Parts of the Magadha were forested. Elephants were captured from there and trained for fighting in the armies. Wood from the forests was used for building fortresses and palaces and chariots. In the southern parts of Magadha there were iron ore deposits which could be used for making weapons etc.
All this enables Magadha to emerge as a very powerful kingdom. Bimbisara and his son Ajatasatru were early Kings who built the power of Magadha. Mahapadma Nanda was another powerful ruler of Magadha. All these kings used their armies to conquer other kingdoms. During the time of Mahapadma Nanda the kingdom extended from the northwest part of India to Odisha.
In some the kings were more like God headmen who relied upon the ordinary people and performed rituals and festivals for the welfare of the entire kingdom.
The Vajji Mahajaapada was to the North of Magadha and it had Gana form of government. In a Gana there is no single ruler but a group of rulers. Sometimes even thousands of men ruled together and each of them called themselves a `raja’ they performed rituals, met and decided upon issues of common interest in assemblies through discussion and debate. However, women, slaves and wage workers could not participate in these assemblies.
Buddha and Mahavira belonged to Gana and became famous teachers respected in all the Mahajanapadas. Even though the kings tried to conquer the Ganas they remained active for more than 1500 years.