Bihar’s Ancient History

Bihar's History

The history of Bihar is much more than just the story of the Caste system.

Many empires have risen and fallen in this region, including one which was founded by one of India’s most famous kings! The caste system has existed for millennia but has been a source of contention for many centuries since then. This article will explore all aspects of Bihar’s history, beginning with its origins.

The earliest evidence of inhabitation in Bihar dates back to 9,000 BCE and reveals that the first inhabitants were hunter-gatherers. Their tools made from stone resembled those used by Oldowan hominids as far away as Tanzania! By 3000 BCE, agriculture had advanced enough for people to switch from a nomadic lifestyle (following game) to a sedentary life (living in one place). The people of the time were a little more advanced than their Oldowan predecessors and preferred tools made from copper. Around 1800 BCE, iron replaced copper as the preferred metal for tools and weapons.

Maurya dynasty

A close up of a painted wall

A majority of historians believe that Bihar’s history begins with Magadha, which was a powerful empire during the Mauryan Dynasty. The dynasty was founded by Chandragupta Maurya but lasted from 321 to 185 BCE under the rule of different emperors. During this time, Bihar became an important part of India’s economy because it controlled major trade routes!

The Mauryans were great patrons of art and architecture, which is why many of Bihar’s historical sites, including the Barabar Hills and Udayagiri Caves, were built during this period.

The Mauryans fell under attack from various powers until 185 BCE when they were overthrown by one of their generals- Pushyamitra Shunga! He started the Sunga Dynasty, which was short-lived but left its mark on Bihar with the construction of several forts and stupas.

Shunga Dynasty (185-73 BCE)

A sign on the side of the road

The Sunga Dynasty is considered to have replaced the Maurya Empire in Magadha. This dynasty was a Brahmin royal family that overthrew the remaining Mauryans and then tried to emulate them by expanding their territory, many times unsuccessfully.

In 184 BCE, Pataliputra was attacked by King Pushyamitra Shunga. However, the Mauryans prevailed and sent a 15,000-strong army to destroy an army of 10,000 soldiers from the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The invading Greek army was forced to retreat under leadership from general Paurava.

The Sungas controlled Bihar until 73 BCE when they were overthrown by their minister Vasudeva. He founded the Kanva dynasty and returned Magadha to a smaller empire than that of the Mauryans, controlling only the Pataliputra region.

Pushyamitra later abdicated his throne to his son Agnimitra but became involved in a political brawl that saw him being assassinated by the ruler’s general! Once again, there was no clear heir to the throne, which led to a power struggle between many pretenders. Even though there were some powerful rulers like Kharavela of Kalinga (Odisha), this chaotic time was brought to an end by the Kanva dynasty, who used civil wars and succession struggles to their advantage!

Kanvas dynasty

The Kanva dynasty took over from the Sungas and ruled from 73 to 26 BCE. Their reign was marked by a gradual decline of power but they were fortunate enough to have been followed by a long line of weak kings, which allowed them to retain their control of Magadha even as local rulers emerged with more and more power!

After Vasudeva, the Kanvas were ruled by Reguli. When Reguli died, he left behind a weak heir who was soon deposed by Susharman who founded his dynasty of rulers!

The Kanvas didn’t last for long and were overthrown by the Andhras, who started a new era known as the Satavahana dynasty. The era lasted from 230 to 220 BCE but saw a decline in India’s economy due to increasing trade with Rome.

A few decades later, India was invaded by foreign powers from the northwest- the Sakas! This dynasty started in 185 BCE and was brought to an end by one of Alexander’s generals, Seleucus Nicator! He became the first ruler of a dynasty that lasted from 305 to 30 BCE and included rulers like Menander I and Apollodotus I.

With the fall of the Indo-Greeks came new invaders: the Panchalas and Mathuras (both kingdoms), the Yaudheyas, and several others who even clashed with each other. This chaotic time came to an end in 3 CE when a Kushan invasion ended the rule of the last powerful Indo-Scythian king, Azes II!

The Kushans were then replaced by local rulers who also had to deal with the rise of the Guptas, a powerful empire that ruled from 320 to 550 CE. During this era, Bihar was considered an important region, and many wealthy people lived in the region’s cities! Many precious books were written during this era by famous Indian scholars like Aryabhata and Varahamihira!

Around 712, Bihar was invaded by Rajputs who established their dynasty known as the Palas. The rule of this dynasty reached its peak under Dharmapala and Devapala, which is why many new temples and monasteries were built during this time! Unfortunately, Bihar then went into chaos again before Gopala, a Pala general, founded the first Sena dynasty in 814! This dynasty ruled from 785 to 1223 when Bihar was invaded by the Iltutmish of Delhi.

The region spent most of its time under foreign rule- from Ghiyasuddin Balban’s slave kingship to Jalaluddin Firoz Tughlaq’s sultanate- until the Lodis took control in 1414. Muhammad Shah founded this dynasty, which ended with Ibrahim Lodi’s deposition by Babur in 1526!

The Mughal Empire started

The Mughal Empire was then established and marked by several invasions from Persia and Central Asia. The empire lasted for several centuries, but Bihar was eventually ceded to Bengal as a part of the treaty ending the Battle of Buxar in 1765!

After some decades under British rule and another brief invasion by Hyder Ali (an important general of Mysore), Bihar became an administrative unit under the colonial government. This era, which lasted for over one century, saw several rebellions like the one started by Sultana Daku and several others who fought against British intervention.

How’s Bihar today?

Today, Bihar is an important state in India with several ancient cities and monuments! It was the homeland of several influential dynasties like the Mauryan Empire, Gupta Dynasty, Sunga Dynasty, Pala Dynasty, Sena Dynasty, Lodhi Dynasty, Mughal Empire, and others. Bihar is especially known for its ancient universities- Nalanda and Vikramasila- as well as its art, architecture, and culture.

Bihar is also known for the first successful peasant revolt! Many Bihar peasants were inspired by this example and several others to fight against their landlords during the Indian Civil War of 1947! Today, Bihar is important because it has one of the highest population densities in India and the lowest Human Development Index- only behind its neighbor, Odisha.

Bihar is also rich with ancient tales like the one about King Yayati- who had to give up his kingdom to his sons because they couldn’t follow his moral values! Some of these legends might even be true, but many sources prove Bihar’s significant role in Indian history.

Bihar’s Economy

Bihar’s economy was recently bolstered by several foreign companies that opened operations here thanks to Bihar’s lower wages plus it being less corrupt than other states in India. This has led to several anti-outsourcing movements, but the region’s future is looking bright thanks to its proximity to Nepal, Bangladesh, and China! Bihar is especially known for its production of pharmaceuticals, hosiery goods, textiles, handicrafts (like Mithila paintings), and pisciculture industries.

Bihar has several places of interest for tourists including the Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Kesaria Stupa, Kahmaria Ganj, Patna Museum, Kumhrar (the ruins of Patliputra), Vikramashila Mahavihara (ancient university built by King Dharmapala), Lauria Nandangarh, Udayagiri, and Khandagiri Caves, Barabar Caves, several ancient temples dedicated to Shiva or Shakti (like Deoghar or Madhavpur), several forts like the Rohtas Fort and Agam Kuan (a place where Alexander the Great is believed to have stopped), several Buddhist pilgrimage sites like Rajgir, Vaishali, Valmiki Nagar, Kesaria Stupa, and Pavapuri (where Buddha spent his last days).

Bihar’s Religious Places

Bihar also has several important religious places for Hindus like the Parashnath Temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva) and the Vishnupad Temple (dedicated to Lord Krishna, where he is believed to have left his footprint).

The state of Bihar has a very long and rich history which led to several cultures- Buddhist, Hindu, and others. Bihar also gave rise to many dynasties and empires which shaped much of ancient India’s history! Bihar is a beautiful, fascinating place for anyone interested in India’s history.

Bihar is a region that has been home to many dynasties and empires throughout history. It was the birthplace of Buddhism in India, as well as other religions like Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, and Sikhism. The people here have seen the rise and fall of countless empires- including one founded by Chandragupta Maurya which lasted for several centuries! Today Bihar is important thanks to its proximity to Nepal and Bangladesh- two regions with strong economies. This makes it an attractive destination for foreign investment. If you’re interested in exploring this fascinating area further or want more information, there are lots of amazing blogs about this place that you should definitely check out!

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