16 Mahajanapada and their capitals

In the 8th century BC, India could be broadly understood in terms of five large regions viz. Madhyadesa (the middle country), Pratichya (western lands), Prachya (Eastern region), Uttarpatha (the land in the north of Vindhyas and Dakshinpatha (the land south of Vindhyas).

Around sixth century BC, the territories of sixteen Mahajanapadas got clearly marked. These included Kasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Vajji or Vriji, Malla, Chedi or Cheti, Vamsa or Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala, Machcha or Matsya, Surasena, Assaka or Ashmaka , Avanti, Gandhara & Kamboja. The names of at least 9 among them are given in the Vedic Literature. Panini in the 4th century BC mentions as many as 22 different Janpadas, but also mentions 3 most important viz. Magadha, Kosala and Vatsa.

Evolution of Mahajanapadas

The society in Vedic period was rural, where smallest political unit was a Vis. However, some later Vedic texts detail about the Janpadas such as Kuru, Panchala, Matysa, Kunti, Kikata, Jayminia, Kashi, Magadha, Anga, Kamboja etc. The rise of Janpadas is mainly attributed to the establishment of settled agriculture communities. The development of an agriculture based economy led to increase in crops and cattle wealth coupled with use of iron in technology. The society was now totally divided into 4 Varna. Based upon occupation, new labour class and landed classes emerged. The landed class was known as Gahapatis. The trade flourished and the towns, which were either located on trade routes such as Mathura or located, near the banks of rivers such as Magadha developed. This transition also saw an emergence of taxing, standing army, territorial powers etc.

The sixteen Mahajanapadas are as follows:

Kasi

Its Capital was Banaras. Kasi was located on the confluence of Ganga and Gomti rivers and somewhere around today’s Varanasi.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Malla

Its capital was Kushinagar, Pawa. It covered the modern districts of Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

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.

Vatsa

Its capital was Kausambi. It covered the modern districts of Allahabad and Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh.

Kuru

Its capital was Indraprastha / Hastinapur / Isukara. It covered the modern Haryana & Delhi-Meerut-Ghaziabad region. Its eastern border was River Yamuna.

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.

Matsya

Its capital was Viratnagar. It was located in the Alwar, Bharatpur, Jaipur districts of Rajasthan.

Surasena

Its capital was Mathura. It was located on the junction of Uttarpatha and Dakshinpatha around Mathura of Today.

Assaka

Its capital was Potali, Potana or Podana. 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

Avanti

Its capital was Ujjain & Mahismati. 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 centre at Mahishmati.

Gandhara

Its capital was Taxila. Covered the regions between Kabul and Rawalipindi in North Western Provinces, Peshawar, the Potohar plateau and on the Kabul River.

Kamboja

Its capital Rajpur. It was located around Hndukush mountains of Kashmir.

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