The Nanda Dynasty at its greatest extent under Dhana Nanda c. 325 BC.
|Historical era||Iron Age India|
|Today part of|| Bangladesh
|Outline of South Asian history
History of Indian subcontinent
The Nanda Dynasty (Sanskrit: नन्द राजवंश; IAST: Nanda Rājavaṃśa) originated from the region of Magadha in ancient India during the 4th century BC and lasted between 345–321 BCE. At its greatest extent, the empire ruled by the Nanda Dynasty extended from Bengal in the east, to Punjab in the west and as far south as the Vindhya Range. The rulers of this dynasty were famed for the great wealth which they accumulated. The Nanda Empire was later conquered by Chandragupta Maurya, who founded the Maurya Empire.
Establishment of the dynasty
Mahapadma Nanda, who has been described in the Puranas as "the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas", defeated many other kingdoms, including the Panchalas, Kasis, Haihayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Surasenas and the Vitihotras; to name a few. He expanded his territory south of the Vindhya range, into the Deccan plateau. The Nandas who usurped the throne of the Shishunaga dynasty c. 345 BC were thought to be of low origin with some sources stating that the dynasty's founder, Mahapadma, was the son of a Shudra mother.
The Nandas are sometimes described as the first empire builders in the recorded history of India. They inherited the large kingdom of Magadha and wished to extend it to yet more distant frontiers. To this purpose they built up a vast army, consisting of 200,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, 2,000 war chariots and 3,000 war elephants (at the lowest estimates). According to Plutarch however, the size of the Nanda army was even larger, numbering 200,000 infantry, 80,000 cavalry, 8,000 war chariots, and 6,000 war elephants. However, the Nandas never had the opportunity to see their army up against Alexander, who invaded India at the time of Dhana Nanda, since Alexander had to confine his campaign to the plains of Punjab, for his forces, frightened by the prospect of facing a formidable foe, mutinied at the Hyphasis River (the modern Beas River) refusing to march any further. This river thus marks the eastern-most extent of Alexander's conquests.
The Nandas were also renowned for their immense wealth. They undertook irrigation projects and invented standardized measures for trade across their empire, and they ruled with the assistance of many ministers. The Nanda Dynasty was also mentioned in the ancient Sangam literature of the Tamil people. The famous Tamil poet Mamulanar of the Sangam literature described the capital city Pataliputra of the Nanda Dynasty and the wealth and treasure that was accumulated by the great Nanda rulers. Their unpopularity, possibly due to their "financial extortion", facilitated a revolution, leading to their overthrow by Chandragupta Maurya and Kautilya. Nevertheless, "the greatness [...] attained in the Maurya Age would hardly have been possible but for the achievements of their predecessors", the Nandas.
List of Nanda rulers
- Mahapadma Nanda (c. 345 BC – 329 BC)
- Dhana Nanda (Agrammes) (c. 329 BCE – 321 BC)
- Radha Kumud Mookerji, Chandragupta Maurya and His Times, 4th ed. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1988 ), 31, 28–33.
- Kalinga (India) formed part of the Nanda Empire but subsequently broke free until it was re-conquered by Ashoka Maurya, c. 260 BCE. (Raychaudhuri & Mukherjee 1996, pp. 204-209, pp. 270-271)
- Nanda Dynasty – MSN Encarta. Archived from the original on 2009-11-01.
- (Raychaudhuri & Mukherjee 1996, pp. 204-210)
- The First Spring: The Golden Age of India by Abraham Eraly p.62
- Raychaudhuri, H. C.; Mukherjee, B. N. (1996). Political History of Ancient India: From the Accession of Parikshit to the Extinction of the Gupta Dynasty. Oxford University Press.
(345 BC–321 BC)