Indian epics have been depicted as ‘mythologies’ where as in reality they are part of our ‘history’. A story which can be backed by archaeological and physical evidences should come under the ambit of history. Like ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’ we can identify ancient cities mentioned in Mahabharata in states across the country even today. Here we bring to you such ancient places that have been in existence from the times of the great epic.

  1. Banganga: is the place where Pitamaha Bhishma was laid on a bed of arrows and Arjun shot an arrow, as requested by Pitamaha, such that the waters of Ganga directly quenched Pitamaha’s thirst.
  2. Kurukshetra: This is the site of the epic battle located 40 kms east of Ambala city. Brahma Sarovar (lake) lies here in which Shri Krishna is said to have bathed before the commencement of the war.
  3. Hastinapur: The capital city of the Kuru dynasty lies in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. During ancient times this city had a grandeur of its own. It has stood witness to several pleasant and unpleasant events that led to the Mahabharata war.
  4. Varnavat: Lying close to Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, this is the city where Pandavas along with their mother Kunti had been sent by Duryodhan and Shakuni on a pleasure trip. The actual aim of both Duryodhan and his uncle was to get rid of all six of them by burning them alive in the wax castle.
  5. Panchal Pradesh: The kingdom of Panchal was located on both sides of River Chamba between the Himalayas and Ganga. The place gets its name from the legend where the kind of Panchal said that his five sons (Panch) were enough to deal with the army of Ayodhya, when the latter had attacked the former. Princess Draupadi was also known as Panchali because she belonged to Panchal.
  6. Gandhar: is situated on the western bank of River Sindhu in present day Sindh Pradesh, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Dhritarashtra’s wife and Duryodhan’s mother Gandhari hailed from this kingdom. The treachery and vengeance seeking nature of her brother Shakuni, crown prince of Gandhar, was one of the reasons for the terrible war that almost led to the annihilation of Kuru dynasty.
  7. Takshashila: Renowned as a great centre of learning in later times. Takshashila was the capital of Gandhar during the Mahabharata era.
  8. Ujjanak: This was a city near Kashipur which is at present located in Nainital district of Himachal Pradesh. The city has the distinction of being the place where both Kauravas and Pandavas had been taught archery by Guru Dronacharya.
  9. Shivi Desh: Was a kingdom located on the northern border of India in present day South Punjab. The princess of this dynasty was married to Yudhistir and hence they fought on the side of Pandavas.
  10. Indraprastha: Designed by the celestial architect Vishwakarma, Indraprastha was built by Pandavas on what used to be a difficult terrain named Kandavprastha. The area south of present day Delhi is identified with the ancient city Indraprastha.
  11. Vrindavan: 10 kilometres from Mathura is the place where Shri Krishna performed his ‘leelas’ as a child. The temples of Banke Bihari and Radha Vallabh located here draw hoards of pilgrims every year.
  12. Gokul: The village where Shri Krishna and his brother Balaram spent their childhood lies on the banks of Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh.
  13. Barsana: This is the ancestral place of Radha, the divine love interest of Shri Krishna. Barsana is 21 kilometres away from Govardhan Mountain. The four hill tops of the Govardhan Parbat represent the four faces of Shri Brahma.
  14. Mathura: This is the birth place of Shri Krishna. When Kans, uncle of Shri Krishna, usurped the throne from his father King Ugrasen, he made his sister Devaki and brother in law Vasudev prisoners as well. It was in prison that Shri Krishna was born as the eighth child of the couple.
  15. Kashi, Uttar Pradesh: It is one of the most ancient living cities in the world and a very important centre of pilgrimage to Hindus. It was a renowned centre of learning and education. The princesses of Kashi, Ambika and Ambalika, were the mothers of Dhritarashtra and Pandu respectively.
  16. Ekchakranagari, Aarah, Bihar: This place served as a refuge to Pandavas and Kunti when they were in disguise after their escape from the Wax Palace at Varnavat. This place can be identified with Aarah in present day Bihar.
  17. Magadh, South Bihar: Present day Southern Bihar was known as Magadh during earlier times. This kingdom was ruled by Jarasandh, father in law of Kans. When Shri Krishna killed Kans, Jarasandh sought revenge for the same and kept attacking Mathura often. He was killed by Bhim in a duel.
  18. Pundru Desh, Bihar: Pundru Desh was a part of modern day Bihar ruled by King Paundrak. His inflated ego led him to challenge Shri Krishna to a fight in which he was killed.
  19. Pragjyotishpur, Guwahati, Assam: Situated close to Guwahati, Pragjyotishpur was the capital of the kingdom ruled by Narkasur. Narkasur is said to have kept 16000 girls captive who were freed by Shri Krishna after killing the former.

20: Manipur: The ancient city of Manipur was ruled by Chitravahan whose daughter Chitrangada was married to Arjun. Babruvahan, son of Chitrangada and Arjun, participated in the Rajasuya Yagna performed by the Pandavas.

  1. Sindu Desh: Sindhu Desh, ruled by Dhritarashtra’s son in law Jaydrath, is identified with the Sindh region that is now a part of Pakistan.
  2. Matsya Desh, North Rajasthan: The capital of this kingdom was Viraatnagari where the Pandavas and Draupadi spent the year of disguise (13th year) of their exile. Princess Uttara was married to Abhimanyu, Shri Krishna’s nephew and son of Arjun and Subhadra.
  3. Muchhkand Tirtha, Dhoulpur, Rajasthan: The hills here had a reputation of being perilous. Muchhkand dwelled in the caves here and his look would reduce one to ashes. When Shri Krishna was followed by Kaalyavan the former hid in the cave here. Kaalyavan mistook Muchhkand for Krishna and disturbed his sleep. As a result, Muchhkand burnt him to ashes.
  4. Patan, Mehsana, Gujarat: Patan in Mehsana district of Gujarat was a popular commercial city right from the Dwapar Yuga.
  5. Vardayini Dham, Rupalnagar: This place lies near Kalol in Gujarat and was known as Rupavati during those times. It was here that the Pandavas undertook a pooja to please Devi before going incognito. Since they were blessed by Bhagwati, the Devi was called Vardayini (one who grants boons) and the place was named Vardayini Dham.
  6. Avantika, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh: Ujjain was known as Avantika earlier. It is counted among the seven holy cities of Hindus. The ashram of Rishi Sandipani, Guru of Shri Krishna and Shri Balaram, was located here.
  7. Chedi, Madhya Pradesh: Chedi was ruled by Shri Krishna’s cousin Shishupal during the times of Mahabharata. Chedi lies between the rivers Ganga and Narmada.
  8. Vidarbha: Vidarbha was counted among one of the powerful kingdoms of those times. King Bhishmak was defeated by Sahadev when the former abducted the horse of the Pandavas.

29: Revatak: is a mountain lying close to Dwarka. It is alternatively known as Girnar. It is located near Junagadh.

30: Yayaatipur: About 78 kilometres from Cuttack lays Jajpur which can be identified Yayaatipur of ancient times. This is the place where Pandavas had offered oblations to their ancestors.        

  1. Kekaya Pradesh: On the northern border of Jammu and Kashmir was the kingdom of Kekaya. The dynasty was renowned for valorous warriors and fought on the side of Kauravas in Kurukshetra.
  2. Madra Desh: Ruled by Shalya, uncle of the twins Nakul and Sahadev and brother of Madri (second wife of Pandu), the kingdom of Madra lay on the northern side of the Himalayas.
  3. Anga Desh: The region which was gifted to Karna by Duryodhan lies in the Gonda district of Uttar Pradesh today. Malini Nagari, capital of this region, is said to be a Shakti Peeth where the right hand of Devi Sati fell after being dismembered by Shri Vishnu.
  4. Naimisharanya: Is an important place of pilgrimage located on the banks of River Gomati. It finds mention not just in the Mahabharata but in the Puranas also. It was here that the Mahabharata was recited by Rishi Ugrashravas to the gathering of Rishis.
  5. Kaushambi: What is Allahabad today was the capital of Vatsa Desh during those times. They had sided with the Kauravas.
  6. Kamakhya: is a renowned Shakti Peeth that is 10 kilometres away from Guwahati in Assam. It is not just popular but also among one of the most powerful Shakti Peeths.
  7. Dwarka: This place in coastal Gujarat was constructed by the celestial architect Vishwakarma on the instructions of Shri Krishna. To avoid unnecessary war Shri Krishna moved with the entire clan to Dwarka when Jarasandh kept attacking Mathura repeatedly after Kans was killed. Dwarka continues to be an important pilgrimage centre to this day.
  8. Prabhas: The region on the west coast of India in the state of Gujarat, within which Bet Dwarka lies, is identified as Prabhas Kshetra. This place stood witness to the end of Yaduvanshis after they fought and slayed each other. When Shri Krishna left for his heavenly abode the entire region was swallowed by the sea.
  9. Shonitpur: is an important place of pilgrimage which has a temple dedicated to Shri Narsimha, an avatar of Shri Vishnu. It is a few kilometres away from the modern city of Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh.
  10. Indrakil: is identified with one of the mountains on the Himalayan range. It is significant because during their exile Arjun performed penance here to obtain the Pashupatastra from Lord Shiva.

The country’s rich history needs to be celebrated by letting people know of these ancient cities that continue to stand witness to some of the greatest events in human history. Much can be taught and learnt about our Puranas, Shastras and Itihasas if we form a Mahabharata and Ramayana circuit and encourage people to visit these sites so as to relive history.


Latha Iyer

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