The Magadha Empire is considered as India’s first empire. There have been sixteen great states known as Mahajanapadas, out of which Magadha was on the rise. The Haryanka Dynasty was Magadha’s first powerful and vibrant dynasty. Bimbisara was the first king of the dynasty. Bimbisara expanded his kingdom and his administration system reveal a great depth of intellect and thus ushered in a new period of innovative approaches later adopted by India’s future rulers. Bimbisara was deposed and killed by his own ambitious son Ajatshatru. His aggrasive conquest led to expansion of the kingdom. History repeated itself and Ajatshatru was also killed by his son Udayin. It is said that every king of the dynasty was killed by their sons. The haryanka dynasty saw lot of internal conflicts and family bloodshed, due to which the people and ministers of the kingdom revolted against the last ruler of the dynasty and brought their reign to end.
The Shishunaga dynasty rose due to the bloodshed and instability caused by Haryanka patricide accession of throne. The first ruler, Shishunaga, who was the Amatya Prime minister of the last Haryanka king, came to power as people revolted against the earlier haryanka dynasty. Shishunaga strengthen the Magadhan Army, led several war conquests and conquered the territories of central and north India. Although, the Shishunaga rule was short lived, it saw Avanti become a part of a larger and greater Magadha. Various philosophies and religions flourished, especially Buddhism and Jainism. The rulers were culturally inclined and supported various vocations. Over the time, the dynasty grew wearker and last ruler of Shishunaga dynasty was treacherously murdered by Mahapadma Nanda who established the Nanda dynasty
Chandragupta, founder of Maurya dynasty is believed to be born as a kshatriya, and raised among shepherds. Once while playing, Chanakya finds his personality to be promising. Trained in Takshashila, Chandragupta establishes himself in Punjab by defeating Alexanders governors. Later, he attacks Magadh and dethrones king Dhanananda, with Chanakya as his prime minister. He is faced with Selucus Necator and defeats him. As a sign of peace, Necator gives his daughter Helena to the Mauryan king, and sends Magasthenes as an ambassador. Chandragupta expands his kingdom to entire North India and some parts of Deccan. In old age, he gives up his throne and becomes a Jain monk. Chandragupta is succeeded by his son, Bindusara.
It is believed that Mahapadma Nanda had an affair with one of the wives of last king of Shishunaga dynasty. After killing the king trecherously, he ascended the thorne and established Nanda dynasty who went on to become the most powerful dynasty at that time with huge army. Later his son Dhanandna sat on the throne who was a currupt and greedy king. Dhana Nanda had an oppressive way of extorting taxes. It was during Dhana nanda’s reign, that Alexander came to conquer Indian subcontinent. Chanakya, a renowned teacher of Takshashila, came to ask for Magadha’s help. Dhana nanda, refused to help the border kingdoms and in turn insulted him. He was overthrown by Chandragupta Maurya with help of Chanakya, as his reign grew corrupt, weak and unpopular.
After Chandragupta Maurya his son Bindusar sat on the throne and expanded the Mauryan empire in south till Karnataka. Bindusara wanted his elder son Sushim to become the king and disliked Ashoka. When a rebellion broke out in Takshashila, Sushim failed to break it. Hence, Bindusara sent Ashoka to do the job and he succeeded. Last days of Bindusra, he wanted Sushim to be crowned as king. But the king’s ministers favoured Ashoka, and crowned him as the king, upon Bindusara’s death. After becoming king Ashoka killed his brothers and their loyal officers. Ashoka established himself as ruthless, cruel and sadist king. After seeing mass distruction in Kalinga war, he abandoned the policy of physical occupation in favour of a cultural conquest and practiced Buddhism. Ashoka then started giving away his own personal possessions. Having given everything he owned to the order in 236 BC he died peacefully. The empire fell apart in half a century 50 years after Ashokas death. It is said that in 180 BC, the last Mauryan king, Brihadratha, was killed during an inspection of the troops by his commander, Pushyamitra Shunga.
The Mauryan empire disintegrated soon after Ashoka’s death, and the weakened state could not protect its territories from Greek invaders. The frustrated Army cheif Pushyamitra killed the king during an inspection and established Shunga supremacy in Magadha. Pushyamitra retained the title of Senapati even after becoming the king. Pushyamitra expanded his kingdom and was succeeded by his son agnimitra who was also a great warrior. The Later Shunga kings abandoned their warrior spirit in favour of a comfortable life and pleasure. As they say, history repeats itself. As the Shunga dynasty began by deposing a weak ruler and ended similarly. Vasudeva was initially a minister Amatya of the last Shunga king Devabhuti, who was incompetent. Vasudeva was assisted by the daughter of a slave woman, who disguised herself as the queen and killed Devabhuti. Vasudeva came to power and established the Kanva Dynasty. As the later kings of Kanva dynasty were weak, the Magadha did not remain a centre of power.
Kujula was the first Yuezhi chief to lay the foundation of the Kushan Empire in India. His empire extended from the borders of Persia to Jhelum. After Kujula, his grandson Vima Kadphises entered deeper into the subcontinent, conquered Punjab, and occupied the Gangetic valley from Mathura and Banaras. later Kanishka succeeded on the throne in 78 AD. He defeated the Shaka ruler Chatsana to control the Malwa region and conquered Kashmir, Kaushambi, Mathura,and Ayodhya, and extended his empire to Pataliputra and Gaya. Kushan kings had a rivalry with the Chinese. Kanishka sent a marriage alliance with a Chinese princess but was refused. Taking it as an insult, he invaded China, but was defeated and had to pay a huge tribute to the Chinese emperor. Not a single revolt occurred during Kanishkas time. However, his health declined due to constant wars. His soldiers were fed up with wars and assassinated him during his illness. The last great Kushan King Vasudeva1 died, and the empire split into western and eastern halves. While the western half was taken over in time by Persians and Huns.
Gupta dynastywas a feudatory under Kushan, until SriGupta declared independent status. However, his grandson, Chandragupta 1 is credited as the founder of Gupta dynasty. He was succeeded by Samudragupta who expanded the kingdom. His empire was the biggest after Ashokas. Samudragupta never knew any defeat, hence he is called as Napoleon of India. The Golden Age truly began during his time due to the progress in literature, art, architecture, education and science. He was succeeded by his elder son Ramagupta, who lost a battle and surrendered his wife to Saka king Rudrasimha. Furious by this proposal, king’s younger brother, Chandra, disguised as Dhruvadevi entered the Shaka camp and killed the enemy king. He ultimately killed Ramagupta and married Dhruvadevi. Another notable king of the dynasty was Skandgupta who had to face was opposed by his brothers for the throne. He defeated the barbaric and ferocious huns who had destroyed the Taxila university. But the rocky succession of Skandagupta eventually divided the dynasty into 2 parts which led to their downfall. Taking advantage of weak rulers, provincial governors declared independence and started sperate kingdoms.
Vindhyashakti was the founder of this dynasty who was succeeded by Pravarsena who expanded the kingdom southwords. Pravarsenas elder son and crown prince Gautamiputra died before Pravarsena could handover the throne. After Pravarsenas death the dynasty divided into 2 parts 1. Rudrasen 1 Gautamipurtas son who ruled from the capital of Purika known as Eastern Vakatakas and Sarvasen Gautamiputras younger brother who ruled from Vatsagulma Known as Western Vakatakas. Rudrasen was contemporary to Gupta king Samudragupta whose conquest reduced the size of Rudrasens vakataka kingdom yet Rudrasen refused to submit to Gupta king. Hence Samudragupta avoided direct conflict with Rudrasen. After few years, Chandragupta 2 formed ally with Rudrasens son Prithvisen by marrying his daughter Prabhavati Gupta into Vakataka dynasty. This alliance destroyed the western kshatraps who disappeared from the history after this defeat. Rudrasen 2 Prabhavatis husband and Prithvisenas son was shortlived and Prabhavati looked after the state affairs as a regent. Prabhavatis grandson died without living a heir. Eventually the kingdom Eastern vakataka kingdom went the westen Vakataka dynasty. This branch of Vakataka dynasty also flourished due to international trade. The most powerful king was Harisen. But after his death the dynasty grew weaker and that led to the downfall of the dynasty.
Pushyabhuti dynasty was founded by the king Pushyabhuti but first notable king was Prabhakar Vardhan. He expanded the kingdom west and south. He had two sons and one daughter Rajyavardhana, Harshavardhana, and Rajyashri. He formed an alliance with Maukhri king by marrying his daughter Rajyashri to Maukhri king Grahavarman. He then defeated maukhris enemy Devagupta, ruler of Malwa. Prabhakar Vardhan died from an illness, while both his sons were away fighting the Hunas. He was succeeded by his son Rajyavardhan. Gauda king Shashanka formed an ally with Devgupta Maukhri and Pushyabhuti dynatys enemy and attacked Maukhri, killed Grahavarman and captured Rajyashri. Rajyavardhana marched with a large army to defeat him and rescue his sister Rajyashri, leaving his younger brother Harshavardhana as incharge of the empire. he killed Devgupta but couldnt find his sister, he then marched against Shashanka who pretended to surrender and killed Rajyavardhan trecherously. Rajyavardhans younger brother Harsha swore vengence on Shashanka and declared war against him. Meanwhile he traced and found Rajyashri who was about to perform Sati. Harsha broought her back and helped administer the Maukhri empire under Rajyashris name.After her death, he reluctently took charge of Maukhri empire as there were no heir. Harsha did not leave behind any heir, and Pushyabhuti line came to an end.
Chalukya dynasty was established by Pulkeshin 1 who was succeeded by Kirtivarman 1, who expanded kingdom to both east and west. When Kirtivarman died his son Pulkeshin 2 was a minor, hence his brother Mangalesha took charge of the kingdom as a regent. He continued the policy of expansion. When Pulakeshin 2, came of age, Mangalesha did not hand over the kingdom to his nephew who was the rightful heir to the throne. Instead, he tried to make his own son, Sundara Varman as the king. This resulted in a civil war. Pulakeshin eventually killed Mangalesha and sat on throne and under his leadership The empire reached to its zenith. His greathest achievement was his victory against Harshavardhan of Pushyabhuti dynasty. His win over andhra caused the conflict with Pallavas. Chalukyas fought many wars with pallavas. Eventually Pulkeshin 2 died in one of such wars. His grandson Vikramaditya 2 also continued to fight with Pallavas His greatest achievement was that he overrun Kanchi three times, and completely destroyed the Pallava dynasty. The main cause for downfall of Chalukyas was their weakening energy in the series of warfare against Pallavas. The last pallava king Kirtivarman was defeated by one of his feudatory Rashtrakuta king while he was returning from one of his conquest against pallavas.
Kanchan Vishnu Mhatre