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The Janapadas (pronounced [dʒənəpəd̪ə]) were the realms, republics (ganapada) and kingdoms (saamarajya) of the Vedic period on the Indian subcontinent. The Vedic period reaches from the late Bronze Age into the Iron Age: from about 1500 BCE to the 6th century BCE. With the rise of sixteen Mahajanapadas ("great janapadas"), most of the states were annexed by more powerful neighbours, although some remained independent.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Evolution
- 3 Nature
- 4 Administration
- 5 Interactions between kingdoms
- 6 List of Janapadas
- 7 See also
- 8 References
The Sanskrit term janapada is a tatpurusha compound term, composed of two words: janas and pada. Jana means "people" or "subject" (cf. Latin cognate genus, English cognate kin). The word pada means "foot" (cf. Latin cognate pedis); from its earliest attestation, the word has had a double meaning of "realm, territory" and "subject population" (cf. Hittite pedan, "place"). Linguist George Dunkel compares the Greek andrapodon "slave", to PIE *pédom "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, would not explain why the compound is of masculine gender. An original dvandva "land and people" is conceivable, but a dual inflection would be expected.
Literary evidence suggests that the janapadas flourished between 1500 BCE and 500 BCE. The earliest mention of the term "janapada" occurs in the Aitareya (8.14.4) and Shatapatha (184.108.40.206) Brahmana texts.
In the Vedic samhitas, the term jana denotes a tribe, whose members believed in a shared ancestry. The janas were headed by a king. The samiti was a common assembly of the jana members, and had the power to elect or dethrone the king. The sabha was a smaller assembly of wise elders, who advised the king.
The janas were originally semi-nomadic pastoral communities, but gradually came to be associated with specific territories as they became less mobile. Various kulas (clans) developed within the jana, each with its own chief. Gradually, the necessities of defence and warfare prompted the janas to form military groupings headed by janapadins (Kshatriya warriors). This model ultimately evolved into the establishment of political units known as the janapadas.
While some of the janas evolved into their own janapadas, others appear to have mixed together to form a common Janapada. According to the political scientist Sudama Misra, the name of the Panchala janapada suggests that it was a fusion of five (pancha) janas. Some janas (such as Aja and Mutiba) mentioned in the earliest texts do not find a mention in the later texts. Misra theorizes that these smaller janas were conquered by and assimilated into the larger janas.
Janapadas were gradually dissolved around 500 BCE. Their disestablishment can be attributed to the rise of imperial powers (such as Magadha) within India, as well as foreign invasions (such as those by the Persians and the Greeks) in the north-western South Asia.
The Janapada were highest political unit in Ancient India during this period; these polities were usually monarchical (though some followed a form republicanism) and succession was hereditary. The head of a kingdom was called a (rajan) or king. A chief (purohita) or priest and a (senani) or commander of the army who would assist the king. There were also two other political bodies: the (sabha), thought to be a council of elders and the (samiti), a general assembly of the entire people.
The boundaries of the kingdoms
Often rivers formed the boundaries of two neighboring kingdoms, as was the case between the northern and southern Panchala and between the western (Pandava's Kingdom) and eastern (Kaurava's Kingdom) Kuru. Sometimes, large forests, which were larger than the kingdoms themselves, formed their boundaries as was the case of Naimisha Forest, the NaimishaAranyam between Panchala and Kosala kingdoms. Mountain ranges like Himalaya, VindhyaAchala and SahyaAdri also formed their boundaries.
The cities and villages
Some kingdoms possessed a main city that served as its capital. For example, the capital of Pandava's Kingdom was Indraprastha and the Kaurava's Kingdom was Hastinapura. Ahichatra was the capital of Northern Panchala whereas Kampilya was the capital of Southern Panchala. Kosala Kingdom had its capital at Ayodhya. Apart from the main city or capital, where the palace of the ruling king was situated, there were small towns and villages spread throughout the kingdom, from which tax was collected by officers appointed by the king. What the king offered in return was protection from attack by other kings and robber tribes, as well as from invading foreign nomadic tribes. The king also enforced law and order in his kingdom by punishing the guilty.
- Sabha (Council)
- An assembly more akin to a council of qualified members or elders (mostly men) who advised the king and performed judicial functions. In the ganas or republican Janapadas called Gana-Rajya with no kings, the council of elders also handled administration.
- Paura Sabha (Executive Council)
- Paura was the assembly of the capital city (pura), and handled municipal administration.
- Samiti (General Assembly)
- A samiti generally consisted of all adults of the republic or the city-state. A samiti was congregated when a matter of importance had to be communicated to the entire city-state. A samiti was also held at the time of festivals to plan, raise revenue and conduct the celebrations.
- The Janapada assembly represented the rest of the Janapada, possibly the villages, which were administered by a Gramini.
Some historians have also theorized that there was a common assembly called the "Paura-Janapada", but others such as Ram Sharan Sharma disagree with this theory. The existence of Paura and Janapada itself is a controversial matter.
Indian nationalist historians such as K. P. Jayaswal have argued that the existence of such assemblies is evidence of prevalence of democracy in ancient India. V. B. Misra notes that the contemporary society was divided into the four varnas (besides the outcastes), and the Kshatriya ruling class had all the political rights. Not all the citizens in a janapada had political rights. Based on Gautama's Dharmasutra, Jayaswal theorized that the low-caste shudras could be members of the Paura assembly. According to A. S. Altekar, this theory is based on a misunderstanding of the text: the term "Paura" in the relevant portion of the Dharmasutra refers to a resident of the city, not a member of the city assembly. Jayaswal also argued that the members of the supposed Paura-Janapada assembly acted as counselors to the king, and made other important decisions such as imposing taxes in times of emergency. Once again, Altekar argued that these conclusions are based on misinterpretations of the literary evidence. For example, Jayaswal has wrongly translated the word "amantra" in a Ramayana verse as "to offer advice"; it actually means "to bid farewell" in proper context.
Interactions between kingdoms
There was no border security for a kingdom and border disputes were very rare. One king might conduct a military campaign (often designated as Digvijaya meaning victory over all the directions) and defeat another king in a battle, lasting for a day. The defeated king would acknowledge the supremacy of the victorious king. The defeated king might sometimes be asked to give a tribute to the victorious king. Such tribute would be collected only once, not on a periodic basis. The defeated king, in most cases, would be free to rule his own kingdom, without maintaining any contact with the victorious king. There was no annexation of one kingdom by another. Often a military general conducted these campaigns on behalf of his king. A military campaign and tribute collection was often associated with a great sacrifice (like Rajasuya or Ashvamedha) conducted in the kingdom of the campaigning king. The defeated king also was invited to attend these sacrifice ceremonies, as a friend and ally.
New kingdoms were formed when a major clan produced more than one King in a generation. The Kuru clan of Kings was very successful in governing throughout North India with their numerous kingdoms, which were formed after each successive generation. Similarly, the Yadava clan of kings formed numerous kingdoms in Central India.
Parts of western India were dominated by tribes who had a slightly different culture, considered non-Vedic by the mainstream Vedic culture prevailing in the Kuru and Panchala kingdoms. Similarly, there were some tribes in the eastern regions of India considered to be in this category. Tribes with non-Vedic culture — especially those of barbaric nature — were collectively termed as Mleccha. Very little was mentioned in the ancient Indian literature about the kingdoms to the North, beyond the Himalayas. China was mentioned as a kingdom known as Cina, often grouped with Mleccha kingdoms.
List of Janapadas
- Udichya (Northern region)
- Prachya (Eastern region)
- Dakshina (Southern region)
- Pratichya (Western region)
- Madhya-desha (Central region)
The Vedic literature mentions the following janas or janapadas:
|Jana or Janapada||IAST name||Region||Mentioned in
|Uttara Kuru||Uttara Kuru||Northern|
|Uttara Madra||Uttara Madra||Northern|
- Udichya (Northern region)
- Prachya (Eastern region)
- Dakshinapatha (Southern region)
- Aparanta (Western region)
- Madhya-desha (Central region)
- Parvata-shrayin (Himalayan region)
- Vindhya-prashtha (Vindhyan region)
According to research by political scientist Sudama Misra, the Puranic texts mention the following janapadas:
|Janapada||Region||Mentioned in the Puranas?||Alternative names and locations|
|Abhīṣaha (Abhishaha)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Apanga (Vayu), Aupadha (Markandeya), Alasa (Vamana)|
|Āhuka||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kuhaka (Markandeya), Kuhuka (Vamana)|
|Alimadra||Northern||✓||✓||✓||Anibhadra (Markandeya), Alibhadra (Vamana)|
|Ānarta||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Āvantya Markandeya, Vamana|
|Aṅga||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||Central and Eastern in Vamana|
|Āntaranarmada||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Uttaranarmada (Markandeya), Sunarmada (Vamana)|
|Anūpa||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Arūpa (Matsya), Annaja (Vayu)|
|Aparānta||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Purandhra (Matsya), Aparīta (Vayu)|
|Āṭavi||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Āraṇya (Markandeya), Āṭavya (Brahmanda)|
|Ātreya||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Atri (Matsya, Brahmanda)|
|Avanti||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Central and Vindhyan in Matsya|
|Bahula||Northern||✓||✓||✓||Pahlava (Vayu), Bahudha (Vamana)|
|Barbara||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Central and Northern in Vamana|
|Bhadra||Eastern and Central||✓|
|Bharukaccha||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Bhanukaccha (Vayu), Bhīrukahcha (Markandeya), Dārukachchha (Vamana), Sahakaccha (Brahmanda)|
|Brahmottara||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Suhmottara (Matsya), Samantara (Brahmanda)|
|Carmakhaṇḍika (Charmakhandika)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Attakhaṇḍika (Matsya), Sakheṭaka (Vamana)|
|Cīna (China)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Pīna (Vayu), Veṇa (Vamana)|
|Cola (Chola)||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Caulya (Vayu), Cauḍa (Vamana); Southern and Eastern in Brahmanda|
|Cūlika (Chulika)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Cūḍika (Vamana), Vindhyacūlika (Brahmanda)|
|Darva||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||Himalayan and Northern in Vayu and Markandeya|
|Daśeraka (Dasheraka)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Karseruka (Vayu), Kuśeruka (Markandeya)|
|Daśamālika (Dashamalika)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Daśanāmaka (Matsya), Daśamānika (Vayu), Daṅśana (Vamana)|
|Druhyu||Northern||✓||✓||✓||Hrada (Vayu), Bhadra (Brahmanda)|
|Gonarda||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Govinda (Vayu), Gomanta (Markandeya), Mananda (Vamana)|
|Haṃsamārga||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Sarvaga (Himalayan) in Matsya; Haṃsamārga (Northern and Himalayan) in Vayu and Markandeya; Karnamārga (Northern) and Haṃsamārga (Himalayan) in Vamana; Haṃsamārga (Himalayan) Haṃsabhaṅga (Northern) in Brahmanda|
|Hara-Hunaka||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Pūrṇa (Vayu), Ūrṇa (Markandeya), Cūrṇa (Vamana), Hūṇa (Brahmanda)|
|Hāramuṣika (Haramushika)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Hāramūrtika (Matsya), Hārapūrika (Vayu), Sāmuṣaka (Vamana)|
|Huhuka||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Samudgaka (Matsya), Sahūdaka (Vayu), Sakṛtraka (Markandeya), Śahuhūka (Vamana), Sahuhūka (Brahmanda)|
|Īṣīka (Ishika)||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Vaisakya (Markandeya)|
|Jaguda||Northern||✓||✓||✓||Jāṇgala (Matsya), Juhuḍa (Vayu), Jāguḍa (Markandeya)|
|Jñeyamarthaka||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Jñeyamallaka (Markandeya), Aṅgiyamarṣaka (Vamana), Gopapārthiva (Brahmanda)|
|Kachchhika||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kāchchhīka (Matsya), Kacchīya (Vayu), Kāśmīra (Markandeya), Kacchipa (Brahmanda)|
|Kaliṅga (central)||Central||✓||✓||✓||✓||Arkalinga (Markandeya)|
|Kalitaka||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kālītaka (Vayu), Anīkaṭa (Markandeya), Tālīkaṭa (Vamana), Kuntala (Brahmanda)|
|Kalivana||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kolavana (Vayu), Kālivala (Markandeya), Vāridhana (Vamana), Kalivana (Brahmanda)|
|Kantakara||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kanṭakāra (Matsya), Raddhakaṭaka (Vayu), Bahubhadra (Markandeya), Kādhara (Vamana)|
|Kāraskara||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Paraṣkara (Vayu), Kaṭhākṣara (Markandeya), Karandhara (Brahmanda)|
|Kārūṣa (Karusha)||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Southern and Vindhyan (Matsya)|
|Kekeya||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kaikeyya (Matsya), Kaikeya (Markandeya), Kaikeya (Vamana)|
|Khasa||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||Khaśa (Vamana), Śaka (Brahmanda)|
|Kirāta||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kirāta (Matsya, Central and Himalayan)|
|Kiṣkindhaka (Kishkindhaka)||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kikarava (Vamana)|
|Kulya||Southern and Central||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Only Central in Markandeya; only Southern in Vamana and Brahmanda|
|Kumara||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kupatha (Matsya), Kumana (Vayu), Kusuma (Markandeya), Kumārāda (Vamana), Kṣapaṇa (Brahmanda)|
|Kuninda||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Pulinda (Matsya), Kaliṅga (Markandeya), Kalinda (Brahmanda)|
|Kuntala||Southern and Central||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kuntala ( (Matsya, only Central), Kuṇḍala (Vamana)|
|Kupatha||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kṣupaṇa (Vayu), Kurava (Markandeya)|
|Kuthaprāvaraṇa||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kuśaprāvaraṇa (Vayu), Kuntaprāvaraṇa (Markandeya), Apaprāvaraṇa (Brahmanda)|
|Madraka||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Bhadraka (Vayu and Vamana), Maṇḍala (Brahmanda)|
|Madguraka||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Mudgara (Markandeya), Mudagaraka (Brahmanda)|
|Magadha||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Central and Eastern in Vayu and Brahmanda|
|Maharāṣṭra (Maharashtra)||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Navarāṣṭra (Matsya)|
|Māhiṣika (Mahishika)||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Māhiṣaka (Vayu and Markandeya)|
|Mālada||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Mālava (Matsya), Manada (Markandeya), Mansāda (Vamana)|
|Malavartika||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Mallavarṇaka (Matsya), Mālavartin (Vayu), Mānavartika (Markandeya), Baladantika (Vamana)|
|Mālava||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||Ekalavya (Vamana), Malada (Brahmanda)|
|Malla||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Śālva (Matsya), Māla (Vayu), Māia (Vamana)|
|Maṇḍala||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||Mālava (Vayu), Mālava (Markandeya)|
|Mekala||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Rokala (Vayu), Kevala (Markandeya)|
|Mūṣika (Mushika)||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Sūtika (Matsya), Mūṣikāda (Vamana), Mūṣika (Brahmanda)|
|Nalakālika||Southern||✓||✓||✓||Vanadāraka (Markandeya), Nalakāraka (Vamana)|
|Nāsikya||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Vāsikya (Matsya), Nāsikānta (Vamana), Nāsika (Brahmanda)|
|Nirāhāra||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Nigarhara (Vayu), Nihāra (Markandeya)|
|Naiṣadha (Naishadha)||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Niṣāda (Vayu)|
|Pahlava||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Pallava (all except Vayu)|
|Pāṇḍya (Pandya)||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Puṇḍra (Markandeya), Puṇḍra (Vamana)|
|Pārada||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Parita (Vayu), Pāravata (Vamana)|
|Paṭaccara (Patachchara)||Central||✓||✓||✓||Śatapatheśvara (Vayu)|
|Paurika||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Paunika (Vayu), Paurika (Markandeya), Paurika (Vamana), Paurika (Brahmanda)|
|Pravaṅga||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Plavaṅga (Matsya and Brahmanda)|
|Priyalaukika||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Harṣavardhana (Markandeya), Aṅgalaukika (Vamana), Aṅgalaukika (Brahmanda)|
|Puleya||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kulīya (Matsya), Pulinda (Markandeya), Pulīya (Vamana), Pauleya (Brahmanda)|
|Puṇḍra||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Muṇḍa (Vayu), Madra (Markandeya), Pṛsadhra (Vamana)|
|Rāmaṭha||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Māṭhara (Markandeya), Māṭharodha (Vamana)|
|Rūpasa||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||Kūpasa (Vayu), Rūpapa (Markandeya), Rūpaka (Brahmanda)|
|Sainika||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Pidika (Vayu), Śūlika (Markandeya), Jhillika (Brahmanda)|
|Surāṣṭra (Surashtra)||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Saurāṣṭra (Matsya)|
|Setuka||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Śailūṣa (Markandeya), Jānuka (Vamana)|
|Śabara (Shabara)||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Bara (Vayu), Śarava (Brahmanda)|
|Śaka (Shaka)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Central in Vamana|
|Śatadruja (Shatadruja)||Northern||✓||✓||Śatadrava (Vamana)|
|Ṣaṭpura||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Padgama (Matsya), Ṣaṭsura (Vayu), Paṭava (Markandeya), Bahela (Vamana)|
|Śūrpāraka||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||Sūrpāraka (Vayu), Sūryāraka (Markandeya), Sūryāraka (Brahmanda)|
|Sirāla||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Surāla (Vayu), Sumīna (Markandeya), Sinīla (Vamana), Kirāta (Brahmanda)|
|Śudra (Shudra)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Suhya (Brahmanda)|
|Taittrika||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Taittirika (Matsya), Turasita (Vayu), Kurumini (Markandeya), Tubhamina (Vamana), Karīti (Brahmanda)|
|Talagana||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Talagāna (Matsya), Stanapa (Vayu), Tāvakarāma (Vamana), Tālaśāla (Brahmanda)|
|Tāmasa||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Chamara (Matsya), Tomara (Vamana), Tāmara (Brahmanda)|
|Taṅgaṇa||Himalayan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Apatha (Matsya), Gurguṇa (Markandeya)|
|Tāpasa||Western||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Svāpada (Markandeya), Tāpaka (Brahmanda)|
|Tomara||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Tāmasa (Markandeya and Vamana)|
|Tumbara||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Tumbura (Vayu), Tumbula (Markandeya), Barbara (Brahmanda)|
|Tumura||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Tumbura (Markandeya), Turaga (Vamana), Tuhuṇḍa (Brahmanda)|
|Tuṇḍikera||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Śauṇḍikera (Matsya), Tuṣṭikāra (Markandeya)|
|Tuṣāra (Tushara)||Northern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Tukhāra (Markandeya)|
|Udbhida||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Ulida (Vamana), Kulinda (Brahmanda)|
|Utkala||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Eastern and Central in Brahmanda|
|Vanavāsika||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Vājivasika (Matsya), Banavāsika (Vayu), Namavāsika (Markandeya), Mahāśaka (Vamana)|
|Vaṅga||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||Central and Eastern in Vamana|
|Vāṅgeya||Eastern||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Mārgavageya (Matsya), Rāṅgeya (Markandeya), Vojñeya (Brahmanda)|
|Vaidiśa (Vaidisha)||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Vaidika (Vayu), Kholliśa (Vamana)|
|Vindhyamūlika||Southern||✓||✓||✓||✓||Vindhyapuṣika (Matsya), Vindhyaśaileya (Markandeya), Vindhyamaulīya (Brahmanda)|
|Vītihotra||Vindhyan||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||Vīrahotra (Markandeya), Vītahotra (Vamana)|
The Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata mentions around 230 janapadas, while the Ramayana mentions only a few of these. Unlike the Puranas, the Mahabharata does not specify any geographical divisions of ancient India, but does support the classification of certain janapadas as southern or northern.
- Bharata Khanda
- History of India
- Middle kingdoms of India
- Monarchy in ancient India
- Indo-Aryan peoples
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... jána, m. creature; man; person; in plural, and collectively in singular, folks; a people or race or tribe ... cf. γένος, Lat. genus, Eng. kin, 'race' ...
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... *gen-, found in Skt. jana, 'a man', and Gk. genos and L. genus, 'a race' ...
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