Rajput Culture and History: The distortions, the conspiracies, and the truth – Part 6 (Trigartas)

Acknowledgements: Some parts of this article are inspired by the writings of Airavat Singhji.  

In this article, we intend to produce a summary account of the history and origins of the ancient Trigarta clan of kshatriyas which successfully resisted and thus contributed in checking the eastward march of the foreign forces such as Greeks, Sakas, and Kushans into Bharatvarsha.

[1]: Several references to the Trigarta country are found in Mahabharata and Puranas. The country is also mentioned by Panini in his Ganapatha and Hemachandra in his Abhidhana Chintamani. There is no doubt that Trigarta country refers to modern Kangra, and the land between Ravi and Satluj including Jalandhar. The numismatic evidence further supplements the recognition of modern Kangra with the ancient Trigarta country. The Trigarta coins minted in early Christian era mention the Trigarta country as ‘Trakata -Janapada’, i.e. the republic of the Trigarta. The name Trigarta, it is believed has sprung from three river valleys in the hills of Kangra.

[2]: In Mahabharata, the Trigarta kingdom is said to have been ruled by King Susharaman who was among the allies of the Kurus and had challenged Arjuna for a fight during the war. Panini has bracketed the Trigartas among the Ganas (Republics) and styled them as ‘Ayudhajivi Sangha’— the clan that lived by the profession of arms, and ‘Trigarta Shashatha’ – confederation of six sub-clans. These sub-clans were Kamdoproratha, Dandaki, Kaushtaki, Jalmani, Brahmagupta, and Janaki.

[3]: In the other articles of this series, we have already mentioned that these ancient republics were unsettled from their original homelands by long drawn conflicts with the foreign invaders. We known from textual and epigraphic records that the Trigartas were the warlike allies of other warrior republics such as the Yaudheyas and Arjunayanas. It is quite possible, therefore, that some of these sub-clans of the Trigartas would have migrated to other places due to perpetual warfare; this opinion gains more weight from the fact that we find no mention of these sub-clans in the later records. Be that as it may, the parent clan itself survived and continued its sway over the Kangra valley with changing fortunes through all vicissitude. This fact is attested by the coins minted by the clan around 1st century BCE.

[4]: However, by the time of advent of Kushans it appears that the Trigartas lost their independence as a republic and became a minor vassal of the Kushan empire. With the decline of the power of Kushans, rose a new monarchical state in the Kangra valley. The presence of this state ruled by the remnants of Trigartas is also attested by Rajtarangini and the travel memoirs of Hieun -Tsang who visited India around 7th century CE. The name Trigarta disappeared from popular usage during the later medieval period around 10th century CE; another name ‘Katoch’, after the name of the great fort of Kangra, came into vogue. It must however be noted that the name ‘Trigadh’ continued to be applied for the three streams of Banganga, Kirali, and Nayagul which merge into one another and become one before flowing into River Beas.

[5]: The Katoch royal family has preserved its genealogy table which contains over 500 names. Applying the accepted standard of 20 years rule to each sovereign would place the first sovereign Bhumi Chandra in 8000 BCE. What makes this genealogy table even more interesting is the fact that the 234th name in the table is Susharaman, the adversary of Arjuna mentioned in the Mahabharat. Calculating by the above method, he must have ruled sometime around 3320 BCE, which is strikingly close to the accepted date of 3102 BCE generally assigned to the war of Mahabharata. The colonial historians might reject this evidence stating that this is an exercise meant to connect the ruling family with the legendary royal families mentioned in the epics. What they would not care to explain us, however, is that why would this ruling family claim descent from a family whose titular head hardly played a role in the Mahabharat war, and sided with the villainous Kauravas, when they could have linked themselves with more illustrious lines available, given they wanted to fabricate a lineage? Another point that must not be lost on us is that this genealogy table is found nowhere in any ancient text. It is a family record passed from one generation to another and owes its preservation entirely to the family. Why then would the family claim descent from a little known ancient clan, if glory is what they seek?

[6]: In fact, some colonial historians such as Hutchinson and Vogel, admitted, that the general antiquity of the Kangra royal family is undoubted and from the time of Susharaman we are certainly dealing with a historical record. From the numismatic, textual, epigraphic, and genealogical evidence produced above, it is plain that the Katoch royal family descends from the Trigartas of yore, and if their genealogy is to be relied upon, this family easily becomes the most ancient ruling family of the world, still surviving.

[7]: In keeping with the tradition of their Trigarta forefathers, the Katoch clan developed powerful sub-clans that in their turn established their own kingdoms in the Himachal. Among these sub-clans, the most numerous are Jaswals, Gulerias, Sibaias, and Dadwals. History records that these sub clans made confederacies with their parent clan at different times during the late medieval period to oppose the Muslims armies.