The Rise And Fall of Magadha Under The Haryanka Dynasty

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Haryanka dynasty

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The Haryanka dynasty was an empire of ancient India that ruled Magadha during the 5th century. There are tales of administration and power contests that intrigue every reader. Parricides were a common feature of the Haryanka dynasty as per certain ancient texts. To narrate such stories of ancient India, we have compiled the history of the Haryanka dynasty for our beloved readers.

Today, we will be covering the Indian history of the Haryanka dynasty in this article. You will also find some important facts about the rulers, their tale of conquests and details on the Magadha as the empire of the Haryankas. Also, it talks about important dates and FAQs related to the Haryanka dynasty to help you with your UPSC preparation.

So, let’s take this amazing journey forward!

Rulers of the Haryanka Dynasty 

The Haryanka dynasty was founded by Bimbisara in 545 BCE. Following this, the rule of the Haryankas spanned two centuries that lasted till 413 BCE. This dynasty is preceded by two other dynasties which are Pradyota and Brihadratha and succeeded by Shishunaga and Nanda dynasties. It was one of the prominent and influential dynasties of the Magadha region. The dynasty was even a part of the Mahabharata era in Indian history. 

Rulers of the Haryanka dynasty and their period of rule: 

  • Bimbisara (544–492 BCE) 
  • Ajatashatru (492–460 BCE) 
  • Udayin (460–444 BCE) 
  • Anuruddha (444–440 BCE) 
  • Munda (440–437 BCE) 
  • Nāgadāsaka (437–413 BCE) 

 Bimbisara 

  • Bimbisara was the first ruler of the Haryanka dynasty whose period of reign was from 545 BCE to 493 BCE. He established the foundation of his dynasty over the Magadha region. Its capital was Rajagriha and the city was built under his command. 
  • There is mention of Rajagriha in ancient Buddhist texts. The capital was later shifted to Pataliputra (present-day Patna) during the rule of the third Haryanka emperor, Udayin. Bimbisara was also conferred with the title Seniya. 
  • The first great ruler of the Haryanka dynasty conquered the territories of Anga to the east upon whose foundation, the Mauryan empire was laid out at later stages. It is considered to be Bimbisara’s most notable achievement. 
  • He ascended the throne at an early age of fifteen when his father Bhattiya crowned him as the emperor. While the Puranas mentions Bhattiya as Hemajit or Ksetrauja, the Tibetan texts refer him as Mahapadma. Although his defences were limited, his administration and governance were applaudable. 
  • The tax system introduced by Bimbisara in ancient times was very efficient as well. Bimbisara was a contemporary of the Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira of the Jains. The Jain text Uttaradhyayana Sutra mentions him as a close associate and follower of Mahavira. On the other hand, Buddhist scriptures like the Sutta Nipata describes him to be an ardent follower of the Buddha. 
  • Bimbisara had three wives Kosaladevi, Chellana and Khema. Kosaladevi was the daughter of Kosala and the sister of Prasenjit. Chellana was the daughter of the Lichchavi chief of Vaisali. Khema was the daughter of the king of Modra of Punjab who was also depicted to be the follower of Buddha as per the Buddhist text Sutta Nipata. All of these marriages resulted from the political alliances between Bimbisara and other kingdoms. 

Ajatashatru 

  • Ajatashatru was the son of Bimbisara and his consort Chellana who was a Lichchavi. He killed his father Bimbisara in 493 BCE and established himself on the throne in 491 BCE (as per the historian, A.L Basham). Before killing him, Ajatashatru even kept him imprisoned as can be found in some sources. Even though Ajatashatru ordered the release of his prisoner after his first child was born, by then, his father had already passed away. 
  • His period of rule extends from 493 BCE until 462 BCE. Like his father Bimbisara, Ajatashatru was a capable ruler who expanded his empire to its largest extent. He even married a Kosala princess named Vajira.  
  • Mahavira and Buddha continued to remain contemporaries of Ajatashatru. The latter adopted Buddhism and convened the First Buddhist Council after the demise of Buddha in 483 BCE. The second Buddhist Council was mainly held after the death and Pari nirvana of Buddha. Buddhists celebrated the occasion of Buddha’s death as it granted the enlightened being freedom from all worldly miseries and physical existence. 
  • His chief conquest includes waging a war against the Lichhavis of the Vajjika League whom he eventually conquered. The accounts of the war were collected both from the Jains and Buddhist texts whose depictions vary. However, both texts mention the weaponry used by Ajatashatru against the Lichhavis as a remarkable and supreme craft. The Lichhavis under Chetaka were unbeatable but clever strategies employed by Ajatashatru led to their defeat. 
  • Ajatashatru died around 460 BCE and is said to have been murdered his his son Udayabhadra, (as per Buddhist traditions), who wanted to usurp his father and enthrone himself. 

Udayin 

  • Udayin was the son of Ajatashatru and his principal consort, Vajira. Buddhist and Jain texts claim him to be the immediate successor of Ajatashatru. However, Puranas tend to differ from this viewpoint and state that he was the fourth king in succession after Darshaka. However, preference is given to Buddhist or the Jain texts over the Puranas because the former predates the latter. 
  • It was during his reign that the capital of Magadha was shifted from Rajgriha to Pataliputra. He chose Pataliputra because of its central location within the Magadha empire. The foundation of the city was laid at the confluence of the two rivers of the Son and the Ganges.  
  • He defeated the Palaka of Avanti several times but eventually was overthrown by them in 444 BCE. Jain texts mention that Udayin was killed by his rivals from another kingdom whereas Buddhist texts depict that all the kings from Ajatashatru to Nagadasaka committed patricide for power. 

Other Minor Rulers of the Haryanka Dynasty 

  • The successors of Udayin mainly comprised the minor rulers of the Haryanka dynasty. These rulers were not competent enough in terms of administration, military and other such aspects which is why they are deemed “minor”. The gradual decline of the Magadha rule under the Haryanka dynasty can be attributed to this period. 
  • In majority of the accounts, the Puranas, the Buddhist and the Jain texts differs from their records of the ruler who succeeded the throne after Udayin. Whereas the Puranas claim Nandivardhana and Mahanandin to have acceded the throne in succession after Udayin, the other two texts report Anurudhha, Munda and Nagadarshaka to be the rulers that were enthroned. However, the Buddhist and Jain texts reign supreme over other sources as they were written earlier. 

Magadha Under The Rulers of The Haryanka Dynasty 

  • Magadha was a Mahajanapada or an oligarchic republic among sixteen others of its kind. It is a region in present-day south Bihar. The region saw the emergence of the Brihadratha dynasty, followed by the Haryanka dynasty which ruled from 545 BCE to 413 BCE. 
  • Usually, the expanse of the Magadha empire is said to have covered the regions of Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Bangladesh and Nepal under various rulers. 
  • Magadha is the foundation where Buddhism and Jainism simultaneously flourished. The extant texts of Buddhism and Jainism elaborates on Magadha as a region and the dynasties who ruled it. Religious texts like the Pāli Canon, Jain Agamas and the Puranas mention the emergence of the Haryanka dynasty in Magadha. 
  • Magadha is also well-known to be Buddha’s – a contemporary of both Bimbisara and Ajatashatru – place of residence. Rajagriha in Magadha is also the place where the first Buddhist Council with the support of Ajatashatru was carried out. The kings of the Haryanka dynasty were not just contemporaries of the enlightened ones like the Buddha or the Mahavira but even adopted the religion in their lives. 
  • The control of the affairs of the Magadha state were usually distributed into the gramakas and mahamatras. The gramakas were the village headmen who presided over the village assemblies and managed its regular affairs. The mahamatras referred to the high-ranking officials who took care of the empire’s administration involving the executive, the military and judiciary. 

How Did The Haryanka Dynasty Come To An End? 

  • Haryanka dynasty succumbed under the control of minor rulers who proved to be inefficient in their ways. Moreover, internal revolt was already brewing amongst the common people in the absence of a powerful ruler who could have held the empire together. 
  • As a result, a new ruler was appointed collectively which brought about the demise of the Haryanka dynasty. This also led to the fall of the Magadha empire under the Haryanka and the emergence of the Shishunaga empire. The minister (also called Amatya) of the last ruler named Shishunaga was beheld as the new king of the newest empire. 

Shishunaga Dynasty 

  • After the last ruler of the Haryanka dynasty Nagadasaka forsook his throne following a rebellion in 413 BCE, his minister (or Amatya), Shishunaga came to be referred to as the new king. 
  • Shishunaga’s most notable achievement was the destruction of the Pradyota dynasty of Avanti that ended their long-term rivalries. Eventually, the two kingdoms Avanti and Magadha were merged together. According to the Puranas, Shishunaga ruled from Rajagriha and placed his son at Varanasi to look over the affairs of the state. 
  • His death is supposed to have caused by his illegitimate son from a Shudra wife, Mahanandin. 

Important Dates 

  • 545 BCE: The Haryanka dynasty was founded by Bimbisara. 
  • 492 BCE: Ajatashatru enthroned himself after killing his father, Bimbisara. 
  • 483 BCE: First Buddhist Council was convened with the support of Ajatashatru 
  • 460 BCE: Udayin, Ajatashatru’s son succeeded the throne. 
  • 444 BCE: Anuruddha became the new king after Udayin (as per Buddhist texts) who ruled for four years. 
  • 440 BCE: Munda enthroned himself as the next king after Anuruddha and ruled for three years. 
  • 437 BCE: Nagadasaka who was the last king of the Haryanka dynasty was crowned on this date. 
  • 413 BCE: End of the rule of the Haryanka dynasty with the establishment of the Amatya, Shishunaga as the new founder of the Shishunaga dynasty 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Who was the founder of the Haryanka dynasty? 

Answer: Bimbisara was the founder of the Haryanka dynasty who ruled Magadha. His period of reign started in 545 BCE and lasted till 492 BCE. He was a powerful ruler and his administration was systemic and well-structured. 

During which ruler’s reign was the First Buddhist Council convened? 

Answer: The First Buddhist Council was convened during the reign of Ajatashatru of the Haryanka dynasty. It was held after the death and Parinirvana of Buddha. 

Which dynasty ruled Magadha before the Haryanka dynasty? 

Answer: Brihadratha followed by Pradyota dynasty ruled Magadha before the Haryanka dynasty. Thus, Haryanka was the third dynasty to rule over Magadha. Brihadratha’s foundation of the new dynasty is even mentioned in the Rigveda, an ancient Hindu text of Vedic hymns.  The founder of Magadha’s second dynasty is Pradyota who brought an end to the preceding dynasty by killing Ripunjaya, the last ruler of Brihadratha dynasty. There is less evidence regarding these two dynasties of ancient India. 

Who was the last ruler of the Haryanka dynasty? 

Answer: Nagadasaka was the last ruler of the Haryanka dynasty. He was an inefficient ruler and due to rebellion amongst his subjects, the king had to abdicate his throne. His minister Shishunaga was placed as the new king which gave rise to the Shishunaga dynasty. 

Who was Udayin? 

Answer: Udayin was the third ruler of the Haryanka dynasty. He succeeded the throne after his father Ajatashatru. He was the last major ruler with considerable power and influence. He was succeeded by other minor rulers. Some sources say that he committed patricide to establish himself as the new king. 

Final Thought

Now at the end of this article, we can say that we have collated some useful information that enabled us to have a fair idea about the Haryanka dynasty. It was under its rule that the empire of Magadha flourished and expanded beyond its limits. The patricides committed also do leave us agape at the fact that kings did terrible things to attain power and dominance.

However, sources that say consecutive patricides were committed by successive rulers makes common men harbour some doubts on the subject. Whatever it be, hopefully this article serves its purpose of offering you with facts and figures of Indian history that will help you crack the UPSC and other competitive exams.

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