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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)

Pushyamitras (पुष्यमित्र) were a tribe who lived in Central India during the 5th century CE. Living on the banks of the river Narmada, they are believed to have posed a serious threat to the Gupta Empire during the late period of Kumaragupta I's reign.



Inscriptions covering the events between 455 and 467 CE emphasise the role of Skandagupta, Kumaragupta's successor, in defeating the Pushyamitras.[1]

By whom, when (Skandagupta) prepared himself to restore the fallen fortunes of (his) family, a (whole) night was spent on a couch that was the bare earth; and then, having conquered the Pushyamitras, who had developed great power and wealth, he placed (his) left foot on a footstool which was the king (of that tribe himself). — Line 10, Bhitari pillar inscription of Skandagupta.[2]

The Pushyamitras are only known from this inscription, of which the reading is sometimes disputed (it could be "Yudhy-amitrdths-cha" rather than "Pushyamitrams-cha"), as well as a single mention in the Puranas.[3] Therefore their existence is sometimes doubted. The people Skandagupta fought could more probably have been a confederation including the Vakatakas.[3] The dynasty of the Vakatakas ended around that time in a war, when, according to the Dashakumaracharita, attacking the area of Vanavasi to the south, they were in turn attacked from the rear resulting in the death of the last Vakataka king.

In Gupta Inscriptions

Tej Ram Sharma[3] mentions Pusyamitras in (L.11) of Bhitari Stone Pillar Inscription of Skandagupta (=A.D. 455-67).

The Bhitari Stone Pillar Inscription 397 records Skandagupta's victory over a powerful enemy called the Pusyamitras, who possessed a strong army and a rich treasury : he (Skandagupta) placed (his) left foot on a foot-stool which was the king (of that tribe himself). 398 H. R. Divekar suggested the reading Yudhy-amitran in place of Pusyamitran. But, as pointed out by R.D. Banerji, 399 the proposed reading is impossible.

There are several views about the identification of the Pusyamitras.

(i) Fleet identified them with the people mentioned in the Puranas as Patumitras and located them on the Narmada. 400 (ii) V.A. Smith 401 regarded them as a people of the North.

(iii) Hoernle believed that they were the same as the Maitrakas.402

(iv) R.D Banerji 403 regarded them as the first wave of the Hunas.

(v) N K. Bhattasali has suggested that the Pusyamitras were the descendants of king Pusyavarma of Assam. 404

Bhattasali says that a pun (slesa) has been used for "the descendants of Pusyavarman of Assam who had so long been mitras or friends of the [[Guptas], but had change into foes by their desire for conquest and had invaded the Gupta empire from the east and made it totter". But as remarked by D.C. Sircar, "there is no grammatical, lexicographical, or literary support, for this interpretation of the name Pusyamitra". 405

Bhattasali opines that Mahendravarman, whom he assigns to the period A.D. 450 to 490 who performed two horse-sacri- fices must have been powerful enough to launch an attack on the Gupta empire in the reign of Skandagupta.

156 Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions

We know that the definite limits of Skandagupta's reign are from A.D. 455 to 467. The period of the rule of Mahendravarman, however, cannot be so definitely fixed because we do not possess any dated records of his reign. As a matter of fact the entire chronology of the kings of Assam can be settled approximately only by means of synchronisms and rough calculations. The attack on the Gupta empire by the Varmans of Assam in the reign of Skandagupta is an impossibility. 406

The Pusyamitras cannot be a branch of the Hunas as held by R.D. Banerji. The Hunas have been mentioned separately in the Bhitari Inscription. 407 "By whose (Skandagupta's) two arms the earth was shaken, when he, the creator (of a disturbance like that) of a terrible whirlpool, joined in close conflict with the Hunas". Hoernle's view that "the Pusyamitras were the same as Maitrakas who some years later under the leadership of Bhatarka established themselves in Valabhi probably with the help of the Huna ruler Toramana"; 408 is also not acceptable as the Maitrakas remained subservient to the Imperial Guptas from the time of Bhatarka to that of Dronasimha. 409 Therefore, they cannot be the same as Pusyamitras who rebelled against Skandagupta.

The Puranas mention a people called Pusyamitras, whose rule commenced after the end of the dynasty of the Vindhyakas. In the Visnupurana MSS. consulted by Prof. Wilson we have the following statement : "and Puspamitras, and Patumitras and others to the number of thirteen will rule over Mekala". 410Prof. Wilson has added the following note, "It seems most correct to separate the thirteen sons or families of the Vindhya princes from these Bahlikasand then from the Pusyamitras and Patumitras who governed Mekala, a country on the Narmada". 411

A similar statement is to be found in the Vayupurana, according to which 'the Pusyamitras and Patumitras are grouped with the rulers of Mekala, whose seven kings have not been named.412

The mention of Vindhyakas, evidently a people of the Vindhya region, and of Mekala, points to the south rather than to North. So the view of V.A. Smith that the Pusyamitras were a people of the North is not acceptable.

Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions 157

Thus the view of Fleet that the Pusyamitras are to be placed in Central India somewhere in the country along the banks of the Narmada, seems to be most reasonable. 413 This is supported by numismatic evidence, a hoard of coins brought to light by D.B. Diskalkar, 414 from the village of Bamnala, 24 miles to the south of the Narmada, indicates that there was a serious disturbance of peace in the vicinity of Mekala, in the middle of the fifth century A.D. and we may connect it with the rising of the Pusyamitras in that region. 415

397. No. 13.

398. No. 13, LL. 10-11 : समुदित-बल-शा (न्पुष्यमित्रान्श्च)(जि) त्वा, क्षितिपचरणपीठे स्थापितो वामपद:।

399. I. p. 45 ; Corpus Inscripionum Indicarum, Vol. III by John Faithful Fleet , p. 55, note 2). Fleet certifies the reading Pusyamitra, which is the correct form according to Prof. Weber also (Sanskrit Literature, p. 223, n. 237). Jagannath in his article 'The Pusyamitras of Bhitari Pillar Inscription' Indian Historical Quarterly, Calcutta. Vol. 22, No. 4, Dec. 1946, p. 112, writes :

"I have myself examined the inscription on the original stone, and in my opinion while the first syllable may be 'pu' or 'yu', the next syllable cannot be 'dhya'. Over the subscript there are clear traces of a square form. It is not cylindrical, in shape, as would be the form of 'dh'. It can only be 'p' or

's'. But as 'p' makes an impossible word 'pupya' the choice is evidently restricted to 's' and we get 'pusya'. Mr. Divekar's suggestion is thus disposed of.

We also know of the early king Pusyamitra Sunga, a brahmana, general of Brhadratha the Mauryan king who was a contemporary of Patanjali (Fleet, Corpus Inscripionum Indicarum, Vol. III by John Faithful Fleet, p. 55, note 2) which bears out the Prakrit form 'Pusamitta' in the passages given by Dr. Buhler from the Prakrit Gathas (Indian Antiquary, Bombay. Vol. II, p. 362 f).

400. Indian Antiquary, Bombay. 1889, p. 228.

401. Early History of India by V. A. Smith. p. 326.

402. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London. 1909, p. 126.

403. Age of the Imperial Guptas by R. D. Baneiji. p. 46.

404. Indian Historical Quarterly, Calcutta. XXL, p. 24f.

405. Ibid., XXII, No. 4, Dec. 1946, p. 113.

406. Ibid., Jagannath, pp. 113-115.

407. No. 13, L. 15 : हुणैर्यस्य समागतस्य समरे दोर्भ्यां धरा कम्पिता ।

408. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London. 1909, p. 126, previously he held that Bhajarka had beaten fcack Toramana, Journal and Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta. 1889, pp. 97-98.

409. Indian Culture, Calcutta., V. p. 407 ff.

410. Wilson's translation of the Vis.nupurana, Vol. IV, pp. 212-13.

411. Ibid., p. 215.

412. Indian Historical Quarterly, Calcutta. xxn, pp. 115-116 : पुष्यमित्रा भविष्यन्ति पटुमित्रास्त्रयोदश । मेकलायां नृपा:सप्त भविष्यन्तीह सप्ततिम् ।।

413. Indian Antiquary, Bombay. 1889, p. 228.

414. Journal of the Numismatic Society of India, Varanasi. Vol.V, pp. 135ff.

415. Indian Historical Quarterly, Calcutta . Vol. XXII, No. 4, Dec.1946, p. 117, "The Pusyamitras of the Bhitari Pillar Inscription".


विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर[4] ने लेख किया है ...अकतग्राम (AS, p.9) जिला देहरादून, उत्तर प्रदेश: 1953 में इस स्थान से तीसरी शती ई. के गोढ्य-वंशी राजा शीलवर्मन् द्वारा किए गए अश्वमेध यज्ञ के चिह्न प्राप्त हुए थे। शीलवर्मन् ऐतिहासिक काल के उन थोड़े से राजाओं में से हैं जिन्हें महान् अश्वमेध यज्ञ करने का सौभाग्य प्राप्त हुआ था। प्रथम शती ई. पू. में इतिहास-प्रसिद्ध शुंगनरेश पुष्यमित्र ने भी अश्वमेध यज्ञ किया था। वह समय था जब प्राचीन वैदिक धर्म बौद्ध धर्म के सर्वग्रास से धीरे-धीरे मुक्त हो रहा था। संभव है शीलवर्मन् ने भी प्राचीन परंपरा का निर्वाह करते हुए ही इस स्थान पर अश्वमेध यज्ञ का अनुष्ठान किया था। अकतग्राम से शीलवर्मन् के संस्कृत अभिलेख के अतिरिक्त अश्वमेध के यूपादि के भी अवशेष प्राप्त हुए हैं।

External links


  1. Kulke, Hermann; Rothermund, Dietmar (2004). A History of India (4. ed.). New York [u .a.]: Routledge. p. 96. ISBN 0415329191.
  2. Tripathi, Ram Prasad (1981). Studies in political and socio-economic history of early India. Neeraj Prakashan. p. 37.
  3. Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions/Tribes, pp.155-157, S.No. 16
  4. Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.9