Sixteen Mahajanapadas

Mahajanapadas: They were sixteen strong kingdoms that existed in ancient Indian history from the sixth century BCE onwards.

At the age of the Buddha, sixteen large states called Mahajanapadas existed. The Jain texts also contain references to the existence of sixteen Mahajanapadas. The Mahajanapadas were mostly situated north of the Vindhayas and extended from the northwest frontier to Bihar.

According to Anguttara Nikaya, the sixteen Mahajanapadas were:

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

Mahajanapadas and Janapadas on map:

Sixteen Mahajanapadas and Janapadas

Sixteen Mahajanapadas and Janapadas

In course of time, the small and weak kingdoms either submitted to the stronger rulers or gradually got eliminated. Finally, in the mid of the 6th century B.C., only four kingdoms – Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala, and Magadha survived. Later on, from the 6th century B.C. onwards, in the struggle for supremacy between these states, the Magadha emerged to be the most powerful and succeeded in founding an empire.

Also read: Wars and Battles of India

List of Mahajanapadas:

The list of 16 Mahajanapadas is given in the table:

Mahajanapadas Capital Important facts
  1. Anga
Champa

 

Capital Champa was located at the confluence of the Champa and the Ganga rivers.

It corresponds to the modern-day villages of Champapuri and Champanagar in Bihar.

It is located between the Champa river to the west and the Rajmahal hills to the east.

The first reference to Anga was found in Atharvaveda.

Anga was annexed by Magadha in the time of Bimbisara, it was the only conquest of Bimbisara.

Its present location is Munger and Bhagalpur.

2. Asmaka or Assaka Potana or Potali, or Podana,

Potali is identified as present-day Bodhan in Telangana.

Asmaka was located in Dakshinapatha or Southern India.

Including areas of present-day Andhra-Pradesh, Telangana, and Maharastra.

It was located around the Godavari river.

3. Avanti Ujjaini/Mahismati Avanti was divided north and south by the Narmada river.

Initially, Mahismati was the Capital of Southern Avanti and Ujjain was of northern Avanti.

At the time of  Mahavir and Buddha, Ujjaini was the capital of integrated Avanti.

Avanti was an important center of Buddhism.

The most important ruler of the kingdom was Pradyota, who married Vasavdatta, the daughter of Udayana.

Nandivardhan the king of Avanti was defeated by Shishunaga the king of Magadha, Avanti later became part of the Magadha empire.

4. Chedi Sukti or Suktimati In Rigveda Chedi is mentioned.

The Chedis had two distinct settlements of which one was in the mountains of Nepal and the other in Bundelkhand near Kausambi.

According to old authorities, Chedis lay near Yamuna midway between the kingdom of Kurus and Vatsa. In the medieval period, the southern frontiers of Chedi extended to the bank of river Narmada.

5. Gandhara  Taksashila or Taxila Gandhara is mentioned in Atharva Veda.

The people of Gandhara were well-trained in the art of war.

The water source for this region was the river Indus.

Present day location is modern Peshawar and Rawalpindi in Pakistan and the Kashmir valley.

Famous king-Pushkarasarin.

Persian conquered Gandhara in the 6th century BCE.

6. Kamboja Poonch Kakmbojas are aslo included in the Uttarapatha.

In ancient literature, the Kamboja is variously associated with the Gandhara, Darada, and Bahlika (Bactria)

Kautilya’s Arthashastra attests to Kamboja’s republican character.

Ashoka’s Edict No. XIII also testifies to the presence of Kamboja along with the Yavanas.

7. Kashi/Kasi Kasi Kashi was located around its capital Varanasi, bounded by the Varuna and Asi rivers in the North and South.

The Northern Border of Kashi was separated from Kosala by the river Sarpika.

Before Buddha Kashi was the most powerful of the sixteen Mahajanapadas.

King Brihadratha of Kashi, conquered Kosala, but Kashi was later incorporated into Kosala by king Kansa during the time of Buddha.

8. Kosala Shravasti of North Kosala,

Kushavati – the Capital of the southern side

Kosala was located to the northwest of Magadha.

Kosala’s territory corresponds to the modern Awadh (or Oudh) in Central and Eastern Uttar Pradesh.

River Ganga on its southern, Gandak (Narayani) in the eastern and Himalayas was situated for its northern boundary.

The longest dynasty was Raghuvansha-Iksavakuvansha. Lord Rama was the king of this dynasty.

Other great kings were Prithu, Harishchandra, and Dilip as mentioned in the Puranas, Ramayana, and Mahabharat. According to these texts, Koshala was the most powerful and biggest kingdom ever in recorded history.

In the era of Buddha and Mahavira, the dynasty was ruled by the famous king Prasenjit.

The position of Prasenjit was further improved by matrimonial alliances with Magadha, his sister was married to Bimbisara, and part of Kashi was given as a dowry.

There was a struggle for supremacy between Presenjit and king Ajatshatru of Magadha which was finally settled once the confederation of Licchivis became conquered by Magadha.

Koshala merged into Magadha in the region of Vidudabha the ruler of Koshala.

9. Kuru Indraprastha The country of Kurus roughly corresponded to the modern Thanesar, the state of Delhi, and the Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh.
10. Magadha Girivraja/Rajagriiha

Patliputra

Magadha was one of the most prominent and prosperous Mahajanappadas.

Its capital Pataliputra was situated on the confluence of major rivers like Ganga, Son, Punpun, and Gandak.

The modern location is Gaya, Patna in Bihar.

11. Malla Kusinara Kusinara is very important for Buddhist history as it is believed that the Lord Buddha died in the courtyard of king Sastipal mall of Kushinagar.
12. Matsya Viratnagara The name of the capital of Matsya was Viratnagara is said to have been named after its founder king Virata.

The country of the Matsya or Maccha tribe lays to the south of the Kurus and west of the Yamuna, which separated them from the Panchalas.

Matsya roughly corresponds to the former state of Jaipur in Rajasthan and included the whole of Alwar with portions of Bharatpur.

13. Panchalas Adhichhatra or Chhatravati: the capital of northern Panchala;

Kampilya or Kampil: The capital of southern Panchala

The Panchalas occupied the country to the east of the Kurus between the mountains and river Ganges.

The famous city of Kannauj was situated in Panchala kingdom.

14. Surasena Mathura The country of Surasena lay east of Matsya and west of Yamuna.

Mathura is located on the bank of the river Yamuna.

It corresponds roughly to the Brij region of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Gwalior region of Madhya Pradesh.

Centre of Lord Krishna worship

 

15. Vajji or Vrji Vaishali Both the Buddhist text- Angutttara Nikaya and the Jaina text – Bhagwati Sutra included Vajji in their list of sixteen Mahajanapadas.
16. Vatsa/ Vamsa Kaushambi The Vatsa country corresponds with the territory of modern Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.

Located on the Bank of Yamuna.

Its Capital Kausambi was a very prosperous city where a large number of wealthy merchants were raised.

During the 5th – 6th century BCE Udayana was the powerful ruler of Vatsa.

Initially, Udayana opposed Buddhism, but later he became a follower of Buddha and made Buddhism the state religion.

Queen Mrigavati was the mother of Udayana. She is notable for being one of the earliest female rulers in Indian History.

 

References:

NCERT textbook

Tamilnadu Text Book

India’s Ancient Past by R.S. Sharma

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahajanapadas

 

You can also read: 💡 

Buddhism: Teaching, Spread, Causes for Decline and contribution to Indian Culture

Jainism: Origin, Doctrines, Spread, and Causes of Decline

List of important books and Authors in Ancient India

Chronology of Ancient History of India

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