In the later Vedic period people had started agriculture, which made them settle down at a particular place.
These permanent settlements led to the foundation of janapadas or territorial states under the control of the king.
In the sixth century BC, the main area of political activity gradually shifted from Western UP to Eastern UP and Bihar.
This region was not only fertile on account of better rainfall and river systems but was also closer to iron production centers.
The use of better iron tools and weapons enabled some territorial states to become very large and they came to be called mahajanapadas.
Most of them were situated north of Vindhyas, between Bihar in the east to the northwest frontier of the subcontinent.
The list of these sixteen mahajanapadas is given below.
Sl. No Mahajanpadas Capital Modern Location
1 Anga Champa Munger and Bhagalpur
2 Magadha Girivraja / Rajagir Gaya and Patna
3 Kasi Kasi Banaras
4 Vatsa Kausambi Allahabad
5 Kosala Sravasti Eastern Utter Pradesh
6 Saurasena Mathura Mathura
7 Panchala Ahichchatra and
Western Uttar Pradesh
8 Kuru Indraprastha Merrut and S.E. Haryana
9 Matsya Viratnagar Jaipur
10 Chedi Sothivati / Banda Bundelkhanda
11 Avanti Ujjain / Mahismati Madhya Pradesh & Malwa
12 Gandhar Taxila Rawalpindi
13 Kamboj Pooncha Rajori & Hajra (Kashmir)
14 Asmaka Pratisthan / Paithan Bank of Godavari
15 Vajji Vaishali Vaishali
16 Malla Kusinara Deoria & U.P.
Most of these states were monarchical in nature but some of them, called ganasangha, had an oligarchical system of governance. In this system unlike monarchies, where a hereditary king rules, the administration was run by an elected king with the help of a large council or assemblies comprising heads of all important clans and families.
This system was certainly more democratic than monarchy, though the common man had no participation in the administration.
The most important of these states was that of Vajjis with their capital at Vaishali, which was ruled by the Lichchhavis.
These oligarchies mainly existed in the foothills of the Himalayas.
They were gradually defeated and conquered by the Magadhan Empire.
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