Panchala (Sanskrit: पञ्चाल, Pañcāla) was the name of an ancient kingdom of northern India, located in the Ganges-Yamuna Doab of the upper Gangetic plain, encompassing the modern-day states of Uttarakhand and western Uttar Pradesh. During Late Vedic times (c.850-500 BCE), it was one of the most powerful states of South Asia, closely allied with the Kuru Kingdom. By the c. 5th century BCE, it had become an oligarchic confederacy, considered as one of the solasa (sixteen) mahajanapadas (major states) of South Asia. After being absorbed into the Mauryan Empire (322-185 BCE), Panchala regained its independence until it was annexed by the Gupta Empire in the 4th century CE.
The Panchalas occupied the country to the east of the Kurus, between the upper Himalayas and the river Ganges. It roughly corresponded to modern Budaun, Farrukhabad and the adjoining districts of Uttar Pradesh. The country was divided into Uttara-Panchala and Dakshina-Panchala. The northern Panchala had its capital at Ahichatra, (also known as Adhichhatra and Chhatravati, near present-day Ramnagar village in Aonla tehsil of Bareilly district, while southern Panchala had it capital at Kampilya or Kampil in Farrukhabad district. The famous city of Kanyakubja or Kannauj was situated in the kingdom of Panchala.
Panchala during the Vedic period
Panchala was the second political center of Vedic civilization, as its focus moved east from the Punjab, after the focus of power had been with the Kurus in the early Iron Age. This period is associated with the Painted Grey Ware culture, arising beginning around 1100 BCE, and declining from 600 BCE, with the end of the Vedic period. The Shaunaka and Taittiriya Vedic schools were located in the area of Panchala.
The ruling confederacy, the Panchalas, as their name suggests, probably consisted of five clans - the Krivis, the Turvashas, the Keshins, the Srinjayas, and the Somakas. Each of these clans is known to be associated with one or more princes mentioned in the Vedic texts - the Krivis with Kravya Panchala, the Turvashas with Sona Satrasaha, the Keshins with Keshin Dalavya, the Srinjayas with Sahadeva Sarnjaya, and the Somakas with Somaka Sahadevya. The names of the last two clans, the Somakas and the Srinjayas, are also mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Puranas. King Drupada, whose daughter Draupadi was married into the Pandavas, belonged to the Somaka clan. However, the Mahabharata and the Puranas consider the ruling clan of the northern Panchala as an offshoot of the Bharata clan and Divodasa, Sudas, Srinjaya, Somaka, and Drupada (also called Yajnasena) were the most notable rulers of this clan.
Panchala under Magadhan rule
Originally a monarchical clan, the Panchalas appear to have switched to republican corporation around 500 BCE. The Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya mentions Panchala as one of the sixteen mahajanapadas of the c. 6th century BCE. The 4th century BCE Arthashastra also attests the Panchalas as following the Rajashabdopajivin (king consul) constitution. Panchala was annexed into the Magadha empire during the reign of Mahapadma Nanda in the mid-4th century BCE.
Panchala during post-Mauryan period
Numismatic evidence reveals the existence of independent rulers of Panchala during the post-Mauryan period. Most of the coins issued by them are found at Ahichatra and adjoining areas. All the coins are round, made of a copper alloy and have a set pattern on the obverse-a deeply incised square punch consisting of a row of three symbols and the ruler's name placed in a single line below them. The reverse bears depictions of the deities or sometimes of their attributes, whose names form a component of the issuers' names (for example, coins of Agnimitra bear the depiction of Agni). The names of the rulers found on these coins are Vangapala, Yajnapala, Damagupta, Rudragupta, Jayagupta, Suryamitra, Phalgunimitra, Bhanumitra, Bhumimitra, Dhruvamitra, Agnimitra, Indramitra, Vishnumitra, Jayamitra, Prajapatimitra, Varunamitra, Anamitra, Bhadraghosha and Yugasena (the reverse of the coins of Varunamitra, Yugasena and Anamitra do not exhibit any deity). Shaunakayaniputra Vangapala, ruler of Ahichatra, whom Vaidehiputra Ashadhasena mentioned as his grandfather in his Pabhosa inscription, is identified with king Vangapala, known from his coins. The name of Damagupta is also found on a clay sealing.
The last independent ruler of Ahichatra was probably Achyuta, who was defeated by Samudragupta, after which, Panchala was annexed into the Gupta Empire. The coins of Achyuta found from Ahichatra have a wheel of eight spokes on the reverse and the legend Achyu on the obverse.
- Witzel, Michael (1995), "Early Sanskritization: Origin and Development of the Kuru state", EJVS vol. 1 no. 4 (1995)
- Pargiter, F.E. (1972). Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.117
- Raychaudhuri, H.C. (1972) Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.65-8.
- Raychaudhuri, H.C. (1972). Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, p.85
- Raychaudhuri, H.C. (1972). Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, p.206
- Lahiri, B. (1974). Indigenous States of Northern India (Circa 200 B.C. to 320 A.D.) , Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.170-88
- Bhandare, S. (2006). Numismatics and History: The Maurya-Gupta Interlude in the Gangetic Plain in P. Olivelle ed. Between the Empires: Society in India 300 BCE to 400 CE, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-568935-6, pp.76,88
- Raychaudhuri, H.C. (1972). Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, p.473
- Lahiri, B. (1974). Indigenous States of Northern India (Circa 200 B.C. to 320 A.D.) , Calcutta: University of Calcutta, p.182