The Mahajanapadas of Jambudvipa, Part 11


Horsemen and Tiger
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka
British Museum Collection

Apr 29, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the island of Jambudvipa and the sixteen Great States residing there.

The Surasena Kingdom

The kingdom of the Surasenas lies to the east of Matsya Kingdom and west of Yamuna. This corresponds roughly to the Brij region of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, and the Gwalior region of Madhya Pradesh. Surasena Kingdom had its capital at Mathura (Madhura). Mathura is also associated with Maholi, five miles to the southwest of the present town of Mathura. This should be distinguished from Mathura or Madura, the second capital of the Pandyan kingdom on the river Vaigi in Madras.

Mathura was built by Satrughna, the brother of Rama. A son of Satrughna was Surasena, after whom the country was named. The story of Kamsa's attempt to make himself a tyrant of Mathura by overpowering the Yadavas, and his death at the hands of Sri Krsna is mentioned by Patanjali and also in the Ghata-Jataka, in addition to the familiar Vedic literature. The Surasenas were also present at the famous dice game.

Avantiputra, the king of Surasena was the first among the chief disciples of Buddha, and it was through his help that Buddhism gained ground in Mathura region. The Andhakas and Vrishnis of Mathura/Surasena are referred to in the Ashtadhyayi of Pāṇini. Buddhist texts refer to Avantiputta, the king of the Surasenas at the time of Maha Kachchana, one of the chief disciples of Gautama Buddha, who also helped spread Buddhism in the Mathura region.

In Kautiliya's Arthashastra the Vrishnis are described as having a samgha, or republic. The Vrishnis, Andhakas and other allied tribes of the Yadavas formed a samgha and Vasudeva Krishna is described as the samgha-mukhya.

Mathura, the capital of Surasena was also known at the time of Megasthenes as being the centre of Krishna worship. The Surasena Kingdom eventually lost its independence and was annexed by the Magadhan empire.

There are several traditions regarding the etymology of the name, 'Surasena'. According to one, it was derived from the famed Yadava king Surasena, while others see it as an extension of Surabhir (Abhira). According to Megasthenes, people of this place worshipped the shepherd God Herakles, which according to many scholars was due to a misconception. Others see in it connotations of a Scythic origin of the Yadus. Either way, it was the sacred land of Lord Krishna in which He took birth for his Vrindavan-lila.

One of the sixteen ancient mahajanapadas, the Surasena Kingdom is well mentioned in Mahabharata and the Puranas, which refer to the rulers of the Mathura region as the Yadus or Yadavas. The Yadus were divided into a number of subsets, including the Vrishnis.

Taramati offers Krishna a Coconut
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka
British Museum Collection

Sources: Mahabharata, Wiki, British Museum


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