Federation of States (Ganarajya)



  • Democratic States 
  • Oligarchic States



  • The Later Vedic literature, Jaina and Buddhist literature indicate that most of the janapadas were monarchic states.
  • Well, some were Oligarchic too.
  • Different terms like Rajya, Bhaujya etc were used.
  • Vairajya means no monarch ruled the state but was collectively ruled by the state. Eg – Uttar kuru and Uttar Mudra.
  • The ancient literature mention such type of states as ‘ganasangha or sangharajya’ (oligarchy/ republic).
  • Gana means the ruling class comprising members of equal social status.
  • Similarly sangha means a state formed by many kulas or janapadas by coming together.

There were three main types of the ancient federation of states in India.
(1) Ganarajya of the members of the same kula. For example, Malava and Shibi.
(2) Ganarajya created by more than one kulas coming together. For example, Vajji Ganasangha. It included eight kulas. Vajji, Lichchhavi, Dnyatruk and Videha were the important ganas among them. Lichchhavi was most influential gana of them.
(3) More than one ganrajyas coming together to create a sangharajya. For example Yaudheya-Kshudrak Sangh.

We can get a glimpse of the administrative system of the ancient ganasanghas in the Buddhist texts. Each ganasangha had its own system of decision making and its implementation.

We may find approximate parallels of these systems in the following types:

  • Some of the ganasanghas were divided into regional zones called ‘Khanda’.
  • Based on size.
  • Functioned through – elected individuals
  • Each member- representative of respective Khanda
  • He was called “ Ganamukhya”
  • The assembly was called – Ganaparishada.
  • They were the decision making authorities.
  • Ganapramukha – Principle Functionary
  • The ganapramukha was the principal functionary presiding over the administrative system. He was known as the ‘Adhyaksha’ or ‘Raja’.
  • He was helped by others – Uparaja, Senapati etc.
  • This was a democratic system
  • Example: Punjab and Sindh
  • In this type, the elite class in the society held all the powers of decision-making and administration.
  • Panini and Kautilya mention them as Rajshandopajivi Sangh.
  • Panini includes Vajji, Andhaka, Vrishni, Yaudheya in the Rajashabdopjivi type.
  • Kautilya includes the Vrijji or Vajji, Madrak, Kuru, Panchala, etc. in this type.
  • This type of ganasanghas were more prevalent in the eastern region of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
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