Karnata was a southern kingdom ruled by non-Vedic rulers during the period of the epic Mahabharata. The Karnata tribe was a Dravidian tribe. (Konkanas, Tulus, Karnatas, Mahishakas, Mushikas, Keralas, Pandyas, Cholas, Kanchis, Dravidas, Andhras, Telingas etc were Dravidian tribes.) They could have migrated from the Sind-Baluchistan area. A Karnata kingdom is mentioned to be located in the Sindh region as per the epic. The southern Karnata kingdom gave the name to the South Indian state Karnataka. The Karnata Kingdom forms the northern and central portion of Karnataka state of India.
References in Mahabharata
Sahadeva's Military Campaign to the South India
- Mahabharata, Book 2, Chapter 30
Sahadeva conquered the town of Sanjayanti and the country of the Pashandas and the Karanatakas by means of his messengers alone, and made all of them pay tributes to him. The hero brought under his subjection and exacted tributes from the Paundrayas and the Dravidas along with the Udrakeralas and the Andhras and the Talavanas, the Kalingas and the Ushtrakarnikas, and also the delightful city of Atavi and that of the Yavanas.
Nakula's Military Campaign to the West of India
- Mahabharata, Book 2, Chapter 31
Nakula subjugated the whole of the desert country and the region known as Sairishaka full of plenty, as also that other one called Mahetta. And the hero had a fierce encounter with the royal sage Akrosa. And the son of Pandu left that part of the country having subjugated the Dasarnas, the Sivis, the Trigartas, the Amvashtas, the Malavas, the five tribes of the Karnatas, and those twice born classes that were called the Madhyamakeyas and Vattadhanas.
The presence of the five tribes of Karnatas in this western region, to the west of Indus river, indicates that Karnatas like the other Dravidian tribes (Konkanas, Tulus, Mahishakas, Mushikas, Keralas, Pandyas, Cholas, Kanchis, Dravidas, Andhras, Telingas etc) originated in the Sind-Baluchistan area, where many Dravidian languages are spoken even now.
Karanataka, a Southern Kingdom in Bharata Varsha (Ancient India)
- Mahabharata, Book 6, Chapter 9
There are other kingdoms in the south. They are the Dravidas, the Keralas, the Prachyas, the Mushikas, and the Vanavashikas; the Karanatakas, the Mahishakas, the Vikalpas, and also the Mushakas; the Jhillikas, the Kuntalas, the Saunridas, and the Nalakananas; the Kankutakas, the Cholas, and the Malavayakas; the Samangas, the Kanakas, the Kukkuras, and the Angara-marishas; the Samangas, the Karakas, the Kukuras, the Angaras, the Marishas: the Dhwajinis, the Utsavas, the Sanketas, the Trigartas, and the Salwasena; the Vakas, the Kokarakas, the Pashtris, and the Lamavegavasas; the Vindhyachulakas, the Pulindas, and the Valkalas; the Malavas, the Vallavas, the further-Vallavas, the Kulindas, the Kalavas, the Kuntaukas, and the Karatas; the Mrishakas, the Tanavalas, the Saniyas; the Alidas, the Pasivatas, the Tanayas, and the Sulanyas; the Rishikas, the Vidarbhas, the Kakas, the Tanganas, and the further-Tanganas.
This shows that the Karnatas later spread to the south, along with other Dravidian tribes, in the modern day Karnataka, state of India, towards its northern region, for the southern region of the state is occupied by the Mahisha Kingdom.
Karanas, a sub-caste in Ancient India
- Mahabharata, Book 12, Chapter 296
The Kshatriyas called Atirathas, Amvashthas, Ugras, Vaidehas (people of Videha?), Swapakas, Pukkasas, Tenas, Nishadas (people of Nishada?), Sutas, Magadhas (people of Magadha?), Ayogas, Karanas (people of Karanatakas?), Vratyas, and Chandalas, have all sprung from the four original orders by intermixture with one another.
Kingdoms of Ancient India