Nishada was the kingdom of the Nishada Tribe, a tribe of people who the Vedic people considered as out-casts. Ekalavya was a king of a Nishada tribe. He attacked Dwaraka once, and was killed by Vasudeva Krishna in the battle. This kingdom was located in Aravalli ranges in Rajasthan state of India, possibly the district named Bhilwara. Other than the kingdom of Ekalavya there were many other Nishada kingdoms.
References in Mahabharata
Nishadas were mentioned as tribes that have the hills and the forests for their abode. They were linked with a king called Vena (See Saraswata Kingdom) who became a slave of wrath and malice, and became unrighteous. Brahmanas slew him. Some of Vena's descendands became Nishadas and some others were called Mlechchhas, who resided on the Vindhya mountains. (12,58). Nishadas lived in hamlets (12,328).
The different Nishada Kingdoms
Aushmikas, and Nishadas, and Romakas were mentioned as bringing tribute to king Yudhisthira duiring his Rajasuya sacrifice (2,50).
Nishada Kingdom of Ekalavya
Ekalavya was the son of Hiranyadhanus, king of the Nishadas (1,134). He came to Hastinapura to join the military school of Drona. Ekalavya's kingdom was the most famous Nishada kingdom during the time of the Pandavas. This kingdom was located in Aravalli ranges in Rajasthan state of India, possibly the district named Bhilwara. This kingdom was visited by Sahadeva during his military campaign to the south, to collect tribute for Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice;- Sahadeva, the Kuru warrior, conquered the country of the Nishadas and also the high hill called Gosringa, and that lord of earth called Srenimat (2,30). Nishada and Srenimat were mentioned together again at (5,4).Ekalavya, the king of the Nishadas, always used to challenge Vasudeva Krishna to battle; but he was slain by Krishna in battle (5,48), (7-178,179) (16,6).Arjuna had come to Nishada kingdom of Ekalavya, after the Kurukshetra War, to collect tribute for Yudhisthira's Ashwamedha sacrifice.Arjuna proceeded to the dominions of the Nishada king, viz., the son of Ekalavya. The soon of Ekalavya received Arjuna in battle. The encounter that took place between the Kuru hero and the Nishadas was furious. Unvanquished in battle, the valiant son of Kunti defeated the Nishada king who proved an obstacle to the sacrifice. Having subjugated the son of Ekalavya, he proceeded towards the southern ocean. (14,83).
Nishadas on the banks of Saraswati
This Nishadas were the same as the Sudras who dwelled on the banks of Saraswati River.
A spot named Vinasana on the banks of Saraswati River is mentioned as the gate to the kingdom of the Nishadas. There the river is completely dried up and exist as a dry river channel (3,130). Pandavas were led to this place by their guied viz sage Lomasa, during their pilgrimage all over India.
Nishada Kingdom in the South India
This kingdom was visited by Sahadeva during his military campaign to the south, to collect tribute for Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice;- After defeating the Dandakas (Aurangabad, Maharashtra) the Kuru warrior, Sahadeva 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 (2,30).
This Nishada's battled for the sake of Pandavas in the Kurukshetra War:- The Dravida, the Andhaka, and the Nishada foot-soldiers, urged on by Satyaki, once more rushed towards Karna in that battle (Kurukshetra War) (8,49).
Nishada Kingdom of Manimat
Manimat had his kingdom to the south of Kosala. This kingdom was visited by Bhima during his military campaign to the east, to collect tribute for Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice;- After conquering Vatsabhumi Bhima defeated the king of the Bhargas, as also the ruler of the Nishadas viz Manimat and numerous other kings (2,29). This kingdom is possibly the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh. The famous Nishada king named Guha who befriended the Kosala prince Raghava Rama was also was the king of this kingdom.
Nishada Kingdom close to Kalinga and Vanga
A prince named Ketumat is mentioned as battling along with the Kalingas against Bhima, in the Kurukshetra War. He was mentioned as the son of the Nishada king. He could be the son of Manimat the Nishada king, who was defeated formerly by Bhima. Ketumat was slain by Bhima along with the Kalinga heroes (6,54).The Kalinga, the Vanga, and the Nishada heroes, riding on elephants were said to attack Arjuna in Kurukshetra War (8,17).Mekalas (a kingdom close to Dakshina Kosala Kingdom, in Chathisgad) and Utkalas (western Orissa), and Kalingas, and Nishadas and Tamraliptakas (south of West Bengal), were mentioned as advancing against Nakula (8,22). The Kalingas, the Vangas, the Angas, the Nishadas and the Magadhas were mentioned together on the Kaurava side at (8,70).
Nishadas in Kurukshetra War
On Pandava Side
Nishadas were mentioned as battling for the sake of Pandavas along with the Pauravakas and Patachcharas; at(6,50). The southern Nishadas were also mentioned in the army of Pandavas (8,49).
On Kaurava Side
Nishada prince Ketumat was mentioned who was slain by Bhima along with the Kalinga heroes (6,54). Nishada army was mentioned to fight for the sake of Kauravas at various instances (6-118), (7,44), (8-17,20,22,60,70). Bhima is said to slay a Nishada prince (other than Ketumat) at (8,60).
Nishadas as a caste
The son begotten by a Sudra upon a Kshatriya women, becomes a Nishada and the duties assigned to him have reference to the catching of fish (13,48). Nishadas catching fish is mentioned at (13,51). The Kshatriyas called Atirathas, Amvashthas, Ugras, Vaidehas, Swapakas, Pukkasas, Tenas, Nishadas, Sutas, Magadhas, Ayogas, Karanas, Vratyas, and Chandalas have all sprung from the four original orders by intermixture with one another (12,298).
Nishada as a mountain
A mountain range in ancient India is named Nishada, mentioned along with other mountains like Meru, Mahendra, Malaya, Sweta, Sringavat, Mandara, Nila Dardurna, Chitrakuta, Anjanabha, the Gandhamadana mountains and the sacred Somagiri (13,165).
Nishada as a musical note
Shadaja, Rishabha, together with Gandhara, Madhyama, and likewise Panchama; after this should be known Nishada, and then Dhaivata (14,50). The seven original notes are Shadja, Rishabha, Gandhara, Mahdhyama, Panchama, Dhaivata and Nishada (12,183).
- Swords of excellent quality were manufactured in the country of the Nishadas. Pandavas possessed such swords (2,42).
- The Utpalas, the Mekalas, the Paundras, the Kalingas, the Andhras, the Nishadas etc were mentioned as defeated by Karna (7,4).
- The story of a robber of the name of Kayavya, born of a Kshatriya father and a Nishada mother is mentioned at (12,134).
- In a remote region in the midst of the ocean, the Nishadas have their fair home (1,28).
- Nishada king is equated with an Asura tribe called Krodhavardhana (1,67)
Kingdoms of Ancient India