The Janapadas were the major kingdoms of Vedic India. By the 6th century B.C. there were approximately 22 different Janapadas.
The key points related to the Janapadas and the Mahajanapadas are as following:
1. The Janapadas were the major kingdoms of Vedic India.
2. Aryans were the most influential tribes and were called as ‘janas’. This gave rise to the term Janapada where Jana means ‘people’ and Pada means ‘foot’.
3. By the 6th century B.C. there were approximately 22 different Janapadas.
4. With the development of iron in parts of UP and Bihar, the Janapadas became more powerful and turned into Mahajanapads.
5. In the sixth century BCE, there was a rise in the development of the Mahajanapada or great country. There were sixteen such Mahajanapadas during 600 B.C. to 325 B.C. in Indian Sub-continent. There were two types of states: Monarchical and Republican.
Malla, Vajji, Kamboja and Kuru were Republican states while Magadha, Kosala, Vatsa, Aanti, Anga, Kashi, Gandhara, Shursena, Chedi and Matsya were monarchical in nature.
There were 16 Mahajanpadas during 600 B.C. to 325 B.C. which are mentioned in early Buddhist (Anguttara Nikaya, Mahavastu) and Jain literature (Bhagvati Sutta), those were as follows-
|Name of the Mahajanapada||Capital||Location|
|Anga||Champa||Included the modern districts of Monghyr and Bhagalpur in Bihar.|
|Magadha||Earlier Rajgriha, later Patliputra||Covered the modern districts of Patna, Gaya, and parts of Shahabad.|
|Malla||Capitals at Kusinara and Pawa||Covered the modern districts of Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur and Siddarthnagar in eastern UP.|
|Vajji||Vaishali||Situated north of the river Ganga in Bihar.|
|Kosala||Sravasti||Covered modern day districts of Faziabad, Gonda, Bahraich of eastern Uttar Pradesh.|
|Kashi||Varanasi||Located in the region around Varanasi (modern Banaras).|
|Chedi||Shuktimati||Covered present day Bundelkhand region.|
|Kuru||Indraprastha||Covered modern Haryana and Delhi.|
|Vatsa||Kaushambi||Covered modern districts Allahabad, Mirzapur.|
|Panchala||Ahichhatra(Uttara Panchala) and Kampilya( Dakshina Panchala)||Covered the area of present western UP up to the east of river Yamuna up to Kosala janapada.|
|Matsya||Viratanagara||Covered the areas of Alwar, Bhartpur and Jaipur in Rajasthan.|
|Sursena||Mathura||Covered the area around Mathura.|
|Avanti||Ujjaini and Mahishmati||Covered the western India (modern Malawa).|
|Ashmaka||Potana||Situated in the southern part of the India between the rivers Narmada and Godavari.|
|Kamboja||Capital at Rajapura in modern-day Kashmir||Covered the area of Hindukush (modern Hazara districts of Pakistan)|
|Gandhara||Taxila||Covered the western part of Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan.|
Among them Magadha, Vatsa, Avanti and Kosala were the most prominent ones. Out of these four, Magadha emerged as the most powerful kingdom. The causes of Magadha’s success were as following:
1. Availability of rich iron deposits which were used in making weapons
2. Its location at the rich and fertile Gangetic plain
3. Use of elephants in military warfare against its neighbors