Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas

The Janapadas were small kingdoms of the Vedic Age period. With the development of iron in parts of Northern India, the Janapadas would become more powerful and evolve into the Mahajanapadas. The transition into Mahajanapadas marked a departure from a semi-nomadic livelihood to a culture based on urbanization and permanent settlement.

This article will highlight the key differences between Janaapdas and Mahanajapadas. The information gathered from this article will help candidates immensely in the IAS Exam.

Difference between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas - UPSC Ancient Indian History

The table below gives key differences between the Janapadas and Mahajanapadas in great detail:                                                                                                                                                                  

Differences Janapadas and Mahajanapadas



1500 BC to the 6th century BC 600 BC – 345 BC
The Sanskrit term “Janapada” compound term, made up of two words: janas and pada. Jana means “people” or “subject” The word pada means “foot” Mahajapadas is a compound term consisting of maha meaning “great”, and janapada meaning”foothold of a people
The Janapada was the highest political unit in Ancient India during this period. They were usually monarchical though some followed a republican form of government The Mahajanapads still retained their monarchial nature while some of the republics came under the control of powerful oligarchs
The transition from the Bronze age (3000 BC – 1000 BC) to the Iron Age (1500–200 BC) happened during the time of the Janapadas The era of the Mahajanapadas saw the emergence of India’s first large cities after the demise of the Indus Valley Civilization, as well as the rise of Buddhism and Jainism which challenged the religious orthodoxy of the Vedic Period.
As per Vedic literature, some of the following Janapadas were mentioned:

  • Alina
  • Anu
  • Gandhari
  • Kalinga
  • Matsya
As per Buddhist and Jain sources, the following are some of the Mahajapadas that are mentioned: 

  • Chedi
  • Gandhara
  • Kosala
  • Magadha

You can know more in detail about these two types of kingdoms and read similar articles by referring to the links given below:

Aside from these, candidates can also check the article below to know more about the related topics. These linked articles can help the students learn topics in a detailed way.

Important Points of Indus Valley Civilization NCERT Ancient Indian History Notes NCERT Medieval Indian History Notes
NCERT Modern Indian History Notes  Art of Indus Valley Civilization Important Dynasties and Kingdoms of Ancient India

Difference Between Jaanpadas and Mahajanapadas – Download PDF Here

Frequently Asked Questions on Difference between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas


Q 1. What do you mean by Janapadas?

Ans. The Janapadas were the highest political unit in Ancient India between 1500 BC to the 6th century BC.

Q 2. What do you mean by Mahajanapadas?

Ans. The Mahajapadas were the kingdoms that saw the emergence of India’s first large cities after the demise of the Indus Valley Civilization. There are sixteen Mahajanapadas.

To get a general idea of the exam, you can visit the UPSC Syllabus page. For more UPSC-related preparation materials and other articles refer to the link given in the table below:

Related Links

NCERT Books UPSC Exam Pattern Current Affairs Quiz
Third President of India National Bamboo Mission Daily News Analysis for UPSC
Political Science Books Project Tiger in India MSME Samadhan


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