Dravida is mentioned as one of the kingdoms in the southern part of present-day mainland India during the time of the Mahabharata. Sometimes the name Dravida was used to denote all the southern kingdoms (like the Chera, Pandya and Chola kingdoms) collectively[citation needed] and sometimes as a separate kingdom.

References in Mahabharata

Dravida listed in the ancient Indian (Bharata Varsha) Kingdoms

In the south, are the Dravidas, the Keralas, the Prachyas, the Mushikas, and the Vanavashikas; the Karanatakas, the Mahishakas, the Vikalpas, and also the Mushakas; the Jhillikas, the Kuntalas. (6,9)

The origin of Dravida

Mahabharata links the origin of Dravidas with sage Vasistha. Viswamitra, a king in the Ikshwaku clan, attacked the cow of Vasistha. Then many armies emerged for the protection of that cow and they attacked the armies of Viswamitra. Cow symbolizes land, in ancient Indian scriptures. Thus this war was fought with the countries allied with Vasista.

Other kingdoms that were mentioned along with the Dravidas in this incident were Sakas, Yavanas, Savaras, Kanchis, Paundras and Kiratas, Nishada, Yavanas and Sinhalas, and the barbarous kingdoms of Khasas, Chivukas, Pulindas, Chinas Hunas with Keralas, Mlechchhas, etc.

Sahadeva's conquests

Pandava Sahadeva reached the Dravida country during his southern military campaign.

Sahadeva brought under his subjection and exacted tributes from the Paundrayas, the Dravidas along with the Udrakeralas and the Andhras and the Talavanas. He also vanquished the Karanatakas, Pashandas, the town of Sanjayanti, the Kalinga, the Ustrakarnikas, the city of Atavi and the city of Yavanas. (2,30)

Yudhishthira's Rajasuya

Dravidas are mentioned along with other tribes who attended Pandava king Yudhishthira's Rajasuya sacrifice.

The kings of the Dravidas and the Singhalas were present in the sacrifice (2,33). On another occasion, the Cheras, Cholas and Dravidas (3,51).

Pandavas visited Dravida land during their pilgrimage

Pandavas reached the sea in the Dravida land, and visited the holy spot passing under Agastya’s name, which was exceedingly sacred and exceptionally pure. And the valiant king visited the feminine sacred spots. They visited one by one those holy places on the coast of the sea and many other sacred spots and came to the holiest of all known by the name of Suparaka. (3,118)

Arjuna's conquests

Arjuna in his military campaign after the Kurukshetra War, visited Dravida country

Arjuna proceeded towards the southern ocean. In those regions battle took place between him and the Dravidas and Andhras and the fierce Mahishakas and the hillmen of Kolwa. (14,83)

Dravidas in Kurukshetra War

On the side of Pandavas

  • Arjuna converted the people of the Dravida land to be a portion of his own army (5,22)
  • The Kuntalas, the Andhras, and the Talacharas, and the Shuchupas, and the Venupas were described as allies of Pandavas (5,140)
  • The Pandyas, the Cholas, the Keralas and the Andhras supported Dhristadyumna, Sikhandi and Satyaki. (8,12)
  • The Andhaka, and the Nishada foot-soldiers, urged on by Satyaki, once more rushed towards Karna in that battle (8,49)

On the side of Kauravas

  • The Kamvojas, the Sakas, the Khasas, the Salwas, the Matsyas, the Mlechchhas, the Pulindas, the Dravidas, the Andhras, and the Kanchis were described as allied to the Kauravas (5-161,162)
  • The Kaikeyas, the Malavas, the Madrakas the Dravidas of fierce prowess, the Yaudheyas, the Lalittyas, the chander, the Usinaras, the Tundikeras, the Savitriputras who supported Karna were slain by Arjuna (8,5)

The degraded status of Dravidas in later periods

Vedic kingdoms attributed a degraded status to Dravidas and other tribes in later periods of ancient Indian history

  • The Dravidas, the Kalingas, the Pulandas, the Usinaras, the Kolisarpas, the Mahishakas and other Kshatriyas, have, in consequence of the absence of Brahmanas from among their midst, become degraded into Sudras. (13,33)
  • The Mekalas, the Dravidas, the Lathas, the Paundras, the Konwasiras, the Saundikas, the Daradas, the Darvas, the Chauras, the Savaras, the Varvaras, the Kiratas, the Yavanas, and numerous other tribes of Kshatriyas, have become degraded into the status of Sudras through the absence of Brahmanas. (13,35)
  • The Dravidas and Abhiras and Pundras, together with the Savaras, became degraded though Kshatriya duties were assigned to them due to Bhargava Rama.(14,29)

See also