- The rajas that performed these big sacrifices were now recognized as being rajas of janapadas 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.
- 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.
- They made earthen pots. Some of these were grey in colour, others were red.
- One special type of pottery found at these sites is known as Painted Grey Ware.
- As is obvious from the name, these grey pots had painted designs, usually simple lines, and geometric patterns.
- 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.
- Forts were probably built because people were afraid of attacks from other kings and needed protection.
- It is also likely that some rulers wanted to show how rich and powerful they were by building really large, tall, and impressive walls around their cities. Also in this way, the land and the people living inside the fortified area could be controlled more easily by the king.
- Building such huge walls required a great deal of planning.
- Thousands, if not lakhs of bricks or stone had to be prepared.
- This in turn meant enormous labour, provided, possibly, by thousands of men, women, and children. And resources had to be found for all of this.
- The new rajas now began maintaining armies. Soldiers were paid regular salaries and maintained by the king throughout the year. Some payments were probably made using punch-marked coins.
- As the rulers of the Mahajanapadas were, building huge forts and maintaining big armies, they needed more resources. And they needed officials to collect these. So, instead of depending on occasional gifts brought by people, as in the case of the raja of the janapadas, they started collecting regular taxes.
- 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 craftspersons 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.
- Hunters and gatherers also had to provide forest produce to the raja.
Try yourself:Which Tax(es) was/were considered as the most important tax(es) during the age of Mahajanpadas?
Taxes on Agricultural produce was the most important tax as society was mainly agrarian.
- There were two major changes in agriculture around this time.
- One was the growing use of iron ploughshares. This meant that heavy, clayey soil could be turned over better than with a wooden ploughshare so that more grain could be produced.
- Second, people began transplanting paddy. This meant that instead of scattering seed on the ground, from which plants would sprout, saplings were grown and then planted in the fields.
- This led to increased production, as many more plants survived.
- Generally, slave men and women, (dasas and dasis) and landless agricultural labourers (kammakaras) had to do this work.
➢ Magadha (Kingdom)
- Magadha became the most important Mahajanapada in about two hundred years.
- Many rivers such as the Ganga and Son flowed through Magadha.
- This was important for (a) Transport, (b) Water supplies (c) Making the land fertile.
- Parts of Magadha were forested. Elephants, which lived in the forest, could be captured and trained for the army.
- Forests also provided wood for building houses, carts, and chariots. Besides, there were iron ore mines in the region that could be tapped to make strong tools and weapons.
- Magadha had two very powerful rulers, Bimbisara and Ajatasattu, who used all possible means to conquer other janapadas.
- Mahapadma Nanda was another important ruler. He extended his control up to the northwest part of the subcontinent.
- Rajagriha (present-day Rajgir) in Bihar was the capital of Magadha for several years. Later the capital was shifted to Pataliputra (present-day Patna).
- More than 2300 years ago, a ruler named Alexander, who lived in Macedonia in Europe, wanted to become a world conqueror. He didn’t conquer the world, but did conquer parts of Egypt and West Asia, and came to the Indian subcontinent, reaching up to the banks of the Beas.
- When he wanted to march further eastwards, his soldiers refused. They were scared, as they had heard that the rulers of India had vast armies of foot soldiers, chariots, and elephants.
Try yourself:Which is the incorrect fact given regarding the Magadha?
Magadha became the most important Mahajanapada in about two hundred years.
Many rivers such as the Ganga and Son flowed through Magadha.
Magadha had two very powerful rulers, Bimbisara and Ajatasattu, who used all possible means to conquer other janapadas.
➢ Vajji (Kingdom)
- Vajji, with its capital at Vaishali (Bihar), was under a different form of government, known as Gana or sangha.
- In a Gana or a sangha there were not one, but many rulers.
- Sometimes, even when thousands of men ruled together, each one was known as a raja.
- These rajas performed rituals together.
- They also met in assemblies and decided what had to be done and how through discussion and debate.
- However, women, Dasas, and Kammakaras could not participate in these assemblies.
- Both Buddha and Mahavira belonged to Ganas or sanghas. Some of the most vivid descriptions of life in the sanghas can be found in Buddhist books.
- Rajas of powerful kingdoms tried to conquer the sanghas. Nevertheless, these lasted for a very long time, till about 1500 years ago, when the last of the Ganas or sanghas were conquered by the Gupta rulers.
➢ Certain fact: Ajatasattu and the Vajjis
- Ajatasattu wanted to attack the Vajjis. He sent his minister named Vassakara to the Buddha to get his advice on the matter. The Buddha asked whether the Vajjis met frequently, in full assemblies.
- They held full and frequent public assemblies.
- They met and acted together.
- They followed established rules.
- They respected, supported, and listened to elders.
- Vajji women were not held by force or captured.
- Chaityas (local shrines) were maintained in both towns and villages.
- Wise saints who followed different beliefs were respected and allowed to enter and leave the country freely.