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Title: Haihayas  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Avanti (India), Kartavirya Arjuna, Khargone district, Bahu (Bahuka), Yadava
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


The battle between the Haihaya emperor Arjuna Kartavirya and Parashurama, a painting from the British Museum, London, c.1800

The Haihayas (Sanskrit: हैहय) were an ancient confederacy of five ganas (clans), who claimed their common ancestry from Yadu. According to the Harivamsha Purana (34.1898) Haihaya was the great grandson of Yadu and grandson of Sahasrajit.[1] In the Vishnu Purana (IV.11), all the five Haihaya clans are mentioned together as the Talajanghas.[2] The five Haihaya clans were Vitihotra, Sharyata (mentioned elsewhere in the Puranas as the descendants of Sharyati, a son of Vaivasvata Manu), Bhoja, Avanti and Tundikera.[2] The Haihayas migrated from the west to the present-day Malwa region of Western Madhya Pradesh). The Puranas style the Haihayas as the first ruling dynasty of Avanti.[3]


  • Foundation of Mahishmati 1
  • Arjuna Kartavirya and his successors 2
  • The Vitihotras 3
  • Medieval Haihayas 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Foundation of Mahishmati

In the Harivamsha (33.1847), the honour of founding their future capital city of Mahishmati (in present-day Madhya Pradesh) was attributed to the Haihaya king Mahishmant, son of Sahanja. But according to the Padma Purana (VI.115), the city was actually founded by a certain Mahisha.[4]

Arjuna Kartavirya and his successors

According to the Mahabharata and the Puranas, the most celebrated Haihaya king was Arjuna Kartavirya.[5] His epithet was Sahasrabahu. He was called a Samrat and Chakravartin. His name is found in the Rig Veda (VIII.45.26).[6] He ultimately conquered Mahishmati city from Karkotaka Naga, a Naga chief and made it his fortress-capital.[5] According to the Vayu Purana, he invaded Lanka and took Ravana prisoner.[7] Arjuna propitiated Dattatreya and was favoured by him.[8] Arjuna's sons killed sage Jamadagni. Jamadagni's son Parashurama in revenge killed Arjuna. Arjuna had a number of sons. His son Jayadhvaja succeeded him to the throne. Jayadhvaja was succeeded by his son Talajangha.[5]

Arjuna Kartavirya, humbling Ravana, a painting by Fazl, 1597-1605

The Vitihotras

Later, the Haihayas were mostly known by the name of the dominant clan amongst them - the Vitihotras (or Vitahotras or Vitahvyas). According to the Puranas, Vitihotra was the great-grandson of Arjuna Kartavirya and the eldest son of Talajangha. The Puranas also mention the names of two Vitihotra rulers: Ananta, son of Vitihotra and Durjaya Amitrakarshana, son of Ananta[2] The northward expansion of the Haihaya territory to the mid-Ganges valley by the Vitihotra rulers was stopped by the Ikshvaku king Sagara.[9] The Mahagovindasuttanta of the Dighanikaya mentions about an Avanti king Vessabhu (Vishvabhu) and his capital Mahissati (Mahishmati). Probably he was a Vitihotra ruler.[10] Probably, during the rule of the later Vitihotras, the whole Avanti region developed into two realms, divided by the Vindhyas, having principal cities at Mahishmati and Ujjayini (present day Ujjain). According to the Matsya Purana (5.37), Pulika, one of the ministers of Ripunjaya, the last Vitihotra king of Ujjayini killed his master and made his son Pradyota new king.[11]

It is said that many of the Haihayas were learned in the Vedas.[12]

Medieval Haihayas

A number of early medieval dynasties, which include the Kalachuris and the Mushakavamsha of Kerala, claimed their descent from the Haihayas.[13] The Haihayas of eastern India fought against Islamists invaders in medieval times.[14]

See also


  1. ^ Pargiter, F.E. (1972) [1922]. Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.87.
  2. ^ a b c Pargiter, F.E. (1972) [1922]. Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.102.
  3. ^ Raychaudhuri, H.C. (1972) Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta: University of Calcutta, pp.130-1.
  4. ^ Pargiter, F.E. (1972) [1922]. Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, pp.263,263fn3.
  5. ^ a b c Pargiter, F.E. (1972) [1922]. Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.265-7
  6. ^ Misra, V.S. (2007). Ancient Indian Dynasties, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, ISBN 81-7276-413-8, pp.157-8
  7. ^ Dowson, John (1984). A Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology, and Religion, Geography, History. Calcutta: Rupa & Co. p. 152. 
  8. ^ Pargiter, F.E. (1972) [1922]. Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.229.
  9. ^ Thapar, Romila (1996). Ancient Indian Social History Some Interpretations, New Delhi: Orient Longman, ISBN 81-250-0808-X, p.299
  10. ^ Bhattacharyya, P. K. (1977). Historical Geography of Madhya Pradesh from Early Records. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 118–9.   The ISBN printed in the book (0-8426-909-1) is invalid, causing a checksum error.
  11. ^ Raizada, Ajit (1992). Ujjayini (in Hindi), Bhopal: Directorate of Archaeology & Museums, Government of Madhya Pradesh, p.21
  12. ^ Sarmah, Thaneswar The Bharadvajas in Ancient India, p.69
  13. ^ Thapar, Romila (1996). Ancient Indian Social History Some Interpretations, New Delhi: Orient Longman, ISBN 81-250-0808-X, p.282
  14. ^ Rajaguru, Satyanarayan. History of the Gaṅgas, p.59
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