Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 10


BY: SUN STAFF - 22.1 2021

Kalayavana Surrounds Mathura
Kala Yavana or 'Black Yavana', led an army of 30 million Yavanas against Krsna
Bhagavata Purana, Brooklyn Museum


A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Indo-Greeks

The Yavanas

In the Bhisma Parva of Mahabharata we find the following description, which names the Yavanas as one of many tribes of the day who were led by warring kings, covetous of the pleasures to be had from Mother Bhumi:

"Among the tribes of the north are the Mlecchas, and the Kruras, O best of the Bharatas; the Yavanas, the Chinas, the Kamvojas, the Darunas, and many Mleccha tribes; the Sukritvahas, the Kulatthas, the Hunas, and the Parasikas; the Ramanas, and the Dasamalikas. These countries are, besides, the abodes of many Kshatriya, Vaisya, and Sudra tribes. Then again there are the Sudra-abhiras, the Dardas, the Kasmiras, and the Pattis; the Khasiras; the Atreyas, the Bharadwajas, the Stanaposhikas, the Poshakas, the Kalingas, and diverse tribes of Kiratas; the Tomaras, the Hansamargas, and the Karamanjakas. These and other kingdoms are on the east and on the north. O lord, alluding to them briefly I have told thee all.

Earth, if its resources are properly developed according to its qualities and prowess, is like an ever-yielding cow, from which the three-fold fruits of virtue, profit and pleasure, may be milked. Brave kings conversant with virtue and profit have become covetous of Earth. Endued with activity, they would even cast away their lives in battle, from hunger of wealth. Earth is certainly the refuge of creatures endued with celestial bodies as also of creatures endued with human bodies.

Desirous of enjoying Earth, the kings, O chief of the Bharatas, have become like dogs that snatch meat from one another. Their ambition is unbounded, knowing no gratification. It is for this that the Kurus and the Pandavas are striving for possession of Earth, by negotiation, disunion, gift, and battle, O Bharata. If Earth be well looked after, it becometh the father, mother, children, firmament and heaven, of all creatures, O bull among men."

(Sri Mahabharata, Bhisma Parva, Jamvu-khanda Nirmana Parva, Section 9)

During the Mahabharata Period, the prevalence of asuras in the northern realm, stretching from Uttrakhand to Assam, is evidenced by the pastimes of Lord Krsna as He battled with them. Likewise, the concentration of Yavanas and Mlecchas in the region is tied to the presence of the Kirat peoples, led by many of the asuric kings Krsna fought with. ("Nepal in the Mahabharata Period")

The Yavana Kirats of northern India are often described in historical accounts along with other asuric kings and tribes of that time. Generally categorized under the umbrella of 'Hinduism', the majority of Kirat religious practices were a combination of Shaivism and Mundhum. The Mundhum religion, still practiced today, is basically animalism. Most Kirats worshipped Lord Shiva along with serpents, trees, stones, etc.

Bhima fought with a Gandharba Kirat near a stream in the Himalayas. King Kuber instructed Bhima by explaining the meaning of civilized people, devata, which the Gandharba, Yakkha and Kirat Ashur proudly considered themselves to be. Others, including the Rakshasas Bhima fought, were actually among the Mleccha/Yavana Kirats. Not surprisingly, to this day the Kirat people of Nepal are offended at being referred to by these derogatory terms, although it is historical fact that northern India was saturated by their presence during the Middle Kingdom period.