The Panchala Kingdom, Part 3


Krishna Mediating between the Pandavas and Kauravas
Mughal, c. 1600

May 15, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — The last in a three-part study of the land of the Kurus and Panchalas of Bharat.

Kanyakubja Kingdom

The Kanyakubja kingdom is known as the modern day Kannauj district of Uttar Pradesh. During the reign of King Drupada of southern Panchala, this territory formed a part of the southern Panchala.

Gadhi, who was born in the race of King Kusika, and Gadhi's son Viswamitra, were mentioned as the earlier rulers of this kingdom. Gadhi's daughter was married to Richik, belonging to the Bhargava clan. Richika's son was Jamadagni and Jamadagni's son was the celebrated Bhargava Rama.

Gadhi mentions to Richika about a custom followed by their race; during marriage, the bridegroom should give to the bride's side a dowery of 3,000 fleet steeds with brown color. (This custom is similar to that of Madra culture.) Richika get the horses from Varuna. (Note that Arjuna also got his excellent chariot, horses and bow from Varuna.) The horses reached Kanyakubja capital, crossing the river Ganga. The spot where they crossed the river was known by the name "Horse's Landing Place." Not far from Kanyakubja is a spot on the sacred bank of the Ganga, still famous among men as Aswatirtha, in consequence of the appearance of horses at that place.

Both the Kusikas and the Bhargava-Richikas seems to have links with the ancient western cultures (e.g., Bahlika culture, Madra culture, Rishika Kingdom, and Rishikas). Viswamitra (Kusika's race) was born as a Kshatriya and later became a Brahmana, much like what was common in Madra cultures. Bhargava Rama (Richika's race) was mentioned as an expert in the use of the battle-axe, which he got from the Kailasa region (Kailasa range, Tibet).

The location of the Rishika tribe, who were experts in the use of battle-axes, was not far away from this region. The custom of donating or accepting horses as dowry also indicate a north-western culture. It seems that neither the Bhargavas (and Richikas or Rishikas) nor the Kusikas maintained any distinctions such as Brahmana and Kshatriya upon themselves. However during the later periods, when the Vedic religion became rigid in its four-order caste-system, the Bhargavas were accepted as Brahmanas and the Kusikas as Kshatriyas.

Gadhi was mentioned as a sovereign whose military force was exceedingly great. Viswamitra also was mentioned as possessing a large army and many animals and vehicles. Using those animals and vehicles, he used to roam around in forests in search of deer. During his wanderings he met the sage Vasistha and engaged in a dispute with this sage on the matter of the wealth of cattle possessed by the sage. Cattle wealth often caused disputes in the ancient kingdoms. Viswamitra had to encounter many local armies in his attempts to seize the cattle wealth, and he was vanquished by the local armies. After the defeat from Vasistha, Viswamitra adopted the life of an ascetic.

Bhargava Rama is also mentioned as defeating many tribes like Heheyas, and later adopting the life of an ascetic. Thus both the Kusikas and Bhargava-Richikas were warrior tribes who also were a priest-like class of people.

The Pandavas's Route from Dwiata Lake to Matsya Kingdom

Panchala was one among the countries considered by the Pandavas in which to spend their 13th year of anonymity, along with the kingdoms of Chedi, Matsya, Surasena, Pattachchara, Dasarna, Navarashtra, Malla, Salva, Yugandhara, Saurashtra, Avanti, and the spacious Kuntirashtra. However, the Pandavas selected the Matsya Kingdom for their 13th year of anonymous life.

They ordered their chief servant, Indrasena, and the others to take with them the empty chariots and to speedily proceeded to Dwaravati. All the maid-servants of Draupadi were orderd to go to the Panchala kingdom. After that, the Pandavas left Dwaita lake in the Dwaita forest and proceeded to Matsya kingdom. Dhaumya, their priest, taking their sacred fires, set out for the Panchala Kingdom.

The Pandavas, traveling eastwards, reached the River Yamuna. Traveling along the southern banks of the Yamuna, they passed through Yakrilloma, Surasena. Then they turned westwards (possibly to deceive the spies of Duryodhana, who might have been following them), leaving behind on their right (the north side) the country of the Panchalas, and on their left (south side) that of the Dasarnas, entering the Matsya Kingdom.

Impact of Magadha Kings on Panchala

Due to the power of Magadha King Jarasandha, many ancient tribes had to shift their domains. Prominent among them were the Yadavas, who fled from Surasena Kingdom southwest, to Anarta Kingdom. The King of the Salwayana tribe with their brethren and followers, and the southern Panchalas and the eastern Kosalas also had to flee to the country of the Kuntis, which was south to these kingdoms.

Even though only King Jarasandha is mentioned, this situation might have arisen due to many generations of powerful Magadha kings, who were forefathers of Jarasandha. During the reign of Drupada, no shift in the location of southern Panchala is mentioned explicitly. If the situation was created by Jarasandha alone, and no other Magadha kings later or earlier to him, then this shift of southern-Panchala could be temporary.

Panchala's Alliance with the Pandava King Yudhisthira

Bhima, during his military campaign to the east to collect tribute for Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice, first visited the Panchala Kingdom after leaving his home city of Indraprastha. Only two tribes did not pay tribute unto Yudhisthira, viz., the Panchalas in consequence of their relationship by marriage, and the Andhakas and Vrishnis (Anarta Yadavas) in consequence of their friendship.

When the Pandavas were banished by Duryodhana to the woods, by unrighteously taking over their kingdom, both the Panchalas and Yadavas visited them along with other cousins like Chedis and Kekeyas. The Pandavas five sons by Draupadi spent some of their life in Panchala, and some in Dwaraka during the 13 year long exile of the Pandavas.

During their pilgrimage all around India, Yudhisthira asked the weak men among his followers to go to King Dhritarashtra of Kuru Kingdom, and if he didn't take care of them, then to King Drupada of southern Panchala.

Yudhishthira and his followers, with the Matsya King Virata, began to make preparations for the Kurukshetra War. Virata and his relatives sent word to all the monarchs, and Panchala King Drupada also did the same. And at the request of the Pandavas, as also of the two kings of the Matsyas and the Panchalas, many kings gathered for their cause. Drupada sent his priest to Hastinapura for the initial peace talks.

Drupada, the king of the Panchalas, surrounded by his ten heroic sons, Satyajit and others, headed by Dhrishtadyumna. Well-protected by Shikhandi and having furnished his soldiers with necessary things, they joined the Pandavas with a full akshauhini.

Panchalas in Kurukshetra War

The Panchalas were the closest among all the allies of the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War. Panchala prince Dhristadyumna was the commander-in-chief for the whole of the Pandava army. Many heroes from Panchala battled in the war. Most of them were alive till the end of the war, however all of them were slain by Ashwathama in an ambush, while they slept in their tents on the last day of the war.

Ashwathama was the ruler of half of the Panchala Kingdom, viz the northern Panchala, under Kuru King Duryodhana. Northern Panchala was then reduced to the status of a province of the Kuru Kingdom. This could be the political factor that caused the southern Panchalas to become kinsmen of the Pandavas, who were a rebel force in the Kuru Kingdom. By supporting the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War, they might have sought to regain their lost Panchala territories.

Panchala Heroes

Satyajit is mentioned in Mahabharata as the commander-in-chief of the Panchala army under king Drupada, who fought against Arjuna, who was then a disciple of Drona, the preceptor in warfare in the Kuru Kingdom. He came to the Kurukshetra War leading the one akshouhini of the Panchala army. The brave warriors among the Panchalas, viz., Jayanta, Amitaujas and the great car-warrior Satyajit were mentioned as great car-warriors (Maharathas) by Bhishma.

The Panchala princes, Yudhamanyu and Uttamaujas were protectors of Arjuna's car-wheels during the battle. Similarly, the Panchala prince Kumara is mentioned as one of the protectors of Yudhisthira's car-wheels, along with another hero, Yugadhara (hailing from the city of Yugandhara, located somewhere to the west of Kurujangala, either in Hariyana or Punjab. Kumara and Yugandhara were slain by Drona, and Vyaghradatta, another Panchala prince, was slain by Drona along with Sinhasena.

Dhrishtadyumna, Sikhandin, Janamejaya (the son of Durmuksha), Chandrasen, Madrasen, Kritavarman, Dhruva, Dhara, Vasuchandra and Sutejana were mentioned as Panchala heroes, some of them being the sons of Drupada. The 10 sons of Drupada and his five sons are mentioned as participating in the Kurukshetra War. Suratha and Satrunjaya are mentioned as sons of Drupada slain by Ashwathama. Drupada's three grandsons were also mentioned as battling in the war. Shikhandi's son Khsatradeva was mentioned as battling in the war. Dhristadyumna's sons, tender in year, were mentioned as slain by Drona in the war. Valanika, Jayanika, Jaya, Prishdhra, and Chandrasena -- these heroes were also believed to be of the Panchala, slain by Ashwathama.

The Somakas, Srinjayas and the Prabhadrakas

These three names were mentioned frequently in the narration the Kurukshetra War, either as being related to the Panchalas or as synonymous to the Panchalas. The Srinjayas and Somakas were tribes allied to the Panchalas by kinship, born off from the various branches of the same royal lineage that brought forth the Panchala tribe. They dwelled in the various provinces of the Panchala kingdom. Prabhadrakas seems to be an elite group of the Panchala army, employed in Kurukshetra War.

The Somakas

'Somaka' seems to be a name used to denote all the tribes of the Panchalas. The word 'Somaka' means 'the one who belonged to the Lunar Dynasty'. This name could have been given by rulers of Solar Dynasty. The Kosala Kingdom ruled by Solar Dynasty of kings laid to the east of Panchala, so this name could have coined by the Kosalas to denote the Panchalas. Thus the name could be collective to the whole of the Panchala tribes and specific to the tribes that lie close to Kosala, i.e., the tribes that dwell in the eastern parts of Panchala.

The Srinjayas

Srinjaya King Hotravahana is mentioned as the maternal grandfather of the Kasi princess Amba (Amva). Amva, coming from Salwa, stayed in the asylum of sage Saikhavatya (who dwelled on the banks of the Saikavati River). Hotravahana met her granddaughter there. He is mentioned as a friend of Bhargava Rama.

The Prabhadrakas

The Prabhadrakas appear to be an elite army obtained by the Panchalas from the Kambojas. They could also be a Panchala army unit or a Panchala tribe that got trained in cavalry warfare by the Kambojas.

The Prabhadrakas were mentioned as hailing from Kamboja Kingdom. They could be the army brought by the Panchals from the Kambojas, since Kambojas were famous for lending their horses or cavalry to any party on a payment basis.

The Prabhadrakas of the Kamvoja country, numbering 6,000, with upraised weapons and stretched bows, and with excellent steeds on their gold-decked cars, supported Dhristadyumna. To distinguish them from the proper Panchala army or from other Prabhadrakas, they were mentioned as Prabhadraka-Panchalas. This army is mentioned as battling on the side of stretched bows Pandavas. Karna slew 770 foremost of warriors among the Prabhadrakas initially, then he then slew 1,700 of them.

A group of Prabhadrakas is mentioned as battling against Dhristadyumna. The chief of Avanti, with the Sauviras and the cruel Prabhadrakas, resisted stretched bows wrathful Dhrishtadyumna. The Kasayas (Kasis), the Chedis, the Matsyas, the Srinjayas, the Panchalas, and the Prabhadrakas are mentioned in Mahabharata as separate armies.

When Ashwathama slaughtered the Panchalas in an ambush at night while they were asleep, the Prabhadrakas headed by Shikhandi woke up and tried to put up some resistance. But Ashwathama and his army slew them all, including Shikhandi.

Thus, the inconceivable pastimes of the epic Battle at Kurukshetra is recorded in Sri Mahabharata.

SOURCES: Mahabharata of Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa; Wikipedia


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