Ancient History of Bihar

by Mr. DJ

Ancient History of Bihar

The Ancient History of Bihar extends to the very dawn of human civilization and also associated with the advent of the earliest legends of Sanatana Dharma. In this article, we have given the complete study material of ‘Ancient Bihar History’ that will ease the journey of aspirants to crack the competitive examinations like BPSC and other state-level examinations.

Ancient History of Bihar

Ancient History of Bihar

The Ancient History of Bihar extends to the very dawn of human civilization and also associated with the advent of the earliest myths and legends of Sanatana Dharma. It was the center of a powerful kingdom, learning as a cultural center for thousands of years under the patronage of able kingdoms. The word ‘Bihar’ has originated from the ‘Viharas’ which means resting house of Buddhist monk but it was the Muslim rulers of 12th Century who started calling the state as ‘Bihar’.

Ancient History of Bihar


Advent of Aryans in Bihar

1. Aryans started moving towards Eastern India in the later Vedic period (1000-600 BC).

2. Satapatha Brahmana mentioned the arrival and spread of Aryans.

3. Varah Puran mentions that Kikat as inauspicious place and Gaya, Punpun and Rajgir as auspicious place.

The Mahajanpada

The Buddhist and Jaina literature mentioned that 6th century India was ruled by a number of small kingdoms or city states dominated by Magadha.  By 500 BC witnesses the emergence of sixteen Monarchies and Republics known as the Mahajanapada.

1. Anga: Modern divisions of Bhagalpur and Munger in Bihar and also some parts of Sahibgunj and Godda districts of Jharkhand.

2. Magadha: Covering the divisions of Patna and Gaya with its earlier capital at Rajgriha or Girivraj.

3. Vajji: a confederacy of eight republican clans, situated to the north of river Ganges in Bihar, with its capital at Vaishali.

4. Malla : also a republican confederacy covering the modern districts of Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur and Siddharth nagar in Eastern U.P. with two capitals at Kusinara and Pawa.

5. Kashi: covering the present area of Banaras with its capital at Varanasi.

6. Kosala: covering the present districts of Faizabad, Gonda, Bahraich etc. with its capital at Shravasti.

7. Vatsa: covering the modern districts of Allahabad and Mirzapur etc. with its capital at Kaushambi.

8. Chedi: Modern Bundelkhand with its capital at Shuktimati.

9. Kuru: covering the modern Haryana and Delhi area to the west of river Yamuna with its capital at Indraprastha (Delhi).

10. Panchala: covering the area of Western U.P. upto the East of river Yamuna, with its capital at Ahichhatra.

11. Surasena: covering Braj-mandal with its capital at Mathura.

12. Matsya: Covering the area of Alwar, Bharatpur and Jaipur in Rajasthan.

13. Avanti: Modern Malwa, with its capital at Ujjayani and Mahismati.

14. Ashmaka: between the rivers Narmada and Godavari with its capital at Potna.

15. Gandhara: covering the area of western part of Pakistan and Eastern Afghanistan, with its capital at Taxila and Pushkalvati.

16. Kamboja: identified with Modern Hazara district of Pakistan.

Summary on the Rise and Growth of Magadha Empire

Buddhism and Bihar

Bihar is the birth place of Buddhism because it is the place where the divine light of enlightenment was showered on Gautama Buddha. It was a place where Buddha attained enlightenment, delivered his first sermon which was called “Dharma Chakra Pravartana”, and announced his “Parinirvana”.

Buddhist Literature
1. Vinaya Pitaka: It contains rules and regulations of monks and nuns. 2. Sutta Pitaka: It is a collection of short sermons of Buddha which is further divided into 5 Nikayas. 3. Abhidhamma Pitaka: It contains the meta-physics of Buddha. i.e. Religious Discourse 4. Jatakas: It is a collection of short stories related to the previous birth of Buddha. 5. Millindapanho: It contains the conversational dialogues between Greek King Menander and the Buddhist saint Nagasena. Note: Tripitakas were finally compiled during the fourth Buddhist Council and They were written in Pali.

Four Noble Truths

1. Sarvam Dukkham: Life is full of misery.

2. Dukha Smundra: Desire is the cause of rebirth and misery.

3. Dukha Nirodha: Misery and rebirth can be ended by conquering desire.

4. Gamini pratipad: Nirvana or salvation could be attained i.e man will be free from the circle of birth and death by following the Eight Fold Path, ‘Astangika Marg’.

List of the Buddhist Councils| Venue, Patronage and Outcome

Eight-Fold Paths

1. Samma-Ditthi — Complete or Perfect Vision

2. Samma-Sankappa — Perfected Emotion or Aspiration

3. Samma-Vaca — Perfected or whole Speech

4. Samma-Kammanta — Integral Action

5. Samma-Ajiva — Proper Livelihood

6. Samma-Vayama — Complete or Full Effort, Energy or Vitality

7. Samma-Sati — Complete or Thorough Awareness

8. Samma-Samadhi — Full, Integral or Holistic Samadhi

Note: The term Samma means ‘proper’, ‘whole’, ‘thorough’, ‘integral’, ‘complete’, and ‘perfect’.

Jainism and Bihar

Jainism came into existence with the advent of Vardhman Mahavira. He was 24th Trithankara as per Jain text. At the age 0f 30, he left his home in search for salvation and for that matter, he followed the practice of an ascetic group called ‘Nirgranthas.’ The original texts of Jainas were called ‘Purvas’ and were 14 in number. The list of Jain Trithankaras is given below:

Trithankaras of Jainism
Tirthankar Symbol Place of Nirvan
Lord Rishabha Bull Ashtapad(Kailasha)
Ajitnath Elephant Samet Sikhar
Sambhavanath Horse Samet Sikhar
Abhinandannath Monkey Samet Sikhar
Sumatinath Red Goose Samet Sikhar
Padmaprabha Lotus Samet Sikhar
Suparshvanath Swastika Samet Sikhar
Chandraprabha Moon Samet Sikhar
Pushpadanta Crocodile Samet Sikhar
Sheetalnath Kalpavriksha Samet Sikhar
Shreyansanath Rhinoceros Samet Sikhar
Vasupujya Female buffalo Champapuri
Vimalnath Pig Samet Sikhar
Anantnath Porcupine Samet Sikhar
Dharmanath Vajra Samet Sikhar
Shantinath Deer Samet Sikhar
Kunthunath Goat Samet Sikhar
Aranath Fish Samet Sikhar
Mallinath Kalasa Samet Sikhar
Munisuvrata Tortoise Samet Sikhar
Nami Natha Blue-Water Lily Samet Sikhar
Neminatha Conch Mount Girnar
Parshva Snake Samet Sikhar
Mahavira Lion Pava Puri

Doctrine of Jainism

1. The doctrine is moving around five concept: Satya; Ahimsa; Aparigraha ; Asteya ; Brahamacharya.

2. Salvation could be achieved by the purification of soul through severe penance and practicing triratnas.

3. Nayavada of Jainism states that reality can be approaches from different view point and therefore relative and knowledge cannot be absolute.

Pre-Maurya Dynasties under Magadha Empire

Brihadrath Dynasty

Brihadrath was the earliest known king of Magadha and his name has been memtioned in Rigveda.According to the Mahabharta and Puranas, Brihadrath was the eldest son of Vasu, the Kru kind of Chedi. Jarasandha was the famous king of the dynasty and was the son of Brihadrath.

Haryanka Dynasty

Bimbisara was the founder of the dynasty.He expanded the boundaries of his kingdom through matrimonial alliances. His first wife Kosaladevi was a Kaushal princess, sister of Prasenjit. His second wife Chellana was a Licchhavi princess and third wife Kshema was a princess of Madra clan of Punjab.

Ajatshatru was succeeded Bimbisara. It was during his reign that Mahatama Buddha attained ‘Mahaparinirvana’ and Lord Mahavira died in Pavapuri. First Buddhist Council was conducted under his patronage. Udayin succeeded Ajatshatru. He founded the city of Patliputra and made it capital city.

Shishunaga Dynasty

Shishunaga was the founder of the dynasty.During this dynasty, Magadha has two capital– Rajgir & Vaishali.  Second Buddhist Council was organised under the Patronage of Kalasoka.

Nanda Dynasty

The dynasty was founded by the Mahapadmananda after killing the last Shishinaga ruler Nandivardhana. He has been described in the Purans as Mahapadma or Mahapadmapati. He was also referred as Ugrasena in Mahabodhivamsa. Dhana Nanda was the last ruler of Nanda dynasty and was contemporary of Magadha.

Mauryan Empire

Mauryan period witnessed the developments in every field of human existence like social, political, cultural, religious or economic. It was geographically extensive, powerful and politically military empire in ancient India. The empire had its capital at Patliputra. It was ruled great rulers like Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara and Ashoka.

Mauryan Society
1. Megasthenese divided the Mauryas Society into seven castes: Philospher, farmers, soldiers, herdsman, artisan, magistrate and councilors. They mentioned that there was no existence of slavery but it is contradicted by other Indian sources. 2. Kautilya recommended the recruitment of vaishayas and shudras in the army but their actual enrolment is extremely doubtful.He refers the existence of four castes. 3. The position of shudra improved somewhat for hitherto agricultural labourers and domestic slaves. They could own their land.

Maurya Empire: A Detailed Summary

Post- Mauryan Dynasties

Sunga Dynasty

Pushyamitra Sunga was the founder of the dynasty. Two Ashwamedha Yagya was held which is supported by Ayodhya inscription of Dhandev. Patanjali, the great Sanskrit scholar was the main priest. Agnimitra succeeded the Pushyamitra Sunga. He was the hero of Kalidasa’s drama ‘Malavikagnimitram’. According to the Puranas, Devbhuti was the 10th and the last ruler Sunga dynasty.

 Kanva Dynasty

Vasudeva was the founder of the dynasty. Susharman was the last ruler of the dynasty. This dynasty was come to an end as result of rise to power of rulers of Satavahanas dynasty.

Kushan Dynasty

Remains of Kushan Era have been discovered from Magadh region. They started their campaign into this region around 1st century AD.  There are evidences of Kushan ruler Kanishka attacking Patliputra and took along with him the famous Buddhist monk Asvaghosa.

The Gupta Empire

This dynasty signifies the establishment of second empire in ancientIndian History. Gupta succeeded in bringing major parts of India under a unified administration to a great extent. The difference between Gupta empire’s and Mauryan empire’s administration was that in the Mauryan administration and power was centralised but the in the Gupta administration, powr was more decentralised. Inscriptions state that the Sri Gupta was the first king.

Bihar during Pala Empire

The Pala Empire was a Buddhist supreme power in ancient India. The term ‘Pala’ means protector and was used as an ending to the names of all Pala monarchs. Palas were the follower of the Mahayana and Tanric school of Buddhism. Gopala was the first ruler of the dynasty.

According to the Pala copper plate inscription, Devpala exterminated the Ukalas, conquered the Praggyotisha (Assam), shattered the pride of the Hunas and humbled the lords of Pratiharas, Gurjara and the Dravidas. The Pala created many temples and works of art as well as supported the universities of Nalanda and Vikramashila.

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