Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 13, 2022, 12:49

Janapadas and Mahajanapadas were the two kinds of political units during the early period of the History of India. They have different characteristics and historical significance.

Let's take a look at Janapada vs Mahajanapada, including detailed definitions and the Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas.

What did Janapadas Mean in Ancient India?

  • The term Janapada refers to a small territorial unit in Ancient India
  • The word Janapada means a place where people live
  • Janapadas were smaller than the Mahajanapadas but larger than ganas, sanghas, and pauris
  • There were about 1500 Janapadas in Ancient India.
  • They were spread over the entire Indian subcontinent, with some being in the mountainous regions of northern India and others in the forested regions of central India
  • They were mainly agricultural communities

What did Mahajanapadas Mean in Ancient India?

  • The term 'Mahajanapada' literally refers to 'Great Kingdom'
  • It is the name of a country, kingdom, or state in ancient India
  • During the time of the Gautam Buddha, there were 16 Mahajanpadas.
  • The capital of the Mahajanpadas was situated on river basins or in fertile valleys
  • Mahajanapadas were large territories inhabited by people during ancient times
  • At least 16 Mahajanapadas are mentioned in the Buddhist literature, the Anguttara Nikaya, Jain literature, Pannavana-Sutta
  • Mahajanpadas emerged around 600 BC and covered almost all parts of Ancient India, including Bihar, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan, based on archaeological evidence
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Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas

Below are the key Differences Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas -

JanapadaMahajanapada

The word Janapada is derived from the words Jana meaning people and pada meaning feet

The word Mahajanapada is derived from the words Maha meaning great, and janapada meaning feet of people

The Major Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas was that the Janapadas lasted from 1500 BC to the 6th century BC

The Mahajanapadas lasted between the 6th century BC to 345 BC

During this period, the transition from the bronze age to the iron age occurred

The major historical event during the times of Mahajanapadas was the emergence of Buddhism and Jainism

Janapadas were situated in the eastern, western, and northern parts of India

Mahajanapadas were spread all over Northern India, including Bengal and Kashmir valley

Major examples of Janapadas from 1500 BC to 6th century BC:

  • Alina
  • Anu
  • Gandhari
  • Kalinga
  • Matsya

Major examples of Mahajanapadas during the 16th century BC:

  • Chedi
  • Gandhara
  • Kosala
  • Magadha

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Janapadas and Mahajanapadas were an important part of ancient India. There was many major Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas regarding the period in which they existed, the major historical events during their times, etc.

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FAQs on the Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas

Q1. What is the primary Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas?

The primary Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas was that Janapada was a territory inhabited by different tribes or clans. Janapadas were not the same as kingdoms. The Mahajanapadas were ancient kingdoms in the Indian subcontinent during the Vedic period, which consisted of 16 Mahajanapadas, most of which were located in the Indo-Gangetic Plain.

Q2. What was the Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas in terms of the period they existed?

The Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas in terms of the period they existed was that Janapadas existed from 1500 BC to the 6th century B.C., whereas Mahajanapadas existed between the 6th century BC to 345 BC.

Q3. What was the Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas in terms of major historical events during those times?

The Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas in terms of major historical events was that the shift from the bronze age to the iron age took place when Janapadas existed. Whereas the emergence of Jainism and Buddhism took place during the times of Mahajanapadas.

Q4. What was the Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas in terms of administration?

The Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas in terms of administration was that the Janapadas were the tribal settlements of the Vedic Aryan period. They had loose political structures with no central authority or administration. They were an association of different tribes and clans.

The Mahajanapadas, on the other hand, were 16 major kingdoms that came up in the Indian subcontinent during the 6th century B.C. They had a better political structure and a central authority for the administration of their kingdom.