Share With Us

Subjects /Indian History / Ancient History / Post Vedic Mahajanpadas

top event

14 May 2020

The post vedic phase started from the 600 BC onwards and ended in 321 BC. This phase was also called as the Second Urbanisation.

During this phase, numerous commercial cities appeared in India.

Let us have a look at the important cultural and religious changes in the post vedic society:


  • During post vedic period the most important advancement was seen in religion.
  • 62 new religions were formed and were called “Heterodox religion” because they did not believe in Vedic religion.
  • Some important religions were:

1) Lokayat – founded by Charvaka, who believed in this world only.

2) Ajivikas – founded by Gosala Makhaliputta. He was close friend of Vardhaman Mahavira, due to some dispute he separated with Mahavir and founded “Ajivika”, its philoshophy was that every event is predetermined by Niyati (Fate), it was Fatalistic religion.


  • In 500 BC, coinage system appeared in India. The first coin was made of copper and then of silver. It helped in the growth of trade and commerce.
  • Introduction of rice as the staple diet of the people.
  • The PGW and Banas culture pottery were found.
  • Mixed farming was practiced, it led to rise of sedentary settlements.
  • Land emerged as an important source of wealth.


  • The origin of four varnas, i.e. Brahmans, Kashtriyas, Vaisya, and the Sudra.
  • The Varna system is further tied with the concept of Dharma i.e. universal law.
  • Three ashrams, i.e. stages of life were prescribed and these stags were represented by the brahmachari (studentship), grihastha(householder), vanaprastha (partial retirement from householding life by living in the forest)


Some of the characteristics of the Janapadas are:

  • The emergence of Janapadas signified the birth of geography in Indian history.
  • With the settlements of agriculturists coming up, the settlers formed enduing ties with their surrounding landscape.
  • They started to call a particular geographical space as their own. This geographical space was separated from those of the other communities (Janapadas) who might be friendly or hostile to them.
  • These Janapadas characterized by cohesion inside and separation from the outside world, proved to be a seminal development in ancient India.
  • These units or Janapadas became the centers for the development of uniform language, customs and beliefs.
  • The new groups that emerged during this time were
  • Gahapati: big individual landowners.
  • Merchants: also called Setthi in Buddhist sources. Class of traders.
  • Ruler and the Ruled: The concept of ruler ruling over a territory emerged. Army was also maintained by the ruler.
  • Taxes: Regular taxation system was adopted to maintain large army. Bhagadugha collected bhaga i.e. a share of the agricultural produce. Rajjugahaka did the survey of the agricultural land.

Rise of Magadh

Magadh was the strongest Mahajanpada. In the battle for pre-eminence between the four kingdoms- Kosala, the Vajji confederacy, Magadh and Avanti, the kingdom that emerged victorious was Magadh.

The reasons were:

1) Fertile Land: Large tracts of alluvial soil and its capital, Patliputra is situated in the confluence of several rivers like the Ganga, Gandhak and Son. They ruled the way to the north of the Ganga.

2) Biggest Iron mine: During Rig Vedic time, there was no evidence of use of Iron. Use of Iron started after 900 BC in Northern India. The first reference of Iron was made in ‘Yajurveda’, in which it is mentioned as ‘Shyamayas’. This was the first literary evidence. Also, the excavation of cities provided evidences for use of iron.  The iron was used not only to produce good weapons of warfare, but also facilitated the expansion of the agrarian economy. Substantial surplus was extracted by the state in the form of taxes.

3) Magadh, earliest capital was ‘Rajgir’ in Bihar. Rajgir was surrounded by 5 hills and was also known as ‘Giriv Raj’. Later, Pataliputra became the capital of Magadh.

Emergence of Mahajanpadas

Some of the characteristics of the Mahajanpadas are:

  • The word Mahajanapadas meant incorporation of small Janapadas into big units. For example, Kosala Mahajanpada included the Janapada of the Sakyas and of Kashi.
  • Here, the basic unit of settlement was the Gama which means grama I.e. village.
  • In the village, the leaders were called the Gamini. Kassaka & Ksetrika denoted the common peasants who were generally of the Sudra jati.
  • The cities emerged as the focus of power and control over the Mahajanapada. It was inhabited by the king, merchants and heterogenous population.
  • The new merchant class controlled the trade through these centers and even the introduction of the coinage.

Other Mahajanpadas


  • The second Mahajanpada was “Avanti” (in present Madhya Pradesh).
  • The earliest capital of it was “Mahismati”, later it was shifted to “Ujjayini”.
  • It became a serious competitor of Magadh for some time but in the end Magadh emerged victorious.


  • It was in Uttar Pradesh, with capital “Kosam” also called as “Koshambi” a place near Allahabad.


  • This Mahajanpada was in eastern Uttar Pradesh, with two capitals namely – “Ayodhya” and “Kashi” in eastern Uttar Pradesh.


  • This Mahajanpada with capital at “Champa” was located in Bihar. The present name of Champa is Bhagalpur.

Political History

Haryanka Dynasty

  • In Magadha, the first dynasty that ruled was “Haryanka”.
  • First King: Bimbisara, a contemporary of Buddha.
  • Bimbisara was also the first king of India who maintained a regular army.
  • He established dynastic relations through marriage with Kosala(He got Kashi village as dowry).
  • He invaded Anga Mahajanpada and annexed it.
  • Bimbisara was killed by his son Ajatshatru, who became the next ruler.
  • Ajatshatru: He followed an aggressive policy. He added Kashi and Vaishali in the Magadh empire.
  • Ajatshatru was killed by his son Udayyin, who became the next ruler.

Note: Udayyin after becoming King, founded the city of Pataliputra.

Shishunaga Dynasty

  • Shishunaga invaded and annexed the kingdom of Avanti.
  • After Shishunaga, Kalasoka became the King of Magadh and was also called “Black king of Magadh”.

Nanda Dynasty

  • Founded by: Mahapadma Nanda.
  • Mahapadma Nanda maintained a large army and that was why he was called “Ekarat”, it means sole sovereign.
  • He was also the follower of Jainism.
  • He was the first Magadhan King to invade ‘Kalinga’. After the invasion, a part of Kalinga was annexed by Magadh.
  • The invasion of Alexander took place in north-west India in 326 B.C. during the rule of Nandas.
  • Mahapadma Nanda was succeeded by a series of weak rulers, last nanda king was “Dhanananda”, who was deposed by Chandra Gupta Maurya, with the help of Chanakya (Kautilya).

Chanakya: Original name – Vishnu Gupta was a Brahmin from city of Taxila (present Islamabad in Pakistan).