The 6th century BC has left a permanent impression on Indian history because it witnessed the intense philosophical debates and discourses and resultant implications. Among the various thinkers contributing to this unique phase were Mahavira and Buddha who compelled the attention of the world to Indian traditions. The political system at the time of Mahavira and Buddha was characterized by the existence of two distinct forms of government: monarchical kingdom and clan oligarchies or Ganasamghas. The geographical locations of these units were unique with the monarchical kingdom occupying the Ganga-Yamuna valley and the Ganasamghas being located near the foothills of the Himalayas. Kshatriya clans such as Shakyas, Mallas, inhabited the Ganasamghas or the Lichchhavis.The Ganasamghas were organized on the lineage principle with the entire clan participating in the exercise of power.
There was constant conflict between the various political units and the picture that emerges from the Jain and Buddhist literature is that it was a period of expanding horizons and political consolidations that ultimately ended with the establishment of the Mauryan Empire.Bimbisara the 5th century BC Magadha ruler began a systematic and intensive phase of state organization. The earlier pastoral cum agricultural economy with tribal organization had given way to a more settled agrarian based economy that became a major factor in state formation.
It made possible the support of a large standing army that was imperative for the expanding frontiers of the kingdoms of the Ganga valley and as an instrument of coercive control within the kingdom. The agrarian based economy encouraged the formation of an impressive officialdom that is an indispensable aspect of state formation. The standing army divided into various specialized groups replaced the tribal militia of the earlier society and became an instrument of coercion directly in the control of the king. The growing armies of the aggressive expanding monarchies even attracted the youth of Ganasamghas who saw in them a possible outlet for their military skills.