Mahajanapada literally means great kingdom. They flourished in north / northwestern parts of India before the rise of Buddhism. The various regions of the Indian subcontinent were first divided into districts, a clear demarcation by boundaries. Many Janpad of 600 BC further developed into large political bodies. These states are known as Mahajanapada in Buddhist traditions. India was divided into 16 janpad in the sixth century AD before the birth of Buddha. We get this information from the Buddhist Anguttar nikaay. State or administrative units in ancient India were called 'Mahajanapadas'. Some janpad are mentioned in the later Vedic period. They have been mentioned many times in Buddhist texts.
In the sixth century BCE, Vayakaran Panini mentions 22 Mahajanapadas. Three of them - Magadha, Kosal and Vats have been described as important.
More information about them is found in the early Buddhist and Jain texts. Although a total of sixteen Mahajanapadas are named, these nomenclatures differ in different texts.
Historians believe that this difference is due to changing political circumstances at different times. In addition, the information of the makers of these lists may also be different from their geographical location. There are 16 Mahajanapadas mentioned in Mahavastu, a Buddhist text. The Mahajanapadas are mentioned from the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya and the Jain literature Bhagwati Sutra, which has 16 numbers. Of the sixteen Mahajanapadas, Magadha, Kosal, Vats and Avanti were the most powerful. Among sixteen Mahajanapadas, Ashmak was the only a janpad. Which was located in South India. Gandhara and Kamboj Mahajanapada were located in Pakistan. Of all the Mahajanapadas, the maximum number of (8) Mahajanapadas were in modern Uttar Pradesh. Anga, Vajji and Magadha Mahajanapada were located in Bihar. In the sixth century BC, the first republican state of the world 'Vajji Sangh' also emerged. Malla and Shakya were other important republics in the sixth century BC. They are referred to by Buddhist and other texts as the sixteen great states. The sixteen Mahajanapadas include Kasi, Kosal, Anga, Magadha, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchal, Machha, Surasen, Ashmak, Avanti, Gandhara and Kambhoj.
The sixteen states named Mahajanapada are found in the early texts of Buddhism and Jainism. The list of names of Mahajanapadas is not the same in these texts but names like Vajji, Magadha, Kosala, Kuru, Panchal, Gandhara and Avanti are often found. It is known from this that these Mahajanapadas must have been known as important Mahajanapada. Mostly the Mahajanapadas were ruled by the king, but a group of people ruled in states known as Gana and Sangha, every person of this group was called a king. Each Mahajanapada had a capital which was surrounded by a fort. The sixteen Mahajanapadas of India date back to the sixth century BCE. These Mahajanapadas were:
Avanti: The state of modern Malwa, whose capital was Ujjayini and Mahishmati. Ujjaini (Ujjain) is a major city in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The Mahabharata describes Sahadeva conquering Avanti. This janpada has been called Malava in the Jain text Bhagwati Sutra. This janpada broadly included the middle part of present-day Malwa, Nimar and Madhya Pradesh. According to the Puranas, Avanti was founded by Yaduvanshi Kshatriyas. Fourth century BC The janpada of Avanti was included in the Maurya Empire and Ujjayini was the capital of the western province of the Magadha Empire. During the Gupta period, Chandragupta Vikramaditya again conquered Avanti and threw foreign power from there. In the medieval period, this city was mainly called Ujjain and it is described as a main place in the province of Malwa. In the Jain text Vividhairtha Kalpa, the name of the state of Malwa is Avanti.
Mahakala is counted in the Jyotirlingas of Shiva. For this reason, this city has also been called Shivpuri. The ancient Avanti was located in the place of present-day Ujjain, this fact is proved by the fact that the river Kshipra which flows nowadays near Ujjain is also mentioned in ancient literature near Avanti.
Ashmak: Patan was the capital of this region situated between the rivers Narmada and Godavari. In the modern period, this region is called Maharashtra. In Buddhist literature, this state, which was situated on the Godavari coast, is mentioned in many places. In Suttanipat, Asmak is mentioned on the Godavari coast. Its capital was at Potan, Paudanya or Paithan (Pratishthanpur). Panini also mentions Ashmakas in the Ashtadhyayi. In Sonanandajatak, Asmak is said to be related to Avanti. The king named Ashmak is mentioned in Vayu Purana and Mahabharata. Probably this district is called Ashmak by the name of this king. Greek writers refer to the Asscanoe people in northwestern India. They may have had historical connections with the southern Ashwakas or it may have been the transformation of the Ashwakas.
Anga: Munger and Bhagalpur districts of present-day of Bihar. In the Mahajanapada era, the capital of Anga Mahajanapada was Champa. There is an incident in the Mahabharata text that Acharya Drona organized a competition in Hastinapur to demonstrate the war skills of the Kaurava princes.
Arjun emerged as the highest talented archer in this competition. Karna challenged Arjun to a duel battle in this competition. But Kripacharya turned it down saying that Karna is not a prince. Therefore, he cannot participate in this competition. Therefore, Duryodhana had declared Karna as the king of Anga. At first the Anga was under Magadha but later Bhishma won the Anga, it came under Hastinapur.
Kamboj: In ancient Sanskrit literature, there are many references about the Kamboj states or the Kamboj resident here, which shows that the country of Kamboj was largely from Kashmir to Hindukush. In Valmiki-Ramayana, the best horses of Kamboj, Valhik and Vanayu states are described to be in Ayodhya. According to the Mahabharata, Arjuna had defeated the residents of Dardistan as well as the Kambojas in the context of Digvijaya Yatra in his north direction. In the Mahabharata it is said that Karna reached Rajpur and won the Kambojas, its proved that Rajpur a city of Kamboj. In the Vedic period, Kamboj was the center of Aryan culture as indicated by the mention of vansh-Brahmin, but over a period of time, Kamboj came to be deemed out of Aryan-culture when Aryanism advanced towards the east. Yuvanchwang has also described Kambojas as uncultured and with violent tendencies. According to Rajpur, Nandinagar and Ricedevies of Kamboj, the cities named Dwarka are mentioned in the literature. The Mahabharata describes several kambojas kings, among whom Sudarshan and Chandravarman are the main ones. This republic would have merged under Chandragupta's empire in the Mauryan period.
Kashi: Another name of Varanasi, 'Kashi' was famous as a janpada in ancient times and Varanasi was its capital. This is also confirmed by the travelogue of Fahian, a Chinese traveler visiting India in the fifth century. It is mentioned in the Harivanshpurana that the descendant of Pururava who settled 'Kashi' was King 'Kash'. Hence their descendants are called 'Kashi'. It is possible that on the basis of this, the name of this district is named 'Kashi'. A mythological myth associated with naming Kashi is also available. It is mentioned that Vishnu called this area a free zone after the fall of Parvati's Muktamaya Kundal and named the shrine Kashi due to its inexplicable ultimate light. It is said that Kashi is situated on the trident of Lord Shankar, that is why it is considered an area outside the earth. It is also said that the entire earth is destroyed during the Holocaust, but the city of Kashi is safe due to Shankar being on the trident.
Kuru: Modern Haryana and Delhi included the western part of the Yamuna River. Its capital was modern Delhi (Indraprastha). An ancient state whose north part of the Himalayas was known as 'Uttar Kuru' and the south part of Himalayas as 'South Kuru'. According to Bhagwat, Yudhishthra's Rajsuya Yajna and Shri Krishna married Rukmini here. A son of Agnidh was named 'Kuru', a famous Chandravanshi king mentioned in Vedic literature. Generally, the children of Dhritarashtra are known as 'Kaurava', but the descendants of Kuru were both Kaurava-Pandavas. Famous janpada of ancient India, whose position was in present day Delhi-Meerut region. In the Mahabharata period, Hastinapur was the capital of Kuru-Janpad district. It is known from the Mahabharata that the ancient capital of Kuru was Khandavaprastha. It is known from many accounts of Mahabharata that Kurujangal, Kuru and Kurukshetra were the three main parts of this vast janpada. The main Kuru janpada was near Hastinapur (District Meerut, U.P.). It was situated to the south by Khandava, to the north by Turdhan and to the west by Parinah. It is possible that these were the names of various forests. The Kuru janpada included the present Thanesar, Delhi and the northern Ganges Dwaba (part of the Meerut-Bijnor districts). In the Mahabharata, the Indian Kuru-Janapadas have been called Dakshina Kuru and they are also mentioned along with the North-Kurus. According to Mahasut-Som-Jataka, the expansion of Kuru district was three hundred Kos. It seems that after this period and as a result of the increasing power of Magadha, which was fully developed with the establishment of the Maurya Empire, Kuru, whose capital was flew into the Ganges in the time of Hastinapur King Nichakshu, which was left by this king, made his capital in Kaushambi which is part of Vats janpada and gradually merged into the trough of forgetfulness.
Kosala: Famous district of Northern India, whose capital was the world-famous city of Ayodhya. Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh included the areas of Gonda and Bahraich. It was located in the coastal region of Saryu (a tributary of the Ganges river) flow area. The Vedashruti River flowed on the southern border of Kosala state during the Ramayana period. Sri Ramachandraji crossed the Kosala border before crossing the Gomti River on his way to the forest from Ayodhya. The passage of Vedashruti and Gomti is mentioned in Ayodhya Kand and after crossing the Sayandika or Sayi River, Shri Rama showed Sita the land of the prosperous (Kosal) kingdom given to many Janpadas left behind and given to Manu through Ikshvaku. During the Ramayana period, this country was divided into two districts - north
Kosal and South Kosal. Rani Kaushalya of King Dasharatha was probably Rajakanya of South Kosala (Raipur-Bilaspur district, Madhya Pradesh). Ayodhya was a very prosperous city during the Ramayana period. In the Mahabharata, Bhimsen's Digvijay Yatra mentions the defeat of Kosala-Naresh Brihadbal. The sixth and fifth centuries BC Kosal was a powerful kingdom similar to Magadha, but gradually the importance of Magadha increased and with the establishment of the Maurya Empire, Kosal became a part of the Magadha Empire.
He was about to get married to Rukmini that Sri Krishna kidnapped Rukmini, only after that when Shree Krishna was given the first place in Yudhishthra's Rajasuya Yajna, Shishupala strongly condemned him. On this, Shri Krishna killed him.
The present-day Chanderi town in Gwalior region of Madhya Pradesh is said to be the capital of the ancient Chedi state. The Chedi janpada in the Mahabharata, along with many other janpada, has been counted among the contemporary janpada of Kuru. The residents of Chedi janpada have been praised in Karnaparva. During the Mahabharata, Krishna's rival Shishupala was the ruler of Chedi. Its capital is said to be Shuktmati.
Vrijhi: The Buddhist Republic of North Bihar, which has been called Vrijji in Buddhist literature. In fact, this republic was part of a state-union with eight other members (Attakul) of whom Videha, Lichhavi and gyaatrikagana were famous. During the Buddha's lifetime, the struggle continued for many days in the Magadha emperor Ajatshatru and the Republic of Vrijji. According to the Mahavagga, two of Ajatashatru's ministers Sunidh and Varshakara (Vasakara) had built a fort at Pataligram (Pataliputra) to stop the invasions of the Vrijjis. The Mahaparinibban Sutant also describes the opposition of Ajatashatru and the Vrijjis. Vajji is probably a variation of Vrajhi. Vajri's nomenclature in the opinion of Bulhar, Ashoka's inscription no. Is in 13. The Jain Tirthankara Mahavira was the prince of the Republic of Vrijji.
Vats: Allahabad and Mirzapur districts of modern Uttar Pradesh used to come under it. The capital of this district was Kaushambi (district Allahabad Uttar Pradesh). The name of Vatsa state is also mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana that while going to Ramchandra forest with the same effect as Lokpal, crossing the Mahanadi Ganga soon reached the rich and happy Vatsa state. This explanation proves that during the Ramayana period, the river Ganges flowed on the border of Vatsa and Kosala janpadas. At the time of Gautama Buddha, the king of the Vatsa janpada was Udayan, who married Vasavadatta, the daughter of the avanti-king Chandapradyot. At this time Kaushambi was counted among the great cities of northern India. According to the Mahabharata, Bhimsen had conquered the Vatsa land in the context of Digvijay of the east.
Panchal: is the ancient name of the region enclosed by the districts of Bareilly, Badaun and Farrukhabad in western Uttar Pradesh. It was spread in the Gangetic plain between Kanpur to Varanasi. It also had two branches - the first branch was Ahichatra, the capital of north Panchal and the second branch was Kampilya, the capital of South Panchal. Draupadi, the wife of the Pandavas, was also called Panchali for being the princess of Panchal. The Satapatha Brahmin mentions a city named Panchala's Parivaka or Parichaka, which according to Weber is the Ekachaka of the Mahabharata.
Panchal was the collective name of five ancient clans. They were Kivi, Keshi, Srnjaya, Turvasas and Somak. Panchalas and Kuru janpadas used to fight with each other. It is known from the Adiparva of Mahabharata that Dronacharya, the guru of the Pandavas, with the help of Arjuna, defeated Panchalaraja Drupada and left only South Panchala (whose capital was Kampilya) and took over North Panchal. Thus during the Mahabharata period, Panchal was situated on both the northern and south banks of the Ganges. Drupada previously lived in the city of Ahichatra or Chhatravati. Draupadi's Swayamvara described in the Mahabharata Adiparva took place in Kampilya. Bhimsen, in his former country Digvijaya Yatra, in many ways understood and convinced the Panchal residents.
Magadha: was the most powerful janpada in northern India during the Buddhist period and later. Its position was largely in the state of South Bihar. The modern Patna and Gaya district were included in it. Its capital was Giriwarj . Brihadratha and Jarasandha were the previous kings of Lord Buddha here. It was located in southern Bihar which later became the most powerful Mahajanapada of North India. The range of Magadha Mahajanapada extended from the Ganges in the north to the Vindhya Mountains in the south, from Champa in the east to the Son River in the west. The ancient capital of Magadha was Rajagriha. Later, the capital of Magadha was established in Pataliputra. In the Magadha state, the then powerful state of Kaushal, Vatsa and Avanti was merged with his janpada. Thus Magadha expanded into Akhand Bharat and the history of ancient Magadha became the history of India. The area of Patna and Gaya district was known as Magadha in ancient times. During the time of Gautama Buddha, Bimbisara was ruled in Magadha and then his son Ajatshatru. At this time, there was a lot of conflict with the Kosala janpada and Magadha, although the daughter of Kosal-King Prasenjit was married to Bimbisara. As a result of this marriage, Magadharaj janpada of Kashi was received as a dowry. After them, during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka, the power of the influential kingdom of Magadha reached its peak of glory and Pataliputra, the capital of Magadha was the focal point of political power across India. The importance of Magadha remained even after this for many centuries and at the beginning of the Gupta period, the capital of the Gupta Empire remained in Pataliputra for a long time. Bimbisara is considered the de facto founder of the Magadha Empire. Bimbisara made Girivraj (Rajgir) his capital. It expanded its empire by adopting its policy of matrimonial relations (Kaushal, Vaishali and Punjab).
Matsya: This included the areas of Alwar, Bharatpur and Jaipur districts of Rajasthan. A famous janpada of the Mahabharata period, whose status has been considered in the variable state of Alwar-Jaipur. Virat ruled this janpada and its capital was in a city called Uppalav. Virat Nagar was the second major city of Matsya janpada. Sahadeva conquered the Matsya state in his Digvijay Yatra. Bhima also conquered the matasyas. The Pandavas spent a year of their unknown abode in the Matsya country by staying with Virat.
Malla: It was also a federation and its territories were areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh. The first definite mention of Malla country is probably in Valmiki Ramayana in such a way that Ramchandra ji settled Chandrakanta in the land of Malla country for Lakshmana's son Chandraketu which was divine like heaven. There are many mentions in the Mahabharata about the mahajanpada of Malla. Buddhist literature describes the two capitals of Malla janpada as Kushavati and Paava. There are many references to the rivalry of the Mallas and Lichchhavis in Buddhist and Jain literature. During the political rise of Magadha, the janpada of Malla could not stand in front of the expanding power of this empire. The fourth century BC Chandragupta merged into the great empire of Maurya.
Shursen: Shursen Mahajanapada was the famous janpada of North-India with its capital at Mathura. The region was probably named after Shatrughna, the ruler of Madhurapuri (Mathura), after the slaying of Lavanasura. Shatrughan was named this janpada his son Shursen. Shursen had established a new city in place of old Mathura, which is described in the Uttarkand of Valmiki Ramayana. The Mahabharata mentions the victory of Sahadeva over the Shursen-Janpad. In the Vishnu Purana, the residents of Shursen are probably called Shur and they are mentioned with Abhiras.