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Historical Geography of Madhya Pradesh from Early Records

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Item Code: NAU271
Author: P.K. Bhattacharyya
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd
Language: ENGLISH
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788120833944
Pages: 337
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 510 gm
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About The Book

"The name 'Madhya Pradesh' is a translation of the earlier 'Central Provinces' of the Indo-British adminis-tration although there is a great difference between the areas of the two. Madhya Pradesh was divided among a large number of territories throughout the ages. Thus it is difficult to do full justice to its history and geography, and Dr. P.K. Bhattacharyya's Historical Geography of Madhya Pradesh, FromEarly Recordsis therefore a welcome contribution on the subject." D.C. SIRCAR in his Foreword. Historical Geography of Madhya Pradesh presents some complicated problems which require a systematic study. Sri Bhattacharyya has not only utilised geographical materials contained in the epics, the Puranas and Buddhist and Jaina literature but has also judiciously used inscriptional evidences and the accounts left by travellers. He has further supplemented his information by coordinating with the present day topography of the land. Divided into seven chapters, in a systematic manner—the Historical Background, The Central Provinces and Madhya Pradesh, The Mountain System, The River System, Territories and Districts, Capitals, Cities and Towns, Villages and Routes—the work gives a clear picture of the early historical geography of Madhya Pradesh. Copious documentation of references to primary and modern sources, bibliography, index and maps enhance the value of the book.


The name 'Madhya Pradesh' is a translation of the earlier `Central Provinces' of the Indo-British administration although there is a great difference between the areas of the two. Madhya Pradesh is now the biggest Indian State and was divided among a large number of territories throughout the ages. Thus it is difficult to do full justice to its history and geography, and Dr. P. K. Bhattacharyya's Historical Geography of Madhya Pradesh from Early Records is therefore a welcome contribution on the subject.

While going through Dr. Bhattacharyya's work, the location of Kuga's capital in the Raipur-Bilaspur-Sambalpur region brings to our mind a problem relating to the geography of the Rcimciyana with particular reference to Madhya Pradesh. It is well known that most versions of the Rcimciyana (VII. 108. 5) and Kalidasa's Raghuvattda (XV. 97) as well as Puranas like the Vayu (89. 199-200) speak of the division of the Kosala Kingdom between Lava and Kuga, the two sons of Rama, Lava getting the northern part of Kosala with Sravasti as his capital and Kuga being placed in Kosala with its head-quarters at Kugavati or Kugasthali. The Raghuvarida locates Kuga's capital in the south, whence one had to cross the Vindhyas in reaching Ayodhya. in Uttara-Kosala ( cf. XVI. 31 ff.; also VI. 71). The TTdyu Purciena mentions Kuga's capital as situated on the Vindhyan hills.

Thus Bk. VII of the Rcimciyana, which was interpolated, by the second century A. D., in Valmiki's poem ( the major parts of Bks. II-VI) composed about the 3rd century B. C., recognises the existence of a territory that came to be known later as Kosala in the south. We know that Valmiki speaks of a vast forest between the Yamund and the Indian Ocean with only the aboriginal kingdom of Kiskindha in it, but that the interpolated sections mention certain territories of the Deccan and the far south, e. g., Kalinga, Andhra, Cola, Parplya, Kerala, etc. However, it was probably difficult for Valmiki to avoid altogether the territories known in his age even though his story was set up against an ancient background. The name of Kausalya, mother of Rama and wife of the Kosala king Dagaratha, seems to assume some importance in this context. The name reminds us of other epic queens like Kaikeyi, Gandhari and Mati, respectively meaning the princess of Kekaya, Gandhara and Madra, and no doubt indicates 'the princess of Kosala'. Strangely enough, nothing is known about Kausalya's parentage, though she was obviously not a princess of Ayodhya since Dagaratha could have hardly married his own relation. It is therefore possible that Kausalya was the princess of Kosala of the south, which was thus known in Valmiki's days.

The hazards of pilgrimage to distant tirthas were so great before the introduction of the railways in the nineteenth century that few such pilgrims succeeded in returning home alive (cf. Karma Pureina, II, 44. 23). Probably even the people responsible for interpolations in Valmiki's Romilyana realised the absurdity of the story of such a long journey to distant Lanka in the most primitive travel condition of antiquity, and that is why they introduced the imaginary aerial car for the return journey from Lanka to Ayodhya. Similarly the incredi-ble story of the dragging of an unwilling Sita by R5.vana to a great distance may have induced them to think of a similar transport in this case as well. We have also to note that the word Lanka means 'an island' so that there were several places of that name in different parts of India, one of them being patima-Lanka mentioned in a South Kosalan inscription (Ep. hid., XXVIII. 323 ) of the 12th century.


The present work substantially represents my thesis for the Ph. D. degree of Calcutta University, and this was completed in October, 1970. The idea of doing a work on this topic first occurred to me in 1962-3 when I had been to my sister's place in Bhopal (M. P.) and my niece Mrs. Latika Banerjee, M. A. took me round to the different places of historical interest in Madhya Pradesh. I must admit that I have been fortunate enough to work under the encouragement and guidance of Dr. D. C. Sircar, formerly Carmichael Professor and Head of the Department of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Calcutta University. I am also deeply obliged to Professor A. L. Basham of Australian National University, Professor K. D. Bajpai of Sagar University, M. P. and Dr. B. C. Sen of Calcutta University (Retd) for their valuable suggestions and help which I received on many occasions. I must express my deep gratitude to my mentor Mr. S. K. Chakravarti without whose active assistance the progress of my work would have greatly been hampered. I am also thank-ful to Mr. Sudhansu Mohan Chowdhury and Mr. Anil Chandra Nag of Asia Engineering Supply Stores (P) Ltd., Calcutta and Mr. Ashok Kumar Ghosh, Managing Director, Prentice Hall Ltd, New Delhi, Professor H.P. Chakravarti, North Bengal University and Mr. Raj Kumar, ICHR, New Delhi for helping me in one way or another.

I am grateful to Professor D. P. Sinha, Dept. of History, North Bengal University, Dr. Bireswar Banerjee, Dept. of Geography, Calcutta University, Professor B. N. Mukherjee, Dept. of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Calcutta University, Dr. N.R. Banerjee, Director, National Museum, New Delhi, Dr. B. N. Sharma, Keeper, National Museum, New Delhi, and Mr. B. Bhattacharyya, Dept. of Geography, North Bengal University, for their kind and valuable suggestions. And I am thankful to my sister-in-law Mrs. Dolly Bhattacharyya and my wife Mrs. Ruby Bhattacharyya for their inspiration which sustained me in my work and for their spirit of sacrifice without which this book might not have appeared at all.

I must also express my deep gratitude to Professor Amlan Dutta, Vice-Chancellor, North Bengal University who took great interest in getting this book published. My acknowledgements are due to my pupils Smt. Kalpana Banerjee, Mr. Shyamal Guha Roy and Mr. Icchimuddin Sarkar who have helped me in the laborious work of compiling the index. Lastly, I am very thankful to the Indian Council of Historical Research, New Delhi for granting me substantial subvention to meet the cost of its publication. I also desire to thank M/S Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi for undertaking publication, and the staff of the Press for the way in which publication has been carried out. It is quite possible that some mistakes (mostly diacritical marks) have crept into the pages as the book had to be printed within the specified time. For the errors I may have committed, I crave the indulgence of the readers and request them to be so good as to draw my attention to them, so that they may be rectified in future.


IT has aptly been remarked that, for an intelligent study of the history of a country, a thorough knowledge of its geography is indispensable. Richard Hakluyt (1553- 16 i 6 ) exclaimed, long ago, "Geographie and Chronologie are the sunne and the moone, the right eye and the left eye of all history". A know-ledge of geography is particularly essential in the context of the history of India, which coven a span of several millennia, where-in nations both foreign and indigenous, 'rose and fell like the waves of the sea and broke into nothing'. The historical geography of the various regions of Europe has been studied by many a scholar;' but in Indian history the number of good geographical studies is limited. Among the pioneer works in this line mention may be made of Cunningham's Geography of Ancient India (1871), which contains a lot of information about ancient India, though the learned author primarily followed the route of Huien Tsang and left all what lay outside the route of the pilgrim.

Cunningham was followed by several scholars, some of whom wrote stray articles. B. C. Law wrote a number of works on early Indian Geography, although his observations and conclusions are not reliable in many places. His Historical Geography of Ancient India contains names of rivers, mountains and places which were never heard in ancient India. Valuable contributions in this respect have, however, been made by other scholars, such as S. N. Majumdar Shastri, H. C. Roychaudhuri, D. C. Sircar, H. D. Sankalia, B. C. Sen, K. D. Bajpai, and others.2 But very little attempt has been made so far to write about the historical geography of Madhya Pradesh which possesses a chequered history of its own. I. Cf. E.G.R. Taylor, Historical Geography of India Before 1800; W. Gordon East, An Historical Geography of Europe (Roman Empire to the late 19th Century) ; E. H. Bunbury, A History of Ancient Geography among the Greeks and Romans, from the earliest age till the fall of the Roman Empire, 2nd ed. New York, 195o. 2. A recent work on the Historical Geography and Topography of Bihar (1963) by M.S. Pandey, may be cited here.

The present State of Madhya Pradesh was reorganised on the 1st November, 1956. It (Madhya Pradesh) is the largest Indian State in size, with an area of 443,452 sq. km.', and it comprises of 17 districts of the former Central Province, and the former States of Madhya Bharat, Bhopal and Vindhya Pradesh and the Sironj Sub-Division of the Kotah District. Madhya Pradesh is considered to be 'transitional between the Indo-Gangetic plains and the Deccan, lying between the two great structure-lines of Indian historical geography that from the middle Jumna axis to Cambay, and that along with the Narbada-Choto Nagpur line'.2 The physiography moulds the geographic base for human activities and settlement. The geographic personality of a region is erected over this base. The expression form of the geographical pattern is determined by the technics adopted and the stage of the material culture of the people.3 On the basis of the physical components Madhya Pradesh may be divided into the following regions (a) Malwa and the Vindhya hills, (b) Bundelkhand Uplands, (c) the Rewah Plateaus, (d) Nar-mada-Son Furrow, (e) Satpura (Mahadeo) Maikal Hills, (f) Upper Mahanadi basin (Chhattisgarh) and the Bastar plateaus.

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