Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas With their Detailed Comparisons

Difference Between Mahajanapadas And Janapadas: During the Vedic period, the janapadas and the Mahajanapadas were the most powerful kingdoms that existed. The Aryas were the most influential tribe and they were called Janas this gave rise to the Janapada where pada means foot. By the end of the 5th century BC, there were around 22 Janapadas. The rise of iron in northern parts of India made the Janapandas more powerful and this paved the way for Mahajanapadas to be formed. Read on the article to know more about How Were Mahajanapadas Different From Janapadas.

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What is the Difference Between Janapadas and Mahajanapadas?


Most of the literacy evidence that is available it shows us that the janapadas flourished from 1500 BCE and 500 BCE. In Vedic Samhitas, the word Jana actually means tribe and the members that were a part of it were the members who believed in shared ancestry. In the Jana system, the king was the head and there was a common assembly that was known as the Samiti who had the power to elect and dethrone the king.

There was a smaller assembly known as the Sabha which consisted of older wise men who would advise the king on the functioning of its kingdom. The Janapada were originally nomadic in nature in pastoral communities but as the Jana gained more territories they moved a lot less. Different clans within the Jana had their own respective chief.


If we were to look at Mahajanapadas they were oligarchic republics or 16 kingdoms that existed in the northern parts of ancient India from the 6th to the 4th BCEE. There were many Mhajanapads that existed but two of them were most probably o ganatantra which means oligarchic republic. Various Buddhist texts show that the around 16 kingdoms had flourished during that time period and they stretched from  Gandhara to Anga which is the eastern part of India.

The term  Janapadas actually means the foothold of the people and this shows as the land that they have taken forcefully and have settled in their life. Before the Buddhist region was acquired the land was divided into several Janapadas which were demarcated from each other’s boundaries. The sixteen kingdoms that existed during this period are as follows –

  • Anga
  • Banga
  • Magadha
  • Malaya
  • Malavika
  • Accha
  • Vaccha
  • Kochcha
  • Padha
  • Ladha
  • Bajji
  • Moli
  • Kasi
  • Kosala
  • Avaha
  • Sambhuttara

Differentiate Between Janapadas And Mahajanapadas

In ancient India, the janapadas were the highest political unit during the particular period and most of the janapadas were typically monarchical but some of them followed a republican form of government. The mahajanapadas followed a monarchical system but the powerful oligarchs took control of the republics in the janapadas.

The janapadas existed from the fifteen hundred BCE to the sixth BCE whereas the Mahajanapadas had taken place during the six hundred BCE to the three hundred BCE. During the janapadas period, there was a transition from the bronze age to the iron age but during the mahajanapada stage, they were able to see the rise of northern India’s biggest cities after the greeted civilization that is the Indus valley civilisation.

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