The area around modern day south Bihar and parts of eastern UP, along the Ganges formed the Magadha. In the course of about 200 years, Magadha emerged as a prominent mahajanapada. It was under the rule of the Nanda dynasty. The factors which favoured the rise of Magadha are as follows:
- This region is irrigated by rivers, like Ganga and Son and other tributaries of Ganga. Hence, the land was fertile and there was plenty of water. Fertile land ensured high crop yield. So, this area was prosperous. These rivers also served as good channel for water transport.
- Some parts of Magadha had dense forest. The forest provided plenty of wood. Wood could be used for making buildings, chariots and carts. Elephants could be captured from the forest and trained for the army.
Bimbisara and Ajatasattu were two powerful rulers to rule over Magadha. They used all the possible means to conquer other janapadas.
Mahapadma Nanda was another powerful ruler. He further spread the Magadha territory to the north-western part of the subcontinent.
The Magadhan rulers were so powerful that even the army of Alexander the Great was afraid to venture into their territory. You may be aware that Alexander the Great was harbouring the ambitions to conquer the world. He was the king of Macedonia in Europe.
Rajgriha (the present day Rajgir) was the capital of Magadha. Later, the capital was shifted to Pataliputra which is known as Patna in the modern times. The term ‘patali’ means ‘port’ and ‘putra’ means ‘son’. Thus the term ‘Pataliputra’ means ‘son of the port’.
Vajji was another powerful kingdom; with its capital at Vaishali in modern day Bihar. While Magadha was under a monarchy; Vajji was under a democratic rule. The government was known as gana or sangha. A gana was not ruled by a single ruler but by a group of many rulers who were known as the raja. The rajas performed the rituals as a group and met in assemblies. Discussion and debate was used for taking major decisions. For example; preparation for a battle or plan for public welfare was chalked out by discussion in the assemblies. However, such meetings were out of bound for women, dasas and kammakaras.
Buddha and Mahavira also belonged to the ganas. Buddha and Mahavira were great thinkers of that period and their preaching are still important for us.
Many other rajas made several attempts to conquer the ganas of Vaishali. But they did not get success. The ganas survived till as later as about 1500 years ago. Finally, the last ganas were conquered by the Gupta rulers.