Dynasties of Ancient India

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History Notes: Dynasties of Ancient India

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Updated : Nov 19, 2019, 12:00

By : Neha Uppal

History forms a very important part of the General Awareness section of every competitive exam. In continuation to our previous posts on History notes, here are some very useful notes on Dynasties of Ancient India. Follow these notes to excel in the upcoming Railway and SSC exams.


Dynasties of Ancient India

Two major dynasties of India, the Maurya Empire (321 BC- 185 BC) and Gupta Empire (240 BC-550 AD), were originated from Magadha.

Apart from Maurya and Gupta dynasties, there were other dynasties which were started from Magadha,

  • Haryanka dynasty (544-413 BCE)
  • Shishunaga dynasty (413-345 BCE)
  • Nanda dynasty (343-321 BCE)

Haryanka dynasty:-

  • Haryanka is the name of a new dynasty founded in Magadha by Bimbisara.
  • Bimbisara founded the dynasty by annexing Anga and entering into matrimonial alliances with Kosala and Vaishali.
  • Bimbisara was a contemporary of Buddha.
  • Ajatasatru’s successor Udayin was the founder of the city of Pataliputra.
  • Pataliputra and Rajagriha were the capitals of the Magadhan kingdom. Magadha falls in the Patna region of Bihar.

Shishunaga Dynasty:-

  • Haryankas were overthrown by Sisunaga and he founded the Sisunaga dynasty there.
  • Their greatest achievement was the destruction of Avanti.
  • Kalasoka the son and successor of Sisunaga was succeeded by Mahapadma Nanda and he founded the Nanda dynasty.

Nanda Dynasty:-

  • The Nanda Empire was an ancient Indian dynasty originated from Magadha and was established in 424 BC.
  • Mahapadma Nanda was the founder and the first king of the Nanda dynasty.
  • He overthrew the Magadha dynasty and established the new Empire.
  • Initially, the Nanda Dynasty inherited a large kingdom of Magadha and subsequently, the boundaries of the Nanda Dynasty were expanded in all directions by its rulers.
  • Nandas formed a vast army, including 200000 infantry, 20000 cavalry, 2000 war chariots and 3000 war elephants.
  • At its peak, the Nanda Empire expanded from Bengal in the east to Punjab in the west.
  • In the southern side, it extended to the Vindhya Range.
  • Dhana Nanda was the last ruler of Nanda Dynasty.
  • In 321 BC, Chandragupta Maurya defeated him and founded the Maurya Empire.


MAURYAN DYNASTY (321 – 185 BC):-

List of Mauryan Emperors:

  1. Chandragupta Maurya (321 BC-298 BCE)
  2. Bindusara (298 BC-272 BCE)
  3. Ashoka Maurya (273-232 BCE)
  1. Dasaratha Maurya
  2. Samprati
  3. Salisuka
  4. Devvarman
  5. Satadhanvan
  6. Brihadratha Maurya

Origin of Mauryan Empire:-

  • The Mauryan Empire started from Magadha was founded in 321 BC by Chandragupta Maurya.
  • Pataliputra, the modern-day Patna was the capital city of the Mauryan Empire.

Expansion of Mauryan Empire:-

  • Mauryan Empire was one of the world's largest empires of that time and expanded to an area of 5,000,000 km2.


  • Ashoka ascended the throne in 273BC and ruled up to 232 BC. He was known as ‘Devanampriya Priyadarshini' the beautiful one who was the beloved of Gods.
  • Ashoka fought the Kalinga war in 261 BC Kalinga is in modern Orissa. Ashokan inscriptions were deciphered by James Princep.
  • After the battle of Kalinga Ashoka became a Buddhist, being shocked by the horrors of the war.
  • Ashoka was initiated to Buddhism by Upagupta or Nigrodha a disciple of Buddha
  • For the propagation of Buddhism Ashoka started the institution of Dharmamahamatras.
  • The IV Major Rock Edict of Ashoka tells about the practice of Dharma.
  • The Major Rock Edict XIII of Ashoka deals with the conquest of Kalinga.
  • Ashoka held the third Buddhist council at his capital Pataliputra in 250BC under the presidentship of Moggaliputa Tissa.
  • He sent his son and daughter to Sri Lanka for the spread of Buddhism (Mahendra and Sanghamitra)
  • Ashoka spread Buddhism to SriLanka and Nepal. He is known as the Constantine of Buddhism.
  • In his Kalinga Edict, he mentions ‘‘All man are as my children’’.
  • Ceylon ruler Devanmpriya Tissa was Ashoka’s first convert to Buddhism. Ashoka ruled for 40 years and died in 232 BC.
  • The emblem of the Indian Republic has been adopted from the four lion capital of one of Ashoka's pillars which are located in Sarnath.
  • Rock-cut architecture in India made a beginning during Ashoka’s reign.


Chanakya the architect of Mauryan Empire:-

  • Chanakya, also known as Kautilya was the teacher of Chandragupta Maurya.
  • He was originally a teacher of Takshashila University.
  • He is considered to be the main architect in the establishment of the Maurya Empire by defeating the powerful Nanda Empire.
  • His original name was Vishnugupta.

Important points about Mauryan Empire:-

  • Major sources for the study of Mauryan Empire are the Arthasastra of Kautilya and Indika of Megasthenes.
  • Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Mauryan Empire. It is also said that his mother was Mura women of lower birth hence got the name Maurya.
  • Chandragupta Maurya was converted to Jainism, abdicated the throne in favour of his son Bindusara, passed his last days at Sravanabelagola (Near Mysore) where he died in 298 BC.
  • Bindusara was a follower of Ajivika sect.
  • Bindusara was known as Amitragatha.
  • Megasthenese the first foreign traveller to India mentions the existence of seven castes in India during the Mauryan period. Stanika in Mauryan administration refers to the tax collector.

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