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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Meghavahana (मेघवाहन) was a king of Kashmir mentioned in Rajatarangini of Kalhana, who ruled from 25-59 AD.[1] List of Mahabharata people and places also mentions Meghavahana in Mahabharata (II.13.12).

In Rajatarangini

Rajatarangini[2] mentions that Gopaditya, the king of Gandhara, in the hope of conquering Kashmira, had given shelter to the great grand-son of Yudhishthira, the king of Kashmir. This exiled prince had a son named Meghavahana, whom his father sent to the country of East Yotisha to be present at the Sayamvara marriage of the daughter of its king who was a Vishnuvites and he had the fortune of being selected as the husband of the princess. He was also presented with an umbrella, which was got from Varuna by king Naraka and which cast its shade on none but a paramount king. This connection gave him some importance in the eyes of the people who believed that he would one day rise to power. And after his return with his wife to his father, the ministers of Kashmira invited him to accept the sceptre of their country, he being the descendant of their ancient king. Sandhimati, otherwise called Aryyaraja, found his kingdom weakened by internal disagreement, but took no steps to mend matters. On the contrary, he was anxious to resign his office, believing that his tutelary god had given him a fitting opportunity to relieve himself of his kingdom, and to engage himself in devotion. He thought himself happy that in the midst of the enjoyments of the kingdom, he did not forget his various duties which were yet to be

[p.34]: performed ; and he was glad that he would resign the kingdom of his own free will, and was not compelled to do it by force ; and that during the long period of his reign there had been no misrule. " Fortunately" he said " I am not grieved to resign my office, nor blame my fortune for it". Thus resolved, and making his mind a kingdom in itself, he one day assembled his subjects and resigned the kingdom into their hands after a reign of forty-seven years, as if he returned to them what was entrusted to him for safe keeping. Many people tried to induce him to retain his office, but in vain. Having once resigned it, he refused to accept the kingdom again. Dressed as a hermit, and, clad in white cloth and without a turban, he went on foot towards the north like a devotee, speaking to none, and fixing his eyes on his feet. Many of his late subjects followed him weeping silently. After he had proceeded move than four miles, he sat down under a tree, and having consoled his weeping followers, he sent them back. In this way he proceeded, loitering at the foot of the hills, and as he went on further his subjects gradually left him. With a few attendants he began to ascend the mountains. At last taking leave of his last weepiug followers, he entered the woods, where many a hermit slept in his cavern home. There in the evening he built a cottage beside a tank, and within it made a bed of leaves, keeping his water in a pot made of the same material. The moon shone on the top of the hills, tho new grass variegated

[p.35]: the color at the base of the mountains ; there beneath the Mallika tree slept the milk women ; and there was heard the music of the fountains mingled with that of the goat herds' lute,— all these lulled the weary king to rest. The howl of the wild beasts, and the cry of Karharetu told him that the night was past. Rising from his sleep, he performed his morning devotions and re- paired to the celebrated shrine of Sodara. There in Nandikshetra he stood before the image of Mahadeva besmeared with ashes, his locks of hair tied, his hand holding a garland of seeds, while the old rishis looked on him with surprise. He spent his days in devotions and begging alms.

Rajatarangini[3] mentions that After the resignation and retirement of the late king, the ministers who presided over the council of the people, went to Gandhara, and brought with them the renowned Meghavahana, whom they crowned king ; and who afterwards proved to be a good and kind-hearted sovereign ; and the expectations that were entertained of him were fully realized. His tenderness for animal life was even greater than that of a Buddhist high priest. He forbade the slaughter of animals in his kingdom, and as compensation to the hunters who lived by killing animals, he paid them money. He performed two yajngas. He built a village named Meghavana and peopled it with Brahmanas and set up a monastery named Meghamatha. His queen Amritaprabha caused a vihara named Amritabhavana to be built for Buddhists, and another of his queens Yukadevi, in emulation of her rival, built a wonderful Vihara at Nadavana, one half of which edifice was occupied by Buddhist students, and in the other half lived men of the same persuasion with their, wives and family. Another of his queens, Indradevi, built a high rectangular monastery and called it Indradevibhavana after her name, Others of his queens Khadana, Masma, &c. followed the same example, building monasteries and calling them after their respective names. This prince led an

[p.37]: expedition to compel other kings to desist from killing animals; and carried his arms to the sea, and even to Ceylon, making the subdued kings promise not to kill animals. When he reached the hill of Rohana in Ceylon, his army rested under the shadows of palm trees. Vibhishana, the king of the country, met him with friendly terms with songs and loud chantings. Then the king of Langka led the king of Kashmira to Langka, and entertained him. He forebade the use of flesh among his subjects, who, as Rakshasas, largely consumed it. Vibhishana then gave the king of Kashmira several flags in which the Rakshasas were represented in a bowing posture. Even to this day on every occasion that a king of Kashmira goes out, these flags, which are called Paradhvajas, are borne before him. Thus he forbade the use of animal food even in the kingdom of the Rakshasas and then returned to his own. From that time none violated the king's order against the destruction of animals, neither in water, nor in the skies, nor in forests did animals kill one another. We are ashamed to relate the history of this good king to vulgar men, but those who write according to the Rishis do not care for the taste of thew hearers. The king died after a reign of thirty four years.

Stories related to king Meghavahana in Rajatarangini

[]:The stories that are related of king Meghavahana, in Rajatarangini[4]are as follow :—

King Meghavahana and Nagas

One day when he was walking, he heard a cry near him of " thief thief," and he also heard the voice of weeping. " Who is there, kill the thief," said the king in anger; after which the crying ceased, but he saw not the thief. Two or three days after when he went out to ride, some two or three beautiful women came to him for help. The kind-hearted king stopped his horse, and heard what they had to say. They made their obeisance and said : " merciful king ! Since thou hast begun to reign, who shall fear the oppression of other men ? Once, when the sky was covered with clouds, and the peasants were afraid of a hail storm and anxious to protect their fields of ripened corn, they got angry with the Nagas who were our husbands and raised the cry of ' thief.' You heard it and ordered that thy should be killed, and they were bound with ropes. Now have mercy on us and on them. The king smiled and ordered them to be released. The Nagas, thus freed, bowed, to the king and went away with their wives.

King Meghavahana and hunter Chief

It is related that in an expedition which this king led against others, he meditated when his soldiers were sleeping at ease under the Palm trees, how he could conquer the island before him. While thus thinking, he heard a cry from the seaside forest exclaiming " Even In the reign

[p.vii]: of Meghavahana this man is killed." Grieved to hear this the king went to the spot taking with him an umbrella, and there he saw a hunter chief killing a man beore the temple of Chandi. "Fie to your wicked act," said the king to the hunter, " you do not know what may betide you." The hunter became afraid, and replied that his child was lying on the point of death, and a heavenly voice had proclaimed that if he sacrificed the man before the shrine of Chandi his child would be saved. For a long time he offered no sacrifice, and hence his child was dying, and his many friends also would die, for the child was the life of all. "You protect the helpless, and why do you not protect the child whose death many will lament." When the king heard the words of the hunter and looked on the suppliant look of the man who was being sacrificed, he thus said "Hear O hunter, I shall protect both you and your child and its many friends, as also this friendless man. Here I offer myself a sacrifice before the goddess, kill me without fear, and let them both live. Astonished at this great self-sacrifice of the king, the hunter replied " your mercy, O ! king, has got the better of your reason ; why should you disregard your valuable life which should be saved at the cost of the three worlds ? Kings should not care for pride or fame or virtue or wealth or friends or wives or sons when their own life is in danger. Therefore have no mercy on this man. If you live, your subjects as well as my son will live." To this the king who was willing to offer himself a sacrifice thus replied : "What do you know of justice, you who dwell in forests ; the inhabitants of the deserts know not the pleasure of bathing in the Ganges. Do you, O! fool, oppose my attempt to buy immortal glory with this mortal body? Speak no more, if yon feel hesitation to strike me, cannot I do so with my own sword ?" Thus saying he drew his sword, and when he was on the point of striking himself, his hand was stayed by a heavenly being, and his head was crowned with flowers. And he saw not the goddess nor the hunter nor the victim nor the child. A divine personage introduced himself to the king as Varuna. He said that the umbrella which stood over the king's head was captured by the king's father-in-law named Rauma from his city in former times. " Without the umbrella," said Varuna, "our subjects are subjected to endless dangers. Therefore, before

[p.viii]: taking back this umbrella, I have tested your kindness, and this magical show was my own creation." The king then delivered the umbrella to Varuna, and also offered prayers to him, and said that " even the kalpa tree was not equal to good beings. For the tree gave blessings when asked, while the good gave benefits unasked. If you had not asked the umbrella for the benefit of your subjects, but had taken it for your own use, your act would not have been righteous. Charitable men do not favor their dependants by halves, a tree gives shade as well as fruits. Urged by my dependants I ask for some favor. With your favor I have , conquered the whole earth, now advise me how I can cross the ocean to the island." Then replied Varuna that " if you wish, to cross the sea I will make its water hard." The king acknowledged the favor when the god disappeared with the umbrella. On the next day, the king crossed the hardened sea, with his astonished army.

King Meghavahana and sacrifice of a living beings

It is said that some time after he had forbidden the killing of animals, a Brahmana took his dead son and came to the king's door and began to weep. He said that as he had given no sacrifice to Durga, who wanted some, his only son had died of fever that day. " If you do not save my son O ! king ! by permitting the sacrifice of a living being I shall hold thee as the cause of the child's death. Say thou I chief of men ! if there is no difference between the life of a Brahmana and that of a beast. Those kings are dead, O ! mother earth I who killed even Rishis to save Brahmanas." When the Brahmana, had said these and other harsh words through grief, the king thought that he had resolved not to kill animals, and asked himself if he should break his vow for the Brahmana. " But if he dies for me," he thought, " I shall be guilty of greater sin, my mind is in doubt, nor can it choose either alternative, like the flower which falls in the whirl-pool where many currents meet. Therefore, by sacrificing myself, I, shall satisfy Durga, I shall save the life of the Brahmana and of his son, as well as keep my promise." Thus determining he dismissed the Brahmana, promising to revive his son the next day. In the night, when the king was going to sacrifice himself, Durga prevented him from so doing, and brought the Brahmana's dead son to life again.

Mahameghavahana Kharavela

Main article: Kharvela

In the early past of the 1st century BC, Kalinga became independent under the Chedi Chief Mahameghavana. The third ruler of this dynasty was Kharavela who flourished during the second half of the 1st century BC. The Hatigumpha inscription in Udayagiri near Bhubaneswar furnishes detailed accounts about the life and activities of Kharavela from his boyhood to his 13th reigning year.* Reigning year 1-5 : In the first year of his coronation he repaired the gates and ramparts of his capital Kalinganagari which had been damaged by cyclone. In the second year he invaded the territory of the Satavahana king Satakarni I and marching up to the river Krishna stormed the city of Asika. In the 3rd year of his reign he organized various performances of dance and music and delighted the people of Kalinganagari. In the fourth year he again invaded the Satavahana kingdom and extended his political supremacy over the region. In the fifth year he is known to have renovated the aqueduct that was originally excavated three hundred years back by Mahapadmananda.

Dynasty of Kharavela

In the first line of Hathigumpha inscription Kharavela styles himself as Mahameghavahana. [5] While the earliest scholar Prinsep and R L Mitra take the word Aira as the name of the king of Kalinga eulogised in the inscription, other few scholars are inclined to take the word as dynastic name and connected the ancestry of Kharavela with the puranic Aila belonging to the lunar Kshatriya dynasty. Bhagwan Lal Indraji is the first scholar to assert that the King whose activities are glorified in the inscription in named Kharavela.

It is significant to note here that there is also no direct evidence in Hathigumpha inscription to show that Kharavela belongs to Chedi Dynasty. The only meaning conveyed by this expression is that Kharavela was the son of Cetarāja (Devanagari:चेतराज). [6] There is a small crack in the stone above the letter ta (त) giving the impression of medial i. this crack misled some eminent scholars like R.D. Banerji and D.C. Sircar to decipher the word as Cheti (Devanagari:चेति) and this conjectural reading led the renowned scholars to hold the view that Kharavela belongs to Chedi dynasty. But in no way this can be accepted. It is pertinent to note in this context that a small inscription is found engraved in the Mancapuri Cave where King Kudepasiri (one of the successor of Kharavela) styled him self as Aira Maharaja Kalingadhipati Mahameghavahana (Devanagari:ऐरे महाराजा कलिंगाधिपतिना महामेघवाहन).

The King Sada has also been styled as Maharaja Kalinga Mahisika Adhipati Mahameghavahana. Both Kudepasiri and Sada, happen to be the successors of Kharavela, have never been stated in their respective inscription to be belonging to Cedi dysasty. It is significant that the word Aira has not been prefixed with the name of Sada.

The Vahana ending dynastic (and personal) names were quite popular during the few centuries preceding. The meaning of Mahameghavahana is the great one riding on clouds. Dr. Sahu takes Maha as the prefix of Megha and opines: “ Mahameghavahana literary means one whose vehicle is great cloud”.

In line 17 of the Hathigumpha inscription Kharavela claims to have been descended from Rajarsi Vasu Kula. King Vasu recorded in Hathigumpha inscription can not be taken as Chedi king. It is pertinent to note in the context that in Mahabharata, Meghavahana as a dynastic name is found mentioned (Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 13) while the same epic preserves detailed accounts regarding the activities of Chedi dynasty (Adi Parva, Mahabharata/Mahabharata Book I Chapter 63). Chedi and Meghavahana have been flourished as two distinct dynasties since the early times, so both the dynasties should not be equated. [7] We have already stated earlier that Chetaraja was the father of Kharavela and it seems probable that he was the immediate predecessor of Kharavela, belonging to be the second king in the Mahameghavahana line in Kalinga.

The line-7 of the Hathigumpha inscription indicates that the Queen of Vajiraghara (Chief Queen of Kharavela ?) gave birth to a son. Another inscription in the lower storey of the same caves informs us that it had been executed by the Aira Maharaja Kalingadhipati Mahameghavahana Kudepasiri. In this cave another inscription is incised which reveals the name of Kumara Badukha. It is to be noted here that Kumara Badukha has not assumed any royal title. However, it is difficult to be sure of the relationship between Kharavela and Kudepasir. As no available record speaks any thing more about prince Badukha, he stands an obscure figures, in history but seems to be the son or brother Kudepasiri.

Mahishka country denoted the modern coastal Andhra (Guntur – Krishna region) which was apparently added to the Mahameghavahana kingdom at least during the reign of Maharaja Sada.

The Sada rule came to an end during end first century / early second century A.D. [8]

In Mahabharata

Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 13 mentions about king Meghavahana along with Karusha Kingdom [9]. And, O great king, the mighty Vaka, the king of the Karushas, capable of fighting by putting forth his powers of illusion, waiteth, upon Jarasandha, as his disciple. There are two others, Hansa and Dimvaka, of great energy and great soul, who have sought the shelter of the mighty Jarasandha. There are others also viz., Dantavakra, Karusha, Karava, Meghavahana, that wait upon Jarasandha.

तम एव च महाराज शिष्यवत समुपस्दितः
वक्रः करूषाधिपतिर माया यॊधी महाबलः (II.13.10)
अपरौ च महावीर्यौ महात्मानौ समाश्रितौ
जरासंधं महावीर्यं तौ हंसडिभकाव उभौ (II.13.11)
दन्तवक्रः करूषश च कलभॊ मेघवाहनः
मूर्ध्ना थिव्यं मणिं बिभ्रथ यं तं भूतमणिं विथुः (II.13.12)


  1. ,Rajatarangini of Kalhana:Kings of Kashmira/List of Kings, p.xxi
  2. Rajatarangini of Kalhana:Kings of Kashmira/Book II,p.33-34
  3. Rajatarangini of Kalhana:Kings of Kashmira/Book III,p.36-37
  4. Rajatarangini of Kalhana:Kings of Kashmira/Appendix D,
  5. IAST-Aireṇa Mahārājena Mahāmeghavāhana Cetarāja vasa Vadhanena xxx Kalimgādhipatinā Siri Khāravelan (Devanagari:ऐरेण महाराजेन महामेघवाहनेन चेतराज वस वधनेन पसथ सुभलखलेन चतुरंतलुठन गुणउपेनेत कलिंगाधिपतिना सिरि खारवेलेन)
  6. Sadananda Agrawal: Śrī Khāravela, Published by Sri Digambar Jain Samaj, Cuttack, 2000
  7. Sadananda Agrawal: Śrī Khāravela, Published by Sri Digambar Jain Samaj, Cuttack, 2000
  8. Sadananda Agrawal: Śrī Khāravela, Published by Sri Digambar Jain Samaj, Cuttack, 2000
  9. Mahabharata (II.13.12)

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