Two of the largest empires of India—the Mauryan and the Gupta—had ruledover Magadha, which proved to be the centre in which art, religion, mathematics, and astronomy flourished
WORDS: MADHURI. Y
THE emergence of ‘zero’ and decimal notation, and the discovery that the Earth revolves around the Sun occurred during the Golden Age of the Gupta period. In addition, the Magadha dynasties supported art, architecture and sculpture, leaving behind many stupas and statues as proof of their patronage. Learning centres like Nalanda flourished, and Buddhism and Jainism gained royal support.
The Nanda rulers might have remained a tiny footnote in the history of India’s dynasties, if it wasn’t for Chandragupta Maurya overthrowing Dhana Nandaunder Chanakya’s guidance.
Mahapadma Nanda ascended the throne after killing his father, Mahanandin, the Shishunaga king, establishing the Nanda dynasty which ruled briefly from 345 to 321 BC.
He built a powerful army and expanded the Magadha empire towards Punjab in the west and towards the Deccan Plateau in the south. Kalinga (present-day Odisha) was part of the Nanda empire, but broke free later, only to be reconquered by Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty.
Ruling with the aid of ministers, the Nandas built irrigation projects and introduced standard measures, easing trade activity within the empire. Yet, they were known for their cruelty and extortion, which paved the way for the rise of Chandragupta Maurya.
One of the largest empires of the world of its time, the Mauryan empire ruled over Magadha for nearly a century and a half, up to 180 BC. With efficient administrative, economic and security systems set in place under Chanakya’s advice, the empire expanded and thrived.
While Chandragupta Maurya expanded his empire towards Persia, it was during his grandson Ashoka’s reign that the empire encompassed nearly all of India and beyond. Its boundaries extended from Assam in the east towards Afghanistan in the west and included parts of Southern India. After Ashoka, the Mauryan Empire went into a total decline.
After a brief rule by the Gauda kings, Shashanka and Manava, the Palas came into power with Gopala as the king. They were a Buddhist dynasty that followed the Mahayana and Tantric schools and ruled for nearly four centuries from the 8th to 12th centuries.
With a large elephant unit and navy, the Palas were a strong military power, yet they were diplomats too. Philosophy, literature, painting and sculpture gained importance during this period. The Somapura Mahavihara was built by the Palas who also lent their patronage to the Nalanda and Vikramashila universities.
With expanded trade between the Pala Empire and the Middle East, Islam made its appearance. In turn, Baghdad learnt India’s mathematical and astronomical discoveries.
Ramapala was the last strong Pala king and the weakened empire fell to the Sena dynasty during the 11th or 12th century.
Although smaller kingdoms ruled after the Pala dynasty, the region would eventually come under Muslim rule.
Introduces ‘zero’, pi, trigonometry and quadratic equations.
Heliocentric model of solar system, moon’s reflection of sunlight, earth’s circumference, solar and lunar eclipses.
Length of sidereal year
Composes Pancha Siddhantika, Brihat Samhita, Brihat Jataka
Writes Sushruta Samhita – foundation of ayurveda
Composes Abhijnana Shakuntalam, Raghuvamsha, Meghaduta