Matsya was a kingdom in ancient India. It was located in central India near Kuru. It was founded by Matsya Dwaita, a son of the great Emperor Uparachira Vasu. There were many Matsya kingdoms, but the main one was Central Matsya.
To the north of Central Matsya was Kuru. Kuru territories like Yakrilloma were located to the east. To its west was Salwa, and to its northwest was Mahothha. Nishada, Nishadha, and Kuru territories like Navarashtra were located to the south of Matsya.
History, Royal Family, and Kuru-Trigarta Invasion
Matsya was founded by Matsya Dvwaita, the second-oldest son of Uparachira Vasu. Uparachira’s other sons were Brihadratha (founded Maghada), Mavella, Yadu, Manivahana, and Rajanya.
After Matsya, Brihadratha’s son Dhvasana Dvaitavana became the king of Matsya. Dhvasana performed a great sacrifice near a lake. He bound 14 great steeds for Indra. This lake became known as Dvaita Lake after him.
Dhvasana retired early and Matsya’s son Nitantu became king of Matsya. Nitantu married a daughter of Satyavati and had 5 sons from her: Salveya, Shurasena, Shrutasena, Tindusara, and Atisara. Together, they ruled Matsya. All five of them married the same woman, Shaivya. Shaivya’s sons by these 5 brothers were Jayanika, Balanika, Satanika, Gajanika, Shrutanika, Vijaya, Virata, Virabadhra, Sudarshan, Shrutadhvaja, Jayapriva, Labdhalaksa, Jayagva, Rathavahana, Candrodaya, and Kamaratha.
Of these, Virata became the next king of Matsya. Virata had a son named Shweta by his first wife. Virata then married again to Sudeshna of Kekeya royal family. She was the daughter of Chikitana and Malavi. From her, Virata had two sons named Bhuminjaya (also called Uttara) and Shankha. Sudeshna also gave birth to a daughter named Uttaraa. Sudeshna didn’t like Shweta. She drove him out of the kingdom and into exile. In his exile, Shweta married Kanakwati from Panchala and had a son named Nirbhita.
Virata was a weak king, totally under control of Sudeshna and his commander-in-chief, Kichaka (Sudeshna’s brother). Kichaka had established his own kingdom that was vassal to Matsya. Sudeshna was a vain woman who cared only about her beauty. Kichaka was an evil, uncontrollable man. The army was constantly at war or fighting among each other. The soldiers were uncontrollable and not respectful to the king. The servants and royal cooks started leaving because they were tired of what was happening. Central Matsya was a very unrighteous society where fights and animal slaughtering happened just for fun.
Virata’s brothers were rebellious. Many of them had set up semi-bandit states at the southern borders of Matsya. Virata’s son Uttara constantly associated with women instead of training as a warrior. Shankha was completely disregarded.
When Pandavas entered the Matsya kingdom for their incognito year, they took new identities. Yudhistira became Kanka, Bhima became Vallabha, Arjuna became Brihanalla, Sahadeva became Tantripala, and Nakula became Granthika. Kanka was Virata’s chief councilor, Vallabha was the chief royal cook, Brihanalla the eunuch was Uttaraa’s dance teacher, Tantripala took care of the kingdom’s cows, and Granthika took care of the horses, interacting with the army. The five Pandavas in their disguises made Virata prosperous. Soon, Bhima killed Kichaka for his behavior with Sairandhri, Draupadi in disguise.
During the last days of the Pandavas’ incognito year, Duryodhana heard about how Kichaka had been killed by a strong man. He also heard that Kichaka had been behaving badly with a beautiful woman, who said that she had five Gandharvas protecting her. There were only a few people who could kill Kichaka in a hand-to-hand duel: Jarasandha, Balarama, Karna, Shalya, Duryodhana, and Bhima. Duryodhana, Shakuni, and Karna started eliminating the options. Jarasandha was dead and Balarama and Shalya had no reason to kill Kichaka. Even if they did, they wouldn’t have killed Kichaka under the identity of a Gandharva. Karna and Duryodhana confirmed that they hadn’t done it. That meant that Bhima had killed Kichaka and the Pandavas were in Matsya. The Kauravas started preparing for an attack on Matsya. At that time, the Trigarta king Susharma came to Duryodhana and said, “I have been defeated countless times by Kichaka. Now that he is dead, I want to have my revenge on Virata. I will attack from the north. Then, your army will attack from the south.”
Susharma came with his entire army and his brothers from the north. Virata rushed to battle the Trigartas. With Virata came Kanka, Tantripala, Granthika, Vallabha, Shankha, Suryadatta (his commander), many of his brothers, and his entire army. Together, they routed the Trigarta army and Susharma.
Meanwhile, the Kauravas stole many cows from Matsya. But Matysa’s entire army was battling the Trigartas. “I am so powerful! I can defeat the Kuru army single-handedly. But I need a good charioteer,” Uttara boasted.
“I will be your charioteer. I am actually a really good charioteer,” Brihanalla said to everyone’s shock. So, Uttara set off with Brihanalla as his charioteer. But when Uttara saw the army headed by great Maharathis like Karna, Bhishma, Dronacharya, and Kripacharya, he started fleeing. Arjuna then revealed his true identity to Uttara. Uttara became the charioteer while Arjuna defeated the entire Kuru army.
Before the Kurukshetra war, Uttara was married to a royal princess and Uttaraa was married to Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son.
After the Kurukshetra war, one of Sutasoma’s sons ruled Matsya. Soon, Uttara’s daughter Iravati was born and Parikshita was born to Uttaraa. Nirbhita’s son from a lady descended from Rishi Kindama was also born. He was named Kakshavaksha. When Kakshavaksha became of age, Sutasoma’s son gave the throne of Matsya to him. Kakshvaksha’s descendants continued ruling Matsya. Iravati married Paushya, a grandson of Yudhisitra and gave birth to four sons.
The entire Matsya royal family came to fight for the Pandavas in the Mahabharata war. Virata came with his brothers, Uttara, and Shankha. Shweta also came from the south with his son Nirbhita.
On the first day, Uttara died fighting Shalya. At the death of his half-brother, Shweta was infuriated and started wreaking havoc in the Kuru armies. Bhishma came and killed him. On the seventh day, Dronacharya killed Shankha and Nirbhita. On the fifteenth day, Dronacharya killed Virata. All of Virata’s brothers also died fighting Dronacharya. The remnant of the Matsya army was slaughtered at midnight by Ashwastamma on the eighteenth day.
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