|This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (March 2013)
The Janapadas (Sanskrit: जनपद pronounced [dʒənəpəd̪ə]) were the major realms republics or kingdoms of Vedic (Iron Age) India from about 1200 BC to the 6th century BC, which were then divided into the sixteen altical Mahajanapadas.
The term janapada is a tatpurusha compound term, composed of janas "people" or "subject" (cf. Latin cognate genus, English cognate kin) and pada "foot" (cf. Latin cognate pedis). From its earliest attestation, the word has had a double meaning of "realm, territory" and "subject population". A janapadin is the ruler of a janapada. Janapada's were the earliest gathering places of men, merchants, artisans and craftsmen akin to marketplace or town surrounded by hamlets and villages.
Linguist George Dunkel compares the Greek andrapodon "slave", to PIE *pédom "fetters" (i.e. "what is attached to the feet"). Sanskrit padám, usually taken to mean "footprint, trail", diverges in accent from the PIE reconstruction. For the sense of "population of the land", padasya janas, the inverted padajana would be expected. A primary meaning of "place of the people", janasya padam, would not explain why the compound is of masculine gender. An original dvandva "land and people" is conceivable, but a dual inflection would be expected.