Ahichchhatra

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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Ahichchhatra (अहिच्छ्त्र) was the ancient capital of Northern Panchala, a northern Indian kingdom mentioned in Mahabharata.

Variants of name

Location

The remains of Ahichhatra have been discovered near Ram Nagar village in Aonla tehsil of Bareilly district in Uttar Pradesh.

Origin of the name

The word Ahi means snake or Naga in Sanskrit. Nagas were a group of ancient people who worshiped serpents. The word khsetra means region in Sanskrit. This implies that Ahi-kshetra was a region of Nagas.

History

The excavations have brought to life a brick fortification and continuity of occupation from a period before 600 BCE to 1100 CE.[1] During the first excavations in 1940–44, the Painted Gray Ware pottery were found at the earliest level. Ruins of this city could be identified from the remote sensing imagery of IRS (Indian Remote Sensing) satellites. The ruins reveals that the city had a triangular shape. Recent excavations in Ahichchhatra showed it was first inhabited by the middle of the second millennium BC with Ochre Coloured Pottery culture people, followed by Black and Red Ware culture. Around 1000 BC, it reached at least 40 hectares of area, making it one of the largest Painted Grey Ware culture sites.[2] The city was alive up to end of Kurukshetra war. Near the Ahichchhatra 2 km west there is also a big pond at the time of Mahabharata in the village of Jagannathpur and today the people bath in that pond this pond is made by the Pandavas at the time of banvas.

The territory under Ahichchhatra was formerly under the Panchala king Drupada. Later it was taken over by Drona, after a war, in which Drupada was defeated by Drona's disciple Arjuna. Ashwatthama, the son of Drona, was given the responsibility of ruling the territory of Northern Panchala from Ahichchhatra. Ashwatthama probably ruled the kingdom being subordinate to the rulers of Hastinapura.

The word Ahi means snake or Naga in Sanskrit. Nagas were a group of ancient people who worshiped serpents. The word khsetra means region in Sanskrit. This implies that Ahi-kshetra was a region of Nagas.

Its history reaches back to 1430 B.C., at which time it was capital of Panchala. The name is written Ahikshetras as well as Ahi-chhatra, but the local legend of Adi Raja and the Naga, who formed a canopy over his head, when asleep, shows that the later is the correct form.[4] This grand old fort is said to have been built by Adi Raja, an Ahir, whose future elevation sovereignty was foretold by Drona, when he found him sleeping under the guardianship of a serpent with expended hood. The fort is also called Adikot.[3]

In ancient time this place was famous as ‘Sankhyavati’ mentioned in Jaina text 'Vividh Tirthkalp' but later on after protection of Bhagwan Parshvanath from ‘Upsarg’ by serpent hoods of Dharnendra & Padmawati, this place became famous as ‘Ahichchhatra’. The area was surrounded by deep forests and ruled by Nagas.[4]

Ahichchhatra is one of the ancient cities of India. This city was the capital of ‘Panchal Janapada’. This Panchal Janapada is one of the 52 Janapadas established by Bhagwan Adinath. During next period there was partition of Panchal Janapada into Northern Panchal and Southern Panchal. The ‘Kampila’ remained capital of Southern Panchal and Ahichchhatra remained capital of Northern Panchal.

During ‘Mahabharata’ period the Northern Panchal was ruled by King ‘Drona’ and Southern Panchal was ruled by King ‘Drupada’. According to one of the inscriptions discovered from the cave of Pabhosa Kshetra near Kaushambi the one name of this place was ‘Adhichakra’ also. From the 2nd century to the 6th century this place remained famous as Ahichchhatra. We found name Ahichchhatra on ‘Yaksha Statue’ & ‘Clay Stamp of Gupta period’ discovered during excavations.

The ancient Ahichchhatra was spread in large area and its ruins are still found around the city Ram Nagar. According to the Chinese traveler Xuanzang this place was spread in the area of 3 miles and many Stupas were also constructed here.

Bhairanmatti Stone Inscription of the Sinda family Saka year 955 (1033 AD) tells us ....A special point of interest in this record is the legendary account as to the origin of the Sinda family, and of its name. These Sindas claimed to belong to the Nagavansa or race of hooded, serpents, to carry the nāga-dhvaja or phani-patākā, i.e. the banner which line 41 of tlie text explains as bearing representations of the Naga kings Ananta, Vasugi (more properly Vasuki), and Takshaka, to use the vyāghra-lānchhana or tiger-crest, and to have the hereditary title of "lord of Bhogawati the best of towns", which place, in Hindu mythology, was the capital of the Naga king Vasuki in Rasatala, one of the seven divisions of Pātala or the subterranean regions. And, by way of accounting for all these attributes, and for the family-name, the record tells us that the eponymous founder of the family was a certain long-armed Sinda a human son of the serpent-king Dharanendra, born atAhichchhatra in the region of the river Sindhu i.e. the Indus, and reared by a tiger. This Sinda is said to have married the daughter of a Kadamba prince, and to have had by her three sons, who established the family of the kings of the Sinda race. They appear to have been the first of a line of thirty-one successive rulers. And after them, at unspecified intervals, there came another prince named Sinda, and then Kammara or Kammayyarasa, the father of Pulikala.

Ahichchhatra appears as name of capital of Uttara Panchala. Adhichchhatra (Skt- Ahichchhatra) finds mention in Pabosha cave Inscription of Ashādhasena. [5] which may dated about beginning of Christian era. Samkhyavati was the earlier name of Ahichchhatra described as the capital of Kuru Jangala. (p.263). According to Cunninghum[6] the name is written Ahikshetra (Mbt V.252). [7]

The excavations have brought to life a brick fortification and continuity of occupation from a period before 600 BCE to 1100 CE.[8]


After Kushans, no details are available about the history of this area till the time of Harshavardhana, except that it become part of the kingdom of the Guptas and the Maukharis in succession. During Harshas reign ( 606-647 A.D.), the Chinese pilgrim, Hiuen Tsang, traveled from Ahichhatra to Sankisa in 636 AD.

Visit by Xuanzang in 636 AD

Xuanzang visited Ahichhatra in 636 AD. Sir Alexander Cunningham[9] writes that from Govisana Hwen Thsang proceeded to the south-east 400 li, or 66 miles, to Ahi-chi-ta-lo, or Ahichhatra.[10] This once famous place still preserves its ancient name as Ahichhatr, although it has been


[p.360]: deserted for many centuries. Its history readies back to B.C. 1430, at which time it was the capital of northern Panchala. The name is written Ahi-kshetra, as well as Ahi-chhatra, but the local legend of Adi Raja and the Naga, who formed a canopy over his head when asleep, shows that the latter is the correct form. This grand old fort is said to have been built by Raja Adi, an Ahir, whose future elevation to sovereignty was foretold by Drona, when he found him sleeping under the guardianship of a serpent with expanded hood. The place is mentioned by Ptolemy as Aδισάδρα which proves that the legend attached to the name of Adi is at least as old as the beginning of the Christian era. The fort is also called Adikot, but the more common name is Ahichhatr.

According to the ' Mahabharata,' the great kingdom of Panchala extended from the Himalaya mountains to the Chambal river. The capital of north Panchala, or Rohilkhand, was Ahi-chhatra, and that of south Panchala, or the Central Gangetic Doab, was Kampilya, now Kampil, on the old Ganges between Budaon and Farrukhabad. Just before the great war, or about 1430BC, the king of Panchala, named Drupada, was conquered by Drona, the preceptor of the five Pandus. Drona retained north Panchala for himself, but restored the southern half of the kingdom to Drupada. According to this account, the name of Ahi-chhatra, and consequently also the legend of Adi Raja and the serpent, are many centuries anterior to the rise of Buddhism.

It would appear, however, that the Buddhists must have adopted and altered the legend to do honour to their great teacher, for Hwen Thsang records that out-


[p.361]: side the town there was a Naga-hrada, or " serpent tank," near which Buddha had preached the law for seven days in favour of the serpent king, and that the spot was marked by a stupa of King Asoka[11] Now, as the only existing stupa at this place is called Chattr, I infer that the Buddhist legend represented the Naga king after his conversion as forming a canopy over Buddha with his expanded hood. I think, also, that the stupa erected on the spot where the conversion took place would naturally have been called Ahi Chhatra, or the " serpent canopy." A similar story is told at Buddha Gaya of the Naga King Muchalinda, who, with his expanded hood, sheltered Buddha from the shower of rain produced by the malignant demon Mara.

The account of Ahi Chhatra given by Hwen Thsang is unfortunately very meagre, otherwise we might most probably have identified many of the existing ruins with the Buddhist works of an early age. The capital was 17 or 18 li, or just three miles in circuit, and was defended by natural obstacles. It possessed 12 monasteries, containing about 1000 monks, and 9 Brahmanical temples, with about 300 worshippers of Ishwara Deva (Siva), who smeared their bodies with ashes. The stupa near the serpent tank, outside the town, has already been mentioned. Close beside it, there were four small stupas built on the spots where the four- previous Buddhas had either sat or walked. Both the size and the peculiar position of the ruined fortress of Ahi-chhatra agree so exactly with Hwen Thsang's description of the ancient Ahi Chhatra, that there can be no doubt whatever of their identity. The circuit of the walls, as they stand at present, is 19,400


[p.362]: feet, or upwards of 3½ miles. The shape may be described as an irregular right-angled triangle, the west side being 5600 feet in length, the north side 6400 feet, and the long side to the south-east 7400 feet. The fort is situated between the Ram Ganga and Ganghan rivers, which are both difficult to cross ; the former on account of its broad sands, the latter on account of its extensive ravines. Both on the north and east the place is rendered almost inaccessible by the Piria Nala, a difficult ravine, with steep broken banks and numerous deep pools of water, quite impassable by wheeled vehicles. For this reason the cart road to Bareli, distant only 18 miles due cast, is not less than 3 miles. Indeed the only accessible side of the position is the north-west, from the direction of Lakhnor, the ancient capital of the Katehria Rajputs. It there-fore fully merits the description of Hwen Thsang as being defended by " natural obstacles." Ahi Chhatra is only seven miles to the north of Aonla, but the latter half of the road is rendered difficult by the ravines of the Ganghana river. It was in this very position, in the jangals to the north of Aonla, that the Katchria Rajputs withstood the Muhammadans under Firuz Tughlak.[12]

Ahi Chhatra was first visited by Captain Hodgson, the surveyor, who describes the place as " the ruins of an ancient fortress several miles in circumference, which appears to have had 34 bastions, and is known in the neighbourhood by the name of the "Pandus Fort." According to my survey, there are only 32 towers, but it is quite possible that one or two may have escaped my notice, as I found many parts so


[p.363]: overgrown with thorny jungal as to be inaccessible. The towers are generally from 28 to 30 feet in height, excepting on the west side, where they rise to 35 feet. A single tower near the south-west corner is 47 feet in height above the road outside. The average height of the interior mass is from 10 to 20 feet. Many of the present towers, however, are not ancient, as an attempt was made by Ali Muhammad Khan, about 200 years ago, to restore the fort with a view of making it his stronghold in case he should be pushed to extremities by the King of Delhi. The new walls are said to have been 1-1/4 gaz thick, which agrees with my measurements of the parapets on the south-eastern side, which vary from 2 feet 9 inches to 3 feet 3 inches in thickness at top. According to popular tradition, Ali Muhammad expended about a karor of rupees, or one million pounds sterling, in this attempt, which he was finally obliged to abandon on account of its costliness. I estimate that he may perhaps have spent about one lakh of rupees, or £10,000, in repairing the ramparts and in rebuilding the parapets. There is an arched gateway on the south-east side, which must have been built by the Musalmans, but as no new bricks were made by them, the cost of their work would have been limited to the labour alone. The ramparts are 18 feet thick at the base in some places, and between 14 and 15 feet in others.

The district of Ahi Chhatra was about 3000 li, or 500 miles, in circuit. With these large dimensions I believe that it must have comprised the eastern half of Rohilkhand, lying betwcen the northern hills and the Ganges, from Pilibhit on the west to Khairabad near the Ghagra on the east. This tract has a boundary of 450 miles measured direct, or about 500 miles by road distance.

बदायूं

विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[13] ने लेख किया है कि.... बदायूं (उत्तर प्रदेश): बदायूं मध्यकालीन नगर है. 11 वीं सदी के एक अभिलेख में, जो बदायूं से प्राप्त हुआ है, इस नगर का तत्कालीन नाम बोदामयूता कहा गया है. इस लेख से ज्ञात होता है कि उस समय बदायूं में पंचालदेश की राजधानी थी. यह जान पड़ता है कि अहिच्छत्रा नगरी जो अति प्राचीन काल से उत्तर पंचाल की राजधानी चली आई थी, इस समय तक अपना पूर्व गौरव गवां बैठी थी. एक किवदंती में यह भी कहा जाता है कि इस नगर को अहीर सरदार राजा बुद्ध ने 10 वीं सदी में बसाया था. कुछ लोगों का यह मत है कि बदायूं की नींव अजय पाल ने 1175 ई. में डाली थी. राजा लखनपाल को भी नगर के बसाने का श्रेय दिया जाता है.

नीलकंठ महादेव का प्रसिद्ध मंदिर जिसे इल्तुतमिश ने तुड़वा दिया था शायद लखनपाल ही का बनवाया हुआ था. ताज उल मासिर के लेखक ने बदायूं पर कुतुबुद्दीन ऐबक के आक्रमण का वर्णन करते हुए इस नगर को हिंद के प्रमुख नगरों में माना है. बदायूं के स्मारकों में जामा मस्जिद भारत की मध्ययुगीन इमारतों में शायद सबसे विशाल है. यह नीलकंठ मंदिर के मसाले से बनवाई गई थी और इसका निर्माता इल्तुतमिश था जिसने गद्दी पर बैठने के 12 वर्ष पश्चात अर्थात 1222 ई. में बनवाया था. (टि. महमूद गजनवी के समान ही इल्तुतमिश कुख्यात मूर्ति-भंजक था. इसने अपने समय के प्रसिद्ध देवालयों जिनमें उज्जैन का महाकाल का मंदिर भी था तुड़वाकर तत्कालीन भारतीय कला संस्कृति तथा धर्म को भारी क्षति पहुंचाई थी) जामा मस्जिद प्राय: समांतर चतुर्भुज के आकार की है किंतु पूर्व की ओर अधिक चौड़ी है. भीतरी प्रांगण के पूर्वी कौण पर मुख्य मस्जिद है जो तीन भागों में विभाजित है. बीच के प्रकोष्ठ पर गुंबद है. बाहर से देखने पर यह मस्जिद साधारण सी दिखती है किंतु इसके चारों कोनों की बुर्जियों पर सुंदर नक्काशी और शिल्प प्रदर्शित है. बदायूं में सुल्तान अलाउद्दीन खिलजी के परिवार के बनवाए हुए कई मकबरे हैं. अलाउद्दीन ने अपने जीवन के अंतिम वर्ष बदायूं में ही बिताए थे. अकबर के दरबार का इतिहास लेखक अब्दुलकादिर बदायूनी यहां अनेक वर्षों तक रहा था और इसीलिए बदायूनी कहलाता था. 1571 ई. बदायूं में भीषण अग्निकांड हुआ था जिसको बदायूनी ने अपनी आंखों से देखा था. बदायूनी का मकबरा बदायूं का प्रसिद्ध स्मारक है. इसके अतिरिक्त इमाद उल मुल्क की दरगाह (पिसनहारी का गुंबद) भी यहाँ की प्राचीन इमारतों में उल्लेखनीय है.

In Mahabharata

Udyoga Parva/Mahabharata Book V Chapter 19 mentions the Kings and tribes Who joined Duryodhana for war. It spread over the land of Vatadhanas....."And thus Duryodhana had a force..., there was no space in the city of Hastinapura. And for this reason the land of the five rivers, and the whole of the region called Kuru-jangala, and the forest of Rohitaka which was uniformly wild[14], and Ahichhatra and Kalakuta, and the banks of the Ganga, and Varana, and Vatadhana, and the hill tracts on the border of the Yamuna--the whole of this extensive tract--full of abundant corn and wealth, was entirely overspread with the army of the Kauravas.[15]"

References

  1. Lahiri, Bela (1972). Indigenous States of Northern India (Circa 200 B.C. to 320 A.D.), Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.170-88
  2. What lies Beneath, B. R. Mani 2013
  3. Subodh Kapoor (1 Jan 2002). Encyclopaedia of Ancient Indian Geography, Volume 1. Genesis Publishing Pvt Ltd. pp. 17, 18, 19
  4. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur,p.927
  5. Luders, List (E.I. X Appendix) No.905
  6. The Ancient Geography of India/Ahichhatra, p.359-363
  7. Dr Naval Viyogi: Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, Delhi, 2002, pp. 263-264
  8. Lahiri, Bela (1972). Indigenous States of Northern India (Circa 200 B.C. to 320 A.D.), Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.170-88
  9. The Ancient Geography of India/Ahichhatra, p.359-363
  10. Julien's ' Hiouen Thsang' ii. 231. See Map No. X.
  11. Julien's 'Hiouen Thsang,' ii, 235.
  12. Brigg's 'Ferishta',i.457.
  13. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.606-607
  14. ततः पञ्चनथं चैव कृत्स्नं च कुरुजाङ्गलम, तदा रॊहित कारण्यं मरु भूमिश च केवला (V.19.29)
  15. अहिच छत्रं कालकूटं गङ्गाकूलं च भारत, वारणा वाटधानं च यामुनश चैव पर्वतः (V.19.30)

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