News at Tipitaka Network
First territorial states of ancient India
by Rahul Mehra, Merinews.com, Monday, January 18, 2010
In ancient India there were many cities and states which have a great influence in our history and very near from our place of residence but still unknown to us. Let’s find out where they lie and what is their historical significance.
In sixth century BC, large states were known as Mahajanapadas and the agricultural settlements come under them were known as Janapadas. Kashi was the most powerful state of the time and its capital was Varanasi. Kashi had emerged as leading textile manufacturer in the time of the Buddha.
Koshala was bounded on the West by the River Gomti, on the South by the Sarpika or Syandika (Sai), on the East by the Sadanira (Gandak) which separated it from Videha and on the North by the Nepal Hills. Ayodhya, Saketa and Shravasti were three important Koshlan cities.
Anga on the East of Magadha was separated from it by the River Champa. It comprises of the modern districts of Munger and Bhagalpur. Its capital Champa (not the river) was known for its wealth and commerce.
Between Anga and Vatsa, there lay the kingdom of Magadha, corresponding to modern Patna and Gaya districts. The rulers of Magadha, ie, Bimbisara and Ajatashatru were the Buddha’s friends and disciples. Gaya was the place of Buddha’s enlightenment and Rajagriha was one of his favourite haunts. Magadha’s capital was Rajagriha, also known as Girivraja.
The Vajji territory lay north of the Ganga and stretched as far as the Nepal Hills. The Vajji state is said to have been a confederation of eight clans (atthakula), of whom the Videhans, the Lichchhavis, the Jnatrikas and the Vrijjis were the most important.
The territory of the non-monarchical Mallas was divided into two parts, each having its own capital. The two capital cities were Kushinara (identified with Kasia in Gorakhpur district) and Pava, possibly identical with Pawapuri in Patna district.
The kingdom of Chedis corresponded roughly to the Eastern parts of Bundelkhand and adjoining areas and their king lists occur in the Buddhist birth stories.
The Shurasena Kingdom had its capital at Mathura.
Kuru, Panchala and Matsya were the three tribal polities whose existence is traceable to the preceding period. The Kurus settled in the region of Delhi-Meerut and allied with the Panchalas; their trade centre is said to have been visited by the Buddha. A branch of the Panchalas had a capital at Kampilla, perhaps modern Kampil in Farrukhabad district. Not much information is available about the Matsyas, who are traditionally associated with modern Jaipur-Bharatpur-Alwar region of Rajasthan. It was more suitable for cattle rearing.
Kamboja nad Gandhara were farthest away from Magadha. The first lay in Afghanistan; the second extended up to the Kabul valley with Taxila as its leading city.
The territory of the Assakas (Ashmakas) was situated on the banks of the River Godavari near modern Paithan in Maharashtra. The state of Avanti lay in central Malwa and the adjoining areas of Madhya Pradesh. Divided into two parts, its southern capital was Mahishmati and its northern Ujjain, which became more important of the two.
The Vatsa capital lay 64km from Allahabad at Kaushambi (modern Kosam) on the bank of the Yamuna. Kaushambi and Ujjain were connected by a major trade route and they must have benefited from the North-Indian trade.
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