When asked about the ancient classics of India, most would quickly reply with The Ramayana and The Mahabharata. Although this answer is correct, there is an even more ancient story that has been forgotten. That ancient story is called the Dasharajnya or ‘Battle of ten Kings’.
This battle is memorialized in the 7th Mandala of the Rigveda, in hymns 18, 33 and 83.4-8). In this Battle of Ten Kings all the people of the Rigvedic India were involved. It took place near the Parusni River (Ravi River) in Punjab. The place where they fought later became the site of the city of Harappa, possibly the first modern urban center in history.
This Battle is also Important as it heralded the spread of Vedic beliefs to other parts of the world, for the simple reason the kings and their subjects were forced to pay tributes and had to migrate outwards towards the present lands now called as Iran, Iraq, Egypt etc… An Aryan migration, out of India could be seen here.
In the battle some of the powerful Puru tribes created an alliance with other tribes from the India and Persia. Guided by the royal sage Vishvamitra, this army came on to oppose the Bharata King Sudas (Note: King Sudas was also descendant of Puru Dynasty) in battle. But, Sudas defeated them all, and captured all the Rigvedic tribes.
King Sudas was the grandson of the powerful king Divodas Atithigva and son of King Pijavana. Divodas had his empire in the regions of Punjab and earned fame as a warrior by waging a long war with the powerful non-Arya King Sambara whom he ultimately defeated and killed.
Sudas’s capital city was on the Sarasvati River. He inherited the kingdom from his grandfather and greatly expanded it. He was also supported by the spiritual mentorship of his guru, the legendary sage Vasishta. In the process, he alienated all the neighboring kingdoms surrounding him. After years of subjugation, a group of roughly a dozen or ‘ten’ (dasha) kings and chieftans (‘raja; rajnya’) formed a confederacy to combine their strength and defeat King Sudas once and for all.
The list of confederate kings involved in this war is actually slightly over ten, but was referred to roughly as ‘dasha’ (ten) in the Rig Veda. It may be that they belonged to ten tribes in all. Some of the Tribes mentioned in Rigveda are:
- Alinas: 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: The priestly family descended from the ancient Kavi Bhrigu. Later, they are related to the composition of parts of the Atharva Veda (Bhṛgv-Āṅgirasa).
- Bhalanas: Some scholars have argued that the Bhalanas lived in the Bolan Pass area.
- Druhyus: Some align them with the Gandhari. (Later age Druids of Europe)
- Matsya: are only mentioned in the Rigveda (7.18.6), but later in connection with the Salva Kingdom.
- Parsu: The Parśu 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.
These kings, though some are described as Aryans, were actually fallen Aryans, or rebellious and materialistic kings who had given up the spiritual path and were conquered by King Sudas. Occasionally, there was a degeneration of the spiritual kingdom in areas of India, and wars had to be fought in order to reestablish the spiritual Aryan culture in these areas.
The war was started on the banks of the Parusni (Ravi) river and it span for many years between Puru and Bharata. According to Rig veda, Sudas and his army was forced to retreat but managed to cross the Parusni river safely, while his foes, trying to pursue, were scattered by a flood and either drowned or were slaughtered by Sudas’s men. Later on, he had to fight Aja, Shigru and Yakshas on the Yamuna river and he defeated them too.
Sudas was able to defeat the entire confederacy of ten+ Kings and emerge as victorious. All enemies of Sudas were defeated, thousands were killed.
There are diffferent account as to when this battle actually took place due to different hypothesis from different scholars. Some date it back to near 3000-4000 BCE while other consider it to be dated around the 2350 BCE.
The Battle of Ten Kings or the dasharajanya war is the Worlds first recorded Battle. Not just that, it was no mere neolithic stick and stone fight. It was the first organized war with infantry, archers and elephants.
After the Battle of Ten Kings, many inhabitants of India got scared and out of fear migrated westwards into Iran and beyond.(RV-VII:18,19,33,83). Western scholars easily misinterpreted this battle to mean an invasion of nomadic people called Aryans rather than simply a war in which the superior Aryan kings re-established the spiritual values and the Vedic Aryan way of life.
It is important to note that the Sanskrit word ‘Arya’ (English: ‘Aryan’) has no racial connotation in the Vedas and is a term originally used to identify the members of the Puru-Bharata Dynasty. The Vedic Aryans were not the ultimate ancestors of the different tribes and peoples found in the Sanskrit texts. They have a definite historical identity: the Vedic Aryans were the Purus of the ancient texts.
The Purus were a confederation of tribes located at the banks of the Sarasvati River. According to the Puranas (ancient Hindu texts), the Bharatas are descendant of the Purus. “Bhārata”– the official name of the Republic of India — is actually named after a descendant of the Puru dynasty King Bharata and King Sudas was the descendant of Emperor Bharata. This Puru-Bharata dynasty provided the continuity of leadership for thousands of years which is documented in the ancient scriptures, particularly the Rigveda.
The Bharata ruler later allied and merged with the Purus Tribe, to form the Kuru Dynasty. It was King Sudas, whose later descendants fought the great Mahabharata war.
After 15 generations of Kuru Dunasty, Kauravas and Pandavas were born who fought the epic battle of Mahabharata.
According to historian, King Porus who fought Alexander in the Battle of the Hydaspes River, was descendant of the Purus and Pandava of Mahabharat. The modern Punjabi surname Puri may have originated with the Puru tribe.