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Battle of the Ten Kings

The Dasharajnya War or “war of 10 kings” was a turning point in the history of India because it firmly re-established the dominance of the Puru-Bharata Dynasty over smaller royal dynasties and tribal chieftans over the Sapta-Sindhu region going west towards present-day Afghanistan/Persia and east towards Uttar Pradesh. This Puru-Bharata Dynasty provided the continuity of leadership which is documented in the ancient scriptures of Sanathana Dharma (Hinduism) — particularly the Rigveda. The fact that this great story, which I believe must be raised to the standard of ‘epic’ in all fairness, is relatively unknown and forgotten is surprising and raises questions. When did this war occur? Where did this all happen? Why is it important and why should it be raised to the level of India’s two existing epics, namely the Ramayana and the Mahabharata?[Hindu Council UK (email from Rajeev Srinivasan)]


Niraj Mohanka
has a long article on the Battle of the Ten Kings and dates it to 2900 BCE. One line in the article — the gifts given by Sudas to his priest Vasishta (2 chariots, 4 horses with gold trappings) — will make you wonder if there were horses at that time? Didn’t Aryans bring horses to India.? To find answers it is worth reading The Horse and the Aryan Debate by Michel Danino along with this.

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9 Responses to Battle of the Ten Kings

  1. Kedar February 2, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    The strangest and as yet unanswered question regarding this great battle is its complete absense anywhere else. No other text mentions this, though arguably this battle is much older and has had much more important implications in the Indian politico-religious spectrum.

    Some of the characters in these battles only get a fleeting mention in the famous story of Yayati and his five sons– Anu, Druhyu, Turvashu, Yadu and Puru.

  2. Arby K April 4, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    Interesting. Was it just horses or chariots as well that were attributed to Aryans by the AIT clan? Also, the non-mention of Vishnu as opposed to Indra and Varuna seems to suggest a societal change took place later on, bringing the former to the forefront. Could also be a reason why it won’t reach the rank the other two epics.

    • jk April 8, 2009 at 10:49 am #

      Arby,

      As per AIT clan, horses and chariots came with aryans. There is no evidence of horses in Indus valley. But Michel Danino has a paper which proves otherwise.

  3. Loki May 29, 2009 at 5:48 pm #

    I came across a story which (wrongly in my view) tries to raise the event to something that recurs in future reliving the problem that lead to the first original war in the past.
    I really want to know more about this event.

  4. T.R.Ramaswami June 3, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    Did this battle take place before or after the Kurukshetra battle? A string of so-called ’eminent’ historians have placed the Mahabharata between 3200 BCE and 900 BCE! Only 2200 years range!!! If the Mahabharata and Ramayana are true why are they not part of history books in school?

    • Azhagiri June 5, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

      Ramaswami, Who are the ’eminent’ historians who have placed the Mahabharata battle between 3200 BCE and 900 BCE?

  5. T.R.Ramaswami June 7, 2013 at 4:32 am #

    Here is a partial list. There may be other dates.

    3201 – D.R. Mankad – Puranic Chronology
    3137 – MM Krishnamachari – History of Classical Sanskrit Literature
    3127 – A.N. Chandra – The Date of the Kurukshetra War
    3110 – As per the age of Manu Vaivaswatha
    3102 – Brahmagupta. Also C.V. Vaidya – History of Sanskrit Literature in the Vedic Period
    3101 – As per Aihole inscriptions of Raja Pulakeshin II based on astronomical calculations
    of Aryabhatta
    3067 – By application of modern astronomical applications based on data in the
    Mahabharatha
    3016 – V.B.Athawale
    FIRST BIG GAP -560 YEARS
    2449 – Probodh Chandra in Indian Chronology
    2448 – Varahamihira : Brihat Samhita
    SECOND BIGGER GAP – 998 YEARS
    1450 – Meghnad Saha
    1432 – Tarakeswar Bhattacharya
    1424 – Alexander Cunningham. This year is the one accepted by most historians.
    1416 – Giridhar Sekhar Basu in Purana Pravesha
    1400 – Many – Bankim Chandra Chattpadhyaya, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, AD Pusalkar, HC
    Deb and Jogesh Chandra Vidyanidhi
    1267 – BB Ketkar
    1197 – KL Daphthary in Astronomical Chronology of Ancient India
    1191- Sri Aurobindo in his books on Vyasa and Valmiki
    1151 – Sitanath Pradhan in Chronology of Ancient India
    1000 – LD Burnett
    950 – FE Pargiter
    900 – Hem Chandra Roy Chowdhary

    The entire Mahabharatha from Shanthanu to Parikshit is just six generations. That is about 300 years. The war, which took place sometime during the end of the dynasty, and chronicled with meticulous details like no war of that antiquity, is of 18 days duration. But look at the absurdity of the range of dates given by “eminent” historians – more than 2200 years! An 18-day war relating to a dynasty of 300 years has a 2000-year range? Every time a date is selected you have to shift the entire dynasty forward or backward? Not only the dynasty but also the rest of history! Is this history? Or fiction? We are told that the Mahabharatha has been dated by expert historians relying on the Surya Siddhantha and other astronomical texts. So why this colossal difference of opinion?

    The biggest give-away is the “18-day” war. Let’s take some facts about wars in general. The first accurately recorded war is the Battle of Meggido in 1469 BCE. The largest chariot battle in history, where 4000-5000 chariots were involved is the Battle of Kadesh in 1294 BCE. The Mahabharatha states that on each day every general on both sides had an army equal to one akshouini. One akshouini was equal to:

    1, 09,350 foot soldiers
    65,610 horses
    21,870 elephants
    21,870 chariots

    The ratio is 5:3:1:1

    Note the accuracy of the figures – no rounding off even to the 100s. Since a horse has one soldier, an elephant can take four and a chariot needs a minimum of two, the total of an akshouini is more than 2,00,000 soldiers – far more than what an Army Commander has under him in the Indian Army today! Also compare this number with the armies put up in all the battles in history upto the US Civil War. How was such a big army mobilized?

    The startling fact is the remarkable accuracy of every event, name and sequence – EXCEPT THE DATE!

    • Raman June 8, 2013 at 11:20 am #

      Hello Ramaswami,

      I have one question for you. Do you think the entire Mahabharata actually happened or is it just a story? I am also interested in knowing from you if the entire events happened at one shot say in 3000 BCE or whatever be the date, or do you think only Jaya happened during that time and the rest were added later?

      • T.R.Ramaswami June 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

        Dear Mr. Raman

        It could be a myth. It also appears like a remake of the Ramayana like any other serial. Just count the similarities. But which was actually written in words first? It could also be partly real events and partly masala. A lot of it would have got twisted as in Chinese Whispers since the stories were passed on orally for centuries. But it is just possible that the epic represents a true event. I had written on this earlier – I hope the comments allow such a long piece.

        A BATTLE, A DATE AND SOME HISTORY
        By T.R. Ramaswami

        One of the most readable books on the macro history, structure and evolution of war is “History of Warfare” by John Keegan. Following some of the threads in the book one learns that the first accurately recorded battle in history is the Battle of Megiddo in 1469 BCE, between the Egyptian Pharaoh, Thutmosis III and the Hyskos. Accuracy means that there is no doubt about the details regarding opponents, leaders, site, strengths of the armies, strategy employed, result, etc – all are known. Question – when exactly did India’s most famous battle – Kurukshetra – take place? I thought it would be simple.

        Surprise – No two historians are agreed about the date of the battle. But this is not uncommon or unexpected with ancient events and in fact a range of probable years is more honest and fair. But this range was something out of the ordinary and in fact atrocious – from around 3200 BCE to 900 BCE – ie a period of 2200 years! The dates and sources are:

        3201 – D.R. Mankad – Puranic Chronology
        3137 – MM Krishnamachari – History of Classical Sanskrit Literature
        3127 – A.N. Chandra – The Date of the Kurukshetra War
        3110 – As per the age of Manu Vaivaswatha
        3102 – Brahmagupta. Also C.V. Vaidya – History of Sanskrit Literature in the Vedic Period
        3101 – As per Aihole inscriptions of Raja Pulakeshin II based on astronomical calculations
        of Aryabhatta
        3067 – By application of modern astronomical applications based on data in the
        Mahabharatha
        3016 – V.B.Athawale
        FIRST BIG GAP -560 YEARS
        2449 – Probodh Chandra in Indian Chronology
        2448 – Varahamihira : Brihat Samhita
        SECOND BIGGER GAP – 998 YEARS
        1450 – Meghnad Saha
        1432 – Tarakeswar Bhattacharya
        1424 – Alexander Cunningham. This year is the one accepted by most historians.
        1416 – Giridhar Sekhar Basu in Purana Pravesha
        1400 – Many – Bankim Chandra Chattpadhyaya, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, AD Pusalkar, HC
        Deb and Jogesh Chandra Vidyanidhi
        1267 – BB Ketkar
        1197 – KL Daphthary in Astronomical Chronology of Ancient India
        1191- Sri Aurobindo in his books on Vyasa and Valmiki
        1151 – Sitanath Pradhan in Chronology of Ancient India
        1000 – LD Burnett
        950 – FE Pargiter
        900 – Hem Chandra Roy Chowdhary

        The entire Mahabharatha from Shanthanu to Parikshit is just six generations. That is about 300 years. The war, which took place sometime during the end of the dynasty, and chronicled with meticulous details like no war of that antiquity, is of 18 days duration. But look at the absurdity of the range of dates given by “eminent” historians – more than 2200 years! An 18-day war relating to a dynasty of 300 years has a 2000-year range? Every time a date is selected you have to shift the entire dynasty forward or backward? Not only the dynasty but also the rest of history! Is this history? Or fiction? We are told that the Mahabharatha has been dated by expert historians relying on the Surya Siddhantha and other astronomical texts. So why this colossal difference of opinion?

        Observe something curious? In the spectrum of dates lies a hidden unanimity. We shall come back to that later.

        The biggest give-away is the “18-day” war. Let’s take some facts about wars in general. The first accurately recorded war is the Battle of Meggido in 1469 BCE. The largest chariot battle in history, where 4000-5000 chariots were involved is the Battle of Kadesh in 1294 BCE. The Mahabharatha states that on each day every general on both sides had an army equal to one akshouini. One akshouini was equal to:

        1, 09,350 foot soldiers
        65,610 horses
        21,870 elephants
        21,870 chariots

        The ratio is 5:3:1:1

        Note the accuracy of the figures – no rounding off even to the 100s. Since a horse has one soldier, an elephant can take four and a chariot needs a minimum of two, the total of an akshouini is more than 2,00,000 soldiers – far more than what an Army Commander has under him in the Indian Army today! Also compare this number with the armies put up in all the battles in history upto the US Civil War. How was such a big army mobilized? The Mahabharata also details the rules of the war – much like the Geneva Convention.

        The startling fact is the remarkable accuracy of every event, name and sequence – EXCEPT THE DATE!

        Compare this absurdity with the certainty and the evidence found in other civilisations/events of equal antiquity – the Egyptian and the Mesopotamian. Next – the Indus Valley civilization was excavated sometime in 1920s. What effort has been made to excavate Kurukshetra and Ayodhya to validate these epics? Surely the great “Ram Rajya” era and the dynasties of Hastinapur would have left sufficient remnants, assuming they existed? If you were the Indian government would you not dig up these places right down to the centre of the earth if necessary? What have we done and what have we found? Let me tell you the answers. If at all they have dug they have found nothing or found something to the contrary. After all if there was any evidence it would have made headlines all over the world. The correct answer is that no excavation has been done because everyone knows that nothing will be found because it did not happen. The status quo is preferable because these epics are no longer just stories – they are a powerful tool for spiritual, temporal, political and social control. That is why today we hear in India’s legislatures that this was said or happened in the Ramayana or Mahabharatha etc – ie if you question them, then you are not a true desh vasi. This control is enabled because India has the two most important ingredients – poverty and illiteracy. It is only then that the philosophy of ‘karma’, invented by the haves to provide explanations to the have nots, can survive.

        Go back to the dates. Did you get the curious fact? Observe that notwithstanding their differences ranging 2200 years, all the historians are surprisingly unanimous about one thing – that Kurukshetra did NOT take place between 2440 BCE and 1450 BCE. Little more snooping into history reveals that this gap is the period when the Indus Valley civilization “collapsed”. However there is more to this “collapse” as we shall see. History reveals that around 2000-1800 BCE, all along the Euro-Asian west-east axis, a horde of invaders, from above the 50*N latitudes called the horse-people pushed down. Every civilization – China, India, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Greece, was overcome because they had the most powerful weapon then known to man – the horse-chariot. Faced with an opponent who could travel at 5-10 times the speed of man, they just crumbled under the onslaught. Who were the invaders and who were the displaced? And why is this history not acceptable?

        And that also explains the large army – only possible in that era if there was a migration-cum-invasion. Military historians will also tell you that man’s ability to sustain a battle proper (sieges are not battles) for more than a day, came only when railways and long distance communication through telegraph made logistics feasible. Waterloo (1815 CE), probably the last big battle before railways, was also an ODI. The “day” in the Kurukshetra battle is evidently metaphorical. After all it was oral history. It was more likely to have been 18 months or even 18 years – just the time required for a migration-cum-invasion to displace a culture and a civilisation 3500 years ago.

        Now you can work out why no one wants to place the Kurukshetra battle in that gap of 1000 years. That would be tantamount to admitting that either of them, the Pandavas or the Kauravas, were the “invaders” or “outsiders”- the Aryans who displaced the then flourishing Indus-Valley civilization and pushed it south to become the Dravidian culture. This aspect unfortunately is not just historical but has assumed political overtones and hence the denials and silence over it. However history is like a bulb, which when it breaks, leaves several microscopic pieces that cannot be completely swept away. The Aryan invasion has also left several such pieces.

        This is what perhaps happened. There was an Indus-Valley civilization which belonged to the Vedic culture. The Aryans, the horse-chariot people, displaced this civilisation and pushed it south where it became the Dravidian culture. Some Dravidians, as it happens in all such displacements, remained back. The horse-people with no culture of their own adopted the Vedic culture, with modifications, and the Vedic Indus-Valley civilisation had a second innings.

        Get hold of a globe of reasonable size. Put your thumb at the point where the 55* East longitude and 55*North latitude intersect (this will be just south of the Urals, above the mid-point between the Caspian and Aral Seas, north of Kazhakstan) and draw an arc from Bengal to Spain. Look down from the 55E-55N point and take a look at the routes by which you can reach the extremities of your arc. Every point can be reached by continuing along rivers or shores of lakes – ie the invasion-cum-migration had the most important ingredient necessary to travel such vast distances – water. This perspective is best appreciated on a globe, not a map. Note that the most famous rivers in Central Asia are the Syr Darya and Amu Darya! The oldest strain of the male Y-chomosome DNA (M 70) found in India is in Jyothikuppam village, near Madurai, Tamilnadu. How about a DNA survey of those in north/north-west India, the present inhabitants of the steppes and those living between 25*-45* North latitudes in the Middle East and Europe?

        Let’s start with some facts. In both the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharatha, we are told of battles that involved horses and chariots. There is no evidence of any horse in present day India and Pakistan till 2500-1800 BCE. The horse came from the more northern latitudes carrying the invaders. Next, with the same globe, look at the entire swath of land within the arc – it is one big family and shares something common – we all speak the Indo-European group of languages. Of course there are exceptions – Arabic, Basque, Turkish, etc.

        But the most startling exception lies in the Kalat region of Baluchistan, Pakistan, and its border with Afghanistan. Nestled there today are more than 2 million people who speak Brahui. And Brahui belongs to the Dravidian group of languages! How did these people get there? Helicopter? They did not “get” there. They were ALREADY there and became the typical “pocket” when invasions sweep the majority away. That’s why Tamil is the oldest of all present Indian languages and Tamilians were perhaps the first Sindhis! After all they drank jhalam (Tamil for water) from the river that has this name. Will someone explain this paradox – if the Indus-Valley civilization is the oldest in India then how is Tamil the oldest language? Unless of course the Dravidian civilization predates the Indus Valley. Ironically it is the Dravidians today who are more adept in picking up any of the Indo-European languages.

        Humans not only transmit genes from one generation to the next, they also transmit cultural traits. Some of these are extremely conservative, being transmitted quite faithfully from parents to offspring. Foremost amongst these is language; children almost invariably acquire their mother tongue from their parents and other relatives. Language and other conservative traits such as practices relating to disposal of the dead are therefore excellent devices to trace historical changes. If this is so linguistic and genetic divergence ought to go hand in hand. The relationship confirms languages as good indicators for detecting the ancestries and movements of people.

        The languages of the world have been classified in a number of major families. There are of course a few which are stand-alone, which cannot be assigned to any family. All languages of India can be assigned to one of four major language families – Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian, Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan.
        The global distribution of the major language families in the world is as under:

        Austro-Asiatic Southeast Asia, Eastern and Central India
        Dravidian South and Central India, Pakistan/Afghanistan (Brahui), Iran (Elamite)
        Indo-European Americas, Europe, West Asia, North, West and East India
        Sino-Tibetan China, Southeast Asia, India bordering Himalayas
        Khoisan-Bantu Africa

        It may be noted that four major groups (except the African groups) are found in India, something that no other continent, let alone country, has. It is reasonable to assume that speakers of these four language families represent at least four major lineages. The first question to ask is whether these language families developed within the country, or came in with migrations of people from outside the subcontinent. The geographical range of distribution of Austric, Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan speakers is extensive; India has only a minority of the languages within these families. The geographical range of distribution of Dravidian languages is however restricted largely to India; there are only two outlying populations – Brahui in Baluchistan and Elamite in Iran, indicating that while Dravidian languages have developed within India, others are less likely to have done so, for we have no evidence of any major technological innovations that could have served to carry speakers of those languages outside India.

        We may look for evidence on how long the lineages speaking different language families have been in India in two different ways. Firstly we may examine the current levels of economic activities of the communities speaking those languages, and to compare them with levels of economic activities of speakers of other language families. The tribal communities of India continue to extensively hunt and gather as well as practice low input shifting cultivation. These communities are likely to have migrated to India relatively early, perhaps prior to the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry.

        It is amongst Austric speakers that all communities are exclusively tribals. Outside India also most Austric speaking communities practice very primitive technologies. This suggests that Austric speaking people may be the oldest inhabitants of India. They may be amongst the first group of Homo sapiens to have reached India, perhaps some 50-65 kybp. Since over 98% of Austric speakers today lie in southeast Asia, they may have entered India from the northeast.
        Sino-Tibetan speakers of India also include many tribal groups, though they also include communities like Maites of Manipur valley practicing advanced agriculture. Their concentration is along the Himalayas; only one community of West Bengal has reached mainland India. Many of them report having moved into India from Myanmar or China within last few generations. They are therefore peripheral to the broader peopling of India.

        The bulk of Indian mainland populations are Dravidian and Indo-European speakers. Both include communities at all economic levels from tribals to the most advanced cultivator, pastoral, trader or priestly groups. It is however notable that while there are several Dravidian speaking forest dwelling tribal communities such as Gonds or Oraons in a matrix of more advanced Indo-European speaking communities, there are no enclaves of forest dwelling tribal Indo-European speakers surrounded by more advanced Dravidian speaking communities. This is strongly suggestive of Dravidians being older inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent, having been pushed southwards, surrounded by or converted to Indo-European languages by later arriving Indo-European speakers.

        One may then suggest the following sequence of migrations of these major language speaking groups into India: Austric, then Dravidian and last Indo-European. If this be correct, another interesting prediction follows. Austric languages having arrived in India earliest may show the most diversified vocabulary, Indo-European languages the least. To test this linguists have compiled a list of words – called the Morris Swadesh list for Glottochronology – for universally used nouns such as mother, water, tree in several Austric, Dravidian, Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan languages. While a more objective analysis of the extent of such variation is under way, it appears true that Austric languages show the greatest and Indo-European the least divergence.

        Let’s now look at the Mahabharatha in the light of the above. The Mahabharatha took place at Kurukhshetra? The name of the place is significant. Now Kurukh is a language spoken by the Oraons and belongs to the Dravidian family. One of the oldest names that refer to the mass of land that constituted all the continents is Gondwanaland. We have the Gonds in India and their language, Gondi, also belongs to the Dravidian family. The cleavage between the two geographical units of the Dravidian family – the larger one from the south upto the Vindhyas and the minor right on the other side of the Indus Valley is significant. That pocket got trapped when the invaders caught them in a pincer by coming down the Khyber Pass and also along the coast from Iran and then up the Indus. The Indo-European languages, which now occupy this gap, cleaved the Dravidian family into two. Languages don’t travel on their own – they come with people – and it is the Aryans, who brought the Indo-European family to India as also other parts of Europe, who did this.

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