Other than the Kurus of India ruled by the Pandavas and the Kauravas, there was this another kingdom called Uttara Kurus (Northern Kurus) to the north of Himalayas. Some historians identify this kingdom as Kyrgistan, a Central Asian Republic. In the epic we see the narration of Kuru warrior Bhishma abducting three brides from Kasi kingdom for making them wives of his half-brother Vichitavirya. This same custom of abduction of brides by bridgegroom or his allies for marrying them, still prevails in Kyrgistan. Some point of time during the reign of Pururavas-Aila (the first king mentioned in the line of lunar dynasty of Indian kings) Uttara Kuru and the Kurus of India could have belonged to the same Kuru Empire. Arjuna collected tribute from Uttara Kuru during his northern military campaign for Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice. In some places, the epic attributes super-human features to the people of Uttara Kuru, describing them as ageless and diseaseless. They were also considered to follow a republican constitution with no monarchy. In another place, Uttara Kuru was considered as the region of Devas (gods) themselves.
References of Uttara Kurus in Mahabharata
Status of Women in Uttara Kuru
- Mahabharata, Book1: Adi Parva, Chapter 122 Conversation of Kunti and Pandu
Women formerly were not immured within houses and dependent on husbands and other relatives. They used to go about freely, enjoying themselves as best as they liked. O thou of excellent qualities, they did not then adhere to their husbands faithfully, and yet, O handsome one, they were not regarded sinful, for that was the sanctioned usage of the times. That very usage is followed to this day by birds and beasts without any exhibition of jealousy. That practice, sanctioned by precedent, is applauded by great Rishis. The practice is yet regarded with respect amongst the Northern Kurus.
Military Status of Uttara Kuru
- Mahabharata, Book 2: Sabha Parva, Chapter 27
Arjuna reaches Uttara Kuru kingdom during his military campaign to collect tribute for Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice. The guards of Uttara Kuru kingdom then told to Arjuna:-
O son of Pritha, this country can be never conquered by thee. If thou seekest thy good, return hence. He that entereth this region, if human, is sure to perish. We have been gratified with thee; O hero, thy conquests have been enough. Nor is anything to be seen here, O Arjuna, that may be conquered by thee. The Northern Kurus (Uttara Kuru) live here. There cannot be war here.
Tribute to Yudhisthira from Uttara Kuru
- Mahabharata, Book 2: Sabha Parva, Chapter 51
The mountain tribes endued with great strength having brought as tribute numerous Chamaras (long brushes) soft and black and others white as moon-beam and sweet honey extracted from the flowers growing on the Himavat as also from the Mishali champaka and garlands of flowers brought from the region of the northern Kurus (Uttara Kuru), and diverse kinds of plants from the north even from Kailasa, waited with their heads bent down at the gate of king Yudhishthira.
The Entrance Gate of Uttara Kuru Kingdom
- Mahabharata, Book 3: Vana Parva, Chapter 229
The missile thrown by Kartikeya, the commander-in-chief of the military of Devas, cut off the head of Mahisha (an Asura, and he fell upon the ground and died. And his head massive as a hillock, falling on the ground, barred the entrance to the country of the Northern Kurus (Uttara Kurus), extending in length for sixteen Yojanas though at present the people of that country pass easily by that gate.
The location of Uttara Kuru Kingdom
Pandavas on their journey to the north of Himalayas passed through the outskirts of Northern Kuru territory:-
After having thus passed many countries, and also the Uttara Kurus, they saw that foremost of mountains, the Kailasa, containing many wonders (3,144). On the south of the Nila mountain and the northern side of Meru are the sacred Northern Kurus (Uttara Kurus) which are the residence of the Siddhas (6,7).
The complexion of the people of Uttara Kuru
A silvery juice, that juice of the Jamvu, becoming, a river, and passing circuitously round Meru, cometh to the (region of the) Northern Kurus (Uttara Kurus) . If the juice of that fruit is quaffed, it conduces to peace of mind. No thirst is felt ever after. Decrepitude never weakens them. And there a species of gold called Jamvunada and used for celestial ornaments, very brilliant and like the complexion of Indragopoka insects, is produced. The men born there are of the complexion of the morning sun (6,7).
The Richness of Uttara Kuru
A sacrifice recital:- Let all the wealth that exists among the Northern Kurus (Uttara Kurus), come of their own accord to these sacrifices (14,92).