The Vidarbha kingdom in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata is among the many kingdoms ruled by Yadava kings (Bhoja Yadavas). It is the southernmost kingdom within the epic's geographical horizon, south of the Vindhya range, in the region still known as Vidarbha in what is now Central India.
Damayanti, the wife of Nala was the princess of Vidarbha. Similarly Rukmini, the eldest wife of Vasudeva Krishna was from Vidarbha. Sage Agastya's wife Lopamudra, also was a princess from the country of Vidarbha as mentioned in the Mahabharata. Kundinapuri was its capital, which is identified as Kundapur in the eastern Maharashtra. Rukmini's brother Rukmi founded another kingdom with capital Bhojakata, close to Vidarbha proper. During the Kurukshetra War, when all other kingdoms participated in the battle, Vidarbha under Rukmi stayed neutral, because his army was rejected by both Pandavas and Kauravas who were the two parties engaged in the war. It is not clear if any other king from Vidarbha participated in the war. There is a mention at MBh 6:51, that a Vidarbha army sided with Kauravas under the generalissimo Bhishma.
King Bhima of Vidarbha
The southern route connecting Vidarbha and Ayodhya
Mahabharata gives clues on a route that existed in ancient times connecting Vidarbha to the northern kingdoms like Kosala.
The following conversation between Nala and Damayanti describes many ancient roads or pathways connecting kingdoms of north, south and central India of ancient times. (MBh 3:61)
These many roads lead to the southern country, passing by (the city of) Avanti and the Rikshavat mountains. This is that mighty mountain called Vindhya; yon, the river Payasvini running seawards, and yonder are the asylums of the ascetics, furnished with various fruit and roots. This road leadeth to the country of the Vidarbhas—and that, to the country of the Kosalas. Beyond these roads to the south is the southern country.
Rituparna,the king (of Ayodhya, Kosala), arrived at the city of the Vidarbhas. The people brought unto king Bhima (of Vidarbha) the tidings (of his arrival). And at the invitation of Bhima, the king entered the city of Kundina
The king of Kosala reflected a while and at length said, ‘I have come here to pay my respects to thee.’ And the king Bhima was struck with astonishment, and reflected upon the (probable) cause of Rituparna’s coming, having passed over a hundred yojanas. And he reflected, ‘That passing by other sovereigns, and leaving behind him innumerable countries, he should come simply to pay his respect to me is scarcely the reason of his arrival.
- A Vidarbha princess Susrava is mentioned at MBh 1:95. She was wedded to a prince named Jayatsena, of the Lunar Dynasty. Avachina was her son.
- Ikshwaku King Sagara is mentioned to have a Vidarbha princess
- Sage Agastya is mentioned to have a Vidrabha princess as his wife.
- A river named Payoshni is mentioned to be flowing through this kingdom. Its fine landing place was constructed by the king of Vidarbha. (MBh 3:120).
- Kisari Mohan Ganguli, The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Translated into English Prose, 1883-1896.