Chapter 6 Class 6 History - Early Kingdoms

Janapadas and Mahajanapadas


  • The word janapada literally means the ’land where the jana set its foot, and settled down’.

  • Earliest political units in ancient India.

  • Emerged around 600 BCE.

  • Small territorial units based on socio-economic and cultural conditions of the region.

  • Often ruled by kings.

  • Had their own political and administrative systems.

  • Archaeologists have excavated a number of settlements in these janapadas, such as Purana Qila in Delhi , Hastinapura near Meerut , and Atranjikhera, near Etah (the last two are in Uttar Pradesh).


Mahajanapadas - teachoo.png

  • Larger and more complex political units.

  • Emerged around 500 BCE.

  • Characterized by growth of cities, emergence of new social classes , and development of trade and commerce.

  • Most mahajanapadas had a capital city , many of these were fortified means that huge walls of wood, brick or stone were built around them.

  • Often ruled by powerful kings who controlled vast territories.

  • Had well-organized administrative systems.

  • There were sixteen mahajanpadas in the gangla valley in the 6th century BCE.

  • The Mahajanapadas were of two types - Republic and Monarchies.


  • A republican mahajanapada was ruled by a group elected by the common people.

  • There was no king.

  • Decisions were taken by majority vote.

  • The Shakyas and the Lichchhhavis were the important republics.


  • The monarchical mahajanapadas were ruled by kings.

  • The king was very powerful. He had a large army and many sources of revenue.

  • Kingship was hereditary. 

  • They built forts, palaces, temples and other structures to display their wealth and power.

  • Magadha, Vatsa, Avanti, and Kosala were the greatest of these kingdoms.
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