Kuru Kingdom

Kuru Kingdom

Kuru (Sanskrit: कुरु) was the name of an Indo-Aryan clan in Iron Age Vedic India, which started in the Early Vedic period and later evolved into a republican Mahajanapada state in the later Vedic period. The Kuru clan was located in the area of modern Haryana, Delhi and western parts of Uttar Pradesh (the region of Doab, till Prayag/Kaushambi) in North India. According to ancient texts, the territory of Kuru clan lay between the Rgvedic river Sarasvati and river Ganges and was split into two parts as Kuru-Jangala and Kuru Proper.

The main information about this period is gathered from the Rig Veda, which was composed at the time when the Aryans first settled in North Western India—a land which they called the SaptaSindhu (the land of seven rivers), whose eastern boundary was defined by the Ganges river, till its confluence with Yamuna (as mentioned in the Rig Veda). The Kuru clan, a branch of early Indo-Aryans, ruled the Ganga-Jamuna Doab and modern Haryana (earlier Eastern Punjab). However, till the Early Vedic period, the focus of the Vedic civilization was Punjab, while the Kuru land (Doab) was not even totally inhabited, and consisted mostly of dense forests.

For various reasons, the focus, in the later Vedic period, totally shifted out of Punjab, into the Doab, and thus to the Kuru clan. One reason could have been the drying up of Saraswati river, around whose banks the early Vedic Aryan civilization had flourished. Another reason was that there had been a continuous increase in the population during the later Vedic period due to the expansion of the economy based on agriculture. The increasing number and size of Painted Grey Ware (PGW) settlements in the Doab area shows this. With the passage of time, the Vedic people also acquired better knowledge of seasons, manuring and irrigation. All these developments resulted in the substantial enlargement of certain settlements such as Hastinapur and Kaushambi towards the end of the Later Vedic period. These settlements slowly began to acquire characteristics of towns. Such rudimentary towns inhabited mainly by the chiefs, princes, priests and artisans were supported by the peasants who could spare for them some part of their produce voluntarily or involuntarily. Originally, Aryavarta is the name given to the Kuru-land (Ganga-Yamuna Doab) by the Indo-Aryans, and although, later the boundaries of Aryavarta spread to other areas, the Doab remained the centre of the Vedic civilization, as well as the Hindu religion and culture.

The Kuru tribe was formed, in the Early Vedic period, as a result of the alliance and merger between the Bharata and Puru tribes. They formed the first political center of the Vedic period, with its capital initially at Hastinapur, and were the center of political power during roughly 1200 to 800 BCE. Towards the end of the Early Vedic period, the capital of the Kurus was transferred to Kaushambi, in the lower Doab, after Hastinapur was destroyed by floods as well as because of upheavals in the Kuru family itself.

Eventually, in the post Vedic period, the Kuru dynasty evolved into Kuru and Vats kingdoms, ruling over Upper Doab/Delhil/Haryana and lower Doab, respectively. The Vatsa branch of the Kuru dynasty further divided into Vats (Kaushambi) and Vats(Mathura) branches. The Kuru branch merged with the Panchals and formed the Kuru-Panchal dynasty. As per the Jataka Tales, the capital of the Kurus in that period was Indraprastha, near modern Delhi which extended "seven leagues".

Archaeologically, Kuru clan most likely correspond to the Black and Red Ware Culture (BRW) of the 12th to 9th centuries BC and chronologically to the Mantra language Vedic text epoch. At this time, iron first appears in western India (iron is absent in the Rgvedic hymns, and makes its first appearance as śyāma ayas in the Atharvaveda). It was during this era of Kuru clan that the codification and redaction of the Vedic texts began.

The Atharvaveda (XX.127) refers to certain Parikshita as the "Chief of the Kurus". His son Janamejaya figures in Satapatha Brahmana as well as in the Aitareya Brahmana. The Kurus in association with the Panchala tribes, known as the Kuru-Panchala, are frequently mentioned in the later Vedic literature. After the Early Iron Age, Panchala became the "urban" center of Vedic civilization. Archaeologically, the Painted Grey Ware (PGW) culture from ca. 900 BC corresponds, and the shift of the political centre from the Kurus to the Panchalas on the Ganges.

At Gautama Buddha's time, the Kuru country was ruled by a titular chieftain (king consul) named Korayvya. The Kurus of the Buddhist period did not occupy the same position as they did in the Vedic period but they continued to enjoy their ancient reputation for deep wisdom and sound health. The Kurus had matrimonial relations with the Yadavas, the Bhojas and the Panchalas. There is a Jataka reference to king Dhananjaya, introduced as a prince from the race of Yudhishtra. Though a well known monarchical people in the earlier period, the Kurus are known to have switched to a republican form of government during the sixth to fifth century BCE. In the fourth century BCE, Kautiliya's Arthashastra also attests the Kurus following the Rajashabdopajivin (king consul) constitution.

Additionally, according to Aitareya Brahmana, there was another clan called Northern Kurus in the north of Himalayas.

Read more about Kuru Kingdom:  Geography, Kurus of Buddha's Times, Kuru Dharma, Uttara Kuru

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