The Mahajanapadas of Jambudvipa, Part 4

BY: SUN STAFF - 2.5 2017

Vishvamitra starts a Forest Fire 
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka 
British Museum Collection

A serial exploration of the island of Jambudvipa and the sixteen Great States residing there.

The Anga Kingdom

The first reference to the Angas is found in the Atharva Veda, where they find mention along with the Magadhas, Gandharis and Mujavats, apparently as a despised people. Anga is included as one of the sixteen mahajanapadas in the Buddhist text, Anguttara Nikaya, and in the Jain Vyakhyaprajnapti list of ancient states.

Mahabharata (I.104.53-54) and Puranic literature indicate that the name Anga originated eponymously from the name of Prince Anga, the founder of the kingdom. Ramayana (1.23.14) says that the origin of the name Anga came from the place where Kamadeva was burnt to death by Lord Shiva, and is where his body parts (angas) are scattered.

Based on Mahabharata evidence, the kingdom of the Angas roughly corresponds to the modern districts of Bhagalpur, Banka, Purnia, Munger, Katihar and Jamui in Bihar, and the districts of Deoghar, Godda, and Sahebganj in Jharkhand. It later extended to include parts of Bengal.

According to the Mahabharata, Duryodhana named Karna the King of Anga.

The River Champa (Chandan) formed the boundaries between the Magadha in the west and the Anga Kingdom in the east. It was bounded by the River Koshi on the north.

The capital of Anga was Champa (Campa). According to Mahabharata and Harivamsa, Champa was formerly known as Malini. Champa was located on the right bank of River Ganges near its junction with the Champa River. It was a very flourishing city and is referred to as one of six principal cities of ancient India (digha nikaya). A great center of trade and commerce, the merchants of Champa regularly sailed to distant Suvarnabhumi (the East Indies or Indonesia and Malay Archipelago).

Two Heroes 
Paithan, 19th c., Karnataka 
British Museum Collection


Bhagalpur in Bihar, usually identified as the site of Champa, still has two villages called Champa-nagara and Champa-pura. Among the other important cities of Anga were Assapura and Bhadrika.

The Sabha-parva of Mahabharata (II.44.9) mentions Anga and Vanga as forming one country. The Katha-sarit-sagara also states that Vitankapur, a city of Anga was situated on the shores of the sea, thus the boundaries of Anga may have extended eastward to the sea.

During his pilgrimage to Champa at the end of the 4th Century, the Chinese monk Faxan noted that numerous Buddhist temples still existed in the city. The later kingdom of Champa (in present-day Vietnam) was thought to have originated from the ancient East Indian Champa, although anthropological evidence indicates the Vietnamese people are from Borneo on the other side Indochinese Peninsula.

The Vidhura Pandita Jataka describes Rajagriha (the Magadhan Capital) as the city of Anga.Mahabharata also refers to a sacrifice performed by the king of Anga at Mount Vishnupada (Gaya). This indicates that Anga had initially succeeded in annexing the Magadhas, and thus its borders extended to the kingdom of Matsya country.

This success of the Anga Kingdom did not last long, however. Anga was annexed by Magadha during the reign of Bimbisara, in the 6th Century B.C. Bimbisara, the crown prince of Magadha, had killed Brahmadatta, the last independent king of Anga, allowing him to seize Champa.


Sources: The British Museum, Sri Mahabharata, Wiki