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The early period
The Puranas state that the Vatsa kingdom was named after a Kaśī king, Vatsa. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata attribute the credit of founding its capital Kauśāmbī to a Chedi prince Kuśa or Kuśāmba. The Puranas state that after the washing away of Hastinapura by the Ganges, the Bhārata king Nicakṣu, the great-great grandson of Janamejaya, abandoned the city and settled in Kauśāmbī. This is supported by the Svapnavāsavadattā and the Pratijñā-Yaugandharāyaṇa attributed to Bhāsa. Both of them have described the king Udayana as a scion of the Bhāratas family (Bhārata-kula). The Puranas provide a list of Nicakṣu’s successors which ends with king Kṣemaka.: p.117-8
Śatānīka II, Parantapa
The first ruler of the Bhārata dynasty of Vatsa, about whom some definite information available is Śatānīka II, Parantapa. While the Puranas state his father’s name was Vasudāna, Bhāsa tells it was Sahasrānīka. Śatānīka II married a princess of Videha, who was the mother of Udayana. He also married Mṛgavatī, a daughter of the Licchavi chieftain Ceṭaka. He attacked Campā, the capital of Aṅga during the rule of Dadhivāhana.: p.119
Udayana, the son of Śatānīka II by the Videha princess succeeded him. Udayana, the romantic hero of the Svapnavāsavadattā, the Pratijñā-Yaugandharāyaṇa and many other legends was a contemporary of Buddha and of Pradyota, the king of Avanti. : p.119 The Kathāsaritsāgara contains a long account of his conquests. The Priyadarśikā narrates the event of his victory over the ruler of Kaliṅga and restoration of Dṛḍhavarman to the throne of Aṅga. The commentary on the Dhammapada describes the story of his marriage with Vāsavadattā or Vāsuladattā, the daughter of Pradyota, the king of Avanti. It also mentions about his two other consorts, Māgandiyā, daughter of a Kuru Brahmin and Sāmāvatī, the adopted daughter of the treasurer Ghosaka. The Milindapañho refers to a peasant girl Gopāla-mātā who became his wife. The Svapnavāsavadattā of Bhāsa mentions about another queen named Padmāvatī, a sister of king Darśaka of Magadha. The Priyadarśikā tells us about the marriage of Udayana with Āraṇyakā, the daughter of Dṛḍhavarman, the king of Aṅga. The Ratnāvalī narrates a story of romance between him and Sāgarikā, an attendant of his chief queen, Vāsavadattā. The name of his son by his chief queen is Bodhi.: pp.179-80
The Buddha visited Koushambi several times during the reign of Udayana on his effort to spread the dharma, the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths. Udayana was an Upasaka (lay follower) of Buddha. The Chinese translation of the Buddhist canonical text Ekottara Āgama states that the first image of Buddha, curved out of sandalwood was made under the instruction of Udayana.
According to the Puranas, the 4 successors of Udayana were Vahināra, DanḍapāṇI, Niramitra and Kṣemaka. Later, the Vatsa kingdom was annexed by the Avanti kingdom. Maniprabha, the great-grandson of Pradyota ruled at Kauśāmbī as a prince of Avanti. : pp.180, 180n, facing 565
The Vatsa Vow
The descendents of Vatsa were famous for keeping their words to people. To ensure their promises were fulfilled, the famous Vatsa Adarsh II started the idea of the famous Vatsa Vow in Pali language. The vow was given as an oath to the person it was made to by the swearing of the familial names. The vow could pledge anything ranging from political to monetary and emotional to protectional support to the one it was given. Powerful indeed, the culture lost its followers slowly with the decline of the Vatsa Mahajanapada. The first ever recorded oath was from a rich landlord Aditya III to his subjects. The English translation of the oath is mentioned here.
" I Aditya the third of the ancient Aryans, personally known as Vatsa the two hundred and sixth pledge to protect my subject till death until and unless it affects my family and clans."
- Geographical Review of India. Original from the University of Michigan: Geographical Society of India. 1951. p. 27.
- Hermann Kulke, Dietmar Rothermund (2004). A History of India. Routledge. p. 52. ISBN 0-415-32920-5.
- Pargiter, F.E. (1972) Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, pp.269-70
- Raychaudhuri, Hemchandra (1972). Political History of Ancient India. Calcutta, India: University of Calcutta.
- Mahajan V.D. (1960, reprint 2007). Ancient India, S.Chand & Company, New Delhi, ISBN 81-219-0887-6, pp.171-2