Friday, September 17, 2010

Real Estate: Places of Mahabharat

Writing about Mahabharat - I don't tire of!
So, here is a quick list of places one comes across in Mahabharat and where they exist the in present-day sub-continent. Unlike most of my posts (which have zero research), this is extensively researched and cross-checked (read: one afternoon of Wikipedia browsing!).

Hastinapuri - The original capital of Kurus, this is located in present-day Meerut district of Western Uttar Pradesh. As far as I can recall, it is about 30 kms out of Meerut town and that makes it about 100 kms out of Delhi.

Indraprastha - When Dhritarashtra realised his brother's sons and his own brood would get into a tussle over the throne of Hastinapuri, he offered Yudhishthir a huge forest called Khandav and asked him to set up his kingdom there. Obviously, Yudi was a Lokhandwala in disguise and he happily accepted this land about 70 kms away from the centre of the universe (as it was then). His two brothers and adviser Krishna immediately set about burning the entire forest down - including all the animals (Maneka-ji, wake up! It is just a story...) and built a city fit for the king of gods, which they called Indraprastha.
And the land prices in present-day Indraprastha is about 100 times that of present-day Hastinapur!
ASIDE: The west bank of Yamuna was a great favourite of the Kauravs to fob off people with. As I mentioned earlier, they gave a village on the outskirts of what would become Indraprastha to Dronacharya for his services in teaching the princes the art of warfare.


Kurukshetra - For the mother of battles, a massive tract of plain land was required. In addition, this land had to be barren because fertile land could not be wasted in trifling matters like the war to decide the future of the country. Lesson for Buddha-babu, no?
A district in present-day Haryana, about 150 kms from Delhi (Indraprastha, if you will) was the chosen location - which was blessed because millions of bravehearts died a valiant death here. And the rivers of blood that flowed, the land became fertile. I don't know what crops are grown here but Kurukshetra University churns out a large number of graduates every harvesting season!

Gandhar - Homeland of the eponymous Gandhari, this corresponds - as the name suggests - to modern day Kandahar. In a strange turn of events, the Afghans married their daughter off to the blind nephew of Bhishma (who was a bit of dude in those times) - without actually realising the handicap. When the lady did find out, she did something even more inexplicable. Instead of screaming blue murder, she blindfolded herself and remained like that for the rest of her life.

Madra - The second wife of Pandu - Madri - came from this principality in present-day Punjab, split across the border and spreading between the Ravi and Jhelum rivers, with its capital in what would be called Sialkot. 
The first wife - Kunti - was from the Yadava clan based out of Mathura. When she was unable to conceive, a second wife was procured in the typical macho manner because it did not occur to the good Hastinapurians that their king could also be impotent!
Anyway, they got a sexy Punjaban (historical evidence: BR Chopra's Mahabharat) to get their king all excited but we all know how the impregnations really happened, don't we? The sexy Punjaban lived up to her reputation when she was taught by Kunti on how to call the gods for the not-so-immaculate conception. She promptly called twin gods - Ashwini Kumars - and had a rocking threesome to produce Nakul and Sahadev.

Panchal - The heroine of the epic was the daughter of the Drupad and was also known as Panchali for the region she hailed from.
Panchal roughly corresponded to modern Badaun and Farrukhabad districts with its capital Kannauj located around 80 kms from Kanpur.

Incidentally, all the major female characters of the epics were identified by their region. And this is true for Seeta as well, who was called Maithili (after Mithila - the capital city of her father's kingdom) or Vaidehi (after Videha - the kingdom) which are locations in present-day North Bihar or Nepal. 

Anga - When Karna challenged Arjun to a duel and was rebuffed for not being a king, he was immediately made the king of Anga by Duryodhan.
Now, Anga was not really next door as it corresponded to the region of Bhagalpur and Muger in present-day Bihar. Magadh was the western part of Bihar while Anga was the eastern part. In fact, Anga-Banga-Kalinga was a triad of regions located adjacent to each other. 

Mathura / Vrindavan / Dwarka - The seat of Yadavs (who eventually founded a great univsersity and seat of learning in the Eastern parts of the country) was Mathura, which is still called that. It is the same with Vrindavan.
When Mathura was threatened by Jarasandha (king of Magadh and Kansa's father-in-law), the Yadav king - Krishna - moved the capital out to a distant town on India's west coast which came to be known as Dwarka. By this move, Krishna avoided any casualties and gave himself time to fight Jarasandha some other day.
Being on the coast,  Dwarka was damaged by the sea several times but its resilient citizens managed to rebuild it every time and the city stands to this day, considered as one of the oldest cities in the world.

Chedi - This was the kingdom of Sisupala, another sworn enemy of Krishna - who got a boon from Krishna himself that 100 of his sins would be forgiven. He did not pay heed and committed his 101st sin at Yudhishthir's coronation, leading to his death by chakralet (read: Sudarshan Chakra).
This kingdom corresponds to present-day Bundelkhand - which means this dude was also hovering around Mathura to teach Krishna a lesson!

This post was inspired by a fine retelling of Mahabharat (Jaya by Devdutt Patnaik), which I am reading currently. I was again reminded of how much I love the epic and never tire of it. Rajshekhar Basu's version (in Bengali) was a constant companion during my growing up years. Actually, it still is. Bought on 19 August 1989, the dog-eared red book is still at eye-level on my bookshelf!
I suspect (hope?) Jaya will be the same for my son.
Post a Comment