Dakshinapatha (दक्षिणपथ) is a historical region which has been used to describe either:
- "Ancient South of the Indian subcontinent" below Āryāvarta.
- "Great southern highway" in India, traveling from Magadha to Pratishthana, or
- a kingdom on the Godavari River in southern India
Dakshinapatha trade route
The Dakshinapatha trade route was one of two great highways that have connected different parts of the sub-continent since the Iron Age. The other highway was the Uttarapatha or the great northern road that ran from Taxila in Afghanistan, through the modern Punjab up to the western coast of Yamuna. Following the course of Yamuna it went southwards up to Mathura, from there it passed on to Ujjain in Malwa and to Broach on western coast.
According to "Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India's Geography" by Sanjeev Sanyal, the trajectory of the northern road has remained roughly the same from pre-Mauryan times and is now NH2. However, the southern road appears to have drifted. Rama's route into exile in the epic may have been an early version of the road, but by the time of Buddha it started at Varanasi and ran through Vidisha in central India, to Pratishthana (Paithan). It probably extended all the way to Chola, Chera and Pandya kingdoms of the extreme south. By the Mauryan period there would have been a branch from Ujjain to the ports of Gujarat. This made Ujjain a major city by Gupta times. Today Dakshinapatha is known as NH7, which runs much further east of the old road but still meets NH2 at Varanasi.
In the old Pāli literature the name Dakkhināpatha would seem to indicate only a remote settlement or colony on the banks of the upper Godāvarī. Thus, we are told that Bāvarī had his hermitage in Dakkhināpatha territory, midway between the kingdoms of Assaka and Alaka (SN., vs.976). Elsewhere the name is coupled with Avanti as Avantidakkhināpatha and seems to refer, but more vaguely, to the same limited district. Vin.i.195, 196; ii.298. In J.v.133, however, Avanti is spoken of as a part of Dakkhināpatha (Dakkhinūpathe Avantirattha), but see J.iii.463, where Avantidakkhināpatha is spoken of.
The Sutta Nipāta Commentary (ii.580) seems to explain Dakkhināpatha as the road leading to the Dakkhinajanapada, while the Sumangala-Vilāsinī (DA.i.265) takes Dakkhināpatha to be synonymous with Dakkhinajanapada and says that it was the district (janapada) south of the Ganges (Gangāya dakkhinato pākatajanapadam).
It is clear that, in the earlier literature at any rate, the word did not mean the whole country comprised in the modern word Dekkhan. It is possible that Dakkhināpatha was originally the name of the road which led southwards - the Aryan settlement at the end of the road, on the banks of the Godāvarī being also called by the same name - and that later the road lent its name to the whole region through which it passed. (For a detailed description see Law: Geog. of Early Buddhism, pp.60ff). In the Petavatthu Commentary (PvA., p.133) the Damila country (Damilavisaya) is included in the Dakkhināpatha.
The Dakkhināpatha is famous in literature as the birthplace of strong bullocks (DhSA.141; NidA.16; DhA.iii.248, etc.). It held also a large number of ascetics (DA.i.265), and in the "southern districts" (Dakkhinesu janapadesu) people celebrated a feast called Dharana (A.v.216). See Dharana Sutta (?).
Mention by Panini
विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर ने लेख किया है ...आकर्ष (AS, p.59) नामक एक देश का उल्लेख महाभारत में हुआ है- 'आकर्षा: कुन्तलाश्चैव मालवाश्चांध्रकास्तथा' (महाभारत 2,32,11) प्रसंग से जान पड़ता है कि आकर्ष महाभारत काल में दक्षिणापथ का एक देश था।
- Singh, U. (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education. p. 289. ISBN 9788131711200.
- V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.509
- Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.