras and Sravasti. The chief articles of trade were silk, embroidery, ivory, jewellery and gold.
Introduction of Coinage:
Besides others, these cities began to use coins made of metals for the first time. The earliest coins belong to the fifth century B.C. and they are called punch-marked coins. The standard unit of value was the copper Karshapana weighing a little more than 146 grains. Silver coins were also in circulation.
The period of second urbanisation (6th century B.C. to 3rd century B.C.) noticed large-scale beginning of town life in the middle Gangetic basin. The widespread use of iron tools and weapons helped the formation large of territorial states.
The towns became good markets and both artisans and merchants were organised into guilds under their respective headmen. Eighteen of the more important crafts were organised into guilds (Sreni, Puga), each of which was presided over by a Pramukha (foreman), Jyeshthaka (elder) or Sresthin (chief). Sarathavaha was the caravan-leader.
The system of barter was also prevalent. This led to localisation of crafts and industries and the emerging of artisans and merchants as important social groups.
Spread of Jainism and Buddhism:
The changing features of social and economic life, such as the growth of towns, expansion of the artisan class, and the rapid development of trade and commerce were closely linked with changes in another sphere; that of religion and philosophical speculation.
The intellectual and philosophical response to these social changes was rich and varied marking a high point in philosophical achievements which remained unsurpassed in later centuries. All the major ideas of Indian philosophy can be seen, at least in rudimentary form in the 6th century B.C. The period was characterised by the parivrajakas or sramanas who renounced their household status.
They wandered about from place to place with the object of meeting and having discussions with others like them. It is through this ceaseless movement that they propagated their ideas and built up their following.
What united ail the sramanas together was their opposition to the established tradition of the Brahmins based on the cult of sacrifice, central to the ideology of the latter. They were also opposed to the claims of the brahmana’s pre-eminence in society and for these reasons they have been described as non-conformist sects or heterodox sects.
The ideas themselves spanned an entire range from annihilationism (Ucchedavada) to eternalism (Sashvat-vada) and from the fatalism of the Ajivikas to materialism of the Charavakas.
We hear of as many as 62 religious sects which arose in the middle Gangetic plains in the sixth century B.C. Of these sects, Jainism and Buddhism were the most important, and they emerged as the most potent religious reform movements.
Causes for the rise and growth of heterodox sects:
1. The varna-divided society seems to have generated tensions during the sixth century B.C. The Kshatriyas who functioned as rulers, reacted strongly against the ritualistic domination of the brahmanas and seem to have led a kind of protest movement against the importance attached to the birth in the varna system. The kshatriya reaction against the domination of the priestly class called brahmanas, who claimed various privileges, was one of the causes of the origin of new religions.
2. The agricultural economy based on the iron ploughshare required the use of bullocks, and it could not flourish without animal husbandry. But the Vedic practice of killing cattle indiscriminately in sacrifices stood in the way of the progress of new agriculture.
3. The increase in trade and commerce added to the importance of the vaishyas. The vaishyas being ranked third in the brahmanical society, looked for some religion which could improve their position.
4. The new forms of property created social inequalities, and caused misery and suffering to the masses of the people. So the common people yearned to return to primitive life. They wanted to get back to the ascetic ideal which dispensed with the new forms of property and the new style of life.
The origin of Jainism is shrouded in mystery. The names of two Jain tirthankaras Rishabha and Arishtanemi, are found in the Rig Veda. The Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavat Purana describe Rishabha as an incarnation of Narayana.
The Jainas believe that their most important religious teacher Mahavira was not the founder of a new religious system, but the last of a long succession of twenty-four tirthankaras or “ford-makers across the stream of existence.
“Perhaps the mythology of the tirthankaras most of whom were born in the middle Ganga basin and attained nirvana in Bihar, seems to have been created to give antiquity to Jainism.
Not much is known about the first twenty-two tirthankaras except Parsvanatha (twenty-third and the immediate predecessor of Mahavira), who seems to have been a historical figure. He was the son of king Asvasena of Banaras, and enjoined on his disciples the four great vows of non-injury (ahimsa), truthfullness (satya), non-stealing (asateya), and non-possession (aparigraha).
To these, Mahavira added the vow of brahmacharya or continence. The tirthankaras are known by their names and symbols such as 1 st-Rishabha – bull, 2nd – Ajita-elephant, 22nd – Arishtanemi – Conchshell, 23rd – Parsvanatha – hooded snake and 24th – Mahavira – lion.
Vardhamana Mahavira was born in 540 B.C. in a village Kundagrama near Vaishali which is identical with Basarh in the district of Vaishali, in north Bihar. His father Siddartha was the head of the Jnatrika clan and his mother Trishala was the sister of the Lichchhavi chief Chetaka, whose daughter Chellana was wedded to Bimbisara. Thus Mahavira’s family was connected with the royal family of Magadha.
Mahavira was married to Yashoda, by whom he had a daughter, Annoja. In the beginning, Mahavira led the life of a householder, but in the search for truth he abandoned his family at the age of 30 years and became an ascetic. For twelve long years, he wandered from place to place doing penance.
In the 13th year, at the age of 42 he attained omniscience (Kaivalya) under a Sal tree near village Jrimbhikagrama, on the northern bank of the river Rijupalika. He was now a Kevalin (Omniscient), a Jina (conqueror) and Mahavira (the great hero).
He became the head of a sect called Nigranthas (free from fetters), known in later times as Jainas or followers of the Jina (conqueror). For thirty years he wandered about as a religious teacher and died by self starvation (Sallekana) at Pava in South Bihar at the age of seventy-two.
Teachings of Mahavira:
1. Mahavira rejected the authority of the Vedas, the Vedic rituals and the Brahmin supremacy. He advocated an austere and simple life with the ultimate aim to attain Kaivalya (nirvana or moksha).
2. Mahavira recognised the existence of the God but placed them lower than the jina.
3. Mahavira did not condemn the Varna system and according to him, a person is born in a high or in a low Varna in consequence of the sins or the virtues acquired by him in the previous birth.
4. He believed in Karma and transmigration of soul (atma). The attainment of freedom from worldly bonds can be obtained through knowledge, right faith and right action. These three are considered to be the three jewels or triratna of Jainism.
5. Mahavira added the doctrine of brahmacharya or continence to the four doctrines viz. ahimsa, satya, asateya and aparigraha prescribed by Parsvanatha. Though Parsvanatha, the predecessor of Mahavira asked his followers to cover their body, Mahavira asked them to discard clothes altogether. This implies that he asked his followers to lead a more austere life.
6. Mahavira regarded all objects, animate or inanimate, as endowed with various degrees of consciousness. They possess life and feel pain on the infliction of injuries.
Schisms in Jainism and Jaina councils:
The cause of the spread of Jainism in South India is said to be the great famine that took place in Magadha 200 years after the death of Mahavira. The famine lasted for twelve years, and in order to protect themselves many Jaina monks went to the south under the leadership of Bhadrabahu (Chandragupta Maurya also accompanied him), but the rest of them stayed back in Magadha under the leadership of Sthulabahu.
At the end of the famine they came back to Magadha, where they developed differences with the local Jainas. The changes that took place in the code of conduct of the followers of Sthulabahu led to the division of the Jainas into Digambaras (sky-clad or naked, southerns) and Svetambaras (white-clad, Magadhans).
In the later centuries, further splits took place in both Digambaras and Svetambaras. Samaiyas broke away from the former and Terapantis from the latter. Both these new groups renounced idol worship and worshipped only the scriptures.
The first Jaina council was held at Pataliputra under the leadership of Sthulabahu in the beginning of the third century B.C. and resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas (sections) to replace the lost 14 Purvas (old texts). The Digambaras boycotted the council and refused to accept its decisions.
The second council was held at Valabhi in Gujarat in the fifth century A.D. by the Svetambaras under the leadership of Devardhi Kshamasramana, and resulted in the final compilation of the 12 Angas and 12 Upangas.
Mahavira himself founded the Jaina Church. He had eleven ardent disciples called ganadharas (heads of schools), ten of whom died in Mahavira’s life time. Only one of them, Arya Sudharman, survived and became the first thera (pontiff) of the Jaina Church after his death.
His successor, Jambu held the office for 44 years. During the reign of the last Nanda of Magadha, the Jaina Church was presided by the fifth thera, Sambhutavijaya and the sixth thera, Bhadrabahu. The fourteen Purvas (the old scriptures) which Mahavira himself had taught to his (ganadharas) were perfected by Sambhutavijaya and Bhadrabahu.
For the history of the Jaina Church, from its inception to the fourth or third century B.C. we are indebted to the Jaina Kalpasutra of Bhadrabahu, who was the sixth thera after Mahavira and was a contemporary of Chandragupta Maurya.
Jainism is a philosophy based on the teaching of Mahavira. It takes Reality to be a multiple comprising two main kinds of objects; Jivas (souls) and the Ajivas (non-souls). The Jivas are infinite in number, varying in their capacity for knowledge, power and joy. The essence of Jiva is consciousness, power and bliss.
Potentially, every Jiva has these qualities in infinite magnitude but actually it displays them in varying degrees, being over-powered by the material particles of karma-pudgala with which the souls are intermixed. Under the category of Ajiva come matter, space, motion, (dharma), rest (adharma) and time (kala). Both the Jivas and Ajivas have been existing eternally.
The world was never created. It is eternal. Its existence is divided into an infinite number of cycles, each consisting of a period of improvement (utsarpini), and one of decline (avasarpini). We are now in the phase of decline, which is divided into six periods. Jainas do not, therefore, believe in the existence of a Creator.
Instead of believing in God, they believe in the existence of perfected souls abiding in the highest region of the world with fully developed consciousness, power and bliss. The reality has an infinite number of aspects and attributes (anantadharmatrnakameva tattvam). This doctrine of Jaina philosophy is called Anekantavada.
The Jaina doctrine of Syadvada asserts that statements must be made with caution, keeping in view that they cannot be absolute and that opposite statements are possible and seven modes of prediction (Saptabhangi) are possible. The doctrine of Syadvada shows a close affinity with Samkhya system of philosophy.
Closely related to the Syadvada is Nayavada (the doctrine of view points), which shows the seven ways of approaching an object of knowledge. Jainism recognizes five sources and kinds of knowledge: Mati, knowledge obtained through sense-perception and inference; sruti, knowledge conveyed by others through intelligible symbols; Avadhi, acquired by some supernormal means, Manahpryaya, gained by means of telepathy; and Kevala Jnaria, knowledge of perfected souls who have acquired omniscience. The Jainas lay great emphasis on Ahimsa (non-violence), both in theory and practice.
To attain Nirvana, a man must abandon all trammels, including his clothes. Only by a long course of fasting, self-mortification, study and meditation, can he rid himself of Karma. Hence a monastic life is essential for salvation.
Spread of Jainism:
Since Jainism did not very clearly mark itself out from the brahmanical religion, it failed to attract the masses. Despite this, Jainism gradually spread into south and west India. The early Jainas discarded Sanskrit language mainly oatronized by the brahmanas. They adopted Prakrit language of the common people to preach their doctrines.
Their religious literature was written in Ardha-magadhi. Udayin, the successor of Ajatashatru of Magadha, was a devout Jaina and so were the Nanda rulers. Chandragupta Maurya became a Jaina, gave up his throne and spent the last years of his life in Karnataka as a Jaina ascetic.
Jainism spread to Kalinga in Orissa in the fourth century B.C. and in the first century B.C. it enjoyed the patronage of the Kalinga king Kharavela. In the Kushana period, it flourished well at Mathura and was dominant in eastern India in the time of Harsha.
During the early centuries of the Christian era, Mathura in the north and Sravana-Belgola in the south were great centres of Jaina activities. From the fifth century A.D. onwards many royal dynasties of South India, such as the Gangas, the Kadambas, the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas patronised Jainism. Jinasena and Gunabhadra composed their Mahapurana at the time of King Amoghavarsha, whose great Jaina work Ratnamalika became very popular.
In later centuries Jainism penetrated Malwa, Gujarat and Rajasthan. The Chalukyan king of Solanki, Siddharaja (1094-1143), also known as Jayasimha professed Jainism and his successor Kumarapala were great patrons of Jainism.
Jaina literature was written in Ardhamagadhi form of Prakrit, and the texts were finally compiled in the sixth century A.D. in Gujarat at a place called Valabhi, a great centre of education. The adoption of Prakrit by the Jainas helped the growth of this language and its literature. Many regional languages developed out of Prakrit languages, particularly Shauraseni, out of which grew the Marathi language. The Jainas composed the earliest important works in Apabhramsha and prepared its first grammar.
Jaina Canonical Texts:
The sacred literature of the Svetambaras written in the Ardha-Magadhi form of Prakrit, may be classified into twelve Angas twelve Upangas, ten Prakirna, six Chhedasutras, four Mulasutras. Of the 12 Angas, the Ayaramga-sutta (Acharanga sutra) deals with the rules of conduct which a Jaina monk was to follow; Sutrakritanga is mainly devoted to a refutation of the heretic doctrines; the Bhagavatiis one of the most important Jaina canonical texts and it contains a comprehensive exposition of the Jaina doctrine.
The 12 Upangas are mostly dogmatic and mythological in character. The 10 Prakrinas deal with various doctrinal matters and are written in verse. The six Chhedasutras deal with disciplinary rules for monks and nuns. The best known work is Kalpasutra, attributed to Bhadrabahu.
The Kalpasutra forms a part of the fourth Chhedasutra and consists of three sections, the first called the Jainacharita contains the biographies of the twenty-three tirthankaraswho preceded Mahavira; the second section consists of the Theravali, a list of ganas and their ganadharas (heads); the third section contains the Samachari or the rules for the Jaina monks.
It consists of commentaries, stories, historical works, semi-historical works, romantic works and religious lyrics. Commentaries to the canonical texts form the most significant part of non-canonical literature. The oldest of these, called Niryuktis may be traced as far back as the time of Bhadrabahu.
These were later developed into elaborate Bhasyas and Churnis written in Prakrit, and Tikas and Vrittis written in Sanskrit. The important Jaina commentators were Haribhadra (9th A.D.), Santisuri, Devendragani and Abhayadeva who lived in 11th century A. D. The Kathakosa is a rich mine of stories. It contains the Jaina version of the Nala-Damayanti episode of the Mahabharata.
The Jainas further possess an extensive poetic literature called Prabandhas and Charitras. The former give an account of historical Jaina monks and laymen while the latter narrates the stores of tirthankaras and mythical sages. One of the most famous works is Trisastisalaka Purushacharita (lives of 63 best men) by Hemachandra, which ranks as a Mahakavya among the Jainas.
The book is divided into ten Parvas of which the last parva, Mahaviracharita deals with the life of Mahavira. From the point of view of literary history, the appendix to this book, Parisistaparvan or Sthaviravalicharita, the biography of the earliest teachers of Jainism, is more valuable.
Semi-historical works like Prabandhachitamani of Merutunga (1306 A.D.) and the Prabandhakosa of Rajasekhara (1349 A.D.) are important. The Digambaras styled the Charitras as Puranas, for instance Padmacharita or Padmapurana by Vimalasuri. Jinasena wrote Harivamsapurana which was completed in 783 A.D.
The Jainas possess many prose romances like the Samaraichchakaha of Haribhadra and Upamitibha-Vaprapanchakatha ofSiddharshi (906 A.D.).
1. The gigantic statues of Bahubali (called Gomatesvara) at Sravana Belgola and Karkal in Mysore are among the wonders of the world. The former statue, 56.5 feet high, carved out of a granite mass, standing at the top of a hill was erected in 982 A.D. by Chamundaraya, the minister of a Ganga ruler, Rachamalla.
2. The image of a tirthankara from Lohanipura (Patna) dating back to the Maurya period is one of the earliest Jaina figures.
3. The Hathigumpha caves of Kharavela (2nd century B.C.) and the Khandagiri and Udaigiri cave of Orissa contain early relics. Ellora in Maharashtra with Jaina relief works and statues represents the examples of excellent architecture and sculpture of this period.
4. During the Kushana period, Mathura was a great centre of Jaina art.
5. The Jaina temples at Ranakpur, and the Dilwara temples at Mount Abu, both in Rajasthan are the products of superb Jaina craftsmanship.
Buddhism and Gautama Buddha:
Among the notable contemporaries of Mahavira was Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. His name was Siddhartha and he belonged to the Gautama gotra. He was born in 563 B.C. in Lumbini (now in Nepal) in the Shakya Kshatriya clan of Kapilvastu.
The site of his nativity is marked by the celebrated Rumnindei Pillar of Asoka Maurya. He was the son of Suddhodana, who seems to have been the elected ruler of Kapilvastu, and headed the republican clan of the Shakyas. His mother, Maya was a princes of Devadaha, a small town in the Shakya territory.
Maya died in child-birth and the little Siddhartha was brought up by his aunt and stepmother Prajapati Gautami. At the age of sixteen the prince was married to a lady known to tradition as Bhadda Kachchana, Yasodhara, Subhadraka, Bimbaor Gopa.
Since his early childhood Gautama showed a meditative bent of mind. The sight of an old man, a sick man, a dead body and an ascetic (the Four Great signs) intensified Gautama’s deep hatred for the world and made him realise the holowness of worldly pleasure.
At the birth of his son Rahula, he left home at the age of twenty-nine in search of the Truth. This departure is known as ‘The Great Renunciation’ (mahabhinshkramana). For six years he lived as a homeless ascetic, seeking instruction under two religious teachers Alara Kalama (at Vaishali) and Uddaka or Ramaputta (at Rajagriha) and visiting many places. At Uruvela, he practised the most rigid austerities only to find that they were of no help to him in reaching his goal.
He then took a bath in the stream of the river Niranjana, modern Lilajan, and sat under a pipal tree at modern Bodh Gaya. Here, at last at the age of 35 he attained unto supreme knowledge and became known as the Buddha or the enlightened one, ‘Tathagata’ (he who had attained the truth) and Sakya-Muni or the sage of Sakya clan.
He gave his first sermon at Isipatana, the deer park at Sarnath. This sermon was called the “Dharma Chakra Pravartana” or “turning of the wheel of law”. For forty-five years he roamed about as a wandering teacher and proclaimed his gospel to the princes and people and laid the foundation of the Buddhist Order of monks (Sangha). Gautama Buddha passed away at the age of 80 in 483 B.C. at a place called Kusinagar, identical with the village called Kasia in the district of Deoria in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Doctrines of Buddhism:
Buddha proved to be a practical reformer who took note of the realities of the day. He did not involve himself in fruitless controversies regarding the soul (atman) and the Brahma which raged strongly in his time; he addressed himself to the worldly problems.
Buddha taught his followers the Four “Noble Truths” (Arya Satya):
(1) The World is full of sorrows (dukkha),
(2) The cause of sorrow in desire (trishna)
(3) If desires are conquered, all sorrows can be removed and
(4) The only way this can be done is by following the “Middle-Path” (ashtangika marga). It comprised right observation, right determination, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right exercise, right memory and right meditation.
According to Buddha’s teachings, anyone who follows this path, considered as the ‘middle path’, (madhyama pratipad), would attain salvation irrespective of his social position. The striving for salvation requires in the first place the observance of the Silas or moralities, the next requisite is Samadhi or concentration and finally Prajna or insight. These ultimately lead to Sambodhi (enlightenment) and Nirvana.
Another doctrine on which Buddha laid great emphasis is the law of Karma, its working and the transmigration of soul. Like the Jainas, he rejected the authority of the Vedas. The Buddha may be called an agnostic, because he neither accepts nor rejects the existence of God. According to Buddha, all things are composite, and as a corollary, all things are transient, for the composition of all aggregates is liable to change.
Whatever is transient is painful, and where change and sorrow prevail, the question of a permanent immortal soul does not arise. This three-fold characterisation of the nature of the world and all that it contains – anicca (transiency), dukka (sorrow), and anatta (soullessness).
There is nothing like an enduring self in a man, who is composed of five groups (Skandha) of physical and mental factors called Rupa (form), Samjna (Name), Vedana (sentations), Vijnana (consciousness) and Samskara (Disposition).
Thus the individual is made up of a combination of these five components, which are never the same from one moment to the next, and therefore his whole being is in a state of constant flux.
According to Buddha, every effect is caused and every cause has an effect. The Buddha discovered the twelve-linked chain of causation (Patichchha-Samuppada) which is Ignorance (Avidya), Impressions of past actions (Samaskaras), Consciousness (Vijnana), Psychophysical organism (Nama- rapa), Sense-organs with objects (Sparsa), Sensations (Vedana), Thirst for sense-enjoyments (trsna), Clinging to the enjoyments (Upadana), Will to be born (Bhava), Birth or Rebirth (Jatli) and Old age and Death (Jara-marana).
The Buddhist Sangha or Church:
The Buddha had two kinds of disciples-monks (bhikshus or shramanas) and lay worshippers (upasakas). The former were organised into the Sangha or congregation. The membership of the Sangha was open to all persons, male or female above fifteen years of age and who were free from leprosy, consumption and other infectious diseases.
Persons who were in the service of the king or an individual, or who were in debt, or had been branded as robbers or criminals were refused admission into the Sangha. There were no caste restrictions. Monasteries were constructed for the accommodation of monks and nuns for carrying on their studies and meditation, which gradually developed into academic centers.
Every Buddhist monk has to be a Sramne before being ordained as a full-fledged member of the Sangha. The higher ordination or Bhikshus is called upasampada. Whenever a new person, desired to join the Sangha, he or she had to shave his or her head, put on a yellow robe and take the oaths of fidelity to the triratna, viz. the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.
The Sangha was governed on democratic lines and was empowered ‘to enforce discipline among its member. The monks of a monastery were to hold a fortnight assembly, were to elect their president (Sanghaparinayaka), and to select two speakers, one on dhamma and the other on Vinaya.
In the assembly meetings, there were the systems of formal moving of resolution (Jnapati) and ballot voting by means of wodden sticks (salaka). No assembly was valid unless at least ten monks were present, novices and women were nor entitled to vote or to constitute the quorum.
Shortly after the Buddha’s death (483 B.C.), it was held at Sattapanni cave near Rajagriha under the auspices of king Ajatasatru and was presided by Mahakassapa. Its purpose was to compile the dhamma (religious doctrines) and the Vinaya (monastic code). It resulted in the settlement of the Sutta Pitaka (Buddhas sermons on matters of doctrine and ethics) and the (Vinaya Pitaka (monastic code or rules of the order) by Ananda and Upali respectively.
Held at Vaishali, one hundred years after the Buddha’s death in the reign of Kalasoka of the Sisunaga dynasty, it was probably presided over by Sabakami. Over small points of monastic discipline, the Buddhist order broke into the orthodox Sthaviravadins (or Theravadi) or “Believers in the Teachings of the Elders”, and the unorthodox Mahasanghikas or members of the Great Community”.
The third council was held at Pataliputra in the reign of Asoka (around 250 B.C.) and was presided over by Moggaliputta Tissa. It resulted in the expulsion of many many heretics and the establishment of the Sthaviravada School as orthodox.
The council made a new classification of the Buddhist canonical texts by the addition of a third Pitaka called the Abhidhamma Pitka which contained the philosophical interpretations of the doctrines of the two already existing Pitakas. As a result of this, the sayings and discourses of the Buddha now came to be known as the Tripitaka.
The Fourth and the last Buddhist Council was held in Kashmir under the leadership of Vasumitra who was helped by Asvaghosha during the reign of Kanishka. Its purpose was to settle the differences among all the 18 sects of Buddhism and to compose the commentaries.
Its results were:
(a) Division of all the Buddhists into two major sects, with Sarvastivadins (Popular in Kashmir and Mathura regions) and Mahasanghikas together forming the Mahayanists (followers of the Greater Vehicle), and the rest, including Sthaviravadins forming the Hinayanists (followers of the lesser Vehicle)
(b) Codification of the Sarvastivadin doctrines as Mahavibhasa and
(c) Conduct of the deliberations of the Council is Sanskrit instead of Pali.
The Buddhist Scriptures:
The sacred scriptures of the Buddhists are in Pali. The word Pali means simply ‘text’ or ‘sacred text’. As a language, Pali is an archaic Prakrit and in the days of Buddha was the spoken language of the Magadha and adjoining territories. The Buddhist scriptures in Pali are commonly referred to as Tripitaka, i.e. Threefold Basket’, which consists of:
I. Vinay Pitaka
II. Sutta Pitaka
III. Abhidhamma Pitaka
I. The Vinaya Pitaka:
It contains pronouncements attributed to the Buddha, laying down numerous rules for the conduct of the Order. Supplementing this, the Mahavagga, ‘Great Section’, lays down rules for admission to the monastic order, regulations on dress, etc. The Chullavagga, ‘Smaller Section’, contains duties for monks and nuns, edifying Buddhist stories, methods of settling disputes among monks, etc.
II. The Sutta Pitaka:
The largest and most important of the ‘Three Baskets” is the Sutta Pitaka which consists chiefly of discourses both small and long as delivered by the Buddha himself. It is divided into five groups called Nikaya. They are:
(1) Digha (Long) Nikaya – a collection of long sermons ascribed to the Buddha including the Buddha’s last speeches and an account of his death and the funeral ceremonies.
(2) Majjhima (Medium) Nikaya – a collection of medium sized sermons
(3) Samyutta (connected) Nikaya – discusses Buddhist doctrines.
(4) Anguttara (Graduated) Nikaya – a collection of over 2,000 brief statements, arranged artificially in eleven sections, enumerating doctrines and principles;
(5) Khuddaka (minor) Nikaya – miscellaneous works in prose and verse added later to the canon than the four other Nikayas. It comprises fifteen books of miscellanea which are essential for an understanding of Buddhism. The principal texts of the Khuddaka-Nikaya are often taken to include a few of the most extensive of the Pali canonical writings. The important ones are given:
(a) The Khuddaka Patha – It is a book for youngsters when they join the Sangha.
(b) The Dhammapada (“Verses on Virtue”) – The best known of the canonical texts, it is a collection of aphoristic verses garnered from the sayings of Buddha. It is regarded as one of the great religious texts of the world.
(c) The Suttanipata – It preserves many fragments of the oldest Buddhist poetry and gives valuable information on the social and religious conditions of Buddha’s time.
(d) The Jataka – It is a collection of over 500 poems, briefly outlining folk-tales and other stories.
(e) The Bhuddhavamsa – It records legends in verse about the twenty-four Buddhas who preceded Gautama in earlier times.
(f) The Theragatha – Literally meaning “Hymns of the elder Monks” it contains some of the India’s greatest religious poetry, and
(g) The Therigatha – The Hymns of the Nuns.
III. The Abhidhamma Pitaka. It consists of a number of drily pedantic works on Buddhist psychology and metaphysics. Of its seven books, the Dhammasangani provides a good exposition of Buddhist philosophy, psychology and ethics; and the Kathavatthu, ascribed to Moggaliputta Tissa, is valuable for the light it throws on the evolution of Buddhist dogmas.
Non-Canonical Pali Texts:
These were composed during the Kushana periods. Promininet works are “Milindapanho” (Questions of Menander) which gives on account of the discussions of the Greek King, Menander and the monk Nagasena; ‘Mahavastu, Great Subject, – it presents some Hinayana doctrines along with additional metaphysics of the Mahasanghika sects; the Lalitavistara (30 B.C.) an anonymous biography of Buddha written in the Gatha (Sanskritized Prakrit) form of language, it contains some Hinayana material, but is largely Mahayanist and the verse chronicles Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa which tell the history of Buddhism in Ceylon; and give valuable information on political and social history also.
Of these the earliest, Dipavamsa (the “Island Chronicle”) dates from the 4th century A.D; and has no literary merit, but the Mahavamsa (“Great Chronicle”) of the following century, composed by the monk Mahanama contains passages of beauty and vigour. It was continued as the Culvamsa (“Lesser Chronicle”) by a succession of monks down to the fall of the kingdom of Kandy to the British.
The bulk of the Buddhist literature in Pali belongs to the Hinayana school and hence the Pali canon are spoken as the Hinayana Canon.
With the rise of Mahayanism, Sanskrit was adopted by the Mahayanist School. There are a few Sanskrit texts belonging to the Hinayana School. The bulk of Buddhist literature in Sanskrit belongs to the Mahayana School.
Among the Mahayana Sutras, the following texts or dharmas, also called the Vaipulya Sutras (“Expanded Sermons”) are regarded as the most important.
It is the most important philosophical work of the Mahayana school which deals especially with the notion of Sunya or nothingness. According to it, beyond this impermanent and illusory world is a new world of freedom, which one can attain with the aid of Prajna or intuitive and transcendental wisdom.
2. Sadharma-Pundarika (250 A.D.):
The Lotus of the Good Law’, also called the Lotus Sutra, has been described as the Bible of half-Asia. It is of unknown authorship and is the most important of all the Sutras. It contains all the characteristic features of Mahayana school and has the sermon delivered by a transfigured and glorified Buddha on the Gridharkuta mountain to an august assembly.
Supposed to be the teaching given by Buddha three weeks after his enlightenment, it contains the doctrine of ‘interpenetration’. The twenty-fifth chapter expounds the doctrine of Parinamana, the ‘transference’ of merit, whereby one’s merit can be turned over for the Salvation of others.
It is actually a part of the above Avatamsaka Sutra, but is often called a Sutra in its own right.
Deals with the subject of salvation through faith in Amitabha.
6. Vajrachhedika or the Diamond Sutra, which expounds the doctrine of Sunyata and clarifies several other concepts central to Mahayana.
8. Lankavatara – (400 A.D.):
Supposedly wrtitten by Vasubandhu, it teaches ultimate reality of mind alone.
ltoutlinesthe means of attaining enlightenment by concentration and meditation.
Expansion and Development of Buddhism:
The emergence of Asoka, The Great, (273-232 B.C.) was an important turning point in the history of Buddhism, who embraced Buddhism and made the Buddha dhamma the basis of all his actions in the spiritual as well as temporal fields.
According to tradition, the Third Buddhist Council was held by Asoka and missionaries were sent not only to South India but also to Sri Lanka, Burma and other countries to propagate Buddhism there. It is popularity further increased when the Greeks and the Kushans, who established their hold over North-West India in the second century B.C. and first century B.C. respectively, embraced Buddhism and did their utmost to popularize it.
Of them, the names of the Greek king Menander and the Kushana ruier, Kanishka are the most prominent. Harsha (606-647 A.D.) was the last illustrious Buddhist ruler, and after his death Buddhism declined rapidly. In the early medieval period, Buddhism was prasctised by the Palas.
The period (200 B.C. to 700 A.D) saw the emergence of a number of Buddhist saint-scholars who made an immense contribution to the Buddhist phisosophy and religion. Asvaghosha, who was a contemporary of Kanishka wrote Buddhacharita, a poetic biography of Buddha, and probably was the aouthorof the Sraddhotpada.
Nagarjuna, who was a friend and contemporary of the Satavahana King Yagnasri Gautampiputra (166 to 196 A.D.), propounded the Madhyamika school of Buddhist philosophy popularly known as Sunyavada. Asanga was the most important teacher of the Yogacara or Vijnanavada school founded by his guru, Maitreyanatha, in the fourth century A.D. Vasubandhu, brother of Asanga wrote the Abhidhammakosa, an important encyclopaedia of Buddhism.
Buddhaghosa (5th century A.D.) wrote Visuddhimanga which is considered as key to the Tripitaka. Buddhapalita and Bhavaviveka were important exponents of the Sunyavada doctrine in the fifth century A.D. Dinnaga is well known as the founder of the Buddhist logic and wrote about 100 treatises on logic in the fifth century A.D.
The Sunyavada doctrine was further interpreted by distinguished thinkers like Aryadeva, Santideva, Santaraksita and Kamalasila. Dharmakirti, who lived in the seventh century A.D. was another great Buddhist logician. Acknowledging his unsurpassed genius Dr. Stcherbarsky calls him the Kant of India.
Factors for the Rise of Buddhism:
1. Since early Buddhism was not enmeshed in the clap-trap of philosophical discussion, it appealed to the common people. It particularly won the support of the lower orders as it attacked the Varna system.
2. Women were also admitted to the Sangha and thus brought on par with men. In comparison with Brahmanism, Buddhism was liberal and democratic.
3. Buddhism made a special appeal to the people of the non-Vedic areas where it found a virgin soul for conversion, especially the people of Magadha responded readily to the Buddhism because they were looked down upon by the orthodox brahmanas.
4. The personality of the Buddha and the method adopted by him to preach his religion helped the spread of Buddhism.
5. Royal patronage under Ashoka, Kanishka and Harsha also helped the cause of Buddhism.
6. The use of Pali, the language of the people, also contributed to the spread of Buddhism.
7. The Buddhist Sangha was also responsible for the spread of Buddhism. Both the monks and the nuns coordinted their efforts for the spread of Buddhism.
The Buddhist monasteries or Viharas became great centres of education and seekers of learning flocked there to receive instructions at the feet of Bhikshus.
Causes for the Decline of Buddhism:
1. One important cause of the decline of Buddhism was the decline of the Buddhist Sangha. With the passage of time, the Sangha became the hot bed of intrigues and corruption. Internal dissensions proved to be the ruin of Buddhism.
2. Practising of idol worship and receiving offerings and huge donations led to deterioration in moral standards of the bhikshus.
3. The revival of Brahmanical Hinduism also gave a setback to the cause of Buddhism.
4. Attack by the Hunas in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. and Turkish invaders in the 12th century A.D.
Thus, many causes were responsible for the gradual decline and fall of Buddhism in the land of her birth although it continued to flourish in countries beyond India for centuries. Even today, it has a large number of followers all over the world.
Contribution of Buddhism:
1. With its emphasis on non-violence and the sanctity of animal life, Buddhism boosted the cattle wealth of the country. The earliest Buddhist text, Suttanipata, declares the cattle to be givers of food, beauty and happiness, and thus pleads for their protection. The brahmanical insistence on the sacredness of the cow and non-violence was apparently derived from Buddhist teachings.
2. Buddhism created and developed a new awareness in the field of intellect and culture. The place of superstition was taken by logic and it promoted rationalism among people.
3. Promotion of Pali and many local languages, such as Kannada, Gujar ati, etc.
The Buddhist monasteries developed as great centers of learning, and began to be called residential universities like those of Nalanda and Vikramshila in Bihar, Valabhi in Gujarat, Taxila, and Nagarjuna Konda. In the field of architecture and art, Buddhism takes the credit for: the first human statues to be worshipped; stone panels depicting the life of the Buddha at Gaya in Bihar and at Sanchi and Bharhut in Madhya Pradesh; cave architecture in the Barabar hills at Gaya and in western India around Nasik; art pieces of Amravati and Nagarjunakonda.
With Buddhist architecture was particularly associated the Stupa, a domical structure of brick or stone masonry. Shrines known as Chaityas with the votive Chaityas installed for worship and prayer, as also monasteries (Viharas, Sangharamas), were essential features of Buddhist religious establishments.
The Stupa was a conventional representation of a funeral tumulus, evolved out of earthern funerary mound (Smasana) in which the relics of the Buddha or some prominent Buddhist monk are preserved. The Stupa at Sanchi comprises of an almost hemispherical dome (anda) flattened at the top, supported on a low circular base (Medhi).
Over the dome is a square pavilion called harmika (box) enclosed by a balustrade surrounding the sacred parasol (chatra). Pradaksinapatha was the path for clockwise circumbulation surrounded by a fence built encircling the stupa. The whole structure is surrounded by a massive rail with four imposing gateways on the four sides.
The chaitya shrine in its typical form was a long rectangular hall, apsidal at the rear end and divided into three sections by two rows of pillars along the length of the hall meeting at the back end. Rock cut chitya shrines are at Bhaja near Poona (2nd century B.C) Kondane Pitalkhora, Bedsa, Nasik, Kanheri, Ajanta, Karle and other places in Western India.
Fragmentary remains of many monasteries (vihara) have been excavated in the north as well as in the south. The monastery at Nalanda belongs to the fifth century A.D. and one at Paharpur (Somapura Mahavihara) was established towards the close of the 8th or the beginning of the 9th century.
Non-Buddhist Ascetic Orders:
There were, no doubt many individual Parivrajakas wandering through the country, but it is doubtful if there were many distinct sanghas, orders or organizations of these ascetics on the lines of the Jain and Buddhist organization. In many passages of the Buddhist scriptures we read of six unorthodox teachers, each of whom was the leader of an important body of ascetics and lay followers.
The first of the teachers mentioned, Purana Kassapo was an ‘antinomian’ who taught the doctrine of Akirtya-vada (Non-action) i.e. the absence of merit in any virtuous action and of demerit in the worst of crimes. He was called Purano for his fullness of knowledge.
The second heretic, Makkhali Gosala, was the leader of the Ajivikas sect, whose doctrine was the denial of both karma and its effect. According to him, the whole universe was conditioned and determined to the smallest detail by an impersonal cosmic principle, Niyati or destiny. It was impossible to influence the course of transmigration in any way.
The third heterodox teacher, Ajita Kesakamblin, a contemporary of the Buddha, was the earliest known teacher of complete materialism. His doctrine was that there was annihilation at death, which shut out the possibility of any effect to be achieved by karma.
Pakudha Kachchayana, the fourth teacher, was an atomist, a predecessor of the Hindu Vaishesika School. His doctrine is stated to be: What is cannot be destroyed: out of Nothing emerges Nothing”. His theory thus excludes Responsibility.
The fifth teacher, Nigantha Nataputta, was none other than Vardhama Manavira, the founder of Jainism.
The sixth and last, Sanjay Belatthaputta was a sceptic, who denied the possibility of certain knowledge altogether.
Rise of Magadha and Nandas:
According to the Mahabharata and the Puranas, the earliest dynasty of Magadha was founded by Brihadradha, the father of Jarasandha and son of Vasu. Magadha came into prominence under the leadership of Bimbisara, who belonged to the Haryanka dynasty.
Bimbisara (544-492 B.C.):
The first important ruler of Magadha was Bimbisara who was a contemporary of Buddha. He started the policy of conquest and aggression.
1. Bimbisara annexed Anga and placed it under the viceroyalty of Ajatashatru at Champa.
2. He was the earliest of the Indian kings to stress the need for efficient administration.
3. Bimbisara consolidated his power and influence by matrimonial alliances. His principal queen was Kosaladevi, the sister of King Prasenjit of Kosala. He married Chellana, the daughter of the Lichchhavi chief Chetaka. Khema, another wife of the king, was a daughter of the king of Madra. His Kosalan wife brought Kasi as a dowry-gift.
4. Magadha’s most serious rival was Avanti, whose king Chanda Pradyota Mahasena fought Bimbisara but ultimately the two became friends. Later when Pradyota was attached by jaundice, at the Avanti king’s request Bimbisara sent the royal physician Jivaka to Ujjain.
5. Bimbisara is also said to have received an embassy and a letter from the ruler of Gandhara, Pukkusati.
6. He is described as Seniya ‘ with an army’, being perhaps the first king to have a regular standing army.
7. Ajatashatru, the son of Bimbisara, impatient to rule Magadha, murdered his father in about 492 B.C. and became king.
Ajatashatru (492-460 B.C.):
The beginning of the conflict between Kosala and Magadha took place in the time of Ajatashatru. Reacting to the murder of Bimbisara by Ajatashatru, Prasenjit revoked the gift of the Kashi village which had formed part of his sister’s dowry. Therefore war took place between Ajatashatru and Parasenjit.
Several battles were fought without any lasting success for either. Ultimately Prasenjit was betrayed by his own minister Dirghacharayana, who handed the royal insignia to Prasenjit’s son and military command to Vidudabha.
Prasenjit died at Rajagriha and Vidudabha along with his army was drowned by an untimely flood in the river Rapti. Ajatashatru annexed the Kosala kingdom without fighting.
1. Ajatashatru strengthened Rajagriha, the Magadhan capital, and built a small fort, Pataligrama in the vicinity of the Ganges. This was later to became the famous Mauryan metropolis of Pataliputra.
2. The Vajjian confederacy was suppressed by Ajatashatru by sowing internal dissension among the Lichchhavis with the help of his Brahman minister Vassakara. It took sixteen years to suppress the Vajjians.
3. A description of the war between the Magadhans and the Vajjains mentions the use of two weapons, viz., mahashilakantaka (a large-sized catapult used for hurling heavy pieces of stone) and the rathamushala (a chariot with knives and cutting edges fixed to it).
4. In religious tradition Ajatashatru is remembered as a patron of Devadatta, the schismatic cousin of the Buddha, and also as a friend of both the Jainas and the Buddhists.
5. After the death of Gautama Buddha, he constructed Dhatuchaityas round Rajgriha. He repaired 18 mahaviharas. He helped the Buddhist monks to hold their first Buddhist Council at Rajagriha under his patronage.
6. The story of Ajatashatru’s interview with Buddha is also stated in the Bharhut sculptures of the second century B.C.
Udayin (460-444 B.C.):
1. According to Buddhist writers Ajatashatru was succeeded by his son Udayin.
2. Udayin had probably to fight with the king of Avanti, but the most notable event of his reign was the foundation of the capital city of Kusumpura or Pataliputra.
3. Udayin was succeeded by the dynasty of Sisunagas.
Sisunaga Dynasty (444 B.C. to 396 B.C.):
The successors of Udayin were all parricides, of whom the last was banished by the indignant citizens, who met together and appointed as their king a worthy minister known by the name of Sisunaga.
1. Sisunaga carried on the forward policy of Magadha by the absorption of the powerful kingdom of Avanti and thus the 100 years old rivalry between Avanti and Magadha came to an end.
2. Sisunaga temporarily shifted the Magadhan capital to Vaishali.
3. Sisunaga’s successor, Kalasoka or Kakavarnin, transferred his royal residence permanently from Girivraja to Pataliputra, though Vaishali was occasionally graced by the presence of the sovereign.
3. At Vaishali the second Buddhist council was held during Kalasoka’s reign.
4. Kalasoka was murdered by Mahapadma Nanda, the founder of the Nanda dynasty.
The Nanda Dynasty (345-322 B.C.):
The Sisunagas were succeeded by the Nandas, who proved to be the most powerful rulers of Magadha. The founder of this dynasty was Mahapadma or Mahapadmapati, “Sovereign of an infinite host”, or “of immense wealth”, according to the Puranas. Regarding the parentage of the first Nanda there are two traditions.
The Puranas represent him as son of Mahanandin, the last king of the Sisunaga dynasty by a Sudra woman. Jaina writers on the other hand, represent him as the son of a courtesan by a barber which is strikingly supported by the testimony of Quintus Curtius.
In any case it remains true that the Nandas were the first of a number of non-kshatriya ruling dynasties Alexander, who invaded Punjab at that time, did not dare to move towards the east.
1. He claimed to be ekarat, the sole sovereign who destroyed all the other ruling princes.
2. The Hathigumpha inscription of king Kharavela refers to the conquest of Kalinga by a ruler of the Nanda dynasty. This occured in the reign of Mahapadma Nanda.
3. Mahapadma Nanda has been described in the Puranas as the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas (Sarvakshatrantaka), and as a second Parsurama or Bhargava.
4. According to Buddnist sources Mahapadma Nanda reigned for about ten years and was succeeded by his eight sons. The last Nanda ruler was Dhana-Nanda, the Agrammes or Xandrames of classical writers.
He owned a vast treasure and commanded a huge army of 20,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots and no less than 3,000 elephants. To maintain the huge force and amass the treasure he had to resort to heavy taxation.
The Nanda rule in Magadha was supplanted by that of the Mauryan dynasty under which the Magadhan Empire reached the apex of glory.
Causes of Magadhan Supremacy:
The formation of the Magadhan State during this period was the work of several enterprising and ambitious rulers such as Bimbisara, Ajatashatru and Mahapadma Nanda. Magadha enjoyed an advantageous geographical position in the age of iron, because the richest iron deposits were nor for away from Rajagriha. The ready availability of the rich iron ores enabled the Magadhan kings to equip themselves with effective weapons, which were not easily available to their rivals.
The two Magadhan capitals, the first at Rajgriha and the second at Pataliputra were situated at very strategic points. Rajagriha was surrounded by a group of five hills and so it was rendered impregnable whereas Pataliputra were situated at the confluence of the Ganga, theGandakand the Son, and a fourth river called the Ghagra joined the Ganga nor far from Pataliputra. It facilitated communication of army. Further, Pataliputra was a true water fort (Jaladurga) as it was surrounded by rivers on almost all sides.
1. The area of Magadha was far more productive as it lay at the centre of the middle Gangetic plain. The fertile alluvial soil enabled the peasants to produce considerable surplus, which could be mopped up by the rulers in the form of taxes.
2. Magadhan kings also benefitted from the rise of towns and the use of metal money on account of trade and commerce.
3. Magadha was the first kingdom to use elephants on a large scale in its wars against its neighbours.
4. Finally the Magadhan society being recently aryanised showed more enthusiasm for expansion than the kingdoms which had been brought under the Vedic influence earlier.
Indian and Macedonian Invasions and Their Impact:
Persian Invasion and Consequences:
About the time when Bimisara ruled in Magadha, a powerful kingdom rose in Persia under Cyrus (558-530 B.C.), the founder of Achaemenian dynasty in Persia. He was a great conquerer who ex- tended his power in the east to the borders of India.
The Persian domination in India was further enlarged by Darius (522-486 B.C.). He annexed Gandhara, sent a naval expedition to explore a sea passage from the mouth of Indus to Persia and conquered the Indus Valley as far as the deserts of Rajputana.
The Indo-Persian contact lasted for about 200 years. It gave an impetus to Indo-Persian trade and commerce. Through the Iranians, the Greeks came to know about the great wealth of India which eventually resulted in Alexander’s invasion of India.
The Persian scribes brought into India a form of writing which came to be known as Kharosthi script. Persian influence may also be traced in the preamble of Asoka’s edicts and in the bell-shaped capital of Asoka’s pillars.
Greek Invasion-Alexander the Great:
The invasion of India by Alexander, the great king of Macedonia in 326 B.C. is an episode of early Indian history. About the time of Alexander’s invasion, the Indus was the official boundary of the Persian Empire, but there was no trace of Persian rule anywhere in Punjab.
On the contrary, we learn from the account of Greek writers that north western India was spilit up into a number of small independent States like, Taxila, kingdom of Porus, kingdom of Gandharas, etc. Except king Porus, who fought the famous battle of Hydaspas (Jhelum) with Alexander, all other kings submitted meekly.
Alexander commemorated his victory by the foundation of two towns: Nikaia and Boukephala. Alexander advanced as far as river Beas but his soldiers, war-weary and disease-stricken, refused to go farther. So he was forced to give orders of retreat. To mark the farthest point of his advance, he erected twelve huge stone altars on the northern bank of Beas.
The direct results of Alexander’s invasion were small. India was not Hellenized. The only direct effect of Alexander’s raid was the establishment of a number of Greek settlements in north western India. But indirectly, Alexander’s expedition had an appreciable influence on the history of the country.
Firstly, it exposed India to the full gaze of Europe by opening up four distinct lines of communication, three by land and one by sea. Secondly, as a result of the cultural contact, there grew up in course of time, a cosmopolitan school of art in Gandhara, which was largely inspired by the Hellenistic influence.
Thirdly, of Indian religions, Buddhism was possibly modified by the influence of Greek religious ideas. An immediate, though indirect, political result followed Alexander’s invasion. It paved the way for the unification of northern India under Chandragupta by weakening the small States and the turbulent tribes of the Indus Valley. The date of Alexander’s invasion (326 B.C.) has been well described as the sheet-anchor of Indian chronology.