The Monarchs who patronized Mahavira and Buddha

Magadha an area comprising southern Bihar is referred in the Atharvaveda as a place where the Vratyas inhabited. As regards to its political history according to some version it was Brhadratha a descendant of the Kuru clan who was responsible for the establishment of the Magadha kingdom. During the time of Mahabharata, it was ruled by Jarasanda with its capital Girivraja. Probably the capital got its name Girivraja as it was surrounded by various hills. The Mahabharata describes it as a city situated in a forest of sweet-scented flowers and impregnable on account of its being surrounded by the lofty hills of Vaihara, Varaha, Vrshabha, Rishigiri and Chaityaka. The city was also known as Rajgir or old Rajagraha, a term which has been derived from the supposed fact that every house in it was like a palace. The kingdom of Magadha had obtained a great reputation in the pre-Buddhist period as a centre of wealth and stronghold of learning.

Beginning from 6th century B.C. to 6th century A.D. for over a millennium the kingdom of Magadha played an important role in Indian political, cultural and religious spheres. Ruling from Magadha various dynasties like the Mauryas and Guptas established their sway over vast parts of India. This was here that Buddhism, Jainism and sects like Ajjivikas flourished and during the rule of the Guptas, Magadha was a strong centre of orthodox Hinduism. This was the land which gave philosopher like Ashvagosha, economist and political scientist like Chanakya, grammarian like Panini and astronomer like Aryabhatta. The political ascendancy of Magadha began with the rule of Bimbisara and his son Ajathashatru.

Bimbisara (582-544 B.C.) was the son of Bhattiya or Mahapadma. According to Dr. Bhandarkar, Bimbisara was originally a senapati probably of the Vajjis who held sway over Magadha and ultimately made himself king. This inference is made by the learned scholar from the epithet Shrenika or Seniya that Bimbisara possessed. Dr.Bhandarkar also opines that Bimbisara belonged to the great Naga dynasty as distinguished from Shishunaga who as the name shows belonged to little Naga dynasty. But according to Ashwagosha’s Buddhacharita, Bimbisara was a scion of Haryanka kula.

Bimbisara was fifteen-year old when he was crowned as king by his own father and through matrimonial alliances, he expanded his kingdom. His first wife was a sister of Prasenajit, the king of Kosala who gave him the dowry of a village in Kashi. His second wife was Chellana, daughter of the Lichchhavi chief Chetaka. Another wife was Khema, daughter of the king of Madra in central Punjab. Bimbisara defeated Brahmadatta the king of Anga and annexed his kingdom. With the conquest of Anga and peaceful acquisition of Kashi, the territorial expansion of the kingdom of Magadha occurred.

Bimbisara maintained good relationship even with rulers far away and the king of Gandhara, Pukkusati sent an embassy to his court. According to Kamta Prasad Jain, the king of Gandhara sent an embassy probably with the object of invoking Bimbisara’s assistance against the threatened advance of the Achaemenid power. We also learn from the Jaina sources that Bimbisara sent a contingent of his troops to help a border king who was his ally and the young general who led this army was the merchant prince Jambu Kumara, who after returning triumphantly from this campaign adopted the life of a Jaina monk at the feet of Mahavira. Bimbisara had good relations with the king of Avanti, Pradyota and sent his famous physician Jivaka when the former fell ill. Bimbisara’s kingdom include in it a number of republican or semi-independent communities.

Bimbisara was a powerful, kind and just king. He maintained rigid control over his officers and to ascertain the internal affairs of his kingdom he used to meet the headmen of all the villages. According to Mahavagga, his dominion contained 80,000 townships, the overseer of these towns called Gamikas used to meet in a great assembly. He rebuilt his capital Rajagraha.

Both Jainas and Buddhists claim Bimbisara as their follower. Bimbisara is said to have met Buddha at Rajagriha and embraced his doctrines. He also lent his personal physician Jivaka to work as medical adviser in attendance on the Buddha and his Order. According to Muni Nagraj, Bimbisara’s father followed the faith of Parshvanatha, the predecessor of Mahavira and hence Jainism was the hereditary religion of Bimbisara. Moreover, the chief centre of activity for Mahavira was Rajagriha while it was Shravasti for Buddha. Also, Bimbisara’s contemporaneity with Mahavira is thirteen years while with Buddha is just three years. Therefore, Muni Nagraj claims that though Bimbisara patronized Buddhism he was a follower of Jainism. According to tradition, Bimbisara built many shrines on the summit of Parasnath hill in Bihar.

The last days of Bimbisara was tragic. He was imprisoned by his own son Ajathashatru who usurped the throne. According to Jaina version, Ajathashatru being ambitious, he put his father into prison and himself occupied the throne. Later he repented and came with a chisel to set his father free. But on seeing him, Bimbisara anticipated that he will be murdered and committed suicide. According to Buddhist accounts, Ajathashatru was instigated by Devadatta to imprison his father and usurp the throne. Later Ajathashatru ordered a barber to cut his father’s feet with a weapon smeared with salt and oil and Bimbisara died due to infection.

Ajathashatru (493-462 B.C.) also known as Kunika was the son of Bimbisara through his wife Chellana according to Jaina version while the Buddhist version says that his mother was Kosaladevi. He was acting as a uparaja or viceroy of Anga during his father’s reign. Ajathashatru extended his kingdom through conquest. Soon after the death of Bimbisara, queen Kosaladevi died due to grief. She was the sister of the king of Kosala, Prasenajit who had given Bimbisara the village Kashi as dowry. Prasenajit did not like a parricide to inherit Kashi and hence to recover it waged a war with Ajathashatru. Ajathashatru was defeated and taken captive. But later Prasenajit gave his daughter Vajira in marriage to Ajathashatru gave her Kashi as a gift.

Bimbisara as we know had married the daughter of Chetaka, the Lichchhavi ruler of Vaishali and had sons, Halla and Vehalla from her. It is said that Bimbisara had given some jewels to Halla and Vehalla and they had refused to part with it when Ajathashatru claimed it after his accession to the throne. These brothers then took refuge at Vaishali and when Ajathashatru demanded their extradition, their grandfather, Chetaka refused to hand them over. This made Ajathashatru declare war upon Vaishali. According to Buddhist version a jewel mine was discovered at the foot of a hill at a port on the river Ganga and it was agreed that Ajathashatru and the Lichchhavis should have an equal share of the gems. The Lichchhavis violated this agreement and so the conflict began. The Lichchhavis at that time headed a vast confederacy of 36 republican states and were quite formidable militarily and it took nearly sixteen years for Ajathashatru to finally subdue Vaishali. Ajathashatru also took steps to prevent the ruler of Avanti from attacking Magadha taking advantage of Magadha’s prolonged conflict with the Lichchhavis.

As in the case of Bimbisara, both Jainas and Buddhists claim Ajathashatru as their follower. According to Buddhist tradition after Buddha’s death, Ajathashatru sent a message to the Mallas of Kushinara for giving him a share of Buddha’s ashes and built a stupa thereon. He also attended the first Buddhist council which was held at Rajagriha and provided all hospitalities to the delegates who attended it. But according to Muni Nagraj, Ajathashatru’s submission to Buddha was just a formal thing and he was not a follower of Buddha. Ajathashatru met Buddha only once whereas he often visited Mahavira and even attended the religious discourses of Sudharma Swami, the successor of Mahavira. Dr. Smith also opines that the Jaina claim appears to be well founded. Similarly R.K.Mukherjee says that Ajathashatru was a follower of Mahavira and hence Jaina accounts portray him positively while his character is blackened by the Buddhist sources. Ajathashatru was succeeded by his son Udayibhadda.


    • J.N.Samaddar- The Glories of Magadha, Calcutta, 1927

    • Muni Nagraj- King Bimbisara and King Ajatashatru in the Age of Mahavira and Buddha, Jaina Vishva Bharati, Ladnun, Rajasthan, 1974

    • S.Ramakrishnan Edited – The History and Culture of the Indian People– vol II- The Age of Imperial Unity, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 2001

    • V.Rangacharya- History of Pre-Musalman India, vol II, Vedic India, The Indian Publishing House, Madras, 1937

    • H.C. Rayachaudhuri – Political History of Ancient India– From the accession of Parikshit to the extinction of the Gupta Dynasty, University of Calcutta, 1923

    • Kamta Prasad Jain- Some Historical Jaina Kings and Heroes, The Jain Mittra Mandal, Delhi, 1941

Yajnavalkya, Father of Hindu Philosophy

The source of the entire stream of Hindu philosophical speculation can be traced to the Upanishads. And the outstanding philosophical figure in the Upanishads is Yajnavalkya for it was he who first laid the Hindu systems of philosophy with a scientific precision and logical rigour.1

Born to Devaratha and Sunandadevi, Yajnavalkya was a native of Mithila.2 He was a zealous student and acquired knowledge from distinguished rishis including Uddalaka Aruni and king Janaka of Videha. After his education, Yajnavalkya along with his fellow scholars travelled across the country to gain advanced knowledge and grew up to be one of the most eminent teachers and thinkers of his time.3

Yajnavalkya emerges victorious in the debate

Once in connection with the celebration of a horse sacrifice, king Janaka of Videha summoned to his court all the learned men of Kuru-Panchala country (roughly the region from Delhi to Lucknow) to meet in a conference for purpose of debate and discussions between the exponents of different philosophical systems and schools, so that the merits of each might be thrashed and brought out. Such a conference lasted for days together and the successful disputant, who could maintain his own philosophical position against all attacks and silence all criticism by his answers not only won for himself the first position among the philosophers of the times but won for his system and theories also a similar position acknowledged pre-eminence and popularity. At the conference under Janaka (which by the way perhaps our earliest literary conference) a rich reward of one thousand cows with their horns hung with gold coins was offered to the one who should be adjudged to be the most learned of the assembly.4

As a contender, Yajnavalkya in self-confidence without waiting for the judgment at once appropriated the prize and asked his pupil to carry it off. This assumption of superiority gave the signal for the debate to begin and no less than eight learned scholars one of whom was a lady asked Yajnavalkya with a variety of questions which was satisfactorily answered by Yajnavalkya. Among the learned scholars were Uddalaka Aruni who was Yajnavalkya’s teacher and Gargi Vachaknavi a learned lady. Others included Ashvala, Artabhaga, Bhujyu, Ushasta, Kahoda and Vidagdha Shakalya.5

A large part of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is but the record of the transactions of this philosophical congress so to speak, at which were developed and defined, by means of questions and answers, discussions and disputation, the theories and solutions of some of the most intricate problems and mysteries of life.6 The philosophy of Yajnavalkya may be summed up in the three following proposition-

  • The Atman is the knowing subject within us

  • The Atman as the knowing subject can never become an object for us and is therefore itself unknowable and

  • The Atman is the Sole Reality.7

Yajnavalkya the composer of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

Traditional accounts mention that Veda Vyasa divided the Vedas into four; Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda and taught one each to his disciples, Paila, Vaishampayana, Jaimini and Sumantu respectively. Vaishampayana made 27 division of Yajur Veda and taught them to his disciples including Yajnavalkya. Once Vaishampayana was offended by some remarks made by Yajnavalkya and asked him to give back all he had taught to him. Yajnavalkya vomited all the Yajus and other disciples taking the form a bird, Tittiri consumed it. Therefore, that branch of the Vedas got the name Taittiriya. Later Yajnavalkya propitiated the Sun-god who appeared before him in the form of a horse and taught him Ayatayama or Vaajasaneya Samhita or Shukla Yajur Veda.8

N.S.Rajapurohit, a well-known researcher of Karnataka during pre-independence period and who used to publish his finding in Tilak’s Kesari dismisses the above account as nonsense and after critically interpreting the works of Sri Shankaracharya, Madhvacharya and Sayana says that Vyasa divided the Vedas into Rig Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda and taught them to Pailarishi, Jaiminirishi and Sumanturishi respectively. And to make the job of officiating priests in yajnas easy, he composed Krishna Yajur Veda or Mishra Yajur Veda, where the Samhita (mantra portion) and the Brahmanas were combined and taught it to Vaishampayanrishi. To distinguish the other Yajur Veda which had separate mantra portion and Brahmana portion, it was named as Shudh or Shukla Yajur Veda which Vyasa taught to Suryarishi.9

Another scholar Daya Krishna has also opined that there could be five Vedas. He argues that there is no such thing as the Yajurveda and we have either the Shukla Yajurveda or the Krishna Yajurveda. These are not treated as the shakhas of the Yajurveda and if one were to do so, one would have to point to some Mula Yajurveda of which they were the Shakas. And there is no such Yajurveda extant at present.10 If this is the case then there should be five Vedas and not four, he argues.11

According to N.S.Rajapurohit, while Pailarishi, Jaiminirishi and Sumanturishi founded new schools of their respective Vedas, Vaishampayanarishi and Suryarishi taught their respective Vedas to Yajnavalkya who in turn founded new schools of these two Vedas. Thus, as per the instruction of Vaishampayanarishi, Yajnavalkya taught Krishna Yajur Veda to Tittiririshi and others thereby establishing 86 schools of Krishna Yajur Veda and 15 schools of Shukla Yajur Veda.12 This implies that Yajnavalkya did not compose the Vaajasaneya Samhita or Shukla Yajur Veda but only the Upanishad portion of Shukla Yajur Veda, namely Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Date of Yajnavalkya

In Valmiki’s Ramayana, one Yajnavalkya Vajasaneyi is mentioned as a contemporary of Janaka who gave his daughter in marriage to Rama of Ayodhya. In Bhagavata Purana another Yajnavalkya is mentioned as learning Yoga from Hiranyanabhah who was the seventeenth in descent from Rama of Ayodhya.13 In Mahabharata we find one Yajnavalkya rishi assisting the great sage Vyasa as adhvaryu priest in the Rajasuya ceremony performed by Yudhisthira. In Vishnu Purana the disciple of Vaishampayana, Yajnavalkya is said to be the son of Vishnurata while Yajnavalkya of the Shukla Yajur Veda is said to be the son of Vajasaneyi Devarata.14 All these indicates that many Yajnavalkyas lived at different times and that Yajnavalkya like Janaka is the title or surname of a class and not the name of an individual. Except on such a hypothesis, all the facts in reference to Yajnavalkya and other rishis and Janaka and similar other kings cannot be reconciled.15

H.C.Raychaudhuri says that king Janaka of Videha was separated by five or six generations from Janamejaya, son of Parikshit and must have flourished two centuries after Parikshit.16 We know that Parikshit ruled after the end of Mahabharata war (3067 B.C. or 2449 B.C.) and probably Janaka lived around 2867 B.C./ 2249 B.C and as Yajnavalkya was a contemporary of Janaka, the former lived around the same period.

Was Yajnavalkya the author of Yajnavalkya Smrti?

It is said that the sages approached Yajnavalkya in Mithila and requested him to impart to them the dharma of the various varnas, ashramas and others and as a result Yajnavalkya composed the Yajnavalkya Smrti.17 But according to P.V.Kane, from the style and the doctrines of the Yajnavalkya Smrti, it is impossible to believe that it was the work of the same hand that gave to the world the Upanishad containing the boldest philosophical speculations couched in the simplest yet the most effective language. Even orthodox Indian opinion was not prepared to admit the unity of authorship in the case of smrti and the Aranyaka. The Mitakshara says at the beginning that a certain pupil of Yajnavalkya abridged the dharmashastra in the form of a dialogue. Therefore P.V.Kane says that the author of Yajnavalkya Smrti whoever he may be claims the authorship of the Shukla Yajurveda and the Yogashastra so as to glorify his work (Yajnavalkya Smrti) as the work of a great and ancient sage, philosopher and yogin.18 With regards to the Smrti containing numerous mantras of Shukla Yajurveda, Kane opines that it may due to the author being a student of Shukla Yajurveda.19

Lived a Philosophers Life

Yajnavalkya’s ashram was always open to the poor and needy for help and succour. Once there was a famine in the Himalayan valley and Yajnavalkya gave 200 ounces of gold to his disciple Brahmadutta to buy grains and other necessities and to take physicians with him to the affected area and render help.20 Yajnavalkya lived the philosophy he preached.21 The fame that he achieved as the first philosopher of his time did not bind him to worldly life. The quest of the Brahman, the ultimate truth led him to renounce the world and adopt the life of a mendicant.22 On the eve of his renunciation he called to his side his two wives to announce his intention and divide his property between them. One of his wives, Kaatyaayani accepted while Maitreyi questioned whether by the earthly possession she could attain immortality. Yajnavalkya replied that her earthly possessions could buy her pleasure but not immortality. For this Maitreyi requested Yajnavalkya to give her that which could give her immortality and received instructions on the doctrines of Brahman from Yajnavalkya.23

Thus, when his social service was accomplished and his philosophy was established, Yajnavalkya quietly retired to the forest to investigate further in solitary contemplation, the unknown and the unknowable.24 Yajnavalkya was one of the most typical embodiments of all that was best and highest in Vedic culture and civilization. He was one of the last Vedic rishis associated with the later development of Vedic thought and life as expressed in the elaborate literature of the Brahmanas and Upanishads.25


  1. R.K.Mookerji- The Rishis of India- Dayananda Commemoration Volume, Edited by Har Bilas Sarda, Ajmer, 1933, p.27

  1. Mandagadhe Prakash Babu- Brahma Jnani Yajnavalkyaru, Viveka Prabha (Kannada Monthly), March 2018, p.13; Sureshwar Jha- Makers of Indian Literature- Yajnavalkya, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1998, p.19

  1. R.K.Mookerji- Men and Thought in Ancient India, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, 1970, pp:3,4,5

  1. R.K.Mookerji- The Rishis of India- Op.cit, p.26; R.K.Mookerji- Men and Thought in Ancient India- Op.cit, pp:5,6

  1. Ibid

  1. R.K.Mookerji- Men and Thought in Ancient India- Op.cit, p.6

  1. Ibid

  1. Vettam Mani- Puranic Encyclopedia, Motilal Banarsidass, 1975, pp:304,305

  1. Narayana Srinivasa Rajapurohit- Sri Yajnavalkya Mahamunigala Charitre (Kannada work), Dharwad, 1939, pp: 3,4,5,6

  1. Daya Krishna- Indian Philosophy, A Counter Perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1991, p.83

  1. Ibid, p.77

  1. Narayana Srinivasa Rajapurohit- Op.cit, pp:30,32,36

  1. Vishwanath Narayan Mandlik- Vyavahara Mayukha or Hindu Law, Asia Publication Services, New Delhi, first edition, 1880, pp:53,55

  1. Swami Mahadevananda Giri- Vedic Culture, University of Calcutta, 1947, pp:106,107

  1. Vishwanath Narayan Mandlik- Op.cit, p.52

  1. Hemchandra Raychaudhuri- Political History of Ancient India, University of Calcutta, 1923, p.18

  1. P.V.Kane- History of Dharmasastra, Vol- I, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1930, P.177

  1. Ibid, p.169

  1. Ibid, pp:181,183

  1. Sureshwar Jha- Op.cit, p.20

  1. R.K.Mookerji- Men and Thought in Ancient India- Op.cit, p.14

  1. R.K.Mookerji- The Rishis of India- Op.cit, p.28

  1. Ibid, p.29

  1. Ibid

  1. R.K.Mookerji- Men and Thought in Ancient India- Op.cit, p.3

Dharmic Crusades of the Hindus

The term crusades which lasted for 196 years during the period 1095 A.D. to 1291 A.D. evokes memories of death, destruction and barbarity of unprecedented scale carried out in the name of religion. The aim of the crusades was to liberate the holy sites of the Christians from the Muslims. A different kind of crusades took place several millenniums earlier when Hindus led a peaceful expedition towards West Asia. Unlike the Christian crusades, the expedition of the Hindus was dharmic in nature which resulted in the establishment of political and legal institutions, expansion of trade and commerce and moral and spiritual elevation of the people in those areas. Being socially and culturally advanced Hindus migrating to other regions over a period of time became the dominant elite of the places they migrated. Naturally we find Hindu influences in those societies in law, customs, myths, religion, languages and other aspect of their lives till the advent of Semitic religions.

Hence Prof. A.H.L.Heerenin his Historical Researches writes that India is the source from which not only the rest of Asia but the whole western world derived their knowledge and their religion.1 In his work ‘Our Oriental Heritage’ the eminent historian and philosopher Will Durant had said- “India was the motherland of our race and Sanskrit the mother of European languages. India was the mother of our philosophy, mother through the Arabs of much of our mathematics; mother through Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, mother through the village community of self-government and democracy. Mother India in many ways is the mother of us all.”2

Nature of Hindu Migration

Hindu culture did not spread in the wake of a world-conquering king who carried at the head of his legions fire and sword, savage barbarities and innumerable sufferings. India neither enforced her culture aggressively nor made herself manifest to the outside world in the person of a world shaker and conqueror like Alexander, Mahmud of Ghazni, Timur and Nadir Shah. Her Digvijaya or world conquest was the conquest of truth and law- the Dharma Vijaya. Those who disseminated Hindu culture abroad were impelled by inner spiritual urge and conscious will to carry the message of ideal spiritual life into distant lands. Their yearning for the general welfare and salvation of all persons inspired them to settle down in inaccessible lands and sacrifice themselves for the realization of the highest good and the conquest of piety. Herein lies the eternal glory of the Hindu culture. It built a unique empire- ‘an empire sharing not in a political life under a suzerain, but in a common cultural and spiritual life in a commonwealth of free peoples. The empire that India built overseas and overland was conquered by the piety and the spiritual energy.’ The guiding principle of this empire was Dharma or religious culture and righteousness. Indian colonial empire differed fundamentally from those of the western nations. Though Indians had established their colonies worldwide they did not think it right to settle down their growing population there nor they regarded these colonies as a profitable market for their expanding industries and increasing commerce. These colonies were never exploited anyway by the Indian emigrants and there is nothing to show that the Indian states derived any political advantage or economic gain from this extensive empire. It is even doubtful whether the colonial powers maintained any regular contact with the political powers in India.3

Causes of Migration

  • Emigration from India had been going on from time immemorial. Notwithstanding the marvellous fertility of the soil and the wonderful industries that flourished in the country, India had to plant colonies to provide for her super abundant population.

  • Religious schism was another cause for migration wherein the minority dissenters to escape the wrath of the majoritarian conformists left India.

  • Ancient India was the production centre of different kinds of merchandises and to market it Hindu traders moved to foreign lands. These merchandises were carried different part of the world through land routes and also in ocean going ships; and ancient Indians were experts in the art of ship building.

  • Wars played a role in migration wherein the defeated party used to be expelled from their land or migrated on their own accord.

  • The enterprising nature of Hindus led to regular migration both westward and eastward and through land and sea routes.

Evidence for Migration

For those who are sceptic of this claim of migration of ancient Hindus they should be aware of the fact that before the invention of motorized vehicles or railways, the mode of travel was either through walk or riding an animal or being carried on a palanquin. If through these means Alexander had reached India from Greece in 3rd century B.C; if the Gypsies had travelled from India to Europe in 10th century A.D. and if the European Christians had come all the way to Jerusalem during their crusades in 11th century A.D. what would had prevented the ancient Hindus from travelling to the Middle East several millenniums earlier? Another fact to be aware of is that during ancient times the border of India touched modern Iran in the west and hence to reach Iran meant just crossing the border and moving to Mesopotamia or modern Iraq meant just crossing Iran which was not a far-fetched feat.

Monuments form an important source for the reconstruction of history of a place or people. But unlike the monuments in South East Asian countries (in the form of sculptures and temples) which provides proof of Hindu migration to those countries, the iconoclastic attitude of the Christians and Muslims saw the destruction of all such monuments in West Asia. When it is rare or impossible to locate ancient temples in North India, is it not foolish to expect them in west Asia, the cradle of Islamic and Christian fanaticism?

According to the Syrian writer Zenob the iconoclastic zeal of Christian missionaries led to the destruction of two Hindu temples in the Canton of Taron (upper Euphrates, west of Lack Van). The temples were constructed by an Indian colony settled in that region in the second century B.C. About 304 A.D. St.Gregory attacked these temples and in spite of the heroic defence by the Indians, broke like Mahmud of Ghazni, two images of gods which were about five and seven meters high. St. Gregory must have been instrumental in wiping out to a large extent the trace of Indian religion in the west.4

This trend has continued even to this day. For instance, in 2001 the Taliban destroyed the Buddha images at Bamiyan and in 2016 the Islamic State destroyed priceless artefacts in Palmyra (Syria). Hence the difficulty in getting information on Hindu migration and influence in West Asia during ancient times.

When migration took place

According to Prof. Gulshan Rai there were several waves of Hindu emigrants to the west. The first took place when the son of Manu, Narishyanta and his son Saka spread out beyond the trans-Indus region. Manava Dharma Sastra mentions that the Sakas become split up into four sections; the Paradas (Parthians), the Kambhojas, the Pahlavas (ancient Iranians) and the Yavanas (Ionians or Greeks). The second outflow took place during the Deva-Asura sangrama (conflict). The third took place when the Chandravanshis displaced the Suryavanshis. For instance, the Dhruyus displaced the Narishyants. The fourth outflow of Hindus from India took place after the wars of Sagara and the fifth after the Dasrajna war in which Sudasa emerged victorious. The sixth took place after the Mahabharata war. There may have been some other subsidiary outflows also, he adds.5

Hindu Tribes who migrated to West Asia

Ancient India was inhabited by various Hindu tribes6 of which the Asuras, Panis and Dravidians were the pioneers to move westwards.

In ancient India the merchants belonged to Asura and Pani communities. They were mighty and intelligent people and accumulated fabulous wealth through extensive international trade and commerce. The Panis were adventurer mariners, ship builders and expert in trade and commerce. They first settled down on the coast of modern Gujarat and then moved to western coast and reached Malabar which was rich in timber.7

According to Prakash Charan Prasad, the leader of the Devas (ancestors of Manavas), Indra believed that profit from trade and commerce was to be in the hands of the society or country and yajna was introduced which means surrendering the wealth/profit to the society. Wealth was thus a social asset (probably for governance) rather than personal possession. But the Asuras and Panis believed in completely different principles of economies. They were individualistic and never offered any part of their income to the community and did not believe in yajna. As a result, enmity arose and led to conflict between the Devas and Panis/Asuras in which the former came out victorious.8

After losing a power struggle with the Manavas due to religious and commercial causes the Asuras and Panis migrated westwards. The Dravidians who were of enterprising nature migrated for trade and commercial purpose. This was the first phase of Hindu migration wherein the above-mentioned tribes carried Hindu culture and religion to places like Iran, Mesopotamia, Syria, Turkey and Egypt. The second phase of Hindu migration probably took place soon after the Mahabharata War when many kshatriya princes left India and established kingdoms in West Asia of which the Hittite, Mittani and Kassite are prominent.

Places where Hindus migrated

Mesopotamia (Iraq) – Mesopotamia was the first region to which the defeated Asuras and Panis along with the Dravidians migrated. The races who ruled over that region namely Sumerians, Akkadian, Assyrians, Mittanis and Kassites were all of Indian origin. Hence, we find Hindu influences in Mesopotamia; whether in place name, customs, ethnicity, language, myths or religion.

For instance the capital town Ur in Mesopotamia is a Dravidian word referred to a town like Nellore, Mangalore, Tanjore, etc.9 According to V.Gordon Childe the way of dressing the hair are similar in Sumeria and India. So also, the toilet sets are identical and that the wheel and carts had been independently invented in both lands.10 The ethnic type of the Sumerians is found to be identical with the Indian Dravidian type and Dravidian language itself seems to been a sister dialect if not the parent of the Sumerian and the Akkadian languages. The Brahui (spoken in Baluchistan) which form a connecting link between the Dravidian Indian and the Sumerian west is essentially a Dravidian language. Thus, the Sumerians were an Indian race which passed certainly by land, perhaps by sea also through Persia to the valley of two rivers.11

There is a striking parallel noticeable in the religious practices of early Mesopotamia and southern India. The worship of the mother Goddess under the name of ‘Lady of the Mountains’ and the annual celebration of her nuptials with the Moon God Ur closely resemble the Indian worship of Parvati in her various forms and the annual celebration of Divine marriage in south Indian Siva temples.12

In both countries the Mother Goddess is conceived as a virgin yet she had a consort. The sacred animal of the Mother Goddess in both countries was the lion and that of her consort was the bull. Besides the performance of the feminine function she was capable of doing purely male functions such as fighting. The Mesopotamian goddess was intimately associated with the mountain and called the lady of the mountain. The Indian Mother Goddess with the mountain is known by such names as Parvati, Haimavati, Vindhyavasini, etc. The name of the Sumerian goddess Nana is the Indian goddess Nanadevi who has a famous temple in Hinglaj in Gujarat.13

We find many similarities between the Mesopotamian gods and the Hindu gods. For instance, Enlil or Anila the god of winds was the Vayu of the Vedas and another god Oranna was a counterpart of Vedic Varuna. The Panis introduced the cult of Ahi called Ea in Babylon under the name Sarpanatha (written in Cuneiform as Sarpanathu). Another god of Sumeria was Bel or Baal who is identified with Vala or Bala a surname of Surya. Vala is mentioned in the Rigveda and is identified with the Sun by Sayana. Half man half lion statues found there probably depict Narasimha, the avatar of Vishnu.14 Several phallic emblems of deities were obtained by excavation in Babylon which bear complete resemblance to the Indian emblem of God Siva (Linga).15

Muir Sanskrit texts, vol I page 488 and vol II page 423 gives the following points to prove the Vedic origin of the Sumerians. The religious ceremonies of the ancient Babylonians like those of the Vedic Hindus ended in invocation and sacrifice. Creation of man from flesh and bones of Marduk as related in the Assyrian tablets resembles the Rigvedic legends of the sacrifice of Purusha and the creation from his limbs of the four castes into which mankind is divided. The custom of Devadasis; maidens dedicated to gods prevailed in both nations and priests held a high position the society in both the countries.16

The very name Assyria is a corrupt form of Sanskrit word ‘Asuryawhich means ‘belongs to the Asuras’. The epithet Asura is found in the name Ashur Bani pala which in Sanskrit will be rendered as Asura Avanipala meaning the Asura king or an Asura, the lord of the earth. Akkad is a Sanskrit word ‘Agada’ meaning without disease. In the dynasty of Akkad there are Sanskrit names like Amarsin (resembling Amara Simha or Nara Simha) and Shu-Sin (resembling Shiva Simha).17

Egypt– A body of colonist from India settled in Egypt some seven or eight thousand years ago which according to Egyptologer and antiquarian, Brngsch Bey, took place when Hindus crossed that bridge of nation, the Isthmus of Suez to find a new fatherland on the banks of the river Nile. Mr. Pococke gives evidences such as the provinces or rivers of Egypt deriving their names from the rivers of India, the ruling chiefs styled Rameses (Ramas) and similarity in sculpture and architecture of both countries. For instance, the river Nile is derived from the name Nilab as it was of blue colour.18

The Egyptians themselves always looked towards the east as their original homeland and called it as the land of Punt. According to A.Kalyana Raman, Punt is Pankth or Pakthya an area roughly corresponding to the present North West Frontier Province and parts of Afghanistan and trans Indus Punjab. It was from this place the Hindu came to Egypt via the Red Sea. They intermingled with the local inhabitants, adopting their language but introduced their own culture and religion which they modified in some measures according to local circumstances.19

There is striking similarities in the social and religious customs of ancient Egyptians and Hindus. Both were based on natural phenomena and their manifestation. The Egyptian sun god Horus was none other than Surya, Osiris was equatable with Asura, which in early Rigveda was an epithet of Indra. Osiris was later converted into Asurya that is sun of the night. Isis is Ushas, Har or Ra is Hara and Bes is Vishnu. In the majority of cases phallic emblems and some cases tigers and snakes used to be worshipped in connection with the adoration of the said god and a number of phallic emblems are also found carved on the walls of the Egyptian pyramids. In social aspects respect to elders and ladies was common to both and law of inheritance was the same. Both believed in the immortality of the soul and venerated the cow. Sacrifice of the bull was common and in oblation, one poured wine and the other ghee.20 It is also testified by Herodotus, Plato, Solon, Pythagoras and Philostratus that the religion of Egypt proceeded from India. So also, the chronicles found in the temples of Abydos and Sais have proved that the religious system of the Egyptians proceeded from India.21

Phoenicia (Lebanon)– In the Deva Asura war the Panis helped the Asuras but were defeated and driven out by Indra. According to A.C.Das one branch of Panis settled down with the Dravidians (Cholas) in Chaldea (Mesopotamia) while another branch very likely accompanied by the Dravidians of Malabar region (Pandyas) must have proceeded directly from the shores of India to Egypt through the Red Sea. Those of Panis who preferred a maritime life further went and established a separate colony on the sea coast of Syria and became the ancestors of the Phoenicians, who are a mixed product of the Panis and the Semites.22

In their new home the Panis called themselves as Kink Ahis or Kinkara Ahis meaning servants of the serpent god. The name gradually corrupted into kinnahi and kinnani in the local dialect and the Semites started calling them Cannani. The motifs of Ahi (serpent) can be found in several divinities found in Phoenicia and Sumeria. The symbol of fertility was the bull, appropriately called Risheb (Sanskrit Rishaba) by the Phonecians.23 The principal divinity of the Phoenicians was Baal or the sun-god and Ouranus or Varuna. Baal or Vala is also mentioned in the Rigveda and is identified with the Sun. The Rbhus whom Sayana identifies with Solar rays were the sons of Vala or Baal. The Panis under the leadership of Brbu were the votaries of the Rbhus.24

Just as in modern times European merchants paved way for the spread of western culture in eastern land, the Panis a mercantile community was responsible for the spread of Hindu culture in West Asia during the ancient period.25 Coming from a mercantile community their activity resulted in West Asia become an emporium of Indian goods. In the Old Testament we have references to trade between India and Syrian coast as far back as 1400 B.C. According to the chronicles of the Jews, during the reign of King Solonon (c. 800 B.C.) a navy equipped by Hiram, King of Tyre, undertook a triennial voyage to the eastern countries and brought back with-it gold, silver, ivory, apes, peacocks, plenty of Almug trees, jewels and precious stones. Ophir was the port at which they loaded these goods in their ships and scholars have identified Ophir with the port Abhir or Soppara on the western coast of India. Archaeological evidence reveals to us that in the 8th century B.C., India carried on trade both by land and sea with Mesopotamia, Arabia, Phoenicia and Egypt. The figures of apes, Indian elephants and Bactrian camels, made on the obelisk of King Shalmaneser III (860 B.C.), logs of Indian teak-wood found in the temple of the Moon at Mugheir (Ur) and in the royal palace of King Nebuchadnezzar are evidence to this.26

Turkey/Anatolia– In about 1600 B.C. various powerful and enterprising Hindu tribes advanced from Sapta Sindhu, westwards into the lands lying between the Caspian Sea and the lower Euphrates valley. These tribes were those known to the Hebrews as the Hurrians, the Mitannis and the Kassites. Earlier the Hittites had migrated to that region27 and it was these tribes which introduced Hindu culture and religion in that region. According to Vaidyanatha Ayyar the settlement of the Hittites, Mitannis and Kassites in Asia Minor date back as early as 3000 B.C. but their rise as political entities begin only from around 2000 B.C.28

The Hittites– The word Hittite is a corruption by the Hebrews of the word Khatti or Kheta of the Egyptians which again is a Prakrit form of the Sanskrit Kshatriya. The Khetas figure in the Old Testament as one of the peoples occupying Syria and Palestine. Solomon had wives from this nation and did some trade in horses with the kings of Hittites whose reputation as warriors was high in Israel. The capital of the empire of Khetas was at Hattusas (Sathwasa) now known as Boghaz Keui.29 The Hittite empire lasted for about 500 years from about 1700 B.C. – 1190 B.C. and at its height embraced practically the whole of Turkey in Asia as well as Syria.30

The earliest Hittite pantheon consists of the Attys, the Attargates, Astarte, Amon, Pra Sutekh, etc. corresponding to the gods of Hindu pantheon. There is a close affinity between the Hittite language and Sanskrit. The names of some of the Hittite and Mitannian gods, kings, kingdoms, cities and mountains bear such striking resemblance to those mentioned in the Vedas and the epics. For instance Arinna- goddess of spring (Sanskrit- Aruna), Arnuanta a Hittite king dated 1200 B.C. (Sanskrit- Ananta), Aruna, a town near the frontier of Kizzuvadana (Sanskrit- epic kings Varuna, Varuni, Aruna, Aruni), Dudkalia, a Hittite king dated 1250 (Sanskrit- epic king Dushkarma), Iruwattas, a fortress in the district of Barga (Sanskrit- Irawata), Karna a mountain, Kasipa a town similar to Vedic priest Kasipa, Tushratta a Mittanian king dated 1350 B.C. (Sanskrit- Dasaratha), to name a few.31

The epic Shiva finds a closer parallel in a god worshiped by the ancient Hittites in western Asia in the second millennium B.C. This deity is Teshub, the chief male member of the Hittitie pantheon. We have representation of this god at Malatia, the sacred gallery at Boghaz Keui, in the Zinjerli sculpture, in the monument at Isbekjur, on a stele at Babylon and also on coins at Hierapolis Syraiae. He stands on a bull and has the three-pronged thunderbolt as his distinctive weapon. He is represented as bearing a bow, the trident and mace, battle-Axe and dagger. His spouse is the great mother-goddess venerated as Ma in Cappadocia. The resemblance between Teshub as represented at the places mentioned above and Rudra-Siva as described in Vedic, epic and puranas text is too striking to be ignored.32

According to Prof Anderson the European civilization owes a debt to the Hittites who obtaining their civilization from an eastern source, transmitted it westwards to the distance shores of the Agean. From there the early Greeks conveyed it to the European continent.33 The influence of Hindu elite in West Asia resulted in the adoption of Sanskrit words in classical European languages. For instance, Van Kennedy gives a list of Sanskrit words found in other languages, about 339 in Greek (of which 300 of them are in the poems of Homer), 319 in Latin, 263 in Persian, 163 in German, 251 in English and 31 common to all of them.34

MitanniansThe Mitannians who were akin to the Hittites also rose into prominence around 1500 B.C. Their power was firmly established in northern Mesopotamia between the Euphrates and the Tigris under king Tushratta. Tushratta strengthened his authority by marriage alliances with the royal families of Thebes in Egypt to save his kingdom from being crushed by the Assyrians on one side and the Hittites on the other.35

From clay tablets with Babylonian cuneiform script discovered at Tel-el-Amarna in Egypt we know that between the years 1470-1400 B.C. there reigned in Mitani four kings whose names are Artatana (Artadhama), Artasuma (Artasama), Sutarna (Sudharma) and Dashratta (Dasaratha). All these names bear a close resemblance to Sanskrit Hindu names.36

In 1909 Hugh Winckler discovered at Boghaz-Koi, situated in Cappadocia (Turkey), a clay tablet dated about 1400 B.C. containing the terms of a treaty made by the king of Mitani in which the Vedic gods Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatya (Ashwini gods) were invoked.37

A record found in Boghaz-Koi is a manual of chariot-racing composed in the Hittite language by a Mitannian author named Kikkuli. This manual was written in colloquial Sanskrit slightly different from Prakrit. Some of the terms used in the book like eika wartan (eka vartana in Sanskrit meaning one turn), tera wartan (thraya vartana in Sanskrit meaning three turn), pansa wartan (pancha vartana in Sanskrit meaning five turn), satta wartan (sapta vartana in Sanskrit meaning seven turn) and naivartana (nava vartana in Sanskrit meaning nine turn) clearly indicates the existence of an archaic Indian dialect in Asia Minor.38

Kassites– The descendants of Dasaratha, Lava and Kusha is said to have led large bodies of Arya elite into the countries of the west of Indus. One branch of this great exodus apparently went to the west into Anatolia and Syria under the leadership of Lava; the other presumably guided by Kusha settled in the fertile crescent and founded various principalities which were collectively known as Kushite or Kassite to their successors.39

The Kassites make their appearance for the first time in the province west of Elam and east of the Tigris and begin to give trouble to Babylonia immediately after the death of king Hammurabi and the reign of his son Shamsuiluma (2080-2043 B.C.). The Kassites finally gained ascendancy over the Babylonians and established their monarchy as the third dynasty of kings who ruled over Babylonia from 1760-1185 B.C.40

In 1800 B.C. Babylon was conquered by the Kassites or Kossaeans under Kandish (Gandis or Gaddas) who established a dynasty which lasted for 576 years. That they were from India is proved by the names of their principle deities, Surias or Suryas (Sun) and Maruttas (Maruts or the winds). Their language also bore a strong resemblance to Sanskrit and the Kassite kings described themselves in their inscriptions as Kharis (Khatris) or Aryans.41

Iran– A section of Asuras who were against the Indra-Agni cult were persecuted by the Manavas and subsequently migrated to Iran where they established a new faith called Zoroastrianism. The Supreme God of Zoroastrianism called Ahura Mazda is identical with Vedic god Varuna who is called Asura.

In the oldest part of the Rigveda the term Asura is used for the supreme spirit and in the sense, ‘good’, ‘divine’ and it was applied to several of the chief deities such as Indra, Agni and Varuna. Asura means ‘giver of life’ or adorable. It was only afterwards the word acquired an entirely opposite meaning and came to signify a demon or an enemy of god.42

The Iranians were also sacrifice lovers and held unshakable faith in the Fire God. But some did not see the necessity of worshiping the fire or performing the Soma sacrifice in honour of Indra. While others regarded fire too sacred to be polluted by the offering of the flesh of sacrificial animals. This gave rise to schism, dissensions, religious intolerance and active hostilities resulting in terrible bloodshed.43

According to N.K.Venkatesam Pantulu the early opponents of the Manavas (Devas) were led by two leaders Ahu and Ratu and the term Ahura is a word formed from Ahu and Ratu. Also, Twastri who was the artisan of the Devas (Manavas) later became the enemy of Indra when the latter slew Vishvarupa or Trishiras, the son of Twastri. It is possible that Twastri led one section of the people against Indra and this might be Zarathustra. Ultimately the followers of Zarathustra being persecuted and expelled from their motherland wandered away westwards and settled in the place which they named Iran. They also took with them their scriptures, the Gathas, their fire- the son of Ahura, the holy water-Zaotra and the rituals and the social structures of their motherland.44

The culture, religion and mythology of the Iranians and the Vedic Indians are strikingly similar. The ceremony of upanayana is practically the same in the Veda and the Zend Avesta and in both the conventional number of gods is the same that is thirty-three. Image worship is equally unknown in the Avesta and the Veda. The similarity between a large number of cult words like hoama (Soma in Sanskrit), manthra (Mantra in Sanskrit), yasna (Yajna in Sanskrit), Azuiti (Ahuti in Sanskrit), etc. indicates that the sacrificial rituals of the Vedic and Avesta are of one and the same origin. The culture reflected in the old texts of Iranian religion ‘Yastsis essentially that of Vedic India.45

Hang in his essays on the Parsees; after comparing the names of divine beings, names and legends of heroes, religious observances, domestic and sacrificial rites and cosmological opinions that occur both in Vedic and Avesta writings says that in the Vedas as well as in the older portion of Zend Avesta there are sufficient traces to be discovered that the Zoroastrian religion arouse out of a vital struggle against a form which the Vedic religion had assumed at a certain early period. As a consequence, the entire separation of the ancient Iranians from the Vedic people took place and led to the foundation of Zoroastrian religion.46

The Iranians did not all at once settle in Arachosia or Persia after leaving India. They roamed about in many countries before settling down as agriculturists in their new home.47 They called their new land Airyana Vaejo that is Arya Bija (seed) which later became Aryana or Iran. That they cherished the memory of their homeland is evidenced by the names Hapta Hendu (Saptha Sindhu), Harahvaiti (River Saraswathi), Hoama (Soma), etc. in their literature.48

According to A.C.Das the name of Zarathustra does not occur in the Brahmanas or the later Vedic literature while that of Tvastra as the Fire God occurs in them as well as in the Rigveda. Hence A.C.Das opines that Zarathustra must have flourished in comparatively recent times and it was he who gave the Ahura religion the shape in which we find it in the Zend Avesta. He was a great reformer of the Ahura religion and came to be regarded as an incarnation of Jarat Tvastr, the first of the seven Amshaspands or Princes of Light who surround the throne of Ahura Mazda.49

Hindu influence on Judaism

Abraham the first Jewish patriarch believed in the all-powerful God Yahweh. M.K.Agarwal identifies the Jewish God Yahweh with the ancient Indian ruler Yayati, who was defied as Yahweb by the descendants of his elder son Yadu and whose progeny became Yadus or Jews.50

Referring to Prof. Dilitzch the well known Assyriologist who had pointed out that the word Jehovah, God’s secret name revealed to Moses was of Chaldean origin and its real pronunciation was Yahve, Tilak opines that this word was borrowed by the Chaldeans from the Vedic word Yahva which means great and applied to Indra, Agni and Soma in the Rigveda.51 According to S.Radhakrishnan the Jews were Indians whom the Syrians called Judea, the Sanskrit form of which is Yadava.52 Aristotle in his account of the Jews said that they came from the Indian philosophers (or were Indian philosophers) and that they were called by the Indians, Calami and by the Syrians, Judea. Megasthenes also considered the Jews to be Indian and said the Jews were an Indian tribe or sect called Kalani and their theology has a great resemblance to that of the Indians.53 For instance the Star of David consists of two interlocking triangles which actually is a Tantric symbol, a simplified Sri Yantra. The God of Israel is described as unique, transcendental, shapeless and so vast that he fills the entire universe very much like Brahman.54

Similarly the account of creation and deluge in the Old Testaments could have been borrowed by the Hebrew priests from the Chaldean sources, which M.K.Agarwal asserts have been borrowed from the Vedic legend which mentions of a flood which lasted 40 days.55 According to M.K.Agarwal over 300 names of towns, regions, estates, geographical features, tribes, clans, families and individuals in the Old Testaments are phonetically similar to the names in Kashmir and the Identical Society of London in the 19th century proved that Kashmiri population is of Israelite descent.56

We can infer that after the Mahabharata War the Yadavas migrated westwards and came to be known as Yuda, to which tribe the ancestors of Abraham belonged. Abraham and his family originally lived in Ur in Mesopotamia. Abraham while establishing a monotheistic religion and believing in one god could have been influenced by his great ancestor Sri Krishna who had founded the Bhagavata Sect.

Jewish sect like Essenes adopted Indian ideas like celibacy, vegetarianism, image worship, initiation, belief in karma and rebirth. John the baptist who baptized Jesus Christ belonged to the Essenes sect. Like the Hindus they underwent ritual purification by water, faced east while praying and practices a self-discipline which was somewhat similar to Kundalini Yoga.57 Many schools of philosophy like the Neo-Platonism, Gnosticism, Pauline Christianity, Bardesanes, the Neo-Pythagorians; and philosophers like Prophyry, Lamblichus, etc. show the influence of Indian philosophy.58 Manichaeism a religious movement founded in Persia in third century A.D. by Mani was influenced by Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. Mani the founder of Manichaeism claimed to be the reincarnation of Lord Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster and the sect used to revere Lord Ganesha.59 Even now after centuries of Islamic rule traces of Hinduism can be found in west Asia where the Yezids retain their Hindu influences in terms of religious symbols and myths.60

While the World moves, the Hindu alone Witnesses

Nations have risen and fallen, empires founded and destroyed, races have appeared and disappeared but the Hindu civilization that saw this rise and fall, their foundation and destruction, their appearance and disappearance still remains.61 It is said that Time outlast everything, but it appears Hindu civilization will outlive Time as Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma is the essence of virtuousness and truthfulness which are eternal values; and as its followers, the Hindus will remain in this world for eons and will be the sole witnesser of the past.


  1. Har Bilas Sarda- Hindu Superiority, Ajmer, 1906, p.xxvii

  1. A.Kalyana Raman, Aryatarangini– The Saga of Indo Aryans, vol- I, Asia Publishing House, 1903, p.viii

  1. B.N. Luniya- Life and Culture in Ancient India, Lakshmi Narain Agarwal, Agra, 1989, pp:462,463

  1. Ibid, p.455

  1. Prof. Gulshan Rai- Five Periods of Traditional History in the Vedic Age, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 4th session, Lahore, 1940, p.114


  1. Prakash Charan Prasad- Foreign Trade and Commerce in Ancient India, Abinav Publications, New Delhi, 1977, pp:21,22,23

  1. Ibid, p.23

  1. N.M.Billimoria- The Panis of the Rigveda, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 4th session, Lahore, 1940, p.92

  1. Atul. K. Sur- Pre Aryan Elements in Indian culture, The Indian Historical Quarterly, vol X, March 1934, p.17

  1. Vaidyanatha Ayyar- Sumero-Dravidian and the Hittite-Aryan Origins, QJMS,19(4), 1929

  1. K.A.Nilkanta Sastri- Southern India, Arabia and Africa, New Indian Antiquary– vol-I, 1938-39, p.25

  1. Atul. K. Sur- Op.cit, p.15

  1. A.Kalyana Raman- Op.cit, pp: 100,101,102

  1. Bhudeb Mookerji- Indian Civilization and its Antiquity, Calcutta, 1928. pp:1,2

  1. N.M.Billimoria- Op.cit. p. 92

  1. K.C.Singhal and Roshan Gupta- The Ancient History of India, Vedic Period, A New Interpretation, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2003

  1. Har Bilas Sarda- Op.cit, pp:149,151

  1. A.Kalyana Raman, Op.cit, pp: 65,68,69

  1. N.M.Billimoria- Op.cit p. 93; A.Kalyana Raman, Op.cit, pp:70,71 and Bhudeb Mookerji- Op.cit, p.2

  1. Har Bilas Sarda- Op.cit, pp:449,450

  1. A.C.Das- RGVedic India, Calcutta, 1927, pp: 255,256; N.M.Billimoria- Op.cit p. 93

  1. A.Kalyana Raman, Op.cit, pp: 133,134

  1. A.C.Das- Op.cit, p.200

  1. Ibid, p.203

  1. B.N. Luniya- Op.cit, p. 441

  1. A.Kalyana Raman, Op.cit, p.206

  1. R.S.Vaidyanatha Ayyar- Op.cit, p. 306

  1. A.Kalyana Raman, Op.cit, pp: 157,158

  1. Ibid, pp: 161,162

  1. R.S.Vaidyanatha Ayyar- Op.cit, pp:310,311

  1. H.C.Raychaudhuri- Prototypes (?) of Siva in Western Asia, Acharya Puspanjali Volume (In honour of Dr. D.R.Bhandarkar) Editor- Bimala Churn Law, The Indian Research Institute, Calcutta, 1940,pp:301

  1. R.S.Vaidyanatha Ayyar- Op.Cit, p. 307

  1. Godfrey Higgins- Anacalypsis, vol- I, London, 1836, p.449

  1. R.S.Vaidyanatha Ayyar- Op.Cit, p. 306

  1. A.C.Das- Op.cit, p.301

  1. Ibid, pp:301,302

  1. A.Kalyana Raman, Op.cit, p. 208

  1. Ibid, p.12

  1. R.S.Vaidyanatha Ayyar- Op.Cit, p. 306

  1. A.C.Das- Op.cit, pp: 303,304

  1. D.S.Triveda- The Origin Home of the Aryans in the Annal of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol- XX, 1938-39, p.58

  1. Ibid

  1. N.K.Venkatesam Pantulu- Zend Avesta and Atharva Veda, QJMS, Vol-30 (4), April 1940,pp:412,413

  1. B.K.Ghosh- Indo-Iranian Relations in Vedic Age, chapter XI, History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol- I; Edited by R.C.Majumdar, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London, p.221

  1. Har Bilas Sarda- Op.Cit, pp:157,158

  1. A.C.Das- Op.cit, pp:173,174

  1. Narayan Bhavanrao Pavgee- The Aryavartic Home, Arya Bhushan Press, Poona, 1915, pp:206,207,210,214

  1. A.C.Das- Op.cit, p. 174

  1. M.K.Agarwal- From Bharata to India, vol-I, iUniverse, Inc, Bloomington, 2012, p.453

  2. Bal Gangadhar Tilak- Chaldean and Indian Vedas, R.G.Bhandarkar Commemoration Volume, Bharatiya Publishing House, Delhi, 1977, p.37

  3. M.K.Agarwal- From Bharata to India, vol-II, iUniverse, Inc, Bloomington, p.42

  4. Godfrey Higgins- Op.Cit, p.400

  5. M.K.Agarwal- From Bharata to India, vol-II, p.20

  6. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Op.cit, pp:36,37; M.K.Agarwal- From Bharata to India, vol-II, p.18

  7. M.K.Agarwal- From Bharata to India, vol-II, pp:18,19

  8. M.K.Agarwal- From Bharata to India, vol-II, p.26; H.V.Sreenivasa Murthy- History and Culture of India to 1000 A.D., S.Chand & Company Ltd, New Delhi, 1980, p.375

  9. H.V.Sreenivasa Murthy- Op.cit, p. 374



  12. Har Bilas Sarda- Op.cit,p.3

Inhabitants of Ancient India

Ancient India was inhabited by various groups of people of which the Asuras (Daityas, Danavas), Dasa/Dasyu, Dravidians, Gandharvas, Manavas (Devas), Nagas, Nisadhas, Panis, Vanaras, Vratyas and Yakshas (Rakshasas) were conspicuous. All of them were human beings and most of them claim descent from mythical Rishis. The Asuras, Manavas (Devas) and Nagas were descendants from Rishi Marichi, while the Vanaras, Yakshas (Rakshasas) were descendants from Rishi Pulastya.

In ancient India numerous dialects of three distinct families of speech were spoken; namely Sanskrit, Dravidian and Munda languages. While Sanskrit was spoken in north India, Dravidian in south India and Munda in Chota Nagpur plateau and adjoining hills and jungles. Sanskrit language first gave birth to literature followed by the Dravidian language thousand years later while the Munda dialects never gave birth to a literature. Hence the only source of information about ancient India can be gleaned only from the Sanskrit literature. A brief account of the various communities who lived in ancient India is documented below.

Asuras– The Danavas born to Kasyapa of his wife Danu and the Daityas born to Kasyapa of another wife Diti were called as Asuras by the Manavas. Vrtra, Hiranyakashipu, Prahlada, Bali, Virocana, Namuci and Puloma were some of the renowned Asuras. In the earliest hymns of the Rigveda the term Asura is used to denote the Supreme Spirit and applied to Indra, Agni and Varuna. Later it acquired an entirely opposite meaning and came to signify a demon or enemy of the Devas (Manavas). The Asuras enjoyed a monarchical form of government. The Asuras had originally a king and the Devas had none and this was the reason for the Devas to be defeated in every battle field. The Asuras seems to have possessed their own institution of priesthood and the Bhrgus acted as the priests of the Asuras. The Asuras are described as great maritime people and knew the science of engineering, sculpture and architecture. The Asura Maya is supposed to be their greatest exponent on the art of building. According to Malati Shendge, it was from the Asuras that the Devas borrowed the basic idea of fire worship and modified it into an elaborate sacrificial system. The fundamental difference between the rites of the Asuras and the Devas seems to centre on the not throwing and throwing anything in the fire. The Devas used to throw meat and other items into the fire. The conflict between the Asuras and Manavas (Devas) centred round fortresses, cows, gold and glory which together constituted Svarga i.e. suvarga, a good state or class. The Asuras were Puritans and teetotallers (who abstained from drinking Sura). The enmity between the Devas and the Asuras according to N.K.Venkatesam Pantulu was due to their different outlooks in life. The Asuras aimed at material pleasure and power while the Devas aimed at spiritual perfection through Vedic karmas.

Dasa/Dasyu– The word Arya, Dasa and Dasyu refer not to race but to cult. Arya meant a worshiper of Indra and Agni and Dasa or Dasyu meant those who were opposed to Indra-Agni cult (yajna). There was no cultural difference between them. The Dasas and Dasyus are called akarman (rite-less), not offering sacrifices and worshiper of phallus (Linga) as Gods. They offered buffaloes and goats in honour of their gods. The Dasas were probably sailors and fishermen who participated in the overseas trade of highly priced luxurious and other goods and also in fish trade. They were wealthy and owned property and lived in castles and cities. Some of the Dasa/Dasyu spoke Dravidian or Munda dialects. The Rigveda bears testimony to the fact that the civilization of the Dasyus was far advanced than that of the Manavas. Shambara the king of Dasyus was the ruler of 100 cities. Other important Dasyu kings were Dhuni, Cumuri, Pipru and Varcas. Among the important Dasyu tribes were the Shimyus, the Kikatas, the Shigrus and the Yakshus. It is assumed that they were Dravidians. According to P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar the Dasyu were the originators of the Saindhava culture now called the Indus Valley Civilization and the practice of Yoga was a Dasyu institution which persisted during the Vedic period and again rose to prominence in the Agama period.

Dravidians– In ancient times the whole of south India was known by the name Tamilaka as all languages used in south India was given the name Tamil. Gradually the word Tamil changed to Dami Damid Dramid Dravid and finally to Dravida. Sanskrit works including the Puranas claim the Pandyas, Karnatas, Cholas and Keralas to be descendant of Dushyanta, the adopted son of Turvasu who was appointed by Yayati to rule over south-east India. Manu says that the Dravidians were once been Kshatriyas who became sudras from the extinction of sacred rites and the absence of Brahmanas. But If the Dravidian languages be of a stock altogether distinct from Sanskrit, it follows at least as a prime facie inference that the races which originally spoke these two classes of languages must also have been distinct from one another in their descent and could not have belonged to the same branch of human race. Scholars also speak of the foreign origin of the Dravidians who is said to have entered India from the Mediterranean region through Persian Gulf and Baluchistan. Rejecting the foreign origin of Dravidians P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar says that first of all India was a fertile country and must have supported a teeming population in ancient times. It could not have been a vacuum waiting to be populated by foreigners. Neolithic culture began in India about 20,000 years ago and was widespread in all Indian river valleys. The wide occurrence of Neolithic tools in several district of south India proves that the country was fairly populated in that age. All old Tamil works speaks nothing of cold regions, vine or fig growing Chaldean regions. Animals like elephant, tiger, birds like peacock mentioned in these texts are not indigenous to any country outside India. We know adventurous Tamils founded trading settlements in Java and Burma. In a similar way some gallant sailors founded settlements in Mediterranean and Arabian seas. P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar believes that the Dravidian culture went beyond the countries of India possibly by sea and settled in ancient Assyria as the Sumerian culture. Hence, we find similar facial features between the present-day Tamils and ancient Sumerians. The Dravidians were highly civilized, raised various kinds of crops, had expertise in industrial arts, traded with foreign countries and lived in cities under kings. They were rich, possessed horses, cows, owned palaces, castles and jewels. They had a highly developed languages of their own and worshiped Shiva.

Gandharvas– According to Vishnu Purana the Gandharvas were the sons of Brahma. In another place in the same Purana it mentions that the Gandharvas were the offspring of Kasyapa and Arishta. It is said that they defeated the Nagas and usurped their kingdom. The cities of the Gandharvas who were inhabiting the Himalaya region around the Uttara Kuru are referred to as magnificent. The Aitareya Brahmana mentions Nagnajit a king of Gandhara among the Vedic teachers who propaged the Soma-cult. The drink Soma was originally brought by Varuna probably from the land of Gandharvas. In mythology the Gandharvapsaras belong to the world of Devas as their musicians. The Gandharvas obtained the status of the divine musicians having made the gift of Soma to the Devas. In Ramayana the limits of the country of the Gandharvas (Gandharvas Visaya) is described as the country on both sides of the Indus and which is protected by the Gandharvas who are armed and are well versed in the use of arms. They were subdued by Bharata’s sons, Taksha and Pushkala who ruled over Takshasila and Pushkalavati, twin cities founded after the destruction of Gandharvanagara. Ramayana points to the region in Afghanistan and also in Punjab as the abode of Gandharvas. It is mentioned in the Puranas that a certain Gandhara was born in the family of Druhyu one of the sons of Yayati and the kingdom of Gandhara was named after him.

Manavas– According to the Mahabharata the descendants of Manu are called Manavas. They were the descendants from sage Kasyapa and Adithi. The Manavas were followers of the Vedic cult wherein lighting of the sacred fire accompanied by recitation of hymns and drinking of Soma juice was an important rite. The lighting of sacred fire shows that it probably developed in a very cold place in the Himalayan region where the Soma plant was also grown. The Vedic cult was represented by the rishi clans who came to seek their fortunes in small numbers more or less as missionary of the cult of Indra, Varuna and other gods of nature and settled in peace under the protection of the Manava rulers who readily appreciated their great merit as sorcerers and employed them to secure the assistance of their gods against their human and non-human enemies by offering sacrifices and recitation of hymns in the Chandas dialect called Devabhasha. As the Vedic cult could be followed by the privileged class like the kings, priests and nobles it was also called the Arya cult. All-important dynasties which ruled in ancient India belonged to the Manava tribe.

Nagas– According to the Nilamata Purana, the place Kashmir was originally a lake where the Nagas lived with their king Nila. The tribe was called Nagas as they had serpent as their emblem (Lancchana). The Nagas were devotees of Lord Shiva and supported both the Devas (Manavas) and Asuras depending upon their relations with them. Sesha and Vasuki Nagas were the allies of Vishnu (Devas). Some of the Naga girls married the Manavas; Purukutsa son of Mandhata married Narmada a Naga girl and Kusa son of Sri Rama married a Naga princess Kumudvati. The hero of Mahabharata, Arjuna had married Ulupi. There were many Naga rishis who were seers of Vedic mantras like Arbudkadraveya Naga (R.V. 10/94), Jatakaruatrwata (R.V. 10/76) and Sarprajni (R.V. 10/183). Kanakasabhai Pillai opines that the Nagas ruled over the whole of India down to the 6th century B.C. including Ceylon which was called Nagadvipa. In Buddhist tradition Naga means ‘noble in character’ and inscriptions shows that as late as the 11th century A.D. it was an honour for kings to claim Naga descent. The Nagas were known for their excellent beauty and culture. During historic times the Nagas ruled at Mathura, Padmavati and as minor kings in central India and issued coins.

Nisadas– The Nisadas are referred to for the first time in the later Samhitas and the Brahmanas. According to epics and Puranic traditions Nisadas are said to have sprung from the primeval king Prthu, son of Vena. The tribe seems to have derived its name from Nisadha who is described in the Puranas to have been the son of Athithi, grandson of Kusha and father of Nala. The Smritis explain Nishaadas as the offspring of a Brahmana father and a sudra mother. The Raudra sacrifices celebrated by the Nishada chiefs were officiated by the Arya priests. During the Ramayana period Guha was the chieftain of the Nisadas and his capital city was Shringi Berapura. According to the Mahabharatha, the capital of the Nisadas was Giriprastha and the Purana locate them in the upper and lower region of the Vindhya mountains. In the Mahabharatha war the Nisadas allied themselves with the Pandavas.

Panis– Another important group living in ancient India were the Panis who probably were a Dravidian language speaking trading tribe. They were businessmen, very wealthy and carried on commerce on land and sea far and wide. They did not worship Indra nor did they give any offerings in his honour. If the Panis lent money to the Devas, they (Panis) earned their favour otherwise they earned they wrath and were condemned as niggardly or miserly Asuras. Bribu a Pani chief is praised for his generosity and gifts to rishis. This shows that a compromise was affected between such of the Panis who remained in the country. The Panis left Punjab and settled on the Coromandel and Malabar coast as the latter suppled them with materials for ship buildings. The Panis were master craftsmen who built boats and vessels through which they visited the coasts of Persian Gulf, Baluchistan, Arabia and coastal ports of the Red Sea. The Panis were closely associated with the Asuras. As the moneyed class is generally physically weak, the Panis lost to the Manavas in the power struggle and being vanquished were assigned the status of Dasas (servants). The Panis knew the art of composition and writing and were called grathins.

Vanaras– The word Vanar originally meant ‘the dweller of the Vana (forest)’. The Jaina Ramayana calls the Vanaras as Vanaradhwajas or people having a monkey flag as they had monkey as their totem or emblem. Valmiki refers to three type of people during the Ramayana period, namely Manavas, Vanaras and Rakshasas; who were all highly civilised. The political, religious and social organisations of the Vanaras were of the same pattern as those of the Manavas. The Vanaras led a simple life and were strict vegetarians. A purely vegetarian diet is an indication of their spiritual progress and advanced culture. The Vanaras believed in the principle ‘Live and to Let Live’ and did not involve in conquest of territories belonging to other people. They fought only in self-defence. The Vanaras were akin to the Rakshasas, both being descendants of Pulastya. In Ramayana for this reason perhaps Ravana and Sugriva are spoken of as brothers or at least as of the same family. They had Kishkindha as the seat of their kingdom. They were closely allied to the Shabaras. Some of the famous Vanaras were Hanuman, Sugriva, Vali and Nala.

Vratyas– According to A.P.Karmakar the cult of Vratyas was the earliest institutions of Dravidians pervading through the whole of India before the arrival of the Arya cult. References from Mahabharata and Brahmananda Purana clearly establish the fact that the population of Punjab, the Andhakas, the Vrsnis, the Cholas, the Mahisikas and other tribes were designated as Vratyas. The Atharva Veda describes the Eka Vratya as the Supreme of the Universe, an ascetic, practicing Yoga, drinking Sura and his various manifestation were Bhava, Sarva, Ugra, Pasupati, Rudra and Mahadeva. The Vratyas were a nomadic tribe who never studied the Vedas or performed sacrifices, nor ploughed the land nor traded. Their language resembled Prakrit and Sutras mention Arhant and Yaudhas among the Vratyas corresponding respectively to Brahmanas and Kshatriyas. The population of Magadha were regarded as Vratyas and Magadha was recognized as the chief centre of Vratya culture. A Vratya was admitted to the Brahmanical fold after performing a rite called Vratyastoma. According to P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar Vratyas were wandering ascetic similar to the sadhus of today and were probably Dasyu sanyasis. The Shiva Yogis mentioned in the Chola inscription dated 2nd century A.D. were the direct spiritual descendants of these Vratyas who worshiped Shiva.

Yaksas/Rakshasas– The designation Yaksa was originally synonymous with Deva or Devata and even Buddha is occasionally spoken as a Yaksa. The Yaksas were non-Vedic benevolent deities of wealth and fertility. The Yaksas along with Gandharvas, Pishacas and Kinnaras are called upadevas. According to Agni Purana the Yaksas were born from Muni, the granddaughter of Kashyapa. Mahabharata Adi parva says that Yaksas were the progeny of sage Pulastya’s son Vishravas. Kubera was their king and his brother was Ravana, the famous ruler of Lanka. So long as the Yaksas helped the Manavas (Devas) against the Asuras they were called the Yaksas or Rakshak (protector). But when the empire of the Asuras fell and the Yaksas became the rivals of the Manavas, they were called Rakshasas. The Yaksas/Rakshasas were a civilized people with cities and forts, palaces and parks, dancing halls and theatres, stables and chariot houses. They used to offer their morning prayers and their priests were skilled in rites and rituals and knew the Vedas and their six angas. The Yaksas/Rakshasas were good businessmen and were very rich and inhabited the region extending from Janasthana, which may be placed somewhere in the delta of the river Godavari to Lanka or Ceylon. Some of the important Rakshasas were Illval, Vatapi, Maya, Shumbar, Kubera and Ravana. In Indian tradition the Rakshasas were known as Brahmarakshasas as they used to disturb the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Manavas. The conflict between the Manavas and the Rakshasas have been wrongly termed as the conflict between Aryans and Dravidians. If north India favoured Manavas as their rulers, south India favoured Rakshasas as their rulers. The people took sides with their rulers and hence it is not a conflict between north and south Indians.


  1. Malati J Shendge- The Civilized Demons, The Harappans in Rigveda, Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 1977

  1. M. S. Purnalingam Pillai- Ravana the Great: King of Lanka, The Bibliotheca Munnirpallam, Tinnevelly district, 1928

  1. Bimala Churn Law- Tribes in Ancient India, Meharchand Munshiram, Poona, 1943

  1. B. V. Kamesvara Aiyar- Valmiki’s Ramayana and the Western Critics, QJMS, Vol XVI, April 1926

  1. N.K.Venkatesam Pantulu- Story of the Asuras, The Home of the Asuras, QJMS, Vol 35(2), 1944

  1. P. C. Dharma- Social Life in the Ramayana, QJMS, Vol 28, 1937

  1. K. C. Singhal and Roshan Gupta- The Ancient History of India, Vedic Period, a New Interpretation, Atlantic Publishers and distributors, New Delhi, 2003

  1. J. P. Mittal- History of Ancient India (7300 B.C.-4250 B. C.) Vol-I, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi, 2006

  1. S. V. Vishwanath- Racial Synthesis in Hindu Culture, London, 1928

  1. N. B. Billimoria- The Panis of the Rigveda in the Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 4th session, Lahore, 1940, p.89

  1. Vettam Mani- Puranic Encyclopedia, Motilal Banarsidass, 1975

  1. P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar- Advance History of India (Hindu Period), Madras, 1942.

  1. John Dowson- A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion, Geography, History and Literature, London, 1879

  1. R.C.Majumdar and A.D.Pusalker Edited, The History and Culture of the Indian PeopleThe Vedic Age, George Allen & Unwin Ltd

  1. T. R. Sesha Iyengar- Dravidian India, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, Reprint 1982

  1. V. Rangacharya History of Pre Musalman India, The Indian Publishing House, 1937

  1. Damodar Dharmand Kosambi- An Introduction to the Study of Indian History, Popular Book Depot, Bombay, 1956

  1. Ramaprasad Chandra- A Study of the Origin of IndoAryan People and Institutions, Part I, Rajshahi, 1916

  1. Wilkins W. J.- Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic, Thacker, Spink & Co, London, 1913

  1. A. P. Karmakar- The Vratyas in Ancient India, Indian History Congress, 5th session, Hyderabad, 1941

  1. A. P. Karmakar- The Religion of India, Vol- I, Mira Publishing House, Lonavla, 1950

  1. Akshoy Kumar Mazumdar- Early Hindu India, A Dynastic Study, Vol-I, Cosmo, New Delhi

  1. Ananda Coomaraswamy- Yakshas, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, 2001

Parikshit – The first ruler of Kali Age

When the Mahabharata War ended, Yudhishthira after ruling for some time abdicated the throne in favour of Arjunas grandson, Parikshit. The accession of Parikshit marks the beginning of the Kali Age. Born as a premature baby, he was the son of Abhimanyu and Uttara. He was well versed in the science of duties of the kings and was endowed with noble qualities. His kingdom extended from the river Saraswathi to the river Ganga and was divided into three parts; Kurujangala, the Kurus and Kurukshetra. The capital of his kingdom was Asandivant probably another name for Hastinapura. During his rule there was peace and prosperity in the kingdom. He was married to Madravati and had four sons namely Janamejaya III, Ugrasena, Bhimasena and Shrutasena.

The Nagas who had established themselves in Taksashila under their king Takshaka attacked Hastinapura and fighting against them Parikshit lost his life and was succeeded by his son Janamejaya III.

Janamejaya III, the destroyer of the Nagas

Janamejaya was a minor when he was installed as a king. To avenge his father’s death, he invaded Taksashila and slaughtered the Nagas in great number, but Takshaka managed to escape. For some time Janamejaya made Taksashila his head quarter. He performed horse sacrifice and took the title ‘Sarvabhauma. He had married Vapustama, daughter of Suvarnavarman, king of Kasi and had two sons, Shatanika and Shankukarna.

It was in the court of Janamejaya, Vaishampayana first recited the Bharata composed by his guru Veda Vyasa. After a quarrel with the Brahmana priests, Janamejaya was forced to abdicate his throne in favour of his son Shatanika and retire to the forest. After the Mahabharata war the power of the Brahmanas had increased and that of the kshatriyas had diminished.


  • R.C.Majumdar and A.D.Pusalker Edited, The History and Culture of the Indian People- The Vedic Age, George Allen & Unwin Ltd

  • P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar- Advance History of India (Hindu Period), Madras, 1942.

  • Vettam Mani- Puranic Encyclopaedia, Motilal Banarsidass, 1975

  • H. C. Raychaudhuri- Political History of Ancient India- From the Accession of Parikshit to the extinction of the Gupta Dynasty, University of Calcutta, 1923