Mahajanapadas: 16 Mahajanapadas and their Capitals, Notes PDF

By Ritesh|Updated : July 29th, 2022

Mahajanapadas were 16 kingdoms/oligarchic republics in ancient Inia during the 6th to 4th centuries BCE during the 2nd urbanization era. The most important feature of Mahajanapadas was the formation of the states. The period of Mahajanapadas is also known as the period of 2nd urbanization because the centre of economy and polity shifted from the North-west to the Eastern states. At that time there were a total of 16 Mahajanapadas.

The 16 Mahajanapadas had both monarchies and republics and it is important to know all of them for the UPSC exam. In this article, we have covered what are the 16 Mahajanapadas with capital, the most powerful Mahajanapada of that tome, etc which would be helpful for UPSC Exam preparation.

Table of Content

What are Mahajanapadas?

Mahajanapadas are the kingdoms that rose to fame from the 6th century BC onward. Mahajanapadas signify the tribes came together to form various groups and later gave rise to permanent settlement areas called states' or Janapadas'.

  • In Vedic India, Janapdas were the main kingdoms. At that period, Aryans were the most powerful tribes and they were referred to as Janas'.
  • By the 6th century BCE, there were 22 distinct Janapads,
  • The increasing Socioeconomic achievements, political & religious advances, and increased use of iron instruments led to the establishment of Mahajanapadas from small kingdoms known as Janapadas,
  • After Harappan Civilisation, it is considered the 2nd urbanization era.

>>Download Short Notes on Mahajanapadas for UPSC Exam

16 Mahajanapadas with Capital

Below we have provided a complete list of the 16 Mahajanapadas with capital

16 Mahajanapadas

Capital of 16 Mahajanapadas

Anga

Champa

Magadha

Girivraja| Rajagriha

Kasi

Kasi

Vatsa

Kausambi

Kosala

Sravasti

Saurasena

Mathura

Panchala

Ahichchatra and Kampliya

Kuru

Indraprastha

Matsya

Viratnagar

Chedi

Sothivati

Avanti

Ujjaini or Mahismati

Gandhara

Taxila

Kamboja

Pooncha

Ashmaka or Assaka

Pratisthan/ Paithan

Vajji

Vaishali

Malla

Kusinara

Facts on 16 Mahajanapadas

There are several kingdoms in ancient India in the 6th Century BC. This era saw socioeconomic growth along with political and religious developments. This resulted in the growth from Janapadas to Mahajanapadas. By 6th BC, the major focus of chief political activity shifted from the western part of Gangetic plain to the easter part. The main reason behind the shift was for a better climate, fertile lands, and typography conditions bestowed with rainfall and rivers. Additionally increased use of iron tools empowered the development of small states as a kingdom and which later was known as Mahajanapadas.

Anga

  • It finds its reference in Atharva Vega and Mahabharata
  • Anga was taken over by Magadha Empire during the Bimbisara rule.
  • It is currently located in Bihar and West Bengal

Magadha

  • Atharva Veada mentions the Magadha was semi-Brahmanical habitation
  • Magadha became a centre of Jainism.

Kasi

  • Kasi was located in Varanasi
  • It got its name from the rivers Asi and Varuna

Vatsa

  • It is also known as Vamsa
  • This Mahajanapada followed the monarchical form of governance
  • The capital of Vatsa is Kausambi
  • Vasta was the centre of economic activities at that time

Kosala

  • Its capital was Sravasti and it was situated in the modern Awadh region of UP.

Saurasena

  • Saurasena was the centre of Krishna worship, and this region also saw dominant followership of Buddha.

Panchala Mahajanapada

  • It is located in the present-day Uttar Pradesh
  • In the later period, the nature of governance shifted from monarchy to republic.

Kuru

  • Kuru moved to a republic from a governance

Matsya Mahajanapada

  • Matsya is situated in the present-day Jaipur
  • It was located to the west of Panchalas and south of the Kurus

Chedi

  • Chesi was located in the Rigveda

Avanti

  • It has a huge relation to the rise of Buddhism
  • It was located in the present-day Malwa and Madhya Pradesh

Gandhara

  • Here the people were trained for war, and it was an ideal place for international commercial activities.

Kamboja

  • According to some literary sources Kamboja wasa republic.

Malla Mahajanapada

  • It was a republic, and it finds its mentions in the Jains Texts, Buddhist texts, and Mahabharata.

Vajji

  • Vajji included main races like Licchavis, Vedehans, Jnatrikas, and Vajjis.

Ashmaka or Assaka

  • This Mahajanapada was located on the bank of Godavari

16 Mahajanapadas and their Modern Location

Below we have provided the list of 16 Mahajanapadas with their modern locations.

16 Mahajanapadas

Modern Location of 16 Mahajanapadas

Anga

Munger and Bhagalpur

Magadha

Gaya and Patna

Kasi

Banaras

Vatsa

Allahabad

Kosala

Eastern Uttar Pradesh

Saurasena

Western Uttar Pradesh

Panchala

Western Uttar Pradesh

Kuru

Meerut and Southeastern Haryana

Matsya

Jaipur

Chedi

Jaipur

Avanti

Malwa and Madhya Pradesh

Gandhara

Rawalpindi

Kamboja

Rajori and Hajra

Ashmaka or Assaka

Bank of Godavari

Vajji

Bihar

Malla

Deoria and Uttar Pradesh

The Most Powerful Mahajanapada

Mafdha was the most powerful Mahajanapada of that time. It had to compete with Kosala, Avanti, and Vatsa for supremacy but in the end, it became the most powerful Mahajanapada.

Types of Government in Mahajanapadas

In Mahajanapadas, there were two types of Government- Monarchy and Republic. The major differences between the Monarchy and Republic are given below.

Features

Monarchy

Gana-Sangha (Republic)

Government

Centralized and Hereditary

Decentralized and was not hereditary

Location

Most of them are based in the foothills of the Himalayas

Most of them are located in the Great alluvial plains of Ganga and its tributaries

Decision-making

Through debate, discussion, and voting in the assembly called Santhagara

Through King, who was advised by Mantri-Parishad (ministers)

Views

Tolerant toward unorthodox views

The Brahmanical system did not tolerate other views

Features of Mahajanapadas

The seven features of the Mahajanapadas are listed below.

  1. The King
  2. The Minister
  3. The Country
  4. Treasury
  5. Army, and
  6. Ally
  7. Fortified City

UPSC Sample Questions on Mahajanapadas

Question- Which of the following statements is/are correct about Mahajanapadas:

  1. The term "Mahajanapadas" alludes to 16 monarchs and "republics" that spanned the Indo-Gangetic plains.
  2. Magadha rose to prominence as the most powerful Mahajanapada during the sixth and fourth centuries BCE.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer- C

Mahajanapadas UPSC

It is important to know about the 16 Mahajanapadas with capitals for the UPSC Exam. Questions can be asked in both UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains related to this particular topic. In this article, we have provided all the facts and information related to the Mahajanapadas. Candidates can download the Mahajanapadas UPSC Notes PDF file below to strengthen their preparation.

>>Download Mahajanapadas UPSC Notes PDF

For an effective and efficient preparation candidates must follow the right UPSC Books and go through the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers, and stay updated with the Current Affairs as well.

Other Important UPSC Notes
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Temple Architecture in IndiaGulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
Ashgabat AgreementRock Edicts of Ashoka
Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)Contempt of Court in India
Project TigerIndex of Industrial Production (IIP)

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FAQs for Mahajanapadas

  • Mahajanapadas are the 16 kingdoms that rose to fame from the 6th century BC onwards.

  • There were 16  Mahajanapadas namely- Anga, Magadha, Kasi, Vatsa, Kosala, Saurasena, Panchala, Kuru, Matsya, Chedi, Avanti, Gandhara, Kamboja, Ashmaka or Assaka, Vajji Malla.

  • Mathura was the capital of Saurasena Mahajanapada. Saurasena was the centre of Krishna worship.

  • Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala and Magadha were four powerful Mahajanapadas.

  • The most prominent feature of Mahajanapadas s the formation of states.

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