|5th century BCE–4th century CE|
Yaudheya coin, imitative of Kushan coinage, 3rd-4th centuries CE. Obverse: Karttikeya standing facing, holding a spear with dvi (“two” in Brahmi) to the left of Karttikeya's head, peacock to lower right, Brahmi legend around: 𑀬𑁅𑀥𑁂𑀬 𑀕𑀦𑀲𑁆𑀬 𑀚𑀬 (yaudheya ganasya jaya, “Victory to the Yaudheya people”). Reverse: Devasena standing left, raising hand; flower vase to left, inverted nandipada to the right.
|5th century BCE|
|4th century CE|
Yaudheya (Brahmi script: 𑀬𑁅𑀥𑁂𑀬) or Yoddheya Gana (Yoddheya Republic) was an ancient militant confederation based in the Eastern region of the Sapta Sindhu. The word Yaudheya is a derivative of the word from yodha meaning warriors and according to Pāṇini, the suffix '-ya', was significant of warrior tribes, which is supported by their resistance to invading empires such as the Kushan Empire and the Indo-Scythians. Rudradaman I of the Western Satraps notes in his Junagadh rock inscription that the Yaudheyas were 'heroes among all Kshatriya' and 'were loath to surrender'. They were noted as having a Republic form of government, unique from other Janapadas which instead maintained Monarchies.
According to Anant Sadashiv Altekar, numismatic evidence indicates that the territorial dominion of the Yaudheyas extended from Bahawalpur in the South-West to Ludhiana in the North-West, encompassing Delhi in the South-East and Saharanpur in the East. However, his research suggests that the Yaudheyas comprised not just one unified entity, but rather three separate republics. In addition to the aforementioned region, another republic was situated in Northern Rajasthan while a further one existed in Northern Pañcāla. He describes the capital as being situated in modern-day Rohtak.
The Bijayagarh pillar inscription of the Yaudheyas, discovered in the Bharatpur district, also serves as further evidence that reinforces the Yaudheyas establishing and maintaining territory within Northern Rajasthan. According to Alexander Cunningham the Yaudheyas likely had a significant presence in southern Rajasthan during the Western Satraps invasion, suggesting that contact between the two would not have been possible otherwise.
The Yaudheyas emerged as an entity following the decline of the Kuru Kingdom (c. 1200 BCE–c. 525 BCE). The Yaudheyas would eventually encompass the land formerly belonging to the Kurus, including their former capitals Indraprastha, Hastinapur, and Āsandīvat. The Kuru Kingdom which was the prominent power in the Vedic age fell in importance when compared to the other Mahajanapadas.
The earliest references of the existence of the Yaudheyas is in Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi (V.3.116-17 and IV.1.178) of (c.500 BCE) and the Ganapatha. In his works the Yaudheyas are mentioned as ayudha-jivin sanghas i.e., a community living by the profession of arms.
The Yaudheyas were incorporated into the Maurya Empire by Chandragupta Maurya. They also annexed the Pauravas. Chandragupta, under the tutelage of Chanakya, won over local kingdoms and republics in Punjab before conquering the Nanda Empire. Chandragupta heavily relied on the Yaudheya Gana in his campaigns. His military had a high representation of the Yaudheya Gana and similar republicans. Additionally, Yaudheya elites and chiefs in were appointed government positions.
As recorded in the Bijoygarh inscription commissioned around Ashokas reign, the Yaudheya-gana-puraskrta appointed a chief who held the title of Maharaja-Senapati. This chief of the Yaudheya republic was appointed the Mahasenapati or 'Great Commander of the Army' for the Mauryan military. The Arthashastra written by Chanakya described the senapati as adept in all modes of warfare (sarvayudha), all weapons (praharana), possessing modesty and restraint (vidyavinita), and capable of controlling all four wings of the army (chaturangini sena).
Following the decline of the Mauryan Empire the Western Punjab was succeeded by the Indo-Greek Kingdom. However, it was not until the reign of Menander I that the Eastern Punjab supposedly came under their dominion. Subsequently, a series of conflicts ensued between the Indo-Greek successors and various Eastern Punjab republican entities. The Trigarta Kingdom, for instance, minted their own coins, indicating their independent status. Meanwhile, the Yaudheyas and Arjunayanas emerged victorious through military prowess, achieving triumph through the sword which is stated on their minted coinage.
During the second century CE, the Yaudheya gana confronted the Indo-Scythians but they were defeated by Rudradaman I.
The Junagadh rock inscription of Rudradaman (c. 150 CE) acknowledged the military might of the Yaudheyas "who would not submit because they were proud of their title "heroes among the Kshatriyas"", although the inscription claims that they were ultimately vanquished by Rudradaman.
Rudradaman (...) who by force destroyed the Yaudheyas who were loath to submit, rendered proud as they were by having manifested their' title of' heroes among all Kshatriyas.— Junagadh rock inscription
Alexander Cunningham proposes that Rudradaman's victory over the Yaudheyas was likely plundering expedition rather than a claim of political control, as he does not assert their territory as part of his own kingdom.
It is thought that the Kushans then became suzerains of the Yaudheyas when they endeavored to hold the Mathura area. An indication is the fact that the Kushan ruler Huvishka featured Maaseno on his coins, the Kushan incarnation of the Hindu god Karttikeya, or Skanda, whose epithet was "Mahasena". This god being particularly important to the Yaudheyas, it may have been incorporated into Kushan coinage when the Kushans expanded into Yaudheya territory.
In Kanishka's rock Rabatak inscription, he describes campaigning into "the realm of the kshatriyas" in India, which presumably includes the Yaudheya's territories. Furthermore, Kanishka refers to commissioning statue of various local Iranian and Indian deities, including the deity Mahasena or Mahaseno (Kartikeya) which was the chief deity of the Yaudheyas and was often depicted in their coinage.
(Line 4) In the year one it has been proclaimed unto India, unto the *whole of the realm of the *kshatriyas..."
(Lines 10-11) ...and he is called Maaseno... and he likewise gave orders to make images of these gods who are written above..."— Rabatak inscription of Kanishka
According to R. C. Majumdar, approximately 180 CE, the Yaudheyas, in conjunction with other Janapadas situated in the Cis-Sutlej region, such as the Arjunayanas and Kunindas, played a crucial role in dealing a significant blow to the Kushans. As a result, the Kushans ceased to have a presence in the Eastern Punjab. Numismatic evidence further supports this claim, as Yaudheyan coins proudly commemorate this victorious event. Notably, these coins exhibit a distinctive feature wherein the Kushan Kharosthi script is replaced by the Brahmi script, emphasising the significance of the triumph. Yaudheya coinage from the post Kushan period extend to modern day Himachal Pradesh with a large hoard excavated in Kangra, indicating their rule over the region.
Main article: Allahabad Pillar § Samudragupta inscriptions
The name of the Yaudheyas is later mentioned in the Allahabad pillar inscription of the Gupta Empire ruler Samudragupta, as submitting to his rule.
(Lines 22–23) (Samudragupta, whose) formidable rule was propitiated with the payment of all tributes, execution of orders and visits (to his court) for obeisance by such frontier rulers as those of Samataṭa, Ḍavāka, Kāmarūpa, Nēpāla, and Kartṛipura, and, by the Mālavas, Ārjunāyanas, Yaudhēyas, Mādrakas, Ābhīras, Prārjunas, Sanakānīkas, Kākas, Kharaparikas and other (tribes)."
Puranas (e.g. Brahmanda, Vayu, Brahma and Harivamsha) described Yaudheyas as the descendants of Uśīnara and Nrigu.
There are other references to them namely in the Mahabharata, Mahamayuri, Brihatsamhita, Puranas, Chandravyakarana and Kashika.
In the Mahabharata, the land Bahudhanyaka is stated to be among the countries subjugated by Nakula, the fourth Pandava. Bahudhanyaka was the first to fall to Nakulas conquest in of the western direction toward Sakastan, which agrees with the Rohtak-Hisar area.
Varahamihira in his Brihatsamhita (XIV.28 and XVI.22) placed them in the northern division of India.
They are mentioned in Pāṇini's Ashtadhyayi and Ganapatha.
The Yaudheyas only utilized Brahmi script on their coins and seals.
Alexander Cunningham divided the Yaudheya coins into two distinctive kinds; the older and smaller class A coins dating from before the 1st century BCE, and the larger Class B coins from the 3rd century CE during the decline of the Indo-Scythian power. Cunningham states that the later coins evidently copied from the Indo-Scythians money.
John Allan classified Yaudheya coins into six classes, while Vincent Arthur Smith previously gave three types. The classification used by Allen has been mostly followed by scholars till today.
Yaudheya coins were found in the ancient capital of Khokrakot (modern Rohtak), and Naurangabad.
Based on the early coins produced by the Yaudheyas, it can be safely said that Karttikeya was considered their Iṣṭa-devatā.
The findspots of its coins show that it extended from Saharanpur in the east to Bahavalpur in the west, from Ludhiyana in the north¬ west to Delhi in the south-east.
It was a confederation of three republics. Rohtak in the Punjab was the capital of one of them, and northern Panchala, known as Bahudhanyaka (rich in corn) country, was the centre of power of the second. Northern Rajputana seems to have been in the jurisdiction of the third.
Rohtak in the Punjab was the capital of one of them
Audumbaras, Trigartas, Kunindas, Yaudheyas, Arjunayanas - began to coin in the first century BC, which means that they had become independant or republics.... about 100 BC and bear the legends 'Victory of the Arjunayanas' and 'victory of the Yaudheyas', which point to their having won independance by the sword.
The foreign Greek and Ksharoshthi scripts were however replaced by the national Brahmi one and the legend, proudly proclaimed the victory of the new republic.
On the other hand, the post Kushan coins of the Yaudheyas having legends in the characters of the 3rd or 4th century a. d. are found in large hoards between the Sutlej and the Jumna, in the districts of Sahanmpur, Dehra Dun, Delhi, Rohtak, Ludhiana and Kangra. It is therefore quite clear that they were ruling over this territory as an independent power from the beginning of the 3rd century.