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Kingdom of Vatsa
c. 700 BCE–c. 300 BCE
Vatsa and other Mahajanapadas in the Post Vedic period.
Vatsa and other Mahajanapadas in the Post Vedic period.
Capital Kauśāmbī (Allahabad)
Common languages Sanskrit
Religion Hinduism
Government Monarchy
Historical era Bronze Age, Iron Age
• Established
c. 700 BCE
• Disestablished
c. 300 BCE
Today part of India Allahabad division of UttarPradesh, India

Vatsa or Vamsa (Pali and Ardhamagadhi: Vaccha, literally "calf"[1]) was one of the solasa (sixteen) Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms) of Uttarapatha of ancient India mentioned in the Anguttara Nikaya. Vatsa or Vamsa country corresponded with the territory of modern Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, at the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.[2]

It had a monarchical form of government with its capital at Kaushambi (whose ruins are located at the modern village of Kosam, 38 miles from Allahabad).[3] Udayana was the ruler of Vatsa in the 6th-5th century BCE, the time of the Buddha. His mother, Mrigavati, is notable for being one of the earliest known female rulers in Indian history.

The early period

The Vatsas were a branch of the Kuru dynasty. During the Rig Vedic period, the Kuru Kingdom comprised the area of Haryana/ Delhi and the Ganga-Jamuna Doab, till Prayag/ Kaushambi, with its capital at Hastinapur. During the late-Vedic period, Hastinapur was destroyed by floods, and the Kuru King Nicakṣu shifted his capital with the entire subjects to a newly constructed capital that was called Kosambi or Kaushambi. In the post Vedic period, when Arya Varta consisted of several Mahajanpads, the Kuru Dynasty was split between Kurus and Vatsas. The Kurus controlled the Haryana/ Delhi/ Upper Doab, while the Vatsas controlled the Lower Doab. Later, The Vatsas were further divided into two branches -- One at Mathura, and the other at Kaushambi.

The Puranas state that after the washing away of Hastinapura by the Ganges, the Bhārata king Nicakṣu, the great-great grandson of Janamejaya, abandoned the city and settled in Kauśāmbī. This is supported by the Svapnavāsavadattā and the Pratijñā-Yaugandharāyaṇa attributed to Bhāsa. Both of them have described the king Udayana as a scion of the Bhāratas family (Bhārata-kula). The Puranas provide a list of Nicakṣu’s successors which ends with king Kṣemaka.[4]: p.117–8 Other Puranas state that the Vatsa kingdom was named after a Kaśī king, Vatsa.[5] The Ramayana and the Mahabharata attribute the credit of founding its capital Kauśāmbī to a Chedi prince Kuśa or Kuśāmba.

Śatānīka II, Parantapa

The first ruler of the Bhārata dynasty of Vatsa, about whom some definite information available is Śatānīka II, Parantapa. While the Puranas state his father’s name was Vasudāna, Bhāsa tells it was Sahasrānīka. Śatānīka II married a princess of Videha, who was the mother of Udayana. He also married Mṛgāvatī, a daughter of the Licchavi chieftain Ceṭaka.[6] He attacked Campā, the capital of Aṅga during the rule of Dadhivāhana.[4]: p.119


The wife of Śatānīka and the mother of Udayana was Queen Mṛgāvatī (in Sanskrit) or Migāvatī (in Prakrit). She was the daughter of Chetaka, the leader of Vaishali.[7] It is recorded that she ruled as a regent for her son for some period of time, although sources differ about the specific circumstances. According to the Jain canonical texts, Udayana was still a minor when Śatānīka died, so "the responsibility of governing the kingdom fell on the shoulders of queen Migāvatī ... till her son grew old enough".[8] On the other hand, Bhāsa's Pratijñāyaugandharāyaṇa says that she took "full charge of the administration" while Udayana was held as a prisoner by King Pradyota of Avanti, and "the way in which she discharged her duties excited the admiration of even experienced ministers".[9]


Udayana, the son of Śatānīka II by the Videha princess succeeded him. Udayana, the romantic hero of the Svapnavāsavadattā, the Pratijñā-Yaugandharāyaṇa and many other legends was a contemporary of Buddha and of Pradyota, the king of Avanti.[4]: p.119 The Kathāsaritsāgara contains a long account of his conquests. The Priyadarśikā narrates the event of his victory over the ruler of Kaliṅga and restoration of Dṛḍhavarman to the throne of Aṅga. The commentary on the Dhammapada describes the story of his marriage with Vāsavadattā or Vāsuladattā, the daughter of Pradyota, the king of Avanti. It also mentions about his two other consorts, Māgandiyā, daughter of a Kuru Brahmin and Sāmāvatī, the adopted daughter of the treasurer Ghosaka. The Milindapañho refers to a peasant girl Gopāla-mātā who became his wife. The Svapnavāsavadattā of Bhāsa mentions about another queen named Padmāvatī, a sister of king Darśaka of Magadha. The Priyadarśikā tells us about the marriage of Udayana with Āraṇyakā, the daughter of Dṛḍhavarman, the king of Aṅga. The Ratnāvalī narrates a story of romance between him and Sāgarikā, an attendant of his chief queen, Vāsavadattā. The name of his son by his chief queen is Bodhi.[4]: pp.179–80

The Buddha visited Koushambi several times during the reign of Udayana on his effort to spread the dharma, the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths. Udayana was an Upasaka (lay follower) of Buddha. The Chinese translation of the Buddhist canonical text Ekottara Āgama states that the first image of Buddha, curved out of sandalwood was made under the instruction of Udayana.

Later developments

According to the Puranas, the 4 successors of Udayana were Vahināra, DanḍapāṇI, Niramitra and Kṣemaka. Later, the Vatsa kingdom was annexed by the Avanti kingdom. Maniprabha, the great-grandson of Pradyota ruled at Kauśāmbī as a prince of Avanti.[4]: pp.180, 180n, facing 565

References in Mahabharata

Brief mentions of this kingdom is available in the epic Mahabharata. But in his famous play titled Swapna Vasavadatta, the Classical Sanskrit playwright Bhasa speaks elaborately of a Vatsa king named Udayana and his love object, Princess Vasavadatta.

List of Kings present in Panchali's self-choice event

In Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 188, Dhristadyumna describes each of the kings assembled in a letter from Dhristadyumna to his sister Panchali: "........the mighty charioteer Srutayu, Uluka, Kaitava, Chitrangada and Suvangada, the highly intelligent Vatsaraja (King of Vatsa Kingdom), the king of Kosala, Shishupala and the powerful Jarasandha, these and many other great kings—all Kshatriyas celebrated throughout the world—have come, O blessed one, for thee."

Bhima's Military Campaign for Rajasuya

Book 2, Chapter 29 mentions the mighty son of Kunti, Bhima, then subjugated, by sheer force, the country called Vatsa Bhumi (Vatsa Kingdom), and the king of the Bhargas, as also the ruler of the Nishadas and Manimat and numerous other kings.

Travels of Amba, the Princes of Kasi

Book 5, Chapter 189 states "She then went unto Vatsa Bhumi resorted to by the Siddhas and Charanas, and which was the retreat of high-souled ascetics of pious deeds. Bathing frequently in the sacred waters of that retreat, the princess of Kasi roamed about according to her will."

Kurukshetra War, Day 2

Book 6, Chapter 50 states "Dhristadyumna, the Commander-In-Chief of Pandava Army, forms the military formation called Krauncharuma (bird-shaped array)."

Yudhishthira, with the Patachcharas, the Hunas, the Pauravakas and the Nishadas, became its two wings, so also the Pisachas, with the Kundavishas, and the Mandakas, the Ladakas, the Tanganas, and the Uddras, O Bharata, and the Saravas, the Tumbhumas, the Vatsas and the Nakulas.

Karna's Military Campaign

In Book 8, Chapter 8 Dridharashtra reflects upon Karna, saying "Karna had subjugated many invincible and mighty foes—the Gandharas, the Madrakas, the Matsyas, the Trigartas, the Tanganas, the Khasas, the Pancalas, the Videhas, the Kulindas, the Kasi-kosalas, the Suhmas, the Angas, the Nishadhas, the Pundras, the Kichakas, the Vatsas, the Kalingas, the Taralas, the Asmakas, and the Rishikas."

Rivalry with Bhargava Brahmanas

Book 12, Chapter 49 states: "Bhargava Rama annihilated the Kshatriya kings. The Kshatriya mothers raised their children in secracy. One among them was a Vatsa King."

"Pratardana’s son, named Vatsa of great might, has been brought up among calves in a cowpen."

The Vatsa Vow

The descendents of Vatsa were famous for keeping their words to people. To ensure their promises were fulfilled, the famous Vatsa Adarsh II started the idea of the famous Vatsa Vow in Pali language. The vow was given as an oath to the person it was made to by the swearing of the familial names. The vow could pledge anything ranging from political to monetary and emotional to protectional support to the one it was given. Powerful indeed, the culture lost its followers slowly with the decline of the Vatsa Mahajanapada. The first ever recorded oath was from a rich landlord Aditya III to his subjects. The English translation of the oath is mentioned here.

" I Aditya the third of the ancient Aryans, personally known as Vatsa the two hundred and sixth pledge to protect my subject till death until and unless it affects my family and clans."[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Louis Herbert Gray (1902). Indo-Iranian Phonology with Special Reference to the Middle and New Indo-Iranian Languages. Columbia University Press. pp. 169–170.
  2. ^ Rohan L. Jayetilleke (5 December 2007). "The Ghositarama of Kaushambi". Daily News. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2008.
  3. ^ Rohan L. Jayetilleke (5 December 2007). "The Ghositarama of Kaushambi". Daily News. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 29 October 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e Raychaudhuri, Hemchandra (1972). Political History of Ancient India. Calcutta, India: University of Calcutta.
  5. ^ Pargiter, F.E. (1972) Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Chaunan, Delhi, pp.269-70
  6. ^ Mahajan V.D. (1960, reprint 2007). Ancient India, S.Chand & Company, New Delhi, ISBN 81-219-0887-6, pp.171-2
  7. ^ Jain, K.C. (1991). Lord Mahāvīra and His Times. Lala Sunder Lal Jain research series (in Latvian). Motilal Banarsidass. p. 67. ISBN 978-81-208-0805-8. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  8. ^ Jain, J.C. (1984). Life in Ancient India: As Depicted in the Jain Canon and Commentaries, 6th Century BC to 17th Century AD. Munshiram Manoharlal. p. 470. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
  9. ^ Altekar, A.S. (1956). The Position of Women in Hindu Civilization, from Prehistoric Times to the Present Day. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 187. ISBN 978-81-208-0324-4. Retrieved 2018-07-16.

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