Nanda Empire

Nanda Empire
345 BCE–321 BCE
The Nanda dynasty at its greatest extent under Dhana Nanda c.325 BCE.
Capital Pataliputra
Common languages Old Indic Languages (e.g. Magadhi Prakrit, Other Prakrits)
Religion Hinduism (Brahmanism[1])
Government Monarchy
 345-329 BCE
Mahapadma Nanda
 329-321 BCE
Dhana Nanda
Historical era Iron Age India
345 BCE
321 BCE
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Shishunaga dynasty
Maurya Empire
Today part of  Bangladesh
Part of a series on the
History of India

The Nanda dynasty was an ancient Indian Dynasty that originated in Magadha region during the 4th century BCE and lasted between 345–321 BCE. At its greatest extent, the empire ruled by the Nanda Dynasty extended from Bengal in the east, to the Punjab region in the west and as far south as the Vindhya Range.[3] The rulers of this dynasty were famed for the great wealth which they accumulated. The Nanda Empire was later conquered by Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan Empire.

Establishment of the dynasty

Mahapadma Nanda a Shudra, who has been described in the Puranas as "the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas",[4] defeated many other kingdoms, including the Panchalas, Kasis, Haihayas, Kalingas,[lower-alpha 1] Asmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Surasenas and the Vitihotras; to name a few.[7] He expanded his territory south of the Vindhya Range into the Deccan Plateau. The Nandas, who usurped the throne of the Shishunaga dynasty c. 345 BCE,[8] were thought to be of low origin.[9] He is said in the Puranas the son of Mahanandin, and a Shudra mother.[10][11]


The Nanda kings built on the foundations laid by their Haryanka and Shishunaga predecessors to create the first great empire of north India.[2] To achieve this objective they built a vast army, consisting of 200,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, 2,000 war chariots and 3,000 war elephants (at the lowest estimates).[12][13][14] According to the Greek historian Plutarch, 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.[13][15] However, the Nanda Empire did not have the opportunity to see their army face Alexander, who invaded North-western India at the time of Dhana Nanda, since Alexander was forced to confine his campaign to the plains of Punjab and Sindh, for his forces mutinied at the river Beas and refused to go any further upon encountering "the 4000 well trained and well equipped war elephants of the Gangaridei (Nanda)" according to Diodorus.[13][16]

A possible indication of Nanda military victories in Kalinga is suggested by the later Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela, which mentions a King named Nanda building a canal and conquering a place. The existence of a place called Nau Nand Dehra (Nanded) on the Godavari is taken by some scholars as reflecting Nanda rule over the Deccan. The evidence for the extension of Nanda rule into trans-Vindhyan India is not, however, strong.[2]


The Nandas were also renowned for their immense wealth. They undertook irrigation projects and invented standardized measures for trade across their empire, and they ruled with the assistance of many ministers.[17] The Nanda Dynasty was also mentioned in the ancient Sangam literature of the Tamil people. The famous Tamil poet Mamulanar described the capital city Pataliputra of the Nanda Dynasty and the wealth and treasure that was accumulated by the great Nanda rulers.[18] Their unpopularity, possibly due to their "financial extortion", facilitated a revolution, leading to their overthrow by Chandragupta Maurya and Chanakya. Nevertheless, "the greatness [...] attained in the Maurya Age would hardly have been possible but for the achievements of their predecessors", the Nandas.[17]

List of Nanda rulers

Jaina, Buddhist and Puranic sources all state that the Nanda kings were nine in all. But they differ in the details. The Buddhist Mahabodhivamsa lists the following as the nine Nandas:[2]

  • Ugrasena (Mahapadma Nanda)
  • Panduka
  • Pandugati
  • Bhutapala
  • Rashtrapala
  • Govishanaka
  • Dashasiddhaka
  • Kaivarta
  • Dhana (Agrammes / Xandrames)

The Puranas claim that the first of the nine, Mahapadma was the father, while the rest were his sons. Only one of the sons, Sukalpa, is named. The Buddhist tradition also claims that the later eight were brothers.[2]


Jain and Hindu writers refer to a distinguished line of imperial chancellors or advisors of the king from Kalpaka to Sakatala and Rakshasa. The advisors of the king were fewer in number but were most respected on account of their high character and wisdom. They are mentioned by the Greek observers who wrote about conditions in the fourth century BCE. Next to the advisors were the 'generals of the army'; one such, Bhadrasala, is mentioned in the Milinda-Panho.[19]

In literature

A passage of the Kathasaritsagara refers to the kataka (camp) of Nanda in Ayodhya.[7] According to the Visarasreni of Merutunga, the Nandas rose to power in 467 BCE.[20]



  1. Kalinga (India) formed part of the Nanda Empire but subsequently broke free until it was re-conquered by Ashoka Maurya, c. 260 BCE.[5][6]


  1. Bronkhorst, Johannes (2011). Buddhism in the Shadow of Brahmanism. BRILL. p. 30. ISBN 9004201408. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Upinder Singh 2016, p. 273.
  3. Mookerji 1988, p. 28–33.
  4. Mookerji 1988, p. 8.
  5. Raychaudhuri & Mukherjee 1996, pp. 204-209.
  6. Raychaudhuri & Mukherjee 1996, pp. 270-271.
  7. 1 2 Sastri 1988, p. 17.
  8. Panda 2007, p. 28.
  9. Mookerji 1988, p. 7.
  10. Smith 1999, p. 39.
  11. Mookerji 1988, p. 10.
  12. Mookerji 1988, p. 34.
  13. 1 2 3 Sastri 1988, p. 16.
  14. Gabriel, Richard A. (30 November 2002), The great armies of antiquity (1.udg. ed.), Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Praeger, p. 218, ISBN 9780275978099, archived from the original on 5 January 2014
  15. Raychaudhuri & Mukherjee 1996, pp. 204-210.
  16. Kaushik, Roy (2015), Military Manpower, Armies and Warfare in South Asia "Warfare, Society and Culture", Routledge, p. 14, ISBN 1317321286, archived from the original on 11 March 2016
  17. 1 2 Raychaudhuri & Mukherjee 1996, pp. 204-209,270-271.
  18. The First Spring: The Golden Age of India by Abraham Eraly p.62
  19. Sastri 1988, p. 15.
  20. Kailash Chand Jain 1991, p. 85.


Preceded by
Shishunaga dynasty
Nanda Dynasty
(345 BCE–321 BCE)
Succeeded by
Maurya Empire
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