Saturday, 3 September 2011
Describe the early state formation in Indo-Gangetic basin. Trace out the factors that led to ascendancy of Magadha.
In the later Vedic period Indo-Gangetic basin became the cradle of civilization. Highly fertile virgin soils, abundant water resources enabled them to abandon semi-nomadic life and carry out majorly agriculture and allied practices. Further, iron know-how enabled them to reclaim much land into cultivation hence dependence on pastoral practices became secondary. Consequently, land gained much value then hitherto cattle. This characteristic change brought in a tremendous change in the early history of India.
Hereafter land has become bone of contention and hence to protect the interests of people and lands various tribal groups emerged. These groups acquired lands of others by brute force and progressively strengthened to form into larger states and the concept of territorial identity evolved. This newly developed concept facilitated formation of Janapadas duly mentioned in Vedas as ‘Shodasamahajanapadas’. Among these 16 janapadas few are monarchial and few republican states. Monarchial states started to engulf their weak neighboring states quenching their thirst for wealth and territory. In this political conquest blood feud, Magadha ultimately rose as superior power annexing all janapadas and established its paramountacy over Indian subcontinent.
Magadha, located in the heart of Indo-Gangetic basin bestowed with all the pre-requisites essential for rise and growth of the state. Fertile alluvial soils enabled large scale cultivations, thick forests provided high quality timber for chariot making, abundant elephant population reinforced elephantary wing of army. Moreover, copious availability of iron ore in this region facilitated making high quality agricultural implements and weaponry. Consequently, high agricultural yield was possible and secondly military wings were getting strengthened. Major Vanikpathas crisscrossed through state enabled to gain additional revenue through transit charges on movement of goods. Hence, wealth was accumulating in treasury thus provoking state to spend much on warfare. Moreover, capital cities were also strategically located making them impregnable from invasions. Royal lineage of Magadha was also dynamic and passionate so they annexed territories either by military pacification or diplomatic arrangements.
Finally, Magadha under the reign of Mauryans reached its zenith stretching from river Kabul in the North West, Himalayas in the north, river Cauvery in the south and Bangladesh in west as its borders. Thus, enthusiastic human capital and favorable geographical factors enabled Magadha to dictate the whole Indian subcontinent and thus remained as a benchmark era in history of India.
The Indo-Gangetic basin had become the centre of civilization during the later Vedic age. The gradual merger of janapadas during 600 – 300 BC lead to the emergence of Mahajanapadas. During this transition, Kingship was accorded the divine origin. The taxation and administrative machinery took firm root. Further, changes in the material basis led to the rise of larger states, ultimately strengthening the territorial identity. The four super powers of sixteen janapadas were Magadha, Kosala, Avanti and Vajji (republic).
Magadha was said to have emerged as a lone super power by 350 BC. Both the geographical factors and the able leadership of rulers supposedly contributed for the rise and paramountacy of Magadhan Empire. The strategic presence of Magadha in the fertile Indo-Gangetic basin resulted in creating a strong and prosperous agrarian economy. Availability of natural resources like thick natural vegetation and mineral like iron ore contributed for the strengthening of weaponry, chariotary and elephantary. The vanikpathas enroute Magadha strengthened its trade and commerce. The revenue accumulated by way of transit duties and agricultural surplus enabled Magadha rulers to engage in territorial expansion. Also, the capital like Rajagruha and Pataliputra enjoyed a natural defense attributed to water and dense forest cover.
Bimbisara of Haryanka dynasty adopted a multi-prong strategy of conciliatory approach, matrimonial alliances with state of Madra, Kosala and Vaishali, Lichachavi resulting in northward and westward expansion of the kingdom. Annexation of Anga provided Magadha, access to the sea power through the port of Tamralipti.
Later Ajatasatru, supposedly patricide, ascended the throne of Magadha with lone policy of annexation, conquered Kosala, Malla and Vajji after a 16 year long battle. After Ajatasatru, Sisunaga came to power and annexed Avanti, thus extending Magadha’s boundaries up to Narmada valley. Further Mahapadmananda of Nandas, conquered rest of Mahajanapadas and Magadha Empire now stretched from River Beas in west to Orissa in the east and till Andhra in the south.
In conclusion, the growth of universal monarchy was supported by strategic location of Magadha, abundant natural resources, powerful and ambitious rulers and the economy. Thus, the Magadha Empire emerged as an imperial power paving way for the rise of mighty Mauryan Empire, subsequently.