Agriculture, story of Magadha & Vajji

Agriculture underwent major change during this time. One such change was the use of iron plough shares. Another change was the transplantation of paddy. This means that instead of scattering seeds on the ground, sapling were grown and the planted. This lead to the massive production and even more plants survived. Slaves and landless labourers were employed to do these works.


Magadha became one of the most mahajanapadas. Rivers such as Ganga and son flowed Magadha. This was important as

  1. Transportation
  2. Water supplies
  3. Making the land fertile

Parts of Magadha were forested. Elephants were trained for the army. Forests provided woods for building houses, carts, chariots. There were iron ore mines in the region that could be  tapped to make iron tools and weapons.

The two powerful rulers of Magadha were Bimbhisara and Ajjatasattu. They tried to conquer other janapadas by all means. Another important ruler was Mahapadma Nanda, who extended his control over the north west part of the subcontinent. Rajgriha in Bihar served as the capital of Magadha for many years. Later on pataliputra , present day Patna was given the status of capital of Magadha.

Alexander, the ruler of Macedonia in Europe, reached Indian subcontinent to conquer it. However, he conquest west Asia and parts of Egypt as he wanted to conquer the whole world. On reaching River Beas, his soldiers refused to march further as they were aware of Huge Indian army and weapons, elephants, horses, chariots,. Etc.


Vajji, along with its capital city Vaishali in Bihar was under different forms of government, known as gana or Sangha. Gana is used for a group that has many members. Sangha means organisation or association. There were not one but thousands of rulers in gana or Sangha and each one of them were called raja. These rajas used to perform rituals- together. They all met in assemblies to discuss over important matters. The slaves were not made the part about of the meeting.

However rajas of powerful kingdom tried to control Sangha. This continued for a long time, say about1500 years. At last the last gana or Sangha was conquered by the Guptas.


Two major changes in agriculture were seen about 2500 years ago.

  • The Growing Use of Iron Ploughshares
    • Heavy, clayey soil turned over better than with wooden ploughshares so that it produced more grain.
  • People began transplanting paddy
    • Instead of scattering seeds on the ground, saplings were grown and then planted in the fields

    • This led to increased production, as many more plants survived..

However it was back breaking work, generally done by slave men and women, and landless agricultural labourers.Known as dasa,dasis and kammakaras respectively.



The most important Mahajanapadas in about two hundred years ago.

Reasons for its importance:

  • The Ganga river and the Son river flowed through Magadha.

These rivers were important for

    • Transport
    • Water supplies
    • Making the land fertile
  • Parts of Magadha were forested.
    • Elephants lived in the forest,captured and trained for the army.
    • Forests provided wood for building houses, carts and chariots.
  • There were iron ore mines in this region
    • That could be tapped to make strong tools and weapons.

Magadha - A Powerful Mahajanapada

  • Magadha had two powerful rulers- Bimbisara and Ajatasattu, who used all possible means to conquer other Janapadas.

  • Besides them,Mahapadma Nanda extended his control up to the north - west part of the subcontinent.

  • Rajagriha (present day Rajgir) in Bihar was the capital of Magadha for several years.
  • Later the capital shifted to Pataliputra (present day Patna).

Alexander-  Wanted to become a World Conquer

  • More than 2300 years ago, Alexander lived in Macedonia in Europe.

  • Of Course did not conquer the world but did conquer parts of Egypt and West Asia.
  • And came to the Indian subcontinent, reaching up to the banks of the Beas.
  • He marched towards eastwards but his soldiers refused to move further.
  • As they were scared of the vast armies of foot soldiers, chariots and elephants of the Indian rulers.


  • The capital of Vajji was Vaishali( Bihar).


  • Vajji had a different form of government, known as Gana or Sangha.
    • Not one but many rulers in a Gana or Sangha.
    • Even thousands ruled together.
    • Each known as Raja.
      • These Rajas performed rituals together.
      • They met in regular assemblies.
      • Through discussion and debate, they planned and act accordingly
      • Women , dasas and kammakaras were not allowed to participate in these assemblies.
  • Both Lord Buddha and Swami Mahavira belonged to Ganas or Sanghas.


  • The most vivid descriptions of life in the Sanghas are found in Buddhist books.

A famous Buddhist book - Digha Nikaya

    • Contains some speeches of the Buddha
    • Written down about 2300 years ago

Ajatasattu and the Vajjis

      (An account of the Vajjis from the Digha Nikaya)

  • Ajatasattu wanted to attack the Vajjis to expand his kingdom.
  • He was the great follower of Lord Buddha.

  • Sent his minister ,Vassakara to the Buddha to get his advice on the matter.
  • The Buddha asked him whether the Vajjis assembled frequently,then they would continue to prosper.
    • Where they established rules with mutual understanding.
    • Elders,women ,Chaityas(local shrines) and saints were respected.


  • Rajas of powerful kingdoms tried to conquer the Sanghas to extend his boundary.
  • The Gan/ Sangha - A Form of Government lasted for several years- till about 1500 years ago.
  • The last of the ganas or Sanghas were conquered by the Gupta rulers .