Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas | Janapadas vs Mahajanapadas

By Durga Prashanna Mishra|Updated : January 19th, 2023

The main Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas is that the Mahajanapadas existed between 600 BCE and 345 BCE, whereas Janapadas existed around 1500 BCE. Janapadas and Mahajanapadas were the two political units during the early period of the History of India. Another key Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas was that Janapadas were mainly Monachial in nature, and Mahajanapadas were Oligarchical in nature.

Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas

With the increased iron production in parts of North India, the Janapadas became more powerful and evolved as Mahajanapadas. Questions related to the Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas can be asked in the UPSC exam, and that's why in this article, we are going to cover the major differences between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas.

Table of Content

Janapadas and Mahajanapadas Meaning

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.

  • 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.

Overview of Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas

Janapadas and Mahajanapadas were different as they existed during different times in Indian history, followed diverse administration systems, and experienced distinct historical events separately. Below are the key Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas.

Janapada

Mahajanapada

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 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.

The transition from the bronze to the iron age occurred during this period.

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

Janapadas were situated in India's eastern, western, and northern parts.

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

Major examples of Janapadas from 1500 BC to the 6th century BC: Alina, Anu, Gandhari, Kalinga, and Matsya.

Major examples of Mahajanapadas during the 16th century BC:

Chedi, Gandhara, Kosala, and Magadha.

Key Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas

There were about 1500 Janapadas in Ancient India and 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.

  • Janapadas were mainly agricultural communities.
  • At least 16 Mahajanapadas are mentioned in the Buddhist literature, the Anguttara Nikaya, Jain literature, and 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.

UPSC aspirants must know about the Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas as part of the UPSC Syllabus, and questions related to this can be asked in UPSC Exam.

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FAQs on 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.

  • Janapadas and Mahajanapadas differ as they were formed and existed at different times. Janapadas existed from 1500 BC to the 6th century B.C., whereas Mahajanapadas existed between the 6th century BC to 345 BC.

  • Janapada meaning is derived from Jana, denoting people, and pada, indicating feet. While, Mahajanapadas meaning in English is derived from the words Maha representing great, and Janapada signifying feet of people.

  • There were sixteen Mahajanapadas: Anga, Assaka, Avanti, Chedi, Gandhara, Kamboja, Kasi, Kosala, Kuru, Malla, Machcha, Magadha, Panchala, Surasena, Vajji, and Vatsa. They were spread all over Northern India, including Bengal and Kashmir valleys.

  • Regarding major historical events, Janapadas and Mahajanapadas differ as the shift from the bronze age to the iron age occurred when Janapadas existed. The emergence of Jainism and Buddhism occurred during the times of Mahajanapadas.

  • The Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas in terms of administration was that the Janapadas were the tribal settlements of the Vedic Aryan period.

    • 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.
  • The Janapadas were small empires of the Vedic Age period. With the increased iron production in parts of North India, the Janapadas became stronger and formed the Mahajanapadas. This change observed a withdrawal from a semi-nomadic livelihood.

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