|Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R), Jaipur|
Janapadas (जनपद) were the realms, republics and kingdoms of the the ancient Indian from about 1200 BCE to the 6th century BCE.
- 1 Origin of name
- 2 Evolution of Janapadas
- 3 Vishaya and Janapada
- 4 Janapadas as Known to Panini
- 5 List of Janapadas as Known to Panini
- 6 List of Janapadas in Vedic literature
- 7 List of Janapadas in Puranic literature
- 8 List of Janapadas in Sanskrit epics
- 9 List of Janapadas in Buddhist canon
- 10 Janapadas in Jat History
- 11 See also
- 12 References
Origin of name
The Sanskrit term janapada is a tatpurusha compound term, composed of two words: janas and pada. Jana means "people" or "subject". The word pada means "foot" from its earliest attestation, the word has had a double meaning of "realm, territory" and "subject population".
Evolution of Janapadas
Literary evidence suggests that the janapadas flourished between 1500 BCE and 500 BCE. The earliest mention of the term "janapada" occurs in the Aitareya (8.14.4) and Shatapatha (220.127.116.11) Brahmana texts.
In the Vedic samhitas, the term jana denotes a tribe, whose members believed in a shared ancestry. The janas were headed by a king. The samiti was a common assembly of the jana members, and had the power to elect or dethrone the king. The sabha was a smaller assembly of wise elders, who advised the king.
The janas were originally semi-nomadic pastoral communities, but gradually came to be associated with specific territories as they became less mobile. Various kulas (clans) developed within the jana, each with its own chief. Gradually, the necessities of defence and warfare prompted the janas to form military groupings headed by janapadins (Kshatriya warriors). This model ultimately evolved into the establishment of political units known as the janapadas.
While some of the janas evolved into their own janapadas, others appear to have mixed together to form a common Janapada. According to the political scientist Sudama Misra, the name of the Panchala janapada suggests that it was a fusion of five (pancha) janas. Some janas (such as Aja and Mutiba) mentioned in the earliest texts do not find a mention in the later texts. Misra theorizes that these smaller janas were conquered by and assimilated into the larger janas.
Janapadas were gradually dissolved around 500 BCE. Their disestablishment can be attributed to the rise of imperial powers (such as Magadha) within India, as well as in the Northwest of South Asia by foreign invaders (such as the Persians and the Greeks).
Vishaya and Janapada
Tej Ram Sharma writes that In the post-paninian period, distinction between Janapada and Visaya was lost, both being called by the same names, for example Angah, Vangah, Sumhah, and Pundrah. In some Janapadas like Rajanya, the distinction was retained, as Rajanyaka denoted a visaya and Rajanyah, the Janapada of the Rajanya tribe.
Janapadas as Known to Panini
V. S. Agrawala writes that Panini is acquainted with a number of Janapadas or States. To start with, a wandering Jana which was a Kshatriya clan, settled down in a particular region (Jana-pada), which came to be named after it. In times, other people also came to settle in it, whence arose the conception of common citizenship binding them to the Janapada. It marked the evolution from racial (Jana) to the territorial (Janapada) basis of citizenship embracing a variety of peoples. The citizens bound in loyalty to a common Janapada were called Sajanapadas (VI.3.85), nationals of the same state.
The Vedic Bharata Jana, for instance, became settled in the region called Bharata, where were also settled later on other people giving rise to the territorial conception of citizenship replacing clan. Thus it marked a great progress in political evolution.
The Governing class of each Janapada, how ever, was distinguished from the the rest of its citizens by the designation Janapadins (VI.3.100), or the citizens proper as an elect body or nucleus representing the original settlers.
A typical Janapada was peopled by four principal castes and other mixed castes so that its population was heterogeneous.
V. S. Agrawala writes that an important geographical term used by Panini is Janapada, which was both a state and cultural unit, its cultural counting more than geography. The citizens of the same Janapada were known as Sajanapadāḥ (VI.3.85).
V. S. Agrawala writes about Janapada and Janapadins: [p.424]: The Country was divided in to Janapadas, demarcated from one another by boundaries (IV.2.124). In Panini Janapada stands for Country and Janapadins for its citizens. The derivative meaning of the term Janapada points to the early stage of land taking by the Jana for a settled way of life. This process of the first settlement on the land had completed its final stage prior to the time of Panini. The Janapadas which were originally named after the peoples settled in them, dropped their tribal significance and figured as territorial units or regions. We find from Panini’s own statement that in the majority of the ancient Janapadas their original
[p.425]: Kshatriya settler still held sway and the political power was concentrated in their hands.
In this connection sutra VI.1.168, Janapada-shabdāt-kshatriya-añ, is important. Grammatically it teaches that the affix añ comes in the sense of a descendant after word which is both the name of a country and a Kshatriya tribe. Here the identity of the Janapadas and powerful Kshatriya clans settled there is repeated. These ruling Kshatriyas inhabiting the Janapadas were, as we are informed by Katyayana, governed by two fold constitutions; some were monarchies and some were Sanghas or republics.
Besides these names included in the sutras, there might be others which were implied in Panini’s rules, of which Patanjali mentions Videha, Panchala, Anga, Darva, Nipa, Sauvira, and Ambashtha, the latter two being mentioned in Ashtadhyayi in a different context. The Kings who ruled over these Janapadas were Kshatriyas, and the same word denoted both a descendant of Kshatriyas. i.e. a citizen and their king.
For example, Panchala was the name of a Kshatriya descendant of the Panchala tribe and also of the king of that Janapada. Similarly, Panchalah in the plural was the name of the country as well as name of the Kshatriya clan. Although a Janapada consists of other castes also besides the ruling Kshatriya caste, still the political sovereignty was in the hands of dominant Kshatriya clan who had founded that Janapada. This was a fact so patently recognized that Katyayana questions the advisability of including the word Kshatriya in Sutra IV.1.168. His point is that only the descendants of ruling tribe were designated by the apatya –denoting suffix added after the name of Janapada.
[p.426] : Patanjali definitely states that such words as Kshaudrakya and Mālavya denoted only a member of the Kshatriya caste, and not other sections of the population, such as the labourers and slaves living there (II.269) . No doubt there were Brahmans and other castes also inhabiting these Janapadas, but the political power was centred in the hands of Kshatriyas, and only in exceptional cases of any other caste.
V S Agarwal  writes about Āyudhajīvī Sanghas – [p.434]: Panini refers to a number of Sanghas as Ayudhajivin (V.3.114-117), meaning those who lived by the profession of arms. Kautilya refers to two kinds of Janapadas,
- (1) Āyudhīya prāyāh, those mostly comprising soldiers, and
- (2) Shreni prāyāh, comprising guilds of craftsmen, traders and agriculturists. The former (and also his sastropajivins) correspond to Panini’s Ayudhajivi Sanghas, which were the same as Yodhajiva of Pali literature.
Four kinds of Ayudhajivins – Panini classified his material of the Ayudhajivin Sanghas under several heads, viz.
- 1. Sanghas in Vahika (V.3.114),
- 2. Sanghas of Parvata (IV.3.91),
- 3. Pūgas, organized under their Grāmaṇi in to some form of Sangha Govt (V.3.112), and lastly
- 4. Vrātas living by depredation and violence (V.3.113, V.2.21), and having only semblance of Sangha.
The most advanced Ayudhajivin Sanghas belonged to the Vahika Country (V.3.114), which comprised the region from Indus to the Beas and and the Sutlej (Karnaparva, 44.7; Hindu polity, 1.34). These are the Yaudheyas, Kshudrakas and Malavas etc.
List of Janapadas as Known to Panini
The Janapadas known to Panini are listed below. Details may be seen in India as Known to Panini (pp.48-62).
List of Janapadas in Vedic literature
- Udichya (Northern region)
- Prachya (Eastern region)
- Dakshina (Southern region)
- Pratichya (Western region)
- Madhya-desha (Central region)
The Vedic literature mentions the following janas or janapadas:
|Jana or Janapada||IAST name||Region||Mentioned in
|Uttara Kuru||Uttara Kuru||Northern|
|Uttara Madra||Uttara Madra||Northern|
List of Janapadas in Puranic literature
- Udichya (Northern region)
- Prachya (Eastern region)
- Dakshinapatha (Southern region)
- Aparanta (Western region)
- Madhya-desha (Central region)
- Parvata-shrayin (Himalayan region)
- Vindhya-prashtha (Vindhyan region)
The Puranic texts mention the following janapadas: 
|Janapada||Region||Name in the various Puranas (IAST)|
|Anga||Eastern||Aṅga||Aṅga (Central and Eastern)||Aṅga|
|Avanti||Vindhyan||Avanti (Central and Vindhyan)||Avanti||Avanti||Avanti||Avanti|
|Barbara||Northern||Barbara||Barbara||Barbara (Central and Northern)||Barbara|
|Bhadra||Eastern and Central||Bhadra|
|Chola||Southern||Cola||Caulya||Cauḍa||Cola (Southern and Eastern)|
|Darva||Himalayan and Northern||Darva (Himalayan only)||Darva||Darva||Darva|
|Hamsamarga||Northern and Himalayan||Sarvaga (Himalayan only)||Haṃsamārga||Haṃsamārga||Haṃsamārga (Himalayan); Karnamārga (Northern)||Haṃsamārga (Himalayan); Haṃsabhaṅga (Northern)|
|Karusha||Vindhyan||Kārūṣa (Southern and Vindhyan)||Kārūṣa||Kārūṣa||Kārūṣa||Kārūṣa|
|Kirata||Himalayan||Kirāta (Central and Himalayan)||Kirāta||Kirāta||Kirāta||Kirāta|
|Kulya||Southern and Central||Kulya||Kulya||Kulya (only Central)||Kulya (only Southern)||Kulya (only Southern)|
|Kuntala||Southern and Central||Kuntala (only Central)||Kuntala||Kuntala||Kuṇḍala||Kuntala|
|Magadha||Central and Eastern||Māgadha (only Eastern)||Magadha||Magadha (only Eastern)||Magadha (only Eastern)||Magadha|
|Utkala||Vindhyan||Utkala||Utkala||Utkala||Utkala||Utkala (Eastern and Central)|
|Vanga||Eastern||Vaṅga||Vaṅga (Central and Eastern)||Vaṅga|
List of Janapadas in Sanskrit epics
The Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata mentions around 230 janapadas, while the Ramayana mentions only a few of these. Unlike the Puranas, the Mahabharata does not specify any geographical divisions of ancient India, but does support the classification of certain janapadas as southern or northern.
For various lists see - The Mahabharata Tribes.
In the Mahabharata  'Janapada' 'Desa' and Rashtra are used synonymously.  Yet in practice, they must differ slightly. 'Desa' means 'a country', province or any 'patch of land', 'Janapada', a tribal settlement,  whereas 'Rastra' is definitely a political term, denoting 'whatever fell under the jurisdiction of the sovereignty'.
It will be interesting to note the antiquity of place-name terms. We find Rashtra  as the oldest right from the Rigveda, and used for the biggest unit. Its equivalent Janapada came into being in the Brahmana-period.  The Rigveda frequently refers to tribes viz. the Yadus, the Purus, the Anus etc. who were residing in particular area without mentioning their territory, province or kingdom.  The ordinary people of a Janapada were called Vis which were divided into gramas or unions
[p.270]: of many families. So whenever the people of gramas settled they were termed as gramas (villages) and hence the word Samgrama came into being when a number of gramas united for a battle. Every Janapada had a pura or chief city (capital) where the king resided. Every Janapada was politically named as Rastra. Panini mentions a number of Janapadas in the Astadhyayi.  Kautilya also uses the term Janapada for territory as the constituent of State. 29 We find the mention of sixteen Mahajanapadas of Aryavarta in many places in the Buddhist literature. The term 'rājya' with its different kinds is referred to in the later Vedic period i.e. in the Brahmanas.
List of Janapadas in Buddhist canon
Janapadas in Jat History
It means that the affix 'an' comes in the sense of a descendant after a word which is both the name of a country and a Kshatriya tribe. Similar is the position of 'ai' suffix. The suffix, 'ya' is interchangeable with 'a' ,e.g., Punia/Puniya; Gulia/Guliya; Tevathia/ Tevathiya; Dahia/Dahiya; Sibia/Sibiya and so on. Both the forms are equally correct though the second form is generally used here. Similarly the last 'n' (न) and 'ṇ' (ण) are interchangeable, and the letter 'h' is sometimes superfluous. In the Indian works, the suffix 'ka' is sometimes added. "The final 'ka' is a common Sanskrit suffix to ethnic names given or withheld at random,2. e.g., Madra/Madraka; Licchavi/Licchavika, Khokar/Khokaraka, Maun/Maunaka (Man) and so on. Therefore, for comparison with the Puranic names, this suffix 'ka' should be ignored. It will be really surprising to note that almost all the names have been retained in their original pristine form and glory.
According to Jain tradition of Kalāchārya, there were 95 or 96 chiefs (clan heads?) in the first century B.C.3 Now, there are more than 239 clans. Practically all of them are found mentioned by Ibbetson and others in A Glossary of Tribes and Castes in North West Frontier and the Punjab.4
- 1. Ashtadhyayi, IV, I, 68.
- 2. Justin, op. cit., p. 351.
- 3. JBORS, 1930, Vol. XVI, p. 233/34.
[Page-231]: According to V.S. Agrawal, "even if a Janapada consisted of other castes also, besides the ruling Kshatriya caste, the political sovereignty would still be in the hands of the dominant Kshatriya clan who had founded the Janapada." 5 Therefore, if some Janapada name appears as of Brahmans, etc., it is not actually so as the Janapadas were invariably named after the Kshatriya clans. For example, Attri does not refer to the Brahmans but to the Attri Jats, as they are expressly called "Mlecchas". The Brahman surnames, apart from the old Rishis, are derived from the name of the river or place of state, from which they hail, e.g., Sarasvata from river Sarasvati, Chanakya from village Chanaka, Gaur from the Gaud in north Bengal founded by a king of Sakala (Punjab).6
Every effort has been made to collect all the clan names. Still it is quite possible that a few names may have been omitted. In order to give the most approximate and correct pronunciation, the names are given in English as well as in the Hindi language. These are given in alphabetical order to facilitate easy reference. It is a matter of great pity that, with such an abundance of Jat clan names available in Indian works, our historians failed to grasp the truth. This failure on their part becomes all the more shocking when considered in the light of the fact that the same clan names are being used even now and we hear them almost daily in news and newspapers. To ascribe this state of affairs to ignorance only, is not the whole truth. There is something deep-rooted, something vicious in the intellectual climate of the country which makes our historians baulk at the very name 'Jat'.6a That is why, even after the so-called 'Guptas' have been proved to belong to the Jats of the Dharan clan by Dr. Jayaswal and Dasaratha Sharma, others including Majumdar and Altekar (in Vakataka Gupta Age) have dismissed the fact as not serious history! Perhaps perpetuation of falsehood and misconceptions are necessary ingredients of serious history. Grammarian Chandragomin wrote in sixth century that "the invincible Jats, defeated the Hunas". But S.K. Belvelkar writing in the present century opines that the word 'Jat' should be changed into 'Gupta'. 7 Why so much aversion against
- 5. Op. cit., p. 425.
- 6. Tribes and Castes, Vol. I, p. 22, note 3.
- 6a. For a refreshing change, see "The Classical Age", p. 174.
- 7. System; of Sanskrit Grammar, p. 58.
[Page-232]: this word? From Bamiyan to Banaras, from Makran to Malwa, from Kashmir to Kutch, Jats are still found but history insists on repeating ad nauseam that the Kshaharat, the Kushanas, the Kidars, the Hunas, were all driven out of sacred India!. And the irony of it is that the people who are supposed to have driven them out the Bharashivas, the Vrika Vishnuvardhana, the Dharan/Guptas, the republican tribes-were themselves Jats.
When in the nineteenth and twentieth century, thanks to the efforts of European scholars, the history of India was taken out from the limbo of lethargy, a search was made for naming a period in India's history as the 'Golden Age'. The Maurs (Mauryas) were out of the question, because they were 'Sudras', and Yuga Purana had declared them as 'utterly irreligious". (स्वराष्ट्रम् मर्दंते घोरं धर्मंवादी अधार्मिक:)
Therefore the so-called 'Gupta' period was sought to be given this honour of being the 'Golden Age'. But Dr. Jayaswal had come to know that the Guptas were Jat, and therefore, unadulterated praise could not be bestowed on the Guptas ! Hence, a character, named Chanḍsen, a usurper and killer of his adopted father, was found in a drama, to show how bad the Guptas were, and how under the moral pressure of Indian public opinion they became 'good'. Was this pressure, which overnight changed the bad into good, not strong enough to kick them out of their throne?
The time has come when the history of the nation must be corrected and justice done to the brave Jats, "their country's pride". The axiom of 'justice delayed is justice denied' may not be applied to matters historical.
The Mahabharata records that the Kangs (Kankas) and Tushara brought horses as presents to Yudhishthira. It further says that the Chinas (Chhinas), the Hunas, the Sakas, the Odhrans, used so live beyond the hills (of Himalayas): चीनाहूणाम् शकानोढ्रान पर्वतान्तावासिन :
The Sibis (Sibia Jats) are known to the Greeks as well as the Indians in the Punjab as well as in Chittor (Mewar) from where their coinss are being unearthed. The Visnu Puranna identifies the Mandas, the Tokhars, the Tomars, the Siddhas/Siddhus, the
[Page-233]: Sukandas/Seokandas, the Kokars/Khokhars, etc. etc.8 The Attris, the Hans, the Tomars, the Kundus are mentioned in the Vayu Purana. The Mundas, the Jakhads, and many others are mentioned in the Mahabharata. Sabha Parvan mentions the Kundaman, Paura (Ghora), Hans and Sibi.9 The Panghala, the Khatkals, the Ailavats, the Jatasras, etc., are mentioned by Varahamihira. The Dhanch, the Dhonchak,the Bring, the Lohars, the Kular the Gondals, the Tukhars, etc. are reflected in Kalhana's Rajatarangini. The Sundha Hill (Jodhpur) inscription of Chechigadeva mentions the Salyas (Syal), the Sanghas (Sanghas), and the Naharas.10 The Takhars and the Gondals and the Balharas and the Lohars (Lohariya Jats Of Mathura), all are recorded to have played vital roles in the history of Kashmir. The Syal and the Vrikas are known from the inscriptions of their kings in Punjab and Mathura areas. The Mans are known from their coins in South Maharashtra, the Tanks from their coins in Orissa and Bengal, the Johls from their kings and their coins in North West Indian states, the Katariyas, The Pirus and the Ghangasas from their kings, the Kasvans from their empire and king Kanishka, the Sahravats from their 400 years rule as "Western satraps", and many others are known from their repulican states. The Kaks, the Kharapariks, and the Sankanikas are known from the Allahaabad Pillar inscription of Samudragupta Dharan. Are not they the same as the Kakrans/Kaks, the Kharaps, and the Salkalans? D.R. Bhandarkar finds a tribe named Kharaparas, mentioned in the Batihagarh inscription (District, Damoh, M.P.)11 The Udaigiri (near Bhilsa) cave inscription of the year 402 A.D. mentions a king of Sankanika clan. And the Salkalan Jats are still existing. Here only the letter 'l' is changed into 'n' but their love of sibilants is proverbial. Buddha Prakash, in The Age of the Mricchakatika discusses the term, "Khera Khana" appearing in Act vi of that play, and mentions, "He (the guard) gave a long list of foreign tribes which contains some very strange and obscure
- 8. Visnu Purana, pp. 157-162.
- 9. Sabha Parva, 52, 13-18.
- 10. EI, Vol. IX, p. 74 ff.
- 11. IHQ, Vol. I, p. 258.
[Page-234]: names, not known from other sources. One such name is "Khera Khana".12
Buddha Prakash, an excellent historian known for thoroughness and detail, would not have felt helpless if he had studied the names of Jat clans in Hoshiarpur (Punjab) and Saharanpur (UP) where he lived and worked. Khera is a Jat clan name, also called, Khere (for its people), and Khana is of course the Central Asian title for the king like old Khakan or medieval Khan. But the full list of names mentioned includes the Khasa, Khatti, Khadovilaya, Kannada, Kannappavarana, Dravida, China, Chola, Babbara, Kherakhana, etc.
Here the Khasas are the well known Himalayan people; Khattis are Khattris, a Jat clan; Khadovilaya may be Khatkal clan, if instead of 'v' there is a 'k' in the original; the next three names, are well known in south India; China may be for Chhina Jats, Chola may be Chahl Jats (Chol of Central Asia; or Cholas of south India ?); Babbar is another clan name of the Jats, and Khera Khana has been already explained above.
It is significant that they are called 'Mlecchas'. This is a ready-made test for identifying these people. If they are called 'Mlecchas' or 'Sudras', or Vrishla Asuras-then it is a sure bet that the people named are 'foreigners' and most probably Jats from Central Asia (cf Mauryas). It is the direct result of the "arrogance", noted by Pargitar, which termed all the Punjabis as Mlecchas or Sudras. Incidentally, a people called Melanchlaeni are mentioned as a Scythian nation by Hecataeus, perhaps because they used to wear black clothes. They are also mentioned by Pliny in his Geography.13 Ptolemy placed them on the Volga,14 Bhagavata Purana, expressly calls the first king (Simuka) of Satavahana dynasty, as "Vrishalo Bali". Patanjali always uses the term Vrishala as meaning "Anti-Brahmana".l5
- 12. SIH&C, p. 405, ff.
- 13. Pliny, op. cit., VI, 5.
- 14. Quoted by Rawlinson, in his Herodotus, Vol. III, p. 78.
- 15. Patanjali Kalina Bharat (in Hindi), p. 95.
- Ancient Jat history
- Jat Kingdoms in Ancient India
- List of Mahabharata people and places
- Madhyakalin Rajasthan me Jat Janapada
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