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The Yaudheyas

Posted January 29th, 2017 at 02:53 AM by Bhrigu

The Yaudheyas were an ancient “clan-state” of north-western India who ruled for several centuries from their base in the fertile country of Bahudhanyaka (which comprised of modern day Rohtak and Hisar disctricts in Haryana), with capital at the city of Rohitaka (Rohtak). In the Puranas, they are called descendants of the king Usinara.

The term “clan-state” here means a political entity that was based on an agricultural economy, and made up of people of specialised professions. The warriors amongst these people would form a clan (jan), and take up the job of ruling and protecting the population living in the cities and villages (visah). These clan-states usually followed an oligarchic or a republic model of government. With later expansion in agriculture and territory; and proliferation of the ruling clans, these clan-states would naturally evolve into centralised monarchies. We see that the earliest centralised monarchies emerge in the eastern regions like Magadha, while those in the west such as Haryana, Panjab and eastern Rajasthan saw a slower evolution. In the post-Vedic times, there were tens of such clan-states in north-western India; and the Yaudheyas were probably the most prominent among them.

Coming to their history, their earliest coins are from the Sunga times, but they disappear after 4th century AD. Panini calls the Yaudheyas as Ayudhajivi Samgha, meaning the states that conducted war for a living. The very word Yaudheya itself means warrior. The Yaudheyas probably became prominent a century before the Greek invasions and maintained their autonomy throughout the ancient period. Almost nothing is known of their political or economic history, but they seem to have shifted southwards into Rajasthan probably due to the Saka threat, so as to come in clash with Rudradaman, as indicated by his Junagarh inscription, where he calls them "heroes among the Kshatriyas," but also claims to have defeated them. Also, Yaudheya records from the Scythian times have been excavated from Bharatpur and Hoshiarpur districts. In one such record, the president of the Yaudheyas styles himself as Maharaja (king) and Maha-senapati (commander general), and also claims that he was elected to this post by the Yaudheya parliament. In certain records, explicit references have been made to the Yaudheya parliament or cabinet as yaudheyanam jayamantradharanam mantradharas who are described as “those vested with the policy of state.” Last time when we hear of them was in the Allahabad inscription of Samudragupta (4th century AD) which mentions the Yaudheyas as one of the republics that paid tribute to him.

An interesting fact about the Yaudheyas is their extremely large and numerous hoards of coins found in sites near Rohtak, Bhiwani, Bhatner, Abohar, Sirsa, Hansi, Panipat, Sonipat, Depalpur, Multan, Satgarha, Kahror, Ludhiana etc. The hoard discovered at Rohtak was so large that Dr. Birbal Sahni described it as "richer than any yet recorded from any part of the world." Multiple mints of them have also been discovered near Rohtak.

The Yaudheyas were probably worshippers of the diety Kartikeya (who rides a peacock), as is evidenced by their coins. Also, in Mahabharata, the people of the Bahudhanyaka country are called as Matta-Mayurakas, which literally means “having enraptured peacocks.” Quite interestingly, peacock is still considered sacred in this region.

The modern descendants of the Yaudheyas are the Johiya Rajputs who live along the Sutlej line. They occupy a region called Johiyabar, which probably derives from the Sanskrit word Yaudheyavara.
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