The term "Janapada" literally means the foothold of a tribe. The fact that Janapada is derived from Jana points to an early stage of land-taking by the Jana tribe for a settled way of life. This process of first settlement on land had completed its final stage prior to the times of the Buddha and PÄá¹‡ini. The Pre-Buddhist north-west region of the Indian sub-continent was divided into several Janapadas demarcated from each other by boundaries. In PÄá¹‡ini's "Ashtadhyayi", Janapada stands for country and Janapadin for its citizenry. Each of these Janapadas was named after the Kshatriya tribe (or the Kshatriya Jana) who had settled therein. Buddhist and other texts only incidentally refer to sixteen great nations (Solasa Mahajanapadas) which were in existence before the time of the Buddha.
A MahÄjanapada is one of the sixteen kingdoms or oligarchic republics that existed in the ancient India from the sixth centuries BC to fourth centuries BC. Two of them were most probably 'ganas' ie. republics, and others had forms of monarchy. Ancient Buddhist texts like the Anguttara Nikaya make frequent reference to sixteen great kingdoms and republics which had evolved and flourished in a belt stretching from Gandhara in the northwest to Anga in the eastern part of theIndian subcontinent and included parts of the trans-Vindhyan region prior to the rise of Buddhism in India.
The 6th century BC is often regarded as a major turning point in early Indian history. Archaeologically, this period corresponds in part to the Northern Black Polished Ware culture.