• It was the phase during which ‘janapadas’ became greater in size and got involved in expansion of territory resulting into the formation of ‘Mahajanapadas’.
  • Anguttara Nikaya Mahavastue. Buddhist texts and some Jain texts are the sources of information about mahajanpadas.
  • Magadha’ displayed tendency and potential of becoming an empire.
  • This period of Indian history was deeply influenced and driven by development of philosophical movements like ‘Jainism’ and ‘Buddhism’.
  • Economic growth led to development of urban centers and first use of coins is also reported from this period; they were called punch-mark coins.
  • Large scale use of iron tools, spread of agriculture and North Black Polished Pottery is also associated with this age.
  • During this period ‘Brahmi’ script appeared for the first time.
  • Taxation added to the wealth of the state, prostitution too appeared in the cities.
  • Position of women degraded further except in Buddhist and Jain orders.
  • A number of castes appeared and condition of untouchable further worsened.



Mahajanapadas were either monarchical or republican. Kuru, Vrijji, Malla, Panchal and Kamboj were republican states and had a Ganparishad (assembly of seniors) as the supreme authority in the state.


  •         Laid in Afghanistan & Some part pf Jammu & Kashmir


Potana/ Potali
  •          Situated on the banks of the river Godavari near modern
  •        Paithan in Maharashtra.




  •         Central Malwa and the adjoining areas of Madhya Pradesh.
  •        The Vatsa capital is located 64 km from Allahabad at Kaushambi (modern Kosam) on the bank of the Yamuna.



Ujjaini (North) / Mahishmati (South)
  •         The Avanti’’s king Pradyota is famous in legends, had relations with Udayan, the ruler of Vatsa.


  •         Uneven roads, excessive dust, vicious talks and ‘Yakshas’. Belonging to the Yadava clan with which is also associated Krishna.
CHEDI Suktimati
  •         Eastern parts of Bundelkhand and adjoining areas.


Kushinara/ Pava
  •          Non-monarchical, Kushinara is identified with Kasia in Gorakhpur district and Pava is possibly identical with Pawapuri in Patna district.
             KURU Hastinapu/


  •         Delhi-Meerut region. Tribal polity.



(W. Panchala), Kampilya

(S. Panchala)

  •         Modern Kampil in Farrukhabad district.
  •        Tribal polity
MATSYA Virat Nagari
  •         Associated with modern Jaipur- Bharatpur-Alwar region of Rajasthan.
  •         Tribal polity
  •         From north of the Ganga and up to as far as the Nepal hills.
  •          A confederation of eight clans (atthakula), of whom the Videhans, the Lichchhavis, the Jnatrikas and the Vrijjis were the most important.
  •          A flourishing non-monarchical state in the time of Mahavira and Gautama Buddha.




  •         Extended up to the Kabul valley. Gandhara king Pukkusati exchanged gifts with Bimbisara in Magadha and went on foot to see the Buddha.
  •          According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Gandhara formed the twentieth province of the Achaemenid empire of Persia.


  •         Modern districts of Munger and Bhagalpur, Bihar. Noted for its wealth and commerce.






  •          Initially, the most powerful of them and played an important part in the subversion of the Videhan monarchy.
  •          Leading centre of textile manufacture in the time of the Buddha; the ‘kashaya’ (orange brown) robes of the Buddhist monks are said to have been manufactured here.




  •          Ayodhya on the Saryu, Saketa adjoining it and Shravasti (modern Sahet-Mahet) on the borders of the Gonda and Bahraich districts of Uttar Pradesh, were three important Koshalan cities.




Rajagriha / Girivraja

  •        Modern Patna and Gaya districts, Bihar; bounded on the north and west by the rivers Ganga and Sone respectively.
  •         Did not follow the varna system, hence Brahmanical texts make derogatory remark for Magadha and Buddhist text hold it high in regard as being the place of Buddha’s enlightenment (Gaya).











  •         Most urban settlements were inhabited by merchants and artisans (organized into a ‘sartha’ guild).
  •          Practice of trade and crafts was hereditary.
  •         Most important cities of the time were settled on the banks of the rivers and trade routes.
  •         Trade was facilitated through use of money called ‘nishka’ and ‘satamana’ (mentioned in Vedic texts; no archaeological evidence)
  •         Agriculture was made easier with use of iron tools like axes, adzes, knives, razors, nails, sickles etc.
  •          Paddy transplantation was practiced. Besides, barley, cotton, pulses, millets and sugarcane were also produced.
  •          1/6th of the farm produce was to be paid to the royal agent as tax and there were no intermediate landlords.
  •         Rich peasants were called ‘grihapatis’.
  •          Vessa meant Merchants Street.
  •          ‘Balisadhakas’ collected the compulsory taxe called ‘bali’ from peasants and ‘vaishyas’ only.







  •         People lived in three types of villages:

1.       The first category had various castes and communities living together and it was headed by ‘Bhojaka’.

2.       The second type was suburban and was dominated by craftsmen and linked the rural to urban.

3.       The third category was villages in the outskirts of the countryside and consisted fowlers, hunters etc. who lived a comparatively backward life.

  •          Writing had started and was used for book keepings in trade, taxation and large size of army.
  •          Lower varnas were subject to many discriminations.
  •          Severe punishments were awarded by royal agents.






  •         ‘Jatakas’ or stories of previous lives of Buddha mention that land grants were given in favour of great religious leaders.
  •          The king was primarily a warlord.
  •        The King was highest administrative official who was supported by other officials called Mahamatras who performed functions of Mantrin (minister) and Senanayaka (Commander), judge and chief accountant etc.
  •         Another class of officers performing similar functions were called ‘Aayuktas’.
  •          Administration of village was under village headman called as gramabhojaka, gramini or gramika.
  •         Large, professional and permanent army.








  •         Kashi, Koshala, Magadha and the Vajjian confederacy—remained significant in the sixth century BC.
  •         These states fought for control for about a hundred years.
  •         Eventually Magadha emerged victorious and became the centre of political activity in north India.




  •          Strategic geography (Rajgir and Patliputra), abundance of resources (iron, alluvial soil, of Gangetic plain).
  •          Greater use of elephants in wars.
  •          Progressive attitude of Magadh socety.
  •         Service of competent, enterprising and ambitious rulers like Bimbisar and Ajatshatru etc.






BIMBISARA (542-493 BC):

  •         The first important ruler of Magadha, Bimbisara was a patron of Buddhism, yet his lineage is not discussed in Buddhist sources.
  •        Bimbisar’s capital was Rajgriha or Girivraja. He is described as Seniya, i.e., the one ‘with an army’.
  •          Dynastic marriages promoted goodwill between Bimbisara and contemporary rulers of Koshala and Vajji.
  •         Bimbisara sent his personal physician Jivaka to Ujjain to win the friendship of Pradyota, the king of Avanti.
  •         Bimbisara’s aggression was towards Anga Mahajanapada, it was annexed to Magadha.
  •         Administrative machinery had become complex and the power of the state strong as Buddhist literature talks of 80,000 gramikas (village heads).
AJATASHATRU (492 BC – 460 BC):

  •         Ajatshatru killed his father- Bimbisar and ascended to thrown.
  •         Adopted expansionist policy & defeated Koshala and Vaishali.
  •         Both, Bimbisar and Ajatshatru were contemporaries of the Buddha.
  •        Udayin (460 BC – 444 BC)
  •      As per the Mahavamsa, the Sri Lankan Buddhist chronicle, Ajatashatru’s son Udayabhadra (Udayin) succeeded Ajatasattu and ruled for the next sixteen years.
  •         He moved his capital to the bank of Ganges which was known as Pataliputra and built a fort near the confluence of the Ganga and Son at Patna.
  •          The last ruler of Haryanka dynasty, Nagadasaka was over thrown by his amatya (i.e., viceroy, at Banaras) Shishunaga supported by popular frustration against Haryanka’s quick parricidal succession.


  •         During the reign of Shishunagas, Magadha annexed the Avanti (Ujjain) and many other janapadas into the fold of Magadha empire.
  •         Shishunaga shifted his capital to Vaishali which his son Kalashoka shifted back to Patliputra.
  •         Kalashoka hosted the 2nd Buddhist Council in 383 BC at Vaishali.








  •          Mahapadma Nanada, who was from a ‘shudra’ lineage, laid the foundation of the Nanda dynasty in Magadha.
  •         Mahapadma Nanada, being a great conqueror, controlled entire area between river Beas in the west and Bay of Bengal in the east.
  •          Puranas refer to him as “destroyer of all Kshatriyas” i.e., Sarvaksatrantaka and Ekarat (sole suzerain).
  •         He overthrew Ikshvakus, Panchalas, Kashis, Haihayas, Kalingas (Hathigumpha inscription of king Kharavela), Ashmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Shurasenas, and Vitihotras and part of Mysore (Mysore inscriptions of the 12th century).
  •         Presence of Jain ministers like Kalpaka, Sakatala, etc. in his court indicates his leaning towards Jainism.
  •          Nandas proved to be the greatest rulers of the Magadha empire and Dhanananda was the last of the Nanda rulers.
  •          He was a contemporary of Alexander of Macedon.
  •          Later Nandas were weak & unpopular among the people. It led to decline of Nanda dynasty and Maurya took their place.








  •         Founder of the Achaemenid empire of the Persia (Iran), Cyrus 2nd invaded the region west of river Indus, during Bimbisar’s reign in Magadha, and succeeded in establishing control over Gandhara, Kamboja, and Madra.
  •         His grandson Darius 1st conquered Punjab and Sindh.
  •         As a result, Indo-Iranian trade, influences of language, art and architecture increased.
  •          Bell-shaped capital, Ashokan inscriptions and introduction of Kharosthi script are products of this influence.










  •        After defeating, Darius III, the last Achaemenid emperor, Alexander crossed the Hindukush and entered north-western India which was an Achaemenid province in 327 BC.
  •         Ambhi (Omphis), the king of Takshashila, submitted to Alexander.
  •         Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum):
  •  Porus, who ruled the territory between the Jhelum and the Ravi, was defeated and captured after initial resistance.
  •   Alexander, impressed by Porus’ resistance, reinstated him in power.
  •         Alexander’s army refused to cross river Beas (Hyphasis) to fight further and thus a clash between the tired Macedonian mercenaries and the huge army of the Nandas did not happen.
  •         After establishing a few Greek settlements in north-west of India, Alexander died in 323 BC in Babylon.

  •          Direct contact between Indian and Greece (Europe).
  •         Accounts by Alexanders historians provides information about that period.
  •         Seeds of Indo-Bactrian and Parthian States in India.
  •         Greek influences on the Gandhara School of Art and Architecture.
  •          New land & sea routes were discovered by Alexander


  • Vacuum created by Alexander’s destruction of the tribal republics in Punjab and neighbouring region gave opportunity to Chandragupta Maurya.



  •          Megasthenes’ ‘Indika’,
  •         Kautilya’s ‘Arthashastra’,
  •          Visakha Datta’s ‘Mudra Rakshasa’
  •          Dharmashastra texts, Puranas
  •         Buddhist Text (Jatak Stories, Deepvamsa, Mahavamsa, Divyavadan)
  •          Punch marked coins, Northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW)
  •          Wooden Palace of Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra
  •          Ashokan inscriptions and Edicts


  • Chandraupta or Sandrokottos (as he is referred to in Greek literature) launched a series of wars against Dhananand and also liberated the country from the Greek rule.
  • He laid the foundation of Mauryan empire in 322 BC with help of Chanakya (Kautilya).
  • After conquering the region between Beas and Bay of Bengal, Chandragupta launched expeditions throughout the country and included territories of Andhra, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujrat and Central regions to Mauryan empire. Thus, the credit of first unification of North India is attributed to Chandragupta Maurya.
  • In 305 BC, Chandragupta defeated Seleucas Nikator, the Greek emperor after Alexander.
  • Megasthenes a Greek ambassador was sent by Seleucus in the Chandragupta Maurya court.
  • According to Jaina sources, Chandragupta embraced Jainism towards the end of his life and abdicated the throne in favour of his son.
  • Accompanied by Bhadrabahu, a Jaina saint, he went to Sravana Belgola (Karnataka), where he died by slow starvation (Salekhan).


Sravana Belgola is a famous Jaina pilgrimage centre as statue of Gomateshwar, son of Rishabnath in Kayotsurg Mudra is situated here.


BINDUSARA (298 BC – 273 BC)
  • Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara, known to the Greeks as Amitrochates (Sanskrit, Amitraghata = the destroyer of foes). Madrasar, Simhasena are other names used for Bindusara.
  • Bindusara followed the extreme fatalistic order (religion) ‘Ajivika’ founded by Makhali Gosala. This order had complete disregard for ‘karma’.
  • Bindusara maintained good diplomatic relations with Antiochus I, the Seleucid king of Syria. Antiochus sent Deimachus as ambassador to the Bindusara’s court.
  • Bindusara requested Antiochus to send him some sweet wine, dried figs and a Sophist (philosopher); the last being not meant for export, was not sent.
  • Tibetan Buddhist monk Taranatha describes Bindusara as “conqueror of the land between two seas”e., peninsular India.
  • Divyavadan, Buddhist biographical narrative of Mauryan Kings, mentions a revolt at Taxila being suppressed by Ashoka, the son of Bindusara; who was ‘Kumara’ or viceroy of Ujjain at that time.


  • Eliminating other claimants, Ashoka was coronated to the throne in 269 BC. Radhagupta, helped Ashoka in usurping the throne.
  • 8 years after coronation, Ashoka fought the horrible Kalinga War in 261 BC.
  • Ashoka was moved by the untold miseries caused by the war, renounced conquest by warfare, in favour of cultural conquest. In other words, Bherighosha was replaced with Dhammaghosha.
  • Later on, he became Buddhist under the guidance of Mogaliputta Tissa.
  • Mogaliputta Tissa presided over the 3rd Buddhist Council held in 250 BC at Pataliputra.
  • He sent missionaries for propagation of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, south Indian states, Burma, Central Asia etc. He also sent ambassadors of peace to Greek Kingdoms & Greece
  • Ashoka was not extreme pacifist – He retained Kalinga and incorporated into his kingdom; he also didn’t disband the army.
  • Under Ashoka, almost entire sub-continent came under single control except extreme south: Uttarpatha (Taxila), Avantirashtra (Ujjain), Prachi (Pataliputra), Kalinga (Toshali) and Dakshinpatha (Suvarnagiri) were important provinces.







  •         Use of iron tools, diversified agriculture production, immense increase in agriculture land and irrigation facilities contributed to growth of Mauryan economy.
  •          Occurrences of famines is also reported in kautilya’s arthashastra and Jaina texts.
  •         Sohgaura copper plate inscription & Mahasthana inscription deal with the relief measures to be adopted during a famine.
  •          Tolls were also levied on commodities brought to town for sale.
  •         The normal taxation rate was one sixth of the produce.
  •          Crown land was called “Sita
  •         Mauryan State had strict legal and penal system (civil and criminal); tax evaders attracted death penalty.
  •         punch-marked coins (mostly silver) were used for transactions.
  •         Money was used not only for trade; the government paid its officers in cash.
  •         Salaries were in the range of 48,000 panas to 60 panas a year.
  •         Hired labourers were called ‘karmakaras’.
  •          There was state monopoly of mining, forest, salt, sale of liquor, manufacture of arms and metallurgy.








  •          Society was clearly divided into four-fold Varna system, slavery (dasas) existed in the society.
  •         Society was divided into a number of castes and sub-castes which were generally based on some profession or occupation.
  •         ‘Varna- Shankar Vivah’ or inter-varna or inter-caste marriages too are reported; these were of two kinds, namely, ‘Anulom’ (groom of higher varna/caste) and ‘Pratilom’ (bride of higher varna/caste).
  •         While Kautilya mentions 9 categories of slaves, Megasthenes reports its absence. Megasthenes also talks about 7-fold social divisions.
  •         As per the Jataka tails untouchables like Chanadala, Nishad, Shabar etc. existed and were treated inhumanly.
  •         Women’s position in society deteriorated severly: widow remarriage stopped, institution of ‘ganikas’ (prostitution) expanded.
  •          Most artisans were shudras, yet, they were worst paid and subjected to forced labour (vishti).





  •          Ashoka was a Buddhist but he also promoted few principles of morality known as ‘Dhamma’. The 4-cardinal points of Dhamma included: Tolerance, Non-violence, Good Conduct (Obeying parents and elders, respecting Brahmanas and Monks) & Welfare.
  •         A new officer called, ‘Dhammamahamatra’ was appointed for promotion of ‘Dhamma’.
  •         Sanghmitra, daughter of Ashoka, was sent to Tamrparni (Sri Lanka) for conversion of women in Sri Lanka to Buddhism.
  •          Ashoka’s Dhamma cannot be regarded as sectarian faith. His teachings were intended to maintain the existing order on the basis of tolerance.







  •          They are the most important source of history of the Mauryan period. Depending upon their size they are categorised as follows:
  •   Major and minor rock edicts (16 and 2 respectively)
  •   Major and minor pillar edicts (17 and 3 respectively)
  •          These are reported from places like Meerut, Topara, Kaushambi, Sanchi, Sarnath, Lauriya Nandgarh, Lauriya Araraj, Rampur and Lumbini (Nepal) in and around the Ganga Valley.
  •          The national emblem of India is taken from the Ashoka’s Sarnath Pillar.
  •          Name of Ashoka occurs only on minor rock edicts. He was first king to speak people directly through inscriptions.
  •          Mainly inscribed in Prakrit Language and Brahmi script.
  •          Inscriptions from Manshera and Shahbajgarhi in Pakistan are in Prakrit language but Kharosthi script.
  •          Kandhar Inscriptions is bilingual, it used Greek and Aramaic languages and scripts.





















  •         Mauryan Empire was divided into 5 provinces -Uttarapatha, Avantipatha, Prachyapatha, Dakshinpatha and Magadha.
  •         Mauryan had a huge army & had maintained navy.

  •          King was the nucleus and was assisted by Mantri Parishad – Yuvraj, Purohita, Senapati and other.
  •          Highest officers were called ‘tirthas’ and Adhyakshas (superintendents) managed 26 departments.

  •          Mantri – Chief Minister
  •          Mantriparishad Adhyaksha – Head of Council Of Minister
  •          Purohita – Chief priest
  •          Senapati – Commander-In-Chief
  •          Yuvaraj – Crown Prince
  •          Samaharta – Revenue Collector
  •          Shulkadhyaksha – Officer-In-Charge of Royal Income
  •          Spies (gudhapurushas) and informers (prativedakas) played imp role.

  •          Mauryan state also had local and municipal administration; ‘Vish’or ‘Ahara’ (districts) were the units of a province.
  •          Megasthenese’s account mentions 6 committees of five members each for administering the municipalities.

  •         Sitadhyaksha – Supervised agriculture
  •          Panyadhyaksha -Superintendent of Commerce
  •          Yukta – Subordinate Revenue Officer
  •          Prasdesika – Chief revenue officer.
  •        Sthanika – Head of local administration. worked under Preadesika.
  •         Rajuka – Revenue settlement officer
  •         Samsthadhyaksha – Superintendent of market
  •          Pauthavadhyaksha – Superintendent of weight & measure.
  •         Navaadhyaksha – Superintendent of ships.
  •         Sulkaadhyaksha – Collector of tolls

  •         Gramika – The head of village. It was elected body.
  •         Gramvriddhas – panchayat consist of Village elders to settle disputes.
  •         Sudarshan lake was constructed during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya in Girnar Hill in Gujrat.
  •         Tamralipti (Tamlook in Midnapur, WB) in the east and Bharuch/ Broach/Barygaza (Gujrat) in the west were two important ports.
  •         Huge army and Navy were maintained in which all the 4 varnas were allowed to serve.
  •         Raja (the king), Mitra (Friend), Durg (fort), Amatya (the secretaries), Janapada (territory), Kosha (the treasure), Sena (Army) were the 7 elements of states of Kautilya’s Saptanga theory.


  • Over-centralisation, cumbersome bureaucracy, super heavy taxation (on almost every activity) and foreign invasions were main factors of decline.
  • Neglect of North-West frontier and construction of great wall of China.
  • Financial Crisis- Ashoka incurred huge expenditure for promotion of his ‘Dhamma Mission’.
  • Over-tolerant, non-violent attitude killed the fighting spirit of the army.
  • After Ashoka’s death in 232 BC Mauryan Emperors were incompetent and oppressive.
  • Pushyamitra Shunga, a Mauryan army commander, killed the last Mauryan emperor Brihadrath and founded Shunga Dynasty in 187 BC.
  • Brhamins, annoyed by Ashoka for banning rituals, supported Pushyamitra Shunga who was a Brahmin.
  • Pushyamitra shunga overthrown Mauryan king and established Shunga dynasty.



Prashasti à Prison Head; Sannidata à Treasury Head; Koshadhyaksha à Treasury Officer; Koshthagaradhyaksha à Royal Treasury Manager; Nayaka à City Security Chief; Vyabharika à Chief Judge; Karmantika à Head of Industries & Factories; Dandapala à Head of Police; Durgapala à Head of Royal Fort; Annapala à Head of Food Grains Department; Rajjukas à Land Measurer; Akaradhyaksha à Mining Officer; Lauhadhyaksha à Metallurgy Officer; Lakshanadhyaksha à Coin Minting; Lavanadhyaksha à Officer of Salt Department; Swarnadhyaksha à Officer of Gold Department; Ayudhadhyaksha à Weapon Manufacturing & Defence; Kunyadhyaksha à  Officer of Forest; Manadhyaksha à Office of Time & Place Determining; Sunadhyaksha à Slaughter-House Officer; Mudradhyaksha à Royal Symbol, Coin; Dyutadhyaksha à Gambling Department; Naukadhyaksha à Shipping Officer; Pattanadhyaksha à Officer of Port; Pautavadhyaksha à In Charge of Weights and Measures.