The Mahajanapadas of Jambudvipa, Part 3


The Citizens of Ayodhya
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka
British Museum Collection

Apr 20, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the island of Jambudvipa and the sixteen Great States residing there.

The Kosala Kingdom

The country of Kosalas was located to the northwest of Magadha, with its capital at Savatthi (Sravasti). In ancient times it was located about 60 miles north of modern Ayodhya, at the border of Gonda and Behraich districts in the Sahet-Mahet region. The Kosala territory corresponds to the modern Awadh (Oudh) in central and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya, Saketa, Benares and Sravasti were the chief cities of the Kosala Kingdom.

The Kosala Kingdom was bounded by the River Ganges to the southern, the river Gandak (Narayani) to the east and the Himalaya mountains were its northern boundary. It is mentioned as the center of Vedic Dharma. Kosala kings were allied with the Devatas in various wars against the Daityas, Rakshas and Asuras.

Koshala and Ayodhya hold a central place in the Vedic epics, Itihasa and Puranas. Raghuvansha (Ikshvakuvansha) (the lineage of Raghu or Ikshvaku) was the longest continuous dynasty. These were the descendants of Manu who belonged to the solar dynasty, also known as the Sooryavansha. Lord Rama was a king in this dynasty. Other great kings were Prithu, Harishchandra and Dilip.

In the painting above, we see the citizens of Ayodhya seeing off their King, Harishchandra. Set in two rows, on a background of trees, the men at the front are headed by Vishvamitra, with the women at the back. The citizens of Ayodhya have their right hands raised, as the king departs. Disposed in a 'fish scale' pattern, the figures appear more numerous than they actually are. Their physiognomies are very similar, however, by displaying a great variety in the details of their costume and headgear, the artist gives each figure its own individuality.

According to Mahabharata and Ramayana, Koshala was the biggest and most powerful kingdom ever in the recorded history. Later, during the era of Mahavira and Buddha, the kingdom was ruled by King Prasenjit, followed by his son Vidudabha. There was a struggle for supremacy between King Pasenadi (Prasenjit) and King Ajatasatru of Magadha, which was finally settled once the confederation of Licchavis became aligned with Magadha. (The Lichchavis found mention in our recent series on Nepal in the Mahabharata Period.) Kosala Kingdom was ultimately merged into Magadha when Vidudabha was Kosala's ruler.

Kosala is mentioned as one of the solasa (sixteen) mahajanapadas in the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya and the Jain's Bhagavati Sutra, from 6th Century B.C. Some of the minor towns in Kosala were Setavya, Ukattha, Dandakappa, Nalakapana and Pankadha. According to the Puranas, Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala during the reign of Ikshvaku and his descendants, and Shravasti was a later capital.

No mention of Kosala is found in the early Vedic literature. It is mentioned as a region in the later texts of the Satapatha Brahmana and the Kalpasutras.

Return to Ayodhya
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka
British Museum Collection

Here we see the king in his finery, mounted on a horse and riding towards Ayodhya. Queen Rohidas is seated comfortably on a richly caparisoned and decorated elephant.


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