In the early texts of Buddhism and Jainism, 16 states are mentioned in the name of Mahajanapadas. Although the names of the Mahajanapadas are not the same in these texts, the names of Vajji, Magadha, Kosala, Kuru, Panchala, Gandhara and Avanti etc. are the same. This indicates that these Mahajanapadas must have been the most important.

Magadha emerged as the most powerful Mahajanapada. It had three important rulers namely, Bimbisara, Ajatshatru and Mahapadmananda.

Distinctive Features of Mahajanapadas

Following were some of the distinctive features of the Mahajanapadas –

  1. Most of the Mahajanapadas were ruled by a king. But the states known as Gana and Sangha were ruled by a group of many people. Everyone in this group was called a king. Lord Mahavira and Lord Buddha were related to these Ganas. In the Vajji union and some other states, the kings had collective control over many economic resources including land.
  2. Each Mahajanapada had a capital which was often surrounded by a fort. The maintenance of fortified capitals, early armies and bureaucracy required enormous economic resources.
  3. From around the 6th century BCE, the Brahmins began composing texts in Sanskrit called the Dharmashastras. In these texts, the rules were determined for other social classes including the ruler. It was expected that the rulers would be from the Kshatriya class only.
  4. The work of the rulers was supposed to be to collect taxes and tributes from farmers, traders and artisans.
  5. Attacking neighboring states was also considered a valid way to raise money.
  6. Gradually some states prepared their own standing armies and bureaucratic apparatus. The rest of the states were still dependent on auxiliary forces. Soldiers were generally recruited from the peasantry.

Explain the factors which helped Magadha to become the most powerful Mahajanapada in the 6th century BC?

According to modern historians, the main factors that made Magadha the most powerful Mahajanapada among the total of 16 Mahajanapadas were the following –

  • The region of Magadha was very fertile.
  • There were iron mines in Magadha region which were used to make weapons.
  • Elephants were found in the forests which were important for the army. (4) According to Buddhist and Jain texts, ambitious rulers like Bimbisara and Ajatashatru helped in the expansion of Magadha. ,
  • The capital of Magadha, Rajagriha (the palace) was fortified and secure.
  • Pataliputra, the second capital of Magadha, had an important position on the route of traffic through the Ganges.


What is meant by Janpadda?

Janpadda refers to such a plot of land on which a person i.e. tribe or clan sets foot or settles. The use of this word is found in both Prakrit and Sanskrit languages.

What are the Important Mahajanapadas?

Important Mahajanapadas – (i) Magadha (ii) Kosala (iii) Vajji (iv) Kuru (v) Avanti (vi) Panchal (vii) Gandhara.

Why were walls built around the cities, especially the capital cities, during the Mahajanapada period?

Capital cities have special significance. All kinds of political, social, economic and cultural activities go on here. It is also necessary to protect them from the enemy. These things were also applicable to the capital cities of the Mahajanapada period. Therefore, walls were built around these cities to give them the cup of strong forts.

Which was the most powerful Mahajanapada?

Among the seven important Mahajanapada, Magadha was the most important Mahajanapada.

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