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This article is about the historical region of Vatsa. For The clan, claiming descent from legendary Bhargava sage Vatsa, see Srivatsa. For the village in Estonia, see Vatsa, Estonia.
The Vatsa Mahajanapada
(c. 600 BCE–c. 300 BCE)
Assaka (Asmaka)
Malla (Mallarashtra)
Machcha (Matsya)
Vatsa (Vamsa)

Vatsa (Pali:Vaṁsa, Ardhamagadhi: Vaccha) was one of the solasa (sixteen) Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms) of Uttarapatha of ancient India mentioned in the Anguttara Nikaya it was situated in the Gangatic plain with Kausambi as its capital, now known as Kosam a small town in Uttar Pradesh. There is an archeological site known as Kosam Ruins in this town which is believed to be the Kausambi of Ancient India. Vatsa's geographical location was near the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers. Its capital was Kauśāmbī[1][2] (present day Kosam, 35 miles southwest of Allahabad).

The early period[edit]

The Puranas state that the Vatsa kingdom was named after a Kaśī king, Vatsa.[3] The Ramayana and the Mahabharata attribute the credit of founding its capital Kauśāmbī to a Chedi prince Kuśa or Kuśāmba. The Puranas state that after the washing away of Hastinapura by the Ganges, the Bhārata king Nicakṣu, the great-great grandson of Janamejaya, abandoned the city and settled in Kauśāmbī. This is supported by the Svapnavāsavadattā and the Pratijñā-Yaugandharāyaṇa attributed to Bhāsa. Both of them have described the king Udayana as a scion of the Bhāratas family (Bhārata-kula). The Puranas provide a list of Nicakṣu’s successors which ends with king Kṣemaka.[4]: p.117–8

Śatānīka II, Parantapa[edit]

The first ruler of the Bhārata dynasty of Vatsa, about whom some definite information available is Śatānīka II, Parantapa. While the Puranas state his father’s name was Vasudāna, Bhāsa tells it was Sahasrānīka. Śatānīka II married a princess of Videha, who was the mother of Udayana. He also married Mṛgavatī, a daughter of the Licchavi chieftain Ceṭaka.[5] He attacked Campā, the capital of Aṅga during the rule of Dadhivāhana.[4]: p.119


Udayana, the son of Śatānīka II by the Videha princess succeeded him. Udayana, the romantic hero of the Svapnavāsavadattā, the Pratijñā-Yaugandharāyaṇa and many other legends was a contemporary of Buddha and of Pradyota, the king of Avanti.[4]: p.119 The Kathāsaritsāgara contains a long account of his conquests. The Priyadarśikā narrates the event of his victory over the ruler of Kaliṅga and restoration of Dṛḍhavarman to the throne of Aṅga. The commentary on the Dhammapada describes the story of his marriage with Vāsavadattā or Vāsuladattā, the daughter of Pradyota, the king of Avanti. It also mentions about his two other consorts, Māgandiyā, daughter of a Kuru Brahmin and Sāmāvatī, the adopted daughter of the treasurer Ghosaka. The Milindapañho refers to a peasant girl Gopāla-mātā who became his wife. The Svapnavāsavadattā of Bhāsa mentions about another queen named Padmāvatī, a sister of king Darśaka of Magadha. The Priyadarśikā tells us about the marriage of Udayana with Āraṇyakā, the daughter of Dṛḍhavarman, the king of Aṅga. The Ratnāvalī narrates a story of romance between him and Sāgarikā, an attendant of his chief queen, Vāsavadattā. The name of his son by his chief queen is Bodhi.[4]: pp.179–80

The Buddha visited Koushambi several times during the reign of Udayana on his effort to spread the dharma, the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths. Udayana was an Upasaka (lay follower) of Buddha. The Chinese translation of the Buddhist canonical text Ekottara Āgama states that the first image of Buddha, curved out of sandalwood was made under the instruction of Udayana.

Later developments[edit]

According to the Puranas, the 4 successors of Udayana were Vahināra, DanḍapāṇI, Niramitra and Kṣemaka. Later, the Vatsa kingdom was annexed by the Avanti kingdom. Maniprabha, the great-grandson of Pradyota ruled at Kauśāmbī as a prince of Avanti.[4]: pp.180, 180n, facing 565

References in Mahabharata[edit]

Brief mentions of this kingdom is available in the epic Mahabharata. But in his famous play titled Swapna Vasavadatta, the Classical Sanskrit playwright Bhasa speaks elaborately of a Vatsa king named Udayana and his love object, Princess Vasavadatta.

List of Kings present in Panchali's self-choice event[edit]

In Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 188, Dhristadyumna describes each of the kings assembled in a letter from Dhristadyumna to his sister Panchali: "........the mighty charioteer Srutayu, Uluka, Kaitava, Chitrangada and Suvangada, the highly intelligent Vatsaraja (King of Vatsa Kingdom), the king of Kosala, Shishupala and the powerful Jarasandha, these and many other great kings—all Kshatriyas celebrated throughout the world—have come, O blessed one, for thee."

Bhima's Military Campaign for Rajasuya[edit]

Book 2, Chapter 29 mentions the mighty son of Kunti, Bhima, then subjugated, by sheer force, the country called Vatsa Bhumi (Vatsa Kingdom), and the king of the Bhargas, as also the ruler of the Nishadas and Manimat and numerous other kings.

Travels of Amba, the Princes of Kasi[edit]

Book 5, Chapter 189 states "She then went unto Vatsa Bhumi resorted to by the Siddhas and Charanas, and which was the retreat of high-souled ascetics of pious deeds. Bathing frequently in the sacred waters of that retreat, the princess of Kasi roamed about according to her will."

Kurukshetra War, Day 2[edit]

Book 6, Chapter 50 states "Dhristadyumna, the Commander-In-Chief of Pandava Army, forms the military formation called Krauncharuma (bird-shaped array)."

Yudhishthira, with the Patachcharas, the Hunas, the Pauravakas and the Nishadas, became its two wings, so also the Pisachas, with the Kundavishas, and the Mandakas, the Ladakas, the Tanganas, and the Uddras, O Bharata, and the Saravas, the Tumbhumas, the Vatsas and the Nakulas.

Karna's Military Campaign[edit]

In Book 8, Chapter 8 Dridharashtra reflects upon Karna, saying "Karna had subjugated many invincible and mighty foes—the Gandharas, the Madrakas, the Matsyas, the Trigartas, the Tanganas, the Khasas, the Pancalas, the Videhas, the Kulindas, the Kasi-kosalas, the Suhmas, the Angas, the Nishadhas, the Pundras, the Kichakas, the Vatsas, the Kalingas, the Taralas, the Asmakas, and the Rishikas."

Rivalry with Bhargava Brahmanas[edit]

Book 12, Chapter 49 states: "Bhargava Rama annihilated the Kshatriya kings. The Kshatriya mothers raised their children in secracy. One among them was a Vatsa King.

"Pratardana’s son, named Vatsa of great might, has been brought up among calves in a cowpen."

The Vatsa Vow[edit]

The descendents of Vatsa were famous for keeping their words to people. To ensure their promises were fulfilled, the famous Vatsa Adarsh II started the idea of the famous Vatsa Vow in Pali language. The vow was given as an oath to the person it was made to by the swearing of the familial names. The vow could pledge anything ranging from political to monetary and emotional to protectional support to the one it was given. Powerful indeed, the culture lost its followers slowly with the decline of the Vatsa Mahajanapada. The first ever recorded oath was from a rich landlord Aditya III to his subjects. The English translation of the oath is mentioned here.

" I Aditya the third of the ancient Aryans, personally known as Vatsa the two hundred and sixth pledge to protect my subject till death until and unless it affects my family and clans."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Geographical Review of India. Original from the University of Michigan: Geographical Society of India. 1951. p. 27. 
  2. ^ Hermann Kulke, Dietmar Rothermund (2004). A History of India. Routledge. p. 52. ISBN 0-415-32920-5. 
  3. ^ Pargiter, F.E. (1972) Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Chaunan, Delhi, pp.269-70
  4. ^ a b c d e Raychaudhuri, Hemchandra (1972). Political History of Ancient India. Calcutta, India: University of Calcutta. 
  5. ^ Mahajan V.D. (1960, reprint 2007). Ancient India, S.Chand & Company, New Delhi, ISBN 81-219-0887-6, pp.171-2

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