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Mahapadma Nanda

Mahapadma Nanda
Coin of Mahapadma Nanda
A silver coin of 1 karshapana of King Mahapadma Nanda or his sons (345-321 BCE)
First Emperor of Nanda Empire
Reignc. 4th century BCE
Mothera Shudra queen

Mahapadma Nanda (IAST: Mahāpadmānanda; c. 4th century BCE), according to the Puranas, was the first Emperor of the Nanda Empire of ancient India. The Puranas describe him as a son of the last Shaishunaga king Mahanandin and a Shudra woman, and credit him with extensive conquests. The different Puranas variously give the length of his reign as 28 or 88 years, and state that his eight sons ruled in succession after him.

The Buddhist texts don't mention him, and instead name the first Nanda ruler as robber-turned-king Ugrasena, who was succeeded by his eight brothers, the last of whom was Dhana Nanda.


According to the Puranas, the first Nanda king was called Mahapadma or Mahapadma-pati (literally, "lord of immense wealth"). He was the son of the last Shaishunaga king Mahanandin and a Shudra woman.[1][2]

The Puranas describe him as ekarat (sole sovereign) and sarva-kshatrantaka (destroyer of all the Kshatriyas).[2][3] The Kshastriyas (warriors and rulers) said to have been exterminated by Mahapadma include Maithalas, Kasheyas, Ikshvakus, Panchalas, Shurasenas, Kurus, Haihayas, Vitihotras, Kalingas, and Ashmakas.[4]

The Matsya Purana assigns Mahapadma an incredibly long reign of 88 years, while the Vayu Purana mentions the length of his reign as only 28 years.[5] The Puranas further state that Mahapadma's eight sons ruled in succession after him for a total of 12 years, but name only one of these sons: Sukalpa.[6]

Indologist F. E. Pargiter dated Nanda's coronation to 382 BCE, and historian R. K. Mookerji dated it to 364 BCE.[7][page needed] Historian H. C. Raychaudhuri places the event at c. 345 BCE.[8]

Other descriptions of the first Nanda king

  • According to the Buddhist texts, the first Nanda king was Ugrasena, not Mahapadma.[9]
    • Unlike the Puranas, which assign mixed royal-Shudra ancestry to Mahapadma, the Buddhist texts describe Ugrasena as of "unknown lineage". According to the Mahavamsa-tika, Ugrasena was a native of the frontier region: he was captured by a gang of robbers, and later became their leader.[2]
    • The Greco-Roman sources call the Nanda king ruling at the time of Alexander's invasion "Agrammes", which is possibly a corruption of the Sanskrit term "Augraseniya" (literally, "son or descendant of Ugrasena").[9]
    • Unlike the Puranas, the Buddhist texts describe the next eight kings as brothers - not sons - of the first Nanda king.[2] Also, according to the Buddhist tradition, the Nandas ruled for a total of 22 years. The last of these kings was Dhana Nanda.[10]
  • According to the Jain texts such as Parishishtaparvan and Avashyaka sutra, which do not mention the name "Mahapadma" either, the Nanda king was the son of a courtesan by a barber.[1][11][12]
  • The Greco-Roman sources suggest that the founder of the Nanda dynasty was a barber, who usurped the throne from the last king of the preceding dynasty.[9] Roman historian Curtius (1st century CE) states that according to Porus, this barber became the former queen's paramour thanks to his attractive looks, treacherously assassinated the then king, usurped the supreme authority by pretending to act as a guardian for the then princes, and later killed the princes.[13] The Nanda king who was the contemporary of Porus and Alexander was the son of this barber.[9]



  • Dilip Kumar Ganguly (1984). History and Historians in Ancient India. Abhinav. ISBN 978-0-391-03250-7.
  • H. C. Raychaudhuri (1988) [1967]. "India in the Age of the Nandas / Chandragupta and Bindusara". In K. A. Nilakanta Sastri (ed.). Age of the Nandas and Mauryas (Second ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-0466-1.
  • H. C. Raychaudhuri; B. N. Mukherjee (1996). Political History of Ancient India: From the Accession of Parikshit to the Extinction of the Gupta Dynasty. Oxford University Press.
  • Harihar Panda (2007). Prof. H.C. Raychaudhuri, as a Historian. Northern Book Centre. ISBN 81-7211-210-6.
  • Irfan Habib; Vivekanand Jha (2004). Mauryan India. A People's History of India. Aligarh Historians Society / Tulika Books. ISBN 978-81-85229-92-8.
  • K. D. Sethna (2000). Problems of Ancient India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. ISBN 81-7742-026-7.
  • R. K. Mookerji (1966). Chandragupta Maurya and His Times. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-0405-0.
  • Upinder Singh (2016). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education. ISBN 978-93-325-6996-6.