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This article is For Uttara Kosala. See for Dakshina Kosala
Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Ancient Indian Kingdoms in 600 BC

Kosala (कोसल) proper or Uttara Kosala was an ancient Indian region, corresponding roughly in area with the region of Awadh in present day Uttar Pradesh. Rama's sons Lava and Kusha inherited parts of this kingdom. Lava ruled from the city called Sravasti and Kusha from the city called Kushavati. A colony of Kosala kings existed in Madhya Pradesh. It was called Dakshina Kosala. Rama's mother Kausalya was from this kingdom.


Mention by Panini

Kosala (कोसल) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [1]


V. S. Agrawala[2] writes that Ashtadhyayi of Panini mentions janapada Kosala (कोसल) (IV.1.171) - Its town Sravasti is mentioned by Panini and also two terms Sarayu and Ikshavaku (VI.4.174). Ikshavaku is same as Kosala.

According to the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya and the Jaina text, the Bhagavati Sutra. Originally mentioned in the Ramayana as a Janapada state dating from approximately 1000 BCE, Kosala was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas in 7th century BCE and its cultural and political strength earned it the status of great power. However, it was later weakened by a series of wars with the neighbouring kingdom of Magadha and, in the 4th century BCE, was finally absorbed by it. The Kosala region had three major cities, Ayodhya, Saket and Shravasti and a number of minor towns as Setavya, Ukattha, Dandakappa, Nalakapana and Pankadha. According to the Puranas, Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala during the reign of Ikshvaku and his descendants. Shravasti was the capital of Kosala between 6th century BCE and 6th century CE.

In Mahabharata

Military Campaign of Karna: Mahabharata, Book 3, Chapter 252.... And having taken Batsa-bhumi, he reduced Kevali, and Mrittikavati, and Mohana and Patrana, and Tripura, and Kosala,--and compelled all these to pay tribute.

Visit by Xuanzang in 639 AD

Alexander Cunningham[3] writes that From Kalinga the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang proceeded about 1800 or 1900 li, or from 300 to 317 miles,[4] to the

[p.520]: north-west to the kingdom of Kiao-sa-lo, or Kosala. The bearing and distance take us to the ancient province of Vidarbha, or Berar, of which the present capital is Nagpur. This agrees exactly with the position of Kosala as described in the Ratnavali, and in the Vishnu Purana.[5] In the former, the king of Kosala is surrounded in the Vindhyan mountains, and in the latter it is stated that Kusa the son of Rama, ruled over Kosala, at his capital of Kusasthali, or Kusavati, built upon the Vindhyan precipices.

All these concurring data enable us to identify the ancient Kosala with the modern province of Berar, or Gondwana. The position of the capital is more difficult to fix, as Hwen Thsang does not mention its name ; but as it was 40 li, or nearly 7 miles, in circuit, it is most probably represented by one of the larger cities of the present day. These are Chanda, Nagpur, Amaravati, and Elichpur.

Chanda is a walled town, 6 miles in circuit, with a citadel. It is situated just below the junction of the Pain Ganga and Warda rivers, at a distance of 290 miles to the north-west of Rajamahendri, on the Godavari, and of 280 miles from Dharanikota, on the Kistna. Its position, therefore, corresponds almost exactly with the bearing and distance of Hwen Thsang.

Nagpur is a large straggling town, about 7 miles in circuit ; but as it is 85 miles to the north of Chanda, its distance from Rajamahendri is about 70 miles in excess of the number stated by the Chinese pilgrim.

Amaravati is about the same distance from

[p.521]: Rajamahendri, and Elichpur is 30 miles still further to the north. Chanda is therefore the only place of consequence that has a strong claim to be identified with the capital of Kosala in the seventh century. The recorded distance of 1800 or 1900 li from Rajamahendri is further supported by the subsequent distance of 1900 li, or 900 plus 1000 li, to Dhanakakata, which was almost certainly the same place as Dharanikota, or Amaravati, on the Kistna river. Now, the road distance of Chanda from Dharanikota is 280 miles, or 1680 li, by the direct route; but as Hwen Thsang first proceeded for 900li to the south-west, and then for 1000 li to the south, the direct distance between the two places would not have been more than 1700 li.

At 300 li, or 50 miles, to the south-west of the kingdom, there was a high mountain named Po.lo.mo.lo.ki.li, which is said to mean the " black peak." M. Julien identifies this name with " Baramula-giri of the present day;"[6] but I cannot find this place in any map or book to which I have access. The mountain is described as very lofty, and without either spurs or valleys, so that it resembled a mere mass of stone. In this mountain King So-to-po-ho, or Satavahan, hewed a pavilion of five storeys, which was accessible by a hollow road many dozens of li, that is many miles, in length. The place was not visited by Hwen Thsang, as the narrator of his journey uses the expression " on arrive," instead of " il arriva." But as the rock is said to have been excavated as a dwelling for the holy Buddhist sage Nagarjuna, the pilgrim would almost certainly have visited it, if it had been only 50 miles

[p.522]: distant from the capital ; and if the south-west bearing is correct, he must have passed quite close to the place on his subsequent journey to Andhra, which is said to be either in the same direction, or towards the south. I conclude, therefore, that the curious, " au sud-ouest du royauvie"[7] which the pilgrim uses to indicate the position of this excavated rock, may possibly refer to the boundary of the kingdom, and consequently that the place must be looked for at 300 li, or 50 miles, beyond its south-west frontier. This position would agree very well with that of the great rock fortress of Deogir, near Elura, and the name of Polomolokili, or Varamula-giri, might be accepted as the original of Varula, or Elura. Parts of the description, such as the long galleries hewn out of the rock, and the cascade of water falling from the top of the rock, agree better with the great Buddhist establishment at Elura than with Deogir. But as the place was not actually visited by Hwen Thsang, his description must have been made up from the varying accounts of different travellers, in which the contiguous sites of Elura and Devagiri were probably treated as one place.

The same rock-hewn habitations are also described by Fa-Hian[8], in the beginning of the fifth century. He calls the excavation the monastery of Pho-lo-yu, or the "Pigeon," and places it in the kingdom of Tathsin, that is in Dakshiana, or the south of India, the present Dakhan. His information was obtained at Banaras ; and as wonders do not lose by distance, his account is even more wonderful than that of Hwen Thsang. The monastery, hewn out of the solid rock, is said to be five storeys in height, each storey in the

[p.523]: shape of a different animal, the fifth, or uppermost, storey being in the form of a Pigeon, from which the monastery received its name. The Chinese syllables Pho-lo-yu must therefore be intended for the Sanskrit Pārāvata, a "pigeon." A spring of water rising in the uppermost storey, descended through all the rooms of the monastery, and then passed out by the gate. In this account we have the five storeys, the spring of water falling from the top, and the name of the place, all agreeing very closely with the description of Hwen Thsang. The chief point of difference is in the meaning assigned to the name, as Hwen Thsang states that Polomolo-kili signifies the "black peak," while according to Fa-Hian, Pholoyu means a " pigeon." But there is still another account, of an intermediate date, which gives a third meaning to the name.

In A.D. 503, the king of Southern India sent an ambassador to China, from whom it was ascertained that in his country there was a fortified city named Pa-lai, or "situated on a height." At 300 li, or 50 miles, to the eastward, there was another fortified town, named in the Chinese translation Fu-cheu-ching, or " ville soumise a ce qui est deteste,"[9] which was the birth-place of a famous saint, whose name was Chu-san-hu, or " Coral-beads " (grains de corail). Now, Pala-mala is the name of a " coral necklace," or " string of coral-beads ;[10] and as it represents every syllable of Hwen Thsang's Polomolo, I presume that it must be the same name. I am unable to explain Hwen Thsang's translation of the name as the "black

[p.524]: peak " in any of the northern dialects ; and I can only suggest that he may perhaps refer to one of the southern or Dravidian dialects. In Kanarese, male is a "hill;" and as para, or "quicksilver," and paras, or the " touchstone," are both of black hue, it is probable that they are connected with πελός. Para, therefore, might signify "black," and paramale would then be the black hill. One of the most venomous snakes in southern India, which is of a very dark blue or almost black colour, is called Para-Gudu. It seems probable, therefore, that Hwen Thsang's translation may be derived from one of the southern dialects. This confusion in the Chinese translations is no doubt due to the very defective power of the Chinese syllables for the transcription of Sanskrit words. Thus, Po.lo.fa.to might be read as Paravata, a "pigeon," according to Fa-Hian; or as paravata, " subject," according to the Si-yu-ki ; while it is probable that the true reading should be parvata, a " mountain," as the monastery is specially stated to have been excavated in a rocky hill.

The capital itself was named Pa-lai,[11] which is said to mean " qui s'appuie sur une Eminence." Now the citadel of Chanda is called " Bala kila,", or the " High Fort," which, though a Persian appellation given by the Muhammadans, was very probably suggested by the original appellation of Palai. [12]

In all our Chinese authorities the rock-hewn monastery is connected with a holy sage ; but the name in each account is different. According to Fa-Hian,

[p.525]: it was the monastery of the earlier Buddha named Kasyapa. In the Si-yu-ki, however, it is said to be the birthplace of the Muni Paramal, while Hwen Thsang states that the monastery was excavated by King Satavahan, for the use of the famous Nagarjuna. From the wonderful descriptions of Fa-Hian and Hwen Thsang I have been led to think that their accounts may possibly refer to the grand excavations of Deva-giri and Elura. But if the distance given by Hwen Thsang as well as by the Si-yu-ki is correct, the rock-hewn monastery must be looked for about 50 miles to the west or south-west of Chanda. Now in this very position, that is about 45 miles to the west of Chanda, there is a place in the map called Pandu-kuri, or the "Pandus' houses," which indicates an undoubted ancient site, and may possibly refer to some rock excavations, as the rock-hewn caves at Dhamnar and Kholvi are also assigned to the Pandus, being severally named " Bhim's cave, Arjun's cave," etc. In the total absence of all information, I can only draw attention to the very curious and suggestive name of this place. There is also a series of Buddhist caves at Patur, 50 miles to the south-west of Elichpur and Amaravati, and 80 miles to the east of Ajanta. As these have never been described, it is possible that the site may hereafter be found to correspond with the descriptions of the rock-hewn monastery by Fa-Hian and Hwen Thsang.

The mention of King Satavahana, or Sadavahana, in connection with Nagarjuna is specially interesting, as it shows that the Buddhist caves of Paramala must be as old as the first century of the Christian era. Sadavahana was a family name, and as such is mentioned in one of the cave inscriptions at Nasik.[13] But

[p.526]: Satavahana is also a well-known name of the famous Salivahan,[14] who founded the Saka era in A.D. 79, so that we have a double proof that the Buddhist caves of Paramala must have been excavated as early as the first century. The probable identity of Satavahan and Satakarni will be discussed in another place. We know from the western cave inscriptions that Kosala certainly formed part of the vast southern kingdom of Gotamiputra Satakarni ; and if he flourished in the first century as would appear to be the case,[15] his identity with Satavahan, or Salivahan, would be undoubted. It is sufficient here to note the great probability of this interesting point in the history of Southern India.

The kingdom of Kosala is estimated by Hwen Thsang at 6000 li, or 1000 miles, in circuit. Its frontiers are not named ; but we know from the pilgrim's itinerary that it must have been bounded by Ujain on the north, by Maharashtra on the west, by Orissa on the east, and by Andhra and Kalinga on the south. The limits of the kingdom may be roughly described as extending from near Burhanpur on the Tapti, and Nander on the Godavari, to Ratanpur in Chatisgarh, and to Nowagadha near the source of the Mahanadi. Within these limits the circuit of the

[p.527]: large tract assigned to Kosala is rather more than 1000 miles.

Divisions of Kosala Kingdoms

Raghava Rama's Kosala (Kosala Proper) was already split into two, owing to his two sons attaining kingship after his reign. During the era of Kurukshetra War it was split into five kingdoms.

Eastern Kosala: This was, probably the kingdom ruled by Kusha, with Kushavati as its capital. (see MBh 2.14, Mbh 2.21). They were described as fleeing to the southern country of Kuntis due to Magadha king Jarasandha. The route taken by Bhima, Arjuna and Krishna from Kuru Kingdom to Magadha Kingdom was through this Eastern Kosala.

Northern Kosala: This was, probably the kingdom ruled by Lava with Sravasti as its capital. (see MBh 2.29). This kingdom was defeated by the Pandava general Bhima, in his military campaign to the east.

Kosala Kingdom of Vrihadvala to the south of Ayodhya: Vriahadvala was a Kosala king mentioned as a general under Duryodhana, in the Kurukshetra War. (MBh. 5.277, 5.198). This kingdom was defeated by the Pandava general Bhima, in his military campaign to the east. (MBh 2.29). It seems that this Kosala had its power extended to the neighbouring kingdom of Kasi to the south of it, because Vrihadvala sometimes commanded the troops from Kasi also in Kurukshetra War. This probably was the reason to consider Kasi-Kosala as a single kingdom. For a period of time in the past, Kasi would have been a vassal state of Kosala kingdom. The grandmothers of Kauravas and Pandavas were called sometimes as princesses of Kasi and some times as princesses of Kosala, attesting to this fact.

Kosala with Ayodhya as its capital or Central Kosala: This was the original Kosala ruled by king Raghava Rama. This was ruled by Dirghayaghna, during this era. This kingdom was defeated by the Pandava general Bhima, in his military campaign to the east. (MBh 2.29).

Kingdoms that sprang from the Southern Kosala: The native kingdom of Raghava Rama's mother Kausalya, considered as Dakshina Kosala Kingdom split at least into two during the era of Kurukshetra War. This became evident if we follow the passage in Mahabharata, describing the military campaign of the Pandava general Sahadeva, who led his troops to the southern direction. (MBh. 2.30)

Western Kosala in Central India: This kingdom was close to the Vidarbha Kingdom ruled by Bhishmaka, probably to the east of it. Sahadeva defeated this kingdom first and moved to the Eastern Kosala. (MBh. 2.30)

Eastern Kosala in Central India: After defeating the other Kosala kingdom Sahadeva defeated numerous kings in the Eastern Kosala, indicating that there were many kingdoms, and not one, however collectively known as Eastern Kosalas. (MBh. 2.30)

Kosala under Mauryan rule

It is assumed that during the Mauryan reign, Kosala was administratively under the viceroy at Kaushambi. The Sohgaura copper plate inscription, probably issued during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya deals with a famine in Shravasti and the relief measures to be adopted by the officials. The Yuga Purana section of the Gargi Samhita mentions about the Yavana (Indo-Greek) invasion and subsequent occupation of Saket during the reign of the last Maurya ruler Brihadratha.

जाट इतिहास

कौसल (अवध) - महाभारतकाल में इसके दो भाग हो चुके थे - उत्तर कौसल और दक्षिण कौसल। इन पर रघुवंशी (जाटवंश लोगों का राज्य था। (जाट इतिहास पृ० 24, लेखक ठा० देशराज) उस समय इन लोगों का राजा वृहद्बल था।[16]

कौशल - इस कौशल साम्राज्य में अवध का प्रान्त शामिल था। इसकी राजधानी साकेत (अयोध्या) थी जिसका प्रथम राजा सूर्यवंशज इक्षवाकु हुआ था। इक्षवाकुवंशी राजे इस नगरी पर परम्परागत राज्य करते आये हैं। यह हमने पिछले पृष्ठों पर लिख दिया है कि कुशवंशज जाटों का राज्य इस अयोध्या राजधानी पर प्राचीन समय से रहता आया है। जाट राजा बृहद्वल से लेकर उसकी 27वीं पीढ़ी में प्रसेनजित तक इस कौशलराज्य की राजधानी अयोध्या पर शासन किया। फिर कुछ समय बाद राजा प्रसेनजित ने इस अयोध्या नगरी को छोड़कर श्रावस्ती नगरी को अपनी राजधानी बना लिया। यह श्रावस्ती नगरी अयोध्यापुरी से 58 मील उत्तर की ओर राप्ती नदी के किनारे आबाद थी। यह नगरी बुद्धकाल के समय भारत के छः बड़े महानगरों में गिनी जाती थी। शाक्य राज्य जहां गौतमबुद्ध का जन्म हुआ था, इसी कौशल साम्राज्य के अधीन था। राजा प्रसेनजित महात्मा बुद्ध का बड़ा मित्र था।

राजा प्रसेनजित की मगध के सम्राट् से सदा लड़ाई रहती थी। इससे मित्रता हेतु उसने अपनी लड़की का विवाह मगध के सम्राट् अजातशत्रु से कर दिया। प्रसेनजित के मरने के बाद उसके चार वंशज राजा हुए जिनमें अन्तिम सुमित्र था। इनकी दुर्बलता के कारण इनके कौशलराज्य को मगध साम्राज्य में मिला लिया गया।[17]

उत्तर कोसल

विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[18] ने लेख किया है ...उत्तर कोसल (AS, p.91) उत्तर प्रदेश राज्य के अवध का प्राचीन नाम था। मूलत: कोसल (कोशल) का विस्तार सरयू नदी से विंध्याचल तक रहा होगा किंतु कालांतर में यह उत्तर और दक्षिण कोसल नामक दो भागों में विभक्त हो गया था। रामायणकाल में भी ये दो भाग रहे होंगे। कौसल्या दक्षिण कोसल की राजकुमारी थी और उत्तर कोसल के राजा दशरथ को ब्याही थी। दक्षिण कोसल विंध्याचल के निकट वह भूभाग था जिसमें वर्तमान मध्य प्रदेश के रायपुर और बिलासपुर ज़िले तथा उनका परवर्ती प्रदेश सम्मिलित है। उत्तर कोसल स्थूलरूप से गंगा और सरयू का मध्यवर्ती प्रदेश था।

महाभारत सभा पर्व 30,3 में उत्तरकोसल पर भीम की विजय का वर्णन है- 'ततोगोपालकक्षं च सोत्तरानपि कोसलान्मल्लानामधिपं चैव पार्थिक चाययत् प्रभु:'।

कालिदास ने उत्तर कोसल की राजधानी अयोध्या में बताई है- 'सामान्यधात्रीमिव मानसं में संभावयत्युत्तरकोसलानाम्।' (रघुवंश 13, 62)

उत्तरकोसल का रघुवंश 18,27 में भी उल्लेख है, 'कौसल्यइत्युत्तर कोसलानां पत्यु: पतंगान्वयभूषणस्य, तस्यौरस: सोमसुत: सुतोऽभून्नेत्रोत्सव: सोम इव द्वितीय:।' (देखें कोसल, दक्षिण कोसल)

External links

See also


  1. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.37, 60, 425
  2. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.60
  3. The Ancient Geography of India/Southern India, p.519-526
  4. Julien's ' Hiouen Thsang,' vol. i. p. 185, gives 1800 li, and vol. iii. p. 94, 1900 U. See Map No. I.
  5. H. H. Wilson, 'Vishnu Purana,' Hall's edition, ii. 172, note.
  6. ' Hiouen Thsang,' iii. 101, note 4 : " aujourd'hui Baramulaghiri ; " and note 5, " en Chinois, He-fong, le pic noir.
  7. Julieu's ' Hiouen Thsang,' iii. 101.
  8. Beal's 'Fah-Hian,' c. xxxv.
  9. Pauthier, "Bxamen Methodique desfaitsqui concement Tien-tehu, ou l'Inde ;" ' Journal Asiatique,' 1839, p. 292.
  10. Pauthier, ' Journal Asiatique,' Oct. 1839, p. 292.
  11. Pauthier in ' Journal Asiatique,' 1839, p. 293.
  12. We have an example of such translation in Buland-shahr, which the Hindus still call Uncha-gaon.
  13. <Bombay Journal, vii, Nasick inscriptions No. 6, by Mr. West.
  14. Sata, or Sali, was the name of a Yaksha, or demigod, who, being changed to a lion, was ridden by the infant prince, who thus acquired the title of Satavahan, or Salivahan.
  15. The greater number of the inscriptions in the caves of Kanhari, Nasik, and Karle belong to one period ; and as several of them record the gifts of Gotamiputra Satakarni, Pudumayi, and Yadnya-Sri, the whole must be referred to the period of the Andhra sovereignty. But one of them is dated in the year 80 of the Sakaditya-kal, or Sake era, that is in A.D. 108 ; and, therefore, the Andhras must have been reigning at that time.
  16. Jat History Dalip Singh Ahlawat/Chapter III,p.290
  17. Jat History Dalip Singh Ahlawat/Chapter V (Page 463)
  18. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.91-92