Madhyadesha (मध्यदेश) or Madhyadesa was an ancient region of India.
The exact historical significance of the ancient place named "Madhyadesha" (Madhyadesa), and its exact geographical location has been a subject of much debate among the scholars over the years.
We have made an effort to introduce the researchers with some of the view-points on the subject as follows:
Swami Omanand Sarasvati on 'Madhyadesh'
यह हरयाणा प्रान्त मध्यदेश का भी भाग रहा है –
हिमवद्विन्ध्ययोर्मध्ये यत्प्राग्विनशनादपि ।
प्रत्यगेव प्रयागाच्च मध्यदेशः प्रकीर्त्तित्तः ॥
हिमालय पर्वत और विन्ध्याचल पर्वत के मध्य विनशन से पूर्व और प्रयाग के पश्चिम में मध्यप्रदेश कहलाता है ।
आधुनिक हिन्दी भाषा-भाषी प्रांत सारा हरयाणा, राजस्थान, उत्तरप्रदेश तथा बिहारादि सभी हिन्दी भाषा-भाषी प्रदेश मध्यप्रदेश के अन्तर्गत आ जाते हैं । आजकल के विद्वानों का ऐसा मत है । हरयाणा प्रदेश मध्यप्रदेश का एक भाग है । विनशन स्थान जहाँ सरस्वती नदी समुद्र में गिरती थी, कहीं मरुभूमि (राजस्थान) में था, उस समय वहाँ तक समुद्र था । किसी किसी लेखक ने इस स्थान को हिसार के समीप लिखा है ।
Dalip Singh Ahlawat on Madhyadesha
दलीपसिंह अहलावत लिखते हैं -
हिमालय और विन्ध्याचल के बीच तथा सरस्वती के पूर्व और प्रयाग के पश्चिम का देश मध्य देश (मज्झिम देश) कहलाता था। (मनुस्मृति अध्याय 2, श्लोक 21) इस देश के उत्तर का देश उत्तरा-पथ और दक्षिण का दक्षिणा-पथ कहलाता था।
Akhil Kumar Sahoo on Madhyadesha
Akhil Kumar Sahoo is the former Professor and Head of Department of Buddhist Studies (NISWASS college) India. He is also the Editor of Bodhi Life Magazine, Life Member of Maha Bodhi Society, India, and General Secretary of Orissa Buddhist Front.
The reputed news-paper, Daily News, has published the view-points of the scholar on the subject, as follows:
- Madhyadesha is more important than any other place in history of Buddhism. It is the place where all the Buddhas, their chief disciples and the universal monarchs were born. But it was belittled by every subsequent writers in history of Buddhism. The geographical boundary of Madhyadesha could not be established correctly even though all places around it was fairly known, and Vamsa literatures unfailingly carry a lot of information on this Majjhimadesha or Madhyadesha.
- What went wrong when this Madhyadesha was made to get identified as Mid India by authors on whose account the world came to know where is Kapilavastu, Lumbini or Kusinara etc. can’t be judged now unless the magnitude of the impacting errors are scaled on each of the places they have identified in their books.
- And their works have been considerably treated as sacred texts by many when it identified the sacred places linked with the life of the Buddha. They discovered new places, and gave them the names the Chinese Pilgrims said to have visited them.
- The world faithfully accepted all those painted lines seriously believing and taking them as true. Even though the Buddhist Records of Western World is heavy with its much confusing foot notes, it is lamentably silent on the identifiable boundaries of the Madhyadesha. It thus shows either its author is unaware of the names of the places that has gone into to form the boundary or, the proper matching of places they could not do because it might have further complicated their new findings. They have not taken the name of Thuna, Upthana and Usian etc. in the footnotes, but the Vamsa literatures are abundantly clear on this point.
- At one point, the restoration ridiculously led the authors to term Madhyadesha as name of a place. This has rather compounded the problems of searching other places like Sankasa, Setavya, Kajangala, Uttarakuru and Mahasala etc. correctly which the pilgrims religiously visited them with great enthusiasm.
- That the Madhyadesha includes fourteen out of the sixteen Mahajanapaas the authors did not know it. This information is there in the Vamsa literatures and one should not therefore confuse on this.
- It is another most important place which the Chinese Pilgrims visited in Madhyadesha, and they reported correctly on it. Perhaps, the translators had less idea on the importance of this particular place.
- This great mistake would have largely been avoided had they referred to Vamsa Literatures a little.
- Wrong identification of this place led the restoration to combine both Setavya and Sravasti as one place, and a grave mistake of Himalayan magnitude was committed here. Sravasti and Setavya became one. This made serious blunders in writing the history on Buddha’s life.
- Setavya was the most sacred of places as the entire body relics of Kassapa Buddha is preserved here. And places linked with Kassap Buddha’s birthplace, place of his Enlightenment and place where he met his father after Enlightenment have been well written, and this also has been greatly reflected in Pilgrim’s reports. They have taken the name of Tadua which the Vamsa Gatha says to be Todeyya. And no difference one can find in these two names.
- But this was mixed with Sravasti which has nothing to do with Kassapa Buddha’s body relics. This Gangetic blunder here made other restorations commit suicide, and one finds all places linked with Buddha’s life gone out of the boundary of the Majjhimadesha hereafter.
- Majhimadesha was the name of a vast stretch of geographical land mass during the time of the Buddha wherein the most famous Kapilavastu then existed. It had a distinct and defined geographical boundary. To the north of Majhimadesha, Usian or Usigiri mountain was there. Also Thuna and Upathuna were the two remote villages at its western boundary. On its southern boundary, Sobhabati or Saravati city and Saravati river were most famous. In another account, it is mentioned that Pundravardhana city and Pundakaksa mountain were to the east of the Majhimadesha. Kajangala was to the south-west of it.
- Names of these places have been given to locate Majhimadesha as well as to describe all its wonder as a sacred land piece in Jambudvipa. Indian puranic literatures are also found to have been agog in taking the name of this geographically famous locality where ‘all the Buddhas, their great disciples and the universal monarchs are born’.
- In Majhimadesha, fourteen out of sixteen Maha Janapdas of Jambudvipa were said to have been in it. Its importance thus is well imagined. With a defined geographical boundary though, still it could not be found by the scholars who somehow said to have become successful in finding other places those were then in Majhimadesha. The Maha Janapadas which now one finds in the text books and reads their noteworthy position in history include Kasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Bhaji, Malla, Chedi, Vamsa, Kuru, Panchala, Machha, Surasena, Asaka, Avanti, Gandhara, and Kamboja. It is significant to notice that name of Kalinga is nowhere in this list of sixteen Maha Janapadas. In another list where Kalinga is found, Gandhara is again replaced by Yonaka. But Jain Bhagavati gives a different set of names of the sixteen Maha Janapadas.
- It is very interesting to see that many of these boundary villages are not mentioned anywhere in the Beal’s restoration of the Chinese Pilgrim’s report and their referral relationship with Majhimadesha is also missing in the translated accounts. Rather Kalinga and Majhimadesha’s name have been taken as name of two places instead of two Maha Janapadas . Readers come across reference to Mid-India or Middle Country instead of Majhimadesha here and there in Buddhist Records of the Western World. Fa-hian’s report contains reference to Mid-India when he enters Wu-Chang or Udyan. From Udyan the Pilgrim went to Su-ho-to or Sadanagara and from there to Kien-to-wei or Gandhara. It is mentioned in Beal’s translational work that Fa-hian went to Madhyadesha from Mo-tu-lo or Mathura, and from Madhyadesha he went towards south and reached Samkasya. Then again reference to Mid-India in Fa-hian’s report is observed when he enters Gaya and Pataliputra. From Pataliputra the Pilgrim went to Champa and then to Tamralipti. Beal’s translation thus has treated Mid- India and Majhimadesha as two different entity. And again Majhimadesha has been treated not as a Maha Janapada but as a normal place. It must be remembered that Fa-hian has mentioned about Alms Bowl of the Buddha which he came across when he was in Mid India. To the end of the report it is written in Beal’s work that Fa-hian took five years to reach Mid-India but after reaching he stayed there for six years.
- In Hiouen Thsang’s report one finds the Pilgrim coming to Pushkalavati from Gandhara and here some references to Mid-India has been made by him. Like Fa-hian, when he moved from Pushkalavati to Udakhanda and then to Udyana, normal reference to Mid-India is also observed in his report. Hiouen Thsang has taken more or less some references to Mid-India when he visited places like Kia-shi-mi-lo or Kashmir, Jalandhara or Che-lan-ta-lo, and Ma-ti-pu-lo or Matipura. Though the Pilgrim has mentioned about Pundravardhana which he visited after Kie-chu-hoh-khi-lo or Kajughira, nowhere in the foot notes one finds a little mention on this place as an eastern border village of the Majhimadesha. That there is a geographical boundary of the Madhyadesha was, perhaps, unknown to the translators at that time. From Pundravardhana, after visiting Kamrupa and Samatata, the Pilgrim went to Tamralipti which was in Mid-India then as per Fa-hian’s report. But reference to Mid-India in Pilgrim’s report comes to one’s notice when Pilgrim’s visit to U-cha or Udra and Konyodha takes place at a latter time. And name of Kalinga, which the pilgrim found on his way to Kosala as a place but not as a country, one finds again here. One notices in chapters dealing with Andhra, Dravida, Atyanabakela, Pitasila and Varna in one way or other, some references here and there to Mid-India.
- Majhimadesha was the Pali version of Madhydesha. And certainly, Majhimadesha should not have been translated and referred to as Mid-India or the Middle country. It is a great historical blunder when mistakes like this one finds to have gone into making the ancient history of India. It is most unfortunate to see again that two parallel lines have been drawn in the political of India to show where this Mid -India was, and could be, which once was visited by many Chinese Pilgrims. Fa-hian’s visit to Madhyadesha and Hiouen Thsang’s visit to Mid -India are one and the same thing and both refer to Majhimadesha only.
- The border villages of Majhimadesha: Usian, Thuna, Upathuna, Kajangala, undaravardhana, and Sobhavati are well placed in Indian puranic literature. They speak their own history very brilliantly and eloquently. It is most interesting, and scholars can see it by themselves.
- The Prachi Valley account in Orissa beautifully reflects on all these places. History of river Prachi or Prachi Saraswati or the then Rohini river, carries the real history of Indian epics. Sobhaneswar temple near Niali tells about the then Sobhavati city. Tunda and Uttarana villages near Adaspur are those two Thuna and Upathuna villages representing the end of the north-west border of the Mjhimadesha, and both now stand on the banks of two branch rivers of river Devi. And Usian is something very wonderful one can see it now on the banks of the river Devi near Astaranga and Kakatpur. The other most important village on the southern border of the Majhimadesha is Kajangala. It is one of the most sought after village in many of our puranic literature. The present Kajalapatia village near Nayahata in Kakatapur block of Puri district is the village Kajangala of yester years.
- Vamsa literature of Ceylon gives interesting information on the kingdoms beyond the southern border of the Majhimadesha. Kingdom of the Mallas and the Uttara Kuru were at the other end of the village Kajangala, and they were really like the blood channels of many of our puranic contents. One should not be unmindful of such a great inheritance even if it has not been treated truthfully in history. According to Sri Lankan sources, it is said that Anuradhapur here was also a part of the Majjhimadesha. It is true like anything. But this happened only after the Tooth Relic of the Buddha was brought here form Kalinga. Where ever the Relics were placed, the place was considered to become a sacred one. And thus the map of Majjhimadesha got an extension and shift to Anuradhapur in Sri Lanka.
- In Beal’s translation, it has been stated that Fa-hian stayed six years in Mid-India or Majhimadesha which was the ‘Land of the Buddha’ then. But it is not understood why Hiouen Thsang was shown then to have visited places elsewhere leading to Turkey, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Maharashtra, Andhra and a lot of other places that does not fit into the Pilgrim’s original report at all. As Majhimadesha is a proper noun, its translation to Mid-India is as improper and killing as to treat it as a mere place. It seems that the authors who took up the translational work perhaps had no prior knowledge on Majhimadesha and its geographical boundary. So they treated them as two different places. These mistakes took the authors to afoot on other countries, and were, thus forced to derive conclusions on their points that have nothing to do with the life of the Buddha.
Dr. Md. Ataur Rahman on the geographic extent of Madhyadesha
Dr. Md. Ataur Rahman (Regional Director (cc), Dhaka Division, Department of Archaeology, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, F4/A, Sher-e-bangla Nagar, Agargaon, Dhaka-1207), says :
- "It is possible that Buddhism entered Bengal before Asoka's time. After attaining enlightenment, the Buddha is said to have delivered his first sermon at Saranath and then moved to Magadha, Koshala, Vaishali and other places within what was known as Majjhimadesha or Madhyadesha. In the Divyavadana, the eastern boundary of the Majjhimadesha is said to have extended as far as PUNDRAVARDHANA (North Bengal)."
Zee News on Madhyadesha
Zee News says:
- "Uttar Pradesh’s known history goes back to 4000 years ago, when the Aryans first made it their home in 2000 BC. This heralded the Vedic age and UP was its home. The Aryans first inhabited the Doab region and the Ghagra plains and called it the Madhya Desha (midland) or Aryavarta (the Aryan land) or Bharatvarsha (the kingdom of Bharat, an important Aryan king)."
Madhyadesha and Jat History
According to Professor Maheswari Prasad of Banaras Hindu University, Jats belong to the Proto-Vedic Aryan stock. But being on the periphery of Madhyadesha, the cradle of Vedic culture, they did not undergo the social transformation on the line of varna system and monarchial political organizaion. The power of decision-making remained with elders and clan organizations.
- Jat History Dalip Singh Ahlawat/Chapter V (Page 463)
- BUDDHIST SPECTRUM : Online edition of Daily News
- Tracing the origin of Buddhism in India — BUDDHIST SPECTRUM : Online edition of Daily News
- Dr. Md. Ataur Rahman (Regional Director (cc), Dhaka Division, Department of Archaeology, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, F4/A, Sher-e-bangla Nagar, Agargaon, Dhaka-1207) - SAARC Cultural Centre