KINGDOM OF MAGADHA: WARS AND WARFARE
IN ancient India from the 6th century BCE onwards, the kingdom of Magadha (6th century BCE to 4th century BCE) made a mark for itself. Located in the eastern part of India in what is today the state of Bihar, it outshone other kingdoms and republics when it came to territorial expansion and control, which was the main reason and context for its incessant wars. The period of expansion and wars started from the reign of Bimbisara (543 BCE) and lasted until the fall of Dhanananda (322/321 BCE), when the Mauryans took over.
Along with Bimbisara, the main Magadha actors who screamed war were his son Ajatashatru (492 BCE – 460 BCE) and the kings Shishunaga (c. late 5th century BCE) and Mahapadma Nanda (about mid-4th century BCE). The Magadhan armies under these aggressive rulers fought pretty much like any other kingdom’s army in ancient India, using the prevalent four-fold army system (chariots, infantry, cavalry and elephants), personally led by kings or princes. Forts were present and thus, siege warfare was resorted to. In many cases, intrigue was used as a means of war. The able royal leadership and the drive to expand territorially was the main reason for Magadhan success as it impacted heavily on its military system and modes of warfare. The kingdom fell when the king was weak and unpopular and his supporters lost to intrigue—it was not exactly a military defeat. Interestingly, the story of Magadhan expansion reads just like a story—complete with intrigues, scandals, murders, undercover operations and whatnot. Interestingly, it is all history.