Mahajanapadas – List of 16 Mahajanapadas with Capital, History

By Balaji

Updated on: February 17th, 2023

A Buddhist scripture named Angutara Nikaya contains the list of 16 Mahajanapadas or great kingdoms in India at the commencement of the 6th century BCE. Emerging in the Vedic Age during the 6th to 4th century BCE, Mahajanapadass surfaced due to the development in Bihar and eastern UP, where agriculture flourished, and iron production increased owing to the availability of fertile lands and iron ore in large quantities.

  • Mahajanapadas Name: There were 16 Mahajanapadas, i.e Kasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala, Machcha, Surasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kamboja.
  • Mahajanapadas Capital: Champa, Girivraja/ Rajagriha, Kasi, Kausambi, Shravasti (northern), Kushavati (southern), Mathura, Ahichchatra and Kampilya, Indraprastha, Viratanagara, Sothivati, Ujjaini or Mahismati, Taxila, Poonch, Potali/Podana, Vaishali, Kusinara

The most crucial feature of Mahajanapadas was the formation of the states. The period of Mahajanapadas is also referred to as the generation of 2nd urbanization. It is because the centre of economy and polity shifted from the North-west to the Eastern states. The article explains complete information about the list of 16 Mahajanapadas with capital and their important features.

Table of content

  • 1. 16 Mahajanapadas of Ancient India (more)
  • 2. List of the 16 Mahajanapadas with Capital (more)
  • 3. Difference between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas? (more)
  • 4. Types of Government in Mahajanapadas (more)
  • 5. Political System of 16 Mahajanapadas (more)

16 Mahajanapadas of Ancient India

Mahajanapadas are kingdoms that grew to fame from the 6th century BC onwards. Mahajanapadas represent the tribes that jointly formed various groups and subsequently gave rise to permanent settlements called states or Janapadas.

List of 16 Mahajanapadas PDF

  • In Vedic India, Janapdas were the primary kingdoms.
  • During that period, Aryans were the most powerful tribes known as Janas.
  • By the 6th century BCE, there were 22 distinct Janapads.
  • The increasing Socioeconomic achievements, political and 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.

List of the 16 Mahajanapadas with Capital

The 16 Mahajanapadas had monarchies and republics. Following is a list of these kingdoms, including the 16 Mahajanapadas with capitals, their modern-day names, and their location. You can find these locations on the 16 Mahajanapadas Map.

16 Mahajanapadas Name

16 Mahajanapadas Capital

Current day location

Important Facts



Munger and Bhagalpur

Situated in present-day Bihar and West Bengal, its capital Champa was situated at the confluence of the Ganga and the Champa rivers.


Girivraja/ Rajagriha

Gaya and Patna

Finding mention in the Atharva Veda, Magadha became a centre of Jainism. The first Buddhist council was held in its capital, Rajagriha.




Located in Varanasi, this city got its name from Varuna and Asi rivers. The Mahajanapadas was captured by Kosala.




Also known as Vamsa, these Mahajanapadas followed the monarchical form of governance. It was the centre for economic activities where trade and business prospered in the 6th century.


Shravasti (northern)

Kushavati (southern)

Eastern Uttar Pradesh

Located in modern-day Awadh, the area includes an important city of Ramayana-Ayodhya. It was also the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.



Western Uttar Pradesh

A major centre of Krishna worships at the time of Megasthenes. There was a dominance of Buddha followers here too.


Ahichchatra and Kampilya

Western Uttar Pradesh

These Mahajanapadas incorporate the famous city of Kannauj. The kingdom of Panchala followed the monarchical form of governance, which later shifted to the republic form.



Meerut and Southeastern Haryana

Situated in the area around Kurukshetra, the holy epic of Mahabharata tells the story of a conflict between two branches of the reigning Kuru clan.




Situated to the west of Panchalas and south of the Kurus, the capital of Matsya was named Viratanagara after its founder Virata.



Bundelkhand region

In Rigveda, Shishupala was the king of Chedi. Lord Krishna killed Shishupala during the Rajasuya sacrifice of Yudhishthira.


Ujjaini or Mahismati

Malwa and Madhya Pradesh

Located around present-day Malwa and Madhya Pradesh, Avanti was significant in the rise of Buddhism.




Cited in the Atharva Veda, the people of Gandhara were highly trained in the art of war. It was an important place for international commercial activities.



Rajouri and Hajra (Kashmir), NWFP (Pakistan)

As per seven literary sources, Kamboja was a republic. Situated in present-day Kashmir and Hindukush, Kamboja had an extraordinary horses breed.



Banks of Godavari

Situated on the banks of River Godavari, Asmaka was the only Mahajanapadas located to the south of the Vindhya range in Dakshinapatha.




These Mahajanapadas included eight clans, the most powerful being the Lichchhavis, Jnatrikas, and Videhans. The great Mahavira belonged to the Jnatrikas clan.



Deoria and Uttar Pradesh

A republic Mahajanapadas, Malla finds a reference in Jain and Buddhist texts and the Mahabharata. Its capital of Kusinara and Pava is significant in the history of Buddhism, as the Buddha took his last meal at Pava and went to Mahaparinirvana at Kusinara.

The abovementioned list of 16 Mahajanapadas arose before the rise of Buddhism in India. Smaller, weak kingdoms and republics were eliminated and replaced by stronger rulers over time. The only 4 powerful kingdoms to remain in the 6th century were Magadha, Avanti, Kosala, and Vatsa.

Difference between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas?

Two of the most impressive realms in the Vedic period were – the Janapadas and the Mahajanapadas. Both were powerful kingdoms from ancient India that played an essential role in our history. Hence, learning the difference between the two realms is critical for any UPSC Aspirant, as questions related to them are often asked in the exam. Below you can find some of the significant differences between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas.



The Mahajanapadas existed between 600 BCE and 345 BCE.

Janapadas existed from 1500 BCE to the 6th century BCE.

The Mahajanapadas maintained a monarchical power structure even after many republics changed to oligarchy.

Janapadas were monarchical in nature throughout their reign.

Mahajanapadas witnessed the establishment of Buddhism and Jainism, which played a significant role in the religious dogma of the Vedic period.

Janapadas witnessed the transformation period between the Bronze and Iron ages.

‘Mahajanapada’ is a compound noun created by combining the words ‘maha’ and ‘janapada’. Maha stands for great, whereas janapada stands for people’s foothold.

The term ‘Janapada’ finds its roots in Sanskrit and is formed using the words ‘jana’ and ‘pada’. Jana means people, and pada means foot.

A few Mahajanapadas mentioned in Buddhist sources include Chedi, Kosala, Magadha, and Gandhara.

Some of the Janapadas mentioned in Vedic literature include Anu, Alina, Gandhari, Matsya, and Kalinga.

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.



Gana-Sangha (Republic)


Centralized and Inheritable

Decentralized and was not hereditable


Most are founded in the Himalayas foothills.

Most of them are situated in the Great alluvial grasslands of the Ganga river and its tributaries.


Via conversation, discussion, and voting in the community called Santhagara.

Via King, who the ministers instructed, called as Mantri-Parishad.


Passive toward unorthodox ideas.

The Brahmanical system did not accept other theories.

Most Powerful Mahajanapada

The kingdom of Magadha became the most powerful of all the Mahajanapadas in the Vedic period. How? The precise answer would be due to its geographical location. Now, let’s elaborate. Magadha had a considerable advantage as a kingdom because rivers like Ganga and Son flowed through it. These rivers provided ample water supply to the domain, resulting in fertile lands and making water transport possible.

Furthermore, Magadha was also blessed with lush forests, which provided wood to make chariots and mighty elephants that could be trained for the army. Lastly, the region of Magadha was abundant in precious iron ore, which came in handy in making weaponry. These reasons together contributed to making Magadha the most powerful Mahajanapada.

Political System of 16 Mahajanapadas

Most states were monarchies, but few were republics known as Ganas or Sanghas. These Ganasanghas were oligarchies, which means the king was elected and ruled with the aid of a council.

  • Most states had forts constructed around them for security from other kings.
  • The new rulers, Rajas, kept regular troops and collected taxes from the people.
  • The originators of Jainism and Buddhism arrived from republican states
  • Each of the 16 Mahajanapada had a capital city
  • An important Mahajanapada with a Sangha form of government was Vajji
  • Usually, the crop tax was 1/6th of the produce, known as Bhaga or share
  • Taxes were even imposed on artisans, herders, and hunters
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