Rise of Janapadas - General Knowledge Today

Rise of Janapadas

The late Vedic era ends where epic era starts. Most of the historical information about that period we get from Puranas, epics such as Mahabharta and Ramayana. However, the information is delusive, exaggerated and fragmented so, not much reliable info is available. The dates assigned to the Vedic period & Iron Age is 1200–300 BC. We came to know about some Mahajanpadas in Vedas. For example, the earliest reference to the Magadha people occurs in the Atharva-Veda where they are found listed along with the Angas, Gandharis, and Mujavats.

We have many sources to know about various Janpadas, Kings, Dynasties, Events that happened near the rise of Buddhism and Jainism. However, the information from 1500 BC to 6-7th century BC is so much confusing that none of the scholars has been able write clearly about the history of those times.

Rise of Janpadas:

We start our study from 1500 BC. We know that in contrast with urban culture of the Indus Valley Civilization, 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 first question arises is, why and how the Janpadas developed.

In Early Vedic era, there was no taxing, No standing armies and no importance to territorial powers.

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 varnas. Based upon occupation, new labour class and landed classes also 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 and other Mahajanpadas. This transition also saw an emergence of taxing, standing army, territorial powers etc.

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Last Updated: November 22, 2013