UPSC IAS Prelims Examination: Know about 16 Mahajanapadas

UPSC IAS Exam conducted by Union Public Service Commission annually to recruit candidates to various government posts like IAS, IPS, IFS etc. The examination is conducted in three stages- Prelims, Mains, and interview. The syllabus for UPSC IAS Examination comprises of Geography, Economics, History, Polity, Environment and Ecology, General awareness and current affairs.  History is an important subject in this examination. The history is divided into four parts called Ancient India, Medieval History, Modern history and Art and culture.

Here we are giving the details about 16 Mahajanapadas in ancient India.

Ancient India had several kingdoms in 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 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.

There were 16 Mahajanapadas which are cited in the ancient literature and scriptures. The major 16 Mahajanapadas are Anga, Magadha, Kasi,Vatsa, Kosala, Saurasena, Panchala, Kuru, Matsya, Chedi, Avanti, Gandhar, Kamboj, Asmaka, Vajji and Malla.

Summary of Mahajanapadas


Capital: Champa

Modern location: 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.


Capital: Girivraja| Rajagriha

Modern location: 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 center of Jainism and the first Buddhist Council was held in Rajagriha.


Capital: Kasi

Modern Location: Banars

  • It was located in Varanasi.
  • This city got its name from rivers Varuna and Asi as cited in the Matsya Purana.


Capital: Kausambi

Modern Location: 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 were a prosperous trade and business scenario in 6th century BC. After the rise of Buddha, the ruler Udayana made Buddhism a state religion.
  • Vatsa was located around the present day Allahabad.


Capital: Sravasti

Modern Location: Eastern Uttar Pradesh

  • It was located in modern Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh.
  • Its capital was Sravasti




Capital: Mathura

Modern Location: Western Uttar Pradesh

  • This place was a center of Krishna worship at the time of Megasthenes. Also, there was a dominant followership of Buddha here.


Capital: Ahichchatra and Kampliya

Modern Location: 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.



Capital: Indraprastha

Modern Location: Meerut and Southeastern Haryana

  • The area around Kurukshetra was apparently the site for Kuru Mahajanapada.
  • It moved to a republic form of governance.


Capital: Viratnagar

Modern Location: 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.


Capital: Sothivati

Modern Location: Jaipur

  • This was cited in the Rigveda
  • The capital was Sothivati.
  • It located in the present day Bundelkhand region.


Capital: Ujjaini or Mahismati.

Modern Location: 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.


Capital: Taxila

Modern Location: Rawalpindi

  • The capital was at Taxila.
  • Gandhara are cited in the Atharva Veda
  • The people were highly trained in the art of war.
  • It was significant for international commercial activities.


Capital: Pooncha

Modern Location: Rajori and Hajra

  • The capital of Kamboj is Pooncha.
  • It is situated in present day Kashmir and Hindukush.
  • Several literary sources mention that Kamboja was a republic.


Ashmaka or Assaka


Capital: Pratisthan/ Paithan

Modern Location: Bank of Godavari

  • The capital of this Mahajanapada was located at Pratisthan or Paithan.
  • It was located on the bank of Godavari.


Capital: Vaishali

Modern Location:

  • It is the capital of Vajji was Vaishali.
  • The main races residing in this Mahajanapadas were Licchavis, Vedehans, Jnatrikas and Vajjis.
  • Malla


Capital: Kusinara

Modern Location: 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.

Also See:


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *