The first information we receive on Hindu history is from a passage in Menu, which gives us to infer that their residence was at one time between the rivers Seraswati (Sersooty) and Drishadwati (Caggar), a tract about 100 miles to the north-west of Delhi, and in extent about sixty-five miles long, and from twenty to forty broad. That land, Menu says, was called Bramhaverta, because it was frequented by gods; and the custom preserved by immemorial tradition in that country is pointed out as a model to the pious594. The country between that tract and the Jamna, and all to the north of the Jamna and Ganges, including North Behar, is mentioned, in the second place, under the name of Bramarshi; and Bramins born within that tract
are pronounced to be suitable teachers of the several usages of men595.
This, therefore, may be set down as the first country acquired after that on the Seraswati.
The Puranas pass over these early stages unnoticed, and commence with Ayodha (Oud), about the centre of the last mentioned tract. It is there that the solar and lunar races have their origin; and from thence the princes of all other countries are sprung.
From fifty to seventy generations of the solar race are only distinguished from each other by purely mythological legends.
After these comes Rama, who seems entitled to take his place in real history.
His story596, when stripped of its fabulous and romantic decorations, merely relates that Rama possessed a powerful kingdom in Hindostan; and that he invaded the Deckan and penetrated to the island of Ceylon, which he conquered.
The first of these facts there is no reason to question; and we may readily believe that Rama led an expedition into the Deckan; but it is highly improbable that, if he was the first, or even among the first invaders, he should have conquered Ceylon. If he did so, he could not have lived, as is generally supposed, before the compilation of the Vedas; for, even in the time of Menu’s Institutes, there were no settlements of Hindu conquerors in
the Deckan. It is probable that the poets who have celebrated Rama, not only reared a great fabric on a narrow basis, but transferred their hero’s exploits to the scene which was thought most interesting in their own day.
The undoubted antiquity of the “Ramayana” is the best testimony to the early date of the event which it celebrates; yet, as no conspicuous invasion of the Deckan could have been undertaken without great resources, Rama must have lived after Hindu civilisation had attained a considerable pitch.
After Rama, sixty princes of his race ruled in succession over his dominions; but, as we hear no more of Ayodha (Oud), it is possible that the kingdom (which at one time was called Coshala) may have merged in another; and that the capital was transferred from Oud to Canouj.
The war celebrated in the “Maha Bharat” is the next historical event that deserves notice.
It is a contest between the lines of Pandu and of Curu (two branches of the reigning family) for the territory of Hastinapura (probably a place on the Ganges, north-east of Delhi, which still bears the ancient name). The family itself is of the lunar race, but the different parties are supported by numerous allies, and some from very remote quarters.
There seem to have been many states in India (six, at least, in the one tract upon the Ganges597);
but a considerable degree of intercourse and connection appears to have been kept up among them. Crishna, who is an ally of the Pandus, though born on the Janina, had founded a principality in Guzerat: among the allies on each side are chiefs from the Indus, and from Calinga in the Deckan; some, even, who, the translators are satisfied, belonged to nations beyond the Indus; and Yavanas, a name which most orientalists consider to apply, in all early works, to the Greeks. The Pandus were victorious, but paid so dear for their success, that the survivors, broken-hearted with the loss of their friends and the destruction of their armies, abandoned the world and perished among the snows of Hemalaya. Crishna, their great ally, fell, as was formerly stated598, in the midst of civil wars in his own country. Some Hindu legends relate that his sons were obliged to retire beyond the Indus599; and, as those Rajputs who have come from that quarter in modern times to Sind and Cach are of his tribe of Yidti, the narrative seems more deserving of credit than at first sight might appear. The more authentic account, however (that of the
“Maha Bharat” itself), describes them as finally returning to the neighbourhood of the Jamna.
The story of the “Maha Bharat” is much more probable than that of the “Ramayana.” It contains more particulars about the state of India, and has a much greater appearance of being founded on facts. Though far below the “Iliad” in appearance of reality, it bears nearly the same relation to the “Ramayana” that the poem on the Trojan war does to the legends on the adventures of Hercules; and, like the “Iliad,” it is the source to which many chiefs and tribes endeavour to trace their ancestors.
The date of the war has already been discussed600. It was probably in the fourteenth century before Christ.
Twenty-nine (some say sixty-four) of the descendants of the Pandus succeeded them on the throne; but the names alone of those princes are preserved. The seat of their government seems to have been transferred to Delhi.
The successors of one of the kings who appear as allies in the same poem were destined to attract greater notice. These are the kings of Magada, of whom so much has been already said601.
The kings of Magada seem always to have possessed extensive authority. The first of them (he who is mentioned in the “Maha Bharat”) is represented as the head of a number of chiefs and tribes; but most of those probably were within the limits of Bengal and Behar, as we have seen that there
were five other independent kingdoms in the tract watered by the Ganges.602
For many centuries they were all of the military tribe; but the last Nanda was born of a Sudra mother; and Chandragupta, who murdered and succeeded him, was also of a low class: from this time, say the Puranas, the Cshetryas lost their ascendancy in Magada, and all the succeeding kings and chiefs were Sudras603.
They do not seem to have lost their consequence from the degradation of their cast; for the Sudra successors of Chandragupta are said, in the hyperbolical language of the Puranas, to have brought the “whole earth under one umbrella604;” and there appears the strongest reason to believe that Asoca, the third of the line, was really in possession of a commanding influence over the states to the north of. the Nerbadda. The extent of his dominions appears from the remote points at which his edict columns are erected; and the same monuments bear testimony to the civilised character of his government; since they contain orders for establishing
hospitals and dispensaries throughout his empire, as well as for planting trees and digging wells along the public highways.
This ascendancy of Asoca is the earliest ground I have been able to discover for an opinion which has been maintained, that the kings of Magada were emperors and lords paramount of India; and Colonel Wilford, who has recorded all that he could ascertain regarding those kings605, states nothing that can countenance a belief in a greater extent or earlier commencement of their supremacy. During the war of the “Maha. Bharat,” it has been shown that they formed one of six little monarchies within the basin of the Ganges; and that they were among the unsuccessful opponents of one of those petty states, that of Hastinapura.
Alexander found no lord paramount in the part of India which he visited; and the nations which he heard of beyond the Hyphasis were under aristocratic governments. Arrian606 and Strabo607 say that the Prasii were the most distinguished of all the Indian nations; but neither hints at their supremacy over the others. Arrian, indeed, in giving this preference to the Prasii, and their king, Sandracottus, adds that Porus was greater than he. Megasthenes608 says that there were 118 nations in India, but mentions none of them as subordinate to the Prasii. It is impossible to suppose that
Megasthenes, who resided at the court of Sandracottus, and seems so well disposed to exalt his greatness, should have failed to mention his being emperor of India, or indeed his having any decided ascendancy over states beyond his own immediate limits.
The Hindu accounts609 represent Chandragupta as all but overwhelmed by foreign invasion, and indebted for his preservation to the arts of his minister more than to the force of his kingdom. It is probable, however, that he laid the foundation of that influence which was so much extended under his grandson. His accepting the cession of the Macedonian garrisons on the Indus, from Seleucus, is a proof how far he himself had carried his views; and Asoca, in his youth, was governor of Ujen or Malwa, which must, therefore, have been a possession of his father.
The claim to universal monarchy in India has been advanced by princes of other dynasties in their inscriptions; and has been conceded, by different European authors, to Porus, to the kings of Cashmir, of Delhi, Canouj, Bengal, Malwa, Guzerat, and other places; but all apparently on very insufficient grounds.
The family of Maurya retained possession of the throne for ten generations, and were succeeded by three other Sudra dynasties, the last and longest of which bore the name of Andra610.
This dynasty ended in AD 436, and is succeeded in the Puranas by a confused assemblage of dynasties seemingly not Hindus; from which, and the interruption at all attempts at historical order, we may infer a foreign invasion, followed by a long period of disorder. At the end of several centuries, a gleam of light breaks in, and discovers Magada subject to the Gupta kings of Canouj. From this period it is no longer distinctly mentioned.
The fame of Magada has been preserved, from its being the birthplace of Budha, and from its language (Magadi or Pali) being now employed in the sacred writings of his most extensively diffused. religion, as well as in those of the Jains.
A king of what we now call Bengal is mentioned among the allies of the king of Magada in the war of the “Maha Bharat.” From him, the “Ayeni Akberi” continues the succession, through five dynasties, till the Mahometan conquest. These lists, being only known to us by the translations of Abulfazl, might be looked on with more suspicion than the Hindu ones already noticed.. But that one of them, at least (the fourth), is founded in truth, is proved by inscriptions; and from them, a series of princes, with names ending in Pala, may be made out, who probably reigned from the ninth to the latter part of the eleventh century611.
The inscriptions relating to this family were found at distant places, and in circumstances that leave no room to question their authenticity: yet they advance statements which are surprising in themselves, and difficult to reconcile to what we know, from other sources, of the history of India. They represent the kings of Bengal as ruling over the whole of India; from Hemalaya to Cape Comorin, and from the Baramputr to the Indus. They even assert that the same kings subdued Tibet on the east, and Camboja (which some suppose to be beyond the Indus) on the west612.
These conquests are rendered impossible to any thing like their full extent, by the simultaneous existence of independent governments in Canouj, Delhi, Ajmir, Mewar, and Guzerat, if not in other places; but they could scarcely have been claimed in contemporary inscriptions, if the princes to whom they are ascribed had not affected some supremacy over the other states, and had not sent expeditions far into the west of India, and even into the heart of the Deckan. On the whole, this dynasty seems to have at least as good a claim as any other in the Hindu times to the dignity of general dominion, and affords a fresh reason for distrusting all such pretensions. The dynasty of Pala was succeeded by one whose names ended in Sena; and this last was subverted by the Mahometans about AD 1203.
Though the kingdom of Malwa does not pretend to equal in antiquity those already mentioned, it is of it that we possess the first authentic date.
The aera still current through all the countries north of the Nerbadda is that of Vicramaditya, who reigned at Ujein at the date of its commencement, which was fifty-six years before Christ.
Vicramaditya is the Harun al Rashid of Hindu tales; and by drawing freely from such sources, Colonel Wilford collected such a mass of transactions as required the supposition of no less than eight Vicramadityas, to reconcile the dates of them; but all that is now admitted is, that Vicramaditya was a powerful monarch, ruled a civilised and prosperous
country, and was a distinguished patron of letters.
The next epoch is that of Raja Bhoja, whose name is one of the most renowned in India, but of whose exploits no record has been preserved.
His long reign terminated about the end of the eleventh century.
The intermediate six centuries are filled up by lists of kings in the “Ayeni Akberi,” and in the Hindu books: among them is one named Chandrapala, who is said to have conquered all Hindostan; but the information is too vague to be made much use of The princes of Malwa certainly extended their authority over a large portion of the centre and west of India; and it is of Vicramaditya that the traditions of universal empire are most common in India.
The grandson of Bhoja was taken prisoner, and his country conquered, by the raja of Guzerat; but Malwa appears soon to have recovered its independence under a new dynasty; and was finally subdued by the Mahometans AD 1231613.
The residence of Crishna, and other events of those times, impress us with the belief of an early principality in Guzerat; and the whole is spoken of as under one dominion, by a Greek writer of the second century614. The Rajput traditions,
quoted by Colonel Tod615, inform us of another principality, founded at Ballabi, in the peninsula of Guzerat, in the middle of the second century of our era, by Kanak Sena, an emigrant of the solar race, which reigned in Oud. They were driven out of their capital in 524, by an army of barbarians, who, Colonel Tod thinks, were Parthians. The princes of that family emigrated again from Guzerat, and at length founded the kingdom of Mewar, which still subsists. Grants of land, inscribed on copper tablets, which have been translated by Mr. Wathen616, fully confirm the fact that a race whose names often ended in Sena reigned at Ballabi from AD 144 to AD 524. The barbarians, whom Colonel Tod thinks Parthians, Mr. Wathen suggests may have been Indo-Bactrians. They are certainly too late to be Parthians; but it is not impossible they may have been Persians of the next race (Sassanians). Noushirwan reigned from AD 531 to AD 579. Various Persian authors quoted by Sir John Malcolm617, assert that this monarch carried his arms into Ferghana on the north, and India on the east; and as they are supported in the first assertion by Chinese records618, there seems no reason to distrust them in the second. Sir Henry Pottinger (though without stating his authority) gives a minute and probable account of Noushirwan’s march along the sea coast
of Mekran to Sind619; and, as Ballabi was close to Sind, we may easily believe him to have destroyed that city. Perhaps the current story of the descent of the Rams of Mewar from Noushirwan may have some connection with their being driven into their present seats by that monarch.
The difference of seven years, by which the taking of Ballabi precedes Noushirwan’s accession, is but a trifling matter in Hindu chronology.
The Ballabi princes were succeeded in the rule of Guzerat by the Chauras, another Rajput tribe, who finally established their capital, in AD 746, at Anhalwara, now Pattan, and became one of the greatest dynasties of India.
The last raja dying in AD 931 without male issue, was succeeded by his son-in-law as prince of the Rajput tribe of Salonka, or Chalukya, whose family were chiefs of Calian in the Deckan, above the Ghats620.
It was a raja of this dynasty that conquered Malwa; and it is to them, I suppose, that Colonel Wilford applies the title of emperors of India621. Though overrun and rendered tributary by the Mahmud of Ghazni, the Salonkas remained on the
throne till AD 1228, when they were deposed by another dynasty, which in 1297622 sunk in its turn before the Mussulman conquerors.
Few of the ancient Hindu states have attracted more notice than Canacubya or Canouj. It is one of the most ancient places in India; it gave rise, and gives a name, to one of the greatest divisions of the Bramin class; its capital was perhaps the wealthiest visited by the first Mahometan invaders; and its wars with the neighbouring state of Delhi contributed to accelerate the ruin of Hindu independence.
This kingdom appears in early times to have been called Panchala. It seems to have been a long, but narrow territory, extending on the east to Nepal (which it included), and on the west along the Chambal623 and Banas, as far as Ajmir. We know little else of its early history, except the Rajput writings and traditions collected by Colonel Tod624, and the inscriptions examined by Professor Wilson625, with those translated and discussed by Principal Mill626. The former relate that it was
taken from another Hindu dynasty, AD 470, by the Rathors, who retained it until its conquest by the Mussulmans in AD 193; when they withdrew to their present seats in Marwar.
In this interval they represent its conquests as including, at one period, Bengal and Orissa, and as extending on the west as far as the river Indus.
The inscriptions lead us to think that the dynasty subverted by the Mussulmans was of more recent origin, being established by a Rajput adventurer in the eleventh century, and throw doubt on the accuracy of Colonel Tod’s information in other respects.
The Rajputs, as well as the Mahometan writers, who describe the conquest of India, dwell in terms of the highest admiration on the extent and magnificence of the capital of this kingdom, the ruins of which are still to be seen on the Ganges.
It would be tedious to go through the names of the various petty Hindu states that existed at various periods in Hindostan: the annexed table gives a notion of the dates of some of them, though it must often be erroneous as well as incomplete.
The mention of Cashmir is confined to the table for a different reason from the rest. Its history is too full and complete to mix with such sketches as the above, and it enters little into the affairs of the other parts of India, except when it describes the invasion, and almost conquest, of that great continent, on more than one occasion, by its own
rajas; the accuracy of which accounts appears to admit of question627.
It is not easy to decide what states to include in the list, even of those which have come to my knowledge. The Panjab seems better entitled than Benares; but although a state, called
In the following table the mark * indicates that a state is mentioned in the “Maha Bharat.” The date in that case refers to the next time it is heard of in history. The authority for the last mention of states is seldom given. The year is generally that mentioned by Ferishta as the one in which they were conquered by the Mahometans.
|Name||When first mentioned.||When last mentioned.||Authority.|
|Magada||*By the Greeks, 300 B.C.||About the 5th century, AD||Vishnu Purana, pp. 473, 474. (note)|
|Gour||*9th century, AD||AD 1203||Monghir inscription|
|Malwa||Eleven generations before 56 B.C.||AD 1231||Ayeni Akberi vol. ii. p. 44.|
|Guzerat||*AD 144||AD 1297||Col. Tod, vol. i. p. 216.; Mr. Wathen, Jour. Royal As. Soc. vol. iv. p. 480.|
|Canouj||*AD 470||AD 1193||Tod, vol. ii. p. 2.|
|Mithili||Rama’s time||AD 1325||Mithili was the capital of the father of Sita, Rama’s wife. Though famous for a school of law, and though giving its name to one of the ten Indian languages, it is little mentioned in history.|
|Benares||*||AD 1192||Benares seems to have been independent at the time of the “Maha Bharat;” it was probably afterwards subject to Magada, as it certainly was, at a later period, to Gour. It was independent when conquered by the Mahometans.|
|Delhi||*About 56 B.C.||AD 1192||Tod, vol. i. p. 51.||The next mention of Delhi in a probable form, after the “Maha Bharat,” is its occupation by a tribe of Rajputs, twenty of whom had reigned in succession, when they were dethroned in 1050 AD by an ancestor of Pritwi Raja, who was conquered by the Mussulmans.|
|Ajmir||Seven generations before AD 695||AD 1192||Tod, Trans. Royal As. Soc. vol. i. p. 40., and Or. Mag. vol. viii. p. 20.||The eighth prince, Manik Rai, reigned in AD 695. His descendant, Visal, was the prince who conquered Delhi in 1050. The two states fell together.|
|Mewar||AD 720||Still existing||Tod, vol. i. p. 231.||It seems to have been before this in the hands of the Wawa kings. It was conquered by a race of Rajputs from Oud, the same who founded the state of Guzerat.|
|Jesselmer||AD 731||Still existing||Tod, vol. ii. p. 233.||Jesselmer was founded by a tribe of the family of Crishna, who came from the north-west of India, and who still possess it.|
|Jeipur||AD 967||Still existing||Tod, vol. ii. p. 346.||Founded by a Rajput prince, of a family of descendants of Rama, who had, some generations before, obtained the petty principality of Narwar.|
|Sind||*Independent in Alexander’s time, 325 B.C.||AD 711||Sindu is mentioned as one principality in the “Maha Bharat” It was divided into four in Alexander’s time; but united in 711, when invaded by the Arabs. It was afterwards recovered by the Rajput tribe of Samera, AD 750, and not finally conquered by the Mahometans until after the house of Ghor.|
|Cashmir||1400 B.C.||AD 1015||Professor Wilson, As. Res. vol. xv.||The historians of Cashmir claim about 1200 years earlier, but give no names of kings and no events. After five dynasties, they were conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni, in AD 1015 according to Ferishta.|
Traigerta, was formed out of it in ancient times, and it was again nearly united, when attacked by the Mahometans, yet it is not noticed in the intermediate Indian history, and when visited by the Greeks, it was broken into very small principalities: Porus, one of the greatest chiefs, had not, with all his friends and dependents, one eighth part of the whole.
Contained a part of the table which is now shown entirely on p. 404.
Contained a part of the table which is now shown entirely on p. 404.
594. Menu, Book II. v. 17, 18. This tract is also the scene of the adventures of the first princes, and the residence of the most famous sages. – Wilson, Preface to Vishnu Purana, p. lxvii.
595. Menu, Book H. v. 19, 20.
596. See p. 173.
597. Hastinapura, Mattra, Panchala (part of Oud and the lower Doab), Benares, Magada, and Bengal. (Oriental Magazine, vol. iii. p. 135.; Tod, vol. i. p. 49.) Ayodha is not mentioned in the “Maha Bharat,” nor Canacubya (Canouj), unless, as asserted in Menu (Chap. II. s. 19.), Panchala is only another name for that kingdom.
598. See p. 175.
599. See Colonel Tod, vol. i. p. 85., and the translation (through the Persian) of the “Maha Bharat,” published by the Oriental Translation Fund, in 1831.
600. Page 267.
601. Page 260.
602. It is remarkable the Yavanas or Greeks are represented as allies of the king of Magada, – a circumstance evidently arising from the connection between the king of the Prasii and the successors of Alexander. (Professor Wilson, Asiatic Researches, vol. xv. p. 101.) Another of their allies, Bhagadatta, who receives the pompous title of “King of the South and West,” appears by the “Ayeen Akbery” (vol. ii. p. 16.) to have been prince of Bengal.
603. Sir W. Jones, Asiatic Researches, vol. ii. p. 139.; Professor Wilson, Hindu Drama, vol. iii. p. 14.
604. Professor Wilson, Hindi Theatre, vol. iii. p. 14.
605. Asiatic Researches, vol. ix.
606. Chap. v.
607. Book xv. p. 483.
608. Quoted by Arrian, chap. vii.
609. See Wilson’s Theatre of the Hindus, vol. iii.
610. See “Chronology,” p. 269.
611. See Mr. Colebrooke, Asiatic Researches, vol. ix. p. 442., and the various inscriptions in the preceding volumes there mentioned.
612. The earliest, a copper tablet containing a grant of land, and found at Mongir, appears to be written in the ninth century, (See Asiatic Researches, vol. ix. p. 446., above quoted.) It says, in explicit terms, that the reigning raja, Deb Pal Deb (or Deva Pala Deva), possessed the whole of India from the source of the Ganges to Adam’s Bridge (reaching to Ceylon), and from the river Megna, or Baramputr, to the western sea. It specifies the inhabitants of Bengal, the Carnatic, and Tibet among his subjects, and alludes to his army marching through Camboja, – a country generally supposed to be beyond the Indus; and, if not so, certainly in the extreme west of India. The next inscription is on a broken column in the district of Saran, north of the Ganges. It was erected by a prince who professes himself tributary to Gour or Bengal, yet claims for his immediate territory the tract from Rewa Jhanak (not exactly known) to the Hemalaya mountains, and from the eastern to the western sea. It states the raja of Bengal (probably the son of the Deb Pal of the last inscription) to have conquered Orissa, a tribe or people called Huns (also mentioned in the former inscription), the southern part of the coast of Coromandel, and Guzerat. The third merely records that a magnificent monument in honour of Budha, near Benares, was erected in 1026 by a raja of Bengal of the same family as the above, who, from the earlier inscriptions, also appear to have been Budhists.
613. Colonel Tod, Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. i. p. 201., and Mr. Colebrooke, p. 230. of the same volume. See also Gladwin’s Ayeen Althery, vol. ii. p. 48.
614. Vincent’s Periplus, p. 111. (note on Mambarus).
615. Vol. i. pp. 83. 215.
616. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, vol. iv. p. 480, &c.
617. Persia, vol. i. p. 141.
618. De Guignes, vol. ii. p. 469.
619. Travels, &c. p. 386.
620. Colonel Tod, vol. i. pp. 83. 97. 101. 206. From the comparative nearness of Callan in the Concan, Colonel Tod has naturally been led to suppose the Salonka prince to have come from thence; but further information is unfavourable to that opinion. Of the Salonka princes of Calian in the Deckan more will be said hereafter.
621. Asiatic Researches, vol. ix. pp. 169. 179. 181, &c.
622. Briggs’s Ferishta.
623. The identity of Canouj and Panchala is assumed in Menu, II. 19. Its limits, as assigned in the “Maha Bharat,” are made out by connecting the following notes in the “Oriental Magazine,” vol. iii. p. 135., vol. iv. p. 142. It is remarkable that these boundaries, enlarged a little on the south and on the west, are the same as those assigned by Colonel Tod to the same kingdom at the time of the Mussulman invasion. – Rajasthan, vol. p. 9.
624. Vol. ii. p. 2.
625. Asiatic Researches, vol. xv.
626. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. iii. for 1834.
627. This solitary specimen of Hind( history will be found most satisfactorily analysed and explained in Asiatic Researches, vol. xv.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage