The widespread use of Iron tools and growth of agricultural economy led to the formation of larger territorial states in the Gangetic plains. People owed strong allegiance to Janapadha or territory. These states are mentioned in Buddhist and Jain literature. These were both Monarchical and Republican states.
Mahajanapadas, Haryanka Dynasty, Shishunaga Dynasty, Nanda Dynasty
- Magadha (Patna, Gaya and Nalanda districts) – The first capital was Rajagriha and the later capital was Pataliputra.
- Anga and Vanga (Munger and Bhagalpur) – The capital was Champa. It was a prosperous business centre.
- Malla (Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur region) – The capital was Kushinagar. It was the seat of many other smaller kingdoms. Their main religion was Buddhism.
- Vatsa (Allahabad and Mirzapur) – The capital was Kaushambi. The most important ruler of this kingdom was King Udayan.
- Kashi (Benaras) – The capital was Varanasi. Though many battles were fought against the Kosala kingdom, eventually Kashi was merged with the Kosala kingdom.
- Kosala (Ayodhya) – Though its capital was Shravasti which is identical with Sahet-Mahet but Ayodhya was an important town in Kosala. Kosala also included the tribal Republican territory of Sakyas of Kapilvastu.
- Vajji (Muzaffarpur and Vaishali) – Vajji was the seat of a united republic of eight smaller kingdoms of which Lichchavis, Janatriks and Videhas were also members.
- Kuru (Thaneswar, Meerut and present-day Delhi) – The capital city was Indraprastha.
- Panchala (Western Uttar Pradesh) – Its capital was at Kampila. Earlier a monarch state, it later became an independent republic. Kannauj was an important town in this kingdom.
- Matsya kingdom (Alwar, Bharatpur and Jaipur) – Its capital was Viratanagar.
- Ashmaka (Between Narmada and Godavari) – Its capital was at Pertaii and Brahamdatta was its most important ruler.
- Gandhara (Peshawar and Rawalpindi) – Its capital Taxila was important as a trade and education centre (Ancient Taxila university) during the later Vedic age.
- Kamboj (Hazara dist of Pakistan, North-east Kashmir) – Its capital was Rajapur. Hazara was an important trade and commerce centre of this kingdom.
- Avanti (Malwa) – Avanti was divided into two parts north and south. The northern part had its capital at Ujjain and the southern part had its capital at Mahismati.
- Chedi (Bundelkhand) – Shaktimati was the capital of Chedi. Chedi kingdom was spread between Yamuna and Narmada rivers. One of the families from this kingdom later merged into the Kalinga kingdom from this royal family.
- Shurasena (Brajmandal) – Its capital was at Mathura and its most famous ruler was Avantiputra.
Sources of Sixteen Mahajanapadas
- Anguttara Nikaya, Mahavastu (Buddhist Literature)
- Bhagavati Sutta (Jain Literature)
Rise of Magadha Empire
- Bimbisara followed the policy of Conquest and aggression and annexed various kingdoms to the Magadha empire. He also strengthened his position by marriage alliances.
- Rajgir was surrounded by hills and stone-walls constructed made it impregnable.
- The rich iron deposits led to making weapons, clearing forests and development of the agricultural economy.
- Elephants were also used on a large scale in its war against its neighbours.
(1) Bimbisara (544BC-492BC)
- Haryanka is the name of a new dynasty founded in Magadha by Bimbisara. He was also called Seniya who was the first Indian to have a regular and standing army
- Bimbisara was a contemporary of Buddha.
- Pataliputra and Rajagriha were the capitals of the Magadha kingdom. Magadha falls in the Patna region of Bihar.
(2) Ajatashatru (492BC-460BC)
- He followed a more aggressive policy. Gained control of Kashi and Vajji. Built the fort of Rajgir.
- He convened the 1st Buddhist council
(3) Udayin (460BC-440BC)
- He laid the foundation of Pataliputra and shifted the capital from Rajgir to Pataliputra
Shishunaga Dynasty (412BC-344BC)
- People elected Shishunga over Nagadasaka (last Haryanka ruler) thereby ending the Haryanka dynasty
- Shishunga was succeeded by Kalashoka who convened the 2nd Buddhist council
Nanda Dynasty (344BCC-323BC)
- Mahapadma Nanda was the founder and the first king of the Nanda dynasty.
- He overthrew the Magadha dynasty and established the new Empire. He was known as Sarvakshatrantak and Ugrasena
- Mahapadma was known as Ekrat – the sole monarch
- Initially, the Nanda Dynasty inherited a large kingdom of Magadha and subsequently, the boundaries of the Nanda Dynasty were expanded in all directions by its rulers.
- Dhana Nanda was the last ruler of the Nanda Dynasty. During his rule, Alexander invaded North-West India by 326 BC
In 322-21 BC Chandragupta Maurya founded the Mauryan dynasty.
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