‘Jana’ and Janapadas




'Jana’ and Janapadas:

Vedic people used the term Jana to designate a group of people, united under a common bond of singular kinship structure. Their settlement was known as ‘Grama’. A cluster of gramas consisting of the same Jana was known by the name of that particular Jana. In the beginning, however, the concept of Jana included only an extended family (KUL), its settlement (grama), and the cattle pen (goshtha-gotra-gaulwada). The concept of Jana was not yet inclusive of the concept of territoriality. Hence, the geographic boundaries of a Jana were not defined.

The term ‘janapada’ occurs in the Brahmana texts for the first time. Thereafter, it is frequently used in the Vedic literature and the epics – Mahabharata and Ramayana, as also in the Jain and the Buddist literature.

  • Vedic people used the term ‘Jana’ to designate a group of people, united under a common bond of singular kinship structure.
  • Eg: Kul, the surnames played a good role here – Maurya.
  • It isn’t a short term relation or bond but lineage that has been maintained from years around 400-300 years.
  • The families united with the village was called as ‘Gram’. Basically, extended family during that period.
  • These were expanded, developed, and led to the formation of   
  • The ideology behind Janapadas was having or owning a personal territory and autonomy over their territory.
  • The administration was based on the Rigvedic knowledge.


  • Jana grows and divides into two units.
  • Those are – Janapadas and Mahajana.
  • The word ‘Janapada’ was first used in Brahmana Text, later in Vedic literature, post that in Great epics.
  • After that in Jain Literature and lastly in Buddhist Literature too.
  • This divided the Aryan settlement of Gram into 5 sections.

5 sections :

  • Praachya – East
  • Pratichya- West
  • Udichya- North
  • Dakshina- South
  • Madhyadesh – Central

However, this division does not include the entire subcontinent. It mainly focuses on the region to the north of the Vindhya ranges. The geographic awareness seems to have expanded in the Puranic literature. The Purana texts mention the regions to the south of the Vindhyas also. These are, ‘Dakshinapatha’ and ‘Aparanta’, which is the coastal region of Konkan.

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