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Usinaras (Devanagari:उसीनर) were an ancient people attested to have been living in central Punjab since remote antiquity. They were often associated with Madras, Kekayas, Sibis etc. and their territory formed part of Vahika country according to evidence of Pāṇini.

Usinaras in Vedic literature[edit]

There is a reference to princess Usinarini (i.e. queen of Usinara) in the Rigveda[1] Aitareya Brahmana seems to locate Usinaras along with the Kurus, Panchalas and the Vasas (Savasa) in middle region or Madhyadesha (Mid India).[2] Kaushitakai Upanishada colllocates the Usinaras with the Satvat-Matsyas, the Kuru-Panchalas and the Svasas.[3] They probably lived in a territory to the north of Madhyadesa, as neighbors to the Udichyas or the northerners. This is why the Gopatha Brahamana collocates the Usinaras and Svasas with the Udichyas or northerners.[4]

Divyavadana refers to the Svasas as people of Uttarapatha with headquarters at Takshasila to which king Ashoka was deputed by his father Bindusara as a Viceroy to quell their rebellion. The ancient Savasa or Svasa is said to be modern Chhibba which comprises Punch, Rajauri and Bhimbara.

Thus, the Usinaras, the very neighbors of the Svasas must also be located in Punjab proper.

Mahabharata references[edit]

There are many references to Usinaras in the epic Mahabharata. At several places, it refers to king Usinara and his son prince Sibi or Sivi whose charity has been enormously glorified by sage Markandeya.[5]

Usinara prince in Draupadis’ Sywayamvara[edit]

Adi Parava of Mahabharata says that prince Sivi, son of Usinara had attended Draupadi's self-choice (Swayamvara; "groom-choosing") ceremony along with the kings of neighbouring kingdoms viz Shalya, the king of Madra Kingdom, with his son, the heroic Rukmangada, Rukmaratha, Somadatta (king of Bahlika Kingdom) of the Kuru race with his three sons - Bhuri, Bhurisrava, and Sala and Sudakshina Kamboja the arch-bowman of the Puru race[6] See Ganguli's Trans: [1].

Usinaras in Kurukshetra war[edit]

The Usinaras had joined the Kurukshetra war on the side of Kauravas. Karna Parava refers to the Kekayas, the Malavas, the Madrakas, the Dravidas of fierce prowess, the Yaudheyas, the Lalittyas, the Kshudrakas, the Usinaras, the Tundikeras, the Savitriputras etc. who had supported Karna on 17th day of the war, as all having been slain by Arjuna.[7]

Usinaras as degraded Kshatriyas[edit]

Anusasana Parva of Mahabharata states that the tribes of the Sakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Dravidas, Kalingas, Pulindas, Usinarass, Kolisarpas, Mahishakas and others were originally noble Kshatriyas but became Vrishalas (degraded Kshatriyas) due to their lose of contact with the Brahmanas.[8]

Further epic references[edit]

According to Mahabharatra, Sibi was son of the king of Usinara country near Gandhara. The charity and devotion of prince Sibi have been greatly extolled by the sage Markandeya in the epic.

Mahabharata also speaks of Usinara princes as sacrificing on two small streams near Jamna[9] There was also one king Usinara i.e. king of Usinara country, contemporary of king Janaka of Videha. Garagya Balaki, a contemporary of Janaka lived for some time in Usinara country.

Mahabharata (and Katha sarit-sagara) refer to Usinaragiri which is located near Kankhala at the point where Ganges issues from the hills.[10] It is said to be identical with Usiragiri of Divayavadana and Usira-dhvaja of Vanaya texts.[11]

There is also an epic reference Suyajna, the king of the Usinaras.

Bhagavata Purana and the Usinaras[edit]

Bhagavata Purana attests that the prince of Usinara along with princes from Matsya, Kosala, Vidharbha, Kuru, Srnjaya, Kamboja, Kekaya, Madra, Kunti, Anarta, Kerala was present at Samanta-pancaka in Kurukshetra at the occasion of the solar eclipse.[12] [2]

Bhagavata Purana also states that the Usinaras, the Sibi, the Madras, and the Kekayas were the direct descendants of Yayati's son Anu. Sibi or Sivi is stated to be son of Usinara.[13] [3]

Consequently, in the literature, the Usinaras are often associated with the Shivis or Sibis (Sibois of the Greek writings) whose chief town Sibipura has been identified with Shorkot, in Jhang district in Pakistan.

Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi[edit]

Pāṇini refers to the Usinaras in several sutras of his Ashtadhyayi[14] and mentions their land as a part of the Vahika country.[15] Though not stated specifically by Pāṇini, in all probability, the Usinaras were under a Sangha government.[16]

Usinara in Buddhist literature[edit]

There is a Buddhist reference to one Usinara, said to be king of Benares who lived in the time of Kassapa Buddha. His story is related in the Maha-Kanha Jataka.[17] He is mentioned in a list of kings who, although they gave great gifts, could not get beyond the domain of sense.[18] It is however, not clear if this Usinara was from the Usinara clan or else it was his personal name only.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 10.69.10
  2. ^ Aitareya Brahmana VIII.14.
  3. ^ The Upanishads, Part I (SBE01): Kaushîtaki-Upanishad: 4.1.
  4. ^ i.e Savasas-Usinareshu-Udichyeshu, Gopatha Brahmana II. 9
  5. ^ Mahabharata 12.29.39; 1.93; 3.197 etc.
  6. ^ Mahabharata 1.185-13-15
  7. ^ Mahabharata 8.5.
  8. ^ Mahabharata 13.33.20-21 & Mahabharata 13.35.17-18.
  9. ^ Mahabharata 3.130.21
  10. ^ Mahabharata 5.111.16-23; Katha sarit-sagara, (Ed) Durgaprasad and Kasinath Pandurang Parab, 3rd Edition, p 5. Kankhala is located near Hardwar in Saharanpur District in Uttar Prsdesh.
  11. ^ Political History of Ancient India, 1006, p 60, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury.
  12. ^
    Tatragataste dadrśuh suhrt-sambandhino nrpān
    Kamboja kaikayān madrān kuntīn ānarta-keralān
    Anyāmś caivātma-paksīyān parāmś ca śataśo nrpa
    Nandādīn suhrdo gopān gopīś cotkanthitāś ciram
    (Bhagavata Purana 10.82.12-13)
    The Yadavas saw that many of the kings who had arrived were old friends and relatives-- the Matsyas, Uśīnaras, 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 Parīkṣit, they saw their dear friends Nanda Mahārāja and the cowherd men and women, who had been suffering in anxiety for so long.
  13. ^ "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).
  14. ^ II.4.20; IV.2.118
  15. ^ cf: Kashika on Sutra IV.2.118: Usinareshu ye Vahikagramah.
  16. ^ India as Known to Paqnini, p 453, Dr V. S. Aggarwala.
  17. ^ Jataka.iv.181ff
  18. ^ Jataka.VI.99.