Madra or Madraka is the name of an ancient region and its inhabitants, located in the north-west division of the ancient Indian sub-continent.

Uttaramadra division

Aitareya Brahmana makes first reference to the Madras as Uttaramadras i.e northern Madras and locates them in the trans-Himalayan region as neighbors to the Uttara Kurus. The Uttara Madras, like the Uttara Kurus, are stated to follow the republican constitution. The Uttara Madra country of Aitareya Brahmana is often identified with Bahlika (Bactria).

Madra divisions

As the name Uttara Madras itself shows, there was yet another Madra group also, which obviously was living to the south of the Uttara Madras (northern Madras). These southern Madras were an offshoot from the Uttaramadras, a bulk of whom, probably under nomadic pressure from north, migrated southwards and settled in Punjab

The post-Vedic, pre-Buddhist Brahmanical literature is overflowing with the names of tribes. The most powerful among them, commanding the greatest respect, in the Madhyadesha (Middle country) was the Kuru-Panchala which incorporated the two families of Kuru and Puru (and the earlier Bharatas) and of which the Panchalas was a confederation of lesser-known tribes. They occupied the Upper Doab and the Kurukshetra region. In the Prachya or east, the clans of Kasi, Kosala and Magadha predominated. In the north-west or Uttarapatha division, the Kamboja, Gandhara, and the Madra clans were the most important.

Panini's Madras

Panini documents the Madra janapada as a part of modern Punjab country with capital at Sakala or Sagala, modern Sialkot. Panini mentions two divisions of the Madras in Panjab or Vahika country i.e. the Purva (Eastern) Madras and the Apara (Western) Madras. The Purva-Madra extended from the Ravi to Chenab and the Apara-Madra from Chenab to the Jhelum. Thus, it appears probable that the Madras of Panjab had cultural interaction with Bahlika (Bactria) country, the land of the Uttara Madras. Some verses in the Mahabharata allude to this connection of the Madras with the Uttara Madras.

Madra was Bahika country

Madra was a part of the Bahika or Vahika country. Some hold that Madra was Vahika country. They held the central parts of Punjab — the region lying between river Chenab and Ravi. In epic period, they occupied the district of Sialkot. Panini does not offer derivation of Bahika but Katyayana derives it from Bahis 'outer edge' with the suffix ikak. This agrees with Mahabharata description of Bahika as the country of five rivers but was where Dharma was weak (dharma-bahya), devoid of religion (nashta-dharma) and impure (aśuchi).

Karna Parva of Mahabharata derives name Bahika from the names of two Pishachas or demons named Bahi and Hika (Bahi + hika = Bahika) living in river Vipasa (Beas). The Bahikas or Vahikas i.e the people of Punjab are the offspring of those two Pishacas. They are not creatures created by Prajapati.

Variants of Madra

Variants of Madra are also found as Madrak, Madraka, Bhadra, Bhadraka. It has been pointed out that Bhadras were located on Ghaggar near north-eastern border of Bikaner.

Mahabharata references

The Mahabharata refers to a king Vyusitashva of the Puru family whose wife Bhadra bore seven sons--, four Madras and three Salvas. This tradition indicates that Salvas and Madras belonged to common stock and there were seven branches of one tribe. But Kasika and Vaijayanti refer to only six branches of the Salvas (and Madras) viz., Udumbras, Tilakhala, Bhulinga, Sardanda, Yugandhara and Madrakara. The above list apparently does not include all the branches of the Salvas and the Madras. Though there is no ancient reference to four branches of the Madras, Dr M. R. Singh has however suggested them to have been as Uttamabhadra, Sravanabhadra, Prabhadra and the Bhadra or Madra themselves. (Variants of Madra are also found as Bhadra, Madraka, Bhadraka and that Bhadraka and Madraka are transferable). Prabhadraka as an attribute has been used for the Parama-Kambojas section who had sided with the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war against the Kauravas.

The Uttamabhadras lived in Punjab, the Bhadrakas in modern Bhadra and Sravanabhadras are believed to have migrated from Kanyuakubja and settled in Malwa. Uttamabhadras originally were people of Balkh who had entered India in Vedic times. In Vedic times, they were closely related to Kurus and the Purus. In Kurukshetra war, we also find Madras associated with the Kurus. King Shalya had taken part in the Mahabharata war, on behalf of the Kauravas.

Madri, the wife of Pandu king of Hastinapur and the mother of Pandava-putras Nakula and Sahadeva, was a Madra princess daughter of the king of Madra. Madri has also been referred to as Bahliki i.e princess of Bahlika janapada/tribe and king Salya has been referred to as Bahlika-pungava i.e foremost among the Bahlikas. Madri has also been referred to as Bahliki i.e princess of Bahlika janapada/tribe and king Salya has been referred to as Bahlika-pungava i.e foremost among the Bahlikas. Epic also refers to king Ashvapati of Madra, the beloved of the Paura Janapadas, who was father of Savitri. King Vyusitashva was a descendent of Puru a famous king of Rigvedic times.

These references obviously connect the Vahika Madras to Bahlika i.e Bactria Madras i.e the Vedic Uttara-Madras or Uttamabhadras, which is known to have been the earliest settlement of the Madra people. It is also seen from the above references that initially Mahabharata had really high opinion of the Madras. But later, this view was changed since there are several later epic references where the Madras have been severely downgraded. Every possible ill word has been spoken against them.

In Karna Parva of Mahabharata, Karna specifically directs his wrath against Shalya who was from Madra, and ridicules the region he was from. Karna calls the Madra men and women as "scum" of humanity. See link

Adi Parava of Mahabharata says that Madra princes had attended Draupadi's self-choice (Swayamvara) ceremony along with the other princes of neighbouring kingdoms from northwest. Thus prince Shalya, the king of Madra Kingdom, with his son, the heroic Rukmangada, Rukmaratha, Somadatta (king of Bahlika Kingdom) of the Kuru race with his three sons - Bhuri, Bhurisrava, and Sala and Sudakshina Kamboja the arch-bowman (dridhadhanva) of the Puru race had particiapated in the Draupidi swayamvara See Ganguli's Trans:

Karna had fought with and vanquished the Madrakas, Kekayas, Kambojas, Avantis, Gandharas, Matsyas, Trigartas, Tanganas, Sakas, Panchalas, Videhas, Kulindas, Kasi, Kosalas, Suhma, Anga, Vanga, Nishada, Kalinga Taralas, Asmakas, Rishikas, Mlechchas and forest dwellers etc.

Madra king Shalya, came with an Akshouhini of troops to join the army of Pandavas, since youngest Pandavas, the twins Nakula and Sahadeva, were his nephews. It is stated that his troops marched slowly on every day from Madra (Punjab province of Pakistan) to Upaplavya (somewhare in the boarder of Rajasthan and Hariyana), the Matsya city, where the Pandavas were camped. When his army reached Kurujangala (the kingdom of the Pandavas, the modern-day Hariyana), Duryodhana's men shrewedly intercepted the army. Without revealing their identity, they received Shalya and his men, made tents for them and refreshed them with all the comforts. By the time the truth surfaced, Shalya had already become indebted to battle for Duryodhana's sake. Madra army had battled along with other armies of north-west including the Trigartas, the Kekeyas, the Gandharas, the Kambojas, the Yavanas, the Shakas, Tusharas, Khasas and Daradas (all these latter six armies had fought under General Sudakshina Kamboja), the Sindhus, the Sauviras, the Amvasthas etc. King Shalya was the last Generalismo of the Kaurava army and was slain by Yudhisthira on the last day of the Kurukshetra war.

Srimad Bhagavatam and the Madras

Bhagvatam Purana attests that the prince of Madra along with princes from Matsya, Usinara, Kosala, Vidharbha, Kuru, Srnjaya, Kamboja, Kekaya, Kunti, Anarta, Kerala was present at Samanta-pancaka at the occasion of the solar eclipse.

Valmiki Ramayana on the Madras

Kishkindha Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana says that Sugriva had sent his persons to search Sita in various lands of the Uttarapatha including the Madras. Thus, Sugriva directs his detectives to search Sita in the countries of the Mlecchas, the Pulindas, the Shurashenas, the Prasthalas, the Bharatas, the Kurus, the Madrakas, the Kambojas, the Yavanas along with the countries of the Shakas and the Paradas and also the Himalayas.

Kautilya Arthashasta on the Madras

Fourth century BCE Arthashastra of Kautiliya refers to the Madras as following republican constitution. It refers to Licchivika, Vrjika, Mallaka, Madraka, Kukura, Kuru, and Panchala etc and labels them as Raja-shabd-opajivin class (i.e living by the title of Raja) while referring to the Kshatriya Shrenis (warrior-bands) of the Kambojas and Surashtras it styles them as varta-shastr-opajivin class (i.e. living by the profession of arms and varta).

Madras in Puranic literature

Vishnu Purana mentions the Madra along with Arama, Parasika and others. In Matsya Purana, the Madras find mention with Gandharas, Yavanas and others. In the same Purana, a reference is also made to king Asvapati of Sakala in the country of Madra.

Matrimonial customs of the Madras

Mahabharata attests that it was a custom among the Madras to give their daughters in marriage on taking a fee (shulka). This was their family custom. Pandu, the Kuru prince had also to pay fee for marrying Madri, the princess from Madra.

Madra princesses were favored

The beauty of Madra women, like those others from the northwest including the Kamboja, Uttarakuru was proverbial. Buddhist literature calls Madra-Desha as the store-house of beautiful ladies (maddaratham nama itthagaro) . The Madra women are characterized as "white" in the Mahabharata (VIII) . Buddhist Jatakas bear ample tesimony that Madra princesses were sought after in marriage by the great Kshatriya houses of northern and western India. Sumangala-Vilasini attests that the wife of a Chakravarti comes either from Uttarakuru or from Madda (Madra) and Uttaramadra. Bhadra, wife of Kalpana of Pippali Manavaka was a beautiful maiden from Madra. Pabhavati, a beautiful princess of Madra was married to prince Kusa, son of Okkaka, of Ikshvaku royal family of Benares. Even a prince of royal house of Kalinga in the far east sought the hand of a princess of Madra country as is attested by Kalinga Bodhi Jataka. Chandata Jataka also attests that the royal houses of Madra and Benares were allied with each other through matrimony. According to Mahavamsa, on the death of Sihabahu of Sinhapura (Lala Rattha = Lata Rashtra = Latadesa = Gujarat), his son Summita became king of Lata. He married a Madra princess by whom he had three sons. Khema, one of the three queens of Bimbisara (reign 544-491 BCE), the ruler of the Magadha from the Haryanka dynasty was also a princess from the Madra clan. And of course, princess Madri, daughter of king Shalya of Madra was also married to Pandu, the Kuru prince of Hastinapur.

Uttaramadra-Uttarakuru-Parama Kamboja connections

Vamsa Brahamana of the Sama Veda refers to one Rsi Madragara Shaungayani as the teacher of Aupamanyava Kamboja. As the name itself suggests, and as the scholars have rightly stated, Rsi Madragara Shaungayani belonged to Madra tribe . Dr Keith and Dr Macdonnel, the authors of Vedic Index, as also Dr H Zimmer and numerous other scholars postulate a possible connection between the Madras i.e. the Uttaramadras and the Trans-Hindukush Kambojas . Dr Jain also observes: "Kamboja Aupamanyava, pupil of Madragara, is mentioned in the Vamsa Brahmana. This points to a possible relationship of the Madras or more probably of the Uttaramasdras with the Kambojas, who probably had Indian as well as Iranian affinities" . Since both these people were a very close neighbors in the north-western part of ancient India, such connections were but natural. According to Dr Jean Przylusky, the Bahlika (Balkh) was a settlement of the Madras who were known as Bahlika-Uttaramadras..

In his Harsha-Carita, Sanskrit scholar Bana Bhatta, the court poet of king Harsha Vardhana of Thanesar makes reference to the horses from Kamboja. And the Commentator on Harsha-Carita in his commentary reveals to us that KAMBOJAH BAHLIKA DESAJAH, i.e the Kambojas belonged to/originated from Bahlika-desa (Bactria in north Afghanistan) . Furthermore, The Yasastilaka, a Jaina work, one of the best known champus in Sanskrit, composed by Somadeva Suri (959 A. D.) too identifies ancient Kamboja with Bahlika-desa . This ancient evidence indicates that Bahlika (Bactria) (the land of Madras i.e the Uttaramadras) or its eastern parts may have formed parts of ancient Kamboja, and that both these people were a close neighbors and possibly of an allied stock. According to Nanimadhab Chaudhuri, the Kambojas who were settled to the north-west of the Indus were connected with the Madras and they were probably a branch of the Uttaramadras .

Atharvaveda-Parisita also juxtaposes the Kambojas with the Bahlikas (i.e ..Madras..) .

Mahabharata also closely allies the Bahlikas and the Kambojas and further places them in alliance with Transoxiana Sakas .

Valmiki Ramayana also mentions the Kamboja and the Bahlika in the same breath.

Aitareya Brahmana refers to the nations of Uttarapatha (northwest) and mentions the Uttaramadras and Uttarakurus as the tribes following a vairajiya (kingless) constitution. The same text also tells us that these nations lay beyond the Himalaya (i.e Parena himavantam) where Himalaya here is said to refer to Pamirs/Hindukush ranges . It has been pointed out that the list of the northwestern nations referred to in the Aitreya Brahmana is illustrative only and, by no means, exhaustive since it does not mention other clans of the Trans-Himalayans like the Kambojas (i.e. Parama Kambojas)/Rishikas etc who also had followed kingless (republican) constitution and also were located beyond Himalayan . It is also possible that the Kambojas may have been considered a part of the Uttaramadras/or the Uttarakurus and therefore, not mentioned separately in the Aitareya Brahmana list.

The foregoing discussion suggests that in the remote antiquity (Vedic age), a settlement of the Madras was located in Bahlika (Bactria)--the western parts of the Oxus country. These Madras were, in fact, the Uttaramadras of the Aitareya Brahmana (VIII/14). This also indicates that there was a very close affinity between the Uttaramadras, Uttarakurus and the Parama Kambojas--- all lying beyond the Himavantan i.e beyond Pamirs/Hindukush ranges. However, in 4th c BC, this Bahlika/Bactria came under Yavana/Greek political control and thus the land started to be referenced as Bahlika-Yavana in some of ancient Sanskrit texts .

Origin of Madras: traditional accounts

According to another traditional account preserved in the Puranas and Mahabharata etc, king Yayati, the great grandson of Prurvasa Aila had five sons viz.: Yadu, Turvasa, Anu, Druhyu and Puru. Pruravasa Aila was, in turn, the grandson of Vaivasta Manu, the mythological ancestor of all royal families of the Indian traditions. The Lunar line of Kshatriya families of Indian traditions are believed to have originated from this Pruravasa Aila.

These Puranic accounts indicate that the Madras, Usinaras and Kekayas were the direct descendants of Yayati's son Anu

Other scholars maintain that the Madras and other clans like Angas, Kalingas, Sauviras, Kambojas, Sindhus and the Gandharas were offshoots of the Anu tribe of the Rigveda

Researchers like Dr J. L. Kamboj, on the other hand, infer that the Kambojas, Gandharas and some other tribes of northwest (including the Madras) may have descended from the Druhyu tribe of the Rigveda.

Broadly speaking, these ancient traditions indicate that Anu was the author of Anu clan (Anavas), Yadu of the Yadava clan, Turvasa of the Yavana and Turushaka clans, Puru of the Paurava/Kaurava clans and Druhyu of the clans like the Gandharas and other frontier clans of the north-west like Kambojas, Madras etc.

However, it is very difficult to speak with confidence about these traditional accounts.

Maukharis descent from the Madras?

The Maukhari dynasty which ruled in the 5th century CE in the neighborhood of Gaya (Bihar) claims their descent from king Asvapati of Sakala of Madra country of central Punjab in northwest India. Their name is also referred to by Panini in his Ashtadhyayi. There is a seal belonging to Maukhari family of the Mauryan period. An inscription dated 239 CE found in Kotah state refers to a military General from Maukhari family. There are four inscriptions engraved on stone yupas which show indicates there were many Maukhari families in Rajasthan in 3rd century CE. It is therefore possible that the Maukharis were a clan of the Madras; and like the Kambojas, they may also have been migrating and widely spreading over northern India.

Madras pay taxes to the Guptas

The Madras and several other republics of northern and north-western India including the Arjunayans, Sivis, Malavas, Kunindas, Kulutas, Audumbras, Kambojas, Yaudheyas etc were vanquished, subjugated or else destroyed by the Gupta rulers (4th century CE). There is evidence of Madras paying taxes to Gupta king Samudragupta, as we learn from the fact that latter's imperious commands were fully gratified by the Madras and others giving all kinds of taxes and obeying his orders and coming to perform obeisance.

Madra and the Pala dynasty of Bengal

It appears that the kingdom of Madra continued till the 9th century when we find the Madras as the allies of Dharmapala (770-810) of the Pala Dynasty of Bengal who, with the connivance of the Madras and other northern powers, had dethroned Indraraja of Kanauja and placed Chakrayudha on the throne. It is also held by some that Dharmapala had seized the lands of Bhoja, Matsya, Madra, Kuru, Yadu, Yavana, Avanti, Gandhara, and Kira. It is interesting to note that there is no mention of the Kambojas in the above list of the north-west kingdoms, but it seems that the term Gandhara itself included the Kamboja as well. This is because little later, king Devapala (810—850), son of Dharmapala, had an encounter with the Hunas in north and then with the Kambojas in the north-west as is amply attested by the Monghyr Charter of Devapala.. Benjamin Walker writes: "Like their neighbours the Kambojas, the Madra people also migrated through the Gangetic plain towards Bengal, and we find them in the ninth century as allies of the Pala kings of Bengal (Vol I, p 59)..

Madras vs Medes

Many scholars also identify the Medes (Madai) as a branch of the Madra tribes , while some identify Media (Medes) with Uttaramadra referenced in the Aitreya Brahamana . Similarly, the Persian Achamenedae are also believed to be an offshoot from the Scythianised Kuru-Kamboja hordes, who outpoured from Kambysene of ancient Armenia .

Madras at present

Madras at present are found in Madrak, Madrayana or Maderna gotra Jats in western Rajasthan in India. Parasram Maderna is a famous political leader from Marwar region. People belonging to Bhati gotra associate themselves with both Ghazni and Sialkot and for this reason the Bhati gotra is accepted as a branch of Madrak.


See also

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