Kuru Bahlika

All the western Indian kingdoms were known by the general name Bahlika (Vahika, Vahlika and Valhika are variations of the name) meaning outsider. Thus these people were considered as outsiders of the Vedic culture. However, the name Bahlika is sometimes used to denote a kingdom within the present Punjab, different from Madra, Sindhu, Kekeya, Gandhara or Kamboja. As per the epic Mahabharata, the Kuru king Santanu, a forefather of Kauravas and Pandavas, had a brother who ruled the Bahlika kingdom and a Bahlika king took part in the war aiding Duryodhana. He was killed by the Pandava Bhima.

References in Mahabharata

Bahlika mentioned as a kingdom of Ancient India (Bharata Varsha)

  • Mbh (6,9)

…the Angas, the Vangas, the Kalingas, the Yakrillomans; the Mallas, the Suddellas, the Pranradas, the Mahikas, the Sasikas; the Valhikas, the Vatadhanas, the Abhiras, the Kalajoshakas; the Aparantas, the Parantas, the Pahnabhas, the Charmamandalas; the Atavisikharas, the Mahabhutas, the Upavrittas, the Anupavrittas, the Surashatras, Kekayas; the Kutas, the Maheyas, the Kakshas, the Samudranishkutas; the Andhras…

The non-Vedic natue of Bahlika culture

See the main artilce Bahlika Culture, to know more about Bahlika Culture, based on the epic Mahabharata.

Words of Narada

The Valhika race is the stain of the Earth (12,328). This mentione is found in the midst of a passage that describes how Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa studied Vedas, classified it and spread it through his four disciples into the whole world. Narada is telling these words to Vyasa:- The stain of the Vedas is the suspension of their recitation. The stain of the Brahmanas is their non-observance of vows. The Valhika race is the stain of the Earth. Curiosity is the stain of women.

Words of Vidura

The scum of the Vedas is want of study; of Brahmanas, absence of vows; of the Earth, the Vahlikas; of man, untruth; of the chaste woman, curiosity; of women, exile from home. The scum of gold is silver; of silver, tin; of tin, lead; and of lead, useless dross. (5,39)

Dispute between Karna and Shalya in the midst of Kurukshetra War

Karna and Shalya were two generals in the Kaurava army during the Kurukshetra War. They engaged in a verbal dispute, owing to their deslike of each other. Both of them hailed from a different culture. Shalya was from the west, being the king of Madra Kingdom in the Bahlika region. Karna was from the east, being the king of Anga Kingdom. Both these kingdom existed at the fringes of Vedic culture, practiced in its normal form, mainly in Kuru - Panchala kingdoms in the middle.

The actual location of the Bahlika culture

Karna said, Listen with devoted attention to this, O ruler of the Madras (Shalya), that was heard by me while it was recited in the presence of Dhritarashtra. In Dhritarashtra’s abode the Brahmanas used to narrate the accounts of diverse delightful regions and many kings of ancient times. An old Brahmana while reciting old histories, said these words, blaming the Vahikas and Madrakas, "One should always avoid the Vahikas, those impure people that are out of the pale of virtue, and that live away from the Himavat and the Ganga and Saraswati and Yamuna and Kurukshetra and the Sindhu and its five tributary rivers. (8,44)

The food habbits of Bahlikas in the town of Sakala

I remember from the days of my youth that a slaughter-ground for kine and a space for storing intoxicating spirits always distinguish the entrances of the abodes of the (Vahika) kings. On some very secret mission I had to live among the Vahikas. In consequence of such residence the conduct of these people is well known to me. There is a town of the name of Sakala (modern day Sialkote), a river of the name of Apaga, and a clan of the Vahikas known by the name of the Jarttikas. The practices of these people are very censurable. They drink the liquor called Gauda, and eat fried barley with it. They also eat beef with garlic. They also eat cakes of flour mixed with meat, and boiled rice that is bought from others. Of righteous practices they have none. (8,44)

Bahlika horses

Bahlika region was famous for its horses. They were used by kings in wars.

  • Vasudeva Krishna also gave unto Arjuna hundreds of thousands of draft horses from the country of the Valhikas as his sister, Subhadra’s excellent dower. (1,223)
  • Bahlika breed of horses were one among the type of horses employed in Kurukshetra War:- Many steeds of the Vanayu, the hilly, the Kamvoja, and the Valhika breeds, with tails and ears and eyes motionless and fixed, possessed of great speed, well-trained, and ridden by accomplished warriors armed with swords and lances, were seen (7,34)
  • Bhagiratha gave away a hundred thousand horses of the Valhika breed, all white of complexion, adorned with garlands of gold. (13,103)
  • Dhritarashtra wished to give sixteen cars made of gold, each drawn by four excellent and well-adorned steeds of uniform colour and of the Vahlika breed to Vasudeva Krishna who came to talk to him on behalf of the Pandavas (5,86)

Kings of Bahlika

Bahlika the son of Pratipa

Bahlika the son of Pratipa is mentioned in the following passages in Mahabharata:-

Kuru king Dritarashtra's words to his son Duryodhana:- Even the eldest son may be passed over and deprived of the kingdom, and younger sons may, in consequence of their respectful behaviour to the aged, obtain the kingdom. So also, conversant with every virtue there was my father’s grandfather, king Pratipa, who was celebrated over the three worlds. Unto him, were born three sons, Of them, Devapi was the eldest, Vahlika// the next and **Santanu of great intelligence, who was my grandfather, was the youngest. Devapi, endued with great energy, was virtuous, truthful in speech, and ever engaged in waiting upon his father. But that best of kings had a skin-disease. Popular with both the citizens and the subjects of the provinces, respected by the good, and dearly loved by the young and the old, Devapi was liberal firmly adhering to truth, engaged in the good of all creatures, and obedient to the instructions of his father as also of the Brahmanas. He was dearly loved by his brother Vahlika as also the high-souled Santanu. Great, indeed, was the brotherly love that prevailed between him and his high-souled brothers. In course of time, the old and best of kings, Pratipa, caused all preparations to be made according to the scriptures for the installation of Devapi (on the throne). Indeed, the lord Pratipa caused every auspicious preparation. The installation of Devapi, however, was forbidden by the Brahmanas and all aged persons amongst the citizens and the inhabitants of the provinces. Hearing that the installation of his son was forbidden, the voice of the old king became choked with tears and he began to grieve for his son. Thus, though Devapi was liberal, virtuous, devoted to truth, and loved by the subjects, yet in consequence of his skin-disease, he was excluded from his inheritance. The gods do not approve of a king that is defective of a limb. Thinking of this, those bulls among Brahmanas forbade king Pratipa to install his eldest son. Devapi then, who was defective of one limb, beholding the king (his father) prevented (from installing him on the throne) and filled with sorrow on his account, retired into the woods. As regards Vahlika, abandoning his (paternal) kingdom he dwelt with his maternal uncle. Abandoning his father and brother, he obtained the highly wealthy kingdom of his maternal grandfather. With Vahlika’s permission, Santanu of world-wide fame, on the death of his father (Pratipa), became king of Kuru Kingdom. (5,149)

  • Kuru King Pratipa had three sons, viz Devapi, Valhika and Santanu. (1,95)
  • Bhishma consulted his uncle Valhika to clear doubts about giving in marriage, the tree maidens that he brought from Kasi Kingdom to his step-brother Vichitravirya (13,44).
  • Yudhisthira addressed Bahlika as son of Pratipa, in a message sent to Kauravas.(5,23)
  • Yudhisthira also addressed the Kurus of the Pratipa dynasty viz the Vahlikas(5,57)

Bahlika the father of Somadatta

The lineage that links Bahlika with the Pandavas and Kauravas, as per Mahabharata is as follows:-

  • Pratipa -> Devapi (became a sage)
  • Pratipa -> Bahlika -> Somadatta -> Bhurisravas, Sala
  • Pratipa -> Santanu -> Bhishma
  • Pratipa -> Santanu -> Vichitravirya -> Dhritarashtra -> Kauravas
  • Pratipa -> Santanu -> Vichitravirya -> Pandu -> Pandavas

A Bahlika king took part in the Kurukshetra War. He was related to the Kauravas and the Pandavas, and was a king in the Kuru dynasty. This make Bahlika older than Bhishma, making him the oldest among, the warriors who fought the Kurukshetra War. But there is references in Mahabharata that Bhishma was the oldest warrior in the Kurukshetra War. So there could be some missing king in this lineage of Bahlikas. It could be that Somadatta's father who took part in the war was the son of the Bahlika mentioned at (Mbh 1,95) as Pratipa's son.

  • Pratipa -> Devapi (became a sage)
  • Pratipa -> Bahlika -> Bahlika -> Somadatta -> Bhurisravas, Sala
  • Pratipa -> Santanu -> Bhishma
  • Pratipa -> Santanu -> Vichitravirya -> Dhritarashtra -> Kauravas
  • Pratipa -> Santanu -> Vichitravirya -> Pandu -> Pandavas

This makes the warrior Bahlika, contemporary to Bhishma and his son Somadatta, contemporary to Dhritarashtra. Somadatta's sons Bhurisravas and Sala also took part in the Kurukshetra War. Thus four Bahlika war-heroes, spanning three generations, fought the Kurukshetra war. King Bahlika was present in the self choice event of Draupadi the princess of Panchala Kingdom. (1,188). He also came to the Rajasuya sacrifice of Pandava king Yudhisthira, brought there by Nakula (2-33,34). King Bahlika was present with the Kurus of Hastinapura, on almost all the important events that happened in Hastinapura:- on the arrival of Kunti with the young Pandavas (1,126), on the occasion of a tournament of war-craft by the Kuru princes (1,136), When the Pandavas left Hastinapura to the town of Varanavata (1,145), during the play of dice (2-62,72,76,79)(3,13), during the planning of Kurukshetra War (5-62,63) etc

  • Bahlika king and his sons and grandsons disliked Duryodhana, but was allied to his father Dhritarshtra and grandfather Bhishma (5-58,65,80,83,89,90,124,128,129,131
  • Bhishma's rating of Vahlika as a car-warrior:-Vahlika is in my judgment, an Atiratha.(5,168)

Bhurisravas and Somadatta (denoted as Vahlika) were two among the eleven generals of Kaurava army, leading an Akshouhini of troops (5,156)

  • Bhalika fught as a warrior in Kurukshetra War under the generalissimos viz Bhishma (6-17,45,48,59,60,76,82,93,97,103,105,118) and Drona (7-20,30,37,72,83,92,93,118,152
  • Bahlika was slain by Bhima (7,154). Somadatta (7,159) and Bhurisravas (7,140) were slain by Satyaki in the Kurukshetra War. The death of all these three in the war is mentioned together at (8,1), (9-2,24,32,63), (10,9), (15-29,32) At (8,5), the slain Bahlika is describeds as grandfather of Dhritarashtra. At (11,22) he is described as Pratipa's son. This is the only two places where both the Bahlikas, the son of Pratipa and the father of Somadatta were described as same. King Bahlika's funeral rites were performed by Dhritarashtra (15-11,14)
  • Pandava general Satyaki's father Sini, and Somadatta were of the same generation. They were enemies. When Sini lived at Surasena Kingdom, he battled with Somadatta and defeated him due to a dispute on a maiden (Vasudeva Krishna's mother Devaki). Satyaki and Somadatta's son Bhurisravas, were of the same generation and were enemies too. (7,141)
  • Under the generalissimo Bhishma stood Warrior Sala who was a countryman of the Valhikas (6,20) .His battles are described at (6-61,86) (7-35,101,153,161). He is slain in battle, by some unknown hero, as his death is mentioned at (9,2), (18,5)

Other Bahlika kings

  • A Bahlika king is mentioned as one among the 24 great kings (1,1)
  • A Bahlika king is mentioned along with the kings present in Yama's court (2,8)
  • Madra king Shalya is described as a Bahlika king (1-67,113) .Shalya's sister Madri also is described as princess of Valhika (Bahlika) (1,125)
  • One among the eight kings who were the sons of a Janamejaya who himself was the son of Kuru, the founder of the dynasty was named Valhika (Bahlika). (Kuru -> Janamejaya -> Dhritarashtra, Pandu, Valhika, Nishadha, Jamvunada, Kundodara, Padati and Vasati the eighth.) (1,94)

Conquests of Karna

The Utpalas, the Mekalas, the Paundras, the Kalingas, the Andhras, the Nishadas, the Trigartas, and the Valhikas were all defeated by Karna in battle (7,4)

Conquests of Arjuna

The following passage from Mahabharara, gives glimpses of the contemporary kingdoms and tribes in the Bahlika area, ie the areas north west to the Kuru Kingdom.

Arjuna defeated the brave Kshatriyas of Kashmira and also king Lohita along with ten minor chiefs. Then the Trigartas, the Daravas, the Kokonadas, and various other Kshatriyas advanced against him. Arjuna then took the delightful town of Avisari, and then brought under his sway Rochamana ruling in Uraga (Urug ?). Then Arjuna, pressed the delightful town of Singhapura that was well-protected with various weapons. Then he fiercely attacked the regions called Suhma and Sumala. After pressing them with great force, brought the Valhikas always difficult of being vanquished, under his sway. Then Arjuna, taking with him a select force, defeated the Daradas along with the Kambojas. (2,26)

Tribute from Bahlika to Pandava king Yudhisthira

The people of Valhika gave unto Yudhisthira as tribute ten thousand asses, of goodly size and black necks and daily running two hundred miles, And those asses were of many shapes. And they were well-trained and celebrated all over the world. And possessed of symmetrical proportion and excellent colour, their skins were pleasant to the touch. And the Valhikas also presented numerous blankets of woollen texture manufactured in Chin and numerous skins of the Ranku deer, and clothes manufactured from jute, and others woven with the threads spun by insects. And they also gave thousands of other clothes not made of cotton, possessing the colour of the lotus. And these were all of smooth texture. And they also gave soft sheep-skins by thousands. And they also gave many sharp and long swords and scimitars, and hatchets and fine-edged battle-axes manufactured in the western countries and perfumes and jewels and gems of various kinds by thousands. (2,50)

Yudhisthira also got a car (chariot) from Bahlika king:- Yudhisthira riding upon the car that had been given him by the king of Valhika, and attired also in royal robes, set out with his brothers, (to play dice in Hastinapura). (2,52), (2,57)

Bahlika army in Kurukshetra War

The heroes from Bhalika were, king Bahlika, his son Somadatta and his grandsons Bhurisravas and Sala. Apart from them we find mention of Bahlika army along with the armies of other neighbouring kingdoms taking part in the Kurukshetra War.

  • the Kamvojas and with the Valhikas (6,75)
  • king Vahlika with Vahlikas (6,82), (6,103)
  • the Nishadas, the Sauviras, the Valhikas, the Daradas, the Westerners, the Northerners, the Malavas, the Abhighatas, the Surasenas, the Sivis, the Vasatis, the Salwas, the Sakas, the Trigartas, the Amvashthas, and the Kekayas (6,118)
  • Yavanas and Paradas and Sakas and Valhikas, and Mlecchas (7,90)
  • Valhikas with Karna (7,110)
  • Sakas and Kamvojas and Valhikas and Yavanas and Paradas, and Kalingas and Tanganas and Amvashtas and Pisachas and Barbaras and mountaineers(7,118)
  • the Amvashthas, the Malavas, the brave Trigartas and the Sivis, the Abhishahas, the Surasenas, the Valhikas, and the Vasatis, the Yaudheyas, the Malavas, the Madrakas (7,154)
  • the Saindhavas and Valhikas(7,177)
  • the Vasatis, the Sivis, the Valhikas and the Kurus (7,190)
  • the Pulindas, the Khasas, the Bahlikas, the Nishadas, the Andhakas, the Tanganas, the Southerners, and the Bhojas (8,20)
  • the Bahlikas, and the Kaikayas, the Matsyas, the Vasatas, the Madras, and Saindhavas (8,56)
  • the Kurus and the Bahlikas(8,74)

Rise of Bahlika Power in Ancient India

The words of sage Markandeya to Yudhisthira, in the form of a prediction, hints at the rise of power of western kingdoms in Ancient India.

The Andhhas, the Sakas, the Pulindas, the Yavanas, the Kamvojas, the Valhikas and the Abhiras, then become possessed of bravery and the sovereignty of the earth. (3,187)

See also

Kingdoms of Ancient India

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Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 13 Jan 2010 13:15 and updated at 06 Jun 2010 18:02

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