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Nandas: The First Empire Builders of India

Nandas: The First Empire Builders of India

  • About a hundred years after Ajatashatru’s demise, the Nandas became the emperors of Magadha in 362 BCE.
  • The first Nanda ruler was Mahapadma.
  • It is believed that he usurped the throne by murdering the last of the Shishunaga kings.
  • Under the Nandas, the empire expanded considerably, and the wealth and power of the Nandas became widely known and feared.
  • Mahapadma Nanda was succeeded by his eight sons, and they were together known as the navanandas or the nine Nandas.
  • During the process of empire building, Nandas exterminated many kshatriya clans and subjugated kshatriya-ruled kingdoms, which had still retained a degree of autonomous authority, thus creating a centralised state.
  • An inscription known as the Hathigumpha (elephant cave) from Udayagiri near Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, records the aqueduct built by King Nanda three hundred years earlier.
  • This is also indicative of the geographical extent of the Nanda Empire.
  • Though the Nandas were able administrators and had strengthened the Magadha Empire, they were not popular among the people.

A centralised state required a new administrative framework to govern an extensive territory, the creation of a bureaucracy, resources of money and men for managing the administration and the army. A system of revenue administration had to be developed to raise the funds needed for the state through taxation. Such a political formation led to the development of cities as administrative centres, distinct from villages and rural areas. A large standing army was required for expanding and retaining the empire.

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