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.

Reference

  • 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

Advertisements

Sudasa the Hero of Dasharajna Battle 

After the death of Ajamidha, son of Hastin (a descendant of Bharata and founder of Hastinapura), his eldest son Rksha continued to rule at Hastinapura and his two other sons, Nila and Brhadvasu became the rulers of the Krivi country (Panchala) dividing it into northern with capital at first at Ahichchatra and then at Chattravati and southern kingdom with capital at first at Kampilya and then at Makandi.1

Sudasa, son of Cyavana/Paijavana was the thirteenth descendant of Nila and raised the dynasty to new heights.2 Both Cyavana and Sudasa extended their kingdom’s territory. They seem to have conquered both the Dvimidha dynasty (Dvimidha was the brother of Ajamidha who had founded a separate dynasty) and the south Panchalas as there appears to be gaps in the genealogical lists of the Dvimidha dynasty of that period.3 Sudasa drove the Paurava king Samvarana out of Hastinapura after defeating him on the banks of Yamuna. His conquests stirred up a confederacy of the neighbouring kings to resist him. Puru king Samvarana, the Yadava king of Mathura, the Sivas (Anavas), Druhyus (of Gandhara), Matsyas (west of Shurasena) Turvasha (the Turvasu prince apparently in Rewa) and other smaller states (the Pakhtas, the Alinas, the Bhalanas, the Shivis and the Vishnanins*) formed a confederation against Sudasa who defeated them in a great battle near river Parusni (Ravi). Samvarana took refuge in a fortress near the river Sindhu for many years and later recovered his kingdom of Hastinapura with the aid of Vasishta.4

The Dasharajna war has been described in the 18th, 33rd and 83rd hymn in Rig Veda mandala VII ascribed to sage Vasishta. Accordingly, the small army of Sudasa was almost to be routed as the enemy hosts hemmed in on all three sides with the river Parusni threatening in the rear. At that time Vasishta by his persuasive hymns made the river Parusni (Ravi) render herself shallow enough for the armies of Sudasa to cross over and by the time the enemies pursued the stream swelled to its original volume and velocity so that the rank and file of the enemy were simply washed down. The few who succeeded in swimming across were easily destroyed by Sudasa.5 About 6600 soldiers belonging to the Anus and Druhyus were killed in the war.6 Sudasa collected much booty and distributed it to his followers and favoured Vasishta with rich gifts.7 Some scholars say that Vishwamitra took side with the ten kings while Vasishta took the side of Sudasa. The reason for Vishwamitra to oppose Sudasa was because the latter had replaced Vishwamitra by Vasishta as his family priest. But this opinion has not been accepted as both Vishwamitra and Vasishta were entertained by Sudasa and two different occasions.8

Some of the kings who fought against Sudasa in the Dasharajna war were the distant descendants respectively of Anu, Druhyu and the sons of Yayati.9 Druhyu, Turvasa, Shivi, Bharata were the titles of the descendants of the famous ancestors bearing those names.10 Of these, the chief titled as Druhyu opposed Sudasa and was drowned while Yadava and Turvasa submitted and the latter was killed.11 Sudasa having attained a victory over the ten kings became very haughty and this haughtiness became the cause of his downfall. The battle of ten kings which took place at a remote corner of India was an insignificant battle as compared with those described in the Ramayana and Mahabharata and as such could not form the subject of a historical epic although Vasishta and Vishwamitra who were directly concerned with it have preserved it in their poetical composition.12 Another probable reason for the authors of Rig Veda to insert the Dasharajna war in the text was because the vanquished were non-sacrificing kings who were converts to the new Zoroastrian faith.13 Sudasa also fought another battle on the banks of river Yamuna in which he defeated several tribes like Ajas, Shigrus and Yakshus who had united under king Bheda.14

Rig Veda composed during Sudasa’s Period

Shrikant Talageri in his work Rig Veda, An Historical Analysis says that mandalas II to VII from the oldest core of the Rig Veda. Of these mandalas’, mandala III ascribed to Vishwamitra and mandala VII ascribed to Vasishta refers to Sudasa who had patronised both the seers at one time or the other. Besides Sudasa eleven kings of the Bharata dynasty are referred in the Rig Veda. Of these kings Mudgala, Vadhryasva, Divodasa, Srnjaya, Pijavana, Sudasa, Sahadeva and Somaka belong to the Northern Panchala dynasty. This means that the earliest composition of the Rig Vedic verses took place during the time of Sudasa as they have reference to him and the battle of ten kings. According to P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar, the hymns in Rig Veda which refers to Sudasa and the battle of ten kings were composed a few centuries before the Mahabharata war.15 R. K. Pruthi is of the opinion that the Dasharajna war occurred three or four generations after Rama.16 As Sudasa lived three generations after Sri Rama, the probable date which we can assign to Sudasa is 4107/3489 B.C.17 He was succeeded by his son (uncle?) Sahadeva.

References

  1. F. E. Pargiter- Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, London, 1922, p. 274

  1. Ibid, pp: 146,148

  1. Ibid, p,280 *Gulshan Rai- Five Periods of Traditional History in the Vedic Age, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 4th session, Lahore, 1940

  1. F.E.Pargiter, Op.Cit, p, 281; Here Vasishta does not denote the person with the same name who assisted Sudasa but another person belonging to Vasishta gotra. As D.S.Triveda opines Vasishta, Vishwamitra, Bhrugu, etc. are the gotras and not the names of an individual. All their descendants were addressed by their gotra names. (Indian Chronology, p.8)

  1. H. L. Hariyappa- Rig-Vedic Legends through the Ages, Poona, 1953, pp: 246,251

  1. Ibid, p.248

  1. V. RangacharyaHistory of Pre Musalman India, The Indian Publishing House, 1937, p. 194

  1. H. L. Hariyappa- Op.Cit, pp: 256,257

  1. Sita Nath Pradhan- Chronology of Ancient India, University of Calcutta, 1927, pp: 93, 94

  1. Ibid, 97

  1. Ibid, p. 95

  1. Ibid, p. 98

  1. Narayan Bhavanrao Pavgee- The Aryan Cradle in the Sapta Sindhus, Poona, 1915, p. 339

  1. R.C.Majumdar and A.D.Pusalker Edited, The History and Culture of the Indian PeopleThe Vedic Age, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, p. 245

  1. P. T. Srinivasa Iyengar- Advance History of India (Hindu Period), Madras, 1942, p. 51

  1. R.K.Pruthi (Edited) – Vedic Civilization, Discovery Publishing House, New Delhi, 2004, p. 40

  1. See https://ithihas.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/date-of-mahabharatha-war/

Sagara- Restorer of Ikshavaku Fortunes 

Sagara (5187/4569 B.C.) was one of the greatest rulers belonging to the Ikshavaku dynasty. He was born at a time when the fortunes of his dynasty was at its lowest ebb. His father Bahu (Asita) had to face the joint attack of the Haihayas and the Talajanghas who along with their allies from the north-west like the Yavanas, Kambojas, Paradas, Sakas, Pahlavas and Hunas captured Ayodhya. Bahu along with his two queens fled to a forest and died near the hermitage of sage Aurva. The sage prevented one of Bahu’s queen Yadavi who was pregnant from ascending the funeral pyre and took her to his hermitage. Bahu’s other queen out of jealousy had earlier poisoned Yadavi. But sage Aurva saved Yadavi and she delivered a baby boy. As the baby was born with poison, he was name Sagara (sa meaning with and gara meaning poison)  

Recaptured Ayodhya 

Sagara was educated by sage Aurva and when he reached adulthood, with the material assistance provided by Aurva defeated the Talajanghas and regained Ayodhya. He then extended the campaign and subdued all north India, marched south and crushed the Haihayas in their own territories and their capital Mahishmati was reduced to ashes. The foreign tribes who had allied with the Haihayas and helped them drove away Bahu from Ayodhya had settled down in Ayodhya and were called kshtriyas. They respected Brahmins, observed Brahmanical rites and rituals and had a member of the Vasishta family acting as their priest. After defeating the Haihayas, Sagara completely crushed the Shakas, Yavanas and other foreign tribes and was about to annihilate them. But on the intercession of sage Vasishta he spared their lives after imposing certain signs of symbolical defeat and disgrace and rendering them unfit for Vedic ceremonials. 

Emperor of North India 

Sagara had subjugated all contemporary powers and was the emperor of the whole of north India. The Vedic culture and sacrificial cult were introduced all over his domain. Sagara was very pious and popular and celebrated the Ashvamedha sacrifice. He had two queens, Sumati, daughter of Arishtanemi Kasyapa and Kesini. The latter was the daughter of Vidarbha, the Yadava king who sought peace with Sagara by offering his daughter to him and retired towards deccan into the country named after him. After ruling for over fifty years Sagara took to religious retirement. As his eldest son Asamanjas was cruel, his son Amshumant succeeded Sagara. 

Initiated world’s greatest irrigational project 

Sagara initiated a project to construct a channel to carry Ganga water to irrigate tracts in the eastern region of India. This channel more than thousand miles in length was one of the greatest irrigational works undertaken in the ancient world and involved the efforts of several generation of the rulers of Ayodhya like Sagara, Amshumant, Dilipa and Bhagiratha.  

Bhagiratha, the originator of Ganga worship 

Bhagiratha one of the successors of Sagara is included in the list of sixteen celebrated kings called Sodasha Rajika. Tradition makes him one of the five great emperors of ancient India. He was very pious, wise, learned, brave and kind. It is said that after Mandhata, India had not witnessed a more powerful king than Bhagiratha to whom bowed all the kings of India. He showed his greatness by not taking any tribute from them. He was famous for his charities and gave to all whatever they asked. Bhagiratha was a very popular king and had the titles of chakravartin and samrat. He was a devotee of Shiva and originator of the worship of river Ganga. The river Ganga is also named Bhagirathi in his honour. 

Reference 

  • A. D.Pusalker- The New Style Puranas in Mahendra Kulasrestra- Edited, Culture India– A Compendium of Indian Philosophy, Religion, Arts, Literature and Society contributed by authorities in various areas, Lotus Press, New Delhi,2006, 
  • F.E.Pargiter- Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, London, 1922 
  • V. Rangacharya – History of Pre Musalman India, The Indian Publishing House, 1937 
  • R.C.Majumdar and A.D.Pusalker Edited, The History and Culture of the Indian People- The Vedic Age, George Allen & Unwin Ltd 
  • Akshoy Kumar Mazumdar- Early Hindu India, A Dynastic Study, Vol-I, Cosmo, New Delhi 
  • R.K.Pruthi (Edited) – Vedic Civilization, Discovery Publishing House, New Delhi, 2004 
  • J.P.Mittal- History of Ancient India (7300 B.C.-4250 B. C.) Vol-I, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi

Parashurama- Symbol of Brahmakshatriya Power

Parashurama (5587 / 4969 B.C.) was the son of Jamadagni and Renuka and belonged to the Bhargava vamsa. In the Puranas, Parashurama is represented as an incarnation of Vishnu. He is said to have been born during the period of interval between the Treta and Dvapara yugas. He was a great warrior skilled in all weapons especialy in archery. The Parashu (battle axe) was his special weapon on account of which he came to be called Parashurama in distinct from Rama Dasharati. Though a Brahmana, Parashurama is generally spoken of as virtually a kshatriya combining the two characters, Brahma Kshatra.

The family of Bhrigus/Bhargavas to which Parashurama belonged lived in Anarta (Gujarat). When western India came under the sway of the Haihayas, the Bhrigus became associated with the Haihayas and became their priests and one Kartavirya bestowed them with great wealth. The Bhrigus/Bhargavas were also enterprising trademen who amassed wealth by acting as intermediaries between Indian and foreigners. Though Brahmins they entered into matrimonial alliance with kstrariya ruling families. Bhargava Richika married Satyavati daughter of king Gadhi of Kanyakubj to whom was born Jamadagni. Jamadagni in turn married Renuka, the daughter of Renu, a junior king of the ruling family of Ayodhya and their son was Parashurama.

Parashurama’s fight with Kartavirya Arjuna

The Haihaya ruler Kartavirya Arjuna wanted to take control of the sea trade as it was a lucrative source of revenue. The growing teritorial conquests which he had embarked required money and he demanded the Bhargavas to return the wealth given by his father. The Bhargavas refused and Arjuna used violence against them. One day Arjuna’s sons entered the ashram of Jamadagni and killed him. The devastating raids and conquests of the Haihayas had led to a growing discontentment and unpopularitiy of the Haihayas. Parashurama organised a confederacy of various kingdoms and led an all round attack against the Haihayas and killed their king Kartavirya Arjuna.

On the devasted Haihaya realm Parashurama founded new cities and also colonized the region known as Aparanta on the west coast where Surparaka became a great trading center. Parashurama was the first colonizer of the tract (the present Konkan and Kerala region) which probably erupted out of the sea due to seismic disturbances. Here Parashurama is said to have settled Brahmin families brought from north and other parts of India and outside. The Malbar coast is even now known as Parashurama Kshetra and it is said that he introduced the Bhagavathi cult and built 108 temples of the goddesses in this region. Parashurama performed many sacrifices and later retired to south India.

Reference

  • A. D.Pusalker- The New Style Puranas in Mahendra Kulasrestra- Edited, Culture India– A Compendium of Indian Philosophy, Religion, Arts, Literature and Society contributed by authorities in various areas, Lotus Press, New Delhi,2006,

  • R.K.Pruthi (Edited) – Vedic Civilization, Discovery Publishing House, New Delhi, 2004, p.91

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

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

Kartavirya Arjuna, the Sahasrabaahu

Kartavirya Arjuna (5587 / 4969 B.C.) was a great monarch belonging to the Haihaya dynasty. Son of Kartavirya he was called samrat and chakravartin. Sage Dattatreya, belonging to Atri family was his guru.

Kartavirya Arjuna who ruled for a long period raised the Haihaya power to preeminence. He extended his conquests from the mouth of the river Narmada as far as the Himalayas and captured Mahismati from the Karkotaka Nagas and made it his capital. He defeated, captured, imprisoned and later released Ravana a king from Deccan. (Ravana is a title and not to be confused with Ravana who fought with Rama of Ayodhya)

Kartavirya Arjuna had the epithet Sahasrabaahu as he had the power and strength to wield 500 bows together or a single bow equal to them. Another possible explanation may be as he possessed a 1000 oared ship or a fleet of 1000 ships which was built with the help of Dattatreya.

Kartavirya Arjuna’s conflict with the Bhrigus/Bhargavas

The Bhrigus/Bhargavas though belonging to the priestly class were great navigators, expert mariners and enterprising tradesmen who controlled the trade between India and the western world. They acted as intermediaries between Indians and foreigners such as Assyrians. They had amassed great wealth by helping foreigners at the cost of indigenous population. Arjuna wanted trade and commerce of Indian people under Indian control and did not like the Bhargavas who were the against of the foreigners. Arjuna’s effort at getting control of the sea trade by taking the help of Dattatreya who was an expert in ship building was an eyesore to the Bhargavas. This was the main reason of the Bhargava-Haihaya conflict.

Karkotaka Naga, Ravana and others who were defeated by Arjuna were seeking some opportunity to wreak vengeance on him. When Arjuna’s sons killed Jamadagni of the Bhargava family, his son Parushurama organised a confederacy of various kingdoms including Vaishali, Videha, Kashi, Kanyakubj and Ayodhya, fought the Haihayas on various battles and finally killed Arjuna.

Kartavirya Arjuna is described as an ideal monarch unparalled in penance, charities, learning and virtues; who conquered the whole world and ruled it with perfect justice.

Reference

  • A. D.Pusalker- The New Style Puranas in Mahendra Kulasrestra- Edited, Culture India– A Compendium of Indian Philosophy, Religion, Arts, Literature and Society contributed by authorities in various areas, Lotus Press, New Delhi,2006,

  • R.K.Pruthi (Edited) – Vedic Civilization, Discovery Publishing House, New Delhi, 2004, p.91

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