List of the Mahajanpadas and their Capitals in 6th century BC


List of the Mahajanpadas and their Capitals in 6th century BC

Mahajanpadas represents the State system that emerged in the 6th century BC. The processes of emergence of Mahajanpadas were initiated by certain important economic changes and the consequent social political developments witnessed during that period. Mahajanpadas symbolize amalgamation of large number of rural and urban settlements and were 16 in number.
Emergence of the Mahajanpadas
Certain socio-political changes in the 6th century BC aided somewhere in the transformation of the Vedic Janapadas into the Mahajanpadas.

  • Expansion of the agricultural communities as a result of new iron technology
  • Emergence of the Gahapatis as landholders, who got the cultivation done by the slaves, hired labourers etc.
  • Emergence of important class of traders from the ranks of the Gahapatis, trade and merchandise becoming independent economic activities by the 6th century BC. Towns and cities developed thereafter.
  • Transformation of the Vedic raja (the paternal figure) into the kings, who ruled over territories, maintained armies and collected revenue (even forcefully).

The Mahajanpadas symbolize the amalgamation of a large number of rural and urban settlements and were perceived to be 16 in number in 600 BC, though different texts of the times give different numbers for the same.
The Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya (a part of the Sutta Pitaka), provides the names of 16 Mahajanpadas at the time of the Buddha. Similarly, the Jaina text Bhagavati Sutra and another Buddhist text Mahavastu also provides a list of the 16 Mahajanpadas. The phase witnessed a greater access to iron ores because of the Eastwards expansion of the Aryans. Subsequently, the growth of iron technology and the developments of the art of maintaining high temperature and smelting of iron, led to the widespread use of iron tools and weapons. On one Hand, this gave strength to the ruler, on the other this brought agricultural revolution as well.
   These Mahajanpadas were either monarchical or republican in character. The Mahajanpadas of Anga, Kosala, Chedi, Vatsa, Matsya, Sursena, Asmaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Magadha were ruled by kings or monarchs, while the Mahajanpadas of Kamboja, Kuru, Koliyas, Malla, Moriya, Shakya, Vajji, Panchal, Licchavis, Bhaggas, Jnatrikas were of republican type or non-monarchial, These republican states had a Gana Parishad (an assembly of senior and responsible citizens), which had the supreme authority in the state. 

List of the Mahajanpadas and their Capitals

Mahajanpadas Capitals Vital Information
Kasi (Banaras) Varanashi It was the most powerful Mahajanpadas.
Famous for its cotton textiles and Marked for horses
Kosala (Ayodhya) Sravasti Most popular king was Prasenjit.
He was the contemporary of the Buddha.
Anga (East Bihar) Champa It was a great center of trade and commerce.
In middle of 6th century BC, Anga was annexed by Magadha under Bimbisara.
Vajji (North Bihar) Vaishali Vajji represented a confederacy of eight clans of whom Videhas were the most well known.
The Videhas also had their capital at Mithila
Malla (Gorakhpur region ) Pawapuri Buddha died in the vicinity of Kusinagra. Magadha annexed it after Buddha’s death.
Chedi Suktimati Chedi territory corresponds to the Eastern part of modern Bundelkhand. A branch of Chedis founded a royal dynasty in the kingdom of Kalinga.  
Vatsa Kausambi Situated around the region of Allahabad.
Most powerful king was Udayin
Kuru (Meerut-Delhi region) Hastinapur At the Buddha’s time, kuru country was ruled by a chieftain named korayvya
Ahichhatra (North Panchala)
Kampilya(South Panchala)
Located in Rohilkhand and parts of central Doab.
Two branches of the Panchalas existed i.e. the Northern Panchala at Ahichhatra and Southern Panchala at Kampilya
Matsya (Jaipur) Virat Nagar Located in the region of Rajasthan.
King Sujata ruled over both the Chedis and the Matsya.
Surasena Mathura It had a republic form of government.
Avantiputra, the king of Surasena, was amongst the first chief disciples of the Buddha.
Ashmaka Potana or Potali It was located on the banks of the river Godavari.
It was the southernmost  Mahajanpadas ruled by the lkshvaku Kshatriyas
Avanti Mahishamati Located around the region of Ujjain district in Madhya Pradesh.
Chanda Pradyota was the most powerful king of Avanti.
Gandhara (Peshawar and Rawalpindi) Taxila Famous for education and learning traditions in ancient India.
Gandhari was the princess of this state.
Panini and Kautilya are the world renowned products of the Taxila University.
Kamoja (North-East kingdom) Rajapura Kautilya’s Arthashatra and Asoka’s Edict No. XIII attest that the Kambojas followed a Republican Constitution.
Magadha Giriraja/ Rajagriha This Mahajanpadas started the policy of imperialism.
The founders of the kingdom were perceived to be Jarasandha and Brihadratha, however, the real founders were Bimbisara and Ajatashatru. 

List of the Mahajanpadas and their Capitals in 6th century BC
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