The Mahajanapadas of Jambudvipa, Part 7

BY: SUN STAFF - 15.5 2017

Sage Vyasa narrates the story of Harishchandra to King Janamejaya 
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka
British Museum Collection

A serial exploration of the island of Jambudvipa and the sixteen Great States residing there.

The Chedi Kingdom

The Chedis (Chetis or Chetyas) had two distinct settlements in ancient India. One was in the mountains of Nepal and the other in Bundelkhand, near Kausambi, a great seat of Vaisnavism. The Kingdom of Chedi lay near the Yamuna, midway between the kingdoms of the Kurus and the Vatsas. In the mediaeval period, the southern frontiers of Chedi extended to the banks of the Narmada River.

Sotthivatnagara, the Sukti or Suktimati (Sagar, Madhya Pradesh) mentioned in Mahabharata, was the capital of Chedi.

The Chedi kingdom was one of many kingdoms ruled during early periods by the Paurava kings, and later by the Yaduvanshi Rajput kings in central and western India. Their kingdom falls roughly in the Bundelkhand division of Madhya Pradesh region, to the south of River Yamuna and along the Betwa or Vetravati River.

The Chedis are also mentioned in the Rigveda. One branch of the Chedis founded a royal dynasty in the kingdom of Kalinga, according to the Hathigumpha inscription a Kharvela.

Chedi Kingdom was ruled by Sisupala, an ally of Jarasandha of Magadha and Duryodhana of Kuru. Sisupala was a rival of Vasudeva Krishna, who was his uncle's son. He was killed by Krishna during the Rajasuya sacrifice of the Pandava king Yudhisthira. Bhima's wife was from Chedi. Other prominent Chedis during the Kurukshetra War included Damaghosha, Dhrishtaketu, Suketu, Sarabha, Bhima's wife, Nakula's wife Karenumati, Dhristaketu's sons, King Uparichara Vasu and his children, King Suvahu and King Sahaja.

King Uparichara Vasu belonged to the Puru Dynasty. He was known to be the friend of Lord Indra. During his reign, Chedi kingdom contained much mineral wealth and had abundant agricultural wealth. The king possessed a very special chariot. The king introduced a festival in his kingdom in the honor of Indra, which involved planting a bamboo pole every year in Indra's honor. The king then prayed for the expansion of his kingdom. After erecting the pole, people decked it with golden cloth, scents, garlands and various ornaments.

From Chedi, he ruled a large territory, placing his sons as governors of various provinces. His son Vrihadratha (Maharatha) was installed in Magadha. His other sons, viz Pratyagraha, Kusamva (Manivahana), Mavella and Yadu also became governors at various places. Thus the Chedi king attained the status of an emperor and his kingdom became vast. He diverted the waters of River Suktimati from the locks of the Mountain Kolahala, for irrigating his capital-city, which he named Suktimati.

The Pandavas spent some of their exile at Chedi. Nakula later married Karenumati, the daughter of the Chedi King, who bore him a son, Niramitra.

King Uparichara Vasu's wife, Girika, was from the valley of Kolahala. Her brother was installed as Vasu's general. Apart from his five royal sons, he had a son and a daughter born of a woman from the fisherman community. This male child in due course established the Matsya Kingdom and founded the royal Matsya Dynasty. The female child lived as a member of the fishermen community and her line established fishermen on the banks of the Yamuna, in the Kuru Kingdom. The famous Kuru king Santanu's wife Satyavati was from this fishermen community.

The Chedis are mentioned repeatedly through Mahabharata, and took a key role in the battle at Kurukshetra.

Krishna visits Harishchandra 
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka
British Museum Collection


In the painting above, Harishchandra is seen discussing his situation with Sri Krsna. Having given his word to Vishvamitra that he would repay his debts (accrued as the result of a dream in which he gave away his kingdom), the king is depicted here in the council chamber with his wife and son. The person standing behind Krishna is no doubt Vishvamitra's envoy.


Sources: Mahabharata, Wiki, British Museum