Mahishmati (IAST: Māhiṣmatī) was an ancient city in present-day central India. It was located in present-day Madhya Pradesh, on the banks of Narmada River, although its exact location is uncertain. This ancient city was the capital was Haihaya dynasty which ruler Mahishmant got in boon from Mahesh for only Haihayavanshi rulers.[1][2][3] According to the boon, after the end of the rule of Haihayas on Mahishmati, this city ended and turned into Maheshwar. The city may have flourished as late as until 13th century, as indicated by a Paramara inscription.

The most famous Haihaya Emperor from Mahishmati was Kartavirya Arjuna which is mentioned in Vedas too. After Kartavirya, This city was ruled by his several Haihaya descend branches like the Vitihotra or Talanjangha,[4] Avanti,[5] Kalachuri[6][7] and Vrṣhni or Chandel[8][9] dynasties. Mahishmati was the most important city in the southern part of the Avanti kingdom. The Avanti Kshatriyas of Haihaya branch later served as feaudal of the Anupa Kingdom of Daksha line during Mahabharat.


Map showing Ujjayini and Pratishthana, with the two hypothesized locations (marked as star) of Mahishmati, which was located on the route connecting these two cities.

The following things are known about Mahishmati's location:

Several cities in Madhya Pradesh, located along the Narmada river, are claimed to be the ancient Mahishmati. These include:

Mandhata or Omkareshwar
F. E. Pargiter,[14] and G. C. Mendis,[15] among others, identify Mahishmati with the Mandhata island (Omkareshwar).
According to Pargiter, the description of Mahishmati in Raghuvamsa makes it clear that it was located on an island. Moreover, Harivamsa states that the founder of Mahishmati was muchukunda, the son of King Mandhata.[11]
A 1225 CE inscription of the Paramara king Devapala has been found at Mandhata. It records the grant of a village to Brahmins, and states that the grant was made while the king was staying at Mahishmati.[16]
HD Sankalia,[17] PN Bose[18] and Francis Wilford,[18] among others, identify Mahishmati with present-day Maheshwar.
Pargiter criticises this identification, stating that the Bramin priests of Maheshwar claimed their town as the ancient Mahishmati on basis of similar-sounding names, in order to glorify their town.[11]
Other obsolete identifications
Writers such as Alexander Cunningham,[19] John Faithfull Fleet[20] and Girija Shankar Agrawal[21] identified Mandla as the location of ancient Mahishmati. However, this view is no longer considered as accurate by the modern scholars.[11]
B. Lewis Rice identified Mahishmati as a location in the former Mysore State (present-day Karnataka). His argument was based on Mahabharata, which states that Sahadeva crossed the Kaveri River on his way to Mahishmati. However, besides the southern Kaveri, there is a smaller Kaveri, which meets Narmada near Mandhata.[11]

Mentions in ancient literature

Sanskrit texts

The Sanskrit epic Ramayana mentions the attack of Rakshasa king Ravana on Mahishmati.[18] The Anushasana Parva states that Ikshvaku's son Dashashva was a king of Mahishmati. It goes on to mention that the Haihaya king Kartavirya Arjuna ruled the entire earth from his capital Mahishmati (13:52).[11] He was killed by Bhargava Rama.[22]

Mahabharata mentions Mahishmati as part of a kingdom distinct from the Avanti kingdom.[11] The Sabha Parva (2:30) states that the Pandava general Sahadeva attacked Mahishmati, and defeated its ruler Nila.[11] Mahismati was protected by Agni, due to his matrimonial relationship with the king's daughter. Agni even granted the unmarried women of Mahismati liberty of not staying with only one husband forever, and moving about freely. [23] King Nila of Mahishmati is mentioned as a leader in the Kurukshetra War, rated by Bhishma as a Rathi. His coat of mail had blue colour (Mbh 5:19,167).

Harivamsha (33.1847) names the founder of Mahishmati as Mahishmant, a king who was the son of Sahanja and a descendant of Yadu through Haihaya. At another place, it names the city's founder as Muchukunda, an ancestor of Rama. It states that he built the cities of Mahishmati and Purika in the Rksha mountains.[11]

The Raghuvamsa states that Mahishmati was located on the Reva river (Narmada), and was the capital of the Anupa country.[11]

Another account states that Kartavirya Arjuna conquered Mahishmati city from Karkotaka Naga, a Naga chief and made it his fortress-capital.[24]

Pali texts

The Buddhist text Digha Nikaya mentions Mahishmati as the capital of Avanti, while Anguttara Nikaya states that Ujjaini was Avanti's capital.[25] The Maha-Govinda Suttanta also states that Mahishmati as the capital of Avanti, whose king was one Vessabhu. It is possible that the capital of Avanti was transferred from Ujjayani to Mahishmati temporarily.[11]

The Dipavamsa mentions a territory called Mahisa, describing it as Mahisa-ratta ("Mahisa country"). The Mahavamsa describes this region as a mandala, calling it Mahisha-mandala. The 5th century Buddhist scholar Buddhaghosa terms this territory variously as Rattham-Mahisham, Mahishaka-mandala and Mahishmaka. John Faithfull Fleet theorized that Mahishmati was the capital of this region, which was named after a tribe called "Mahisha". This appears to be same as "Mahishaka", which is described as a southern kingdom (that is, south of the Vindhyas and the Narmada) in the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata.[11]

The Sutta Nipata states that when Bavari's disciples traveled from Pratishthana to Ujjayani, Mahishmati was one of the cities on the route. The inscriptions at Sanchi mention that pilgrims from Mahishmati visited the stupa at Sanchi.[11]

Epigraphic records

During the 6th and 7th centuries, Mahishmati may have served as the capital of the Kalachuri Kingdom.[26]

Rulers of some 11th and 12th century kingdoms in present-day South India claimed Haihaya ancestry. They indicated their claimed place of origin with the title "Lord of Mahishmati, the best of the towns".[11]

Mahishmati appears to have been a flourishing city in as late as the 13th century. A 1225 CE inscription of the Paramara king Devapala mentions that he stayed at Mahishmati.[11]

In popular culture

The Baahubali film series is set in a fictionalized version of the kingdom.[27]


  1. ^ Books, Kausiki (25 November 2021). Sankshipta Linga Maha Purana ★ संक्षिप्त लिंग महा पुराणम् - केवल हिंदी (in Hindi). Kausiki Books.
  2. ^ General, India Office of the Registrar (1965). Census of India, 1961. Manager of Publications.
  3. ^ Vishnudharmottara-Purana: Pauranic Legends and Rebirths : English Translation of First Khanda. Parimal Publications. 1999.
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  6. ^ Pradesh (India), Madhya (1965). Madhya Pradesh: District Gazetteers. Government Central Press.
  7. ^ India, Central (1907). The Central India State Gazetteer Series. Thacker, Spink.
  8. ^ Viyogi; Ansari, Naval & M. Anawar (2010). History Of The Later Harappans And Silpakara Movement (2 Vols.). Gyan Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-7835-751-5.
  9. ^ R. K. Dikshit 1976, p. 3.
  10. ^ James G. Lochtefeld (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 410. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p PK Bhattacharya (1977). Historical Geography of Madhya Pradesh from Early Records. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 170–175. ISBN 978-81-208-3394-4.
  12. ^ V. S. Krishnan; P. N. Shrivastav; Rajendra Verma (1994). Madhya Pradesh District Gazetteers: Shajapur. Government Central Press, Madhya Pradesh. p. 12.
  13. ^ Harihar Panda (2007). Professor H.C. Raychaudhuri, as a Historian. Northern Book Centre. p. 23. ISBN 978-81-7211-210-3.
  14. ^ The Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society (Bangalore). 1911. p. 65.
  15. ^ G.C. Mendis (1 December 1996). The Early History of Ceylon and Its Relations with India and Other Foreign Countries. Asian Educational Services. p. 31. ISBN 978-81-206-0209-0.
  16. ^ Trivedi 1991, pp. 175–177.
  17. ^ Hasmukhlal Dhirajlal Sankalia (1977). Aspects of Indian History and Archaeology. B. R. p. 218.
  18. ^ a b c PN Bose (1882). Note on Mahishmati. Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. Calcutta, India: Asiatic Society. p. 129.
  19. ^ Madhya Pradesh District Gazetteers: Rajgarh. Government Central Press, Mahishmati. 1996. p. 175.
  20. ^ Fleet, J. F. (2011). "XII. Mahishamandala and Mahishmati". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. 42 (2): 425–447. doi:10.1017/S0035869X00039605. ISSN 0035-869X.
  21. ^ Hartosh Singh Bal (19 December 2013). Water Close Over Us. HarperCollins India. p. 69. ISBN 978-93-5029-706-3.
  22. ^ Subodh Kapoor (2002). Encyclopaedia of Ancient Indian Geography, Volume 2. Genesis Publishing Pvt Ltd. p. 435. ISBN 9788177552997.
  23. ^ PC Roy Mahabharata, Sabha Parva, Digvijaya Parva, Section XXXI Page 73
  24. ^ Pargiter, F.E. (1972) [1922]. Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.265-7
  25. ^ Manika Chakrabarti (1981). Mālwa in Post-Maurya Period: A Critical Study with Special Emphasis on Numismatic Evidences. Punthi Pustak.
  26. ^ "Kalachuris of Mahismati". CoinIndia. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  27. ^ "Baahubali is set in Mahishmathi kingdom".