The Rise Of Magadha To Dominance

Between the sixth and the fourth centuries B.C., Magadha (in present-day Bihar) emerged as the most powerful of the mahajanapadas. Several factors appear to have influenced this development.

  • Magadha was a region where agriculture was highly productive.
  • Iron mines (located in present-day Jharkhand) were easily accessible and provided resources for making a variety of tools and weapons.
  • Elephants, which constituted an important component of the army, were found in forests in the region.
  • The Ganga and its tributaries provided a means of cheap and convenient riverine communication.

However, Buddhist and Jain writers who wrote about Magadha also attributed its powerful status to the policies of some exceptional individuals. These included ruthlessly ambitious kings like Bimbisara, Ajatasatru and Mahapadma Nanda as well as some notable ministers, who helped implement their policies.

Initially, Rajagriha (identified with present-day Rajgir in Bihar) was the capital of Magadha. Rajagriha was a fortified settlement, located amongst hills. Later, in the fourth century B.C., the capital was moved to Pataliputra (the site of modern Patna), commanding routes of river communication along the Ganga.


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