This article describes the military strike of the Pandavas headed by Arjuna upon the neighboring kingdom, Panchala . These travel narratives are extremely important for researchers who study about the ancient geography that existed during the period of Mahabharata.
Enmity between Drona and Drupada
Drona and Panchala king Drupada where childhood friends. Both studied military science and other sciences together under Bharadwaja. However Drupada broke the friendship with Drona when he became the king of Panchala and Drona remained a poor Brahmana. Drupada insulted Drona when he came to Drupada's court to renew the friendship. Humiliated by Drupada, Drona went to Kuru kingdom and became the preceptor of the Kuru princes viz. the Pandavas and the Kauravas. After the completion of the military education, Drona asked his disciples to attack Drupada and capture him as his Guru Dakshina (fee for his teachings). Commanded by Drona, the Pandavas headed by Arjuna entered Panchala territories and attacked the armies of the Panchalas. In the battle they managed to defeat many Panchala heroes and finally caught Drupada. They held Drupada captive and presented him in front of Drona. Thus Drona's revenge upon Drupada was fulfilled. Drona set his old friend Drupada free and asked him to remain as his friends. As a token of equality and friendship among them, Drupada was allowed to rule the southern parts of Panchala with Kampilya as its capital, while Drona retained the northern Panchala with Ahichatra as its capital.
Drona took the northern Panchala for himself, probably because his own village stood in that territory. This village is believed to be Dronasagar near Kashipur in Uttarakhand. Drona's son Aswathama later ruled those territories being subordinate to the Kuru kings of Hastinapura. Ahichatra region was one among the many regions used by Duryodhana to deploy his excess army during Kurukshetra-War.
The Siege of Ahichatra
The Pandavas and Kauravas along with Drona camped a mile far away from the city. Kauravas headed by Duryodhana attacked the city first. But their army was broken by Drupada's troops. Next the Pandavas headed by Arjuna charged upon the Panchalas. After capturing Drupada, Arjuna asked to stop causing any further damage to the city or to the soldiers. Ahichatra was the city where Drupada's palace formerly stood. It is mentioned at Mbh.1.131 that Drupada became the king of the northern Panchalas after the death of his father Prishatha. After the siege of Ahichatra, Drupada moved his palace to Kampilya and converted it into his new capital.
|The map illustrates the march of the Pandavas towards Ahichatra and Drupada's shifting of capital from Ahichatra to Kampilya
The partition of Panchala territories
Below is the passage from Mahabharata that gives more clarity to the boundaries of the territories of Panchala divided between Drona and Drupada, Mbh.1.140:-
Drona beholding Drupada thus brought under complete control, humiliated and deprived of wealth, remembered that monarch's former hostility and addressing him said, Thy kingdom and capital have been laid waste by me. But fear not for thy life, though it dependeth now on the will of thy foe. Dost thou now desire to revive thy friendship with me' Having said this, he smiled a little and again said, Fear not for thy life, brave king!
We, Brahmanas, are ever forgiving. And, O bull among Kshatriyas, my affection and love for thee have grown with me in consequence of our having sported together in childhood in the hermitage. Therefore, O king, I ask for thy friendship again. And as a boon unasked, I give thee half the kingdom that was thine. Thou toldest me before that none who was not a king could be a king's friend. Therefore is it, O Yajnasena, that I retain half thy kingdom. Thou art the king of all the territory lying on the southern side of the Bhagirathi (Ganga), while I become king of all the territory on the north of that river. And, O Panchala, if it pleaseth thee, know me hence for thy friend'
On hearing these words, Drupada answered, Thou art of noble soul and great prowess. Therefore, O Brahmana, I am not surprised at what thou doest. I am very much gratified with thee, and I desire thy eternal friendship' Vaisampayana continued, After this, O Bharata, Drona released the king of Panchala, and cheerfully performing the usual offices of regard, bestowed upon him half the kingdom.
Thenceforth Drupada began to reside sorrowfully in the city of Kampilya within the province of Makandi on the banks of the Ganga filled with many towns and cities. And after his defeat by Drona, Drupada also ruled the southern Panchalas up to the bank of the Charmanwati river. And Drupada from that day was well-convinced that he could not, by Kshatriya might alone, defeat Drona, being very much his inferior in Brahma spiritual power. And he, therefore, began to wander over the whole earth to find out the means of obtaining a son who would subjugate his Brahmana foe. Meanwhile Drona continued to reside in Ahicchatra. Thus, O king, was the territory of Ahicchatra full of towns and cities, obtained by Arjuna, and bestowed upon Drona'
Identification with current place names
As per the above passage, the northern Panchala extended from Himalayas in the north up to Ganga in the south, with Ahichatra as its capital city. This city is identified to be the ruins of Ahichatra excavated by ASI (Archeological Survey of India) at Ramnagar, to the west of Bareilly in Uttarpradesh. The southern Panchala extended from Ganga in the north up to Charmanwati (Chambal) river in the south. This territory contained the village named Ekachakra were the Pandavas later stayed for a year disguised as Brahmanas. It lied between Charmanwati and Yamuna rivers close to where Charmanwati merged with Yamuna. It is now known as Chakar Nagar. The place now called Bakewar was where the Rakshasa Baka, who troubled the inhabitants of Ekachakra stayed. This locality also overlapped with the Kichaka kingdom, thought to be allied to the Matsya kingdom.
Makandi was a region compromising of the southern parts of Kuru and Panchala kingdoms. The city of Kampilya was inside this province.