Ancient India Simplified: Janapadas and Mahajanapadas (500 B.C to 300 B.C)

The changing political scenario in the later vedic period led to a shift in people’s identity from tribal identity (Jana) to territorial identity (janapada). This resulted in the emergence of several kingdoms and a few very large kingdoms known as Mahajanapadas. This phase was demarcated by internal dispute between themselves which led to the rise in foreign invasions.

Mahajanapadas and their capital

MagadhaRajgir, Pataliputra
Vajji Vaishali
Some important Mahajanapadas
Vatsa Kingdom
1. Was situated on the banks of river Yamuna with its capital in Kaushambi near Allahabad.
2. The most famous ruler was Udayana, the contemporary of Buddha.
3. He is the hero of many romantic legends: Priyadarshika and Ratnavali (By Harsha)- which threw the light on Udayana and his relation with the kingdom of Anga and Avanti.
Avanti Kingdom
1. Capital was Ujjain. It covers the modern Malwa region.
2. The Buddhist text mentions that even Ajatasatru, the mighty ruler of Magadha had to fortify his capital Rajgir because of the fear of invasion by Pradyota.
Magadha Kingdom
1. The most powerful kingdom in North India from the 6th century to the 4th century B.C.
Detailed explanation on the ‘Rise of Magadha’ in the next unit.

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