Mahajanapada Period (600 BC-325 BC) Ancient History




In antiquated India, various kingdoms developed amid the Vedic Age that was spread over the Indo-Gangetic plain. These kingdoms were additionally called republics and 16 of them were respected the best of all. These 16 kingdoms were known as the 16 Mahajanapadas. These 16 Maha Janapadas are said in the antiquated literature and sacred writings. The term Maha Janapada really signifies "awesome nation" and is gotten from Sanskrit. The sixteen mahajanapadas ascended before the beginning of Buddhism in India. Despite the fact that these spots were tribal settlements at first, generally by 600 B.C they developed into greater political elements by getting land. The sixteen mahajanapadas are given here in subtle element.

Anga: The kingdom of Anga is said in the Atharva Veda and was found generally at the site of the present-day Bihar and a few sections of West Bengal. On the north was River Ganga and it was isolated from the Magadha by River Champa. Anga was a standout amongst the most prospering urban areas and was an imperative focal point of exchange and trade. It was viewed as one of the six key urban communities of right on time India.

Assaka: otherwise called Ashmaka was a kingdom that was situated in the south of India. Amid the season of Buddha, this tribe was situated on the banks of waterway Godavari. The capital city of Assaka was known as Potana. It was arranged in focal India and reached out to southern India. It is evaluated that Assaka was arranged generally at the spot where cutting edge Maharashtra is found.

Avanti: Avanti was a critical kingdom situated in Western India and was thought to be one of the four vital governments amid the time Buddhism started in India. Stream Vetravati used to stream directly through Avanti along these lines partitioning it into north and south regions. Avanti was found generally at the spot where the condition of Madhya Pradesh is found at this point. Avanti was an imperative focal point of Buddhism and later turned into a piece of the Magadhan Empire.

Chedi: There were two distinct settlements of the Chedis, otherwise called Cheti. One was in the rocky areas of Nepal while the other was situated close to River Yamuna. The southern limits of Chedi went to the banks of River Narmada. The Chedis are specified in Rig Veda, which is viewed as the most seasoned sacred writing. This implies Chedis were predominant here for quite a while.

Gandhara: The Gandharas set up themselves since the Vedic Age on the banks of River Kubha till the River Indus. With time, they crossed Indus and extended their domain into Punjab. The Gandharas were extremely forceful in nature and were experts of the craft of fighting. It is said that this kingdom was established by the child of Aniruddha known as Gandhara.

Kamboja: Kamboja was said to have been situated on either side of the Hindukush. In right on time sacred texts and literature, Kamboja is specified alongside Gandhara, Darada, and the Bahlika a significant number of times. The Kambojas should have both Indian and Iranian similitudes.

Kasi: The Aryans who had settled around Varanasi were known as Kasis. The city was flanked by the waterways Varuna and Asi from which the spot determines its name. Kasi was the most intense kingdom of the sixteen Janapadas before the ascent of Buddhism. Amid the ascent of Buddha, it was changed over into Kosala. This spot is specified as Kausika/Kousaka in the Matsya Purana.

Kosala: Kosala was situated around 70 miles toward the northwest of present-day Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. It was flanked in the south by River Ganga, in the north by the Himalayas, and in the east by the River Gandak. The ruler was called lord Prasenjit who was succeeded by his child Vidudabha. Amid his child's rule, Kosala was consolidated with Magadha. The three boss urban areas of Kosala were Ayodhya, Saketa and Sravasti.

Kuru: The starting point of the Kuru faction can be followed to the Puru - Bharata gang. Some of them were settled in focal India and some were living past the Himalayan ranges. It is said that the organizer of Kururashtra in Kurukshetra was the child of Samvarsana called Kuru. The Kurus were known for their significant knowledge and sound wellbeing. The Kurus changed to republic type of government from government amid Fifth Century B.C.

Matcha: The kingdom of Matsya or Matcha is said to have contained the locale of the present-day Jaipur in Rajasthan alongside Alwar and Bharatpur. The originator of this kingdom was above all else Virata and the capital of this kingdom was named Viratanagara after him. The Matsya once shaped a part of the Chedi kingdom as there are confirmations that demonstrate this spot was ruled by the lord of Chedi.

Magadha: The Magadhas are alluded to in the Atharva Veda. By right on time sacred writings, the Magadhas were not completely Brahmins. In this manner, they were abhorred and were talked about in hatred. With the exception of King Pramaganda, no other ruler is said in the Vedas. It is expressed in the Mahabharata that Magadha came into the spotlight under the ruler Bimbisara and later under his child Ajatasatru. It was one of the boss realms of India amid those times. The kingdom of Magadha was arranged generally where the present-day Bihar is found.

Malla: Most of the sacred texts of the Jains and Buddhists say the Mallas. Their tribe should be entirely intense and they lived someplace towards Eastern India. The Mallas had a republic type of society and their prevailing domain involved nine areas. Two of these nine areas (Pava and Kusinara) increased much significance at the appropriate time of time when Buddha came here and took his last feast before breathing his last at Kusinara.

Panchala: The Panchalas were situated in the north of India and had their region toward the east of the Kurus. They were situated between the Himalayan ranges and stream Ganga. One can say that it was found generally at the spot where the cutting edge Uttar Pradesh is found. The Panchalas were initially monarchial in nature and later changed to the republican type of government amid the fifth century B.C. They are specified in Kautilya's Arthashastra as taking after the constitution of the lord.

Surasena: The area of the Surasena was around the west side of stream Yamuna and had its capital city at Mathura. The ruler of Surasena, Avantiputra assumed a basic part in advancing Buddhism in his kingdom. He was one of the boss pupils of Buddha and went for spreading his insight and shrewdness every single through hello there kingdom. The capital city of Mathura was a vital place for the love of Lord Krishna. With time, the kingdom of Surasena was attached by Magadha Empire.

Vajji: The Vajji or Vriji included eight to nine partnered races and this kingdom turned into a vital focal point of social and political exercises. It was basically situated in northern India. Out of the nine races, the Licchhavis, the Veterans, the Jnatrikas and the Vajjis were the most vital. The Licchhavis was a free faction and their capital was called Vaishali. It was an essential focus of Buddhism and the home office of the effective republic of Vajjis. Buddha should have gone to Licchhavis on numerous events. As time passed, the kingdom of Licchhavis was vanquished by the lord of Magadha, Ajatasatru.

Vamsa/Vatsa: Considered to be a branch of the Kurus, the kingdom of Vatsa or Vamsa was generally arranged at the area of cutting edge Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. The capital city was known as Kaushambi, which was a prosperous city. Various rich vendors abide here. It was a critical door for products and individuals originating from the North West and south. The leader of Vatsa was known as Udyana and he was a capable ruler. He turned into an adherent of Buddha and embraced Buddhism as the religion for his kingdom.



1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Anga (districts of Munger and Bhagalpur in Bihar)

2. Capital ------> Champa / Champanagari


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Magadha (districts of Patna, Gaya and Nalanda in Bihar)

2. Capital------> Girivraj, Rajgriha / Rajgir (Bimbisara), Patliputra (Udayin), Vaishali (Shishunaga), Patliputra (Kalashok)


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Vajji (districts of Muzaffarpur & Vaishali in Bihar)    

2. Capital------> Videha, Mithila, Vaishali


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Malla (districts of Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur and Siddharthnagar in U.P.)    

2. Capital ------> Kuishinara and Pawa


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Kashi (district of Varanasi in U.P.)    

2. Capital ------> Varanasi


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Kosala (districts of Faizabad, Gonda, Bahraich in U.P.)    

2. Capital------> North Kosal-Sravasti / Sachet-Mahet South Kosal-Saket/ Ayodhya


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Vatsa (districts of Allahabad, Mirzapuretc. in U.P.)    

2. Capital ------> Kausambi


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Chedi (Bundelkhand area)    

2. Capital------> Shaktimati / Sotthivati


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Kuru (Haryana and Delhi area)    

2. Capital------> Indraprastha (modem Delhi)


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Panchala (Ruhelkhand, Western U.P.)    

2. Capital------> North Panchal-Ahichhatra South Panchal - Kampala


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Shurasena (Brajmandal)    

2. Capital ------> Mathura


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Matsya (Alwar, Bharatpur, and Jaipur in Rajasthan)

2. Capital ------> Viratnagar


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Avanti (Malwa)    

2. Capital------> North Avanti - Ujjayini South Avanti - Mahishmati


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Ashmaka (between the rivers Narmada and Godavari)

2. Capital ------> Potana / Patali


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Gandhara (western part of Pakistan and Afghanistan)

2. Capital ------> Taxila (hear Rawalpindi, Pakistan) and Pushkalavati


1. 16 Mahajanapadas (Modem Area)-> Kamboja (Hazara district of Pakistan)    

2. Capital------> Rajapur / Hataka


1. Buddhist literature (Anguttara Nikaya, Mahavastu) and Jain literature (Bhagavati Sutta) present a list of 16 Mahajanapadas with a minor variation of names.

2. There were two types of states - monarchical and non-monarchical / republican.

    Monarchial states - Anga, Magadha, Kashi, Kosala, Vatsa, Chedi, Shursena, Matsya, Avanti, Gandhara.

    Republican States—Vajji, Malla, Kuru, Panchal, Kamboja, Shakya (Kapilvastu), Koliyas (Ramgrama), Moriya (Pipplivana).


Rise of Magadha

1. The political history of India from the 6th century BC onwards is the history of the struggle between four states - Magadha, Kosala, Vatsa, and Avanti - for supremacy.

2. Ultimately the kingdom of Magadha emerged to be the most powerful one and succeeded in founding an empire.


3. Causes of Magadha's success

1. Magadha enjoyed an advantageous geographical position in the age of iron, because the richest iron deposits were situated not far away from Rajgir, the earliest capital of Magadha, and could be used for making weapons.

2. Magadha lay at the center of the middle Gangetic plain. The alluvium, once cleared of the jungles, proved immense fertile and food surplus was thus available.

3. Magadha enjoyed a special advantage in a military organization. Although the Indian states were well acquainted with the use of horses and chariots, it was Magadha which first used elephants on a large scale in its war against its neighbors.



Haryana ka Dynasty: 544 BC - 412 BC

Bimbisara (Shronika) : 544 BC - 492 BC

1. He was the founder of the Haryanka dynasty.

2. Magadha came into prominence under the leadership of Bimbisara.

3. He was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha.

4. He married the princesses of Kosala (Kosaldevi / Mahakosala-sister of Kosal King Prasenjit), Lichchhavi (Chellana - sister of Lichchhavi Head Chetak), and Madra (Khema - daughter of Madra king), which helped him in his expansionist policy.

5. He gained a part of Kashi as the dowry in his marriage with the sister of king Prasenjit of Kosala.

6. He conquered Anga.

7. He sent a royal physician, Jivaka to Ujjain, when Avanti King Pradyota was attacked by jaundice.

8. Known as Seniya. He was the first Indian king who had a regular and standing army.

9. He built the city of New Rajagriha.


Ajatashatru (Kunika) : 492 BC - 460 BC

1. Bimbisara was succeeded by his son Ajatashatru. Ajatashatru killed his father and seized the throne.

2. Ajatashatru followed a more aggressive policy. He gained complete control over Kashi and broke the earlier amicable relations by attacking his maternal uncle Prasenjit, the king of Kosala.

3. The Vajji confederation was Ajatashatru's next target of attack. This war was a lengthy one and tradition tells us that after a long period of 16 years, he was able to defeat the Vajji only through deceit, by sowing the seeds of discord amongst the people of Vajji.

4. The three things who played an important role to defeat the Vajji— (i) Sunidha and Vatsakar—Ajatashatru's diplomatic ministers, who sowed the seeds of discord amongst Vajjis, (ii) Rathamusala—a kind of chariot to which a mace was attached (iii) Mahashilakantaka—a war engine which catapulted big stones.

5. In this way Kashi and Vaishali (the capital of Vajji) were added to Magadha, making it the most powerful territorial power in the Ganges Valley.

6. He built the fort of Rajagriha and a watch-fort (Jaladurga) at a village called Patali, on the banks of the Ganges.



Udayin: 460 BC-440 BC

1. Ajatshatru was succeeded by his son Udayin.

2. His reign is important because he laid the foundations of the city of Patliputra at the confluence of the Son and the Ganges and shifted the capital from Rajagriha to Patliputra.

3. Udayin was succeeded by Anuruddha, Munda, and Naga-Dasak respectively who all were weak and parricides.


Shunga Dynasty: 412 BC-344 BC

1. Nag-Dasak was unworthy to rule. So the people got disgusted and elected Shisunaga as the King, the minister of the last king.

2. The most important achievement of Shisunaga was the destruction of the Pradyota dynasty of Avanti. This brought to an end the hundred-year-old rivalry between Magadha and Avanti. From then on Avanti become a part of the Magadha rule.

3. Shisunaga was succeeded by Kalashoka (Kakavama). His reign is important because he convened the Second Buddhists Council in Vaishali (383 BC).


Nanda Dynasty: 344 BC-323 BC

1. The Shisunaga dynasty was overthrown by Mahapadma who established a new line of kings known as the Nandas.

2. Mahapadma is known as Sarvakshatrantak i.e. Uprooter of all the Kshatriyas (Puranas) and Ugrasena i.e. Owner of huge army (Pali texts).

3. The Puranas call Mahapadma Ekrat i.e. the sole monarch. He seems to have overthrown all the dynasties which ruled at the time of Shisungas. He is often described as 'the first empire builder of Indian history'.

4. Mahapadma was succeeded by his eight sons. Dhana Nanda was the last one.

5. The last king Dhanananda is possibly identical with the Agranunes or Xandrames of the Greek texts.

6. It was during the rule of Dhanananda that the invasion of Alexander . . took place in north-west India in 326 BC.

7. According to Greek writer Curtius, Dhanananda commanded a huge army of 20,000 cavalries, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots, and 3,000 elephants. It was the might of Dhanananda that terrorized Alexander and stopped his march to the Gangetic Valley.

8. The Nanda dynasty came to an end about 322-21 BC and was supplanted by another dynasty known as Mauryas, with Chandragupta Maurya as the founder.



Foreign Invasions

I.    Iranian/Persian Invasion—Darius's Invasion (518 BC)

1. The Achaemenian rulers of Iran (Persia), who expanded their empire at the same time as the Magadhan princes, took advantage of the political disunity on the North-West Frontier of India.

2. The Achaemenian ruler Darius I (Darayabahu) penetrated into North-West India in 518 BC and annexed Punjab, West of the Indus and Sindh. This area constituted the 20th province (Kshatrapi) of Iran, the total number of provinces in the Iranian empire being 28. This province was the most fertile area of the Iranian empire. From this province, the empire received 360 talent gold as revenue.

3. The Indo-Iranian contact lasted for about 200 years.


Effects of Iranian Invasion

1. It gave an impetus to Indo-Iranian trade and commerce.

2. Through the Iranian, the Greeks came to know about the great wealth of India and this eventually led to Alexander's invasion of India.

3. The Iranian scribes brought into India a form of writing which came to be known as the Kharosthi script. It was written from right to left like the Arabic.

4. Iranian influence on the Mauryan Sculpture is clearly perceptible, especially in the bell-shaped capitals. Iranian influence may also be traced in the preamble of Ashoka's edicts as well as in certain words used in them.


II. Macedonian Invasion—Alexander's Invasion (326 BC)

1. In the 4th Century BC, the Greeks and the Iranian fought for the supremacy of the world. Under the leadership of Alexander of Macedonia, the Greeks finally destroyed the Iranian empire.

2. Alexander succeeded his father Philip to the throne of Macedonia. He was then only 20 years of Age.

3. From his very childhood he used to dream of a world conquest. He quickly conquered many areas.

4. As a preliminary step to conquering India, the Kabul valley and the hilly area of the North-West frontier were conquered, and he reached Ohind near Attock in 326 BC.

5. The rulers of Taxila and Abhisara submitted but Porus (Puru) refused to do so.

6. Alexander then crossed the Jhelum by a trick. Porus was defeated in the battle that followed, but Alexander treated him very generously for his bravery. (Battle of Vitasta i.e. modem Jhelum, Greek-Hydaspes - 326 BC).

7. This was how the Indians were defeated because of their disunity.

8. After a brilliant victory at Sakala, the Greek forces reached the Beas. Alexander had to return from this place as his soldiers refused to go any further. The battle of Jhelum.

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