There were 16 mahajanapadas / kingdoms which are mentioned in the ancient literature and scriptures. It must be noted here that these sixteen. Many prominent ancient Buddhist texts make frequent references to the ’16 great kingdoms’ (mahajanapadas) that flourished between the sixth. Find 16 Mahajanapadas map, refers to sixteen great nations exist before the start of Buddhism in India.

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The Mahajanapadas were a set of sixteen kingdoms that existed in ancient India. Iron production played a crucial role in expanding the territorial states of the region. In order to settle down permanently, simple land-grabbing process was started by the tribes, which eventually turned into well-planned communities.

Mahajahapadas stages of settlement of the tribes mahajanapxdas before the time of the Buddha. The period between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE is considered extremely important in early Indian history as it witnessed the emergence of massive Indian cities, which were built after the fall of the Indus Valley Civilization.

These massive Indian cities were home to the 16 great kingdoms described in the ancient texts. The kingdom was bounded by Ganges in the north, river Champa in the east, and river Son in the west.

According to ancient texts, Brihadratha was the earliest known ruler of Magadha. The kingdom was also ruled by King Bimbisara, under mahajjanapadas Magadha flourished. Great Indian empires including the famous Maurya Dynasty originated in Magadha.


Gautama Buddha spent much of his life in Magadha, hence the region is believed to hold great significance to Buddhists. According to Hecataeus of Miletus, Purushapura or present-day Peshawar served as a grand Gandharic city.

Though Gandhara was a huge kingdom on its own, it is often considered to be a part of an empire by modern-day scholars. The state of Kamboja is referred to as republican in several ancient scripts.

These scripts also state that there were two Kamboja settlements, a theory which is backed by modern-day historians. It is said that ancient Kamboja was located on either sides of the Hindukush mountain range.

But clans of Kamboja are believed to have crossed the mountain range to plant colonies in the southern side as well. These clans of people are associated with the Gandharas and Daradas and find mention in many Indian texts, including the edicts of Ashoka the Great.

At the time of the Budhha, Kuru was ruled by Korayvya, a titular chieftain. Its capital was Indraprastha present-day Delhiwhich was known for people with sound health and deep wisdom.

Though Kuru kingdom was a well-known monarchical state in the ancient world, the 6th and 5th centuries BCE saw the formation of republican form of government in the land of Kuru. The kingdom of Kosala was located close to the kingdom of Magadha. With Ayodhya as its capital, Kosala was bound by river Ganges in the south, river Gandak in the east, and the Himalaya mountains in the north.


According to Vedic texts, Kosala was the biggest and most powerful kingdom ever in history. After a series of tactical moves for supremacy by Kosala and Magadha, the kingdom of Kosala was eventually merged with Magadha, when Kosala was being ruled by Vidudabha. The Mallas of the Malla kingdom are often described as powerful people who dwelled in Northern South Asia.

Many Buddhist texts refer to the kingdom as a republican dominion made up of nine territories. Like Kuru, Malla kingdom too had monarchical forms of government, but later moved towards the republican form of government.

Ancient cities like Kusinara and Pava, which belonged to the Malla kingdom, are considered extremely important by Jains and Buddhists. Both Kusinara and Pava are believed to have hosted Buddha for a long period of time. The Panchala kingdom was located east of the Kuru kingdom, between river Ganges and the mountain ranges of the Himalayas.

Panchala was divided into two parts, namely Dakshina-Panchala and Uttara-Panchala. While Adhichhatra present-day Bareilly served as the capital city of Uttara-Panchala, Kampilya present-day Farrukhabad was made the capital of Dakshina-Panchala. Originally a monarchical kingdom, Panchala is believed to have turned into a republican dominion during the 6th and 5th centuries BCE.

The kingdom was later annexed by Mauryan Empire and then by the Gupta Empire.

Located south to the Kuru kingdom and west to river Yamuna, the Matsya kingdom was founded by an Indo-Aryan tribe of Vedic age. Apart from serving as the main water source, Yamuna also separated Matsya kingdom from the Panchalas. According to ancient texts, a king named Sujata ruled over Matsya as well as Chedi, which later became a separate kingdom. The kingdom of Chedi finds great prominence in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. According to the ancient text, Chedi was ruled by a king named Shishupala, who was an ally of the kings from Magadha and Kuru.

Though the exact location of modern-day Suktimati has not been figured out yet, prominent historians like F. Pargiter and Hem Chandra Raychaudhuri say that the ancient city might have been established near present-day Banda in Uttar Pradesh. An Indian archaeologist named Dilip Kumar Chakrabarti has claimed that the ruins of a historical city near the outskirts of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh may unlock further details pertaining to the kingdom and its capital city.

Over a period of time, the mzhajanapadas of Anga became a great center of trade, attracting merchants from the neighboring kingdoms. Anga and its rival Magadha were separated by river Champa, which served as the main water source for both the kingdoms. Post Mahavira and Buddha, the kingdom of Avanti was considered as one of the four great monarchies along with Kosala, Magadha, and Vatsa. However, North and South Avanti were integrated at the time of Buddha and Mahavira, during which Ujjaini served as the common capital of the integrated kingdom.


Avanti was a great center of Buddhism. Vatsa or Vamsa, which was located near the present-day Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, thrived under a monarchical form of government. Though Udayana initially opposed the teachings of the Buddha, he became a follower of Buddha later in his life and even made Buddhism as the state religion mahajanapaas Kausambi.

16 Mahajanapada and their capitals

Kausambi was also a prominent entreport of passengers and goods, coming in from the south and north-west. The Kingdom of Assaka was located in southern India. It is said that Mulaka was once a part of Assaka. The kingdom of Surasena was located to the west of river Yamuna and to the east of Matsya kingdom. Surasena played an important role in propagating Buddhism as the king of Surasena, Avantiputra, was among the earliest known chief disciples of Buddha.

During the time of Megasthenes, Mathura, the capital of Surasena, was known as a city where worshipping Krishna was considered prominent. The kingdom of Surasena, which once flourished, was later annexed by the Magadhan Empire.

Apart from Vaishali, which was its capital city, Vajji also housed popular ancient cities like Hatthigama, Bhoganagara, and Kundapura.

16 Mahajanapadas : History, Location, Capitals

Ancient Kashi was bound by river Varuna in the north and river Assi in the south. Several mahajanapaadas texts speak highly of Kashi, which was one of the most prosperous kingdoms during its heyday.

Hence, Kashi was in constant conflict with kingdoms of Kosala, Magadha, and Anga, which were trying to annex Kashi. Though Kosala was once defeated by Kashi, it was later annexed by Kosala under the rule of King Kansa, who ruled at the time of Buddha. By using this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Privacy Policy Manage Cookies. The Mahajanapadas were a set of sixteen kingdoms that existed in ancient India from the sixth to fourth centuries BCE.