Rise of Mahajanapadas




Rise of Mahajanapadas:

The term "Janapadas” literally means the foothold of a people. The fact that Janapada is derived from Jana points to an early stage of land-taking by the Jana people for a settled way of life. This process of settlement on land had completed its final stage prior to the times of the Buddha and Panini. The Pre-Buddhist north-west region of the Indian subcontinent was divided into several Janapadas, demarcated from each other by boundaries. In Panini’s "Ashtadhyayi” “Janapada” stands for country and Janapadin for its citizenry. Each of these Janapadas was named after the Kshatriya people (or the Kshatriya Jana) who had settled therein. The ambition of territorial expansion led to a conflict among the janapadas. Some janapadas proved more powerful than the others in this conflict. The stronger janapadas began to annex the conquered territories to their own and thus, they successfully expanded their boundaries. By 600 B.C.E. sixteen mahajanapadas was established in India, from the northwest

region to Magadha. Conquering other janapadas and annexing their territory permanently to one’s own, became a regular practice in the times of mahajanapadas. Ultimately, this conflict resulted into the creation of a large empire like Magadha. Ancient India once again witnessed the rise of cities. This process is known as the ‘Second Urbanisation’.

The names of sixteen mahajanapadas are found in the Jaina and Buddhist literature and also in the Purana texts. Buddhist texts were written in a period, which was closer to the period of the mahajanapadas. Hence the names occurring in the Buddhist texts are accepted as more reliable.\In other words, In the later Vedic period, the tribal organizations changed its identity and gradually shifted to the territorial identity, and the area of the settlement was now regarded as janapadas or states. In the transition from tribe to monarchy, they lost the essential democratic pattern of the tribe but retained the idea of government through an assembly representing the tribes. These states consisted of either a single tribe such as Shakyas, Kolias, Malas, etc. The people in the lower Ganges Valley and Delta, which were outside the Aryan pale, were not incorporated. There was, therefore, a strong consciousness of the pure land of the Aryans called Aryavarta. Each janapada tried to dominate and subjugate other janapadas to become Mahajanapadas. Ancient Buddhist texts like the Anguttara Nikaya make frequent reference to sixteen great kingdoms and republics which had evolved and flourished in a belt stretching from Gandhara in the northwest to Anga in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent and included parts of the trans-Vindhyan region, prior to the rise of Buddhism in India. According to the Anguttara Nikaya, there were about sixteen Mahajanapadas in the sixth century BC.

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