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Vanga (in Sanskrit language) or Bongo (বঙ্গ in Bengali language) or Greater Bengal was a kingdom located in the eastern part of the Indian Subcontinent, comprising today's politically divided Bengal region (West Bengal and Bangladesh). It was a seafaring nation of South Asia.
References in Mahabharata
At (6:9) the Angas, the Vangas and the Kalingas were mentioned as close kingdoms in Bharata Varsha (Ancient India). All regions of sacred waters and all other holy palaces there were in Vanga and Kalinga, Arjuna visited all of them, during his pilgrimage lasting for 12 years throughout the ancient India.
The founders of five eastern kingdoms, which included: Angas, Vangas, Kalingas, Pundras and Suhmas shared a common ancestry. They were all adopted sons of a king named Vali (Bali), born by a sage named Gautama Dirghatamas, who lived in Magadha close to the city of Girivraja.
Bhima's expedition to Vanga
Having subjugated Karna (of Anga Kingdom) and brought him under his sway, the mighty hero then vanquished the powerful king of the mountainous regions. And the son of Pandu then slew in a fierce encounter, by the strength of his arms, the mighty king who dwelt in Madagiri. And the Pandava then, subjugated in battle those strong and brave heroes of fierce prowess, viz., the heroic and mighty Vasudeva, the king of Pundra and king Mahaujah who reigned in Kausika-kachchha, and then attacked the king of Vanga. Having vanquished Samudrasena and king Chandrasena and Tamralipta, and also the king of the Kaivartas and the ruler of the Suhmas, as also the kings that dwelt on the sea-shore, that bull among the Bharatas then conquered all Mlechchha tribes. Bhima having thus conquered various countries, and exacting tributes from them all advanced towards Lohity (2:29).
Other expeditions to Vanga
The Kashmiras, the Daradas, the Kuntis, the Kshudrakas, the Malavas, the Angas, the Vangas, the Kalingas, the Videhas, the Tamraliptakas, the Rakshovahas, the Vitahotras, the Trigartas, the Martikavatas were all vanquished by Bhargava Rama (7:68).
Tributes to Yudhisthira
The kings of Anga, Vanga and Pundra were mentioned as attending the court of Yudhisthira at (2:4). The Vangas, Angas, Paundras, Odras, Cholas, Dravidas and Andhrakas were mentioned to be giving tribute to Yudhisthira (3:51). The Angas, the Vangas, the Punras, the Sanavatyas, and the Gayas—these good and well-born Kshatriyas distributed into regular clans and trained to the use of arms, brought tribute unto king Yudhishthira by hundreds and thousands. The Vangas, the Kalingas, the Magadhas, the Tamraliptas, the Supundrakas, the Dauvalikas, the Sagarakas, the Patrornas, the Saisavas, and innumerable Karnapravaranas, were found waiting at the gate (2:51).
Vangas in Kurukshetra War
Vangas sided with Duryodhana in the Kurukshetra War (8:17) along with the Kalingas. They are mentioned as part of the Kaurava army at (7:158). Many foremost of combatants skilled in elephant-fight, belonging to the Easterners, the Southerners, the Angas, the Vangas, the Pundras, the Magadhas, the Tamraliptakas, the Mekalas, the Koshalas, the Madras, the Dasharnas, the Nishadas united with the Kalingas (8:22). Satyaki, pierced the vitals of the elephant belonging to the king of the Vangas (8:22).
Behind Duryodhana proceeded the ruler of the Vangas, with ten thousand elephants, huge as hills, and each with juice trickling down (6:92). The ruler of the Vangas (Bhagadatta) mounting upon an elephant huge as a hill, drove towards the Rakshasa, Ghatotkacha. On the field of battle, with the mighty elephant of great speed, Bhagadatta placed himself in the very front of Duryodhana’s car. With that elephant he completely shrouded the car of thy son. Beholding then the way (to Duryodhana’s car) thus covered by the intelligent king of the Vangas, the eyes of Ghatotkacha became red in anger. He ruled that huge dart, before upraised, at that elephant. Struck with that dart hurled from the arms of Ghatotkacha, that elephant, covered with blood and in great agony, fell down and died. The mighty king of the Vangas, however, quickly jumping down from that elephant, alighted on the ground (6:93).
Rulers of Vanga
At (2:29) two rulers Samudrasena and Chadrasena were mentioned. It is not clear if they were rulers of Vanga kingdom. Karna is mentioned as the ruler of Anga and Vanga at (2:43). Paundraka Vasudeva, an ally of Jarasandha and enemy of Vasudeva Krishna is mentioned as king of Vanga, Pundra and the Kiratas at (2:14). Bhagadatta is mentioned as the ruler of Vanga at (8:22).
Probably all these rulers had a stake in the territory of Vanga. All of them were mentioned as ruling the neighbouring kingdoms of Vanga, in other passages in Mahabharata. Bhagadatta was the ruler of Pragjyotisha Kingdom to the north of Vanga. Paundraka Vasudeva ruled Pundra Kingdom to the east of Vanga and Karna ruled Anga Kingdom to the west of Vanga.
- (Mbh 1:217)
- (1:104), (2:21).
- (1:189) (2:33)