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By Swami Harshananda

Mahajanapadas literally means ‘great countries’.

Janapada or rāṣṭra is a country and its people. Certain janapadas seem to have acquired the name ‘mahājanapada’ during the period of early Buddhism. They were sixteen and spread over the Indo-Gangetic plains.

Though they were small territories, they might have got this appellation either due to the greatness of the dynasties of the kings that ruled them or due to their prosperity and militarily strength. Some of them are:

  1. Aṅga
  2. Magadha
  3. Kāśī
  4. Kosala
  5. Vajji
  6. Kuru
  7. Pāñcāla
  8. Surasena
  9. Kāmbhoja
  10. Avantī
  11. Gāndhāra


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore