Complete notes on the sixteen Mahajanpadas | History | Political Structure |


The Sixteen Mahajanpadas

The History of Sixteen Mahajanapadas:

  • In 6th century BC, ancient India had a number of kingdoms which emerged during the Vedic Age.

ALSO READ: Complete Notes on Vedic Civilization | Literature | Classification | Political Organisation

  • This period saw socio-economic deveopment along with religious and political developments across the Indo-Gangetic plain.
  • These permanent settlements led the evolution from janapadas to mahajanpadas.
  • By sixth century BC, the centre of major political activity shifted from western part of gangetic plain to the eastern part, comprising the present day Bihar and eastern UP.
  • Major reason for this shift was, the fetile lands of this area with better rainfall and rivers, their closeness to iron production centres also played a key role.
  • In fact, it was the increased use of iron tools and weapons that enabled small states to become kingdoms, known as Mahajanapadas.
  • There were 16 mahajanapadas / kingdoms which are mentioned in the ancient literature and scriptures.
  • It must be noted here that these sixteen mahajanapadas were in existence before the rise of Buddhism in India.

Political structure of these Sixteen Mahajanpadas:

  • Majority of these states were monarchical but some were also republics, known as “ganasangha”.
  • Ganasangha had oligarchic system for governance where administration was  headed by an elected king  who had a large council for his aid.
  • This was close to be called a democracy but common man had no say in administration.

The Sixteen Mahajanpadas:

  1. Kasi
    • – Its Capital was Banaras.
    • – Kasi was located on the confluence of Ganga and Gomti rivers and somewhere around today’s Varanasi.
  2. Kosala
    • – Its capital was Shravasti.
    • – It was located in the Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
    • – It covers today’s districts Faizabad, Gonda, Bhahraich etc. and was bordered by River Gomti on the west, River Sadaniva in the east, Nepal hills in the north and River Syandika in the South.
  3. Anga 
    • – Its capital was Champa.
    • – It covered the modern districts of Munger and Bhagalpur in Bihar
    • – It was later annexed to Magadha by Bimbisar.
    • – Magadh was on its west and Raja Mahal hills on the west.
  4. Magadha
    • – The initial capital of Magadha was Girivraja or Rajgriha.
    • – It covered the modern districts of Patna, Gaya, Shahabad of Bihar.
    • – It was bordered by River Son non North and Ganga on South.
  5. Vajji or Vriji
    • – Its capital was Vaishali.
    • – It was located on the north of River Ganga in Bihar.
    • – The seat of 8 smaller clans / kingdoms called “Athakula” out of which Lichhavais, Janatriks, Videhas were very important.
    • – It was separated from Kosala from river Gandak.
  6. Malla
    • – Its capital was Kushinagar, Pawa.
    • – It covered the modern districts of Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  7. Chedi or Cheti
    • – It was located in the Bundelkhand division of Madhya Pradesh regions to the south of river Yamuna and along river Betwa or Vetravati.
    • – Its capital was Suktimati or Sotthivati located somewhere near Banda in Uttar Pradesh.
  8. Vatsa
    • – Its capital was Kausambi.
    • – It covered the modern districts of Allahabad and Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh.
  9. Kuru
    • – Its capital was Indraprastha / Hastinapur / Isukara.
    • – It covered the modern Haryana & Delhi-Meerut-Ghaziabad region.
    • – Its eastern border was River Yamuna.
  10. Panchala
    • – Its capitals were Ahichhtra (Western Panchal) and Kampilya (eastern Panchala).
    • – It covered modern day Rohilkhand division & Upper Gangetic Plains of today’s Uttar Pradesh & Uttarakhand.
  11. Matsya
    • – Its capital was Viratnagar.
    • – It was located in the Alwar, Bharatpur, Jaipur districts of Rajasthan.
  12. Surasena
    • – Its capital was Mathura.
    • – It was located on the junction of Uttarpatha and Dakshinpatha around Mathura of today.
  13. Assaka
    • – Located on the banks of the Godavari River.
    • – Its capital was Potali, Potana or Podana, which now lies in the Nandura Tehsil, Buldana district in the Indian state of Maharashtra and it was the only Mahajanapada situated to the south of the Vindhya Range, and was in Dakshinapatha
  14. Avanti
    • – Its capital was Ujjain & Mahishmati.
    • – Located on present day Malwa region.
    • – It was divided into two parts by the Vindhyas, the northern part had its capital at Ujjayini and the southern part had its center at Mahishmati.
  15. Gandhara
    • – Its capital was Taxila.
    • – Covered the regions between Kabul and Rawalpindi in North Western Provinces, Peshawar, the Potohar plateau and on the Kabul River.
  16. Kamboja
    • – Its capital Rajpur.
    • – It was located around Hindukush mountains of Kashmir.


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