Various Socio-Economic and Political Conditions During the Mahajanapadas period

Political Conditions:

  • Person who ascended the throne after holding Rajasuya Yajna was called King. He might assume the title of Emperor by performing Rajasuya Yajna again.
  • King had to consult Brahmana, council of ministers (mantri-parishad) and Rajsabha before taking important decisions. He would always be obedience to Brahmanas.
  • Kingship was hereditary as well as elected (through the republican framework)
  • Samitis enjoyed absolute powers. There are instances where a despotic rulers had to abdicate according to wishes of the Assembly.


  • Virat: King who receives Indra’s unction.
  • Ekarat: King who succeed in acquiring the neighbouring territories.
  • Rajamahishi: Chief queen.

Social Conditions:

  • Except in the Gangetic valley empires, women enjoyed liberty in social life and held high esteem.
  • Sati system was widely prevalent in the North-West India.
  • Caste system (Varna system) was matured and defined based on birth.
  • Polygamy and svayamvar gradually lost their importance and social acceptance.
  • Towards the end of the period inter-caste marriage was strictly pro­hibited.
  • Urban Life: Majority of the population lived in the rural areas practicing agriculture. People associated with the ruling dynasties or supporting staff lived in walled cities (e.g., Pataliputra or Rajgir). Within the city there were wide roads, pleasure halls where game of dice used to be played, pleasure garden, hall of justice, dancing hall etc.
  • Leisure included games of Kunduk and vita, game of dice, sword play, listening to tales of warfare and of heroes.
  • Religion: Worship of new gods and goddesses as also the cult of Devotion prevailed during the period. Belief in Karmafal (results of deeds) and rebirth. Among Hinduism worship of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesvara (Lord Shiva) was taking shape during this period. Orthodox philosophy began taking shape in this phase.
  • Law: Civil and criminal laws were administered by royal agents who inflicted rough and ready punishments such as scourging, beheading, etc.

Economic Conditions: 

  • Agriculture: Land revenue was 1/10th to 1/6th. Well defined cultivation with use of iron ploughshare and irrigation was practice which gradually reduced the occurrence of famines.
  • Trade: Bharuch, Tamralipti, Sopara etc. were the important ports. Trade with Burma, Ceylon, Malaya, Babylonia etc. was carried on. Silk, gold, embroidered cloth was the principal merchandise. There are proofs of co-operative system in the trade and commerce of the period. 
  • Currency: The medium of exchange was copper and silver Karshapana. The silver Karshapana was also known as Dharan. A silver Karshapana was one-tenth in value of the Vedic Niska.
  • Pottery: Northern Black Polished Ware phase marked the beginning of the second urbanisation in India.
Free UPSC MasterClass
This is default text for notification bar