The Mahajanapadas of Jambudvipa, Part 14


Rama fighting a demon
Ramayana - Paithan School, Maharashtra, 19th c.

May 02, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial exploration of the island of Jambudvipa and the sixteen Great States residing there.

The Assaka Kingdom

The Kingdom of Assaka, or the Ashmaka tribe was centered in Dakshinapatha or southern India. In Buddha's time, the Assakas resided on the banks of the River Godavari, south of the Vindhya Mountains. Many pastimes from Ramayana took place in the Vindhya range. Bhattasvami, the commentator of the Kautiliya Arthashastra identifies Ashmaka with Maharashtra. The Paithan paintings used throughout this series are examples of the Paithan School of Maharashtra.

The capital of the Assakas, Potana (Potali), corresponds to Paudanya of Mahabharata fame (I. 77,47). The Assaka Kingdom is mentioned by Panini, and it is mentioned in both the Markendeya Purana and Brhat Samhita, which refer to it as being in the northwest.

The Godavari River separated the country of the Assakas from that of the Mulakas (or Alakas). The kingdom lay outside the pale of Madhyadesa proper, being located on a southern high road of Dakshinapatha. There is mention in the Suttanipata (V. 977) of another Assaka country in the Daksinapatha, apparently separate from the kingdom's Maharastra locale.

Sita conceals herself from Ravana
Illustration from Ramayana
Paithan School, Maharashtra, 19th c.

At one time, Assaka included the Kingdom of Mulaka and abutted the Avanti Kingdom. The brahmin Bavari lived on the banks of the Godavari in Assaka territory, in close proximity to Alaka or Mulaka.

Among other anecdotal statements in Vedic literature referring to Assaka Kingdom is the fact that King Kalinga of Dantapura and King Assaka of Potana were not on friendly terms, but they later lived amicably. A king of the Assaka territory was ordained by Mahakaccayana.

In the Hathigumpha Inscription of King Kharavela we find that King Kharavela caused a large army to move towards the west and strike terror into Assaka, or Asika-nagara. The Assaka of the Cullakalinga Jataka and the Asikanagtara of the Hathigumpha Inscription are probably identical with the Assaka of the Suttanipata, which is located on the Godavari.

Assaka represents the Sanskrit Asmaka or Asvaka, which is mentioned by Asanga in his Sutra-lankara as a country in the basin of the Indus. Asanga's Asmaka seems therefore to be identical with the kingdom Assakenus of the Greek writers, which lay to the east of the Sarasvati at a distance of about 25 miles from the sea on the Swat Valley.

In early Pali texts Assaka has always been associated with Avanti. Regarding the Assaka country of the Buddhists, whether it be identical with Maharastra or located along the Godavari, it lay outside the pale of Madhyadesa.

Ravana battles Jatayu
Illustration from Ramayana
Paithan School, Maharashtra, 19th c.

Sources: Mahabharata, Georgraphy of Ancient India


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