History of the Jats:Dr Kanungo/The legend about the Yadu Tribe

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History of the Jats

Contribution to the History of Northern India (Upto the Death of Mirza Najaf Khan, 1782)

By Kalika Ranjan Qanungo. Edited and annotated by Vir Singh. Delhi, Originals, 2003, ISBN 81-7536-299-5.

Appendix B


The legend about the Yadu Tribe

[Page 193] In the Rig Vedic age the Yadus lived in the land of Sapta Sindhu and were characterized by adventurous habits and heterodox beliefs. Indra [1] is said to have crossed the ocean and brought back to the shores of Sapta-Sindhu, Yadu and Turvasu who used to live on the farther shores of the ocean as unanointed kings, probably in a new colony of their own. After their return, they performed many sacrifices on the banks of the Saraswati. But they relapsed to heresy again; owing to their heterodoxy and indifference to the worship of Indra, they are denounced in a hymn of the Rig Veda [Rig. x.62,10] as unbelieving Kshatriyas in the same way as the orthodox Pandit of to-day would condemn a non-conforming Hindu as a Mlechha. Yadu, the legendary progenitor of the tribe, was the eldest son of King Yayati[2]


1.Rig. VI. 120, 12 and IV, 30, 17. 2. Mr. R.P. Chanda notices the two conflicting legends in the Harivamsa about the origin of the Yadus, viz, one from Yadu the son of Yayati, and the other from another Yadu, son of Haryasva of Solar Ikshvaku race. (The Indo-Aryan Races, pp. 28-30). His preference of the second legend tracting the descent of the Yadus from the son of Haryasva has not been perhaps very judicious and scientific, because it militates against the whole tradition of the Lunar Race recorded in the Mahabharat and all the Purans. Besides the second one is not the main version of the Harivamsa but an incidental narration of a legend by Bikadru to Shri Krishna. This appears to be an extempore fabrication of the genealogy of Shri Krishna like that of the Sayyid origin of Tipu Sultan by his ambassadors at Constantinople. If the legend has any truth it shows that a branch

[Page 194] who disinherited him and crushed his line for disobedience, saying, "Wicked and without dominion shall be thy progeny". Yayati made his youngest son Puru his successor on the throne of Aryandom proper, and gave Yadu an appanage in the far south, some say south-west, where the race of Yadu multiplied and prospered, and carried on a sort of hereditary fued with the descendants of Puru for recovering, the birth right of their eponymous ancestor. They seemed to have formed republican military aristocracies, often very tyrannical. We perhaps catch a glimpse of it in the Mahabharata where a rebellion en masse of Vaishyas and Shudras, headed by the Brahman against the powerful Haihaya Yadavas - of whom the Jats or Sujats were a branch - is alluded to. The brahmans, displaying kusha grass on their standard marched with a motley host of vaishyas and Shudras against the Kshatriyas.

A great avenger arose among the Brahmans in the person of Parashuram who exterminated Kshatriya race twenty-one times. The few who escaped his battle-axe took shelter in mountains and among the lower classes; some were protected by the kind-hearted Brahmans. Without instruction and without ceremonial they grew up like Shudras. Rishi Kashyapa reclaimed them and restored them to the rank of Kshatriyas of adulterated blood claiming descent from Lunar Race.

Another important feature of the history of Yadus was their hereditary fued with the kings of Solar Race.


of the Solar Race became engrafted upon the Lunar Race descended from Yadu, son of Yayati. It is strange that Mr. Chanda has overlooked the words of Madhu to his son-in-law Haryasva, "My darling! in the course of time your race shall mingle with the Yadu Race, descended from Yayati: and, though you are of Solar Race: your clan would become subordinate to the Lunar Race (Harivamsa, chap. 93). Mr. Chanda evidently prefers this self contradictory Solar origin of the Yadus because it conveniently makes the Kathiawar peninsula the original home, of the Yadus whom he is eager to prove Aryan emigrants from Mesopotamia with a good deal of Semitic blood. (The Indo Aryan Races, p. 33).
3. See Udyoga Parva, chap. 154, and Shanti Parva, chap .. 49.


[Page 195] The sons of Yadu made a great attempt to overthrow their more cultured and orthodox rivals by forming a confederacy with the Saka, Palhava, Parada, Yavana, Kamboja and Barbara tribes against the father of the famous king Sagara. This king Sagara annihilated nearly the whole of the Haihayas, and would have destroyed their Mlechha allies also but for the intercession of Rishi Vashista.[4] From this time the decline of the political power and social ascendancy of the Yadus began.

The Yadus never recovered completely from the shock of their disastrous defeat and degradation at the hands of king Sagara. They seem to have since been fast sinking into something like the present Jat status, considered socially inferior and not entitled to regal honour by their erstwhile compeers. [5]

Confederation of Eighteen Clans

About the time of the Mahabharat, they occupied the Surasena or modern Mathura country. Eighteen clans


4. "Sagara in compliance with the injunction of his spiritual guide; contented himself therefore with imposing upon the vanquished nations some humiliating conditions. He made the Yavanas shave their heads entirely; the Sakas he compelled to shave the upper part of their heads; the Paradas wore their hair long; and the Palhavas let their beards grow, in obedience to his commands .... them also, and other Kshatriya races, he deprived of the established usages of oblations to fire and the study of the Vedas." - Wilson's translation of the Vishun Puran, p. 376.
5. The following passage in the Vishnu Puran perhaps faithfully reflects the attitude of monarchical tribes like the Kurus to the Yadavas. The Kuru chiefs who looked upon ,the Yadu Race as not entitled to regal dignity angrily retorted against the imperious tone of Balaram-who came to demand the release of Shri Krishna's son captured in an attempt to carry off the daughter of Duryodhan-"What shall the Yadava give orders to the chiefs of the family of Kuru? If Ugrasena issued his mandates to the Kauravas, then we must take away the white umbrella that he has usurped and which is only fit for the kings .... The homage that is due to us, their superiors, by the Kukkura and Andhaka tribes, may not be paid by them but whoever heard of a command issued by a servant to his master? The Yadava envoy with his instinctive republican contempt for princes and thrones cried out furiously, "Fie upon the pride that boasts of a throne, the leaving of a hundred mortals." (Vishnu Puran, p. 603).

[Page 196] lived together,obeying the command of Ugrasena, the head of the leading clan of the Bhojas (who being descended from the Haihayas represented the eldest line of Yadu). Ugrasena was called King only by courtesy. He was the Grand Patriarch of the whole tribe by sufferance, without any pretension to despotic authority; real power was vested in a Council of Elders, consisting of the most influential persons of the different gotras. His position was, so to say, like that of the recognized head of a Jat barah or chaurasia, i.e., a group of twelve or eighty-four villages inhabited mainly by the same people. But an Aurangzeb was born to Ugrasena, the cruel and resolute Kansa, who imprisoned his father and usurped despotic authority over the Yadus with the help of some powerful mercenary fighters. The upstart, having married two daughters of the powerful Magadha Emperor Jarasandha, swelled up with pride and was half ashamed to call himself a Yadava. He reduced the junior clans of the Yadavas to the position of subjects and his tyranny drove many of them to cattle-rearing[6] as a means of livelihood, which could no longer be earned by the sword and as members of the ruling aristocracy. Shri Krishna killed the wicked Kansa and restored Ugrasena to his authority. Eighteen times did the haughty prince of Magadha renew his attack upon the Yadavas to avenge the death of his son-in-law; as often was he forced to retire discomfited. At last worn out in an unequal conflict, the Yadava chiefs decided upon the evacuation of the Mathura region, where their powerful enemy gave them no peace.

The Yadus were indifferent in their allegiance to the Vedic gods and the Brahmans, nay more positively hostile, if we are to believe the Pauranic traditions. They insulted their purohit [family-priest] Gargya, who vowed vengeance upon them and did penance to Rudra in order to get a son[7] "capable of humbling the pride of the Andhaka and Brishni clans" (Harivamsa chap. 114). They owed their final


6. Vasudeva, father of Shri Krishna is described as “1iving as a tributary (karada) of Kansa at the hill of Govardhana, attached to the cows" (Harivamsa, Chap. 55).
7. The son was the Black Yavana prince whose enmity drove the Yadavas to seek refuge on the western sea-coast.

[Page 197] destruction at Prabhas to the curse of Rishi Durvasa, upon whom their wicked young sons played an indecent prank. Shri Krishna himself abolished Indra-worship in the land of Braj, even when he was a mere boy, and after his accession to power he humiliated the pride of the king of gods by forcibly taking away the heavenly flower tree [Parijat] from the Garden of Paradise. The ancient Haihayas worshipped Dattatreya, while their descendants in the time of the Mahabharat are found worshipping Shiva.

System of republican confederacy

The most striking feature of the Yadava people was their great republican confederacy upheld by extreme clannish spirit. Though divided into numerous branches, and often so remote from one another as to permit intermarriage, they continued to hold together as sons of the same father, presenting a united front to the common enemy, sharing the common weal and woe, and living and moving as one body. While left to themselves, petty jealousies and family feuds marked their lives. Drinking, gambling, and gay festivities enlivened their society. The Harivamsa gives a very animating picture of their social life. They go out for excursion; men and women young and old, all joining in the mirthful sports either in the pleasant shady woodland or on the smiling beach. Balaram always in a state of intoxication, begins singing aloud, with his wife keeping tune with the clapping of his hands. His younger brother Shri Krishna, with his wife, his sister, and his friend, follows him and sings in chorus. The younger people, quite unabashed, catch the contagion and sing tumultuously. Next a water-sport (sprinkling water at one another while bathing) is proposed by Shri Krishna. They divide into two parties; one under Balaram consisting of one half of the Yadavas and the sons of Shri Krishna with their wives; the other half under Shri Krishna with Balaram's sons and their wives. Heavily drunk, they plunge into the water, taking off their clothes and begin throwing water at one another. So excited do they become that the playful emulation assumes the turn of a serious fight regardless of the presence of the ladies. The cool-headed Shri Krishna sees the danger, and puts a timely stop to the sport. They come out of the water, dress themselves, and sit at their meals Pomegranates and other fruits, different preparations of meat

[Page 198] and a roasted buffalo-calf are severed. After their meals they drink various kinds of wine in the company of their wives. There were, however, some vegetarians and teetotallers among them, such as, Uddhava and Bhoja, who content themselves with rice-pudding, curds and sweetmeats. Such sporting and feasting of the young and old, men and women together, so repugnant to the more refined section of Aryans, prevailed perhaps among the Yadavas only, though we hear of such tribal festivities in the country of Magadha in the earlier years of the great Emperor Ashoka. The author of the Harivamsa tells us explicitly that "placing love above everything else, the Brishnis, Andhakas, and Dasharhas used to behave to their sons as friends[8] (i.e., without the reserve usually due to age and parental relation).

Destruction of the race of Yadu

In the twenty-sixth year of the reign of Yudhisthira (i.e., after the battle of Kurukshetra), a terrible catastrophe came upon the race of Yadu and destroyed it almost root and branch. They had become wicked, arrogant, cruel, and disrespectful to their elders and to the venerable Brahmans. The most influential heads of the tribe, Balaram, Shri Krishna, Babhru, and Ahuka met in a council to devise means for the reformation of the morals of the Yadavas. They issued a proclamation in the city that any person drinking wine even alone and in privacy should be put to death with his whole family. But such Puritan severity could hardly succeed in a city of Epicureans. Shortly afterwards, they made a grand pilgrimage with their wives to the sea-coast of Prabhas. Putting aside all restraints, they held drinking parties, enlivened by the songs and dances of courtesans and the performances of expert actors. The younger folk, in a state of intoxication, gave to the monkeys food prepared for


8. See Harivamsa, ch. 145, 146. It is interesting to notice that this सखाभाव between father and son still seems to prevail among almost all sections of the rural population of western India. A father generally addresses his son not as Bawa or Beta but as Bhai. When sons grow up in age they follow literally the moral injunction of Chanakya प्राप्तेतु षोड़शेवर्शे पुत्रांमित्रा वदाचरेत i.e., a son should be treated as a friend when he attains his sixteenth year. It is not unusual to hear little daughters and sons of educated Sindhi gentlemen addressing their father as Dada (elder brother).

[Page 199] feeding the Brahmans in order to see how the animals fought! Kritavarma, Satyaki, and even the sons of Shri Krishna emptied their wine-cups in his very presence. A quarrel broke out between Satyaki and Kritavarma who had fought on opposite sides at the battle of Kurukshetra. Satyaki suddenly rushed upon Kritavarma and cut off his head. Their friends, and members of the different gotras soon ranged themselves into two parties and a deadly conflict ensued. Mad with wine and the spirit of revenge the warlike Yadavas fought to their last breath. When weapons became useless they plucked up sea-reeds and attacked one another desperately; none thought of saving himself by turning back or by standing aloof.

Several days afterwards Arjun came to Dwaraka and led back towards Hastinapur the woeful remnant of a mighty tribe, consisting mostly of Widows, orphans and old men. One day he halted near the Panjnad river, at a place rich in cattle and agricultural produce, and inhabited by Abhira Dasyus (pastoral robber tribes). A large convoy of females with a slender escort was too great a temptation for them; with no other weapon than their quarter-staves they fell upon the rear of Arjun's line of march. The victor of Kurukshetra lost a part of his convoy and found it extremely difficult to conduct the rest through the land of the sturdy robbers. He left the Bhojas under the son of Kritavarma in a colony in the city of Martikavati[9] in the western Punjab. A second colony of the Yadus was founded by him on the banks of the Saraswati where he established the son of Satyaki with the old men and the boys of his family. He crowned Vajra, the grandson of Shri Krishna, as kin in the old Pandava capital of Indraprastha. Thus the seeds of the race of Yadu became scattered over the land of the Five Rivers and the valley of the of the Jamuna.


9. The city is mentioned both in the Mahabharata and the Harivamsa.
Brihat Samhita (ed. S. Divedi, Sans. text. vol. x. p. 294) mentions it along with Takshashila, Gandhara and Pushkalavati, i,e., cities of the north-west. Col. Tod evidently identifies it with the hill of Jud of Yadu-ka-tila.

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