Shishunaga Dynasty (413 BCE to c. 345 BCE): Rise, Conquest & Decline 

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Shishunaga Dynasty

The Shishunaga Dynasty was a great kingdom that ruled the area of the Magadha Empire in ancient India. The third imperial dynasty of Magadha was the Shishunagas, they came to power after the Brihadratha and Haryanka dynasties. If we look at the history of this empire, their reign was quite short in duration but they had set up a strong foundation for the Nandas and Mauryas.

Rise of Shishunaga

The Shishunaga dynasty emerged after the locals protested the existing Haryanka rule at this time. At this time Shishunaga emerged. Contemporary literature vividly depicts his remarkable ascent to authority. In the preceding era, the Haryanka Dynasty had been marked by a series of brutal successions, characterized by patricidal acts, commencing with King Ajatashatru. 

This internecine violence within the royal family deeply disturbed the common people, leading to the removal of the dynasty’s final monarch, quite possibly named Nagadasaka. In his place, the people elevated the most competent official in the kingdom to the throne. Shishunaga was believed to be the son of Lichhava a ruler of Vaishali. 

Source: World History Encyclopedia

Also Read: Pallava Dynasty: Origin, Achievements, and Legacy

Conquest of the Shishunaga Dynasty

Shishunaga had inherited the Magadha Kingdom’s enormous wealth and vast territories. The Magadha Empire in Bihar is famous for its reserve of natural resources. The region had rich iron ore deposits which helped in weapon production. Moreover, the fertile fields were capable of sustaining vast armies. The Haryanka monarchs also harnessed these resources.

During Shishunaga’s reign, he fortified the Magadhan army. He also achieved a military triumph that outshone the accomplishments of his predecessors. He defeated the Avanti Kingdom as well. Succeeding Shishunaga, his son Kalashoka assumed the throne. Although historical accounts are scant regarding his military endeavours. It is likely that he primarily basked in the glory of his father’s victories. 

Kalashoka fathered eleven sons who succeeded him, yet historical records are meagre on the Shishunaga Dynasty from here on. However, instead of designating a single capable successor, it is believed they divided the realm into 11 successors. This division weakened the empire significantly, and it swiftly disintegrated in the subsequent years.

Also Read: Rashrtrakutas Dynasty: Origin, Rulers, Administration & Decline

Decline of the Shishunaga Dynasty

Mahanandin was the last Shishunaga king as per the Hindu Puranas. He is believed to be the son of Nandivardha and a grandson of Kalasoka. Archaeological evidence does not confirm this though. Some texts claim that Kalasoka was brutally murdered by a Shudra who then ascended the throne to form the Nanda Dynasty others say that it was Mahanandin who was stabbed to death by the Shudra. 

Shishunaga Dynasty
Source: History Unravelled

Some believe that Ugrasena Nanda was an illegitimate child of Mahanandin and was actually an heir of the Shishunaga Dynasty only. However, what is known is that their reign came to an end in 345 BCE. 

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