16 Mahajanapadas

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 13, 2022, 9:28

A Buddhist scripture named Angutara Nikaya contains the list of 16 Mahajanapadas or great kingdoms in India at the commencement of the 6th century BCE.

Emerging in the Vedic Age during the 6th to 4th century BCE, Mahajanapadass surfaced due to the development in Bihar and eastern UP, where agriculture flourished and iron production increased owing to the availability of fertile lands and iron ore in large quantities.

Following is a list of these kingdoms, including the 16 Mahajanapadas with Capitals and their modern-day location. You can find these locations on the 16 Mahajanapadas Map.

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List of the 16 Mahajanapadas

16 Mahajanapadas

16 Mahajanapadas Capital

Current day location

Important facts

Anga

Champa

Munger and Bhagalpur

Situated in present-day Bihar and West Bengal, its capital Champa was situated at the confluence of the Ganga and the Champa rivers.

Magadha

Girivraja/ Rajagriha

Gaya and Patna

Finding mention in the Atharva Veda, Magadha became a centre of Jainism.

The first Buddhist council was held in its capital, Rajagriha.

Kasi/Kashi

Kasi

Banaras

Located in Varanasi, this city got its name from the rivers Varuna and Asi.

The Mahajanapadas was captured by Kosala.

Vatsa

Kausambi

Allahabad

Also known as Vamsa, these Mahajanapadas followed the monarchical form of governance.

It was the centre for economic activities where trade and business prospered in the 6th century.

Kosala

Shravasti (northern)

Kushavati (southern)

Eastern Uttar Pradesh

Located in modern-day Awadh, the area included an important city of Ramayana-Ayodhya.

It was also the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.

Shurasena

Mathura

Western Uttar Pradesh

A major centre of Krishna worship at the time of Megasthenes, there was a dominance of Buddha followers here too.

Panchala

Ahichchatra and Kampilya

Western Uttar Pradesh

Incorporating the famous city of Kannauj, the kingdom of Panchala followed the monarchical form of governance, which later shifted to the republic form.

Kuru

Indraprastha

Meerut and Southeastern Haryana

Situated in the area around Kurukshetra, the holy epic of Mahabharata tells the story of a conflict between two branches of the reigning Kuru clan.

Matsya

Viratanagara

Jaipur

Situated to the west of Panchalas and south of the Kurus, the capital of Matsya was named Viratanagara after its founder Virata.

Chedi

Sothivati

Bundelkhand region

Cited in the Rigveda, Shishupala was the king of Chedi.

Shishupala was killed by Lord Krishna during the Rajasuya sacrifice of Yudhishthira.

Avanti

Ujjaini or Mahismati

Malwa and Madhya Pradesh

Located around present-day Malwa and Madhya Pradesh, Avanti was significant in relation to the rise of Buddhism.

Gandhara

Taxila

Rawalpindi

Cited in the Atharva Veda, the people of Gandhara were highly trained in the art of war.

It was an important place for international commercial activities.

Kamboja

Poonch

Rajouri and Hajra (Kashmir), NWFP (Pakistan)

As per seven literary sources, Kamboja was a republic.

Situated in present-day Kashmir and Hindukush, Kamboja had an excellent breed of horses.

Asmaka/Asaka

Potali/Podana

Banks of Godavari

Situated on the banks of River Godavari, Asmaka was the only Mahajanapadas located to the south of the Vindhya range, in Dakshinapatha.

Vajji

Vaishali

Bihar

These Mahajanapadas included eight clans, the most powerful ones being the Lichchhavis, Jnatrikas, and Videhans.

The great Mahavira belonged to the Jnatrikas clan.

Malla

Kusinara

Deoria and Uttar Pradesh

A republic Mahajanapadas, Malla finds a reference in Jain and Buddhist texts, and in the Mahabharata.

Its capitals of Kusinara and Pava are extremely important in the history of Buddhism, as the Buddha took his last meal at Pava and went to Mahaparinirvana at Kusinara.

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The abovementioned list of 16 Mahajanapadas arose before the rise of Buddhism in India. Smaller, weak kingdoms and republics were eliminated and replaced by stronger rulers in the course of time. The only 4 powerful kingdoms to remain in the 6th century were Magadha, Avanti, Kosala, and Vatsa.

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FAQs on 16 Mahajanapadas

Q1. Name any two of the 16 Mahajanapadas that practised trade and commerce.

Anga and Vatsa were some of the 16 Mahajanapadas that practised trade and commerce

Q2. Which of the 16 Mahajanapadas practised a republican form of governance?

Kuru, Kamboja, Panchala, and Malla were some of the 16 Mahajanapadas that practised a republican form of governance.

Q3. Name any three of the 16 Mahajanapadas mentioned in the Vedas.

Anga, Magadha, and Gandhara are some of the 16 Mahajanapadas that find a reference in the Atharva Veda.

Q4. Out of the 16 Mahajanapadas, which Mahajanapadas were conquered by Persians?

Out of the 16 Mahajanapadas, Gandhara was conquered by Persians in the latter part of the 6th century BCE.