Kekayas or Kaikeyas (Sanskrit: केकय) were an ancient people attested to have been living in north-western Punjab—between Gandhara and the Beas rivers in modern Pakistan since remote antiquity. They were the descendants of the Kshatriyas of the Kekaya Janapada  hence called Kekayas or Kaikeyas. The Kekayas were often associated with the Madras, the Usinaras, and the Sibis, and their territory had formed a part of the Vahika country, according to the evidence furnished by Pāṇini.
- 1 Geographical Location the Kekayas
- 2 Kekayas in Vedic texts
- 3 Kekayas of Valmiki Ramayana
- 4 Vishnu-Dharmottara Mahapurana
- 5 Mahabharata references
- 6 Bhagavata Purana references
- 7 Traditional origin of Kekayas
- 8 Kekays in Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi
- 9 Jaina accounts
- 10 Kekayas in Kavyamimamsa of Rajashekhara
- 11 Migration of the Kekayas
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
Geographical Location the Kekayas
Numerous Puranas include the Kekayas in the list of Gandharas, Yavanas, Shakas, Paradas, Bahlikas, Kambojas, Daradas, Barbaras, Chinas, Tusharas, Pahlavas, and call them as a people of Udichya i.e. of northern division or Uttarapatha. The Kekayas are said to have occupied the land now comprised by three districts of Jhelum, Shahpur and Gujerat, all in Pakistan.
Kekayas in Vedic texts
The Rigvedic Kekayas dwelt on the banks of river Parusni (=Ravi). The king of Kekayas at the time of Janaka of Videha was Ashvapati i.e. lord of horses. Satapatha Brahmana and Chandogiya Upanishada suggest that Kekaya king Ashvapati had instructed a number of Brahmanas viz. Arjuna Aupavesi, Gautama, Satyajna Paulushi, Mahasala Jabala, Budila Asvatarashvi, Indradyumna Bhallaveya, jana Sarkarakshya, Prachinshala, Aupamanyava and Uddaalaka Aruni.
Kekayas of Valmiki Ramayana
There are several references to Kaikeyi in the epic Ramayana. Kekayi, one of the three queens of Dasharatha, the king of Ayodhya was a Kekaya princess. Ramayana testifies that the capital of Kekayas lay beyond river Sudama. River Sudama has been identified with river Saranges of Arrian which flowed also flowed through Kekians. The Vedic texts do not mention name of the capital of Kekaya but Ramayana does inform us that the Kekaya metropolis was Rajagriha or Girivraja. which A. Cunningham has identified with Girjak or Jalalpur on river Jhelum in the Jhelum district  but this view has not been accepted by scholars. Ramayana further attests that Kekaya lay beyond Vipasa or Beas  and abutted with the country of Gandharava or Gandhara vishaya (country).
According to Vishnu-Dharmottara Mahapurana also, the capital of the Kekayas lay beyond river Sudama which flowed some distance westwards from the Vitasta or Jhelum river. Prince Bharata, son of princess Kekayi, while going to Kekaya country from Ayodhya had to cross river Vitasta and then after crossing river Sudama, he reached the land of the Kekayas.
The Kekayas are said to have fought on both sides in the Kurukshetra war. The five Kekaya princes, led by their elder brother Vrihatkshatra, had joined the Pandava army while other Kekaya brothers opposed Vrihatkshatra had sided with the Kauravas. The other numerous kingdoms of ancient India viz. Dwaraka, Kasi, Magadha, Matsya,Mahishmati, Chedi, Pandya and the Yadus of Mathura were allies of Pandavas while the allies of the Kauravas were nations of Pragjyotisha, Anga, Kekaya, Sindhudesa, Avanti in Madhyadesa, Madras, Gandhara, Bahlika, Kamboja (with Yavanas, Sakas, Tusharas) and many others had sided with Kauravas.
Karna Parava refers to the Kekayas, the Malavas, the Madrakas, the Dravidas of fierce prowess, the Yaudheyas, the Lalittyas, the Kshudrakas, the Tundikeras, the Savitriputras, who had supported Karna on 17th day of the war, as all having been slain by Arjuna.
Bhagavata Purana references
There are several references to the Kekayas in the Bhagavatam Purana.
Kekayas visit Samantapancaka
Bhagavata Purana attests that the prince of Kekaya along with princes from Matsya, Kosala, Vidharbha, Kuru, Srnjaya, Kamboja, Usinara, Madra, Kunti, Anarta, Kerala was present at Samanta-pancaka in Kurukshetra at the occasion of the solar eclipse. .
Kekayas join Rajasuya of Yudhishtra
Bhagavata Purana also testifies that the Kekayas and other nation like those of the Yadus, Srnjayas, Kurus and Kambojas had participated in the Rajasuya sacrifice of Yudhishtra. "The massed armies of the Yadus, Srnjayas, Kambojas, Kurus, Kekayas and Kosalas made the earth tremble as they followed Yudhishira Maharaja, the performer of the Rajasuya sacrifice, in procession"  .
Kekayas fight Yadavas
Other references in Bhagavata Purana
Kekays had participated in the marriage ceremony of Rukmini, queen consort of Krishna, the daughter of Bhishmaka, the king of Vidarbha. One of the wives of Krishna was a Kekaya princess. When Krishna was going to Mithila, the Kekays had met him with presents.
Traditional origin of Kekayas
The same tradition is also furnished by other Puranic texts like Vayu Purana and Matsya Purana as well. The Anavas, derived from Anu, were a tribe of the Rigvedic period  and are said to belong to the Iranians.
Kekays in Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi
Pāṇini refers to the Kaikeyas or Kekayas in his Ashtadhyayi  and mentions their land as a part of the Vahika country. The other three countries which formed parts of the Vahika land were the Madra, the Usinara and the Savasa lands.
Kekayas in Kavyamimamsa of Rajashekhara
The 10th century CE Kavyamimamsa of Pandit Rajashekhara furnishes a list of the extant tribes of his times which also includes the Kekayas along with the Shakas, Tusharas, Vokanas, Hunas, Kambojas, Vahlikas, Vahlavas, Limpakas, Tangana, Turukshas, referring to them all as the tribes of Uttarapatha or north division.
Migration of the Kekayas
A branch of the Kekaya seems to have migrated to southern India in later times and established its authority in Mysore country.
- Ashtadhyayi sutra VII.3.2.
- India as Known to Panini, p 54, Dr V. S. Aggarwala.
- Vayu Purana 1.45.117; Brahmand Purana, 220.127.116.11; Markendeya Purana, 52.37; Matsya Purana (Critical), 113.42; cf Swargaloka of 6.43; Mahabharata (Critical ed) 4.10.47; Brahma Purana 53.14; See: Krfel's text of the Uttarapatha countries of the Bhuvankosha
- India as Known to Panini, p 52, Dr V. S. Aggarwala; Geographical Data in Ancient Puranas, 1972, p 162, Dr M. R. Singh.
- Rig Veda 8.74
- Political History of Ancient India, p 58., H. C. Raychaudhury
- Ramayana 2.71.1.
- Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes, p 196.
- Ramayana II.67.7; II. 68.22.
- Ancient Geography of India, A. Cunningham, p 64.
- Ramayana II.68.19-22; VII.113.14.
- Vishnu Dharmotari, I.207.62-71
- Mahabharata 8.5.
- MBH VI.61.12
- VII.19.7, Madra-Kekayah
- Tatragataste dadrshuh suhrt-sambandhino nrpan
- Kamboja kaikayan madrn kuntin ānarta-keralan
- Anyamsh caivatma-paksiyan paramsh ca shatasho nrpa
- Nandadin suhrdo gopan gopish cotkanthitāś ciram
- (Bhagavata Purana 10.82.12-13)
- Trans: "The Yadavas saw that many of the kings who had arrived were old friends and relatives-- the Matsyas, Usinaras, Kosalas, Vidarbhas, Kurus, Srnjayas, Kambojas, Kaikayas, Madras, Kuntis and the kings of Ānarta and Kerala. They also saw many hundreds of other kings, both allies and adversaries. In addition, my dear King Parikshit, they saw their dear friends Nanda Maharaja and the cowherd men and women, who had been suffering in anxiety for so long".
- yadu-srnjaya-kamboja-kuru-kekaya-kosalah |:kampayanto bhuvam sainyair yayamana-purah-sarah ||(Bhagavata Purana 10.75.12).
- Bhagavata Purana 10.52
- See also:
- ye ca pralamba-khara-dardura-kesy-arishta-
- mallebha-kamsa-yavanah kapi-paundrakadyah
- anye ca shalya-kuja-balvala-dantavakra-
- ye va mridhe samiti-shalina atta-capah
- yasyanty adarshanam alam bala-partha-bhima-
- vyajahvayena harina nilayam tadiyam
- Trans: "All demonic personalities like Pralamba, Dhenuka, Baka, Kesi, Arishta, Canura, Mushika, Kuvalayapida elephant, Kamsa, Yavana, Narakasura and Paundraka, great marshals like Shalya, Dvivida monkey and Balvala, Dantavakra, the seven bulls, Śambara, Viduratha and Rukmi, as also great warriors like Kamboja, Matsya, Kuru, Srnjaya and Kekaya, would all fight vigorously, either with the Lord Hari directly or with Him under His names of Baladeva, Arjuna, Bhīma, etc. And these demons, thus being killed, would attain either the impersonal brahmajyoti or His personal abode in the Vaikunha planets" (Bhagavata Purana 2.7.34-35).
- Bhagavatam Purana 10.54.58.
- "Anu, the fourth son of Yayati, had three sons, named Sabhanara, Caksu and Paresnu. From Sabhanara came a son named Kalanara, and from Kalanara came a son named Srnjaya. From Srnjaya came a son named Janamejaya. From Janamejaya came Mahasala; from Mahasala, Mahamana; and from Mahamana two sons, named Usinara and Titiksu.The four sons of Usinara were Sibi, Vara, Krmi and Daksa, and from Sibi again came four sons, named Vrsadarbha, Sudhira, Madra and atma-tattva-vit Kekaya...." (Bhagavata Purana, 9.23.1-4). 
- Matsya Purana, 48.10-20; Vayu Purana, 99.12-23
- Political History of Ancient India, p 63, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury
- India as Known to Panini, p 54, Dr V. S. Aggarwala
- Indian Antiquary, 1891, p 375; Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 58, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury.
- KSee: avyamimamsa, Ed. Gaekwad's Oriental Series, I (1916) Ch. 17; Introduction., xxvi. Rajashekhara is dated c 880 AD - 920 AD.
- Ancient History of Deccan, pp 88, 101; Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 58, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury.
- Geographical Data in Ancient Puranas, 1972, Dr M. R. Singh
- Political History of Ancient India, 1996, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr B. N. Mukerjee
- India as Known to Panini, Dr V. S. Aggarwala
- Ancient Geography of India, A. Cunningham