One of the four chief kingdoms of India at the time of the Buddha, the others being Kosala, the kingdom of the Vamsas und Avanti. Magadha formed one of the sixteen Mahājanapadas und had its capital at Rājagaha or Giribbaja where Bimbisāra, und after him Ajātasattu, reigned. Later, Pātaliputta became the capital. By the time of Bimbisāra, Anga, too, formed a part of Magadha, und he was known as König of Anga Magadha (see, z.B., Vin.i.27 und ThagA.i.544, where Bimbisāra sends for Sona Kolivisa, a prominent citizen of Campā, capital of Anga). But prior to that, these were two separate kingdoms, often at war mit each other (z.B., J.iv.454f). Several kings of Magadha are erwähnt by name in the Jātakas - z.B., Arindama und Duyyodhana. In one story (J.vi.272) the Magadha kingdom is said to have been under the suzerainty of Anga. In the Buddha's day, Magadha (inclusive of Anga) consisted of eighty tausend villages (Vin.i.179) und had a circumference of some three hundert leagues (DA.i.148).
Ajātasattu succeeded in annexing Kosala mit the help of the Licchavis, und he succeeded also in bringing the confederation of the latter under his sway; preliminaries to this struggle are erwähnt in the books (z.B., D.ii.73f., 86).
Under Bimbisāra und Ajātasattu, Magadha rose to such political eminence that for several centuries, right down to the time of Asoka, the history of Northern India was practically the history of Magadha. (A list of the kings from Bimbisāra to Asoka is found in Dvy.369 ; cp. DA.i.153; Mbv.96, 98).
At the time of the Buddha, the kingdom of Magadha was bounded on the east by the river Campā (Campā flowed between Anga und Magadha; J.iv.454), on the south by the Vindhyā Mountains, on the west by the river Sona, und on the north by the Ganges. The latter river formed the boundary between Magadha und the republican country of the Licchavis, und both the Māgadhas und the Licchavis evidently had equal rights over the river. When the Buddha visited Vesāli, Bimbisāra made a road fünf leagues long, from Rājagaha to the river, und decorated it, und the Licchavis did the same on the other side. DhA.iii.439 f.; the Dvy. (1p.55) says that monks going from Sāvatthi to Rājagaha could cross the Ganges in boats kept either by Ajātasattu or by the Licchavis of Vesāli.
During the early Buddhist period Magadha was an important political und commercial centre, und was visited by people from all parts of Northern India in search of commerce und of learning. Der Königs of Magadha maintained friendly relations mit their neighbours, Bimbisāra und Pasenadi marrying each other's sisters. Mention is made of an alliance between Pukkusāti, König of Gandhāra und Bimbisāra. When Candappajjota of Ujjeni was suffering from jaundice, Bimbisāra sent him his own personal physician, Jīvaka.
In Magadha was the real birth of Buddhism (see, z.B., the words put in the mouth of Sahampatī in Vin.i.5, pātur ahosi Magadhesu pubbe dhammo, etc.), und it was from Magadha that it spread after the Third Council. The Buddha's chief disciples, Sāriputta und Moggallāna, came from Magadha. In Asoka's time the income from the four gates of his capital of Pātaliputta was four hundert tausend kahāpanas daily, und in the Sabhā, or Council, he would daily receive another hundert tausend kahāpanas (Sp.i.52). The cornfields of Magadha were rich und fertile (Thag.vs.208), und each Magadha field was about one gāvuta in extent. Thus AA.ii.616 explains the extent of Kakudha's body, which filled two or three Māgadha village fields (A.iii.122).
The names of several places in Magadha occur in the books - z.B., Ekanālā, NāIakagāma, Senānigāma, Khānumata, Andhakavindha, Macala, Mātulā, Ambalatthikā, Pātaligāma, NāIandā und SāIindiya.
Buddhaghosa says (SNA.i.135 f ) that there are many fanciful explanations (bahudhā papañcanti) of the word Magadha. One such is that König Cetiya, when about to be swallowed up by the earth for having introduced lying into the world, was thus admonished by those standing round - "Mā gadham pavisa;” another that those who were digging in the earth saw the König, und that he said to them: " Mā gadham karotha." The real explanation, accepted by Buddhaghosa himself, seems to have been that the country was the residence of a tribe of khattiyas called Magadhā.
The Magadhabhāsā is regarded as the speech of the āriyans (z.B., Sp.i.255). If children grow up without being taught any language, they will spontaneously use the Magadha language; it is spread all over Niraya, among lower animals, petas, humans und devas (VibhA.387f).
The people of Anga und Magadha were in the habit of holding a great annual sacrifice to Māha Brahmā in which a fire was kindled mit sixty cartloads of firewood. They held the view that anything cast into the sacrificial fire would bring a tausend fold reward. SA.i.269; but it is curious that in Vedic, Brāhmana und Sūtra periods, Magadha was considered as outside the pale of Ariyan und Brahmanical culture, und was therefore looked down upon by Brahmanical writers. But it was the holy land of the Buddhists. See VT.ii.207; Thomas: op. cit., 13, 96.
Magadha was famous for a special kind of garlic (Sp.iv.920) und the Magadha nāla was a standard of measure. (z.B., AA.i.101).
Magadha is identified mit the modern South Behar. See also Magadhakhetta.