Mahajanapadas – List of 16 Mahajanapadas Map with Capital, King, and Location

By Balaji

Updated on: March 30th, 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. Anga, Assaka, Avanti, Chedi, Gandhara, Kamboja, Kasi, Kosala, Kuru, Machcha, Magadha, Malla, Panchala, Surasena, Vajji, and Vatsa.
  • 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. Features of Mahajanapadas (more)
  • 3. 16 Mahajanapadas Map (more)
  • 4. List of the 16 Mahajanapadas with Capital (more)
  • 5. Difference between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas (more)
  • 6. Types of Government in Mahajanapadas (more)
  • 7. Most Powerful Mahajanapada: Magadha (more)
  • 8. 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. In Vedic India, Janapdas were the primary kingdoms.

16 Mahajanapadas UPSC Notes

Aryans were the most influential tribes during that era and were known as Janas. There were 22 separate Janapads by the 6th century BCE. The increasing Socioeconomic, religious, and political achievements led to the establishment of Mahajanapadas. After Harappan Civilisation, it is considered the 2nd urbanization era.

Features of Mahajanapadas

Mahajanapadas became prominent from Janapadas or small kingdoms when they started using iron-made instruments in Agriculture and for military purposes. The period experienced several political and religious advancements. The 7 main features or components of Mahanjanapadas are stated below:

  • The Country
  • The King
  • Fortified City
  • The Minister
  • Army
  • Treasury, and;
  • Ally

16 Mahajanapadas Map

Candidates can refer to the Mahajanapadas map to get an idea of the location of 16 Mahajanapadas. This can be useful for candidates who have opted for History subject as their optional in UPSC Mains Exam. You can easily locate these sites on the map of India.

Mahajanapadas – List of 16 Mahajanapadas Map with Capital, King, and Location

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.

16 Mahajanapadas Name 16 Mahajanapadas Capital Current day location Important Facts
Anga Champa Bhagalpur and Munger Located in present-day West Bengal and Bihar, and the capital Champa was located at the junction of the Champa and the Ganga river.
Asmaka/Asaka Potali/Podana Banks of Godavari Located on the banks of Godavari River, it was the only Mahajanapadas situated south of the Vindhya range in Dakshinapatha.
Avanti Ujjaini or Mahismati Madhya Pradesh and Malwa Located around present-day Madhya Pradesh and Malwa, these Mahajanapadas held importance during the rise of Buddhism.
Chedi Sothivati Bundelkhand region Shishupala was the king of Chedi in Rigveda. Lord Krishna assassinated Shishupala during the Rajasuya sacrifice of Yudhishthira.
Gandhara Taxila Rawalpindi Cited in the Atharva Veda, the Gandhara citizens were highly trained in the art of war. It was a crucial place for global commercial activities.
Kamboja Poonch Rajouri and Hajra (Kashmir), NWFP (Pakistan) Kamboja Mahajanapadas was a republic according to seven literary sources. Situated in present-day Kashmir and Hindukush, Kamboja had an extraordinary horses breed.
Kasi/Kashi Kasi Banaras Situated in Varanasi, it got its name from Varuna and Asi rivers. The Mahajanapadas was captured by Kosala.
Kosala Shravasti (northern)
Kushavati (southern)
Eastern Uttar Pradesh Situated in modern-day Awadh, the area includes an important city of Ramayana-Ayodhya. It was also the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.
Kuru Indraprastha 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.
Magadha Girivraja/ Rajagriha Gaya and Patna Magadha became an epicentre of Jainism. It was cited in the Atharva Veda. The first Buddhist council was conducted in Rajagriha, Magadha’s capital.
Malla Kusinara 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.
Matsya Viratanagara Jaipur Situated to the west of Panchalas and south of the Kurus, the capital of Matsya was named Viratanagara after its founder Virata.
Panchala 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.
Shurasena Mathura Western Uttar Pradesh A major hub of Krishna worships during  Megasthenes times. There was a supremacy of Buddha followers here too.
Vajji Vaishali Bihar These Mahajanapadas included eight clans, the most powerful being the Lichchhavis, Jnatrikas, and Videhans. The great Mahavira belonged to the Jnatrikas clan.
Vatsa Kausambi Allahabad 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.

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.

Mahajanapadas Janapadas
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.

Features Monarchy Gana-Sangha (Republic)
Government Centralized and Inheritable Decentralized and was not hereditable
Location Most are founded in the Himalayas foothills. Most of them are situated in the Great alluvial grasslands of the Ganga river and its tributaries.
Decision-making Via conversation, discussion, and voting in the community called Santhagara. Via King, who the ministers instructed, called as Mantri-Parishad.
Views Passive toward unorthodox ideas. The Brahmanical system did not accept other theories.

Most Powerful Mahajanapada: Magadha

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

The majority of the states were monarchies, and very few were republics known as Sanghas or Ganas. These Ganasanghas were oligarchies, which signifies the king was elected and governed with the support of a committee.

  • 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 creators of Jainism and Buddhism came from republican Indian states
  • Every Mahajanapada out of 16 had its independent capital city
  • An important Mahajanapada with a Sangha form of government was Vajji
  • Usually, the crop tax was 1/6th of the mass production, known as Bhaga or share
  • Taxes were even imposed on artisans, herders, and hunters.
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