Nandas: The First Empire Builders of India
About a hundred years after Ajatashatru’s demise, the Nandas became the emperors of Magadha in 362 BCE. The first Nanda ruler was Mahapadma. It is believed that he usurped the throne by murdering the last of the Shishunaga kings. Under the Nandas, the empire expanded considerably, and the wealth and power of the Nandas became widely known and feared. Mahapadma Nanda was succeeded by his eight sons, and they were together known as the navanandas or the nine Nandas. During the process of empire building, Nandas exterminated many kshatriya clans and subjugated kshatriya-ruled kingdoms, which had still retained a degree of autonomous authority, thus creating a centralised state. An inscription known as the Hathigumpha (elephant cave) from Udayagiri near Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, records the aqueduct built by King Nanda three hundred years earlier. This is also indicative of the geographical extent of the Nanda Empire. Though the Nandas were able administrators and had strengthened the Magadha Empire, they were not popular among the people.