Dasarajna: Battle of the Ten Kings

BY: SUN STAFF - 20.6 2018

King Porus' Army

On kingship and the Bharatas' sound defeat of the Puru armies.

"When his merits from past good actions have been exhausted, a pure man descends to earth from the heavenly realms and is born as a king. Such a person is indeed great because he is the representative of God upon the earth." 
(The Way of Kings)

Over the ages, many epic battles have been fought in Mother India, Kurukshetra being the most recent. During the Rigveda civilization, after the decline of the Harappas, there was a battle of massive proportions, known as the Battle of the Ten Kings (Dasarajna). This battle is memorialized in the 7th Mandala of the Rigveda, in hymns 18, 33 and 83.4-8). In modern history, it has been described as an "internecine war" of the Aryans, as opposed to the more frequent battles that took place between the Aryans and Dasyus.

In the Battle of Ten Kings, the Puru tribes created an alliance with other tribes from the Punjab and Persia. At the urging of the great sage Vishvamitra, this army came on to oppose the Trtsu (Bharata) King Sudas in battle. Undoubtedly by Krsna's mercy, however, the Bharatas soundly defeated the Puru armies. Their victory is glorified in the Rigveda (7.18), in a hymn of King Sudas' poet and Vasishtha.

Visvamitra is addressed as Maharishi by Brahma and other gods, who are alarmed by his austerities

The social dynamics leading up to the Battle of the Ten Kings included a great division amongst the Rigvedic tribes. On one side were the Srnjayas and Bharatas, and on the other side were the Yadus, Turvasas, Druhyus and Purus. In fact, all the people of Rigvedic India were said to have been involved.

The situation is described in 7.18.6: The Turvasas and Yaksus (Yadu), together with the Matsya tribe (punned upon by the rishi by comparing them to hungry fish (matsya) flocking together) 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" (aryasya sadhamah), Indra.

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)

Five tribes came to fight from west of the Indus: the Alinas (of modern Kafiristan), the Pakthas, the Bhalnases, the Sivas and the Vraisnins. The Anus, Druhyus, Turvasas, Yadus and Purus joined them. Various non-Aryans joined them, including the Ajas, Sigrus and Yaksus, and the amalgamated forces rode under the priestly authority of Risi Visvamitra.

On the other side were the ranks of Bharata's King Sudas, of the Tritsu family, who fought under the guidance of the sage Vasishta. The Tritsu homeland later became known as Brahmavarta, or the region between Sarasvati and Yamuna Rivers.

Further details are offered in Rig Veda on the battle participants:

Alinas: One of the tribes defeated by Sudas at the Dasarajna, and it was suggested that they lived to the north-east of Nuristan, because the land was mentioned by the Chinese pilgrim Hiouen Thsang.

Anu: Some place them in the Parusni (Ravi) area.

Bhrigus: Probably the priestly family descended from the ancient Kavi Bhrigu. Later, they are related to the composition of parts of the Atharva Veda (Bhrigu-Angirasa) .

Bhalanas: Fought against Sudas in the Dasarajna battle. Some scholars have argued that the Bhalanas lived in the Bolan Pass area.

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 Salva.

Parsu: The Parsu have been connected by some with the ancient Persians.

Purus: one of the major tribal confederations in the Rigveda.

Panis: also the name of a class of demons; later associated with the Scythians.

The battle took place on the banks of the Parusni (Ravi) River, with the Sudas warriors dressed in white cloth (shvityanca), wearing hair-knots on the right side of their heads (daksinataskaparda), having flying banners (krtadhvaj). Rigveda 7.18.5 indicates that the Sudas crossed the Parusni safely, but their pursing foes were scattered by a flood, then either drowned or were slaughtered by Sudas' men. Either way, the Bharatas completely routed their forces, and took reign over all the Rigvedic tribes.

In Mandala 3 of Rigveda, the Bharata tribe is described. The 'River Hymn' states that the entire Bharata tribe crossed the river. Mandala 7 describes their victorious actions in the battle, and in the later post-Vedic epic Mahabharata, the Emperor Bharata is heralded as the conqueror of all of India.

After the battle, Indra destroyed seven fortifications belonging to the enemy, giving all the treasures of Anu to King Sudas (i.e., 'giving tribute'). Mother India was heralded as the land of Bharata, and enjoyed a renewal of Vedic culture. Rigveda states that this was a victory against all odds, and compares it to a ram defeating a lion (RV 7.18.13-17).

SOURCES:

Geldner, Karl Friedrich, Der Rig-Veda, Harvard Oriental Studies, vols. 33, 34, 35 (1951) 
Griffith, Ralph T.H., Hymns of the Rig Veda (1896) 
Wikipedia