From Janapadas to Empire, Second Urbanisation and Emergence of the New Religion, the Sixteen Mahajanapadas

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From Janapadas to Empire

  • After starting settled agriculture in the Gangetic basin, some important political events happened in the Indo-Gangetic valley, which changed the phase of ancient Indian history. These were the expansion of agriculture, second urbanisation, and the emergence of states in the 6th century BCE. This chapter hence enumerates the major factors that led to the formation of 16 larger states (mahajanapadas) in the 6th century BC, the emergence of religion. The chapter will also deal with the emergence of Magadha, Mauryas and the factors that led to the decline of Mauryas under Asoka.

  • Below chart which shows the process of significant events:

Significant events

Significant Events

Second Urbanisation and Emergence of the New Religion

  • The establishment of Mahajanapadas in the Indo-Gangetic valley happened mainly because of the agrarian expansion and the use of iron ploughshare and high fertility seeds.

  • There were literary as well as archaeological evidence that proves the existence of iron ploughshare in the Gangetic valley, especially from Jahkera, Rajghat, Kaushambi, Vaisali and Sonpur.

  • The expansion of agriculture, therefore, resulted in the growth of towns, craft production, trade and urban centres. Therefore, the 6th century BCE is known as the period of ‘Second urbanisation.’

Major towns and trading cntres of 6th century

Major Towns and Trading Cntres of 6th Century

  • The discovery of punch-marked coins reflected the development of trade in these towns during the 6th century BCE.

  • The improvement in agriculture, expansion of trade, towns, and the existence of the monetary system had some effects on society as a whole. These changes led to:

    • Inequality and social conflict

    • Violence, theft, cruelty etc.

    • These social factors led to the evolution of new religious ideas and practices like Buddhism and Jainism.

Main features of the second urbanisation

  • Use of iron implements.

  • Increase in agricultural production.

  • Trade and crafts.

  • Use of punched mark coins.

  • The emergence of towns.

  • Use of Northern Black Polished pottery.

  • Emergence of Buddhism and Jainism.

The Sixteen Mahajanapadas

  • The settled agriculture of the later Vedic period led to the permanent settlement of people in certain specific places. This permanent settlement led to the foundation of janapadas or territorial states. The agrarian expansion through the availability of fertile lands, rainfall and iron production helped these janapadas to expand. These big and powerful states were known to be mahajanapadas ranging from Vindhyas to the northwestern frontier.

  • Most of the states in Mahajanapadas were monarchical, where the kingship was hereditary. While others had the oligarchical system of governance, these states were called as ganasangha. In a gananasangha, the administration was done by the elected king with the help of assemblies of prominent clans and families like Vajjis (ruled by Lichchhavis).

  • The sixteen mahajanapadas were Kasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Vajji, Malla, Chedi, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala, Matsya, Surasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhara and Kamboja.

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