Abhira Kingdom

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The Abhira kingdom in the Mahabharata is either of two kingdoms near the Sarasvati river. They were dominated by the Abhiras, sometimes referred to as Surabhira also, combining both Sura and Abhira kingdoms. Modern day Abhira territory lies within Northern areas of Gujarat and Southern Rajasthan, India. King Sivadatta was probably the founder of the Abhira kingdom.[1][2]

Reference of Abhiras in Mahabharat[edit]

Abhiras are mentioned as warriors in support of Duryodhana in Mahabharta war.[3][4] The Gopas, whom Krishna had offered to Duryodhana to fight in his support when he himself joined Arjuna's side, were no other than the Yadavas themselves, who were also the Abhiras.[5] Ramayana refers to Abhiras as Ugradarshana – Mlecchas and dasyus.[6][7] The Abhiras also have been described as Vratas. Panini mentions these Vratas as robbers. The Abhiras are said to have looted the train of Arjuna, the Pandava, when he was returning from Dwaraka being accompanied by some of the members of "Sri Krishna's family after the death of the latter. Abhiras are said to have waylaid Arjuna and deprived him of remaining wealth from Dwarka and women somewhere in Punjab."[8] Abhiras who looted Arjuna were the supporters of the Kauravas, and in the Mahabharata,[9] Abhir, Gopa, Gopal[10] and Yadavas are all synonyms.[11][12][13] They defeated the hero of Mahabharatha war, and did spare him when he disclosed the identity of the members of the family of Sri Krishna.[14]

Nakula's military campaigning to the west[edit]

  • MBh 2.31

Nakula, lead his campaign from Indraprastha to the western regions, to collect tribute for Yudhishthira's Rajasuya sacrifice.

Nakula, the Pandava general, brought under subjection the mighty Gramaniya that dwelt on the shore of the sea, and the Sudras and the Abhiras that dwelt on the banks of the Saraswati, and all those tribes that lived upon fisheries, and those also that dwelt on the mountains, and the whole of the country called after the five rivers, and the mountains called Amara, and the country called Uttarayotisha and the city of Divyakutta and the tribe called Dwarapala.

Markandeya's prediction of powerful tribes in the future[edit]

  • MBh 3.187

Sage Markandeya explains to Yudhishthira about the rise of western tribes, and their influence on Bharata Varsha or Ancient India

The Andhras, the Sakas, the Pulindas, the Yavanas, the Kamvojas, the Valhikas and the Abhiras, then become (in Kali Yuga, which is future for Yudhishthira), possessed of bravery and the sovereignty of the earth.

Abhiras in the List of Kingdoms of Bharata Varsha[edit]

  • MBh 6.9

In Bhishama Parava, while narrating to Dhritarashtra the names of the Mountains, Rivers, Provinces etc. of Bharata Varsha, Sanjaya includes the Abhiras in the list of its provinces and seems to locate them somewhere between the Mallas, Valhikas and the Aprantas (6,9).

i.e. ....the Valhikas, the Vatadhanas, the Abhiras, the Kalajoshakas; the Aparantas, the Parantas, the Pahnabhas, the Charmamandalas; the Atavisikharas, the Mahabhutas.....

In the same Parava, there is also reference to the Sudra and Abhiras who are listed among the tribes of north such as the Yavanas, the Chinas, the Kambojas, the Darunas, and many Mleccha tribes, the Sukritvahas, the Kulatthas (Kulutas), the Hunas, and the Parasikas, the Ramanas, and the Dasamalikas, the Daradas, the Kasmiras, the Khasiras, the Bharadvajas, and the diverse tribes of Kiratas, the Tomaras, the Hansamargas, and the Karamanjakas etc. (6.9)

Participation in the Kurukshetra War[edit]

  • MBh 7.20

Bhutasarman, and Kshemasarman, and the valiant Karakaksha, and the Kalingas, the Singhalas, the Easterners, the Sudras, the Abhiras, the Daserakas, the Sakas, the Yavanas, the Kambojas, the Hangsapadas, the Surasenas, the Daradas, the Madras, and the Kalikeyas, with hundreds and thousands of elephants, steeds, cars, and foot-soldiers were stationed at its neck of the military formation formed by the Kaurava general Drona in Kurukshetra War.

Impact of Bhargava Rama on Abhira tribe[edit]

  • MBh 14.29

Dravidas and Abhiras and Pundras, together with the Savaras, became fallen to low status, though those men who had Kshatriya duties assigned to them in consequence of their birth, falling away from those duties due to fear of Bhargava Rama.

Attack of Abhiras on Arjuna and the people of Dwaraka[edit]

  • MBh 16.7

Arjuna rescued the women and children and a few soldiers from Dwaraka Island as it sank into the sea. They were heading from Dwaraka to Indraprastha, along a road parallel to the course of Sarasvati River. Then the Abhiras attacked them.

Then those men, with hearts overwhelmed by cupidity, those Abhiras of ill omen, assembled together and held a consultation. They said, Here there is only one bowman, Arjuna. The cavalcade consists of children and the old. He escorts them, transgressing us. The warriors (of the Vrishnis) are without energy. Then those robbers, numbering by thousands, and armed with clubs, rushed towards the procession of the Vrishnis (the Yadava clan of Dwaraka), desirous of plunder. Arjuna tried his best to protect it, but could not succeed. In the very sight of all the warriors, many foremost of ladies were dragged away, while others went away with the robbers of their own accord. Those Mlecchas, however, O Janamejaya, in the very sight of Partha, retreated, taking away with them many foremost ladies of the Vrishnis and Andhakas. The puissant Dhananjaya regarded it all as the work of destiny.

  • MBh 16.8

In Arjuna's very sight thousands of Vrishni ladies were carried away by the Abhiras of the country of the five waters.

Balarama's pilgrimage along Saraswati River[edit]

  • MBh 9.37

Then Balarama proceeded to Vinasana where the Sarasvati River hath become invisible in consequence of her contempt for the Sudras and the Abhiras. And since the Sarasvati, in consequence of such contempt, is lost at that spot, the Rishis, for that reason, always name the place as Vinasana. Having bathed in that tirtha of the Sarasvati, the mighty Bala Rama then proceeded to Subhumika, situated on the excellent bank of the same river.


Ophir was a port or region mentioned in the Bible, famous for its wealth. King Solomon received a cargo of gold, silver, sandalwood, precious stones, ivory, apes and peacocks from Ophir, every three years. In the 19th century Max Müller and other scholars identified Ophir with Abhira Kingdom, at the mouth of the Indus River in modern-day Pakistan. According to Benjamin Walker, Ophir was said to have been a town of the Abhira tribe.[15][16] Most modern scholars still place Ophir on the coast of either Pakistan or India, in what is now Poovar, or somewhere in southwest Arabia in the region of modern Yemen. This is also the assumed location of Sheba.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Numismatic Society of India (1991). The Journal of the Numismatic Society of India 53. ISSN 0029-6066. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  2. ^ The Journal of the Numismatic Society of India, Volume 53
  3. ^ Man in India – Google Books. Books.google.co.in. 17 July 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  4. ^ Man in India, Volume 54-page-39
  5. ^ Man in India – Google Books. Books.google.co.in. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Ethnic history of Gujarat – Popatlal Govindlal Shah – Google Books. Books.google.co.in. 13 February 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  7. ^ Ethnic history of Gujarat
  8. ^ Social movements and social transformation: a study of two backward classes movements in India
  9. ^ Ancient Nepal
  10. ^ Ancient Nepal – D. R. Regmi, Nepal Institute of Asian Studies – Google Books. Books.google.co.in. 1 December 1973. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  11. ^ Encyclopaedia of ancient Indian ... – Subodh Kapoor – Google Books. Books.google.co.in. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Social movements and social ... – M. S. A. Rao – Google Books. Books.google.co.in. 14 December 2006. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  13. ^ Social movements and social ... – M. S. A. Rao – Google Books. Books.google.co.in. 14 December 2006. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  14. ^ Yadavas through the ages, from ... – J. N. Singh Yadav – Google Books. Books.google.co.in. 28 August 2007. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  15. ^ Benjamin Walker (1968). The Hindu world: an encyclopedic survey of Hinduism. Praeger. 
  16. ^ The Hindu world: an encyclopedic survey of Hinduism, Volume 2-page-515
  • Kisari Mohan Ganguli, The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Translated into English Prose, 1883–1896.