16 Mahajanapadas - History, Capital & Location

Mahajanapadas were formed sixth century BC onward. The most prominent feature of Mahajanapadas is the formation of states. With the rise of Mahajanapadas, the political history of North India became clearer. 16 Mahajanapadas had both republics and monarchies and it is important to know about these for the IAS Exam. In this article, you will get to know the following:

  • What are Mahajanapadas?
  • What are 16 Mahajanapadas?
  • Which was the most powerful Mahajanapada?
  • What is the difference between Janapada and Mahajanapadas?

Aspirants preparing for GS 1 Ancient History can check similar articles from the links mentioned below:

What are Mahajanapadas?

Kingdoms that rose to fame from 6th Century BC onward were called Mahajanapdas. The Mahajanapadas signify the tribes that came together to form different groups and later gave rise to a permanent area of settlements called ‘states’ or ‘Janapadas.’

What are 16 Mahajanapadas?

The list below provides you with the names of 16 Mahajanapadas

  1. Kasi
  2. Kosala
  3. Anga
  4. Magadha
  5. Vajji
  6. Malla
  7. Chedi
  8. Vatsa
  9. Kuru
  10. Panchala
  11. Matsya
  12. Surasena
  13. Assaka
  14. Avanti
  15. Gandhara
  16. Kamboja

Candidates can refer to the 16 Mahajanapdas map to get an idea of their location. This can also help aspirants who have History subject as their optional in UPSC Mains Exam.

16 Mahajanapadas - 16 Mahajanapadas Map

16 Mahajanapadas – Facts for UPSC Exam

Ancient India had several kingdoms in the 6th century BC. This era saw socio-economic growth along with religious and political developments crossways the Indo-Gangetic plain.

These settlements led the growth from Janapadas to Mahajanpadas. By 6th BC, the focus of chief political activity moved from the western part of Gangetic plain to the eastern part. The eastern part of Gangetic plain consists of present-day Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. The main reason for this shift was the fertile lands, better climate and topography condition bestowed with rainfall and rivers. In fact, it was the augmented use of iron tools and weapons that empowered small states to develop as a kingdom which is later known as Mahajanapadas.

The table gives you the details about 16 Mahajanapadas:

16 Mahajanapadas Capital of 16 Mahajanapadas Modern Location of 16 Mahajanapadas Facts about 16 Mahajanapadas
Anga Champa Munger and Bhagalpur
  • Anga Mahajanapada finds reference in the Mahabharata and Atharva Veda
  • During the rule of Bimbisara, it was taken over by Magadha Empire.
  • It is situated in present-day Bihar and West Bengal.
Magadha Girivraja| Rajagriha Gaya and Patna
  • Magadha finds mention in the Atharva Veda which conveys that Magadha was semi-Brahmanical habitation.
  • It was located in present-day Bihar close to Anga, divided by river Champa.
  • Later, Magadha became a centre of Jainism and the first Buddhist Council was held in Rajagriha.
Kasi Kasi Banaras
  • It was located in Varanasi.
  • This city got its name from rivers Varuna and Asi as cited in the Matsya Purana.

Vatsa

Kausambi Allahabad
  • Vatsa is also known as Vamsa
  • This Mahajanapada followed the monarchical form of governance.
  • The capital is Kausambi.
  • This was a central city for economic activities.
  • There was a prosperous trade and business scenario in the 6th century BC. After the rise of Buddha, the ruler Udayana made Buddhism a state religion.
  • Vatsa was located around the present-day Allahabad.
Kosala Sravasti Eastern Uttar Pradesh
  • It was located in modern Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh.
  • Its capital was Sravasti
Saurasena Mathura Western Uttar Pradesh
  • This place was a centre of Krishna worship at the time of Megasthenes. Also, there was a dominant followership of Buddha here.
Panchala Ahichchatra and Kampliya Western Uttar Pradesh
  • Its capital for northern Panchala was Ahichchatra and Kampilaya for its southern regions.
  • It was situated in present-day western Uttar Pradesh.
  • Later the nature of governance shifted from monarchy to republic.
Kuru Indraprastha Meerut and Southeastern Haryana
  • The area around Kurukshetra was apparently the site for Kuru Mahajanapada.
  • It moved to a republic form of governance.
Matsya Viratnagar Jaipur
  • It was situated to the west of the Panchalas and south of the Kurus.
  • The capital was at Viratanagar
  • It is situated around present-day Jaipur.
Chedi Sothivati Jaipur
  • This was cited in the Rigveda
  • The capital was Sothivati.
  • It located in the present-day Bundelkhand region.
Avanti Ujjaini or Mahismati Malwa and Madhya Pradesh
  • Avanti was significant in relation to the rise of Buddhism.
  • The capital of Avanti was located at Ujjaini or Mahismati.
  • It was situated around present-day Malwa and Madhya Pradesh.
Gandhara Taxila Rawalpindi
  • The capital was at Taxila.
  • Gandhara is cited in the Atharva Veda
  • The people were highly trained in the art of war.
  • It was significant for international commercial activities.
Kamboja Pooncha Rajori and Hajra
  • The capital of Kamboj is Poonch.
  • It is situated in present-day Kashmir and Hindukush.
  • Several literary sources mention that Kamboja was a republic.
Ashmaka or Assaka Pratisthan/ Paithan Bank of Godavari
  • The capital of this Mahajanapada was located at Pratisthan or Paithan.
  • It was located on the bank of Godavari.
Vajji Vaishali Bihar
  • It is the capital of Vajji was Vaishali.
  • The main races residing in this Mahajanapadas were Licchavis, Vedehans, Jnatrikas and Vajjis.
  • Malla
Malla Kusinara Deoria and Uttar Pradesh
  • It finds a reference in Buddhist and Jain texts and Mahabharata.
  • Malla was a republic
  • Their capital was Kusinara situated around present-day Deoria and Uttar Pradesh.

Magadha – The Most Powerful Mahajanapada

Magadha faced competition from Avanti, Kosala, and Vatsa for the supremacy, however, over the years (600-400 BC), Magadha gained sovereignty and became the most powerful Mahajanapada. To read in detail about the rise and growth of the Magadha Empire, candidates shall check the linked article.

What is the difference between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas?

‘Jana’ in both terms means people. These people denoted a tribe or an ethnic group or a tribal political organization. Indo-Aryans, as mentioned in the early Vedic texts, used to live in the semi-nomadic tribal states. This tribal-state organization called ‘Jana’ transformed into Janapadas towards the end of the Vedic period. Janapadas then meant, a foothold of a tribe. And when the Janapadas started growing, they transformed into Majahanapadas.

To read the main differences between the Janapada and Mahajanapadas, you can refer to the linked article.

Features of Mahajanapadas

There are seven features or main constituents of a Mahajanapada and they are listed below:

  1. The King
  2. The Minister
  3. The Country
  4. Fortified City
  5. Treasury
  6. Army, and
  7. Ally

16 Mahajanapadas – UPSC History Notes:-  Download PDF Here

The mentioned details are relevant for UPSC 2020 and aspirants are advised to read them carefully.

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