Anga (Ang or Angdesh or अंग, अंगदेश ) was a kingdom that flourished on the eastern Indian subcontinent in the 6th century BCE until taken over by Magadha in the same century. Counted among the “sixteen great nations” (solas Mahajanapadas) in Buddhist texts like the Anguttara Nikaya, Anga also finds mention in the Jain Vyakhyaprajnapti’s list of ancient janapadas. According to Mahabharata Karna ruled the Kingdom during the period.
Some refer that the Angas were grouped with people of ‘mixed origin’, generally in the later ages.
Mahabharata (I.104.53-54) and Puranic literature attest that the name Anga had originated eponymously from the name of Prince Anga, the founder of the kingdom. According to some scriptures (Mahabharata and some Puranas), a king Bali, the Vairocana and the son of Sutapa, had no sons. So, he requested the sage, Dirghatamas, to bless him with sons. The sage is said to have begotten five sons through his wife, the queen Sudesna. The princes were named Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Sumha and Pundra. The princes later founded kingdoms named after themselves. The prince Vanga founded Vanga kingdom, in the current day region of Bangladesh and part of West Bengal. The prince Kalinga founded the kingdom of Kalinga, in the current day region of coastal Orissa, including the North Sircars.
Ramayana (1.23.14) narrates the origin of name Anga as the place where Kamadeva was burnt to death by Siva and where his body parts(angas) are scattered.
The earliest mention occurs in the Atharava Veda (V.22.14) where they find mention along with the Magadhas, Gandharis and the Mujavatas, all apparently as a despised people.
Puranic texts place the janapadas of the Angas, Kalingas, Vangas, Pundras (or Pundra Kingdom – now some part of Eastern Bihar, West Bengal and Bangladesh), Vidarbhas, and Vindhya-vasis in the Purva-Dakshina division.
The Puranas also list several early kings of Anga. The Mahagovinda Suttanta refers to king Dhatarattha of Anga. Jain texts refer to Dhadhivahana, as a ruler of the Angas. Puranas and Harivamsa represent him as the son and immediate successor of Anga, the eponymous founder of the kingdom. Jain traditions place him at the beginning of sixth century BCE.
Between the Vatsas and the realm of Anga, lived the Magadhas, who initially were comparatively a weak people. A great struggle went on between the Angas and its eastern neighbors. The Vidhura Pandita Jataka describes Rajagriha (the Magadhan Capital) as the city of Anga and Mahabharata also refers to a sacrifice performed by the king of Anga at Mount Vishnupada (at Gaya). This indicates that Anga had initially succeeded in annexing the Magadhas, and thus its borders extended to the kingdom of Matsya country.
This success of Angas did not last long. About the middle of 6th century BC, Bimbisara, the crown prince of Magadha had killed Brahmadatta, the last independent king of Anga and seized Champa. Bimbisara made it as his headquarters and ruled over it as his father’s Viceroy. Thenceforth, Anga became an integral part of growing Magadha empire (PHAI, 1996).
Based on Mahabharata evidence, the kingdom of the Angas roughly corresponded to the districts of Araria, Katihar, Purnia, Kishanganj, Madhepura, Saharsa, Bhagalpur, Banka, Jamui, Munger, Lakhisarai, Begusarai, Sheikhpura and Khagaria in Bihar and districts of Sahebganj, Godda, Deoghar, Pakur, Dumka, Giridih and Jamtara in Jharkhand; later extended to include the districts of Malda and Uttar Dinajpur in West Bengal. The River Champa (modern Chandan) formed the boundaries between the Magadha in the west and Anga in the east. Anga was bounded by river Koshi on the north. According to the Mahabharata, Duryodhana had named Karna the King of Anga.
Sabhaparava of Mahabharata (II.44.9) mentions Anga and Vanga as forming one country. The Katha-Sarit-Sagara also attests that Vitankapur, a city of Anga was situated on the shores of the sea. Thus the boundaries of Anga may have extended to the sea in the east.
The capital of Anga was Champa (Campā). According to Mahabharata and Harivamsa, Champa was formerly known as Malini. Champa was located on the right bank of river Ganges near its junction with river Champa. It was a very flourishing city and is referred to as one of six principal cities of ancient India (Digha Nikaya). Bhagalpur in Bihar, usually identified as the site of Champa, still has two villages called Champa-nagara and Champa-pura.
Champa was noted for its wealth and commerce. It was also a great center of trade and commerce and its merchants regularly sailed to distant Suvarnabhumi for trading purposes. During his pilgrimage there in the end of the 4th century, the Chinese monk Faxan noted the numerous Buddhist temples that still existed in the city, transliterated Chanpo in Chinese (瞻波 pinyin: Zhānbō; Wade–Giles: Chanpo). The kingdom of Anga by then had long ceased to exist; it had been known as Yāngjiā (鴦伽) in Chinese.
Anga Kingdom in great Indian epic literatures
Apart from its historical kingdom as mentioned above,the kingdom of Anga has got mentioned in great Indian epic literatures in detail.
Anga was a kingdom in the Eastern parts of India. Anga king Romapada was a friend of Kosala king Dasaratha. Kosala Princess Santha, elder to Raghava Rama, lived as the daughter of Romapada, since he was childless. Duryodhana established Karna as the ruler of Angas. It is believed that there were many Anga kings who ruled different parts of Anga kingdom, contemporary to Karna. Champapuri was the capital of Anga ruled by Karna. Magadha (south- west Bihar) king Jarasandha gifted another city called Malinipuri, to the Anga king Karna. Thefounders of five eastern kingdoms, which included: – Angas (eastern Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, India.), Vangas (southern West Bengal and Bangladesh), Kalingas (coastal Orissa), Pundras (northern Bangladesh and West Bengal, India) and Suhmas (north-western Bangladesh and West Bengal, India) shared a common ancestry.
References in Mahabharata
Anga mentioned as a kingdom in Ancient India (Bharata Varsha) - MBh( 6.9)
The Angas, the Vangas, the Kalingas, the Yakrillomans; the Mallas, the Suddellas, the Pranradas, the Mahikas, the Sasikas; the Valhikas, the Vatadhanas, the Abhiras, the Kalajoshakas; the Aparantas
Origin of the five royal lines including the Angas Mbh (1,104)
One day a king named Vali, who was childless, went to the Ganges river to perform his ablutions. Then a raft to which the old sage Dirgatamas, cast away by his wife and sons, was tied, approached him. The king took the old man. Vali, chose him for raising up offspring. King Vali sent his wife Sudeshna unto him. But the queen knowing that the latter was blind and old went not unto him, she sent unto him her nurse. And upon that Sudra woman the Rishi begat eleven children of whom Kakshivat was the eldest. And beholding those eleven sons with Kakshivat as the eldest, who had studied all the Vedas, king Vali one day asked the Rishi saying, ‘Are these children mine?’ The Rishi replied, ‘No, they are mine. They were begotten by me upon a Sudra woman. The king Vali then again sent unto him his queen Sudeshna. The Rishi by merely touching her said, ‘Thou shalt have five children named Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pundra and Suhma. And after their names as many countries shall be known. It is after their names that their dominions have come to be called Anga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pundra and Suhma.
The same history is repeated with slight changes at (2,21):
It was in the city of Girivraja, the capital of Magadha Kingdom, that the illustrious sage Gautama (Dirghatamas is mentioned as Gautama here, since he belongs to the race of Gautama) begat on the Sudra woman Ausinari (the daughter of Usinara) Kakshivat and other celebrated sons. It was here that in olden times the mighty monarchs of Anga, Vanga and other countries, came to the abode of Gautama, and passed their days in joy and happiness.
Karna becomes the king of Anga MBh 1.138
Duryodhana said:- The scriptures have it that three classes of persons can lay claim to royalty, viz., persons of the blood royal, heroes, and lastly, those that lead armies. If Arjuna is unwilling to fight with my friend Karna, who is not a king, I will install Karna as the king of Anga. Saying this, Duryodhana caused the priests to install Karna as the king of Anga.
Karna is sometimes described as the king of both Anga and Vanga. (2,43)
Karna’s son Vrishasena is described as a chief of the Angas (6,17)
Karna’s friendship with Magadha king Jarasandha Mbh 12.5
Hearing of the fame of Karna the ruler of the Magadhas, king Jarasandha, challenged him. While engaged with him in mortal combat with bare arms, Karna was about to sever the two portions of his antagonist’s body that had been united together by Jara. The king (of Magadha) cast off
all desire of hostility. From friendship he then gave unto Karna the town Malini. Before this Karna had been king of the Angas only, but from that time the grinder of hostile forces began to rule over Champa also, agreeably to the wishes of Duryodhana.
Yudhisthira’s sway over the Anga kings
Many kings of Anga were present during the inaugural ceremony of Pandava king Yudhisthira’s newly built court at his capital Indraprastha. (2,4) The Angas, the Vangas, the Punras, the Sanavatyas, and the Gayas—these good and well-born Kshatriyas distributed into regular clans and trained to the use of arms, brought tribute unto king Yudhishthira by hundreds and thousands. (2,51) The prosperity which the Pandavas had acquired at Indraprastha, and which, unobtainable by other kings, was beheld at the Rajasuya sacrifice, conducted by king Yudhisthira. In that sacrifice, many kings, even those of the Vangas and Angas and Paundras and Odras and Cholas and Dravidas and Andhakas, and the chiefs of many islands and countries on the seaboard as also of frontier states, including the rulers of the Sinhalas, the barbarous mlecchas, the natives of Lanka, and all the kings of the West by hundreds, and all the chiefs of the sea-coast, and the kings of the Pahlavas and the Daradas and the various tribes of the Kiratas and Yavanas and Sakras and the Harahunas and Chinas and Tukharas and the Sindhavas and the Jagudas and the Ramathas and the Mundas and the inhabitants of the kingdom of women and the Tanganas and the Kekayas and the Malavas and the inhabitants of Kasmira, were present in obedience to the invitation and they performed various offices, at the command of Yudhisthira. (3,51)
Military campaign of Karna
Karna reduced the Angas (the other Anga kings), and the Bangas (alias Vangas), and the Kalingas, and the Mandikas, and the Magadhas. the Karkakhandas; and also included with them the Avasiras, Yodhyas, and the Ahikshatras.
Karna had subjugated many invincible and mighty foes—the Gandharas, the Madrakas, the Matsyas, the Trigartas, the Tanganas, the Khasas, the Pancalas, the Videhas, the Kulindas, the Kasi-kosalas, the Suhmas, the Angas (the other Anga kings), the Nishadhas, the Pundras, the Kichakas, the Vatsas, the Kalingas, the Taralas, the Asmakas, and the Rishikas. Subjugating all these brave races, Radha’s son, had caused all of them to pay tribute to us for the aggrandisement of Duryodhana. He became synonym of bravery and pronounced as “Kaarn” or “Khaan” in the region of then Mongolia, north of China and people started using Khaan as title for all warrior classes there as “Singh” is used in present India for all brave warrior classes taken from Lion. ( In Hindi pronounced as सिंह)
Vasudeva Krishna’s conquests MBh 7.11
Vasudeva Krishna slew the king of Chedis, that leader of kings, as if he were some animal, on the occasion of the latter’s disputing about the Arghya. Madhava hurled unto the sea the Daitya city called Saubha, (moving) in the skies, protected by Salwa, and regarded as impregnable. The Angas, the Vangas, the Kalingas, the Magadhas, the Kasis, the Kosalas, the Vatsyas, the Gargyas, the Karushas and the Paundras,–all these he vanquished in battle.
Bhargava Rama’s conquests MBh 7.68
The valiant son of Jamadagni, Bhargava Rama, proceeding against the Kashmiras, the Daradas, the Kuntis, the Kshudrakas, the Malavas, the Angas, the Vangas, the Kalingas, the Videhas, the Tamraliptakas, the Rakshovahas, the Vitahotras, the Trigartas, the Martikavatas, dharamchand , counting by thousand, slew them all by means of his whetted shafts.
Arjuna’s conquests after the Kurukshetra War MBh 14.
Sarabha, the son of Sisupala first encountered Arjuna in battle and then worshipped him with due honours. He then proceeded to the realms of the Kasis, the Angas, the Kosalas, the Kiratas, and the Tanganas. Receiving due honours in all those realms, Dhananjaya turned his course. He
then proceeded to the country of the Dasarnas.
Angas in the Kurukshetra War
All the Anga kings allied with the Kauravas, owing to the strongest Anga king Karna, the closest ally of Duryodhana
A Mleccha king of Anga, slain by Pandava Bhima
Beholding Duryodhana thus afflicted, by Bhima, the ruler of the Angas on his elephant came there for afflicting Bhima. Thereupon, Bhimasena deeply pierced with a long arrow that elephant. That arrow, penetrating through its body, sank deep in the earth. And at this the elephants fell down. While the elephant was falling down, the Mleccha king also was falling down it. But Vrikodara, cut off his head with a broad-headed arrow before his antagonist actually fell down. When the heroic ruler of the Angas fell, his divisions fled away. (7,24)
A Mleccha king of Anga, slain by Pandava Nakula
Sahadeva, struck the elephant of Pundra depriving it of its standard and driver and armour and life. Having thus cut off that elephant, Sahadeva proceeded against the chief of the Angas. Nakula, however, causing Sahadeva to desist, himself afflicted the ruler of the Angas with three long shafts, each resembling the rod of Yama, and his foe’s elephant with a hundred arrows. Then the ruler of the Angas hurled at Nakula eight hundred lances bright as the rays of the Sun. Each of these Nakula cut off into three fragments. Nakula then cut off the head of his antagonist with a crescent-shaped arrow. At this that mleccha king, deprived of life, fell down with the animal he rode. Upon the fall of the prince of the Angas who was well-skilled in elephant-lore, the elephant-men of the Angas, filled with rage, proceeded with speed against Nakula. (8,22)
Other mentions in the Kurukshetra War
Thousands of trained elephant-riders amongst the Angas rushed against Bhima, directed by Duryodhana (7,90) Many foremost of combatants skilled in elephant-fight, belonging to the Easterners, the Southerners, the Angas, the Vangas, the Pundras, the Magadhas, the Tamraliptakas, the Mekalas, the Koshalas, the Madras, the Dasharnas, the Nishadas uniting with the Kalingas and showering shafts and lances and arrows drenched the Pancala force (8,22)
Views of Karna and Shalya on Angas and other tribes
Shalya was the king of Madra Kingdom, in the region of Arattas, as Karna was the king of Angas. Both engage in a verbal fight debating on the good and bad of their respective countries and tribes.
Karna:- Fie on the Arattas and the people of the country of the five rivers! Commencing with the Pancalas, the Kauravas, the Naimishas, the Matsyas,–all these,–know what religion is. The old men among the Northerners, the Angas, the Magadhas, (without themselves knowing what virtue is) follow the practices of the pious.
Shalya:- The abandonment of the afflicted and the sale of wives and children are, O Karna, prevalent amongst the Angas whose king thou art. Recollecting those faults of thine that Bhishma recited on the occasion of the tale of Rathas and Atirathas, drive away thy wrath. Do not be angry. Brahmanas may be found everywhere; Kshatriyas may be found everywhere; so also Vaishyas and Shudras.
Anga king Romapada MBh 3.110
The son of sage Kasyapa, Vibhandaka, having proceeded to a big lake, devoted himself to the practice of penances. He beget a son named Rishyasringa in Urvasi of the Apsara clan. At this very period there was a ruler of the land of Anga known by the name of Romapada who was a friend of Kosala king Dasaratha. We have heard that he from love of pleasure had been guilty of a falsehood towards a Brahmana. He was shunned by the priestly class. And he was without a ministering priest (to assist him in his religious rites). There were no rains in his territory for many years; so that his people began to suffer a draught. Romapada, caused the youthful sage Rishyasringa to come to his kingdom, by attracting him using courtesans in his country. After Rishyasriga performed a sacrifice, rain came back to his kingdom.
An Anga king named Chitraratha Mbh 13.42
An invitation came to Ruchi from the country of the Angas. The sister of Ruchi, named Prabhavati, was the spouse of Chitraratha, the ruler of the Angas. Ruchi, of very superior complexion, having attached those flowers to her hair, went to the palace of the king of the Angas in answer to the invitation she had received. Beholding those flowers on her hair the queen of the Angas, possessed of beautiful eyes, urged her sister to obtain some for her. Ruchi, of beautiful face, speedily informed her husband of that request of her sister.
An Anga king named Vrihadratha Mbh 12.29
Vrihadratha the king of the Angas, fell a prey to death. While the king of Anga performed his sacrifice by the hill called Vishnupada, Indra became intoxicated with the Soma he drank, and the Brahmanas with the presents they received. No other man was born, or will ever be born, that gave or will give away so much wealth as was given away by the king of the Angas in the seven sacrifices he performed.
An Anga king named Vasuhoma Mbh 12.121
There was among the Angas a king of great splendour, called Vasuhoma. That king was always engaged in acts of piety, and accompanied by his spouse he always practiced the most rigid penances. He repaired to the spot called Munjaprishtha held in high esteem by the Pitris and the celestial Rishis.
An Anga king mentioned among the 24 great kings Mbh 1.1
These were Puru, Kuru, Yadu, Sura and Viswasrawa of great glory; Anuha, Yuvanaswu, Kakutstha, Vikrami, and Raghu; Vijava, Virihorta, Anga, Bhava, Sweta, and Vripadguru; Usinara, Sata-ratha, Kanka, Duliduha, and Druma.
Other Anga Kings
Sudeva, daughter of an Anga king, was married to a king Arihan in the line of Puru (1,95)
An Anga king is said to attend the court of Yama. (2,8)
An Anga king is described as fond of sacrifices (7,55)
An Anga king is described as the son of Manu(13,147)
In days of yore, the earth, indulging in a spirit of rivalry with one king of the Angas, forsook her character as Earth. The regenerate Kasyapa caused destruction to overtake her by actually paralysing her. (13,153)
A ruler of the name of Anga desired to give away the whole earth as sacrificial present unto the Brahmanas (13,154)
An Anga is mentioned in connection with the celestial generalissimo viz Kartikeya. (13,86)