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The Nanda Empire at its greatest extent under Dhana Nanda circa 323 BC.

The Nanda Empire originated from the kingdom of Magadha in Ancient India during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. At its greatest extent, the Nandas extended from Bengal in the east, Punjab in the west and as far south as the Vindhya Range.[1] The Nanda Empire was later conquered by Chandragupta Maurya, who founded the Maurya Empire.


Establishment of the dynasty

Mahapadma Nanda has been described as the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas. He defeated the Panchalas, Kasis, Haihayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Surasenas, Vitihotras, etc[citation needed]. He expanded his territory till south of Deccan. Mahapadma Nanda died at the age of 88 and, therefore, he ruled the bulk of the period of this dynasty, which lasted 100 years. The Nandas who usurped the throne of the Shishunaga dynasty were of low origin. Some sources state that the founder, Mahapadma, was the son of a Shudra mother, others that he was born of a union of a barber with a courtesan. Nandas were the first of a number of dynasties of northern India who were of non-Kshatriya origin.[2]

Nanda Rule

The Nandas are sometimes described as the first empire builders in the recorded history of India. They inherited the large kingdom of Magadha and wished to extend it to yet more distant frontiers. To this purpose they built up a vast army consisting of 200,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, 2,000 war chariots and 3,000 war elephants (at the lowest estimates).[3] According to Plutarch however, the size of the Nanda army was even larger, numbering 200,000 infantry, 80,000 cavalry, 8,000 war chariots, and 6,000 war elephants. However, the Nandas never had the opportunity to see their army up against Alexander, who invaded India at the time of Dhana Nanda, since Alexander had to confine his campaign to the plains of Punjab, for his forces, frightened by the prospect of facing a formidable foe, mutinied at the Hyphasis River (the modern Beas River) refusing to march any further. This river thus marks the eastern-most extent of Alexander's conquests:

Asia in 323BC, showing borders of the Nanda Empire in relation to Alexander's Empire and neighbors.
"As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was thirty-two furlongs, its depth a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at-arms and horsemen and elephants. For they were told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants."[4].

The Nandas made the methodical collection of taxes by regularly appointed officials a part of their administrative system. The treasury was continually replenished, the wealth of the Nandas being well-known. The Nandas also built canals and carried out irrigation projects. The possibility of an imperial structure based on an essentially agrarian economy began to germinate in the Indian mind.

The Fall

The last of the Nandas was Dhana Nanda (called Xandrames or Aggrammes in ancient Greek and Latin sources). Dhana Nanda was dethroned after he was defeated by Chandragupta Maurya, a young adventurer born of a Nanda prince and a maid named "Mura". He had a great potential to rule. Dhana Nanda was murdered which finally signaled the advent of the Maurya Empire in 321 BC.

Plutarch records that Chandragupta Maurya had stated that he was able to overthrow Dhana Nanda since he was hated and despised by his subjects on account of the wickedness of his disposition:

List of Nanda rulers

  • Mahapadma Nanda (c. 424 BC – ?)
  • Pandhuka
  • Panghupati
  • Bhutapala
  • Rashtrapala
  • Govishanaka
  • Dashasidkhaka
  • Kaivarta
  • Dhana Nanda (Argames) (? – c. 321 BC)
Preceded by
Shishunaga dynasty
Magadha dynasties Succeeded by
Maurya dynasty

See also

Middle kingdoms of India
Timeline: Northern Empires Southern Dynasties Northwestern Kingdoms

 6th century BCE
 5th century BCE
 4th century BCE

 3rd century BCE
 2nd century BCE

 1st century BCE
 1st century CE

 2nd century
 3rd century
 4th century
 5th century
 6th century
 7th century
 8th century
 9th century
10th century
11th century

(Persian rule)
(Greek conquests)

(Islamic conquests)

(Islamic Empire)


  1. ^ Radha Kumud Mookerji, Chandragupta Maurya and His Times, 4th ed. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1988 [1966]), 31, 28–33.
  2. ^ "Nanda Dynasty - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. 
  3. ^ cf. Diod. XVII.93.2; Curt. IX.2.3-4; Plut. "Alex." 62.3.
  4. ^ Plut. "Alex." 62.


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