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Magadha, The Kingdom of

The kingdom of Magadha was founded around 500 B.C. (which is where it appears on the Biblical Timeline Poster ) by an aggressive ruler named Bimsiara Magadha. The kingdom started off as a small territory that was a part of a federation of kingdoms known as the Maha Janapadas. King Bimsiara used a variety of tactics to expand the small kingdom of Magadha into the most dominant realm in the region. His tactics included warfare, politics, and arranged marriages. King Bimsiara’s influence was extremely strong while he was alive but once he died around 495 B.C., the kingdom began to fall apart. Before this particular Indian kingdom fell apart, it had played a major role in the development of Buddhism and Jainism.

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Prince Siddhartha Gautama was also known historically as the Buddha or “the Enlightened One” of the current age. This former Indian monarch established the religion of Buddhism. While he was forming the core doctrine of this belief system, he traveled to the kingdom of Magadha. But this was during the 6th century B.C. When he visited this land he was influenced by some of the teachings and beliefs that were flourishing in this region. One of the major tenants of Buddhism is that liberation can be achieved through the knowledge of self and people already practiced this particular discipline as a part of their culture. Magadha religious practices also influenced Buddha’s teachings on rebirth and karma. Jainism was also influenced by Magadha religious practices. Both of these religious beliefs systems are described as a “holy” or “blessed” place because of how the people and the area influenced their religious founders in the past.

Once King Bimsiara built the Kingdom of Magadha he had to defend it against the advancing armies of the Persian Empire who harassed them for years. The Persians entered into the region of India around 500 B.C. which was the same period that Magadha was being formed. King Bimsiara knew that if he didn’t hold the Persians back that his kingdom would be in ruins. During his rule, he managed to keep the Persians from gaining control of his lands.

The kingdom of Magadha was divided into Republican communities, and many of the villages had their own local forms of government which included assemblies made up of the executive, judicial and military functions. Urban centers developed around 550 B.C., and this corresponds to the period that Buddhism and Jainism were starting to take root in the land. The kingdom was also situated by the Ganges River in India, and this allowed it to control and develop trade beyond its borders.

The Kingdom of Magadha was in existence before it became a prominent territory under the leadership of Bimsiara. The territory was formally established around 700 B.C. with sixteen other kingdoms but it didn’t hold an important position in India until Bimsiara gained control. King Bimsiara had many children, and his oldest child was named Ajatasatru. Prince Ajatasatru was an outstanding young man who was as strong and smart as he was handsome. One day King Bimsiara decided to give his children some gifts, but he didn’t give his oldest son anything on that day. The reason he didn’t give Ajatasatru a gift is because he was going to give him the kingdom of Magadha. Unfortunately, the young prince was offended by his father’s perceived negligence, and he had King Bimsiara imprisoned. Once the king was jailed Prince Ajatasatru took over the throne. He was cursed by his family, but he still continued to rule. The king died either by suicide or murder, and history is not clear as to which one of these two ill-fated forms of death claimed his life. King Ajatastru continued an aggressive campaign of conquest during his time in power. Eventually, he passed away and other rulers such as Udayabhadra, Munda, and Pandhuka.

Alexander the Great eventually made his way near Magadha around 321 B.C. but he did not fight against this empire because his soldiers mutinied and refused to go to war. So the Greek King left and returned home. Shortly after Alexander the Great visited the kingdom, it went into decline. The Maurya Empire eventually rose to power within the region and took over as the dominant state.

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