Battle of the Ten Kings

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Battle of the Ten Kings

between c. 1400-1000 BC

Near Parusni River, (Ravi) Punjab

Decisive Trtsu-Bharata victory

Rigvedic tribes conquered by Sudas


Trtsu (Indo-Aryans)
Bhrigus (Indo-Aryans)
Dasa (Dahae?)
Druhyus (Gandharis)
Matsya (Indo-Aryans)
Parsu (Persians?)
Purus (Indo-Aryans)
Panis (Parni?)


King Sudas
The Ten Kings


Unknown but less
More than 6,666

Casualties and losses

Unknown but less
6,666 (Mandala 7)

The Battle of the Ten Kings (dāśarājñá) is a battle alluded to in Mandala 7 of the Rigveda (hymns 18, 33 and 83.4-8). It is a battle between Aryans (an "internecine war", as the 1911 Britannica puts it, as opposed to the more frequent accounts of Aryans fighting Dasyus). It took place as Puru tribes, allied with other tribes of the Punjab and goaded by the royal sage Vishvamitra[citation needed], oppose the Trtsu (Bharata) king Sudas in battle, but are defeated as was celebrated in a provocative hymn of Sudas’ poet and priest Vasishtha (RV 7.18). K. F. Geldner in his 1951 translation of the Rigveda considers the hymns as "obviously based on an historical event", even though all details save for what is preserved in the hymns have been lost. Further details have been provided in an incisive discussion of this hymn by H.-P. Schmidt [1]

The tribes

Further information: Rigvedic tribes

  • Trtsu: The tribe of King Sudas.
  • Alinas: One of the tribes defeated by Sudas at the Dasarajna,[2] and it was suggested that they lived to the north-east of Nuristan, because the land was mentioned by the Chinese pilgrim Hiouen Thsang. (Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index, 1912, I, 39)
  • Anu: Some place them in the Paruṣṇī (Ravi) area [3]
  • Bhrigus: Probably the priestly family descended from the ancient Kavi Bhrigu. Later, they are related to the composition of parts of the Atharva Veda (Bhṛgv-Āṅgirasa) .
  • Bhalanas: Fought against Sudas in the Dasarajna battle. Some scholars have argued that the Bhalanas lived in the Bolan Pass area. [4]
  • Dasa, Dasyu: A term for all tribes that were in opposition to King Sudas, and to the Arya in general. The word is cognate to the Iranian ethnonym Dahae or Dahi (also known as Dahas Saka/Scythians).
  • Druhyus: Some align them with the Gandhari (RV I 1.126.7).
  • Matsya are only mentioned in the RV (7.18.6), but later in connection with the Śālva (Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index, 1912, II 122).
  • Parsu: The Parśu have been connected by some with the ancient Persians.[5] This is based on the evidence of an Assyrian inscription of 844 BC referring to the Persians as Paršu, and theBehistun Inscription of Darius I of Persia referring to Parsa (Pārsa) as the area of the Persians.[6] More likely, they lived, like some other tribes in the Daśarājña hymn, in the (north)western border areas of the subcontinent.
  • Purus: Descendants of Yayati, from the lunar dynasty .
  • Panis: Also known as the Parni or Parnoi, a Saka tribe in northwestern Afghanistan related to the Scythians.


Hymns 7.18 and 7.83 are dedicated to Indra and Indra paired with Varuna, respectively. They thank the deity for helping Sudas to defeat his enemies, while hymn 7.33 is addressed by Vasistha’s descendants to Vasishtha, praising him for moving the gods to take Sudas’ side by his prayers (Indra preferred Vasishtha’s prayers over those of Pasadyumna, son of Vayata, 7.33.2). They describe him as a son of Mitra and Varuna (7.33.11). The hymn stresses the importance of the priests (Vasistha is named along with Parashara and Satayatu) in winning Indra’s favour; they had invoked Indra while they had moved away from "home" (grhāt, 7.18.21)

The situation leading up to the battle is described in 7.18.6: The Turvasas and Yaksus (Yadu) [7], together with the Matsya tribe (punned upon by the rishi by comparing them to hungry fish (matsya) flocking together)[8] appear and ally themselves with theBhrigus and the Druhyus. Their confederation was further increased by the Pakthas, the Bhalanas, the Alinas, the Shivas and the Visanins (7.18.7), while the Trtsus relied solely on the help of the "Arya’s Comrade" (āryasya sadhamāḥ), Indra.

The "ten kings" are mentioned in both 7.33 (verses 3 and 5) and 7.83 (verses 6, 7 and 8), but not in the most extensive account of 7.18 so that it is not made explicit how this number was broken down: Sudas himself is not to be included in the number (the Trtsus are surrounded by ten kings in 7.33.5), and if of the tribes mentioned in 7.18, the Turvasas, Yaksus (pun for Yadu),[9] Matsyas, Bhrgus, Druhyus, Pakthas, Bhalanas, Alinas, Shivas and Visanins are counted, the full number is reached, leaving theAnavas (7.18.14), the Ajas and Sigrus (7.18.19) and the "21 men of both Vaikarna tribes" (7.18.11) without a king, and implying that Bheda (7.18.19, also mentioned 7.33.3 and 7.83.4, the main leader slain by Sudas), Shimyu (7.18.5), and Kavaṣa (7.18.12) are the names of individuals.

The battle

The battle itself took place on the banks of the Parusni (Ravi). The warriors of Sudas are described as white-robed (shvityanca), wearing hair-knots on the right side of their heads (daksinataskaparda), having flying banners (krtádhvaj) (RV 7.83.2), while the ten kings do not worship (áyajyavaḥ). It appears (7.18.5) that Sudas managed to cross the Parusni safely, while his foes, trying to pursue, were scattered by a flood and either drowned or were slaughtered by Sudas’ men:

7.18.9 As to their goal they sped to their destruction: they sought Parusni; e’en the swift returned not.
Indra abandoned, to Sudas the manly, the swiftly flying foes, unmanly babblers.
7.18.9 They went like kine unherded from the pasture, each clinging to a friend as chance directed.
They who drive spotted steeds, sent down by Prsni, gave ear, the Warriors and the harnessed horses. (trans. Griffith)

Kavaṣa and the Druhyu were "overwhelmed by Indra" while still in the water (7.18.10). The slain warriors of the Anu and Druhyus are numbered 6,666 (7.18.14).


In the aftermath of the battle, the Bharatas under Sudas (7.33.6), received tribute from the Ajas, the Sigrus and the Yaksus (= Yadu, 7.18.20), and Indra destroyed the seven fortifications of the enemies, and gave the treasures of Anu to Sudas (7.18.13). 7.18.17 stresses that this was a victory against all odds, compared to a ram defeating a lion.


  1. ^ Notes on Rgveda 7.18.5-10. Indica. Organ of the Heras Institute, Bombay. Vol.17, 1980, 41-47
  2. ^ A. A. Macdonell and A. B. Keith (1912). Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, I, 39.
  3. ^ Macdonell-Keith, Vedic Index I 22
  4. ^ Macdonell-Keith, Vedic Index
  5. ^ A. A. Macdonell and A. B. Keith (1912). Vedic Index of Names and Subjects.
  6. ^ Radhakumud Mookerji (1988). Chandragupta Maurya and His Times (p. 23). Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 8120804058.
  7. ^ Schmidt 19080
  8. ^ Schmidt 1980
  9. ^ Schmidt 1980
  • Karl Friedrich Geldner, Der Rig-Veda: Aus dem Sanskrit ins Deutsche übersetzt Harvard Oriental Studies, vols. 33, 34, 35 (1951), reprint Harvard University Press (2003) ISBN 0-674-01226-7
  • Ralph T.H. Griffith, Hymns of the Rig Veda (1896)