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Class VI - social: The Early States - Janapadas to Mahajanapadas
One Word Answer Questions:
Q) What were known as gana-sanghas?

Q) Who ruled janapadas?

Q) Mention two types of early states?

Q) Who was the first king of Magadha Kingdom?

Q) When did the Aryans had spread out over the Indo-Gangetic Plains?

Short Answer Questions:
Q) What is fortification?

Q) Write a short note on Later Vedic period?

Q) Which type of crops were grown by janapadas and where did they live?

Q) What were the settlements excavated by archaeologists during janapadas period?

Q) What are the powerful states during mahajanapadas period?

Long Answer Questions:
Q) Write a brief note on imposition of taxes?

Q) Explain briefly about life of mahajanapadas?

Q) Explain about monarchies and republics?

Q) Explain briefly about janapadas?

Q) Explain briefly about mahajanapadas?

The Early States
  • By 600 BC, the Aryans had spread out over the Indo-Gangetic Plains. They were gradually assimilated into the local population. The Aryans absorbed several local words into their language, and learnt practices.
  • In turn the Aryan religious practices and culture made a lasting impact on the local inhabitants. This period of the Aryan expansion into the Indo Gangetic Plain is called the Later Vedic Period.
  • The rajas who performed these big sacrifices were now recognised as being rajas of janapads rather than janas.
  • The word janapada literally means the land where the jana set its foot, and settled down.
  • Archaeologists have excavated a number of settlements in these janapadas, such as Purana Qila in Delhi, Hastinapur near Meerut, and Atranjikhera, near Etah (the last two are in Uttar Pradesh).
  • They found that people lived in huts, and kept cattle as well as other animals.
  • They also grew a variety of crops - rice, wheat, barley, pulses, sugarcane, sesame and mustard.
  • The janapadas were ruled by rajans or chiefs.
PuranQila in Delhi
Hastinapur in Meerut
  • Mahajanapadas about 2500 years ago, some janapadas became more important than others, and were known as mahajanapadas.
  • Most mahajanapadas had a capital city, many of these were fortified. This means that huge walls of wood, brick or stone were built around them.
  • According to the Buddhist texts Anguttara Nikaya, and Digha Nikaya, by around 600 BC, there were 16 mahajanapadas. Of these, Magadha emerged the most powerful of all.
  • The other powerful states were Avanti, Vatsa and Kosala.
  • What is a State?
  • A state is a political organisation that has sovereignty(supreme power) over a geographical area.
  • The rajan or chief of janapada had total control and imposed laws over the area they lived.
  • The early states were usually of two types - monarchies and republics.
Monarchies and republics
  • The 16 mahajanapadas were concentrated in the Gangetic plain and they were mostly monarchies.
  • The king became more powerful and the kingship was now passed from father to son, i.e., it became hereditary.
  • The king was considered divine. The king imposed taxes to administer the land.
  • The army was under his command and he was the lawmaker too.
  • The other political system that existed during the same period of the republics.
  • In a republic the people chose, or elected, their rulers.
  • Power lay with the people of the state, not with the ruler.
  • The republics were known as gana-sanghas.
  • Some-well known republics were those of the Shakyas, Mallas, Vajjis and Yadavas. These republics were ruled by a chief known as the ganapati.
  • The ganapati was considered a chief rather than a king.
First King of Magadha Kingdom - Bimbisara
Sources of Information
  • The main sources of information for this period are various Buddhist, Jain and Vedic texts like Jataka Tales, the Brahmanas, the Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Life in the Mahajanapadas
Growth of New Crafts
  • As the people settled down to a life of agriculture, they soon started producing more food than they needed to survive.
  • As surplus food was produced by the cultivators, some people could now take up other crafts like pottery, carpentry, weaving, etc.
  • Pots of different colours have been found at many sites.
Growth of Trade and the formation of guilds
  • Trade increased and spread. It became a very important activity.
  • Sometimes the traders crossed rivers in the search for new markets.
  • For the first time people started using coins as payment for trade, instead of bartering goods.
  • We have evidence of the use of punched marked coins in trade - silver and copper coins were punched with symbols of hills or trees.
  • earlystates
    Punched Coins
  • We know from literacy sources that crafts people were organised into guilds known as shrenis.
  • Different crafts had different guilds.
Growth of Urban Settlements
  • Some of the bigger settlements grew into towns and cities, or urban settlements.
  • Most of the settlements which became towns and cities were the capitals of the mahajanapadas and janapadas.
  • Others were centres of trade or places of worship.
  • Pataliputra, Koshambi, Rajgir, Varanasi were some of the important cities. Many of the cities, especially the capitals of the mahajanapadas, had walls of wood or bricks or stone around them known as fortification.
  • While the farmers lived in the villages, administrators, craftspeople and traders lived mainly in the cities.
Imposition of Taxes
  • In Vedic India, taxes were imposed by the rulers on the revenue or income earned by the people of the kingdom.
  • The rajan of the mahajanapada, therefore, collected taxes to administer the land and to maintain a large army for defending the kingdom.
  • Taxes on crops were the most important. This was because most people were farmers.
  • Usually, the tax was fixed at 1/6th of what was produced. This was known as bhaga or a share.
  • There were taxes on crafts persons as well. These could have been in the form of labour. For example, a weaver or a smith may have had to work for a day every month for the king.
  • Herders were also expected to pay taxes in the form of animals and animal products.
  • There were also taxes on goods that were bought and sold, through trade.
  • The king was considered the owner of wasteland and the jungles, and so hunters and gatherers also had to give a part of their produce to the rajan.
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