16 Mahajanapadas – GK Notes PDF

The 16 Mahajanapadas were mainly republic states located in the northern and middle India in the period 600 BCE to 400 BCE. Among them Magadha was most powerful and supreme. Important points on 16 Mahajanapadas are given here.

16 Mahajanapadas – GK + Notes PDF: In the 6th century BC, the Mahajanapadas emerged mainly in the central Gangetic valley, i.e. in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The fertility of this region, plowshares, rocky and forested lands are brought under agriculture by the use of iron. As a result food production increases in this region. In addition, the royal family increased the number of soldiers and employees and formed a large state. Thus, in the sixth century BCE, the sixteen important powerful kingdoms emerged.

One of the most important sources of the sixteenth Mahajanapada in the historical era is the Buddhist texts ‘Anguttar Nikaya‘, ‘Jatak‘, Lalitvistar, Jain texts ‘Bhagavatisutra‘ and Hindu Puranas. However, although the Buddhist scriptures ‘Anguttar Nikaya‘ and the Jain scriptures ‘Bhagratisutra‘ both mention the names of the sixteen kingdoms, there are some differences between the names. However, the political appearance of the Mahajanapada was never the same.

The surplus production created due to the development of agriculture in India in the 6th century BC resulted in the birth of 16 developed ‘Mahajanapadas’ throughout the whole of northern India. This is known as the 16 Mahajanapadas in the history of India. There was no central monarchy in India at that time. Even in this era, no united all-India state was formed in any corner of India. Originally, the period from the beginning of the 6th century BC to the rise of Magadha was called the ‘Sixteenth Mahajanapada Age‘. Jana means a tribe or a group. Again the Janapada is a ‘geographical and political area’. And ‘Mahajanapada‘ is a more powerful and larger-sized state. These were the iron-aged civilization.

See Aslo: [List] 16 Mahajanapadas with Capitals Present Locations

Although most of these states were monarchies, several states were republics. There is no continuous history of the kingdom except Magadha in Buddhist and Jain texts. On the other hand, the names of the republican states are missing in the description of the kingdoms of the sixth century BC in Hindu mythology. As a result, judging from all aspects, it can be said that Buddhist and Jain texts are the most important elements.

16 mahajanapadas
Location of 16 Mahajanapadas

The following is a detailed account of the sixteen moneylenders presented by various historians and researchers, including current evidence.

1. Magadha: Magadha was the most powerful kingdom among the sixteen Mahajanapadas. The river Ganges flowed through Magadha. As a result, the land of this state was very fertile and the people were brave and hardworking. The kingdom of Magadha consisted of the districts of Gaya and Patna in present-day Bihar. Giribraj or Rajgir was the first capital of the kingdom of Magadha, surrounded by the Ganges and Champa rivers. According to Buddhist literature, the famous Harshanka dynasty ruled in Magadha in the sixth century BC. Bimbisara was the first ruler of this kingdom. Magadha was an expanding imperialist state. So an all-India empire was formed around Magadha.

Rise of Magadha – In the 6th century BC, the political rule of India was mainly centered on four kingdoms. These four kingdoms are Magadha, Kosala, Vatsa, and Avanti. By the end, Magadha had won the battle for supremacy and built a large empire.

Reasons for the rise of Magadha:

The main reason for the rise of Magadha among the different settlements were

  • The advantage of the geographical location of Magadha. There were several ore mines near Rajgir, the first capital of Magadha. The mines had huge ore deposits. Iron was used to make a lot of weapons and plowshares. These things help in clearing dense forests, building settlements, and increasing the production of agricultural products. This is one of the reasons behind the development of Magadha.
  • Magadha is located in the very center of the Gangetic plain. As a result, the soil of Magadha was very fertile. Therefore, the development of Magadha in terms of agriculture was enviable.
  • The military power of the rulers of Magadha was highly commendable. The military organization of Magadha was the best in the country. Although other towns were militarily strong, Magadha was the first to use elephants in the army.

2. Kashi: Kashi was the most prosperous state among the sixteen Mahajanapadas. The two tributaries of the Ganges, the Varuna, and the Aussie encircle the state capital. Whose name was Varanasi. The kings of Varanasi were quite powerful. The kingdom of Kashi fell during the reign of Gautama Buddha. Due to its prosperity and prestige, the Kashi kingdom became the envy of the surrounding kings and the long-running rivalry led to the extinction of the Kashi kingdom. Koshal is known to have conquered the kingdom of Kashi. The region was famous for its textile industry and horse buying and selling markets. However, during the reign of the Ajatashatru, the Kashi region merged with Magadha.

3. Koshal: Koshal was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas. Which was a large neighboring state of Kashi, now situated in the Ayodhya of Uttar Pradesh. Koshal kingdom had fertile land and prosperous by city. The kings of the Ikshaku dynasty ruled in Kosala. Mahakoshal was the ruler of this dynasty at that time. In the Mahabharata, the Ikshaku dynasty is identified as a very great dynasty. Famous cities like Ayodhya, Saket and Sravasti were located in this state. Sravasti was the capital of the Kosala kingdom. King Prosenjit sat on the throne of Koshal after Mahakoshal. He was an absolute devotee of Lord Buddha.

4. Anga: The description of the Anga kingdom under the 16 Mahajanapada is found in the Mahabharata. The state consisted of the eastern part of Bihar province, i.e. Bhagalpur and Munger districts of Bihar. The rivers Champa and Ganges flow through this state. The capital of this state was the city of Champa. The city of Champa was the center of commerce and Indian traders used to travel to the golden land from the port of Champa. Karna was the ruler of the Anga kingdom. The inhabitants of Anga settled in the Far East or Cochin. The kingdom had fierce competition with the Magadha. As a result, Magadha conquers this kingdom. Bimbisara was the ruler of Magadha at that time.

5. Vajji: Vajji was an autonomous republic. According to Cunningham and Reese Davids, the people of the eight tribes co-founded the republic. Vajji was one of these 8 republics. Lord Gautam Buddha was born in Shakyakula, which belongs to this kingdom. On the other hand, Mahavira was born in the Gyatrikkula of this kingdom. The capital of this state was Vaishali. Which is located at the present Muzaffarpur district. This Vaishali was one of the best cities in contemporary India. Vaishali’s prosperity has been mentioned in various Buddhist texts.

6. Malla: Malla state was located in the north of Vajji state, probably in the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Malla was the second republican state among the sixteen Mahajanapadas. The capital of this state was Kushinagar. The state was divided into two parts, namely Kushinagar and Paba. Lord Gautam Buddha passed away at Kushinagar.

7. Chedi: Chedi was a famous kingdom in the Mahabharata or earlier. The capital of this kingdom was Suktimati. Which consisted of the Bundelkhand region of present-day Madhya Pradesh. Chedi had close ties with the state of Kashi. The Matsya kingdom later became part of the Chedi kingdom.

8. Vatsa: Vatsa kingdom was located in the Gangetic lands of Uttar Pradesh. The capital of this state was the Kaushambi. The state of Vatsa was very advanced in agriculture. Cotton production and textiles were the main industries in the state. That is to say, it was the reason for the prosperity of this state. The Kuru and Bharata groups of the Vedic period are said to have lived in the kingdom. As a result, the people of this state claimed to be very developed and civilized. Udayana, the king of the Vatsa kingdom, was a dramatic person. At least three famous Sanskrit plays have been written with him as the protagonist. Those are the Swapnabasabdatta of the great poet Bhasa, the Ratnabali and Priyadarshika of Harshavardhana. Udayana was formerly anti-Buddhist but later converted to Buddhist.

9. Kuru: The Kuru kingdom was located near Delhi. Kuru was the name of a famous Aryan group. Moreover, the dynasty of Dhritarashtra in the Mahabharata is also known as the Kuru dynasty. Indraprastha was the capital of the Kuru. Indraprastha was its capital even in the age of Mahabharata. Hastinapur was one of the major cities of this state. In the sixth century BC, the Kuru kingdom became insignificant due to the absence of any notable ruler. As a result, the kingdom later passed to Magadha.

10. Panchala: Panchala was a famous kingdom of the era of Mahabharata. Which was the neighboring state of Kuru. The state consisted of parts of the present-day Ganga-Jamuna Doab region of Uttar Pradesh and Raheelkhand. The Ganges flowed through this kingdom. The name of the north bank of this state was Uttar Panchal and the name of the state of the south bank was Dakshin Panchal. The capital of the north was Ahichatra and the capital of the south was Kampilya. It is known that there were frequent wars between the Kuru and Panchal kingdoms till the end of the 6th century BC.

11. Matsya: Matsya was one of the most important kingdoms mentioned in India in the 6th century BC. The state consisted of Bharatpur, Jaipur, and Alwar in present-day Rajputana, Rajasthan. The famous ‘Virat Raja‘ of the Mahabharata was the founder of this kingdom, and after him, the capital of this kingdom was named Viratnagar. The Matsya kingdom was later annexed to Chedi.

12. Surasena: Surasena state is located in the Mathura region of Uttar Pradesh. Mathura was the capital of the Surasena Kingdom. The kingdom of Surasena was situated on the banks of the river Jamuna, adjacent to the kingdom of Panchal. According to the Mahabharata and the Puranas, the Yadu dynasty ruled in this kingdom. King Avantiputra of Shursena was a disciple of Buddha.

13. Asmaka: The exact location of Asmaka state is not known. However, scholars believe that the kingdom of Asmaka was located on the bank of the river Godavari in southern India. According to the historian Bhattaswamy, the ancient name of modern Maharashtra was Asmaka. The capital of this state was Potali or Podana. According to the Mahabharata, a Rajarshi named Asmaka founded the city of Potali or Podana. In the Vayu Purana, the kings of Asmak are described as belonging to the Ikshaku dynasty.

14. Avanti: The kingdom of Avanti consisted of Malab and parts of Madhya Pradesh. The river Betravati flowed through this state which divided the state into north and south. The main city in the north was Ujjain and the main city in the south was Mahismati. Pradyot was the king of the Avanti kingdom in the sixth century BC. He was called ‘Chanda Pradyot‘ in history. However, at last, the Abanti kingdom was included in Magadha.

15. Gandhara: The kingdom of Gandhara is mentioned in the Mahabharata. Dhritarashtra’s wife was the princess of Gandhara. The kingdom of Gandhara refers to the western Punjab of the Indus. The state of Gandhara consisted of the Peshawar and Rawalpindi districts of present-day Pakistan. Pushkarasakti was the king of Gandhara in the 6th century BC. He formed an alliance with Bhimsa, the king of Magadha. According to tradition, the Persian emperor Darius conquered the kingdom of Gandhara in the late 6th century BC. The military importance of this state was unforgettable. The Bahistan inscription mentions the kingdom of Gandhara. The capital of this state was Takshila. Which was one of the best learning centers and trading centers in ancient India.

16. Kamboja: The Kamboja state was located near the Gandhara, in the northwestern part of India. Some of the clans of the north-western frontier province of present-day Pakistan belonged to the Hazara district. Kamboja is also mentioned in the Mahabharata. Kamboja is said to be the center of Vedic Brahmanical culture. However, as the Aryan settlements expanded into the Ganges-Jamuna region of India, the importance of Kamboja reduced. The capital of this state was Rajpur. When Alexander invaded India in the 4th century BC, the kingdom of Kamboja collapsed. Then a republic was formed in this region.

Some important information from 16 Mahajanapadas.

  • From the list of these Mahajanapadas of the sixth century BC, the period is derived in a political context with geographical location.
  • There was no political unity in India at that time. As a result, India was then divided into a number of conflicting small states.
  • Although the monarchy was a conventional system of government, a number of republican Mahajanapadas existed during that period. Such as Manalla and Brijji.
  • Out of the sixteen Mahajanapadas, Magadha, Kosala, Avanti, and Batsa were quite powerful. However, the rivalry between them began for the purpose of domination in Aryavarta, i.e. North India, and finally ended with the success of Magadha.

Sixteen Mahajanapadas general knowledge notes for UPSC, Civil Service, Public Service Commission Class 11 12 or higher secondary and other competitive government job examinations. Here is a complete GK that helps to gain some basic as well as advanced knowledge about 16 Mahajanapadas.

Important Questions on 16 Mahajanapadas:

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