Battle of the Ten Kings

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Battle of the Ten Kings
Date c. 14th century BCE[1]
Location Near Parusni River (modern Ravi), Punjab
Result Decisive Trtsu-Bharata victory

Rigvedic tribes conquered by Sudas

Trtsu-Bharata (Aryans) Alinas
Bhrigus (Aryans)
Dasa (Dahae?)
Druhyus (Gandharis)
Matsya (Indo-Aryans)
Parsu (Persians?)
Purus (Indo-Aryans)
Panis (Parni?)
Commanders and leaders
King Sudas
The Ten Kings
Unknown but less More than 6,666
Casualties and losses
Unknown but less 6,666 (Mandala 7)

The Battle of the Ten Kings (dāśarājñá) is a battle alluded to in the Rigveda (Book 7, hymns 18, 33 and 83.4-8), the ancient Indian sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. The battle took place during the middle or main Rigvedic period,[2] near the Ravi River in Punjab. It was a battle between the Puru Vedic Aryan tribal kingdoms of the Bharatas, allied with other tribes of the north west India, guided by the royal sage Vishvamitra, and the Trtsu-Bharata (Puru) king Sudas, who defeats other Vedic tribes.


K. F. Geldner in his 1951 translation of the Rigveda considers the hymns as "obviously based on an historical event", even though all details save for what is preserved in the hymns have been lost. Further details have been provided in an incisive discussion of this hymn by H.P. Schmidt.[3]

Location and dating[edit]

There are different account as to when this battle actually took place due to different hypothesis from different scholars. Some date it back to near 3000-4000 BCE while other consider it to be dated around the 14th century BCE. The battle itself took place on the banks of the Parusni (Ravi).


Further information: Rigvedic tribes

The Trtsu are the tribe led by king Sudas. Sudas himself is included in the "ten kings", as the Trtsus are said to be surrounded by ten kings in 7.33.5. But it is not made explicit how this number is supposed to be broken down: if of the tribes mentioned in 7.18, the Turvasas, Yaksuss (pun for Yadu),[3] Matsyas, Bhrgus, Druhyus, Pakthas, Bhalanas, Alinas, Shivas and Visanins are counted, the full number is reached, leaving the Anavas (7.18.14), the Ajas and Sigrus (7.18.19) and the "21 men of both Vaikarna tribes" (7.18.11) without a king, and implying that Bheda (7.18.19, also mentioned 7.33.3 and 7.83.4, the main leader slain by Sudas), Shimyu (7.18.5), and Kavasa (7.18.12) are the names of individual kings. The Bharatas are named among the enemies in 7.33 but not in 7.18.

  • Alinas: One of the tribes defeated by Sudas at the Dasarajna,[4] and it was suggested that they lived to the north-east of Nuristan, because the land was mentioned by the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang.[5]
  • Anu: Some place them in the Paruṣṇī (Ravi) area.[6]
  • Bhrigus: Probably the priestly family descended from the ancient Kavi Bhrigu. Later, they are related to the composition of parts of the Atharva Veda (Bhṛgv-Āṅgirasa) .
  • Bhalanas: Fought against Sudas in the Dasarajna battle. Some scholars have argued that the Bhalanas lived in the Bolan Pass area. [7]
  • Druhyus: Some align them with the Gandhari (RV I 1.126.7).
  • Matsya are only mentioned in the RV (7.18.6), but later in connection with the Śālva.[8]
  • Parsu: The Parśu have been connected by some with the ancient Persians.[9]
  • Purus: one of the major tribal confederations in the Rigveda.
  • Panis: also the name of a class of demons; later associated with the Scythians.


Hymns 7.18 and 7.83 are dedicated to Indra and Indra paired with Varuna, respectively. They thank the deity for helping Sudas to defeat his enemies, while hymn 7.33 is addressed by Vashista's descendants to Vashista, praising him for moving the gods to take Sudas' side by his prayers (Indra preferred Vashista's prayers over those of Pasadyumna, son of Vayata, 7.33.2). They describe him as a son of Mitra and Varuna (7.33.11). The hymn stresses the importance of the priests (Vashista is named along with Parashara and Satayatu) in winning Indra's favour; they had invoked Indra while they had moved away from "home" (grhāt, 7.18.21)

The situation leading up to the battle is described in 7.18.6: The Turvasas and Yaksus (Yadu),[3] together with the Matsya tribe (punned upon by the rishi by comparing them to hungry fish (matsya) flocking together)[3] appear and ally themselves with the Bhrigus and the Druhyus. Their confederation was further increased by the Pakthas, the Bhalanas, the Alinas, the Shivas and the Visanins (7.18.7), while the Trtsus relied solely on the help of the "Arya's Comrade" (āryasya sadhamāḥ), Indra.

The battle[edit]

The warriors of Sudas are described as white-robed (shvityanca), wearing hair-knots on the right side of their heads (daksinataskaparda), having flying banners (krtádhvaj) (RV 7.83.2), while the ten kings do not sacrifice (áyajyavaḥ). It appears (7.18.5) that Sudas managed to cross the Parusni safely, while his foes, trying to pursue, were scattered by a flood and either drowned or were slaughtered by Sudas' men:

7.18.9 As to their goal they sped to their destruction: they sought Parusni; e'en the swift returned not.
Indra abandoned, to Sudas the manly, the swiftly flying foes, unmanly babblers.
7.18.9 They went like kine unherded from the pasture, each clinging to a friend as chance directed.
They who drive spotted steeds, sent down by Prsni, gave ear, the Warriors and the harnessed horses. (trans. Griffith)

Kavaṣa and the Druhyu were "overwhelmed by Indra" while still in the water (7.18.10). The slain warriors of the Anu and Druhyus are numbered 6,666 (7.18.14).

In the aftermath of the battle, the Bharatas under Sudas (7.33.6), received tribute from the Ajas, the Sigrus and the Yaksus (= Yadu, 7.18.20), and Indra destroyed the seven fortifications of the enemies, and gave the treasures of Anu to Sudas (7.18.13). 7.18.17 stresses that this was a victory against all odds, compared to a lamb defeating a lion.

Adaptations and retellings[edit]

According to Erdosy, the Battle of Ten Kings provided a prototype for the epic Mahabharata,[10] an idea which Hiltebeitel calls a "particularly baffling fancy."[11] Contemporary Indian novelist Ashok K. Banker's 2014 historical novel Ten Kings: Dasarajna is based on the Battle of Ten Kings.[12]


  1. ^ Witzel, Michael (2000). "The Languages of Harappa". In Kenoyer, J.. Proceedings of the conference on the Indus civilization.
  2. ^ Witzel (2000): between approximately 1450 and 1300 BCE
  3. ^ a b c d Schmidt, H.P. Notes on Rgveda 7.18.5-10. Indica. Organ of the Heras Institute, Bombay. Vol.17, 1980, 41-47.
  4. ^ Macdonell, A. A. and Keith, A. B. (1912). Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, I, 39.
  5. ^ Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index, 1912, I, 39.
  6. ^ Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index I 22.
  7. ^ Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index.
  8. ^ Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index, 1912, II 122.
  9. ^ Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index. This is based on the evidence of an Assyrian inscription of 844 BC referring to the Persians as Paršu, and the Behistun Inscription of Darius I of Persia referring to Parsa (Pārsa) as the area of the Persians. Radhakumud Mookerji (1988). Chandragupta Maurya and His Times (p. 23). Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 81-208-0405-8.
  10. ^ Erdosy 1995, p. 335.
  11. ^ Hiltebeitel 2001, p. 2, note 12.
  12. ^


  • Erdosy, George (1995), The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity, Walter de Gruyter 
  • Geldner, Karl Friedrich, Der Rig-Veda: Aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche übersetzt Harvard Oriental Studies, vols. 33, 34, 35 (1951), reprint Harvard University Press (2003) ISBN 0-674-01226-7
  • Griffith, Ralph T.H., Hymns of the Rig Veda (1896)
  • Hiltebeitel, Alf (2001), Rethinking the Mahabharata: A Reader's Guide to the Education of the Dharma King, University of Chicago Press