Pragjyotisha was an old mythological kingdom linked to the historical Kamarupa that falls under present day state of Assam and North east.
The first mentions of this kingdom are found in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, in the sections not written much earlier than the first century. There is a mention of this kingdom in the Kishkindha Kanda of the Ramayana, where the kingdom is placed in the west near Mount Varaha and on the sea. In Aswamedha-parva (or the book of Horse Sacrifice) of the Mahabharata, Arjuna faced Vajradatta of Pragjyotisha. Vajradatta was the son and successor of the king Bhagadatta, third in line to the throne of the Naraka dynasty of the Pragjyotisha Kingdom.
The ancient kingdom Pragjyotisha was preceded by Danava dynasty and was a contemporary of Bana dynasty of Sonitpur (central Assam). This is indiscriminately mentioned in the Hindu Epics and ancient Hindu literature.
According to the epics, King Bhagadatta ruled the kingdom during the time of the Kurukshetra War, where he met his death. Much details of the kingdom were picked from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Kalika Purana and the later Yogini Tantra among others. The Yogini Tantra is a 16th- or 17th-century tantric text by an unknown author of Assam and it was dedicated to the worship of Hindu goddesses Kali and Kamakhya.
There are various references of Pragjyotisha kingdom in the Mahabharata such as:
- Arjuna defeats Bhagadatta, the king of Pragjyotisha, during his military campaign to collect tribute for Pandava king Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya yagya, or one could say the sacrifice.
- An encounter took place between Bhagadatta and Arjuna for days together, each desirous of a victory over the other. Bhagadatta, regarded Indra as his friend, and therefore, sooner than later he befriended Arjuna.
- King Bhagadatta of Pragjyotisha kingdom accompanied by all Mlechchha tribes inhabiting the marshy regions on the sea-shore; and many mountain kings came to attend Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya sacrifice. Mlechchhas, were people of foreign extraction in ancient India. The Sanskrit term, mlechchhawas used by the Vedic people.
- The great warrior king Bhagadatta, the brave ruler of Pragjyotisha and the mighty sovereign of the mlechchhas, at the head of a large number of Yavanas came to the Rajasuya Yagya sacrifice.
- Bhagadatta was one of the distinguished Chariot warrior (Maharathi) in the Kaurava army that fought the Kurukshetra War.
- The ruler of Pragjyotisha, the brave king Bhagadatta was the foremost of those maharathis, who could control an elephant with an elephant hook. He was skilled in fighting from the neck of a war-elephant and was also skilled in fighting from a chariot car.
- Bhagadatta, the king of Pragjyotisha, fought in Kurukshetra War as a general under the Kaurava generallisimo Bhishma. He also fought under Dronacharya another Kaurava generalissimo. He was killed by Arjun.
- After the Kurukshetra War, Arjuna fought a war with Bhagadatta’s son Vajradatta, at Pragjyotisha, to collect the tribute for Yudhishthira’s Ashwamedha yagya.
- By destroying the demons such as Mauravas and the Pashas, and after slaying Nisunda and Naraka, Vasudeva Krishna had again rendered safe the road to Pragjyotisha.
- The Asuras had a city named Pragjyotisha, which was formidable, inaccessible and impregnable. It was there that the mighty Naraka, the son of the Earth (Bhumi), kept the jewelled ear-rings of Aditi, (mother of many Gods) having brought them by force. Aditi’s sons (the Devas) were unable to recover them. Beholding Krishna’s prowess and might, and the weapon that was irresistible they requested him for the destruction of those Asuras. Krishna agreed to undertake the exceedingly difficult task. In the city of Nirmochana Krishna slew six thousand Asuras, and cut them into innumerable pieces with his weapon. He killed Mura and hosts of other Rakshasas, and then entered that city called Pragjyotisha. It was here, that an encounter took place between the mighty’ Narakasur and Krishna. Slain by Krishna, Naraka finally lay lifeless there. Having slain the Earth’s son (Bhumi-putra or Bhauma), Naraka and also the demon Mura, and having recovered those jewelled ear-rings, Krishna returned with undying fame. Krishna obtained the title of Murari because he killed the demon Mura.
- When Krishna went to Pragjyotisha, Naraka with all the Danavas did not succeed in capturing him there.
- Vasudeva Krishna mentions that when he and his army was at Pragjyotisha, fighting there, Chedi king Shishupala, Krishna’s cousin and enemy, came and burnt Dwaraka, the capital of Yadavas. Vasudeva Krishna belonged to Dwarka.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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