The Mahajanapadas were a set of sixteen kingdoms that existed in ancient India. It all began when the tribes (Janas) of the late Vedic period decided to form their own territorial communities, which eventually gave rise to new and permanent areas of settlements called ‘states’ or ‘janapadas.’

The period of Mahajanpadas (600 BCE) is also known as the Period of 2nd urbanization (IVC was the 1st urbanization) as the centre of polity and economy shifted from India’s North-west to Eastern states (mainly Bihar)

At that time there were 16 such Mahajanapadas (as per the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya)

1. Anga

Capital: Champa

Modern location: Munger and Bhagalpur, Bihar

  • Reference found in the Mahabharata and Atharva Veda
  • Bimbisara taken over Anga

2. Magadha

Capital: Rajagriha

Modern location: Gaya and Patna

  • Magadha was semi-Brahmanical habitation.
  • Magadha and Anga was divided by river Champa.
  • Later it became a center of Jainism and Buddhist

3. Kasi

Capital: Kasi

Modern Location: Banars

It got its name from the rivers Varuna and Asi according to Matsya Purana. Dhritarashtra once ruled over Kashi and Anga

4. Vatsa

Capital: Kausambi

Modern Location: Allahabad

  • Vatsa is also known as Vamsa
  • Ruler Udayana made Buddhism a state religion.

5. Kosala

Capital: Sravasti

Modern Location: Eastern Uttar Pradesh ( Ayodhya)

  • Ayodhya was an important town in Kosala.
  • It was merged in the Magadha by the Magadha ruler, Ajatashatru.
  • Kosala also included the tribal republican territory of Sakyas of Kapilvastu.

6. Saurasena

Capital: Mathura

Modern Location: Western Uttar Pradesh

  • This place was a centre of Krishna worship at the time of Megasthenes.
  • The most famous ruler was Avantiputra.

7. Panchala

Capital: Ahichchatra and Kampliya

Modern Location: Western Uttar Pradesh

Later the nature of governance shifted from monarchy to republic. Kanauj was an important town in this kingdom

8. Kuru

Capital: Indraprastha

Modern Location: Thaneswar, Meerut and Southeastern Haryana

The area around Kurukshetra was apparently the site for Kuru Mahajanapada. It moved to a republic form of governance.

9. Matsya

Capital: Viratnagar. Modern Location: Jaipur

It got its independence from the Chedi kingdom (ruled by King Sahaja) under the leadership of Virat Raja.

10. Chedi

Capital: Sotthivati

Modern Location:  Yamuna and Narmada belt

This was cited in the Rigveda. It is located in the present-day Bundelkhand region.

11. Avanti

Capital: Ujjaini or Mahismati.

Modern Location: Malwa and Madhya Pradesh

Avanti was significant in relation to the rise of Buddhism. It was the most vulnerable of all the mahajanapadas and was ruled by many kingdoms

12. Gandhara

Capital: Taxila

Modern Location: Rawalpindi

Gandhara is cited in the Atharva Veda. It was significant for international commercial activities.

13. Kamboja

Capital: Pooncha

Modern Location: Rajori and Hajra

It is situated in present day Kashmir and Hindukush.

Several literary sources mention that Kamboja was a republic.


14. Ashmaka or Assaka

Capital: Pratisthan/ Paithan

Modern Location: Bank of Godavari

Brahamdatta was its most important ruler.

15. Vajji

Capital: Vaishali

Modern Location: North Bihar

Vajji was the seat of a united republic of eight smaller kingdoms of which Lichchavis, Janatriks and Videhas were also members. 

16. Malla

Capital: Kusinara

Modern Location: Deoria and Uttar Pradesh,  Gorakhpur region

Religion was Buddhism. Malla was a republic


What are the 16 Mahajanapadas of ancient India?

There were sixteen of such Mahajanapadas: Kasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala, Machcha, Surasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kamboja.

Why is it important to read about the 16 Mahajanapadas of ancient India?

Mahajanapadas were formed sixth century BC onward. The most prominent feature of Mahajanapadas is the formation of states. With the rise of Mahajanapadas, the political history of North India became clearer. 16 Mahajanapadas had both republics and monarchies.

Who created 16 Mahajanapadas?

Most of the Mahajanapadas were established by conglomerating several Janapadas. One such example is the Kosala which incorporated the Janapada of Sakyas and of Kashi.