Nanda dynasty was founded by Mahapadma Nanda. He was alleged to be the illegitimate son of Maharaja Mahanandin. Mahapadma Nanda was the first non Kshatriya ruler of Magadha, born to a Shudra mother.
Mahapadma Nanda was also considered to be the ‘Destroyer of all Kshatriya’. During his time Panchala, Kasi, Haihaya, Kalinga, Asmaka, Kuru, Maithila, Surasena and the Vitihotra were annexed into Magadha Empire. Nanda dynasty was the first huge empire of its time. It extended from Bengal in the east to as far as Punjab in the west. To the south, it extended till Deccan Plateau.
The capital city was Patliputra (also the nirvana-sthal of Lord Mahavira), the major religion was Jainism. Hinduism and Buddhism were also followed. Sanskrit was the most prominent language. The king was addressed by the title of ‘Samrat’.
Samrat Mahapadma Nanda who lived till 88 years was a successful ruler. He introduced a system of taxation and also invested in irrigation projects for the welfare of his people. The society during Nanda dynasty was mostly agrarian.
After the death of Samrat Mahapadma Nanda, a number of rulers ruled the Nanda dynasty for short durations namely, Pandhuka, Panghupati, Bhutapala, Rashtrapala, Govishanaka, Dashasidkhaka, Kaivarta and Mahendra. Another most important ruler of Nanda dynasty was Dhana Nanda. During his reign Nanda dynasty was at its peak. They had a huge army with 200000 foot soldiers, 6000 war elephants and 8000 war chariots. It was during his reign that mighty Alexander the Great had to return back to his homeland without even putting up a challenge in front of the Nanda Empire.
Unfortunately, Dhana Nanda was very unpopular amongst his people and was a lot of resentment against him in his own army. As a result with the help of Vishnugupta (Chanakaya), Chandragupta Maurya was able to overthrow Dhana Nanda, resulting the end of Nanda Dynasty and rise of the Golden Era of Indian History under Maurya Empire.