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The Janapadas are the major realms or kingdoms of Vedic (Iron Age) India, by the 6th century BC evolving into the sixteen classical Mahajanapadas .


The political process among the ancient Indo-Aryans appears to have originally started with semi-nomadic tribal units called Jana (Latin gens). Early Vedic texts attest several Janas or tribes of the Aryans, living in semi-nomadic tribal state, fighting among themselves and with other Non-Aryan tribes for cows, sheeps and green pastures. These early Rigvedic Janas in the course of the early Indian Iron Age coalesced into the geographiaclly fixed Janapadas.

The term janapadá is a tatpurusha, composed of jana "tribe" and pada "foot". From its earliest attestation, the word has a double meaning of "realm, territory" and "subject population". A janapadin is the ruler of a janapada. Dunkel (2002) compares Greek andrapodon "slave", compares PIE "fetters" (i.e. "what is attached to the feet"). Sanskrit padám usually taken to mean "footprint, trail" diverges in accent from the PIE reconstruction.For the sense of "population of the land", padasya janas, the inverted padajana would be expected. A primary meaning of "place of the people", janasya padam does not explain why the compound is of masculine gender. An original dvandva "land and people" is conceivable, but a dual inflection would be expected.


Ancient Sanskrit texts like Ashtadhyayi (IV.4.168-175), Ramayana (IV/41-43), Mahabharata (VII/11/16-17; VIII/8/18-20)) and numerous Puranas (Bhuvanakosa list of countries) refer to many Janapadas of ancient times.

Panini's Ashtadhyayi furnishes a list of fifteen Kshatriya monarchical Janapadas viz Salveya, Gandhari, Magadha, Kalinga, Surasena, Kosala, Ajada, Kuru, Salva, Pratyagratha, Kalakuta, Ashmaka, Kamboja, Avanti and Kunti. Besides, there were those following the republican constitutions.

In context of Krsna digvijay, the Mahabharata furnishes a key list of twenty-five ancient Janapadas viz: Anga, Vangamarker, Kalinga, Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vatsa, Garga, Karusha, Pundra, Avanti, Dakshinatya, Parvartaka, Dasherka, Kashmiramarker, Ursa, Pishacha, Mudgala, Kamboja, Vatadhana, Chola, Pandya, Trigarta, Malava, and Darada (MBH 7/11/15-17). Besides, there were Janapadas of Kurus and Panchalas also.

Ramayana (a later list) includes Janapadas of Andhras, Pundras, Cholas, Pandyas, Keralas, Mekhalas, Utkalas, Dasharnas, Abravantis, Avantis, Vidarbhas, Mlecchas, Pulindas, Surasenas, Prasthalas, Bharatas, Kurus, Madrakas, Kambojas, Daradas, Kiratas, Tangana, Yavanas, Sakas (from Saka-dvipa) Chinas, Maha-Chinas, Niharas etc.

The Bhuvanakosa Section of numerous Puranas divides ancient Indianmarker subcontinent into (1) the Dakshinapatha (Southern India), (2) the Madhyadesa (Mid India), (3) the Prachya (Eastern India), (4) the Aparanta (Western India), (5) the Udichya or north/north-west division, (6) the Vindyavasins, and (7) the Parvatashrayins, and in the detailed list of countries, it refers many Janapadas of ancient times (See: Kirfel's list of the countries of Bhuvanakosha)

By circa sixth century BCE, many of these Janapadas further evolved into larger political entities by the process of merger and land-grabbing which eventually led to the formation of bigger kingdoms known in Buddhist texts as the Mahajanapadas or the great nations (a karmadharaya of maha "great" and janapada "country").

External links

See also


  • George Dunkel, Vedic janapada and Ionic andrapodon; with notes on Vedic drupadam and IE pedom "place" and "fetter", Indo-European Perspectives (ed. M. R. V. Southern), JIES Monograph No. 43 (2002).

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