The Sixteen Mahajanpadas History Study Material For SSC, State Level Exams The Sixteen Mahajanpadas History Study Material For SSC, State Level Exams

The Sixteen Mahajanpadas History Study Material For SSC, State Level Exams

In 6th century BC, ancient India had a number of kingdoms which emerged during the Vedic Age .

This period saw socio-economic development along with religious and political developments across the Indo-Gangetic plain.

These permanent settlements led the evolution from janapadas to Mahajanpadas.

By sixth century BC, the centre of major political activity shifted from western part of gangetic plain to the eastern part, comprising the present day Bihar and eastern UP.

Major reason for this shift was, the fertile lands of this area with better rainfall and rivers, their closeness to iron production centres also played a key role.

In fact, it was the increased use of iron tools and weapons that enabled small states to become kingdoms, known as Mahajanapadas.

The Sixteen Mahajanpadas History Study Material For SSC, State Level Exams

Political structure of these Sixteen Mahajanpadas :

  • Majority of these states were monarchical but some were also republics, known as “ganasangha”.
  • Ganasangha had oligarchic system for governance where administration was  headed by an elected king  who had a large council for his aid.
  • This was close to be called a democracy but common man had no say in administration.
  • There were 16 mahajanapadas / kingdoms which are mentioned in the ancient literature and scriptures.
  • It must be noted here that these sixteen mahajanapadas were in existence before the rise of Buddhism in India.

The sixteen Mahajanapadas are given here in quick look format.

We shall now look into a little detail of each one of these sixteen mahajanapadas and their capitals:



  • This mahajanapada finds mention in the Atharva Veda and the ‘Mahabharata’.
  • During the reign of Bimbisara, it was taken over by Magadha empire.
  • It is located in present day Bihar and west Bengal.
  • Anga was one of the most flourishing cities and was an important center of trade and commerce. It was regarded as one of the six principal cities of early India.

  • It also finds reference in the Atharva Veda which tells that Magadha was semi-brahmanical place.
  • It was situated in present day Bihar close to Anga, separated by river Champa.
  • Later, Magadha became a center of Jainism.
  • Along with that, the first Buddhist Council was held in Rajagriha.
  • The kingdom of Magadha was situated roughly where the present day Bihar is located.

  • It was located around Varanasi which was the capital as well.
  • It is believed that this city got its name from rivers Varuna and Asi as mentioned in the Matsya Purana.

  • Its capital was Ahichchatra and Kampilaya for its noerthern and southern regions respectively.
  • It was located in present day western Uttar Pradesh. And it shifted from monarchy to being a republic later.

  • Their capital was Indraprastha in present day meerut and Haryana.
  • The region around Kurukshetra was supposedly the site for kuru Mahajanapada.
  • It shifted to a republic form of governance later.
6-Vatsa or Vamsa:  

  • This mahajanapada followed the monarchical form of governance.
  • This kingdom was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas. And its capital was located at Kausambi.
  • This was an important city for economic activities.
  • There was a prosperous trade and business scenario in 6th century BC.
  • After the rise of Buddha, the ruler Udayana made Buddhism a state religion.
  • Vatsa was located around the present day Allahabad.

  • It was located in modern Awadh region of Uttar pradesh. Its capital was Ayodhya.

  • Its capital was Mathura.
  • This place was a centre of Krishna worship at time of Megasthenes.
  • Also there was a dominant followership of Buddha here

  • It was located to south of the Kurus and west of the Panchalas.
  • Its capital was at Virata nagar, which lays around present day Jaipur.
10-Chedi :

  • This was mentioned in the Rigveda, Its capital was Sothivati.
  • It lay around the present day Bundelkhand region.

  • Avanti was important in terms of rise of Buddhism.
  • Its capital was located at Ujjaini or Mahismati.
  • It was located around present day Malwa and Madhya Pradesh.

  • Their capital was at Taxila.
  • Gandhara are mentioned in the Atharva Veda as people who were highly trained in art of war.
  • It was important for international commercial activities.

  • Kamboja had its capital named as Pooncha.
  • It is located in present day Kashmir and Hindukush.
  •  Various literary sources mention that Kamboja was a republic.
14-Ashmaka or Assaka:

  • The capital of this mahajanapada was located at Pratisthan or Paithan.
  • Ashmaka was located t the bank of Godavari.

  • Its capital was Vaishali. It was an important Mahajanapadas.
  • The major races residig here were Licchavis, Vedehans, Jnatrikas and Vajjis.

  • It was one of the sixteen mahajanapadas.
  • It finds mention in ‘Mahabharata’  and Buddhist and Jain texts.
  • They were a republic (Samgha).
  • Their capital was Kusinara located around present day Deoria and Uttar Pradesh.