Decline of Vedic culture and revival of Nagavanshis

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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

The Decline of Vedic culture began after the Mahabharata War. Most of the Kshatriyas of North took part in the Mahabharata war and were killed in very large number, the number was so high that a saying came into being that all the Kshatriyas were exterminated. Iranian Nagavanshs, which included Jats, were the first who brought Iron and Iron technology with them. The Iron war weapons were much stronger than the war weapons of copper. This proved their superiority on the Aryan race. The basis of indigenous tribal society was the prevalence of Sangha or republic system,where every member of Sangha was compulsorily a warrior or Kshatriya well versed in the art of using arms or they had a citizen's army. This was the main cause of the downfall of Vedics and arising of Nagavanshis in to power.

Decline of Vedic culture

The of Decline of Vedic culture began after the terrible destruction of the Mahabharata War. Manu was appointed as chief officer or as a (religious) administrative authority in Vedic society. It is said that only fourteen Manus were appointed during the period of exaltation of Aryan people. The fourteenth Manu was Suparna, who is dated about 950 B.C. which is also an accepted period of Mahabharata war by many a scholar. But this fourteenth Manu was the last one to adorn this exalted position. In usual circumstances fifteenth Manu would have been appointed between 700-500 B.C. But, by this time the circumstances of Vedic society had changed to such an extent that after 950 B. C. no Manu could be appointed.

What was the reason behind this misshapenning ? Apparently there were three reasons.

  • (1) Due to horrible destruction of Mahabharata war, Vedic culture and power had fallen into disuse.
  • (2) A fresh wave of Naga-Asuras, the builders of Megaliths had reached between 1000-800 B.C. from West, who were dead opponents of Aryan race, and equipped with iron technology and strong iron war weapons.
  • (3) Development of non-Vedic Jainism and Buddhist culture which attacked, Vedic culture with its full force after the Mahabharata War.

Decline of the Power of Aryan Kshatriyas

According to the Mahabharata account probably most of the Kshatriyas of North took part in the Mahabharata war, some of them in favour of Kurus and others in favour of their opponents Pandavas. Kshatriyas in a very high number were killed, this number was extremely so high that a saying came into being that all the Kshatriyas were exterminated. In comparison to Indigenous non-Aryans, the population of Aryans was already very meagre and due to rigidity of laws of Varna system only Kshatriyas were permitted to take part in war, this meagre number was also being consumed in day-to-day war-fare. Thus on one hand the population of Kshatriya was reducing to a great extent and on the other, peoples of other three Varnas were not allowed in general to adopt occupation of Kshatriyas for the defence of the Nation. Such an act was highly objectionable and sinful, punishable to the extent of death. Thus, this ban on recruritment of warriors caused a great fall in the population of Kshatriyas. This fall was further added by Brahman Rishi Parashu Rama, a deadly antagonist of Kshatriyas, who came out on a move to exterminate Kshatriyas from the earth as many as 21 times. [1]This was the main cause of slipping away of political power from the hands of Aryan Kshatriyas.

The Revival of Naga Power (1100-500 BC)

A fresh wave of Asura-Nagas, equipped with iron technology and Iron war-weapons, reached India at about 1000-800 B.C.[2] The Mahabharata war was an event of Chalcolithic Age. Aforesaid Iranian-Nagas were the first who brought Iron and Iron technology with them. The Iron war weapons were much stronger than the war weapons of copper. This proved their superiority on the Aryan race. The basis of indigenous tribal society was the prevalence of Sangha or republic system, where every member of Sangha was compulsorily a warrior or Kshatriya well versed in the art of using arms or they had a citizen's aary. Taking part in the war was compulsory for each member. In this way, in case of arising of crisis of enemy attack on their country, warriors in desired number could be called and a largest force could be built in no time. Such a Sangha or republic system has been called "Nation-in-arms" by K.P. Jayaswal[3]. On the other hand the occupation of warrior was confined to Kshatriyas only among the Vedic Aryan society. This was one of the main causes of the downfall of Vedics and arising of Naga power. [4]

Buddhist and Jain Culture

The Jains, who, have been called Asuras by Brahmanical authors, applied the term Siddha to their defied ascetics of the twenty four Tirthankars or defied anchorites of the Jains, all were kshatriyas (warrior) and twenty two of them were of the solar race of Ikshwaku (Jaina Sutra, Jacobi P-2l8) No wonder, if they were closely connected with the sun and the serpent.[5]

Jain religion had its roots in the Indus Valley religion.[6] Its tradition of Tirthankar was definitely non-Aryan. These Tirthankars were 24 in numbers, the first Tirthankar was Rishabha Dev or Adinath whose emblem was bull or Vrashbha, which was a most favourite religious animal of Indus Valley. As a matter of fact numerous seals have been found out from Indus Valley which bear figures of bull along with Yogis in standing posture. [7]

Mahavira, the twenty fourth Jain Tirthankar, was contemporary of Buddha. He was born in the Lichchhavi family of Vaisali. He was also of Kashyapa Gotra like Parashwa Natha. This family, similar to Sakyas, was also born from a real sister and brother. His father Siddhartha (of Vaisali) was related by marriage to Bimbisara king of Magadha. Mahavira got engaged with his cousin-sister (daughter of father's sister), but since he took an oath to remain bachelor throughout his life, hence marriage could not be matured. It is apparent because Lichchhavis also had non-Aryan family tradition of matriarchy. [8]

In 6th century B.C. Buddha and Mahavira began a movement of their Shraman religion and culture. They opposed the Vedic Brahmanical philosophy of Atma-parmatma and raised question against the concept of God's creation of Vedas and declared Vedic Varna and caste system inhuman and harmful to nation and established a casteless society based on the principles of equality and brotherhood. [9]

The Migration of Nagas in terms of Archaeology

Many groups of the serpent worshipper Nagavanshis people of Indus Valley Civilization fled away Eastward. They followed the routr of sites of Nagar Distrit Jalandhar, Dhaderi, Katpalon (both in Distt Ludhiana) and Bhagwanpura (near Kurukshetra), from where later Harappan(OCP) and PGW (Aryan) cultures (deposit of later lying on the earlier) have been explored belonging to a period between 1600-1500 B.C.. In the long run, one of their groups settled at Hastinapur where from culture of ochre coloured pottery of later Harappans has been unearthed by archaeologists,[10] which is known as period-I and its date has been fixed about 1300 B.C. After a deserted period of one foot deposit falls the period-II, which is said to be the culture of Kauravas, whose period has been decided to be between 1100-800 B.C., from where Painted Grey Ware pottery (PGW) has been discovered. Perhaps due to coming of Aryan they had already deserted the site for the powerful barbarian invaders and settled in the forest growing around it known as Khandava Vana. In the Mahabharata there is a legend of putting the Khandava Vana into fire by the Arjuna. Arjuna did it with complete preparation hence, this caused a heavy annihilation of Nagas [11] therein.

The detailed description of this annihilation is given in Mahabharata in chapter 228. This description is so terrible that in face, the invasion of Muhammad Ghajani is meagre.32 Under the pressure of this time of trouble, Nagas, went to Indra for seeking his help. Indra helped them by pouring shower of rain water. At that time the Takshaka, the king of Nagas, was at Kurukshetra, his infant son, Ashwasena was surrounded by the burning flames and his wife, to save their son from this danger, tried to flee with him, but Arjuna shooted an arrow to cut his head but Indra by inducing fast blow of air turned the direction of arrow and saved Ashwasena.

This is apparent from this legend that a very large population of Nagas was hidden or living in Khandava forest and it was necessary to make them flee for complete possession of the surrounding forest of Hastinapur, that is why this dense forest was put into flames of deadly fire. The progenitors of Krishna, who were Nagas, were feudal Chief of Hastinapur, later Indraprastha became the chief centre of their power.

Now let us examine the above archaeological and chronological evidences and compare them with the legendary events described in Mahabharata[12] :

  • (1) Carbon dating of Timargarha or Swat Valley culture of Aryan............ 1700 B.C.
  • (2) End of the Indus Valley Civilization (Harappa) and coming of Aryan....... 1600 B.C.
  • (3) Completion of composition of Rigveda and depiction of conflict between Indra and Ahivritra 1500 B.C.
  • (5) Hastinapur period-I OCP or later Harappans (Reaching of Nagas)..... 1300 B.C.
  • (6) Period of conflict (deserted period) 1 feet ...... 1300-1100 BC.
  • (7) First settlement of Kurus in Hastinapur intensive conflict began for Khandava forest 1100 B.C.
  • (8) Period II PGW settlement of Kurus in (Hastinapur 7 feet deposit.)..... 1100-800 B.C.
  • (9) Period of the [Mahahharat war]] (period of beginning of fall of Vedic Culture and revival of Naga Culture)..... 950 B.C.
  • (10) Religious movement of Parashwa Natha 887-787 B.C.
  • (11) Age of Buddha and Mahavira 567-487 B.C.

We can draw following conclusions from the aforesaid cultural stratification and chronology.

  • (1) The cultural stratification and chronology synchronizes each other and proves natural movement of Aryans from West to East.
  • (2) Carbon dating of settlement of Kurus at Hastinapur Period II (llOO-800 B.C.) is strikingly very close to the Mahabharata war's known date (950 B.C.) and indicates that this event is historical.
  • (3) Parashwanath began his Shraman movement at a period (887-787 B.C.) known as downfall of the Vedic Culture and revival of Naga culture after the Mahabharata war (950 BC) which is a striking date proving it a true historical event.

Relations of Kurus and Nagas

Kurus not only annihilated Nagas, but established matrimonial relation also. According to the Mahabharata, one of the wives of Arjuna was Ulupi a Naga maiden. The mother of Kunti was also a daughter of Naga king. Shrikrishna being Yadava was also Naga. He also established matrimonial relation with Kurus, his father's sister Subhadra got married to Arjuna. [13]

In the later Mahabharata period there were twelve important kingdoms in north and central India; Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala, Sursena, Kausala, Kashi, Videh in east, Magadha, Kalinga, Avanti, Mahishmati, and Asamaka. Among them Kuru (Hastinapur), Panchala (Kampil), Kausala (Ayodhyaya), Videha, (Mithila) and Kashi (Varanasi) were most important. Some of the rulers from them were Vedic Aryan Kshatriyas, rest non-Aryan Vratyas or Shraman Kshatriyas.[14]

The Rise of Nagas and Capture of Hastinapur, Kashi and Videha

The Assyrians and Iranians entered through the passes of North West and settled in the hilly track near Takshila from where we note repeated movement of Naga princes. According to S.P. Gupta[15] one of the waves of Naga people brought Megalithic culture and iron from Iran. The native Nagas, who had scattered and settled in the hilly tracks of North West region, got encouraged due to coming of fresh wave of their brothers from Iran. Since, after the Mahabharata war and its aftermath effects, the Vedic power and culture had fallen into disuse, [16] these Nagas would have come down from hills and began to unite themselves to recapture their lost power. Kurukshetra was the chief kingdom of Pandava family of Hastinapur. In those days Parikshit, the grandson of Arjuna, was on the thrown, during his reigning period, the Nagas began to raise their heads.

Particularly[17] the Nagas of Takshila of North-West region and watery delta of river Sindh known as Pātālpuri, became very powerful. Aroused with new courage, they began furious attack on the Kuru kingdom. Parikshit was killed in a battle with them. His son Janmejaya also had to wage war against Nagas throughout his whole life. Although he annihilated them in a very high number but he failed to check up their grown power. Thus Pandava kingdom was slowly becoming feeble. Janmejaya[18] was succeeded by Shatanik and Satānik by Ashwameghadutt and Ashwameghadutt by Adhisimkrishna. Diwakar in Ayodhya, Senjit in Magadha, Janak Ugrasen in Videha and Pravāhan Jaivalika were contemporary kings of Adhisim. At the time of Nichachhu, the son of Adhisim in addition to everlasting raids of Nagas, a furious attack of red-locusts also took place over the Kuru country and as a result of which furious famine happened to come and in the long run his capital Hastinapur was washed away in a terrible flood of the river Ganga (about 800 B.C.). The king of Kuru family left his country for Vatsa whose capital was Kausambi. In this way, the Kshatriya power of Uttar-patha, the top-most follower of Vedic traditions, at last came to an end in Kuru country. Later on it was taken over by the Nagas. From that time Gajpur or Hastinapur came to be known as Nagpur or Hastinagpur. [19]

Above event,all over, can be termed as revival of Nagas. The incident of washing away of Hastinapur in a terrible flood of Ganga is supported by archaeological evidences. At the end of the Hastinapur period II (800 BC) excavator B.B. Lal[20] has recovered evidences of a disastrous flood. Later this site was deserted for some period. This proves that above event is historical. [21]

The kingdom of Ahichchhatra, its capture by the Nagas

The name of Ahichchhatra is not as old as that of Kampilya (Vedic Index I P-49) although both figure in Indian literature as capitals of Panchala, the former of Uttara-Panchala and the latter of Dakshina-Panchala. Adhichchhatra (Skt-Ahichchhatra) certainly finds mention in the Pabhosa cave inscription of Ashādhasena[22] which may be dated about the beginning of the Christian era. While its ancient name was Parichakra[23] (Parivakra). According to the Jaina Vividha-tirtha-Kalpa, Samkhyāvati was the earlier name of Ahichchhatra described as the capital of Kuru Jangala.[24]


  1. Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.255
  2. Gupta S.P. "Disposal of the Dead and Physical Type in Ancient India" PP 237-38
  3. Jayaswal K.P.,"Hindu Polity" P-54
  4. Dr Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.256
  5. Oldham C. F. "The Sun and Serpent" P-I77.
  6. Dr. Jyoti Prasad Jain, P-27.
  7. Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.256
  8. Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, their Origin and History,p.260
  9. Dr Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.260
  10. Lal B.B. "A.I." no 10 and 11.
  11. Dr Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.260
  12. Dr Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.261-262
  13. Dr Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.262
  14. Shastri Rajanikant. "Hindu Jati ka Utthan aur Patan" PP 16-19 mentioned by Kosare H.L. P-39.
  15. Gupta S.P, PP 237-38.
  16. Dr Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.262
  17. Dr. Jain Jyoti Prasad P-37 and see chapter I P-P-4.
  18. Jain Jyoti Prasad P-37.
  19. Dr Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.263
  20. Lal B.B. "A I" No 10 and 11 (Bulletin of Archaeological Survey of India Delhi)
  21. Dr Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.263
  22. Luders, List (Epigraphia Indica, Vol. X Appendix) No.905.
  23. Sat Brah XIII, 5,4, 7.
  24. Dr Naval Viyogi:Nagas, the Ancient Rulers of India, p.263