Empires of Ancient India Mahajanapadas: The history of India commences with proof of human activity of the Homo sapiens. This was as long as 75,000 years back, or even prior to that by the Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent, was the first major civilization in India. This was somewhere around 3300 to 1300 BCE.
A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture developed in the Mature Harappan period, from 2600 to 1900 BCE. This Bronze Age civilization, however, collapsed before the end of the second millennium BCE. It was then followed by the Iron Age Vedic Civilization, which extended over much of the Indo-Gangetic plain.
Rise of Mahajanapadas
The Iron Age witnessed the rise of major polities known as the Mahajanapadas. In one of these kingdoms, Magadha, Mahavira, and Gautama Buddha were born in the 6th or 5th century BCE.
Magadha formed one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas. Mahajanpadas in Sanskrit means “Great Countries” or regions in ancient India. The core of the kingdom was the area of Bihar south of the Ganga. Its first capital was Rajagriha which is the modern-day Rajgir. Subsequently, however, Pataliputra became the capital. Pataliputra is the present day Patna.
Magadha expanded so as to include most of Bihar and Bengal with the conquest of Licchavi and Anga respectively, followed by much of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. The ancient kingdom of Magadha is mentioned in the Ramayana, Mahabharat, and Puranas. Apart from these, it is also heavily mentioned in Buddhist and Jain texts.
Empires of Ancient India Mahajanapadas
The earliest reference to the Magadha people was found in the Atharva-Veda. In the Atharva-Veda, they were found listed along with the Angas, Gandharis, and Mujavats. Two of India’s major religions, Buddhism and Jainism, found their roots in Magadha. Two of India’s greatest empires, the Maurya Empire and Gupta Empire, originated from Magadha.
These empires saw advancements in ancient India’s science, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy. They were considered the Indian “Golden Age”. The Magadha kingdom included republican communities such as the community of Rajakumara. Villages had their own assemblies under their local chiefs called Gramakas. Their administrations were divided into executive, judicial, and military functions.