Sixteen Maha Janapadas emerged in Bharat

During the Vedic period, a number of kingdoms called Maha Janapadas formed over the Indo-Gangetic plain in ancient India. These countries were also known as republics, and sixteen of them were considered the greatest. These sixteen kingdoms were referred to as the Mahajanapadas. These sixteen Maha Janapadas are referenced in ancient texts and literature. Maha Janapada is taken from Sanskrit and means “big nation.” The sixteen mahajanapadas arose in India before the advent of Buddhism. Initially tribal villages, these locations expanded into larger political organizations by acquiring territory about 600 B.C.

The Mahajanapadas were a collection of sixteen ancient Indian kingdoms. It all started when the tribes (janas) of the late Vedic period chose to create their territorial communities, giving rise to new and permanent settlement zones known as’states’ or ‘janapadas’. In the sixth century BCE, present-day Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh were centers of political activity due to the region’s proximity to iron manufacturing sites and fertility.

Iron production played a significant part in the territorial expansion of the region’s nations in the Iron Age. These expansions enabled some of these ‘janapadas’ to become ‘mahajanapadas’ or huge states. Most of these “mahajanapadas” were monarchies, although some were democratic nations. There are frequent allusions to the ’16 great kingdoms’ (mahajanapadas) thrived between the sixth and fourth century BCE in several early Buddhist writings. These 16 kingdoms included Anga, Gandhara, Kuru, and Panchala, described in the Mahabharata, the famous Indian epic.

An account of the Maha Janapadas

Tribes began a basic land-grab procedure to settle down permanently, which gradually evolved into well-planned settlements. These groups gave rise to states or ‘janapadas,’ and tribal identity became a primary determinant of a state’s territory. As a result of the gradual expansion of certain of these republics, they were known as the’mahajanapadas’ Since expansion required the annexation of adjacent states, certain’mahajanapadas’ began to invade other ‘janapadas’ to enlarge their kingdoms in proportion to their success and riches.

Before Buddha’s time, the earliest steps of the tribes’ settlement took place. Thus, allusions to these’mahajanapadas’ in Buddhist scriptures provide historical context. Many of these manuscripts refer to “sixteen great kingdoms” that existed during the sixth and fourth century BCE. After the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization, the era between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE is regarded as a pivotal time in early Indian history because to the creation of enormous cities. These enormous Indian cities housed the sixteen major kingdoms mentioned in ancient literature. In modern times, the term ‘mahajanapadas’ is frequently used to refer to the sixteen major kingdoms listed below.

The sixteen mahajanapadas are detailed here.


The Atharva Veda mentions the kingdom of Anga, which was roughly located in present-day Bihar and a portion of West Bengal. The Magadha was separated from the Ganges by the River Champa to the north. Anga was one of the most prosperous cities and a central hub for trade and business, and it was considered one of the six major cities of ancient India.

Assaka / Ashmaka

Assaka, often referred to as Ashmaka, was a kingdom in the south of India. During the time of Buddha, this tribe lived along the Godavari River. Potana was the name of Assaka’s capital city. It was located in the center of India and spread to the south. It is thought that Assaka was located about where modern-day Maharashtra is presently situated.


During the period when Buddhism was introduced to India, the kingdom of Avanti was one of the four most prominent monarchs in Western India. Historically, the river Vetravati divided Avanti into northern and southern regions. Avanti was situated roughly in the current location of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Avanti was an important Buddhist center that became part of the Magadhan Empire.

Chedi / Cheti

There were two distinct Chedis, sometimes known as Cheti, villages. The first was in the Himalayan parts of Nepal, while the second was near the Yamuna River. The southern limits of Chedi extended to the Narmada River. The Chedis are referenced in the Rig Veda, the earliest known scripture, and this indicates that Chedis have existed in this area for a very long period.


Since the Vedic period, the Gandharas have lived on the banks of the Kubha and Indus rivers. They eventually across the Indus River and expanded their domain into Punjab. The Gandharas were experts of battle and possessed a very combative disposition. According to legend, this kingdom was created by Gandhara, the son of Aruddha.


According to legend, Kamboja was situated on both banks of the Hindukush. In early scriptures and literature, Kamboja is frequently referenced with Gandhara, Darada, and the Bahlika. The Kambojas were believed to share similarities with the Indians and the Iranians.


Kasi were the Aryans who had settled near Varanasi. The city received its name from the rivers Varuna and Asi that bordered it. Before the introduction of Buddhism, Kasi was the most powerful of the sixteen Janapadas. During Buddha’s ascendancy, it was transformed into Kosala. This location is referenced in the Matsya Purana as Kausika or Kausaka.


Kosala was located around 110 kilometers north-northwest of modern-day Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. It was bordered to the south by the Ganges River, to the north by the Himalayas, and to the east by the Gandak River. The monarch was named Prasenjit, and his son Vidudabha succeeded him. During his son’s rule, Kosala and Magadha were united. Kosala’s three principal cities were Ayodhya, Saketa, and Sravasti.


The Kuru family may be traced back to the Puru – Bharata family. Some were established in central India, while others lived beyond the Himalayas. It is stated that Kuru, the son of Samvarsana, was the founder of Kururashtra in Kurukshetra. The Kurus were renowned for their exceptional intelligence and good health. During the fifth century B.C., the Kurus adopted a republican style of governance.

Machcha / Matsya

According to legend, the kingdom of Matsya or Machcha encompassed the territory of modern-day Jaipur, Rajasthan, Alwar, and Bharatpur. This country’s capital was Viratanagara in his honor, as he was the nation’s creator. There is evidence that the Matsya was previously a part of the Chedi kingdom since the Chedi king once controlled this region.


The Atharva Veda refers to the Magadhas. According to ancient texts, the Magadhas were not complete Brahmins; therefore, they were reviled and spoken of with disdain. King Pramaganda is the only other monarch recorded in the Vedas. According to the Mahabharata, Magadha rose to prominence under Bimbisara and his son Ajatasatru. During those times, it was one of the most important empires in India. The Magadha kingdom was roughly located in the present-day state of Bihar.


Most of the Jains’ and Buddhists’ texts reference the Mallas. Their tribe was said to have been exceedingly powerful and resided somewhere in Eastern India. The Mallas were a republican people whose hegemonic realm consisted of nine provinces. Over time, two of these nine provinces (Pava and Kusinara) received great significance due to Buddha’s final dinner, which he ate here before passing away in Kusinara.


The Panchalas resided in northern India, and their province was located to the east of the Kurus. They were situated between the Himalayas and the Ganges River, and one may claim that it was roughly situated in the present-day state of Uttar Pradesh. During the fifth century B.C., the Panchalas transitioned from a monarchical to a republican administration. According to Kautilya’s Arthashastra, they adhere to the king’s constitution.


Surasena was situated on the western bank of the Yamuna river, and its capital was Mathura. Avantiputra, the king of Surasena, had a crucial role in propagating Buddhism in his country. He was one of Buddha’s foremost pupils and sought to disseminate his knowledge and wisdom across his realm. The capital city of Mathura was a significant site for Lord Krishna’s devotion. Over time, the Magadha Empire annexed the Surasena kingdom.

Vajji / Vriji

The Vajji or Vriji consisted of eight to nine allied races, and their kingdom became a cultural and political powerhouse. Essentially, it was located in northern India. The Licchhavis, Vedehans, Jnatrikas, and Vajjis were the most significant of the nine races. The Licchhavis was an autonomous clan, with Vaishali serving as their capital. It was an important Buddhist center and the capital of the mighty Vajjis Republic. The Buddha is said to have frequently visited Licchhavis. As time passed, Ajatasatru, king of Magadha, captured the kingdom of Licchhavis.

Vamsa / Vatsa

Considered an offshoot of the Kurus, the kingdom of Vatsa or Vamsa was roughly located in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, during the time. The name of the capital city was Kaushambi, a flourishing city. Here, many wealthy merchants resided, and it was a major entry point for commodities and people traveling from the northwestern and southern regions. Udyana was the monarch of Vatsa and a powerful ruler. He became a Buddhist and accepted Buddhism as the official religion of his country.

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