RISE OF MAGADHA AND ALEXANDERS INVASION
- The Brahmanas and upanishads composed 800 years ago refer to the Janapada and Mahajanpadas and provide us an insight into the settlement of agricultural communities. Another source are the texts composed by buddhists.
- Vinay pitaka dealing with the rules of order, Sutta pitaka dealing with the collection of buddhas sermons and Abhidhamma pitaka a treatise on metaphysics tell us about the princes, preachers, rich, poor, towns and villages of this period. Jataka tales dealing with the previous lives of buddha are a part of the Suta Pitaka. They give us graphical descriptions of the contemporary society and make clear references to various regions and geographical divisions.
- Some of the Janapadas developed into Mahajanapadas due to a series of internal social and political structure of the janapadas. The agricultural communities expanded as a result of diffusion of new iron technologies. contemporary texts describe land as a very important economic asset. But earlier it was jointly owned by the tribe or community, now it belonged to the Gahapati who was a big individual land owner.
- The structure of the sociey was changing. Now a brahmin would own so much land that he hired laborers or slaves for tilling it. The surplus produce which earlier went to the tillers would now go to the owners of the land.
- Gahapatis now had additional wealth and could invest it in further economic activity. This created a class of traders.
- Traders would work from towns and cities. They had a large sphere of influence and travelled to different regions and dealt with different principalities.
- Kings now emerged who tried to control a large area that would be visited by the traders.
- Private property emerged as a dominant economic activity in this period.
Polity in the Pre Mauryan period
- As the socio economic sphere changed so did the polity. Earlier the word Raja meant a generous father figure who would ensure the prosperity of his lineage.
- However, he did not have an independent taxation system or a standing army. This changed in the 6th Century BC and now there was a clear distinction between the raja and his Praja. The king would use his own system of taxation and have a standing army. This would then be used to acquire new territories and retain control over existing ones. Payment of the army came from the revenues imposed on activities in his territory.
- There was thus a permanent confrontation between the raja and his Praja.
- The Mahajanapadas did not bear the lineage of the dominant Kshatriya clans of that period.
The 6th century BC saw rise of many kingdoms in the north. Some were republican where decisions were made in a public assembly by majority vote. The others were monarchies where the decisions were made by the king assisted by the advisors.
The republics were scattered in Himalayas or northwest. The monarchies were concentrated in the Gangetic plains.
The Buddhist literature talks about 16 Mahajanapadas.
The Mahajanapadas were located in distinct geographical zones and infact 7 of them were located in the Middle Gangetic valley. This was a Rice growing plain unlike the Upper gangetic valley which was a Wheat growing plain. It has been observed in the traditional agriculture system of India, rice output exceeded the wheat output. Rice producing areas had a greater population density too. The fact that so many Mahajanapadas were contiguous to each other meant that an ambitious king would try to capture the neighbouring kingdoms. The flat terrain of these areas was also an asset.