SSC History GK Study Notes 2023: The Sixteen Mahajanapadas

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 25th, 2023

History is a relevant topic in the General Awareness section where 4-5 questions are always asked in the Tier 1 Examination. In this article, we will be discussing SSC History GK Notes for The Sixteen Mahajanapadas. Read it in detail here and complete your GK Section preparation for the upcoming SSC and Railway Exams 2023 You can read previous and upcoming Complete SSC GK Study Notes from the plan given below.

The widespread use of iron tools and the growth of the 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. 

The Origin of Mahajanapadas

  • The word Mahajanapada refers to the large Janapadas that existed in the Indian subcontinent during the Vedic period.
  • Eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar became the country’s main political centres in the sixth century BC. Some of these territorial states acquired access to iron production centres and used them to manufacture iron weapons and tools. They steadily expanded their territory with the aid of these weapons. These kingdoms became known as the Mahajanapadas.
  • The majority of the Mahajanapadas were formed by combining several Janapadas. The Kosala, for example, combined the Janapada of Sakyas and Kashi.
  • Several Buddhist texts allude to the 16 Mahajanapadas and their major settlements that existed during Buddha’s lifetime. (6th century). However, the list of Mahajanapadas described in various Buddhist and Jaina texts differed slightly. 
  • The Mahajanapadas stretched from Bihar in the east to the northwest frontier, mostly to the north of Vindhyas.

SSC History GK Study Notes 2023: The Sixteen Mahajanapadas

Source: Wikipedia

Types of Mahajanpadas

Monarchical Mahajanapadas

  • The hereditary king or chieftain controlled the state in Monarchical Mahajanapadas.
  • The rulers in this region valued Brahmanas and Vedic rituals.
  • Monarchical administration was practised in Mahajanapadas such as Kosala and Magadha.

Republican Mahajanapadas

  • The king was elected from a group of Rajas renowned for their fighting ability in Republican or oligarchic Mahajanapadas, and he runs the administration with the aid of an assembly called Sabha.
  • The Brahmanas and Vedic sacrifices were not accorded much weight in this society. According to a few Buddhist texts, the Brahmanas were put in the social hierarchy below the Kshatriyas.
  • The oligarchy system of government was used in Vajji. Gana sangha were Mahajanapadas like this.

List of Sixteen Mahajanapadas

Below is the list of Sixteen Mahajanapadas

  1. Kosala
  2. Malla
  3. Chedi/Cheti
  4. Anga
  5. Magadha
  6. Kamboja
  7. Kasi
  8. Vajji
  9. Vatsa
  10. Kuru
  11. Matsya
  12. Surasena/Shurasena
  13. Assaka
  14. Avanti
  15. Gandhara
  16. Panchala

The Sixteen Mahajanapadas

  • 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 to 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 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 center (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 center 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 Mathura, and its most famous ruler was Avantiputra.

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


Haryanka Dynasty

1) Bimbisara (544BC-492BC)

  1. 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
  2. Bimbisara was a contemporary of Buddha.
  3. Pataliputra and Rajagriha were the capitals of the Magadha kingdom. Magadha falls in the Patna region of Bihar.

2) Ajatashatru (492BC-460BC)

  1. He followed a more aggressive policy. Gained control of Kashi and Vajji. Built the fort of Rajgir.
  2. He convened the 1st Buddhist council

3) Udayin (460BC-440BC)

  1. 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 northwest India in 326 BC

In 322-21 BC Chandragupta Maurya founded the Mauryan dynasty.

Mahajanapadas: The Political Structure

  • The Mahajanapadas represent a transition from a semi-nomadic tribal society to one that was centred on agriculture and had a well-developed trading network and political structure. The majority of these organisations were monarchies, but a few were ganasangha republics. The executive branch of Ganasangha’s oligarchic government was led by an elected monarch who was backed by a large council. Although the situation was very close to democracy, the ordinary citizen had no say in how it was run.
  • The majority of countries were monarchies; however, there were republics, also known as Ganas or Sanghas.
  • In these Republican States, the entire Jain and Buddhist founding families began. Each Mahajanapada had a capital city that functioned as the centre of development.
  • Craftsmen and traders established guilds (shrem) as well as a banking and lending structure. They also minted coins and made writing, the first of which were silver-bent bars and silver and copper punch-marked coins.

SSC History Notes 2023: The Sixteen Mahajanapadas PDF (Download Link)

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