Nanda dynasty

Family that ruled Magadha, in northern India (с 343–с 321 BC).

Legends regarding the low-class origins and ruthless conquests of its founder, Mahapadma, are supported by classical scholarship. The brief period of Nanda rule, along with the succeeding and more lengthy tenure of the Mauryan empire, represent the political aspect of a great transitional epoch in which settled agriculture and the growing use of iron resulted in production surpluses and the growth of cities. There are references to the wealth of the Nandas, their sizable military, and administrative initiatives such as irrigation projects.

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▪ Indian dynasty
      family that ruled Magadha, in northern India, between c. 343 and 321 BC. The Nanda dynasty immediately preceded the dynasty of the Mauryas, and, as with all pre-Maurya dynasties, what is known about it is a mixture of fact and legend. Indigenous traditions, both Brahmanical and Jaina, suggest that the founder of the dynasty, Mahapadma (who was also known as Mahapadmapati, or Ugrasena), evidently had a low social origin—a fact confirmed by classical scholarship. Mahapadma took over from the Shaishunagas not only the reins of Magadhan power but also their policy of systematic expansion. His probable frontier origin and early career as an adventurer helped him to consolidate the empire with ruthless conquests. The authenticity of the Puranic statement that he was the “destroyer of all Kshatriyas” and that he overthrew such disparately located powers as the Ikshvakus, Pancalas, Kashis, Haihayas, Kalingas, Ashmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Shurasenas, and Vitihotras is borne out by independent evidence, which also associated the Nandas with conquests in the distant Godavari Valley, Kalinga, and part of Mysore.

      The post-Mahapadma genealogy of the Nanda dynasty is perfunctory in the Puranas, which mention only Sukalpa (Sahalya, Sumalya), while the Buddhist text Mahabodhivamsa enumerates eight names. Dhanananda, the last of this list, possibly figures as Agrammes, or Xandrames, in classical sources, a powerful contemporary of Alexander the Great. The Nanda line ended with him in about 321 BC when Candragupta laid the foundation for Maurya power.

      The brief spell of Nanda rule, along with the lengthy tenure of the Mauryas, represents the political aspect of a great transitional epoch in early Indian history. The changes in material culture in the Ganges Valley beginning in the 6th–5th centuries BC, chiefly characterized by settled agricultural technology and growing use of iron, resulted in agricultural production surpluses and a tendency toward the growth of commerce and urban centres. It is significant in this context that in many sources, indigenous and foreign, the Nandas are portrayed as extremely rich and as ruthless collectors of various kinds of taxes. In Alexander's period, Nanda military strength is estimated at 20,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 quadriga (chariots), and 3,000 elephants. In administration the initiatives of the Nanda state are reflected in references to irrigation projects in Kalinga and the organization of a ministerial council.

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Universalium. 2010.

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