BPSC study material: Ancient History of Bihar Part -1

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Ancient History of Bihar Part-1: The history of Bihar is one of the most varied in India. Bihar consists of three distinct regions, each has its own distinct history and culture.  The word ‘Bihar’ has originated from the ‘Viharas’ which means the resting house of Buddhist monk but it was the Muslim rulers of 12th Century who started calling the state as ‘Bihar’.

Here, we are giving the complete study material of ‘Ancient Bihar History’ that will ease the journey of aspirants to crack the competitive examinations like BPSC and other state-level examinations.

Ancient History of Bihar Part-1 


  • Palaeolithic sites have been discovered in Munger and Nalanda.
  • Mesolithic sites have been discovered from Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Singhbhum and Santhal Pargana (all in Jharkhand)
  • Neolithic(2500 – 1500 B.C.) artefacts have been discovered from Chirand(Saran) and Chechar(Vaishali)
  • Chalcolithic Age items have been discovered from Chirand(Saran), Chechar(Vaishali), Champa(Bhagalpur) and Taradih(Gaya)


  • In the Later Vedic Age a number of small kingdoms emerged. 16 monarchies and republics known as Mahajanapadas stretched across Indo-Gangetic plains. They are:
1.       Kasi2.       Kamboja
3.       Kosala4.       Gandhara
5.       Anga6.       Avanti
7.       Magadha8.       Assaka
9.       Vajji (Vriji)10.   Surasena
11.   Malla12.   Matsya
13.   Chedi14.   Panchala
15.   Vatsa (Vamsa)16.   Kuru
  • Three Mahajanapadas were in Bihar namely Magadha, Anga and Vajji.

ANGA Kingdom

  • It is mentioned for the first time in Atharvaveda.
  • It comprised of present-day Khagaria, Bhagalpur, and Munger.
  • It was situated to the north-east of Magadha Empire.
  • Champa (in present-day Bhagalpur) was the capital.
    • It was established by king Mahagovind.
    • It was also called Chenanpo (by Hiuen Tsang) and Malini.

VAJJI Kingdom

  • It consisted of eight clans.
  • Most important clans were – Licchavi, Videha and Jnatrika.
  • It was located in Northern India.
  • The capital of Vajji was located at Vaishali.
  • It was considered the world’s first republic.

Licchavi Clan

  • It was the most powerful clan among the Vajji confederacy.
  • It was situated on the Northern Banks of Ganga and Nepal
  • Its capital was located at Vaishali.
  • Lord Mahavira was born at Kundagram in Vaishali. His mother was a Licchavi princess (sister of King Chetaka).
  • They were later absorbed into the Magadh Empire by Ajatshatru of Haryanka dynasty.
  • Later Gupta emperor Chandragupta married Licchavi princess Kumaradevi.

Jnatrika Clan

  • Lord Mahavira belonged to this clan. His father was the head of this clan.

Videha Clan

  • It is mentioned for the first time in Yajurveda.
  • The kingdom was started by Ishkavaku’s son Nimi Videh.
  • Mithijanak Videh established Mithila.
  • Goddess Sita, daughter of King Janak, belonged to this clan.
  • Janakpur (now in Nepal) was the capital of this kingdom.


  • It is mentioned for the first time in Atharvaveda.
  • It extended from the Ganga in the north to Vindhyas in the south, Champa in the east to river Sone on the west.
  • Its capital was Girivraja or Rajgir which was surrounded by hills on all sides by five hills.
  • Later the capital was shifted to Patliputra.
  • The Magadh Kingdom included Koshal, Vatsa, and Avanti.
  • It played an important role in the development of Buddhism and Jainism.
  • Two of India’s greatest empires, Maurya and Gupta, emerged in Magadha.

Pre-Mauryan Dynasties under Magadha Empire


  • Brihadrath was the earliest known king Magadha. He was the eldest son of Vasu, Kuru king of Chedi.
    • His name has been mentioned Rigveda.
  • Jarasandha, son of Brihadrath was the most famous king.
  • Girivraja (Rajgir) was the capital under Jarasandh.
  • Prodyota dynasty succeeded the Brihadrath dynasty in Magadha.

HARYANKA Dynasty – 544 B.C. to 492 B.C.


  • He founded the dynasty. He was a contemporary of Buddha.
  • He established his capital at Rajgir.
  • He expanded his empire through matrimonial alliances e.g. Kosala
  • He was also the first ruler in history to form permanent forces/army.
  • He also sent royal physician Jivaka to Ujjain for treating Chanda Pradyota, King of Avanti, and his longtime rival who later became a friend.


  • He killed his father Bimbisara to become the next ruler.
  • Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana and Lord Mahavira also attained Moksha during his reign.
  • First Buddhist Council (483 B.C.) was conducted under his patronage at Rajgir.


  • He also killed his father Ajatshatru to become the next ruler.
  • He founded the city Patliputra at the confluence of rivers Ganga and Sone and made it his capital.

SHISHUNAGA Dynasty – 412 B.C. to 344 B.C.


  • He was the founder of the dynasty. He was a viceroy of Banaras.
  • During this time Magadha had two capitals – Rajgir and Vaishali
  • He finally destroyed the resistance Avanti and brought to end to the 100-year rivalry.


  • He shifted his capital to Patliputra and it continued as the capital of Magadha Empire onwards.
  • Second Buddhist Council (383 B.C.) was conducted under his patronage at Vaishali.

NANDA Dynasty – 344 B.C. to 321 B.C.

  • Mahapadmananda established the dynasty after killing last Shishunaga ruler Nandivardhana.
  • He was also described Mahapadmapati – sovereign of an infinite host or of the immense wealth
  • In Mahabodhivamsa, he was called Ugrasen.
  • Dhana Nanda was the last ruler of this dynasty and was the contemporary Alexander.

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