Pandu's Travels

Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 03 Oct 2010 05:58 and updated at 07 Oct 2010 09:59

Created by Jijith Nadumuri at 03 Oct 2010 05:58

This article describes the travels of Pandu, the father of the Pandavas as narrated in Mahabharata. These travel narratives are extremely important for researchers who study about the ancient geography that existed during the period of Mahabharata. Pandu had undertaken many military expeditions to strengthen the Kuru political power. Most of these expeditions occurred in the Indo-Gangetic_Plain. During his prime youth he also went to a forest retreat, in search of cure for his impotency.

Pandu's Military Expeditions

As per the narration mentioned at Mbh.1.113 and my own analysis based on various sources on Mahabharata, the military expedition of Pandu, proceeded as follows:-

Pandu starts from Hastinapura and and took an eastern route. Passing through Panchala, and subjugating its frontier forces, he took a diversion to south to enter Dasarna. After subjugating Dasarna, while camping there he learned about the self choice ceremony of Kuntibhoja in the kingdom of Kunti, that lied not far from Dasarna. After winning Kunti in the self-choice ceremony he returned to Hastinapura and established Kunti as his queen. Then he started again from Hastinapura, leaving the newly wedded wife Kunti there and continued his military expedition to the east. In this journey he defeated Kasi, Magadha, Videha, Suhma and Pundra.

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The map illustrates the Military Expedition of Pandu. Note that he went only into a few kingdoms leaving many others untouched.

Pandu's wanderings in the forest

Pandu's last destination was the valley of Satasringa mountains teemed with deer and birds like cranes and swans. A large lake called the lake of Indradyumna was close to where Pandu lived. The whole area was covered by a beautiful forest called Chaitraratha. Pandavas had their birth in this beautiful place. This beautiful valley was above the Gangatic plane in the south, but below the high Himalaya mountains in the north.

SatasringaMountains.jpg
The map illustrates the most likely path traversed by Pandu. The map also shows the locations where Pandu stayed, as well as the mountains, lakes and forests traversed by him. Click to Enlarge

The forest retread where Pandu stayed first

The initial abode of Pandu and his two wives in the forest was in the southern slopes of the Himalayas. It was a forest retreat. Mbh.1.114:- Leaving his excellent palace with its luxurious beds, he became a permanent inhabitant of the woods, devoting the whole of his time to the chase of the deer. And fixing his abode in a delightful and hilly region overgrown with huge sala trees, on the southern slope of the Himavat mountains, he roamed about in perfect freedom.

This is believed to be in the southern valley of the southern most ridges of the Himalayas. I consider this to be Panduwala, an archeological site two kilometers east of Laldhang, in Uttaranchal. Panduwala could be the corrupt form of Pandu-Aalaya, the abode of Pandu. It lied to the eastern side of the course of river Ganga as it entered the plains. Pandu could reach this place riding in a chariot from the Kuru capital, Hastinapura (Hastinapur, Merut, Uttar-Pradesh). This place lied to the north of Hastinapura and was part of the Kuru kingdom falling within its northern territories and within its northern boarder (the southern mountain ridges of the Himalayas).

Pandu's journeys in the Himalayas

Later Pandu moved with his wives to the Satasringa mountains.Mbh.1.119:-
Pandu after sending away his attendants, accompanied by his two wives and eating fruits and roots went to the mountains of Nagasata. [He next went to Chaitraratha, and then crossed the Kalakuta, and finally, crossing the Himavat, he arrived at Gandhamadana. Protected by Mahabhutas, Siddhas, and great Rishis, Pandu lived, sometimes on level ground and sometimes on mountain slopes. He then journeyed on to the lake of Indradyumna, whence crossing the mountains of Hansakuta, he went to the mountain of hundred peaks Sata-sringa.

Nagasata

Nagasata mountains were the mountains that lied around the forest retreat where Pandu stayed first. It was one of the southernmost ridges of the Himalayas. South to it was the Gangatic plain. It lied to the north of Nagal (Nagalaya the locality of the Nagas), a place that lied on the banks of Ganga and associated with Nagas (Naga Vasuki and Naga Aryaka is mentioned as rescuing Bhima when he was poisoned by Duryodhana at Pramanakoti that lied very close to this place). The territory of Arjuna's Naga wife Ulupi too lied close to this territories at Gangadwara (Haridwar). Nagalaya means the abode of the Nagas. Nagasata means the the place of a hundred Nagas. Nagasata ranges were extended to Satasringa (the mountain of a hundred peaks) ranges towards east.

Chaitraratha

Chaitraratha was a forest. It can be identified as the whole of or south-western part of the Corbet National Park. 'Chaitra' is the name of a month and 'Chitra' means beautiful, and Chaitra is often described as a month of beauty. There was also a Gandharva named Chitraratha who had many forests which were considered to be Gardens of Gandharva, Chitraratha. This forest seems to be one of them. The word 'ratha' could mean a 'chariot' ('rota') or it could mean 'enjoyment' depending on pronunciation. It was thus a beautiful and enjoyable forest, as indicated by the etymology of its name. It lied between Nagasata and Kalakuta ranges and extended further north and east.

Kalakuta

Kalakuta was another southern ridge of Himalaya. It is now known as Kalagarh. Kala-kuta means the dark mountain peak; Kalagarh also means the same. Kalakuta ranges extended eastward.

Kauravas deployed some of their excess army for Kurukshetra war in the southern valley of Kalakuta ranges and a Northern Panchala city called Ahichatra. This city, is identified to be the archeological site in Bereili district of Uttarpradesh (Coordinates: 28°22'17"N 79°8'14"E). It was under the rule of Kaurava commander Aswathaman.

Gandhamadana

Among other places mentioned as visited by Pandu, Gandhamadana was the northernmost. It is identified to be the mountain ranges seen from Badrinath. Gandha-madana (Gandha:- fragrance; Madana:- maddened;) means maddened with fragrance. The fragrance was coming from flowers and shrubs growing in the valley of this mountain-range. Even today this region is frequented with flower-valleys that has sweet smelling flowers and plants. It is much far north of other places visited by Pandu. Pandu might have visited this place along with a group of sages who were mentioned as traveling to northern regions. It would be difficult for Pandu alone with his two wives to ascent the difficult terrain that lied between Kalakuta in the south to Gandhamadana in the north. This difficult terrain contains several mountain ridges of the Himalayas running parallel in an east-west direction. Mahabharata mentions this mountain as close to the place of Nara and Narayana which is Vadari (Badrinath). Interestingly, Pandavas had visited this place in other journeys; during their trek to the northern side of the Himalayas during their 12 year forest life as well as during their final journey before death. Pandavas went beyond this regions into the Tibeten plateau ruled by Yaksha king Kuvera.

At Mbh.1.120 we have:- Accompanied by his two wives, when Pandu was on the point of following the Rishis in the northerly direction from the mountain of hundred peaks, those ascetics addressed him saying, In our northward march, while gradually ascending the king of mountains, we have seen on its delightful breast many regions inaccessible to ordinary mortals; retreats also of the Devas, and Gandharvas and Apsaras, with palatial mansions by hundreds clustering thick around and resounding with the sweet notes of celestial music, the gardens of Kuvera laid out on even and uneven grounds, banks of mighty rivers, and deep caverns. There are many regions also on those heights that are covered with perpetual snow and are utterly destitute of vegetable and animal existence. In some places the downpour of rain is so heavy that they are perfectly inaccessible and incapable of being utilized for habitation. Not to speak of other animals, even winged creatures cannot cross them. The only thing that can go there is air, and the only beings, Siddhas and great Rishis. How shall these princesses ascend those heights of the king of mountains? Unaccustomed to pain, shall they not droop in affliction? Therefore, come not with us, O bull of Bharata's race'. The territories of Devas, Gandharvas, Apsaras and Yakshas like Kuvera lied in Tibet on the northern side of the Himalyan ranges. Here the regions covered with perpetual snow seems to be Siberia. The mountain peaks of Himalaya, further to Gandhamadana too were covered with snow, but this region mentioned by the sages are further north beyond Tibet.

I guess Pandu took his wives and traveled with the sage up to Gandhamadhana (probably up to Pandukeswar, which is very close to Badrinath and from where Gandhamadana mountains can be seen.) Sages left him and went north at Gandhamadana (not at Satasringa, which is considered to be a range among the southern ranges of the Himalayas). Pandu probably stayed there for some time and then returned back to the Gangatic plains in the south. There are now many legends associated with Pandu at Pandukeswar.

Hansakuta, Satasringa and Indradyumna

Hansakuta was a mountain peek among the hundred peaks of the Satasringa mountain ranges. Hansakuta was frequented by Hansas (cranes or swans). The name Hansa-kuta means the peek teemed with Hansas (cranes or swans). The name Satasringa means (a mountain with) hundred peaks. These mountain ranges lied to the north of Kalakuta ranges. In between these two mountain ranges lied the large lake of Indradyumna. Indra-dyumna means (Indra:- the very best; Dyumna:- the glorious), the best and glorious (lake). The birds probably depended on the lake of Indradyumna. This lake is still found to the north of Kalagarh (Kalakuta) mountains, as a large lake. It lies within the Corbet National Park.

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The map illustrates the regions around Satasringa mountains where Pandu spent his forest life with his two wives. The five sons of Pandu viz. the Pandavas were born when he was residing at the foothills of Satasringa mountains, near the lake Indradyumna. Click to Enlarge

Place where Pandu killed Kindama

However Pandu's encounter with Kindama occurred in the southern slope of Himalayas, as per Mbh.1.119:- Pandu, while roaming about in the woods on the southern slopes of the Himavat that teemed with deer and wild animals of fierce disposition, saw a large deer. The forest retreat where Pandu stayed earlier and the Satasringa mountain ranges both lied to the southern regions of Himalayas where deers and birds were found plenty. Pandu hunted them for food. At high altitudes like the place near Gandhamadana there were no deers or were very rare and he would get only fruits and roots as food. Thus it is highly likely that Pandu killed Kindama while hunting deer (for food), in the vicinity of Satasringa mountains.

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