Uttarakuru (उत्तरकुरु) is the name of a dvipa ("continent") in ancient Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Uttarakuru country and its people are sometimes described as belonging to the real world, whereas at other times they are mythical or otherworldly spiritual beings.
Though the later texts mix up the facts with the fancies on Uttarakurus, yet in the earlier, and some of the later texts, Uttarakurus indeed appear to be historical people. Hence scholars have attempted to identify the actual location of Uttarakuru.
The Uttarakuru is taken by some as identical with the Kuru country mentioned in the Rig-Veda. The Kurus and Krivis (Panchala) are said to form the Vaikarana of Rigveda and the Vaikarana is often identified with Kashmir. Therefore, Dr Zimmer likes to identify the Vaikarana Kurus with the Uttarakurus and places them in Kashmir
According to some scholars, the above locations however do not seem to be correct since they go against Aitareya Brahmana evidence which clearly states that Uttarakuru and Uttaramadra lay beyond Himalaya (pren himvantam janapada Uttarakurva Uttaramadra). Moreover, no notice of the Uttaramadras (Bahlika, Bactria) has been taken of while fixing up the above location of Uttarakuru. Uttarakurus and Uttaramadras are stated to be immediate neighbors in the Trans-Himalaya region per Aitareya Brahmana evidence.
Ramayana testifies that the original home of the Kurus was in Bahli country. Ila, son of Parajapati Karddama was a king of Bahli, where Bahli represents Sanskrit Bahlika (Bactria). Also the kings from Aila lineage have been called Karddameyas. The Aila is also stated to be the lineage of the Kurus themselves. The Karddamas obtained their name from river Karddama in Persia/ancient Iran. Moreover, Sathapatha Brahmana attests a king named Bahlika Pratipeya as of the Kauravya lineage. Bahlika Pratipeya, as the name implies, was a prince of Bahlika (Bactria). Thus, the Bahli, Bahlika was the original home of the Kurus. Thus, Bahlika or Bactria may have constituted the Uttarakuru. Mahabharata and Sumangalavilasini also note that the people of Kuru had originally migrated from Uttarakutru. Bactria is evidently beyond the Hindukush i.e. Himalaya. In ancient literature, Himalaya is said to be extending from eastern ocean to western ocean and even today is not separated from it.
The above identification of Uttarakuru comes from Dr M. R. Singh.
V. S. Aggarwala thinks that the Uttarakuru was located to north of Pamirs in Central Asia and was also famous for its horses of Tittirakalamasha variety. Thus it probably comprised parts of Kirgizstan and Tian-Shan. Incidentally, the reference to horses from Uttarakuru rules out any possibility of locating Uttarakurus in Kashmir and Uttarakhand states since these regions have never been noted for their horses.
The Mahabharata refers to the Kichaka bamboos growing on the banks of river Shailoda. Mahabharata further attests that the Kichaka bamboo region was situated between Mountain Meru (Pamirs) and Mountain Mandara (Alta Tag). The river valleys between these two mountains are still overgrown with forests of Kichaka Bamboos.
The above discussion shows that the land of Uttarakurus was located north of river Shailoda as well as of the Kichaka bamboo valley.
Mahavansa/Chapter 1 writes that ...Now since a great sacrifice by Kassapa of Uruvela was near at hand, and since he saw that this latter would fain have him away, he, the victorious over enemies, went to seek alms among the Northern Kurus ; and when he had eaten his meal at evening time near the lake Anotatta, the Conqueror, in the ninth month of his buddhahood, at the full moon of Phussa, himself set forth for the isle of Lañkä, to win Lanka for the faith. For Lanka was known to the Conqueror as a place where his doctrine should (thereafter) shine in glory; and (he knew that) from Lañkä, filled with the Yakkhas, the Yakkhas must (first) be driven forth.
Sailoda river is mentioned in Ramayana (IV.43.37) and Mahabharata (II.48.2) flowing in Uttarakuru region between the mountains of Meru and Mandara. There used to grow the Kichaka bamboo. It was inhabited by ancient people like Khashas, Ekasanas, Arhas, Pradaras, Dirghavenus, Paradas, Kulindas, Tanganas, and Paratanganas etc.
Kasanias: The lineage of Kasanias is traditionally traced from the god Krishna. In Sanskrit the Krishna Vamsha were called Karshney or Karshniya which became Kasaniya. The Krishna Vamsha people in China were known as Kushan or Yuezhi. They are believed to be inhabitants of a place named Kasgar.
According to Thakur Deshraj , the Jats in the Sivalik Hills and the lower reaches of Lake Manasarowar left these areas after the Mahabharata war and migrated to Uttarakuru (in Central Asia) or (an apparently mythical place, sometimes identified with the Kuru Kingdom). Some of them settled in Punjab in the area known as Yadu ki Dung, some settled in Kashmir, and the rest migrated as far as Siberia. 
Tej Ram Sharma writes that The Uttara Kurus, who play a mythical part in the Epic and later literature, are still a historical people in the Aitareya Brahmana, where they are located beyond the Himalayas (parena Himavantam). In another passege, however, the country of the Uttara Kurus is stated by Vasistha Sathavya to be a land of the gods (deva-ksetra), but Janmtapi Atyarati was anxious to conquer it, so that it is still not wholly mythical. It is reasonable to accept Zimmer's view that the
northern Kurus were settled in Kashmir, especially as Kurukshetra is the region where tribes advancing from Kashmir might naturally be found. In Buddhist literature, Uttara-Kuru is very often mentioned as a mythic region, but there are some passages which go to show that there was a faint memory of a country that once had a historical existence.
Some time before the fourth century B.C., the monarchical constitution of the Kurus gave place to a republic, for we are told by Kautilya that the Kurus were l rāja-sabdopijivināh or 'enjoying the status of rajan' i.e. all citizens had equal rank and rights.
Shafer shows that only the upper castes of the Kauravas were Aryan, the bulk of the population were probably non-Aryan as is clear from the fact that whereas the Kauravas rallied the support mostly of the non- Aryans, the Pandavas had the support of Aryans and concludes that the Northern Kurus were Mundic.
A person named Samkara is described in the inscription as born in the region of the north, the best of countries, which resembles ( in beautitude) the land of the Northern Kurus.
The Kurus had two branches, the northern and the southern. Uttarakuru or the country of the Northern Kurus, is supposed to be a region beyond the most northern range of the Himalaya mountains, and is described as a country of everlasing happiness. We have discussed in details, the Kurus, in the section on tribes. The Brhatsamhita mentions it as a country situated in the North. In the later period the Uttarakurus had only a mythical or legendary existence.
विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर ने लेख किया है ...उत्तरकुरु (AS, p.90) वाल्मीकि रामायण किष्किंधा कांड, सर्ग 43 में इस प्रदेश का सुन्दर वर्णन है। कुछ विद्वानों के मत में उत्तरी ध्रुव के निकटवर्ती प्रदेश को ही प्राचीन साहित्य में विशेषत: रामायण और महाभारत में उत्तर कुरु कहा गया है और यही आर्यों की आदि भूमि थी। यह मत लोकमान्य तिलक ने अपने ओरियन नामक अंग्रेज़ी ग्रन्थ में प्रतिपादित किया है। वाल्मीकि ने जो वर्णन रामायण किष्किंधा कांड, सर्ग में उत्तर कुरु प्रदेश का किया है उसके अनुसार उत्तर कुरु में शैलोदा नदी बहती थी और वहाँ मूल्यवान् रत्न और मणि उत्पन्न होते थे- 'तमविक्रम्य शैलेन्द्रमुत्तर: पयसां निधि:, तत्र सोमगिरिर्नाम मध्ये हेममयो महान्। सतुदेशो विसूर्योपि तस्य भासा प्रकाशते, सूर्यलक्ष्याभिविज्ञेयस्तपतेव विवस्वता'। (वाल्मीकि रामायण, किष्किंधा कांड, सर्ग 43, 53-54)
अर्थात् सुग्रीव वानरों की सेना को उत्तर दिशा में भेजते हुए कहता है कि 'वहाँ से आगे जाने पर उत्तम समुद्र मिलेगा जिसके बीच में सुवर्णमय सोमगिरि नामक पर्वत है। वह देश सूर्यहीन है किंतु सूर्य के न रहने पर भी उस पर्वत के प्रकाश से सूर्य के प्रकाश के समान ही वहाँ उजाला रहता है।' सोमगिरि की प्रभा से प्रकाशित इस सूर्यहीन उत्तर दिशा में स्थित प्रदेश के वर्णन में उत्तरी नार्वे तथा अन्य उत्त रध्रुवीय देशों में दृश्यमान मेरुप्रभा या अरोरा बोरियालिस (Aurora Borealis) नामक अद्भुत दृश्य का काव्यमय उल्लेख हो सकता है जो वर्ष में छ: मास के लगभग सूर्य के क्षितिज के नीचे रहने के समय दिखाई देता है। इसी सर्ग के 56वें श्लोक में सुग्रीव ने वानरों से यह भी कहा कि उत्तर कुरु के आगे तुम लोग किसी प्रकार नहीं जा सकते और न अन्य प्राणियों की ही वहाँ गति है- 'न कथचन गन्तव्यं कुरुणामुत्तरेण व:, अन्येषामपि भूतानां नानुक्रामति वै गति:।'
महाभारत सभा पर्व 31 में भी उत्तर कुरु को अगम्य देश माना है। अर्जुन उत्तर दिशा की विजय-यात्रा में उत्तर कुरु पहुँच कर उसे भी जीतने का प्रयास करने लगे- 'उत्तरंकुरुवर्षं तु स समासाद्य पांडव:, इयेष जेतुं तं देशं पाकशासननन्दन:।' (सभा पर्व महाभारत 31, 7)
इस पर अर्जुन के पास आकर बहुत से विशालकाय द्वारपालों ने कहा कि 'पार्थ; तुम इस स्थान को नहीं जीत सकते। यहाँ कोई जीतने योग्य वस्तु दिखाई नहीं पड़ती। यह उत्तर कुरु देश है। यहाँ युद्ध नहीं होता। कुंतीकुमार, इसके भीतर प्रवेश करके भी तुम यहाँ कुछ नहीं देख सकते क्योंकि मानव शरीर से यहाँ की कोई वस्तु नहीं देखी जा सकती'- 'न चात्र किंचिज्जेतव्यमर्जुनात्र प्रदृश्यते, उत्तरा: कुरुवो ह्येते नात्र युद्धं प्रवर्तते। प्रविष्टोपि हि कौन्तेय नेह द्रक्ष्यसि कंचन, न हि मानुषदेहेन शक्यमत्राभिवीक्षितुम्।' (सभा पर्व महाभारत 31,11-12 ।)
यह बात भी उल्लेखनीय है कि ऐतरेय ब्राह्मण में उत्तर कुरु को हिमालय के पार माना गया है और उसे राज्यहीन देश बताया गया है- 'उत्तरकुरव: उत्तरमद्राइति वैराज्या यैव ते। 'ऐतरेय ब्राह्मण 8, 14
हर्षचरित, तृतीय उच्छ्वास, में बाण ने उत्तर कुरु की कलकलनिनादिनी विशाल नदियों का वर्णन किया है। रामायण तथा महाभारत आदि ग्रन्थों के वर्णन से वह अवश्य ज्ञात होता है कि अतीतकाल में कुछ लोग अवश्य ही उत्तर कुरु- अर्थात् उत्तरध्रुवीय प्रदेश में पहुँचे होंगे और इन वर्णनों में उन्हीं की कही कुछ सत्य और कुछ कल्पनारंजित रोचक कथाओं की छाया विद्यमान है। यदि तिलक का प्रतिपादित मत हमें ग्राह्य हो तो यह भी कहा जा सकता है कि इन वर्णनों में भारतीय आर्यों की उनके अपने आदि निवासस्थान की सुप्त जातीय स्मृतियाँ (racial memories) मुखरित हो उठी हैं। (देखें उत्तरभद्र)
Aitareya Brahmana makes first reference to Uttarakuru and Uttaramadra as real-life Janapadas. According to Aitareya Brahmana, these two nations lay beyond the Himalayan ranges (Hindukush). The Aitareya Brahmana adduces these two people as examples of republican (vairajiya) nations, where whole Janapada took the consecration of rulership.
Aitareya Brahmana again notes that Uttarakuru was a deva-kshetra or divine land.
Puranic cosmography divides our earth into seven concentric islands called Jambu, Plaksha, Salmali, Kusadvipa, Kraunca, Shaka, and Pushkara. They are separated by the seven encircling seas. The insular continent Jambudvipa forms the innermost concentric island in the scheme of continents. Jambudvipa includes nine countries (varṣa) and nine mountains. The land of Illa-vrta lies at the center of Jambudivipa at whose center is located Mount Meru. The land of Uttarakuru lies to the north of Mount Meru.
Mahabharata sometimes depicts the Uttarakuru as a fairy land. It is stated to be the ultimate abode of the blessed souls. The souls of the blessed ones and the glorious Kshatriyas who fall in battle go to Uttarakuru after death.
Adiparva of Mahabharata refers to a practice of free love among the denizens of Uttarakuru, like the one followed by birds and the beasts, and is not regarded sinful as it is stated to have the approval of the rishis and the sanction of antiquity. At other times, the epic describes the Uttarakurus as real entity and associates them with the real Kurus.
The ancestors of the Kauravas and Pandavas had originally migrated from Uttarakuru.
Karna in practice of war started Vijayatra conquering whole Eurasia.
After reducing the Kambojas and Daradas on south of Hindukush, Arjuna proceeded to Trans-Hindukush countries and fought with the Lohas, Parama-Kambojas and the Rishikas. Thereafter, Arjuna encountered the Kimpuruhas, Haratakas and the Uttarakurus, which were the neighboring tribes in the trans-Himalaya region.
Arjuna reached Uttarakuru during his northern conquest in Mahabharata (II.25.11). He that entereth this region, if human, is sure to perish. Nor is anything to be seen here. The Northern Kurus live here. There cannot be war here. Even if thou enterest it, thou will not be able to behold anything, for with human eyes nothing can be seen here.
- न चापि किं चिज जेतव्यम अर्जुनात्र परथृश्यते
- उत्तराः कुरवॊ हय एते नात्र युथ्धं परवर्तते Mahabharata (II.25.11).
Rajasuya Sacrifice performed by Yudhishtra: At the Rajasuya Sacrifice performed by king Yudhishtra, the kings of north-west brought gifts, some of which belonged to Uttarakuru. Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 48 Describes Kings who presented tributes to Yudhishthira. It includes people who came from the region of UttaraKurs.
- मेरुमन्दरयॊर मध्ये शैलॊदाम अभितॊ नदीम । ये ते कीचक वेणूनां छायां रम्याम उपासते (II.48.2)
- उत्तरेभ्यः कुरुभ्यश चाप्य अपॊढं माल्यम अम्बुभिः । उत्तराद अपि कैलासाद ओषधीः सुमहाबलाः (II.48.6)
Dr V. S. Aggarwala thinks that the Uttarakuru was located to north of Pamirs in Central Asia and was also famous for its horses of Tittirakalamasha variety. Thus it probably comprised parts of Kirgizstan and Tian-Shan. Bhishma Parava of Mahabharata attests that the country of Uttarakuru lied to the north of Mt Meru and to the south of Nila Parvata. The Mt Meru of Hindu traditions is identified with the knot of Pamirs. Mountain Nila may have been the Altai-Mt.
The Mahabharata refers to the Kichaka bamboos growing on the banks of river Shailoda. (II.48.2) Mahabharata further attests that the Kichaka bamboo region was situated between Mountain Meru (Pamirs) and Mountain Mandara (Alta Tag). The river valleys between these two mountains are still overgrown with forests of Kichaka Bamboos.
In the enumeration of the countries of north, Ramayana references Kambojas, Yavanas, Shakas, Paradas and then further northwards, it refers to the land of the Uttarakurus lying beyond river Shailoda and Kichaka bamboos valleys. It gives very vivid and graphic picture of Uttarakuru region.
Uttarakuru also finds numerous references in Buddhist literature, sometimes as a real land and other times as a mythical region.
Lalita-Vistara describes the Uttarakuru as Pratyanta-dvipa or a frontier island.
Buddhaghosa records a tradition which states that, when Vedic king Mandhata returned to Jambudvipa from his sojourn in the four Mahadipas, there were, in his retinue, a large number of the people of Uttarakuru. They all settled down in Jambudípa, and their settlement became known as Kururattha (Kuru Rashtra). Majjhima Commentary also attests that the people of Kururatha had originally belonged to the Uttarakuru. Uttarakuru is mentioned in Dhammapada Verse 416 in relation to Jotika, a treasurer and extraordinarily rich person of Rajagaha who was a follower of the Buddha and later became an arahat. He had an alien wife who was brought to him by the gods and she came from Uttarakuru or the 'Northern Island' since it is situated in the North of Mt. Meru, a mythical structure in the cosmos that habours various abodes/planets including the earth. Her name was Satulakayi and she brought with her a pint-pot of rice and three crystals stone-stove that cooked rice automatically and could serve food for many people. She stayed with Jotika until he joined the Order and became an arahat. She went back to Uttarakuru, a place in the cosmos which may be identifiable with Pleiades since its inhabitants are like humans that live for 800 to 1000 years and have a physical body unlike a spiritual body of deva gods. Uttarakuru is also mentioned in the Abhidhamma text in relation to the Buddha's visit to Tavatimsa, a heavenly world of devas where the Buddha went for the whole of the three-month period of the rains (vassa) to expound the Abhidhamma to the gods. Since the Buddha was a human he required to feed his physical body during a short tenure in Tavatismsa which is equal to four calendar months on earth. He went for alms to Uttarakuru which is an abode of humanoid beings that lies near Tavatimsa and he did not come back to the earth. <DhA.iv.199-213>
Rajatarangini of Kalhana
According to Rajatarangini of Kalhana, king Lalitaditya Muktapida of Kashmir leads a war expedition against the tribes of north (i.e. north of Kashmir) and in sequence, encounters the Kambojas, Tusharas, Bhauttas, Daradas, Valukambudhis, Uttarakurus, Strirajya (mythical or otherwise) and Pragjyotisha with whom he fights one after the other.
Rajatarangini tells that Lalitaditya, finding that almost all the kings had been conquered, turned towards the north, and had to fight his way with the haughty kings in that direction. He robbed the king of Kamvoja of his horses. In the mountains of Bhuskhāra the horses of the king became excited at the sight of the horse-faced women of the country. He thrice defeated Dussani and subdued him. He then conquered the Bouttas, and in whose naturally pale colored faces no further sign of anxiety was visible. He also conquered Darad. Here the soft wind charged with the scent of Raindeer cheered his army. Before he approached East Yotishapura, the inhabitants left that place. Here the king saw the forest in fire. His elephants then passed, through a sea of sand. Here was the kingdom of the females, and it was governed by a female and the soldiers became impatient for the women. The queen
[p.70]: submitted and came out to have an interview with the invader, and trembled before him, it is not certain whether with fear or in love. The people of North Kuru fled to the mountains for fear of Lalitaditya.
Ptolemy's Geography refers to Ottorokorai (Uttarakuru) tribe, Ottorokora as a city, and Ottorokoras as a river Template:Request quotation. The Ottorokora city is shown as located at longitude of 165° 37' 25"E. Ptolemy has also referred to one mountain by the same name and fixes at with longitude from 169° 39' to 176° 39' E Template:Request quotation.
- Dr M. R. Singh: Geographical Data in Early Puranas, 1972,
- Gavin Flood: An Introduction to Hinduism, 1996, Cambridge University Press,Cambridge, ISBN 0-521-43878-0
- Wilson H. H.: The Vishnu Purana: A System of Hindu Mythology and Tradition ,2006 Read Country Books, Cambridge, ISBN 1-84664-664-2
- Valmiki Ramayana - Kishkindha Kanda Sarga 43
- About UttaraKurus, Kuru/Puru and The Madras/Uttara-Madras
- Pali Definition of Uttarakuru
- Altindisches Leben: Die Cultur der vedischen Arier nach den Samḣitā, 1869, p 103, Dr Heinrich Zimmer - Indo-Europeans; See also: Vedic Index, p. 84, A. B. Keith and A. A. Macdonell.
- Aitreya Brahmana VIII.14.
- Ramayana , Uttarakanda, 89.3-23.
- Kumarasambhavam, I, 1.
- Geographical Data in Early Puranas, 1972, pp 63-65
- Hindu Polity, 1978, p 124, 138-39.
- India as Known to Panini, p 61.
- MBH, II, 48-2.
- Ramayana 4.43.37-38
- MBH II.48.2-4.
- Raghu 4.73.
- I, p 330.
- Quoted in Original Sanskrit Texts, by J Muir.
- Jat History Dalip Singh Ahlawat/Chapter IV, pp. 364-365
- Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur,p.911]
- Mahendra Singh Arya et al.: Adhunik Jat Itihas, Agra 1998, p. 228
- Thakur Deshraj Jat Itihas, 1992.
- Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions/Tribes,pp. 137-138
- Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions/Place-Names and their Suffixes,pp.265-266
- Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.174
- Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.90-91
- tasmad atasyam udichya dishi ye ke ca pren himvantam janapada uttarakurva uttaramadra
- iti vairajyaya te.abhishichyante
- — (Aitareya Brahmana, VIII/14).
- Template:Cite book
- Ramayana 4.43.1-62.
- Vol I, p 184.
- "... vassa ('rains') signifies a three-month period of residence in one place during the rainy season, enjoined upon bhikkhus by the Buddha in order that they should not travel about trampling down crops and so annoy farmers. To translate it by 'lent' as is sometimes done lets in a historical background and religious atmosphere of mourning and fasting quite alien to it (with no etymological support)." The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga by Bhadantarariya Buddhaghosa & translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli, pg. liii-liv, (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/PathofPurification2011.pdf).
- Rajatarangini of Kalhana:Kings of Kashmira/Book IV, pp.69-70