Rajput Culture and History: The distortions, the conspiracies, and the truth – Part 9 ( The Malavas )

In this article we intend to present a summary account of another republican Kshatriya clan of ancient India called the Malavas 

[1]: The Greek chroniclers mention a people called Malloi and Oxydrakoi located in the country below the confluence point of rivers Hydespas (Jhelum) and Akesines (Chenab). These are none other than the Malavas and Kshudrakas respectively of the Sanskrit literature. Panini categorized them with other Ayudha-jivi-samaghas – that is the clans of warriors that earned their living by the profession of war. The Greek chronicler Arrian tells us that they were the most numerous and warlike of the Indian people, and gave a stiff resistance to Alexander. Their confederate army consisted of 90,000-foot soldiers, 10,000 cavalry, and 900 war chariots. These numbers certainly appear quite inflated, but as one reads through the Greek accounts, it does become plain that the confederate army gave a good competition to their adversaries and for some time did make the Greeks very nervous. Alexander himself was badly injured during the military operations against them, when he leaped inside a strongly garrisoned Malava fortress along with a few retainers and got shot in the chest. He wouldn’t have made it back alive if not for the bravery of one of his body guards who stayed with him and repulsed all attempts to take him alive till the Greek reinforcements arrived. However, the injury was serious enough to incapacitate Alexander permanently and eventually it did finish his military career for good.    

[2]: The Malavas have been frequently mentioned in ancient Hindu, Buddhist, and Jaina sacred writings. Besides Panini’s Ashta-dhyayi they are also mentioned in Mahabharata along with YaudheyasArjunayanasAmbhastas, and TrigarthasThe celebrated Rishi Patanjali mentions the name of Malavas and Kshudrakas in the context of Kshatriya Janapadas, while commenting upon the writings of Panini. It leaves us with no doubt that the Malavas were the indigenous Aryas and belonged to the Kshatriya varna.   

[3]: The Mahabharata also gives us a good account of the geographical whereabouts of these people. It tells us that they were surrounded by the Trigarthas and Madras in the north-east Punjab, and Ambhastas and Sibis in the north of Sindh, and they occupied a great part of the southern Punjab, which corresponds to the districts of Firozpur, Ludhiana, Jind, Patiala, Nabha, and Maler Kotla of today. This region is still popular by its old name of Malwa. Even the Punjabi dialect which is spoken here is called Malavi. During the great war the Malavas and Kshudrakas fought on the side of the Kauravas 

[4]: As we have seen in the case of other Kshatriya republics before, the Malavas too moved southwards into Rajputana, because of a continuous onslaught from the Indo-Greeks, and there is substantial epigraphical and numismatic evidence available today to suggest that they were occupying south-eastern Rajputana between the second century before christ and fourth century of the common era. During this period of occupancy their capital was located at Malavanagar, which corresponds to the modern Nagar. More than 6000 coins of Malavas have been found from this place with the legend – Malava ganasya jayaha. 

 [5]: It is during their stay in Rajputana that the Malavas gradually developed three closely interrelated sub-clans. These are SoginsMaukharis, and Gardhabhillas. The sub-clans ruled in different parts of the core Malava territory and together they kept the Saka rulers on their guards. Upon defeat of the Sakas they revived the Vedic Arya religion in Rajputana and celebrated several kinds of Vedic sacrifices to mark their victory and independent rule. From the Nandsa inscription we learn that a chief of Sogin clan by name Srisoma inflicted a crushing defeat upon his western kshatrapa adversary and celebrated Ekashastiratra sacrifice. From the inscription, we also get to learn about the family and pedigree of this chief. He descended from a long line of warriors belonging to the Ikshvaku Suryavamsa family. The Malavas thus had Suryavamsi heritage.   

[6]: From the Jaina work called Vicharasreni composed by Mertungacharya, it is clear that the Malava sub-clan Gardabhillas migrated towards Avanti and gave that region a new name after their parent clan, that is Malwa. Since then this name has never fallen into disuse. This happened around the 2st century BCE. It is said that they ruled Malwa region with their capital at Ujjaini for more than 135 years before they were finally uprooted from their seat by the Sakas. The Malvas however continued to stay in the country surrounding modern day Mandsaur which lay to the west of Ujjaini and around the 4th century AD another branch of this sub-clan of the Malavas rose to prominence. These were the mighty Aulikaras, which under their much-celebrated monarch Yashodharman crushed the Huns completely. From the Balaghat plates of Prithvi Sena, we know that the Vakataka ruler Narendra Sena had established his suzerainty over countries of Kosala, Melaka, and Malava. Now Malava here speaks of the region around Mandsaur that is western Malawa under the rule of the Aulikaras, who ruled from their capital at Dasapura and not eastern Malwa necessarily. 

[7]: In this article we covered quite a bit of ground; in the next article we will talk about the Aulikars and other royal houses that sprang from the Malava clans and ruled different parts of India. 

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