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03 December 2007, 02:05 AM
The Kingdom of Magadha

At the time of Gautama Buddha (6th Century BC), the land of Magadha was ruled by the wise King Bimbisara, whose city of Rajagriha (modern Rajgir, near Gaya, Bihar) controlled nearby iron-mines. Bimbisara established dynastic relations by intermarriage with the nobility of neighbouring Kosala and Vrijji, and easily dominated the territory of Vanga to the southeast. He was, however, murdered by his son Ajatashatru in 493 BC, who established a fort at Pataliputra (Patna), by the Ganga and near to her confluence with the Gandaki, Sona, and Ganghara Rivers. Ajatashatru was also murdered (461 BC) by his impatient heir ~ and so too, the next five generations.

Magadha battled with all of its neighbours, and used its superior weaponry (e.g. the terrible Rathamushala ~ an armored chariot with fixed iron blades for mowing down opposing forces) to great effect. Finally, the people rose up and appointed Shishunaga as ruler, whose short-lived regency was usurped by Mahapadma Nanda in about 390 BC. The Nandas were neither Brahmana nor Kshatriya, and they began a long and interesting period of non-Kshatriya monarchs informed by non-Brahmana (generally Kshatriya) philosophies.

The Nanda throne was overthrown by Candragupta Maurya in 321 BC, who developed Pataliputra as his capital. Candragupta took advantage of the disorder precipitated by Alexander of Macedon’s raid on the Panjab (327-325 BC), and occupied that western heartland of Brahmanism. He gave much support to Jaina, relinquishing sovereignty in 297 BC, and ending his life by Itvara.

Candragupta’s son, Bindusara, extended Mauryan control across the Deccan, as far south as the Kauveri. At his death in 272 BC, the extreme south was ready for capitulation, and Devanamapriya Priyadasi (Ashoka Maurya) inherited the Empire.

The last remaining independent territory of the peninsula was Kalinga (the Puri region of modern Orissa), which Ashoka dutifully attacked (c. 261 BC). Although, moved by the slaughter that he had caused in his first military campaign, Ashoka gave up warfare and accepted the doctrine of Buddhism (c. 257 BC), preferring ‘conquest by righteousness’. By the time of his death (c. 232 BC), most of the subcontinent (from the Makran Coast in the west, and north to the Hindu Kush, eastwards beyond the Ganges Delta, and south to the Kaveri River) came under Mauryan rule, and the influence of Buddhism.

Ashoka proclaimed throughout the land of Bharata (India), the fundamental moral principle of Ahimsa (Not Harming ~ respect for all Purusha) that informs Jaina and Bauddha Dharma, which both also denied the existence of any deity requiring oblation. The futility of animal sacrifice in Vaidika Yajna was thus recognized. This was a source of animosity from orthodox Brahmanas of the Pravrtti-Marga, who naturally considered their authority, indeed their whole purpose, to be subverted by such popular teachings.

The Kshatriya doctrines of Bauddha and Jaina, and the Atharvan (which is sometimes referred to as a Kshatriya-Veda), regard the three-fold Ritam of Saguna-Brahma as an impure admixture of mundane ingredients ~ one must look beyond (or within) for the ultimate Truth.

Large numbers of Shudra from over-populated areas, and those displaced by conquest, were sent into new territories to clear the land and establish new settlements. Highways and elaborate irrigation schemes were established, products were required to be date-stamped, and taxation was developed as an art.

In Magadha, Megasthenes reported a sales tax of 10%, while throughout the territories a tax of 20% was applied to all produce (with a 20% trading-surcharge). Philosophers, however, were exempt from taxation. One quarter of total revenue was reserved for major works, the salaries of civil servants, and the maintenance of a standing army of (according to Megasthenes) 9,000 elephants, 30,000 cavalry, and 600,000 infantry. Ashoka, who also sent spies throughout the country, disguised as mendicants, merchants, students, ascetic nuns, and prostitutes, personally reviewed all financial records. The Royal Highway (later, the Grand Trunk Road) extended from the major port for trade to Burma, at Tamralipti (modern Tamluk in the Midnapore District of West Bengal), through Pataliputra, and on to Taxila (near the Khyber Pass, in modern Afghanistan), the lucrative portal to all western trade routes.

The Mauryan Empire lasted for only fifty years after the death of Ashoka in 232 BC. Bactrian Greeks took Taxila and Gandhara in about 180 BC, and restless Kalinga re-asserted its independence soon after. In 88 BC, the Shakas (Scythians displaced from the shores of the Aral Sea) came through the Bolan Pass (near modern Quetta, northern Baluchistan) and occupied the entire Indus region and as far east as Mathura (U.P.). By 78 AD, the northern Yueh-Chi tribes had flooded through the Himalaya and established the Kushana Empire, which stretched from Kabul to Kashi and south to Sanchi (near the Narmada, in M.P). Purushapura (Peshawar) became the Kushanian capital, although their favorite resort was always Mathura. The Scythians were quickly routed by the Kushanians, only retaining the western regions of Kacch, Saurastra, and Malwa; although the calendar that is reckoned from the foundation of Kushanian rule (and still used in Bharata today) is remembered as the Shaka Era.

Despite all of this political upheaval, the Mauryan infrastructure now linked Bharata with the world, and trade continued to prosper. Among the three Dvija (Twice-Born) castes, the Vaishya or merchant-caste has always suffered discrimination in Brahmin society, and many were influenced by the Kshatriya-Dharmas. Lack of caste also prevented recent immigrants from achieving Brahmin acceptance (although a special rank of degraded Kshatriya was established for the new rulers), and so they also turned to Buddhism and Jainism.

05 December 2007, 04:37 PM
The Gupta Dynasty also arose in Magadha; the old Mauryan capital (Pataliputra) was revived, and a vast empire established, with the support of Vishnu. Although Candra Gupta named himself Maharajadhiraja (Great King of Kings), his modest empire only extended across the Ganges plains to Prayaga.

Samudra Gupta was more ambitious; succeeding his father around 335 AD, he conquered all of the Doab, and he campaigned through the Deccan forests and as far south as Kancipuram (Kanchi, in Tamil Nadu). The Himalayan kingdoms of Nepal, and the Kushana and the Shakas, all paid tribute to Samudra Gupta; and, for the first time, the eastern tribal kingdom of Assam came under Aryan influence (relations were at least cordial). His direct authority, however, remained only in the region of Ganga and Yamuna.

Candra Gupta II ruled from 375 to 415 AD, and battled with the Shakas for two decades (388 - 409 AD), eventually controlling the entire North. Resistance from the Deccan kingdoms was finally settled by marriage-alliances; and all of Bharata was (at least for taxation purposes) nominally Gupta. He was known as Vikramaditya (Sun of Prowess), and both science and the arts flourished under his rule. It was the ‘Golden Age’ of Bharata, for the elite. The Kama-Sutra was composed, describing courtly behavior and lovemaking, and the famous poet Kalidasa frequented Candra Gupta’s court.

The so-called Arabic numeral system first appeared during the Guptan Dynasty, and was in regular use by Jyotisha (Light Lords ~ astronomers) in 499 AD, when Aryabharata calculated pi to 3.1416 and determined the solar year to consist of 365.3586805 days. The singular Bindu represents both an infinitesimal point and an infinite expansion, and the sages of Bharata had long appreciated the full potentiality expressed by non-manifestation. Their understanding readily allowed the essential innovation of this numeric system, which employed a unique circular character to represent both zero (the void) and the higher levels of manifestation implied by that symbol in decimal annotation.

By about 500 AD, Huns from central Asia had taken the northwestern regions, and as far south as the Narmada. King Mihirakula (c. 520 AD) was noted as an uncouth iconoclast with an intense dislike for Buddhism. He died in Kashmir in 542 AD, and the pressure against Gupta rule was eased; although, by 600 AD their power was broken. Numerous states then vied for supremacy.

Nuno Matos
05 December 2007, 06:52 PM
Namaste Sarabhanga

An endless Summer!
Are the Manu laws from that period? And what about the influences from that period that some scholars point over Hinduism trough Budism, that are still present today?

Om namah shivaya!

06 December 2007, 05:58 PM
Namaste Nuno,

Candragupta Maurya (c. 340-293 BC) ascended to the imperial throne in 321 BC and his prime minister was Vishnugupta Kautilya (c. 350-283 BC), who wrote the Arthashastra. And the Manava Dharmashastra was composed around the same time (i.e. circa 300 BC).

The Hindu Dharma of today has been heavily influenced by the Jaina Dharma (http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=283) of Candragupta Maurya, and the Bauddha Dharma of Ashoka Maurya (c. 257-232 BC), and the Vaishnava Dharma of Candra Gupta II (c. 375-415 AD).

From the Dharmapada (c. 70 BC): By self alone is evil done, by self is one disgraced; by self is evil left undone, by self alone is he purified; purity and impurity belong to self, no one can purify another.

From the Sutta Nipata (c. 50 BC): I call him alone a Brahman, who knows his former abode, who sees both heaven and hell, and has reached the extinction of births. One is neither a Brahman nor a non-Brahman by birth; by his conduct alone is he a Brahman, and by his conduct alone is he a non-Brahman.


After the Paranirvana of Gautama Buddha (483 BC), a council was held to codify the Buddha-Dharma, resulting in about 250 monastic rules (Pratimoksha) that fixed Buddhist morality and behavior; but even by 383 BC, when a second council was held, it was clear that popular Buddhism was changing. The four centuries that followed the disintegration of Mauryan Empire saw a gradual syncretism, which led to Brahmanism adopting ideas and practices that were originally Buddhist, while Buddhism developed into a Sanskritic, quasi-Brahmanic form that eventually came to be known as the Mahayana (Great Vehicle). Both faiths were influenced by the indigenous fertility-cults, and through increasing western contact. Lay practice also led to the divergence of the austere, Svetambara (White Clad) Jaina from the orthodox, and even more austere, Digambara (Sky Clad ~ naked) sect.

The majority of the epic Ramayana and Mahabharata were composed during this period (200 BC - 200 AD), and the Pali canon of Buddhist lore (Tripitaka) was formalized. In the face of declining influence, Brahmana accepted the profitable suggestion made by Gautama himself, that the sacrifice of alms-giving to holy men is preferable to animal sacrifice. The Buddhist assertion that Moksha can only be attained through true perception was also accepted, leading to a new form of Brahmin worship (Puja), involving direct sight (Darshana) of the deity and alms giving (Dakshina) to the Brahmana. With their role in sacrificial ritual diminished, they retained the prestige position of public educators. Their technique of memorizing the sacred books had become the basis of learning, and Sanskrit was held close as the mysterious privilege of the Brahmana.

Village deities and legends were Sanskritized and each was assimilated (c. 50 BC) according to characteristic qualities under one head of a Brahmanic trinity that unites the three Gunas as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Nuno Matos
06 December 2007, 06:30 PM
Namaste Sarabhanga

Thank you Sarabhanga Giri!

There is no doubt about the importance of the period in making up the cultural frame of actual Hinduism and especially of Indian civilisation.