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Mahishmati was an ancient Indian city mentioned in several texts including Mahabharata and Digha Nikaya. It was the most important city in the southern part of the Avanti kingdom, and later served as the capital of the Anupa Kingdom. It was located in present-day Madhya Pradesh, on the banks of Narmada River, although its exact location is uncertain.


Possible locations of Mahishmati

Although there are several references to Mahishmati in ancient Indian literature, its exact location is uncertain. The following things are known about Mahishmati's location:

  • It was located on the banks of the Narmada river.[1]
  • It was located in the Avanti kingdom. The Buddhist text Digha Nikaya mentions Mahishmati as the capital of Avanti, while Anguttara Nikaya states that Ujjaini was Avanti's capital.[2]
  • Avanti was divided into two parts by the Vindhyas. While Ujjain was the main city of the northern part, Mahishmati was the centre of the southern part.[3] When the southern part became a separate kingdom (Anupa), Mahishmati became its capital.[4]

Several cities in Madhya Pradesh, located along the Narmada river, are claimed to be the ancient Mahishmati. These include:

HD Sankalia,[5] PN Bose[6] and Francis Wilford,[6] among others, identify Mahishmati with present-day Maheshwar.
Writers such as Alexander Cunningham,[7] John Faithfull Fleet[8] and Girija Shankar Agrawal[9] identify Mandla as the location of ancient Mahishmati.
F. E. Pargiter,[10] and G. C. Mendis,[11] among others, identify Mahishmati with the Mandhata island (Omkareshwar).

Mention in Mahabharata[edit]

In the epic Mahabharata, it is mentioned as the capital of the kingdom named Heheya. Kartavirya Arjuna, a Yadava king, was the foremost ruler of Mahismati and Haiheya (Mbh 13:52). He was killed by Bhargava Rama.[12] The epic Ramayana mentions about the attack of Rakshasa king Ravana on Mahishmati.[6]

Pandava general Sahadeva attacked Mahishmati, when King Nila was its ruler (2:30). King Nila of Mahishmati is mentioned as a leader in the Kurukshetra War, rated by Bhishma as a Rathi. His coat of mail had blue colour (Mbh 5:19,167). It was a major trade centre in Mauryan and post Mauryan period. Mahishmati was terminus of Dakshinapath trade route which was extended to Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh.

Historical mentions[edit]

During the 6th and 7th centuries, Mahishmati may have served as the capital of the Kalachuri Kingdom.[13] The Kalachuris were the builders of the famous cave temples on Elephanta Island in Mumbai harbor and also of several caves at the well-known site of Ellora, including the famous Rameshwara cave (Cave 21). Both Elephanta and Ellora are World Heritage Sites. Adi Shankaracharya is said to have defeated Mandana Mishra in a debate at Mahishmati. Mandana Mishra became disciple of Adi Shankaracharya after the defeat.

Popular culture[edit]

The story of 2015 film Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali: The Conclusion is set in a fictional kingdom that shares the same name as the ancient Mahishmati kingdom.[14]


  1. ^ James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 410. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8. 
  2. ^ Manika Chakrabarti (1981). Mālwa in Post-Maurya Period: A Critical Study with Special Emphasis on Numismatic Evidences. Punthi Pustak. 
  3. ^ Harihar Panda (2007). Professor H.C. Raychaudhuri, as a Historian. Northern Book Centre. p. 23. ISBN 978-81-7211-210-3. 
  4. ^ V. S. Krishnan; P. N. Shrivastav; Rajendra Verma (1994). Madhya Pradesh District Gazetteers: Shajapur. Government Central Press, Madhya Pradesh. p. 12. 
  5. ^ Hasmukhlal Dhirajlal Sankalia (1977). Aspects of Indian History and Archaeology. B. R. p. 218. 
  6. ^ a b c PN Bose (1882). Note on Mahishmati. Proceedings of the Indian History Congress (Calcutta, India: Asiatic Society). p. 129. 
  7. ^ Madhya Pradesh District Gazetteers: Rajgarh. Government Central Press, Mahishmati. 1996. p. 175. 
  8. ^ Fleet, J. F. (2011). "XII. Mahishamandala and Mahishmati". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland 42 (02): 425–447. doi:10.1017/S0035869X00039605. ISSN 0035-869X. 
  9. ^ Hartosh Singh Bal (19 December 2013). Water Close Over Us. HarperCollins India. p. 69. ISBN 978-93-5029-706-3. 
  10. ^ The Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society (Bangalore). 1911. p. 65. 
  11. ^ G.C. Mendis (1 December 1996). The Early History of Ceylon and Its Relations with India and Other Foreign Countries. Asian Educational Services. p. 31. ISBN 978-81-206-0209-0. 
  12. ^ Subodh Kapoor (2002). Encyclopaedia of Ancient Indian Geography, Volume 2. Genesis Publishing Pvt Ltd. p. 435. ISBN 9788177552997. 
  13. ^ "Kalachuris of Mahismati". CoinIndia. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  14. ^ "Baahubali is set in Mahishmathi kingdom". 

External links[edit]