Jaya, Vijaya, Bharat and Mahabharat-3
In Jaya 2, we discussed the geographies of the most prominent allies of the Pandavas: the Panchalas, the Matsyas, the Kekayas, Bahalikas and the Chedis.
In this edition, we will talk about the kingdom of Kasi, Kulinda, Nagas, Ashmakas, Cheras (Udra Keralas) and the Ashvamedha.
That almost every tribe/king in all corners of Bharat was a participant of the Mahabharat becomes ever clearer as we proceed further in our research.
Kasi-the ancient name of Benares or Varanasi was part of Kosala region, and salient to the story of Mahabharata- for her princesses, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika- had been kidnapped by Bheeshma in open court for the Kuru king Vichitravirya.
However, Amba refused, as he was in love with a Salwa king and entered the embers of Agni to be reborn as Shikhandi and cause the death of Bheeshma.
During the Mahabharat war, the Kasi princes Prakant and Vibhu led the Kasi army on the side of the Pandavas.
The mountain tribe of Kulindas with their kingdoms in mountains and forests (vana-rashtras) lived in the area surrounded by the rivers Sutlej, Beas and Yamuna and extending in the foothills of Himalayas – from Sirmaur to Pragyotisha.
They took part in the Kurukshetra War siding with the Pandavas. They possessed war-elephants and were deployed by the Pandavas against Kripa, Shakuni and Duryodhana.
The area around Rishikesh was the Naga territory where Arjuna had a son, Iravan with Ulupi – the Naga princess. Naga territory was so called because of the abundance of serpents, and their tradition of serpent worship.
Some Nagas also fought on the side of the Kauravas for they were upset with Pandavas for having burnt the serpents along with the Khandwa Forest.
Ghatotkacha and his Rakshasa kingdom controlled the Kamyaka Forest on the banks of the Saraswati River. It lay to the west of the Kurukshetra plain. It contained within it a lake called the Kamyaka lake situated at the head of the Thar desert.
The Pandavas discovered this during their years of exile, and the place is described as the favourite haunt of ascetics, situated on a level and wild plain on the banks of the Saraswati abounding in birds and deer.
From here we move towards the Deccan, where Ashvamedha was an ancient kingdom during Mahabharata times. King Rochamana and his troops participated in the Kurukshetra War.
Although they had been defeated by Bhima, Rochamana still chose the Pandava side. He and his brother were killed by Dronacharya.
Deep South, Keralas or Udra Keralas-a dynasty mentioned in Sanskrit epics of ancient India took part in the Kurukshetra War on the side of the Pandavas. The epic says: The Pandavas, headed by Vrikodara (Bhima), advanced against the Kauravas.
They were supported by the Dravida forces: and the Pandyas, the Cholas, and the Keralas, surrounded by a mighty array, all possessed of broad chests, long arms, tall statues, and large eyes.
The views expressed by the author are personaL