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Map of Surashtra

Saurashtra (Hindi: सौराष्ट्र, Gujarati: સૌરાષ્ટ્ર) (referred to as Saraostus as well, by Greeks) is a region of Gujarat in India.

Variants of name


It is located on the Arabian Sea coast of state.

Districts included in Surashtra

It consists of 7 districts of Gujarat:


Referred to as Surashtra and as some other names as well over a period of time, since the Mahabharata and Vedic period, this region is mentioned again as Syrastrene or Surastrene, or Saraostus in the 1st century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Mention by Periplus

A map showing the ancient western trade routes serviced by this ancient and historical port. The gateway city of Bharakuccha is named on the map as Barigaza on the Gulf of Khambhat. The inhospitable mountains and deserts to the north of the Erythraean Sea suggests its importance in trade with ancient Axum, Egypt, Arabia and the sea-land trade routes via the Tigris-Euphrates valley and Ancient Rome.

Dwarka is mentioned by Periplus as Baraca in 'Periplus of the Erythraean Sea'. Bharuch was called by the name of Barygaza by Greeks/Romans. North India also traded with western and southern nations via Ujjain and Bharuch. Trade with the Indian harbour of Barygaza is described extensively in the Periplus. Nahapana, ruler of the Indo-Scythian Western Satraps is mentioned under the name Nambanus,[1]as ruler of the area around Barigaza:

41. "Beyond the gulf of Baraca is that of Barygaza and the coast of the country of Ariaca, which is the beginning of the Kingdom of Nambanus and of all India. That part of it lying inland and adjoining Scythia is called Abiria, but the coast is called Syrastrene. It is a fertile country, yielding wheat and rice and sesame oil and clarified butter, cotton and the Indian cloths made therefrom, of the coarser sorts. Very many cattle are pastured there, and the men are of great stature and black in color. The metropolis of this country is Minnagara, from which much cotton cloth is brought down to Barygaza."
—Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Chap. 41[2]

Visit by Xuanzang in 640 AD

Alexander Cunningham[3] writes that According to Hwen Thsang, the province of Su-la-cha, or Suratha, was a dependent of Balabhi. Its

[p.325]: capital was situated ut 500 li, or 83 miles, to the west of Balabhi, at the foot of Mount Yeu-chen-ta, or Ujjanta. This is the Pali form of the Sanskrit Ujjayanta, which is only another name for the Girinar hill that rises above the old city of Junagarh. The name of Ujjayanta is mentioned in both of the Girinar inscriptions of Rudra Dama and Skanda Gupta, although this important fact escaped the notice of the translators.[4] The mention of this famous hill fixes the position of the capital of Surashtra at Junagarh, or Yavana-gadh, which is 87 miles to the west of Balabhi, or very nearly the same as stated by Hwen Thsang. The pilgrim notices that the mountain was covered with thick forests, and that its scarped sides contained numerous chambers and galleries. This description agrees with the account of Postans,[5] who, in 1838, found the hill covered with " a thick jungul of the custard- apple tree," and a number of excavations at the base, consisting of " small flat roofed rooms, supported by square pillars without ornament."

The name of Surath is still known in this part of the peninsula ; but it is confined to a comparatively small tract, which forms one of the ten divisions of Gujarat.[6] In the time of Akbar, however, it was applied to the southern or larger half of the peninsula, which, according to Abul Fazl, extended from the port of Ghoga to the port of Aramroy, and from Sirdhar to the port of Diu.[7] The name of the district

[p.326]: is also preserved by Terry,[8] whose information was obtained at the Court of Jahangir. According to his account, the chief city of Soret was called Janagar, that is, Javanagarh, or Jonagarh. The province was small, but very rich, and had the ocean to the south. At that time also it would appear not to have been included in Gujarat, as Terry describes it as lying upon Gujarat. In the seventh century Hwen Thsang states that Surath, or Surashtra, was 4000 li, or 667 miles, in circuit, and touched the river Mo-hi on the west. This river has always been identified with the Mahi of Malwa, which falls into the Gulf of Khambay.[9] Accepting this identification as correct, the province of Surath in the time of Hwen Thsang must have comprised the whole of the peninsula, including the city of Balabhi itself. This is confirmed by the measurement of the frontier given by the pilgrim, which agrees exactly with that of the entire peninsula to the south-west of a line drawn from the Lesser Ran of Kachh to Khambay. In spite of the fame of Balabhi, the old name of Surath was still applied to the whole peninsula so late as A.D. 640.

Kanaksen emigrates to Saurashtra

Kanaksen or Kanaka was a King, who, in the second century, abandoned his native kingdom, Kosala, and established the race of Surya in Saurashtra.[10]

At least ten genealogical lists, derived from the most opposite sources, agree in making Kanaksen the founder of this dynasty ; and assign his emigration from the most northern of the provinces of India to the peninsula of Saurashtra in S. 201, or A.D. 145. [11]

Identification: James Tod comments that Sen means, 'army'; kanak means, 'gold.' so Kanaksen is entirely mythical. It has been suggested that the name is a reminiscence of the connexion of the great Kushan Emperor, Kanishka, with Gujarat and Kathiawar (BG, i. Part i. 101). [12]

Legend of Kanaksen: James Tod[13] writes that By what route Kanaksen, the first emigrant of the solar race, found his way into Saurashtra from Lohkot (Lahore), is uncertain : he, however, wrested dominion from a prince of the Pramara race, and founded Birnagara in the second century (A.D. 144).

Four generations afterwards, Vijayasen, founded Vijayapur, supposed to be where Dholka now stands, at the head of the Saurashtra peninsula. Vijayapur has been doubtfully identified with Bijapur in the Ahmadabad district (BG, i. Part i. 110).

Vidarba was also founded by him, the name of which was afterwards changed to Sihor.

But the most celebrated was the capital, Valabhipura, which for years baffled all search, till it was revealed in its now humbled condition as Walai, ten miles west of Bhavnagar. The existence of this city was confirmed by a celebrated Jain work, the Satrunjaya Mahatma. The want of satisfactory proof of the Rana's emigration from thence was obviated by the most unexpected discovery of an inscription of the twelfth century, in a ruined temple on the tableland forming the eastern boundary of the Rana's present territory, which appeals to the ' walls of Valabhi ' for the truth of the action it records. And a work written to commemorate the reign of Rana Raj Singh opens with these words : "In the west is Sorathdes, (Saurashtra) a country well known : the barbarians invaded it, and conquered Bal-ka-nath ; all fell in the sack of Valabhipura, except the daughter of the Pramara."

And the Sandrai

[p.254]: roll thus commences : " When the city of Valabhi was sacked, the inhabitants fled and founded Bali, Sandrai, and Nadol in Mordar des (Marwar)." (Marwar) These are towns yet of consequence, and in all the Jain religion is still maintained, which was the chief worship of Valabhipura when sacked by the ' barbarian.' The records preserved by the Jains give S.B. 205 (A.D. 524) as the date of this event.

The date of the fall of Valabhi is very uncertain (Smith, EH I, 315, note). It is said to have been destroyed in the reign of Siladitya VI., the last of the dynasty, about A.D. 776 (Duff, Chronology of India, 31, 67, 308).

The tract about Valabhipura and northward is termed Bal, probably from the tribe of Bala, which might have been the designation of the Rana's tribe prior to that of Grahilot ; and most probably Multan, and all these regions of the Kathi, Bala, etc., were dependent on Lohkot, whence emigrated Kanaksen ; thus strengthening the surmise of the Scythic descent of the Ranas, though now installed in the seat of Rama. The sun was the deity of this northern tribe, as of the Rana's ancestry, and the remains of numerous temples to this grand object of Scythic homage are still to be found scattered over the peninsula ; whence its name, Saurashtra, the coutry of the Sauras, or Sun-worshippers ; the Surastrene or Syrastrene of ancient geographers ; its inhabitants, the Suros of Strabo.

There is possibly a confusion with the Soras of Aehan (xv. 8) which has been identified by Caldwell (Dravidian Grammar, 17) with the greek....? of Ptolemy, and with the Chola kingdom of Southern India. Surashtra or Saurashtra, ' land of the Sus,' was afterwards Sanskritized into ' goodly country ' (Monier Williams, Skt. Diet. s.v. ; BG, i. Part i. 6).

[p.255]: Besides these cities, the MSS. give Gayni as the last refuge of the family when expelled Saurashtra. One of the poetic chronicles thus commences : " The barbarians had captured Gajni. The house of Siladitya was left desolate. In its defence his heroes fell ; of his seed but the name remained."

Gaini, or Gajni, is one of the ancient names of Cambay (the port of Valabhipura), the ruins of which are about three miles from the modern city. Other sources indicate that these princes held possessions in the southern continent of India, as well as in the Saurashtra peninsula. Talatalpur Patan, on the Godavari, is mentioned, which tradition asserts to be the city of Deogir ; but which, after many years' research, I discovered in Saurashtra, it being one of the ancient names of Kandala. In after times, when succeeding dynasties held the title of Balakarae, though the capital was removed inland to Anhilwara Patan, they still held possession of the western shore, and Cambay continued the chief port. [For the identification of Gajni with Cambay see I A, iv. 147 ; BG, vi. 213 note. The site of Devagiri has been identified with Daulatabad (BG, i. Part ii. 136 ; Beal, Buddhist Records of the Western World, ii. 255, note).

Scythic (Jats) Invaders of Saurashtra

James Tod[14] writes that These invaders were Scythic, and in all probability a colony from the Parthian kingdom, which was established in sovereignty on the Indus in the second century, having their capital at Saminagara, where the ancient Yadu ruled for ages : the Minnagara1 of Arrian, and the Mankir of the Arabian geographers. It was by this route, through the eastern portion of the valley of the Indus, that the various hordes of Getae or Jats, Huns, Kamari, Kathi, Makwahana, Bala and Aswaria, had peopled this peninsula, leaving traces still visible. The period is also remarkable when these and other Scythic hordes were simultaneously abandoning higher Asia for the cold regions

1 The position of Minnagara has occupied the attention of geographers from D'Anville to Pottinger. Sind being conquered by Omar, general of the caliph Al-Mansur (Abbasi), the name of Minagara was changed to Mansura, " une ville celcbre sur le rivage droit du Sind ou Mehran." " Ptolemee fait aussi mention de cette ville ; mais en la depla9ant," etc. D'Anville places it about 26°, but not so high as Ulug Beg, whose tables make it 26° 40'. I have said elsewhere that I had little doubt that Minnagara, handed down to us by the author of the Periplus as the (....) (greek), was the Saminagara of the Yadu Jarejas, whose chronicles claim Seistan as their ancient possession, and in all probability was the stronghold (nagara) of Sambos, the opponent of Alexander. On every consideration, I am inclined to place it on the site of Sehwa. The learned Vincent, in his translation of the Periplus, enters fully and with great judgment upon this point, citing every authority, Arrian, Ptolemy, Al-Biruni, Edrisi, D'Anville, and De la Rochette. He has a note (26, p. 386, vol. i.) which is conclusive, could he have applied it : " Al-Birun [equi-distant] between Debeil and Mansura." D'Anville also says : " de Mansora a la ville nommee Birun, la distance est indiquee de quinze parasanges dans Abulfeda," who fixes it, on the authority of Abu-Rehan (surnamed Al-Biruni from his birthplace), at 26° 40'. The ancient name of Haidarabad, the present capital of Sind, was Nerun (...arabic) or Nirun, and is almost equi-distant, as Abulfeda says, between Debal (Dewal or Tatta) and Mansura, Sehwan, or Minnagara, the latitude of which, according to my construction, is 26° 11'. Those who wish to pursue this may examine the Eclaircisfiemens sur la Carle de Vlnde, p. 37 et seq., and Dr. Vincent's estimable translation, p. 386. [The site of Minnagara, like those of all the cities in the delta of the Indus, owing to changes in the course of the river, is very uncertain. Jhajhpur or Mungrapur has been suggested (McCrindle, Ptolemy, 72, Periplus, 1086 f.). Nirun has been identified with Helai, a little below Jarak, on the high road from Tatta to Haidarabad (Elliot-Dowson i. 400).]

[p.256]: of Europe and the warm plains of Hindustan. From the first to the sixth century of the Christian era, various records exist of these irruptions from the north. Gibbon, quoting De Guignes, mentions one in the second century, which fixed permanently in the Saurashtra peninsula ; and the latter, from original authorities, describes another of the Getae or Jats, styled by the Chinese Yueh-chi, in the north of India.1 But the authority directly in point is that of Cosmas, surnamed Indikopleustes, who was in India during the reign of Justinian, and that of the first monarch of the Chinese dynasty of Leam.2 Cosmas [219] had visited Kalyan, included in the Balhara kingdom ; and he mentions the Ephthalites, or White Huns, under their king Golas, as being established on the Indus at the very period of the invasion of Valabhipura.3

Arrian, who resided in the second century at Barugaza (Broach), describes a Parthian sovereignty as extending from the Indus to the Nerbudda.4 Their capital has already been mentioned, Minnagara. Whether these, the Abtelites5 of Cosmas, were the Parthian dynasty of Arrian, or whether the Parthians were supplanted by the Huns, we must remain in ignorance, but to one or the other we must attribute the sack of Valabhipura.

1 See History of the Tribes, p. 107, and translation of Inscription No. I. Vide Appendix.

2 Considerable intercourse was carried on between the princes of India and China from the earliest periods ; but particularly during the dynasties of Sum, Leam and Tarn, from the fourth to the eventh centuries, when the princes from Bengal and Malabar to the Panjab sent embassies to the Chinese monarchs. The dominions of these Hindu princes may yet be identified. [Cosmas flourished in the sixth century a.d., and never reached India proper {EB, vii. 214).]

3 [Gollas was Mihiragula (Smith, EHI, 317).]

4 [Ibid. 230 f.]

5 D'Herbelot (vol. i. p. 179) calls them the Haiathelah or Indoscythae, and says that they were apparently from Thibet, between India and China. De Guignes (tome i. p. 325) is offended with this explanation, and says : " Cette conjecture ne pent avoir lieu, les Euthehtes n'ayant jamais demeure dans le Thibet." A branch of the Huns, however, did most assuredly dwell in that quarter, though we will not positively assert that they were the Abtelites. The Haihaya was a great branch of the Lunar race of Yayati, and appears early to have left India for the northern regions, and would afford a more plausible etymology for the Haiathelah than the Te-le, who dwelt on the waters (ab) of the Oxus. This branch of the Hunnish race has also been termed Nephthalite, and fancied one of the lost tribes of Israel [?].

In Mahabharata

Vana Parva, Mahabharata/Book III Chapter 86 mentions the sacred tirthas of the south. Rivers and lakes belonging to the Surashtra have been described in verses 16-24 as under:

"I shall now, O lord of men, describe the sacred spots, and asylums, and rivers and lakes belonging to the

  • Surashtra (सुराष्ट्र) (III.86.16) country! O Yudhishthira, the Brahmanas say that on the sea-coast is the
  • Chamasonmajjana (चमसॊन्मज्जन) (III.86.17), and also
  • Prabhasa (प्रभास) (III.86.17), that tirtha which is much regarded by the gods. There also is the tirtha called
  • Pindaraka (पिण्डारक) (III.86.18), frequented by ascetics and capable of producing great merit. In that region is a mighty hill named
  • Ujjayanta (उज्जयन्त) (III.86.18) which conduceth to speedy success. Regarding it the celestial Rishi Narada of great intelligence hath recited an ancient sloka. Do thou listen to it, O Yudhishthira! By performing austerities on the sacred hill of Ujjayanta in Surashtra, that abounds in birds and animals, a person becometh regarded in heaven. There also is
  • Dwaravati (द्वारवती) (III.86.21), producing great merit, where dwelleth the slayer of Madhu, who is the Ancient one in embodied form, and eternal virtue. Brahmanas versed in the Vedas, and persons acquainted with the philosophy of the soul say that the illustrious Krishna is eternal Virtue. Govinda is said to be the (p. 202) purest of all pure things, the righteous of the righteous and the auspicious of the auspicious. In all the three worlds, He of eyes like lotus-leaves is the God of gods, and is eternal. He is the pure soul and the active principle of life, is the Supreme Brahma and is the lord of all. That slayer of Madhu, Hari of inconceivable soul, dwelleth there!"
सुराष्ट्रेष्व अपि वक्ष्यामि पुण्यान्य आयतनानि च
आश्रमान सरितः शैलान सरांसि च नराधिप (III.86.16)
चमसॊन्मज्जनं विप्रास तत्रापि कथयन्त्य उत
प्रभासं चॊदधौ तीर्थं तरिदशानां युधिष्ठिर (III.86.17)
तत्र पिण्डारकं नाम तापसाचरितं शुभम
उज्जयन्तश च शिखरी कषिप्रं सिद्धिकरॊ महान (III.86.18)
तत्र देवर्षिवर्येण नारदेनानुकीर्तितः
पुराणः शरूयते शलॊकस तं निबॊध युधिष्ठिर (III.86.19)
पुण्ये गिरौ सुराष्ट्रेषु मृगपक्षिनिषेविते
उज्जयन्ते सम तप्ताङ्गॊ नाकपृष्ठे महीयते (III.86.20)
पुण्या दवारवती तत्र यत्रास्ते मधुसूदनः
साक्षाद देवः पुराणॊ ऽसौ स हि धर्मः सनातनः (III.86.21)
ये च वेदविदॊ विप्रा ये चाध्यात्मविदॊ जनाः
ते वदन्ति महात्मानं कृष्णं धर्मं सनातनम (III.86.22)
पवित्राणां हि गॊविन्दः पवित्रं परम उच्यते
पुण्यानाम अपि पुण्यॊ ऽसौ मङ्गलानां च मङ्गलम (III.86.23)
तरैलॊक्यं पुण्डरीकाक्षॊ देवदेवः सनातनः
आस्ते हरिर अचिन्त्यात्मा तत्रैव मधुसूदनः (III.86.24)

Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 28 mentions Sahadeva's march towards south: kings and tribes defeated.

And the prince, after this, with great efforts brought Akriti, the king of Saurashtra and preceptor of the Kausikas under his sway. The virtuous prince, while staying in the kingdom of Saurashtra sent an ambassador unto king Rukmin of Bhishmaka within the territories of Bhojakata, who, rich in possessions and intelligence, was the friend of Indra himself. And the monarch along with his son, remembering their relationship with Krishna, cheerfully accepted, O king, the sway of the son of Pandu.
And the master of battle then, having exacted jewels and wealth from king Rukmin, marched further to the south. And, endued with great energy and great strength, the hero then, reduced to subjection, Surparaka and Talakata, and the Dandakas also.
आहृतिं कौशिकाचार्यं यत्नेन महता ततः
वशे चक्रे महाबाहुः सुराष्ट्राधिपतिं तदा Mahabharata (II.28.39)
सुराष्ट्र विषयस्दश च परेषयाम आस रुक्मिणे
राज्ञे भॊजकटस्दाय महामात्राय धीमते Mahabharata (II.28.40)
भीष्मकाय स धर्मात्मा साक्षाथ इन्थ्र सखाय वै
स चास्य ससुतॊ राजन परतिजग्राह शासनम Mahabharata (II.28.41)
परीतिपूर्वं महाबाहुर वासुथेवम अवेक्ष्य च
ततः स रत्नान्य आथाय पुनः परायाथ युधां पतिः Mahabharata (II.28.42)
ततः शूर्पारकं चैव गणं चॊपकृताह्वयम
वशे चक्रे महातेजा दण्डकांश च महाबलः Mahabharata (II.28.43)


Notable persons

External links


  1. Anjali Desai, India Guide Gujarat, India Guide Publications, 2007, page 160, ISBN 978-0-9789517-0-2
  2. Periplus of the Erythraean Sea,s.n.41
  3. The Ancient Geography of India/Gurjjara, p.324-326
  4. Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bombay, vii. 119, " the Urjayata hill ;: p. 123, "Urjayat ;" and p. 124., " the Jayanta mountain," should all be rendered Ujayanta.
  5. Journ. Royal Asiat. Soc. Bengal, 1838, pp. 874, 876
  6. Eastwick, ' Handbook of Bombay,' p. 424.
  7. ' Ayin Akbari,' ii. 66.
  8. 'Yoyage to East India,' p.80.
  9. As the Mahi rier lies to the north-east of Gujarat, we must either read east, or suppose that the pilgrim referred to the western bank of the stream.
  10. James Tod: Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Volume I, [[James Todd Annals/Chapter 7 Catalogue of the Thirty Six Royal Races}Chapter 7 Catalogue of the Thirty Six Royal Races]],p.100
  11. James Tod: Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Volume I, Annals of Mewar, p.251
  12. James Tod: Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Volume I, Annals of Mewar, p.252,fn-3
  13. James Tod: Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Volume I, Annals of Mewar, p.253-255
  14. James Tod: Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Volume I, Publisher: Humphrey Milford Oxford University Press 1920, Annals of Mewar,p.255-256

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