Kasi (Kashi) was a ancient kingdom during the times of both Ramayana and Mahabharata. The capital of Kasi was Kasipura (Varanasi). Sumitra, the mother of Lakshmana and Shatrugna was from this kingdom. During Mahabharata this kingdom was part of Southern Central Kosala kingdom. Kasi was a really holy place where worship of Shiva was prominent. Some tirthas in Kasi include Kasiswara and Matri. The Kasis were rivals of the Haihayas.
Kasi Royal Family in Mahabharata
Kasi was ruled by an Asura named Kshemaka, who was defeated by Panchala prince Dividosa. Dividosa then became the king of Kasi. The next rulers were Haryasva and Sudeva. Kasi then started being ruled by Kuru kings. Soon after king Senabindu came to power in Kasi. He was also called DharmaAmbara. DharmaAmbara was married to Swargandhini. She was the daughter of Hotravahan, the king of the Srinjaya tribe of Panchala. He had three daughters named Amba, Ambika and Ambalika. In their swayamvara Bhishma kidnapped them and took them to Kuru kingdom. There Ambika and Ambalika married Vichitravirya, but Amba refusused since she was supposed to marry Salwa king. She then commited suicide and was reborn as Shikandi.
DharmaAmbara was attacked by Pandu in his military campaign. Pandu defeated DharmaAmbara, but then gave his kingdom back to him. Senabindu (DharmaAmbara) also had a son named Senabindu ||. His daughter Gandini married Vrishni prince Svaphalka. His other daughters married Brihadratha of Maghada and Vrishnis. His only son named Kasiraja became the next king. Kasiraja had two sons, Sudhanva and Subahu. Sudhanva was a supporter of Jarasandha. On the other hand, Subahu did not like Jarasandha. Because of this, Subahu left the kingdom and went to Hastinapura. After staying in Hastinapura for a while, Subahu went to do penance on the Himalayas. Meanwhile at Hastinapura, when Yudhistira was initiated as crown prince of Hastinapura, he sent Arjuna to defeat Kasi. Arjuna succesfully defeated the Kasi army and Sudhanva and Kasiraja. A part of Kasi became under the control of Hastinapura. When Subahu returned, this portion was given to him.
Soon, Subahu’s daughters were born. His oldest daughter was married to Duryodhana. She died in childbirth but gave Duryodhana a daughter. Duyodhana then married Subahu’s second daughter. The third daughter of Subahu was named Jalandharaa. She also died in childbirth. Soon after, Bhima married Jalandharaa. Subahu also had two sons named Abhibhu and Jalandhar. Abhibhu married Somadatta’s duaghter.
Back at Kashi, Sudhanva was chasing a princess with his forces. The princess chanced upon Dhristadyumna. When she told Dhristadyumna what was happening, he destroyed a huge part of the Kasi army. Dhristadyumna then married the princess.
Kashiraja and Sudhanva decided to join Paundraka Vasudeva and his son Sudakshina in an attack against Krishna. In the following war, Krishna, Pradyumna and Dhristadyumna eliminated the entire armies of Paundraka and Kashiraja. Krishna beheaded Kashiraja. Sudhanva sent a kritya to destroy Dwarka. Krishna sent a Sudarshana chakra at the kritya. The kritya was killed. Also during the attack, the city of Kasipura got burnt. Sudhanva and Sudakshina were also killed.
Later, the daughter of Sudhanva, Suvarna married Dhaumya, the royal priest of the Pandavas. Subahu then took control of Kasi. He re-built Kasipura. Bhima then defeated him during his eastern military campaign for Yudhistira’s Rajasuya yagna.
A few days before the Kurukshetra war, Subahu died of old age. Abhibhu, with his two sons named Prakant and Vibhu led the Kasi army in the war. They sided with the Pandavas. All three of them died. After the war, Bhima and Jalandharaa’s son Sarvaga ruled Kasi. He also ruled Mithila (Videha) and Kosala since those kingdoms had no king. After some time, he gave Mithila to Prativindhya’s son. He gave Kosala to Bhima’s daughter Visala’s husband who was a Kosala prince. Sarvaga’s son Suvarnasena became the king after Sarvaga. Suvarnasena’s daughter named Vapusthama married Janamjeya and they had two sons named Satanika Chandrapida and Suryapida (Sahasranika).
Kasi was located on the banks of the Ganga river. To the direct north of Kasi was Eastern Kosala. To the south was the kingdom of Suparsava. To the west was the Vatsa kingdom, which was controlled by Maghada and Kuru at different times. The powerful kingdom of Magadha was located to the West of Kashi. To the northwest was one of the Nishada kingdoms and to the southwest was Vatsa. To the northeast was Eastern Kosala and to the southeast were Magadha territories.
Kasi in the Kurukshetra War
Abhibhu and his two sons Prankant and Vibhu joined the Pandavas in the Kurukshtra war. Prakanta was killed by Govisaneya of Sivi. Abhibhu was killed by Vasudana’s son. Vibhu was also killed.
Kasi in Ramayana
Sumitra, one of the wives of Dasaratha and mother to Lakshmana and Shatrugna was from Kasi kingdom.
Known Cities in Kasi
- Kasipura (Varanasi)
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