Indian History - The Mahajanapada Period
The Mahajanapada Period (600 BC – 325 BC)
From the sixth century BC, iron tools and implements began to be widely used. This helped in the production of surplus foodgrains. The surplus could be collected by princes to meet their military and administrative needs. It could also be given to the new towns coming up. All this enabled the people to lead a settled life, to stick to their land, and also to expand at the cost of the neighbouring virgin areas. The rise of large states with towns as their capitals strengthened the territorial idea.
In the sixth century BC, there existed sixteen large states or Mahajanapadas in India –
(i) Magadha (including the present districts of Patna, Gaya and parts of Shahabad) with its capital at Girivraja or Rajgriha.
(ii) Anga (including the present districts of Monghyr and Bhagalpur in Bihar) with its capital at Champa.
(iii) Vajji (a confederacy of eight republican clans. To the north of the river Ganga in Bihar) with its capital, Vaisali.
(iv) Malla (also a republican confederacy including the present districts of Deoria, Basti, Gorakhpur and Siddharthnagar in eastern Uttar -Pradesh) with two capitals at Kusinagar and Pawa.
(v) Kasi with its capital at Varanasi.
(vi) Kosala (including the present district of Faizabad, Gonda, Baharaich, etc.) with itscapital at Shravasti.
(vii) Vatsa (including the present districts Allahabad, Mirzapur etc.), with Its capital at Kausambi.
(viii) Chedi, (including the present Bundelkhand area) with its capital at Shuktimati.
(ix) Kuru (including the present Haryana and Delhi area to the West of river Yamuna) with its capital at Indraprastha (modern Delhi).
(x) Panchala (including the area of western Uttar Pradesh upto the east of river Yamuna upto the Kosala Janapada) with its capital at Ahichhatra.
(xi) Surasena, (covering Brij Mandal) with its capital at Mathura.
(xii) Matsya (covering the area of Alwar, Bharatpur and Jaipur in Rajasthan).
(xiii) Avanti (modern Malwa) with its capital at Ujjain and Mahishmati.
(xiv) Asmaka (between the rivers Narmada and Godavari with its capital at Potana.
(xv) Gandhara (area covering the western part of Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan) with its capitals at Taxila and Pushkalavati.
(xvi) Kamboja (identified with modern district of Hazara districts of Pakistan) with its capital at Rajpur.
Important Janapadas Union (Republic)
Republican Manajanapada was ruled by a group of representatives elected by the common people. The Mahajanapadas of Vrijji, Mall, Kuru, Panchal and Kamboj were republican states and so were either smaller states like Lichhavi, Shakya, Kolya, Bhagga, and Moriya. All the administrative decisions of the states were taken by the Parisha. The republics were basically of two types:
(a) The republics comprising a single tribe like those of the Sakyas, the Kolias and the Mallas.
(b) The republics comprising a number of tribes.
Emergence of Magadha
The first important king of Magadha was Bimbisara (542 B.C.– 493 B.C.) who belonged to the Haryanka dynasty. He strengthened his position by marriage alliances. He took three wives. His first wife was the daughter of the king Kosala
and the sister of Prasenajit. His second wife Chellana was a Lichhavi Princess from Vaishali, and his third wife was the daughter of the chief of the Madra clan of Punjab.
• Marriage relations with the different princely families gave enormous diplomatic prestige and paved the way for the expansion of Magadha westward and northward.
• The earliest capital of Magadha was at Rajgir, which was called Girivraja at that time. It was surrounded by five hills, the openings in which were closed by stone walls on all sides. This made Rajgir invincible.
• He was succeeded by his son Ajatasatru (492–460 B.C.)
• Ajatasatru killed his father and seized the throne for himself. Throughout his reign, he pursued an aggressive policy of expansion.
• Ajatasatru was succeeded by Udayin (460 – 444 B.C.). His reign was important because he built the fort upon the confluence of the Ganga and Son at Patna. This was done because Patna lay in the centre of the Magadhan kingdom.
• Udayin was succeeded by the dynasty of Sisunagas, who temporarily shifted the capital to Vaishali. Their greatest achievement was the destruction of the power of Avanti with its capital at Ujjain. This brought to an end the 100 years old rivalry between Magadha and Avanti.
Causes for the Rise of Magadha
• Advantageous geographical location either at Rajgir or Pataliputra situated at strategic locations.
• Advantageous natural resources such as iron enable Magadhan rulers to equip with effective weapons.
• The alluvial soil of Gangetic plains and sufficient rainfall was very conducive for agriculture produces.
• Rise of town and use of metallic money boosted trade and commerce.
• The princes could use tools and accumulate wealth to pay and maintain their army.
• Use of elephants on a large scale in wars.
• Liberal (Unorthodox) character of Magadhan society.
• Contribution of several enterprising and ambitious rulers.