State the reasons for the rise of Magadha empire.
In the beginning of the 6th century B.C., the northern India consisted of a large number of independent kingdoms. Some of them had monarchical forms of government, while some others were republics. While there was a concentration of monarchies on the Gangetic plain, the republics were scattered in the foothills of the Himalayas and in northwestern India. Some of the republics consisted of only one tribe like the Sakyas, Licchavis and Mallas. In the republics, the power of decision in all matters of state vested with the Public Assembly which was composed of the tribal representatives or heads of families. All decisions were by a majority vote. The Buddhist literature Anguttara Nikaya gives a list of sixteen great kingdoms called ‘Sixteen Mahajanapadas’. They were Anga, Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala, Matsya, Surasena, Asmaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kambhoja. The Jain texts also contain references to the existence of sixteen kingdoms. In course of time, the small and weak kingdoms either submitted to the stronger rulers or gradually got eliminated. Finally in the mid 6th century B.C., only four kingdoms – Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala and Magadha survived.
There are several other factors that can be taken into account for the rapid expansion of Magadha.
Magadha enjoyed a very advantageous geographical position. Both the capitals, Rajgir and Pataliputra were situated at very strategic points. Rajgir was impregnable as it was surrounded by a group of five hills. Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of the Ganges, the Gandak, and the Son. Their army could move easily towards all direction using the course of these rivers.
The Gangetic plain was very fertile. Immense agricultural activities could be done to become self sufficient. The environment was suitable for agriculture. Given the heavy rain, the areas could be made more productive even without irrigation.
Availability of raw materials
The availability of timber in the Gangetic plain helped them to manufacture as much boat as required for river transportation. This helped them in easy transportation for both trade and defence. The richest iron deposits were located near to their first capital Rajgir.They had enourmous scope to use iron ores to equip their army with effective weapons.
Rise of towns and use of metal money
During the Magadha era, most of the towns developed in the mid-Gangetic plains. As a result there was an increased trade and commerce with north-east India. This helped Magadha to impose toll on the sale of commodities and collect huge amount of wealth. Besides this, the use of metal money helped the Magadhan rulers to collect taxes more easily.
The large army was another factor in the rise of Magadha. It is said that the Nandas possesed 200,000 infantry, 60,000 cavalry and around 6000 war elephants. No other empire would have the courage to look towards Magadha who maintains such a huge armed force. They were the first rulers to use war elephants. The elephants were made available to them from the eastern part of the country. Elephants could be used to storm fortresses and to march across marshy areas or the areas where there were no roads or other means of transportation.
The unorthodox character of the Magadhan society played a role in the rise of Magadha. Magadha was inhabited by the Kiratas and Magadhas. Generally, they were held in low esteem by the orthodox brahmanas. However they underwent a happy ethnic admixture with the Vedic people. As a result of such good relationships, the expansion of the kingdom could be easier than the earlier kingdoms who were under vedic influence.