Mahajanapadas (600 – 321 BC)


In the later Vedic period, the tribal groups shifted to the territorial organizations, and the area of settlement were now pointed as janapadas (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.
  • There was, therefore, a strong awareness of the pure land of the Aryans called Aryavarta.
  • Each janapada tried to rule and suppress other janapadas to become Mahajanapadas.
  • Budhhist literature Angutara Nikaya affords a list of 16 Mahajanapadas in the begining of 6th century B.C.
  • Use of Iron tools for agricultural and military purposes was the main cause of formation of Janapadas.

List of 16 Mahajanapadas and their capitals:

Mahajanapadas Capital
1. Anga Champa
2. Asmaka Potana
3. Avanti Ujjain
4. Chedi Shuktimati
5. Gandhara Taxila
6. Kamboja Rajpur
7. Kashi Banaras
8. Kosala Shravasti
9. Kurus Hastinapur (Indraprastha)
10. Magadha Girivraja (Rajgriha)
11. Maila Kushinara, Pawa
12. Matsya Virat Nagari
13. Panchala Ahichhatra & Kampilya
14. Surasena Mathura
15. Vajjis Vaishali
16. Vatsa Kaushambi

Important Republics:

  • The kings had the supreme authority.
  • The republican states had a Gana-parishad or an Assembly of senior and responsible citizens.
  • The Gana-Parishad had the supreme authority in the state. All the administrative decisions were taken by this Parishad.

Republics were basically of two types:

  • Containing a single tribe like those of the Sakyas, the Kolias and the Mallas.
  • Containing a number of tribes or the republics of confederacy like the Vrijjis.

Differance between Republics and Monarchies:

In Republic

  • Tribal ruler claimed share in revenues from peasants.
  • Each ruler was free to maintain his own little army under his senapati.
  • Functions under the leadership of the republic assemblies.
  • Priest had no influence

In Monarchy

  • The king claimed to be the sole recipient of such revenues.
  • Only king maintains his regular standing army. He did not permit any other armed forces.
  • Functioned under the individual leadership of the king.
  • Priest had a considerable influence.

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