Emerging of rulers,Janapadas,Mahajanapadas, collection of taxes

Around 3000 years ago, this pratha of becoming raja by performing big sacrifices started. The ashwamedha or the horse sacrifice was one such ritual. In this sacrifice, the horse was set free to wander about, although guided by its men. If the horse who enter and stop at other's Kingdom, then they would have to fight. And if the horse us allowed to pass through the kingdom of others, then that indicated that the said king had accepted the strength and power of the king who wanted to perform the sacrifices. Rajas were then invited to the sacrifice ceremony which was performed by priests . The priests were then adorned with precious gifts or daan. The raja who performed the sacrifice was considered as one of the most powerful of all.

The raja remains as the centre of attraction all throughout the ritual. He is made to sit on a special throne or the tiger's skin. His charioteer who accompanied him to the battlefield used to narrate his story of glorious victory. His wives and children also accompanied the raja in performing some rituals. Ordinary people were also invited in the ritual. It was also attended by the vaishya caste. All who attended the ritual used to bring gifts. However, the shudras, who are considered the lowest in the caste hierarchy were excluded from attending any public happenings in the town.

The people were divided into 4 groups depending on the work they did. Those groups were called Varnas.

The first and foremost in the Varna hierarchy were the Brahmins or the priests class. They were entitled with performing religious practices, teaching and studying the Vedas.

The second category belonged to the Kshatriyas or the warrior. They used to fight battles and wars and protected people of their kingdom.

The third category were that of the vaishya. They were the farmers, traders, herders. They were entitled to perform the sacrifices.

The last and the lowest of the Varnas were the shudras. These groups served the top 3 Varnas. Many women were also grouped into this Varna. They were not allowed to study the Vedas. Later this Varna was described as untouchables. These were the people like Gatherers and hunters, who performed cremations and the burials.

The priests used to believe that these Varnas are applied since birth. But the king’s would not accept these divisions laid by the priests as they would considered themselves superior than the priests. There were controversies on these divisions.


The rajas who performed sacrifices were  considered as the rajas of the janapadas. The word janapadas means the land where the Jana or the people set their foot and settled down. Some of the janapadas were purana quila in New Delhi, Hastinapur in Meerut. The people lived in huts, and kept cattle and other animals. They grew crops like wheat, barley , rice, pulses, mustard.

They made earthen pots, mainly of grey and red colours. The special type were of grey colour with the linear lines and geometric patterns.


The important janapadas became mahajanapadas. Most of the mahajanapadas had the capital cities and we’re fortified. Walls of stones, bricks were built.

Forts were built to ensure protection to the people from foreign attacks. Such huge walls required massive planning. Numerous stones and bricks were required to built such huge walls. Labourers in huge number were employed, which included all men, women and children.

Armies were been maintained by the rajas. The soldiers were been paid.

Collection of taxes.

Needless to mention that building huge fortified cities and maintaining huge armies required funds. To collect these funds. Official were employed. Since, then the system of collecting taxes began. Here’s the list of things I n which taxes were imposed.

  • Taxes were imposed on crops. About 1/6 of the produce were demanded. This was known as bhaga or share.
  • Taxes were collected from the craftpersons.
  • Herders were entitled to pay in terms of animals and animals produce.
  • Taxes were imposed on goods bought and sold.
  • Hunters and Gatherers were required to pay in terms of forest  produce.

Name the following:

  1. Name the sacrifices been spoken about here. Ashwamedha yagya.
  2. Which Varna was considered the best if all-time Brahmins
  3. What were the shudras called: untouchables

What were the taxes collected from the farmers called- bhaga.


Choosing  leaders or  rulers through the votes is common these days but actually started about 50 years ago.

Before that the leader was chosen by the Jana (the people) and they were recognised as the Rajas.


  • Around 3000 years ago, some men recognised as Rajas by performing very big sacrifices
    • The Ashvamedha (horse sacrifice) - a ritual performed by the Rajas
  • A horse was let loose to wander freely
  • Guarded by the raja’s men

  • If the horse entered other kingdoms and stopped by them, they had to fight.

  • And if they allowed the horse to pass, meant they accepted the Raja who performed the Ashvamedha was stronger to them.
  • These rajas were then invited to the sacrifice and specially trained priests performed those rituals.
  • Now the Raja who organised the Ashvamedha was recognised as most powerful and got the gifts from others.

  • The Raja - a central figure in these rituals
  • Had a special seat- a throne or a tiger skin
  • Accompanied with his charioteer, his relatives
  • Other rajas as spectators
  • Priests performed the rituals,ordinary people, the vish brought gifts
  • The shudras were excluded from the rituals.


  • Janapada literally means the land where the Jana set its root, and settled down.

  • The Rajas of the Ashvamedha were now recognised as being Rajas of Janapadas rather than Jana.

  • Archaeologists excavated a number of settlements in these Janapadas.
    • Purana Qila in Delhi
    • Hastinapur near Meerut
    • Atranjikhera near Etah
    • People lived in huts
    • Kept cattle as well as other animals
    • Grew a variety of crops
      • Wheat
      • Barley
      • Pulses
      • Sugarcane
      • Rice
      • Sesame
      • Mustard
    • Made earthen pots
      • Grey ware:
        •  Painted plates and bowls
        • Pots had usually simple lines and geometric pattern
        • Extremely fine to touch,with a nice smooth surface
        • used on special occasions,for important people, and to serve special food

      • Red ware


  • About 2500 years ago, some Janapadas became more important than others, and were known as Mahajanapadas.

  •  Most Mahajanapadas had a capital city.
  • They were fortified means surrounded by huge walls of wood, brick or stone.

Reasons for fortification:

  •  To get the protection from enemies
  • To show the wealth and power through the large, tall and impressive walls around their cities.
  • The land and the people living within the fortified area could be easily controlled by the king.

Well-planned fortification:

  • Proper planning needed for fortification.
  • A large number of bricks or stones were required to build such huge walls.
  • And in turn, enormous labour provided by men, women and children.
  • Resources had to be found for all of this.

The fortification wall at Kaushambi

  • Remains of the wall made of bricks
  • Found near present-day Allahabad
  • A part of it was built about 2500 years ago.

The new Rajas began maintaining armies.

  • Soldiers were paid regular salaries and maintained by the king throughout the year.
  • Some payments through punch marked coins
  Punch marked coins


  • The rulers of the Mahajanapadas needed
    •  More resources for
      • Building huge forts

      • Maintaining big armies
    • Officials to collect resources
  • Instead of depending on occasional gifts brought by people as was in case of the Janapadas, the king started collecting regular taxes
    • Taxes on crops:
      • Mostly people were farmers
      • Tax was fixed at 1/6th of the production
      • Known as bhaga or share
    • Taxes on crafts persons:
      • In the form of labour
      • Work for a day every month for the king
        • Weaver
        • Smith
    • Taxes on Herders:
      • In the form of animals
      • Animal produce
    • Taxes on Traders:
      • On goods that were bought and sold
    • On Hunters and Gatherers:
  • Forest produce