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Indraprashta


¤ Legend Says Pandavas Created Indraprastha

IndraprashtaThe first city of Delhi was founded by the legendary Pandavas of the Mahabharata around 1400BC. It was called Indraprastha.

The Mahabharata isn’t all that legendary. of course it might have been trimmed and embellished over the centuries, but the essential story reflects the very real political unrest prevailing at that time in the areas of northern and central India. According to the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddhist text, at the time of the Buddha a great battle of supremacy was happening between the existing states (known as mahajanapadas): Anga, Assaka (Asmaka), Avanti, Chedi, Gandhara, Kasi, Kosala, Kuru, Kamboja, Magadha, Matsya, Malla, Panchala, Surasena, Vajji and Vamsa (Vatsa). All of them were of varying size and strength; most were either conquered or swallowed up by the bigger fishes and the eventual survivors were Avanti, Kosala, Magadha and Vatsya (Vatsa with its moons). Since many of the characters of the Mahabharata echo the dynastic names and geographical locations of these mahajanapadas one would be greatly tempted to conclude that a case might be made for the theory that the great epic records actual events.


¤ The Controversy In Inheriting The Throne

Anyhow, the problem, as stated in the Mahabharata, arose out of that old, old controversy about who-shall-inherit-the-kingdom. The central plot concerns two rival dynasties, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The families were cousins, the sons of the brothers Dhritrashtra and Pandu. Dhritrashtra was older of the two, but since he was blind Pandu was named king. Pandu had five sons: the eldest and the righteous Yudhisthira (and between us rather a wimp), Bhima of awesome strength, Arjuna the skilled warrior, and the good lookers, the twins Nakula and Sahadeva. Dhritrashtra had 100 sons, the eldest of whom was the wicked Duryodhana, who was aided and abetted by his Machiavellian uncle Shakuni. (Apparently Shakuni of Gandhara was carrying out a personal vendetta of his own by causing the Dhritrashtra-Pandu family to split, but then it's just a sub-plot in a story with many such bylanes and avenues.) Through a certain course of events, Pandu was first exiled and then killed so that when the wife Kunti turned to Dhritrashtra for help, the well-meaning king took her and her children under his wing.


¤ Indraprastha - The Most Fascinating Tale of Mahabharata

s He then packed off her children to Gurukul (school). However here is where the trouble starts. The Pandavas apparently excelled in all the skills and subjects so thoroughly that the Kauravas were at first envious, then jealous and finally bitterly resentful of their cousins. and the hostility did not stop there. As grown men, when the Pandavas demanded their kingdom back from Dhritrashtra (who was after all only ruling in lieu of his brother), the Kauravas flatly refused. of course the Pandavas were not going to stand for any of this so they approached Lord Krishna, the master strategist and statesman, for a solution.

A compromise was reached where the Pandavas were given some land away from the kingdom – Delhi and its environs – so that they could be permanently out of the Kauravas’ hair. At that time this area was dense forestland thickly matted by keekar or babul (prickly tree with yellow flowers) trees. However, the Pandavas took up the task of settling this land. Stories from the Mahabharata tell us how they burnt the forests (it’s a good thing they didn’t have environmentalists then) and leveled the ground to make way for the amazing Indraprastha.

After the city was ready, the Pandavas invited the Kauravas over for a dekko. Apparently, Indraprastha was so spectacular that the Kauravas were quite dazzled by it. and then they wanted Indraprastha to be part of their kingdom as well, but that's another story and does not concern us.

Today the only survivors of the city that floored them all are the interiors of the Purana Qila (Old Fort). The fort itself was started by the Mughal king Humayun and completed by Sher Shah Suri who overthrew him.



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