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Emergence of Mahajanapadas (600-321 BC)



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Mahanajanapadas In the later Vedic period, the tribal organisations changed its identity and gradually shifted to the territorial identity, and the area of settlement were now regarded as janapadas or states. In transition from tribe to monarchy, they lost the essential democratic pattern of the tribe but retained the idea of government through an assembly representing the tribes. These states consisted of either a single tribe such as Shakyas, Kolias, Malas etc. The people in the lower Ganges Valley and Delta, which were outside the Aryan pale, were not incorporated. There was, therefore, a strong consciousness of the pure land of the Aryans called Aryavarta. Each janapada tried to dominate and subjugate other janapadas to become Mahajanapadas.

The 16 Mahajanapadas
Mahajanapadas Capitals Locations
Gandhara Taxila Covering the region between Kabul and Rawalpindi in North Western Province.
Kamboja Rajpur Covering the area around the Punch area in Kashmir
Asmaka Potana Covering modern Paithan in Maharashtra; on the bank of River Godavari
Vatsa Kaushambi Covering modern districts of Allahabad and Mirzapur
Avanti Ujjain Covering modern Malwa (Ujjain) region of Madhya Pradesh.
Surasena Mathura Located in the Mathura region at the junction of the Uttarapath & Dakshinapath
Chedi Shuktimati Covering the modern Budelkhand area
Maila Kushinara, Pawa Modern districts of Deoria, Basti, Gorakhapur in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Later merged into Maghada Kingdom
Kurus Hastinapur/Indraprastha Covering the modern Haryana and Delhi area to the west of River Yamuna
Matsya Virat Nagari Covering the area of Alwar, Bharatpur and Jaipur in Rajasthan
Vajjis Vaishali Located to the north of the River Ganga in Bihar. It was the seat of united republic of eight smaller kingdoms of which Lichhavis, Janatriks and Videhas were also members.
Anga Champa Covering the modern districts of Munger and Bhagalpur in Bihar. The Kingdoms were later merged by Bindusara into Magadha.
Kashi Banaras Located in and around present day Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.
Kosala Shravasti Covering the present districts of Faizabad, Gonda, Bahraich, etc.
Magadga Girivraja/Rajgriha Covering modern districts of Patna, Gaya and parts of Shahabad.
Panchala Ahichhatra (W. Panchala),
Kampilya (S. Panchala)
Present day Rohilkhand and part of Central Doab in Uttar Pradesh.

Important Republics: The kings in these states had the supreme authority. The Mahajapandas of Vriji, Malla, Kuru, Panchal and Kamboj were republican states and so were other smaller states like Lichhavi, Shakya, Koliya, Bhagga, and Moriya. These republican states had a Gana-parishad or an Assembly of senior and responsible citizens. This Gana-Parishad had the supreme authority in the state. All the administrative decisions were taken by this Parishad. Again, the republics were basically of two types: (a) the republics comprising a single tribe like those of the Sakyas, the Kolias and the Mallas, and (b) the republics comprising a number of tribes or the republics of confederacy like the Vrijjis.

Difference between Republics and Monarchies
  • In republics, every tribal oligarch claimed share in revenues from peasants. In the monarchies, the king claimed to be the sole recipient of such revenues.
  • In the tribal oligarchy or republic, each raja (tribal oligarch) was free to maintain his own little army under his senapati. In a monarchy, the king maintaind his regular standing army. He did not permit any other armed forces within his boundaries.
  • Republics functioned under the leadership of the oligarchic assemblies, while a monarchy functioned under the individual leadership of the king.
  • The Brahamanas had a considerable influence on the monarchial administration, while they were relegated to the background in the republics.

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