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Two types of political systems prevailed in the mahajanapadas

Updated on September 7, 2016

Early History, Mahajanapadas

Most mahajajanapadas had a monarchical system

The development of kingdoms started in India around 2,500 years ago. Most of them developed in the Ganga Valley. These kingdoms had well – defined territories and governments. Big and powerful empires grew out of these kingdoms.

Aryan settled down in Janas or tribes. Gradually, these Janas grew big and powerful and came to be known as janapads.

The word janapadas literally, means the land where the Jana sets its foot and settled down. The rulers who controlled big areas and performed Ashvamedha sacrifices, were recognized as rajas of janapadas. Archaeologists found a number of settlements in these janapadas, such as Atranjikhera near Etah, Hastinapura near Meerut (both in Uttar Pradesh) and Purana Qila in Delhi.Archaeologists also discovered that people kept cattle as well as other animals and lived in huts. They also grew several crops like pulses, barley, wheat, rice, sesame, mustard and sugar cane. They were good at making earthen pots of gray and red colors. One unique type of pottery found at these sites is known as Painted Gray Ware (PGW). These gray pots had painted designs like geometric patterns and simple lines.

Post Maha Janapadas

Ruling of Mahajanapadas

Historians suggest that around 2,500 years ago, some janapadas became more important and powerful than the others and were called mahajanapadas. There were around 16 majanapadas in the Ganga Valley in the 6 th century BC. They were named after the ruling or the most important tribes in the area.

The two types of political systems prevailed in the mahajanapadas.


This kind of majanapada was ruled by a group of people elected by the people of that tribe. Example- Sakya.


In this kind of system the son (prince) succeeded this father (king) to the throne. Example – Magadha.

vajji or vrijji was one of the principal mahajanapadas

Monarchical system

Most mahajanapadas had a monarchical system. Each mahajanapadas had a capital city. Most of the majanapadas were fortified. Forts were built to protect people from attack of other kings. It is also possible that some rulers displayed their power by building huge fortifications around their cities. It was easy for the king to control people living inside the fortified area. These fortifications required a huge amount of money, labor and resources.

At that time certain important developments took place. Rajas began to maintain strong standing armies. Salaries were paid to the soldiers and all the expense were maintained by the king all over the year. Punch – marked coins began to be used in the form of new currency.

At that time certain important developments took place. Rajas began to maintain standing armies. Salaries were paid to the soldiers and all the expenses were maintained by the king all over the year. Punch – marked coins to be used in the form of new currency.

Mahajanapadas military


The society was divided into four called Varnas. These were Brahmins, Kshatiryas Vaishyas and Shudras. Each Varna was assigned a different set of work or functions.

Brahmins job was teaches the Vedas. Kshatriyas were the rulers. Vaishyas or Vish traders, farmers and herders. Both visas and kshatriyas could perform sacrifices.

Shudras belonged to the last Varna. Their duty was to serve the upper three groups and they were not allowed to perform any ritual. Women were also grouped with the Shudras. Both women and Shudras were not allowed to study the Vedas.

The Varna system was based on birth. For example, if one’s father and mother were Kshatriya one would automatically become a Kshatriya. People who helped perform burials and cremations, hunters and gatherers and some craft persons, were classified as untouchables. Any contact with these people or groups was considered polluting.

As time passed this system became hereditary and rigid. This – birth – based Varna system was not liked by the lower Varnas.


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