Mahajanapadas and the Contemporary Cities




Mahajanapadas and the Contemporary Cities:

1) Kasi:

It was located around Varanasi which was the capital as well. It is believed that this city got its name from rivers Varuna and Asi as mentioned in the Matsya Purana. This mahajanapada was a powerful one at the beginning of the mahajanapada period. Varanasi was its capital. The kings of Kasi were ambitious. According to the jataka stories they aspired for the highest position among all contemporary kings (Sabbarajunam aggaraja). The Buddhist text, ‘Mahavagga’ mentions that the king of Kasi had defeated Kosala and annexed it to his own kingdom. Later, Ajatashatru, the king of Magadha conquered and annexed Kasi mahajanapada to Magadha

2) Kosala:

It was located in the modern Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh. Its capital was Ayodhya. Ancient Kosala encompassed the regions of Uttar Pradesh in India and Lumbini in Nepal. Shravasti was its capital city. King Prasenjit (Pasenadi*) was a disciple of Gautama Buddha. Kosala was destroyed and annexed permanently to Magadha by King Ajatashatru.

3) Anga:  

This mahajanapada finds mention in the Atharva Veda and the ‘Mahabharata’. During the reign of Bimbisara, it was taken over by the Magadha empire. It is located in present-day Bihar and West Bengal. The city of Champa was the capital of Anga. It was a center of the marine trade. It was permanently annexed to Magadha by King Bimbisara.

4) Magadha:

It also finds reference in the Atharva Veda which tells that Magadha was a semi-Brahmanical place. It was situated in present-day Bihar close to Anga, separated by river Champa. Later, Magadha became a center of Jainism. Along with that, the first Buddhist Council was held in Rajagriha. Magadha had its first capital at the city of Girivraja, also known as Rajagriha. Girivraja was surrounded by five hills making it formidable for the enemies. King Bimbisara was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha. The policy of territorial annexation of other kingdoms was started during the reign of Kind Bimbisara. Later Pataliputra became the capital of the Magadha empire.

5) Vajji: 

Its capital was Vaishali. It was an important Mahajanapadas. This was a confederation of eight clans, known as ‘Maha Aththkula ’. It included clans like Videha, Lichchhavi, Vajji, Shakya, Dnyatruk, etc. The ‘Ekapanna Jataka’ mentions that Vaishali, the capital of this mahajanapada was fortified with three surrounding walls. It had three entrance gates and bastions. King Ajatashatru was the one who annexed the territory of the Vrujji/Vajji’s land to Magadha

6) Malla:

It was one of the sixteen mahajanapadas. It finds mention in ‘Mahabharata’  and Buddhist and Jain texts. They were a republic (Samgha). Their capital was Kusinara located around present-day Deoria and Uttar Pradesh. Gautama Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana in this city. A copper plate inscription (5th century C.E.) was found at the ‘Parinirvana Stupa’ in this city. It read, “Parinirvana chaitye tamrapatta iti”. In the later Vedic period Malla mahajanapada was a monarchy. Later it turned into a republic. There were two more cities in the mahajanapada, namely, ‘Pava’ and ‘Bhaoganagara’. According to the Jaina texts, eighteen republics from the regions of Mallas, Lichchhavis, and Kashi-Kosala, had formed a confederation to fight Ajatashatru. By the 3rd century B.C.E. the Malla mahajanapada was merged into the Maurya empire.

7) Chedi:

This was mentioned in the Rigveda, Its capital was Sothivati. It lay around the present-day Bundelkhand region. The city of Shuktimati or Sotthivati was its capital. It is supposed to have been situated near ‘Banda’ in Uttar Pradesh.

8) Vatsa or Vamsa:  

This mahajanapada followed the monarchical form of governance. This kingdom was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas. And its capital was located at Kausambi. This was an important city for economic activities. There was a prosperous trade and business scenario in the 6th century BC. After the rise of Buddha, the ruler Udayana made Buddhism a state religion. Vatsa was located around the present-day Allahabad. The protagonist of the play ‘Swapnavasavadatta’ written by Bhasa is King Udayan. He was the king of the Vatsa mahajanapada and the contemporary of Gautama Buddha

9) Kuru:

Their capital was Indraprastha in present-day Meerut and Haryana. The region around Kurukshetra was supposedly the site for kuru Mahajanapada. It shifted to a republic form of governance later. According to the Jataka literature, the kings of Indraprastha belonged to ‘Yudhitthil’ gotra

10) Panchala:

Its capital was Ahichchatra and Kampilaya for its northern and southern regions respectively. It was located in present-day western Uttar Pradesh. And it shifted from a monarchy to being a republic later. The mahajanpadas of Kuru and Panchala often fought for supremacy. Both the divisions of Panchala mahajanapada were monarchies in the beginning. At a later date, they turned into a sangharajya.

11) Matsya:

It was located the south of the Kurus and west of the Panchalas. Its capital was at Viratanagar, which lays around present-day Jaipur. Bairat is one of the places where Ashokan edicts have been found.

12) Shoorasena:

Its capital was Mathura. This place was a center of Krishana worship at the time of Megasthenes. Also, there was dominant followership of Budhha here. Greek historians have mentioned the name of the mahajanapada as ‘Shursenoi’ and Mathura as ‘Methora’. Later, the mahajanapada of Shoorsena was merged into the Maurya empire.

13) Ashmaka or Assaka: 

The capital of this mahajanapada was located at Pratisthan or Paithan. Ashmaka was located t the bank of Godavari.

14) Avanti:

Avanti was important in terms of the rise of Buddhism. Its capital was located at Ujjaini or Mahismati. It was located around present-day Malwa and Madhya Pradesh. This mahajanapada encompassed the region of Malwa, Nimad, and its neighbouring regions in Madhya Pradesh. Avanti mahjanapada was divided into Uttara Avanti and Dakshina Avanti. Ujjayini (Ujjain) was the capital of Uttar Avanti, while Mahishmati (Mandhata, District Khandwa) was the capital of Dakshina Avanti. King Pradyot was a contemporary of Gautama Buddha. In the 4th century B.C.E. Avanti mahajanpada became an integral part of the Maurya empire.

15) Gandhara:

Their capital was at Taxila. Gandhara is mentioned in the Atharva Veda as people who were highly trained in the art of war. It was important for international commercial activities. Pukkusati or Pushkasarin was the king of Gandhara, who was a contemporary of King Bimbisara. He had established diplomatic relations with King Bimbisara. By the 6th century B.C. the Iranian emperor, Daryush I conquered Gandhara mahajanapada. The Behistun inscription in Iran (516 B.C.E.) mentions Gandhara as one of the satrapies of the Iranian empire.

16) Kamboja:

Kamboja had its capital named as Pooncha. It is located in present-day Kashmir and Hindukush.  Various literary sources mention that Kamboja was a republic. Kamboja was well-known for its excellent horses and its horsemen warriors for their skills of warfare. Kamboja people had resisted Sinkandara’s advent. The Aspasioi (Ashvayana) was part of the Kamboja mahajanapada. The mahajanapada is mentioned in Ashoka’s edicts as ‘araj’, meaning ‘those who do not have a king’. In turn, it means that those who were a republic.

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