Ajatashatru died in 461 B.C. He was succeeded by five kings all said to have been unworthy to be the successor of Ajatashatru. The people of Magadha, finally outraged by this, deposed the last of the five in 413 B.C. and appointed a viceroy, Shishunaga, as the king. The Shishunaga dynasty lasted barely half a century and gave way to the usurper Mahapadma Nanda, who inaugurated a short lived dynasty which ended in 321 B.C. Despite these rapid dynastic changes and the handicap of weak rulers, Magadha continued to withstand all attacks (such as those from Avanti) and remained the foremost of the kingdoms of the Ganges plain. The Nandas who usurped the throne of the Shishunaga dynasty were of low origin. Some sources state that the founder, Mahapadma , was the son of a Shudra mother, others that he was born of a union of a barber with a courtesan. Nandas were the first of a number of dynasties of northern India who were of non-kshatriya origin.
The Nandas are sometimes described as the first empire builders of India. They inherited the large kingdom of Magadha and wished to extend it to yet more distant frontiers. To this purpose they built up a vast army consisting of 20,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots and 3,000 elephants. But the Nandas never had the opportunity to use this army against the Greeks, who invaded India at the time Dhana Nanda, since Alexander's campaign terminated in the Punjab.
The Nandas made the methodical collection of taxes by regularly appointed officials a part of their administrative system. The treasury was continually replenished, the wealth of the Nandas being well-known. The Nandas also built canals and carried out irrigation projects. The possibility of an imperial structure based on an essentially agrarian economy began to germinate in the Indian mind. But further development of the Nandas was cut short by Chandragupta Maurya and his mentor Chanakya. Chanakya dethroned Dhana Nanda in a battle of wits and replaced him with Chandragupta Maurya, a young adventurer. Dhana Nanda was murdered which finally signaled the advent of the Mauryan era in 321 B.C.
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