Mushikas were a royal tribe mention in the epic Mahabharata. They were also known as Kulyas, Kolis and as Kolwas. They were identified to be the Kolathiris of northern Kerala.

Mushika Mahishaka Connection

The word Mushika means Mouse in Sanskrit. However the name Mushika can also be a distortion of the name Mahishaka. Mahisha in Sanskrit means buffalo. But it is also an honorary title applied to the kings and queens in southern India, like the title 'simha' / lion (Simha > Chinga > King). Examples are king 'Mahishasura' (who was slain by a South Indian queen fabled to be an incarnation of Durga) and queen 'Mahishi' (the enemy of Sastha / Ayyappa). Mahishaka was the name of the territory that lied adjacent to the Mushika territory in the north, centered around Mysore in Karnataka. The name 'Mysore' itself is a distortion of the name Mahisha-pura, the capital of the Mahishakas. Thus the ancient Mahishaka / Muhshaka / Mushika could be a single tribe with their territories spanning from Mysore in Karnataka to Ezimala in Kerala sea-cost.

Mushika Kolwa Kolathiri Connection

The Mushikas, also known as the Mooshakas and later the Kolathiris and the Chirakkal Royal Family might have been the only one, or one of the twelve Velir Families of the (Third) Sangam Era fame. They over the millennia intermarried very frequently with the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Cholas, and might have given rise to the royalties of the Lakshadweep, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. They have also had matrimonial alliances with the Chedis, the Somas and the Yadavas. It is thus almost beyond doubt the oldest living royal family, and possibly the oldest in recorded history.

Other kingdom-pairs

Similar to Mushika-Mahishaka are other such kingdom-pairs like Nishada-Nishadha, Kekaya-Hehaya and Gandharva-Gandhara. These were kingdoms that spread to adjacent geographic and sometimes ruled by rulers bearing mutual kinship.

Nishada kingdom was ruled by Ekalavya and it lied in Rajasthan, close to Anartta of Yadavas (in Gujarat). Nishadha lied adjacent to it in the north east in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and was ruled by the Vrishni Yadava king Nala. Heyaya was ruled by the Yadava king Kartavirya Arjuna and it seems they were related to the Kekayas in the Punjab region of Pakistan, ruled by Kekaya kings who had nuptial relationships with the Yadavas. Heyaya kingdom lied centered around Mahishmati (Maheswar in Madhya Pradesh), close to Avanti kingdom centered around Ujjayani (Ujjain). The kings of Avanti viz Vinda and Anuvinda were often mentioned in Mahabharata as kings of Kekaya (equating Avanti to Kekaya, which lies adjacent to Heyaya!). The territories of Gandharvas and Gandharas were often described interchangeably in Mahabharata. Gandhara was located in the north western Pakistan. Gandharva territories lied adjacent to it in the hilly terrain that surrounded Gandhara in west and north. Takshasila (Taxila), Pushkalavati (near Peshawar) were cities of Gandhara.

References in Mahabharata

Sahadeva's Military Campaign to South India

  • Mahabharata, Book 2, Chapter 30

Sahadeva then vanquished and brought under his subjection numberless kings of the Mlechchha tribe living on the sea coast, and the Nishadas and the cannibals and even the Karnapravarnas, and those tribes also called the Kalamukhas who were a cross between human beings and Rakshasas, and the whole of the Cole (Kolwa) mountains , and also Surabhipatna, and the island called the Copper island, and the mountain called Ramaka.

Mushika, a 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 Mushikas; 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.

A Naga named Mushikada

Mushikada was mentioned as a king or chief in the race of Nagas (Nagas could be serpent-worshippers or serpent-gods or simply a serpent). He was mentioned in three places in Mahabharata

  • Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 35
  • Mahabharata, Book 2, Chapter 9
  • Mahabharata, Book 5, Chapter 103

A holy place named Kulya

  • Mahabharata, Book 13, Chapter 25

Observing a fast for three days and bathing in the tirtha known as Kulya and reciting the sacred mantras that go by the name of Aghamarshana, one attains the merit of a horse-sacrifice. Observing a fast for one night and bathing in Pindaraka, one becomes purified on the dawn of the next day and attains to the merit of an Agnishtoma sacrifice. One who repairs to Brahmasara which is adorned by the woods called Dharmaranya, becomes cleansed of all one’s sins.

A tribe named Koli Sarpas

  • Mahabharata, Book 13, Chapter 33

It is in consequence of the absence of Brahmanas from among them that the Sakas, the Yavanas, the Kamvojas and other Kshatriya tribes have become fallen and degraded into the status of Sudras. The Dravidas, the Kalingas, the Pulandas, the Usinaras, the Koli-Sarpas, the Mahishakas and other Kshatriyas, have, in consequence of the absence of Brahmanas from among their midst, become degraded into Sudras.

Koli Sarpa could mean Koli Naga. Sarpa = Naga = Serpent

Arjuna's last military campaign and the hillmen of Kolwas

After the Kurukshetra War, Arjuna makes his last and final military campaign to collect tribute for Yudhisthira's Aswamedha Sacrifice. In this campaign, he tours the whole of India.//

  • Mahabharata, Book 14, Chapter 83

Having subjugated the son of Ekalavya, Arjuna then proceeded towards the southern ocean. In those regions battle took place between the diadem-decked hero and the Dravidas and Andhras and the fierce Mahishakas and the hillmen of Kolwa. Subjugating those tribes without having to accomplish any fierce feats, Arjuna proceeded to the country of the Surashtras.

See also

Kingdoms of Ancient India

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Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 13 Jan 2010 11:52 and updated at 17 Jun 2011 10:58

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