- Capital: Varanasi (Varanasi, Banaras, Uttar Pradesh)
Kasi was an ancient kingdom with Varanasi as its capital on the banks of Ganges River. It was a holy place even during epic times. Lord Siva was worshipped here with great devotion. Sumitra the third wife of Kosala king Dasaratha was from Kasi. Lakshmana and Sathrughna were her twin sons. Lakshmana built the city of Lakshmanapura (Lucknow) not far from Kasi. Kuru king Vichitravirya's wives Ambika and Ambalika were from Kasi, who were abducted by the Kuru warrior Bhishma along with their elder sister Amba. Kuru king Dhritarashtra was son of Ambika and Pandu the son of Ambalika.
References in Mahabharata
Brides from Kasi
Janamejaya's queen from Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 44)
Janamejaya, the eldest son of the Kuru King Parikshit, that bull amongst the Kurus, ruled the kingdom like his heroic great-grand-father (Yudhishthira). And the ministers of the youthful monarch, beholding that he could now keep his enemies in check, went to Suvarnavarman, the king of Kasi, and asked him his daughter Vapushtama for a bride. And the king of Kasi, bestowed with ordained rites, his daughter Vapushtama to Janamejaya.
Bharata's queen from Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 95)
The son of Sakuntala and Puru King Dushmanta came to be called Bharata (the supported). And Bharata married Sunanda, the daughter of Sarvasena, the king of Kasi, and begat upon her the son named Bhumanyu.
Vichitravirya's queens from Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 95)
Upon Satyavati (of fishermen community) Kuru King Santanu begat two sons named Chitrangada and Vichitravirya. And before they attained to majority, Chitrangada had been slain by the Gandharvas. But Vichitravirya became king, and married the two daughters of the king of Kasi, named Amvika and Amvalika. Dhritarashtra was the son of Amvika and Pandu the son of Amvalika.
The second Pandava, Bhima's wife from Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 95)
Bhima obtaining for a wife Valandhara, the daughter of the king of Kasi, offered his own prowess as dower and begat upon her a son named Sarvaga.
Magadha King Vrihadratha's queens from Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 2, Chapter 17)
There was a mighty king of the name of Vrihadratha (father of Jarasandha), the lord of the Magadhas. Proud in battle, he had three Akshauhinis of troops. That monarch married two twin daughters of the king of Kasi, both endued with the wealth of beauty.
Yuyutsu took a bride from Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 7, Chapter 10)
That tiger among men, viz., Yuyutsu, whom many wrathful kings battling together for six months at Varanavata from desire of slaying him could not vanquish, and who in battle at Varanasi overthrew with a broad-headed arrow that mighty car-warrior, viz., the prince of Kasi, desirous of seizing (at a Swayamvara) a maiden for wife.
Yudhisthira's Rajasuya Sacrifice
- (Mahabharata, Book 2, Chapter 29)
For bathing Yudhishthira at the conclusion of the Rajasuya Sacrifice, many kings with the greatest alacrity, themselves brought there in a state of purity many excellent jars containing water. King Vahlika brought there a car decked with pure gold. And king Sudakshina himself yoked thereto four white horses of Kamboja breed ……. king Ekalavya, with the shoes; the king of Avanti, with diverse kinds of water for the final bath; king Chekitana, with the quiver; the king of Kasi, with the bow; and Salya; with a sword.
Holy Places in Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 3, Chapter 83)
Having bathed in the tirtha of Kasiswara, one becometh freed from all diseases and is adored in the abode of Brahma. There, in that tirtha, is another called Matri. One that bathes in Matri tirtha hath a large progeny and obtaineth, great prosperity.
Kasi and Mahadeva (Siva)
- (Mahabharata, Book 13, Chapter 165)
The spot sacred to Visweswara or Mahadeva, viz., Kasi…
Military Campaigns through Kasi
Pandu's Military campaign
- (Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 113)
Pandu led his army against Kasi, Sumbha, and Pundra, and by the strength and prowess of his arms spread the fame of the Kurus.
Bhima's Military campaign
- (Mahabharata, Book 2, Chapter 29)
Bhima of terrible prowess and long arms, vanquishing in battle the unretreating Suvahu the king of Kasi, brought him under complete sway.
Karna's Military campaign
- (Mahabharata, Book 8, Chapter 8)
Karna had subjugated many invincible and mighty foes—the Gandharas, the Madrakas, the Matsyas, the Trigartas, the Tanganas, the Khasas, the Pancalas, the Videhas, the Kulindas, the Kasi-kosalas, the Suhmas, the Angas, the Nishadhas, the Pundras, the Kichakas, the Vatsas, the Kalingas, the Taralas, the Asmakas, and the Rishikas.
Vasudeva Krishna's Military Campaigns
- (Mahabharata, Book 7, Chapter 11)
The Angas, the Vangas, the Kalingas, the Magadhas, the Kasis, the Kosalas, the Vatsyas, the Gargyas, the Karushas and the Paundras,—all these Krishna vanquished in battle.
- (Mahabharata, Book 16, Chapter 6)
Reflections of Arjuna seeing the destruction of Dwaraka.
How is it that Krishna, the slayer of Madhu, who had put forth his prowess for achieving the destruction of Kesin and Kansa, and Chaidya swelling with pride, and Ekalavya, the son of the ruler of the Nishadas, and the Kalingas and the Magadhas, and the Gandharas and the king of Kasi, and many rulers assembled together in the midst of the desert, many heroes belonging to the East and the South, and many kings of the mountainous regionsalas, how could he remain indifferent to such a calamity?
Arjuna's Post-War Military Campaign
- (Mahabharata, Book 14, Chapter 83)
Turning round in course of his wanderings at will, the mighty steed came upon the beautiful city of the Chedis called after the oyster. Sarabha, the son of Sisupala, endued with great strength, first encountered Arjuna in battle and then worshipped him with due honours. Worshipped by him that best of steeds then proceeded to the realms of the Kasis, the Angas, the Kosalas, the Kiratas, and the Tanganas.
A Kasi king who was devoted to Krishna
- (Mahabharata, Book 5, Chapter 28)
Vabhru, the king of Kasi, having obtained Krishna, that fructifier of wishes, as his brother, and upon whom Krishna showers all the blessings of life, hath attained the highest prosperity, so great is this Krishna.
Mention about a Kasi king who also ruled Karusha Kingdom
- (Mahabharata, Book 3, Chapter 25)
Sage Markandeya tells to Yudhisthira:-
The virtuous and truthful king of Kasi and Karusha was called a mad dog for having renounced his territories and riches.
Yayati as the ruler of Kasi
Yayati, the father of Puru, who founded the Puru Dynasty, seems to be a ruler of Kasi Kingdom as per the following extracts from Mahabharata:-
- (Mahabharata, Book 5, Chapter 114)
There is a king born in the lunar race. That royal sage is known by the name of Yayati, and he is the son of Nahusha. Garuda and Galava (also known as Tarkshya) together went to king Yayati, who was then in his capital called Pratisthana.
- (Mahabharata, Book 5, Chapter 115)
That performer of thousand sacrifices, that foremost of givers, that liberal ruler of all the Kasis, the lord Yayati, in view particularly of the fact that those two came to him having passed over all the kings of the Solar race, said to Garuda and Gavala, who came to solicit wealth from him, thus:- Blessed is my life, my race and my province. There is one thing, however, O friend, I am not so rich now as thou thinkest.
Divodasa as the ruler of Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 5, Chapter 117)
The ruler of the Kasis is an illustrious king known by the name of Divodasa. He is the son of Bhimasena, is endued with great prowess, and is a mighty sovereign. …. And unto king Divodasa, that sporting with and taking delight in her, Madhavi bore a son named Pratardana.
Pratardana as the ruler of Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 12, Chapter 233)
Pratardana, the ruler of Kasi, having given away his very eyes to a Brahmana, obtained great fame both here and hereafter.
Sivi (Vrishadharbha), the king of Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 13, Chapter 32)
King Vrishadarbha to a pegion who saught protection from a chasing hawk:- I shall for thy sake, give up today the very kingdom of the Kasi. The royal sage Sivi alias Vrishadharbha, that ruler of the kingdom of Kasi, became celebrated over the three worlds for his deeds of righteousness.
Kasi in the list of Provinces in Bharata Varsha (Ancient India)
- (Mahabharata, Book 6, Chapter 9)
The names of the provinces as Sanjaya mentions them.
They are the Kuru-Panchalas, the Salwas, the Madreyas, the Jangalas, the Surasena, the Kalingas, the Vodhas, the Malas, the Matsyas, the Sauvalyas, the Kuntalas, the Kasi-kosalas, the Chedis, the Karushas, the Bhojas,…………..
Abhimanyu's Marriage with Virata Princess Uttara
- (Mahabharata, Book 4, Chapter 72)
After the expiry of the 13th year, the five Pandavas took up their abode in one of King Virata’s towns called Upaplavya. Arjuna, brought over Abhimanyu and Janardana, and also many people of the Dasarha race from the Anarta country. And the king of Kasi, and also Saivya, being very friendly to Yudhishthira, arrived there, each accompanied by an Akshauhini of troops. And the mighty Drupada, also with the heroic sons of Draupadi and the unvanquished Sikhandin, the invincible Dhrishtadyumna came there with another Akshauhini of troops.
Kasi, the principal ally of the Pandavas
- (Mahabharata, Book 5, Chapter 72)
Having the Kasis, the Panchalas, the Chedis, and the Matsyas, for my allies and with thee, O Krishna, for my protector, I prayed for only five villages, viz. Avishthala, Vrikasthala, Makandi, Varanavata, with any other, as the fifth; Grant us, we said, five villages or towns, where we five may dwell in union, for we do not desire the destruction of the Bharatas. The wicked-minded son of Dhritarashtra (Duryodhana, however, doth not agree to even that.
Kasi in Kurukshetra War
Careful examination of Mahabharata, suggests that the Kasis took part in the war, siding with the Pandavas. However there seems to be two exceptions, which suggest that at least a portion of the Kasis, or another Kasi king, sided with Duryodhana.
On Duryodhana's Side
The Son of the King of Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 6, Chapter 51)
And then king Duryodhana advanced cheerfully against the Pandava host. And Bhurisravas, and Sala, and Salya, ….. and Kritavarman of Satwata’s race, with a very large division of the troops, were, stationed at the rear of the army. And behind them were the rulers of many provinces, and Ketumat, and Vasudana, and the powerful son of the king of Kasi.
- (Mahabharata, Book 9, Chapter 2)
Bhagadatta and Kripa and Shalya ……. and Vrihadvala and the ruler of the Kasi and Shakuni the son of Subala and many thousands of Mlecchas and Sakas and Yavanas, and Sudakshina the ruler of the Kambojas and the king of the Trigartas ……and numerous other kings, O best of monarchs, have taken up arms for Duryodhana's sake
On Pandava's Side
March from Upaplavya to Kurukshetra
- (Mahabharata, Book 5, Chapter 152)
The princes of Kekaya, and Dhrishtaketu, and the son of the king of the Kasis, and Srenimat, and Vasudana, and the invincible Sikhandin, all hale and hearty, cased in armour and armed with weapons and decked with ornaments, marched behind Yudhishthira, towards Kurukshetra.
March further into the war-front
- (Mahabharata, Book 5, Chapter 199)
Like Duryodhana, king Yudhishthira alsoordered out, O Bharata, his heroic warriors headed by Dhrishtadyumna. Indeed, he ordered that commander of force, that leader of the Chedis, the Kasis, and the Karushas, viz., Dhrishtaketu, as also Virata, and Drupada, and Yuyudhana, and Sikhandin, and those two mighty bowmen, those two princes of Panchala, viz., Yudhamanyu and Uttamaujas, to set out.
Day 1: The kings in the war-front
- (Mahabharata, Book 6, Chapter 25)
They are Yuyudhana, and Virata, and that mighty car-warrior Drupada, and Dhrishtaketu, and Chekitana, and the ruler of Kasi endued with great energy; and Purujit, and Kuntibhoja, and Saivya that bull among men; and Yudhamanyu of great prowess, and Uttamaujas of great energy ……
- (Mahabharata, Book 6, Chapter 47) The palmyra standard of Bhishma was seen to glide continually through the Chedis, the Kasis, the Karushas, and the Panchalas.
- (Mahabharata, Book 6, Chapter 50) The rear (of the Krauncharuma - a military formation - of the Pandavas on Day 2) was protected by Virata aided by the Kekayas, and the ruler of Kasi and the king of the Chedis, with 30,000 cars.
- (Mahabharata, Book 7, Chapter 8) Bhimasena and Dhananjaya and the grandson of Sini, and the sons of Drupada, and the ruler of Kasi, viz., the son of Saivya, and Sivi himself, cheerfully and with loud roars covered Drona with their arrows.
- (Mahabharata, Book 8, Chapter 6) Abhibhu the ruler of Kasis, at the head of many of his followers, hath been obliged by Vasudana’s son to lay down his life in battle.
- (Mahabharata, Book 8, Chapter 47) Kripa and Kritavarma, and Shakuni the son of Subala, those heroes difficult of defeat in battle, accompanied by troops that were all cheerful, themselves filled with rage, and capable of smiting down thick ranks of cars, fought with the Koshalas, the Kasis, the Matsyas, the Karusas, the Kaikayas, and the Surasenas.
- (Mahabharata, Book 8, Chapter 49) Satyaki and Chekitana and Yuyutsu and Shikhandi and the sons of Draupadi and the Prabhadrakas, and the twins (Nakula and Sahadeva) and Bhimasena and Shishupala and the Karushas, Matsyas, the Suras, the Kaikayas, the Kasis and the Kosalas, all these brave heroes, endued with great activity, assailed Vasusena (Karna).
A hunter in the kingdom of Kasi
- (Mahabharata, Book 13, Chapter 5)
In the territories of the king of Kasi, a fowler, having poisoned arrows with him went out of his village on a hunting excursion in search of antelopes.
Rivalry of Kasi Kings and the Haihayas
- (Mahabharata, Book 13, Chapter 30)
In Kasi also, there was a king who was the grandfather of Divodasa, known by the name of Haryyaswa. The sons of Haihaya king Vitahavya, invaded the kingdom of Kasi and advancing to the country that lies between the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, fought a battle with king Haryyaswa and also slew him They then went back to their own city in the country of the Vatsas (It seams the Haihayas migrated from Vatsa Kingdom on the banks of Ganga to the Heheya Kingdom on the banks of Narmada, in the later periods). Meanwhile Haryyaswa’s son Sudeva was installed on the throne of Kasi. As he ruled his kingdom for sometime, the hundred sons of Vitahavya once more invaded his dominions and defeated him in battle. After that Divodasa, the son of Sudeva, became installed on the throne of Kasi as its ruler. Realising the prowess the sons of Vitahavya, king Divodasa rebuilt and fortified the city of Baranasi at the command of Indra. The territories of Divodasa were full of Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, and abounded with Vaisyas and Sudras. And they teemed with articles and provisions of every kind, and were adorned with shops and marts swelling with prosperity. Those territories stretched northwards from the banks of Ganga to the southern banks of Gomati, and resembled a second Amaravati (the city of Indra). The Haihayas once again, O Bharata, attacked. The mighty king Divodasa gave them battle. King Divodasa fought the enemy for a thousand days at the end of which, having lost a number of followers and animals, he became exceedingly distressed. King Divodasa having lost his army and seeing his treasury exhausted, left his capital and fled away.Divodasa saught protection of his priest Bharadwaja, the son of Vrihaspati. Unto Divodasa was born a son named Pratarddana. Divodasa then installed his son Pratarddana as Yuvaraja. Pratarddana speedily crossed the Ganga and proceeded against the city of the Vitahavyas. He killed all the sons of Vitahavya. Then Vitahavya saught protection of his priest Bhrigu. In order to save Vitahavya from Pratarddana, Bhrigu converted Vitahavya into a Brahmana.