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Apart from religious hymns in the praise of Devas like Indra, Varuna, Agni, Soma, the Rigved also contains precious information on certain events that have occurred during its era. The events like wars, donations to rishis, mentioning certain names of rishis and kings are a regular occurrence in Rigved. This makes it an important scripture which has historical data in it.
The major event in the Rigved is indeed of the Battle of 10 kings or Dasharadnya Yuddha (दाशराज्ञ युद्ध) and the hero of this war is king Sudas of North Panchal kingdom, the ancestor of Draupadi.
Apart from details of what happened in the war, the information is precise enough to tell us what caused the war and where the war took place.
The reason behind the war...
The reason behind the war is the rivalry between Vishwamitra and Vasishtha.
From the references found in Rigved, we find that the places which are located in or near the Panchala kingdom (Haryana and west UP) are mentioned by Vishwmitra. We find that the Vishwamitras were related to the Bharatas (Puru + Panchala = Bharatas) of the Panchala kingdom and were their priests. Places like Vara-a- Prithivya, Manusha, Nabha-Prithivya, and Ilaspada have been placed in Haryana and adjacent regions. This proves that the Vishwamitras were indeed present in that region and were allied to the Bharatas.
Sudas, the hero in this war. Himself was a Bharata. The profuse references to places in Haryana and hymns in the praise of Sudas prove the same. Specifically, the hymn RV (3.53) composed by Vishwamitra himself praises Sudas and tells us that with the help of Vishwamitras, Sudas had reached the Sindhu River, crossed it and had done a huge Yagya there.
The Brihad Devata tells us even the Vasishthas were present there. Along with Vishwamitras, the Jamadagnis were also present. Because of some dispute between some Jamadagnis and Shaktyas ( descendants of Vasishthas's son Shakti), some Jamadagnis fainted. This caused them to utter curses which also find place in RV(3.53). These curses are called Sasarpari (ससर्परी).
Also, we know that before the era of Sudas, the Vasishthas were more or less related to Ikshvakus in Ayodhya or central Indian Yadus. But soon, the relations between Vishwamitras and Sudas began to deteriorate. During the same time, a Vasishtha named Shreshthabhaj was the priest of the Ikshvaku king Kalmashpada. Because of his rivalry with Vasishtha, Vishwamitra sent some Danavas to cook meat for Vasishtha and feed him through king Kalmashpada. The same Vishwamitra had killed Vasishtha's 100 sons along with Shakti, his eldest son. Such was the rivalry between them.
With the Vasishtha getting closer to Sudas and the consequent jealousy of Vishwamitra resulted in Vishwamitra leaving Sudas and consolidating a group of 10 kings and pitching them against Sudas. Hence this war is known as Battle of 'Ten' Kings.
The other people who were involved against Sudas are Kavasha Ailusha and Kavi Chaymana.
Kavash Ailusha himself was against Sudas whereas his son Tura Kavasheya had crowned King Janmajeya II of Puru dynasty. Talking of Kavi Chayamana, he was the descendant of Abhyavartin Chayamana who is mentioned by Bharadvaja in RV (6.27.8) as a Parthav (or descendant of Pruthu) and was an Anu king and had fought the Hariyupiya war from the side of the Bharatas. But see how politics changes- Abhyavartin was allied to the Bharatas, but his descendant Kavi fought against the Bharata king Sudas!!
The war is described properly in the hymns RV (7.18), (7.19), (7.33) composed by Vasishtha. For obvious reason, it has to be Vasishtha who will praise Sudas since it was his rival Vishwamitra who had pitched 10 kings against Sudas.
According to RV (7.18.5) the war took place on the banks of the river Parushni (Ravi) in Punjab. Following were the enemies of Sudas-
● Paktha RV (7.18.7)
● Bhalanas RV (7.18.7)
● Alina RV (7.18.7)
● Vishanin RV (7.18.7)
● Shivi RV (7.18.7)
● Turvasha RV (7.18.6)
● Matsya RV (7.18.6)
● Bhrugu RV (7.18.6)
● Druhyu RV (7.18.6)
● Vaikarnas RV (7.18.11) ( 21 in number)
● Anus RV (7.18.13)
● Pruthus (which includes Kavi Chayamana) RV(7.18.8)
● Parshus RV (7.83.1)
● Simyu RV (7.18.5)
These all were segregated under 10 kings for the war. Along with this, there were many other enemies with whom Sudas fought the war on the banks of Yamuna. They were
● Yakshas RV (7.18.19)
● Shigrus RV (7.18.19)
● Aja RV (7.18.19)
And whose leader was a king called Bheda (भेद) RV (7.18.19) There were other enemies who had attacked on the Vasishthas-
● Yudhyamadhi, who were killed by drowning RV (7.18.24)
● Trushnaj RV (7.33.5)
The only known ally of Sudas in this war were Trutsu people (Ikshvakus)
now after knowing the participants of the war, let us now see how the war took place.
The war was started on the banks of the river Parushni. RV(7.18.8) records that the banks of the Parushni were broken and badly damaged by the enemies. The war was a big one and Sudas and his army fought bravely. The enemies were destroyed and finally Sudas won the war, Later on, he had to fight Aja, Shigru and Yakshas on the Yamuna and he defeated them too. They had to pay war revenue to Sudas.
Sudas emerged as a winner of the war. A total of 6666 people were killed in the war as mentioned in RV (7.18.14). He donated handsome gifts to the Vasishthas as mentioned in RV (7.18.22-25).
Dasharadnya and Aryan Invasion Theory
We have seen the hymn composed by Vishwamitra RV (3.53) where he mentions that he had helped Sudas to CROSS THE SINDHU RIVER and had done a holy yagya. Now this info has been used by the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) propagandists to prove their point. They feel this event of Sudas crossing Sindhu was the 'actual' event of the invasion of the Aryans. They feel that later on Sudas allied with another 'Aryan', Vasishtha with the help of whom fought the Dasharadnya war. Such can be the level of scholarship that they can't even think beyond their decided principles.
Since an argument has been made in the favor of AIT, we must refute it too...
A thing of common sense is that Sindhu River can be crossed from east to west or west to east. The assumption made by the AIT scholars is that Sudas crossed Sindhu from west to east. This is not the case. The simple reason for this is based on the geographical data of the Kingdoms provided by the Puranas.
The Puranas tell us that Sudas was the king of North Panchala; a kingdom present in the doab region of Ganga and Saraswati i.e. today's East Haryana and plains of western UP. And it's not that Sudas was the first to come and live there. Right from the time of Nila Ajamidha, who was the starter of this kingdom, the kings of this dynasty have been ruling the area mentioned above.
So if Sudas had actually crossed the Sindhu, in his conquest for new land, he had done that from east to west. This is exactly opposite of what AIT followers believe.
In conclusion, it can be said that this war of ten kings has been a big war but has never been mentioned in any other post-Vedic scriptures. But it has an importance for shaping the pre-Mahabharata history of India.
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