Monday, July 26, 2010

Evolution of Indian Geopolity in Mahabharata prior to Pandava Exile - Part 1

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Geopolitical scenario of Indian subcontinent prior to the initiation of Dikvijaya by Pandavas prior to Raajsooya sacrifice.

The key players of "western India" then were Yadavas, Panchals and Kurus from Modern Haryana, Punjab, Western UP, Northern Rajasthan, Northern MP region. The players in eastern India were primarily Jarasandha of Magadh. While everybody is familiar with gross picture of how Pandavas arrived at conclusion of going for Raajsooya, there were many other parallel threads which were shaping the polity of India ruled by Arya people.

Geography of India in MBH times

1. Rivalry between Magadha and Yadavas of Mathura (this is key interaction which played critical role in forthcoming events)

2. Internecine rivalry amongst house of Kurus (Kuravas and Pandavas)

3. Rivalry between Kurus and Panchalas (the episode of Drupad's defeat by disciples of Dronacharya {Drona's Guru-Dakshina} as settlement of personal score against Drupad). Although this is tertiary and rather indirect and ineffective factor to shape the destiny of India's geopolilty significantly on its own. It played a supportive role, however. Lets see the polity of India just before appearance of Krishna on the political scene of India.

1. Magadha-Mathura Rivalry: The process of Saraswati's dessication was ongoing. Population migration towards Gangetic valley (towards Magadha) happening slowly. The King of Mathura (Ugrasena and later Kamsa) smartly established marital relations with Jarasandha of Magadh. Magadh, the true powerhouse of India called shots over entire Gangetic valley. Jarasandha's daughters were married off to Kamsa of Mathura by his father. The other Yadava clans (notably of Chedi - modern Bundelkhand) too were close allies of Magadh. Magadh was building close relations with power-centres of Central India (Vidarbha King Bheem and later his elder son Rukmi) and Deccan plateau (Shrugaal, king of Karveer {modern Kolhapur in MH}). Overall, there is seen quite a lot of bonhomie seen in Magadh and central India, although according to MBH, that pax-magadha was enforced by Strength than amicably. 

2. Disarray in house of Kuru: Kurus were in bad books of kings from NWFP and Gaandhar (marriage of gandhari to blind dhritarashtra perceived as blatant treachery by Shakuni, the crown prince of Gandhaar (modern Kandahar). Kurus were in bad books of Kings from Central UP (Especially Kashi after abduction of three princesses by Bhishma). The flow of Saraswati decreasing Bulk of western Kuru falls in upper Saraswati Basin. The River Yamuna was tributary of Saraswati, so was Sutlaj. With freely flowing Saraswati, Kuru clan occupied the "prime real estate of India". The land with three major river systems - Ganga in east, Saraswati in centre and Sindhu in west. However, this is a polity which is "marked by time" for eventual decline. This is further complicated by internal squabbles of Kurus which everybody knows about. However, the liquid power and inertia of Kurus is very high (which aptly and poetically described by Vyasa maharshi), which keeps them going.

3. The Confused Panchala: Panchala was the "swing-state" in contemporary geopolity, IMHO. It would have gone with any of the two powers, IMO. While it was close to Panchalas (Panchalas and Kurus were related clans few generations before). However, it was sitting on the downstream of Ganges which was growing powerful, while Monsoon was declining. The significant presence of "Magadh Lobby" in Draupadi's Swayamvara hints at shifting geopolitics. Although the swayamvara rules were different those days, hence I state this idea with extreme caution. The attack of Kuru army (under Duryodhana) on Panchala as settlement of Drona's Gurudakshina pissed Drupad furthermore. The "understanding of Dharma" by Yudhishthira is seen for the first-time here. Kuru army led by Duryodhana is badly defeated by Panchal army. When it is Pandava's turn to settle the Dakshina, there is a beautiful passage of Yudhishthira where he justifies his decision of "Not fighting under Kuru Banner". I was impressed at the acumen of Politics and Justice by this young Prince. Pandavas manage to defeat Panchal's army just after it has won over Kuru army. This is another tactical brilliance on the part of Yudhishthira to instigate Duryodhana and allow him to take a first shot. Pandavas invade Panchala almost immediately after Duryodhana's defeat, and score an easy victory over Drupad, while arresting him and presenting him in front of their teacher. This invasion (under banner of Kurus by Duryodhan) perpetually pushes Panchala in Anti-Kuru stance. The obvious choice for the leadership of this "anti-Kuru" lobby is Magadh.


Ace said...

Mahabharata from a geo politico perspective is a new take altogether....excellent!

santu from santosh nagar said...

exciting and ready to read next two parts :)

Kal_Chiron said...


The three parts are already published... :-)

follow the link at the end of the article...