Kekayas (केकय) Kaikeyas (केकय) Kekayas (केकय) were an ancient people attested to have been living in north-western Punjab -- between Gandhara and Beas river since remote antiquity. They were the descendants of the Kshatriyas of the Kekaya Janapada  hence called Kekayas or Kaikeyas. The Kekayas were often associated with the Madras, the Usinaras, the Sibis etc and their territory had formed a part of the Vahika country, according to the evidence furnished by Panini .
- 1 Geographical Location
- 2 History
- 3 Kekayas in Vedic texts
- 4 Kekayas of Valmiki Ramayana
- 5 Vishnu-Dharmottara Mahapurana
- 6 Mahabharata references
- 7 Srimad Bhagavatam references
- 8 Traditional origin of Kekayas
- 9 Kekays in Panini’s Ashtadhyayi
- 10 Jaina accounts
- 11 Kekayas in Kavyamimamsa of Rajashekhara
- 12 Migration of the Kekayas
- 13 References
- 14 Books and periodicals
- 15 See also
Numerous Puranas include the Kekayas in the list of Gandharas, Yavanas, Shakas, Paradas, Bahlikas, Kambojas, Daradas, Barbaras, Chinas, Tusharas, Pahlavas etc and call them as a people of Udichya i.e of northern division or Uttarapatha. The Kekayas are said to have occupied the land now comprised by three districts of Jhelum, Shahpur and Gujerat , all in Pakistan.
V. S. Agrawala writes that Ashtadhyayi of Panini mentions janapada Kekaya (केकय) (VII.3.2), under Bhargadi (भर्गादि) (IV.1.178)V. S. Agrawala. The descendants of Kshatriyas of the Kekaya janapda were known as Kaikaya (कैकय). The Kekaya janapada consisted of three districts Jhelum, Shahpur and Gujrat.
V. S. Agrawala writes that Ashtadhyayi of Panini mentions janapada Uśīnara (उशीनर) (IV.2.118) - Panini mentions Ushinara as part of Vahika. Panini mentions three divisions of Vahika Country, viz Kekaya, Uśīnara and Madra. Fourth division to be added to Vahika country is Śavasa. Of these Kekaya and Śavasa may be located between Jhelum and Chenab, the first in the south and second in north respectively; Madra and Ushinara between the Chenab and Ravi River in the north and south respectively.
Kekayas in Vedic texts
The Rigvedic Kekayas dwelt on the banks of river Parusni (=Ravi) . The king of Kekayas at the time of Janaka of Videha was Ashvapati i.e lord of horses. Satapatha Brahmana and Chandogiya Upanishada suggest that Kekaya king Ashvapati had instructed a number of Brahmanas viz. Arjuna Aupavesi, Gautama, Satyajna Paulushi, Mahasala Jabala, Budila Asvatarashvi, Indradyumna Bhallaveya, jana Sarkarakshya, Prachinshala, Aupamanyava and Uddaalaka Aruni etc. [[--~~~~They all had orange faces for when they went to fight as it was a belief from there spirits they would kill each other using there own heads and all]]
There are several references to Kekaya in the epic Ramayana. Kekayi, one of the three queens of Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya was a Kekaya princess. Ramayana testifies that the capital of Kekayas lay beyond river Sudama . River Sudama has been identified with river Saranges of Arrian which flowed also flowed through Kekians. The Vedic texts do not mention name of the capital of Kekaya but Ramayana does inform us that the Kekaya metropolis was Rajagriha or Girivraja.  which A. Cunningham has identified with Girjak or Jalalpur on river Jhelum in the Jhelum district  but this view has not been accepted by scholars. Ramayana further attests that Kekaya lay beyond Vipasa or Beas  and abutted with the country of Gandharava or Gandhara vishaya (country).
According to Vishnu-Dharmottara Mahapurana also, the capital of the Kekayas lay beyond river Sudama which flowed some distance westwards from the Vitasta or Jhelum river. Prince Bharata, son of princess Kekayi, while going to Kekaya country from Ayodhya had to cross river Vitasta and then after crossing river Sudama, he reached the land of the Kekayas .
The Kekayas are said to have fought on both sides in the Kurukshetra War. The five Kekaya princes, led lead by their elder brother Vrihatkshatra, had joined the Pandava army while other Kekaya brothers opposed Vrihatkshatra had sided with the Kauravas. The other numerous kingdsoms of ancient India viz. Dwaraka, Kasi, Magadha, Matsya, Chedi, Pandya and the Yadus of Mathura were allies of Pandavas while the allies of the Kauravas were nations of Pragjyotisha, Anga, Kekaya, Sindhudesa, Mahishmati, Avanti in Madhyadesa, Madras, Gandhara, Bahlika, Kamboja (with Yavanas, Sakas, Tusharas etc) and many others had sided with Kauravas.
Karna Parava refers to the Kekayas, the Malavas, the Madrakas, the Dravidas of fierce prowess, the Yaudheyas, the Lalittyas, the Kshudrakas, the Tundikeras, the Savitriputras etc who had supported Karna on 17th day of the war, as all having been slain by Arjuna .
Srimad Bhagavatam references
There are several references to the Kekayas in the Bhagavatam Purana.
Kekayas visit Samantapancaka
Srimad Bhagavatam attests that the prince of Kekaya along with princes from Matsya, Kosala, Vidharbha, Kuru, Srnjaya, Kamboja, Usinara, Madra, Kunti, Anarta, Kerala was present at Samanta-pancaka in Kurukshetra at the occasion of the solar eclipse . .
Kekayas join Rajasuya of Yudhishtra
Srimad Bhagavatam also testifies that the Kekayas and other nation like those of the Yadus, Srnjayas, Kurus and Kambojas had participated in the Rajasuya sacrifice of Yudhishtra. “The massed armies of the Yadus, Srnjayas, Kambojas, Kurus, Kekayas and Kosalas made the earth tremble as they followed Yudhishira Maharaja, the performer of the Rajasuya sacrifice, in procession”  .
Kekayas fight Yadavas
Other references in Srimad Bhagavatam
Kekays had participated in the marriage ceremony of Rukmini, queen consort of Krishna, the daughter of Bhishmaka, the king of Vidarbha. One of the wives of Krishna was a Kekaya princess. When Krishna was going to Mithila, the Kekays had met him with presents .
Traditional origin of Kekayas
The same tradition is also furnished by other Puranic texts like Vayu Purana and Matsya Purana as well . The Anavas, derived from Anu, were a tribe of the Rigvedic period  and are said to belong to the Iranians.
Kekays in Panini’s Ashtadhyayi
Panini refers to the Kaikeyas or Kekayas in his Ashtadhyayi  and mentions their land as a part of the Vahika country. The other three countries which formed parts of the Vahika land were the Madra, the Usinara and the Savasa lands .
Kekayas in Kavyamimamsa of Rajashekhara
The 10th century CE Kavyamimamsa of Pandit Rajashekhara furnishes a list of the extant tribes of his times which also includes the Kekayas along with the Shakas, Tusharas, Vokanas, Hunas, Kambojas, Vahlikas, Vahlavas, Limpakas, Tangana, Turukshas etc referring to them all as the tribes of Uttarapatha or north division .
Migration of the Kekayas
A branch of the Kekaya seems to have migrated to southern India in later times and established its authority in Mysore country .
Books and periodicals
- Srimad Bhagavatam
- Vayu Purana
- Matsya Purana
- Geographical Data in Ancient Puranas, 1972, Dr M. R. Singh
- Political History of Ancient India, 1996, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee
- India as Known to Panini, Dr V. S. Aggarwala
- Ancient Geography of India, A. Cunningham
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