Second Urbanisation in India




Second Urbanisation in India:

The janapadas with definite geographic borders and administrative systems was established roughly around 1000 B.C.E. The ambition to expand geographic boundaries and the political conflict caused by it left some janapadas more powerful than others. It resulted in the creation of sixteen mahajanapadas from Afghanistan in the northeast to Bengal in the east, stretching to the banks of the Godavari in the south. The capital cities of the mahajanapadas and some other cities, which flourished because of prospering trade once again brought the age of urbanization in India. It is known as the ‘Second Urbanisation’. The ‘Mahaparinibbansutta’ mentions names of six cities, which were of great importance. They are, Champa, Rajagriha, Shravasti, Saketa, Kushambi, and Varanasi. By the 6th century B.C.E. these and a few other cities had become very prosperous. Characteristic pottery of janapadas and mahajanapadas has been recovered from various archaeological sites. Also, many sites have yielded iron implements and punch-marked coins of silver and copper. The punch marked coins have been mentioned in the ancient Indian literature as ‘Karshapana’ or ‘Pana’.

The following things are perceived as markers of urbanization:

Development of the cities as administrative centers, the network of surrounding villages to cater to the needs of urban centers (hinterland), interlinking of the village administration with the central administration, well-defined rules of taxation, internal and distant trade, well-established network of land routes and waterways (both rivers and oceans), purchase and sales of goods by increasingly using monetary exchange along with the barter system, a stable legal system, and judiciary. All these characteristics of urbanization were present in the times of mahajanapadas.


The following examples will throw light on the challenges faced by historians when a single name is mentioned in varying contexts.

(1) The jataka story is known as ‘Nimi Jataka’ gives us the list of kings who ruled the state of Videha from its capital city, Mithila. It includes a king whose name was ‘Assaka’.

(2) The Jataka story known as ‘Assaka Jataka’ tells us about a king named Assaka who ruled the state of Kasi, and his queen. In this story, it is mentioned that Potali was the capital of the king Assaka. The capital of the ancient state of Kasi was Varanasi. However, it is inferred that the mention of Potali as the capital of king Assaka may indicate that he might have been a feudatory of the king of Kasi.

(3) The Jataka story known as ‘Chulla Kalinga Jataka’ describes the battle between King Assaka and the Kalinga king of Dantapur. King Assaka defeated the Kalinga king and married his sister. This marital alliance helped to establish congenial relations between the two states. In the Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela, it is mentioned that King Kharvela, without fearing the dreaded name of Satakarni, attacked the city of Asikanagara in the west and created a fright among its residents. Some historians identify ‘Assaka’ occurring in the Jataka stories with ‘Asiknagara’ mentioned in the Hathigumpha inscription.

If you would like to contribute notes or other learning material, please submit them using the button below.

      Forgot password?
Use app×