Geography of Early Buddhism

Chapter IV: Dakkhiṇāpatha or The Deccan and the Far South


[60] According to the Brahmanical tradition as contained in the Kāvyamīmāṁsa, Dakṣiṇāpatha is the region lying to the south of Māhiṣmatī (’Māhiṣmatyaḥ parataḥ Dakṣiṇāpathaḥ’) which has been identified with Mandhātā on the Narmadā.

From the definitions of Madhyadeśa as given by Vaśiṣṭha and Baudhāyana (I, 8; I, 1, 2, 9, etc., respectively) it seems that the Dakṣiṇāpatha region lay to the south of Pāripātra which is generally identifled with a portion of the Vindhyas.

The Dharmaśāstra of Manu seems, however, to corroborate the boundary as given by the Sūtra writers, for, from Manu’s boundary of the Madhyadeśa, it is evident that the Southern Country or the Dakṣiṇa janapada lay to the south of the Vindhyas (see ante: Boundaries of the Madhyadeśa).

The Buddhist tradition as to the northern boundary of the Dakkhiṇāpatha is, however, a bit different. The Mahāvagga and the Divyāvadāna seem to record that the Dakkhiṇa janapada lay to the south of the town of Satakannika, a locality which has not yet definitely been identified (see ante: Boundaries of Majjhimadesa).

The Vinaya Piṭaka, however, uses the term Dakkhiṇāpatha in a much narrower sense (Vol. I, pp. 195, 196; Vol. II, p. 298) and refers to it as a region confined to a remote settlement of the Aryans on the Upper Godāvarī.

Buddhaghosa, the celebrated Buddhist commentator, defines Dakkhiṇāpatha or the Deccan as the tract of land lying to the south of the Ganges (SMV., I, p. 265) and was the same as Dakkhiṇa janapada.

As we have already pointed out that from the prologue of Book V of the Sutta Nipāta, it appears that the Dakkhiṇāpatha lent its name to the region through which it passed – i.e., the whole tract of land lying to the south of the Ganges and to the north of the river Godāvarī being known (according to Buddhaghosa) as Dakkhiṇāpatha or the Deccan proper (cf. Vinaya-Mahāvagga, V, 13; Vinaya-Cullavagga, XII, I).

The region lying south of the river Godāvarī seems to have been little known to the early Buddhists; and it seems that the earliest intimate knowledge of the geography of the country, now known as the Far South, was acquired not earlier than the suzerainty of Asoka.

Ceylon, to the early Buddhist, was undoubtedlay known, but the island was reached more often by sea than by land.

[61] The Word ’Dakṣiṇātya’ is mentioned by Pāṇini (IV, 2, 98); whereas Dakṣiṇāpatha is referred to by Baudhāyana who couples it with Saurāṣṭra (Bau. Sūtra, I, 1, 29). But, it is difficult to say what Pāṇini and Baudhāyana mean exactly by Dakṣiṇātya or Dakṣiṇāpatha.

Janapadas, Nigamas, Puras, Gāmas, etc.

Strictly speaking, portions of the two Mahājanapadas namely, the Assaka and the Avanti mahājanapadas were included in the Dakkhiṇāpatha or the Deccan.

According to the Mahāgovinda Suttanta (DN., II, p. 235), the capital of the kingdom of Avanti was Māhissati or Māhiṣmatī (Sans.) [is] identical with Mandhātā on the Narmadā. Dr. Ray Chaudhuri (PHAI., p. 92 n.) points out that there is one difficulty in the way of accepting this identification. Māndhātā lay to the south of the Pāriyātra Mts. (western Vindhyas), whereas Māhiśmatī lay between the Vindhya and the Rikṣa (to the north of the Vindhya and to the mouth of the Rikṣa) according to the commentaror Nīlakaṇṭha) Hv., ll, 38. 7–19.

The Avanti kingdom of the Mahāgovinda Suttanta was evidently the Avanti-Dakṣiṇāpatha (CL., p. 45) as distinguished from the Avanti kingdom of the Madhyadeśa whose capital was Ujjain.

The Assaka country was situated on the banks of the Godāvarī (S. Nip., 977); strictly speaking, therefore, the Assaka Mahājanapadas should also be included in the Dakkhiṇāpatha. This is corroborated by the fact that the grammarian Pāṇini mentions Aṣmaka (Sanskrit form of Assaka) with reference to Dākshiṇātya (IV, 2, 98) and Kaliṅga (IV, 1, 178), and that Assaka is invariably mentioned in early Pāli literature along with Avanti.

A colonial projection of the Kosala Mahājanapada of the Madhyadeśa was also situated in the Dakkhiṇa janapada.

Dakṣiṇa Kosala is referred to in the Allahabad Pillar Inscription of Samudragupta during whose reign it was ruled over by King Mahendra who was defeated by the Gupta monarch.

The country is also mentioned in the itinerary of Yuan Chwang who locates Kosala in the southern division. South Kosala comprised the whole of the upper-vallay of the Mahānadī and its tributaries, from the source of the Narmadā on the north to the source of the Mahānadī itself on the south and from the valley of the Wengaṅgā in the west to the Hasda and Jonk rivers in the east (CAGI, p. 735).

According to Dr. H. C. Ray Chaudhuri it ’comprised the modern Bilaspur, Raipur and Sambalpur districts, and occasionally even a part of Ganjam. Its capital was Śrīpura, the modern Sirpur, about 40 miles east by north from Raipur’ (PHAI, pp. 337–338). Dakkhiṇakosala was also known as Mahākosala.


From the Hāthigumpha inscription it is clear that King Khāravela conquered Arakatapura inhabited by a race of magicians called [62] Vidyādharas.

Arakata or Arakaḷā is the same kind of geographical name as Parakaṭa, Bhojakaṭa, etc. Phonetically it is the same name as modern Arcot.

Prof. D. R. Bhandarkar is of opinion that the Sora of Ptolemy (cf. Arcati regia Sora) ’can easily be recognised to be the Tamil Sora or Choda’.


In the Dhammapadaṭṭhakathā (Vol. I, p. 83), there is a reference to the city of Amarāvatī. It is stated that the Buddha in one of his previous births as a brahmin youth named Sumedha was born in that city. It is identical with modern city of Amaraoti close to the rivers of Dharanikotta (a mile west of ancient Amarāvatī on the Kriṣṇa famous for its ruined stūpa).


A brahmin youth after completing his education at Takkasīlā (Taxila), then a great seat of learning, came to the Andhra country to profit by practical experience (Jāt. I , pp. 356 ff).

The people of Andhradeśa, i.e., the Andhras, are also referred to in the Rock Edicts V and XIII of Asoka as a vassal tribe.

Andhradeśa is the country between the Godāvarī and the Kriṣṇā including the district of Kriṣṇā.

The capital of the Andhradeśa seems to have been Dhanakataka which was visited by Yuan Chwang. But the earliest Andhra capital (Andhapura) was situated on the Telavāha river, identical probably with modern Tel or Telingiri both flowing near the confines of the Madras Presidency and the Central Provinces. (PHAI., p. 196 and f.n. 4).

Bhoja Country:

References to the Bhoja country in Pāli Buddhist literature are not uncommon. In the Saṁyutta Nikāya (Vol. I, pp. 61–62) we find mention of a Ṛṣi named Rohitassa Bhojaputta, as also of sixteen Bhojaputtas in a Jātaka story (Jāt., I, p. 45).

Bhoja coincides with Berar or ancient Vidarbha, and Chammaka, four miles south east of Elichpur in the Amaraoti District.

In the Barhut inscriptions (Barua and Sinha, pp. 7 and 27) there is a reference to Bhojakaṭa.

The Sabhāparva of the Great Epic (Chap. 30) mentions Bhojakaṭa and Bhojakaṭapura as two places in the south conquered by Sahadeva. If Bhojakaṭa be the same as Bhoja or Bhojya of the Purāṇas, then it must be a country of the Vindhya region.

The expression Daṇḍakyabhoja in the Brāhmaṇas may indicate that the Bhojakaṭa was either included within or within the reach of Daṇḍaka. It is clear from the Mahābhārata list that Bhojakaṭa (identical with Elichpur) was distinct from Bhojakaṭapura or Bhojapura, the second capital of Vidarbha (modern Berar).

In the Khila Harivaṁsa (Viṣṇu Purāṇa, LX, 32) Bhojakaṭa is expressly identified with Vidarbha.

In the inscriptions of Asoka (R. E. XIII) the Bhoja-Pitinikas are referred to. They undoubtedly held the present Thānā and Kolābā districts of the Bombay Presidency.


[63] The Coḷaraṭṭha is in Southern India. We are told in the Mahāvaṁsa (pp. 166, 197 foll.) that the Damiḷas who once invaded Laṅkā came from the Coḷa country in Southern India. In the same chronicle we read of Damiḷa named Elara who ruled over Ceylon and was noted for his piety and justice. The Damiḷas were, however, driven out of Laṅkā by Duṭṭhagāminī, the greatest king that ever ruled over the island.

In the Rock Edicts II and XIII of Asoka, Coḍa is mentioned as an unconquered frontier kingdom (aṁtā avijitā) along with Pāṇḍya, Satiyaputra, Keralaputra, Tambapaṇṇi and the realm of Aṁtiyako Yonarājā.

The Coḷas are mentioned in the Vārtikas of Kātyāyana as well as in the Epics. Coḷa or Coḍa is Tamil Sora and is probably identical with Sora (cf. Sora Regia Arcati) of Ptolemy.

Yuan Chwang’s record of the Chu-li-ye or Jho-li-ye country is most probably with reference to the Coḷa country, but he describes Chu-li-ye as a wild jungle region.

The Coḷa capital was Uraiyur (Sanskrit Uragapura); and their principal port was at Kāviripaṭṭanaṁ or Pugār on the northern bank of the Kāverī.


In the Akitti Jātaka (Jāt., IV, 238) as well as in the Ceylonese chronicles, Dīpavaṁsa and the Mahāvaṁsa, mention is made of the Damiḷaraṭṭha or the kingdom of the Damiḷas. The Damiḷas are, however, identified with the Tamils. Kāviripaṭṭana was a sea-port town in the Damiḷa kingdom which is generally identified either with the Malabar coast or Northern Ceylon.

Gola or Gula:

The place is mentioned in the Barhut inscriptions. The location of the place is, however, unknown. The Purāṇas mention Gulangula as a country in the Deccan.


Keralaputta is referred to in Rock Edicts II and XIII of Asoka along with the Coḍa, Pāṇḍya, Satiyaputra, Tambapaṇṇi kingdoms of the Far South. Asoka was in terms of friendly relations with these kingdoms. Later on the country came to be popularly known as the Cera kingdom which lay to the south of Kupāka (or Satya), extending down to Kannati in Central Travancore (Karunagapalli Taluk). South of it lay the political division of Mūshika (J.R.A.S., 1923, p. 413). It, therefore, roughly comprised South Canara, Coorg, Malabar and north-west parts of Mysore with perhaps the northernmost portion of Travancore.


Early Pāli literature throws little light on the history or geography of the Kaliṅgaraṭṭha. The inscriptions of Asoka tell us that Asoka in the 13th year of his reign conquered the kindom of Kaliṅga and incorporated in into his own empire. From the Kaliṅga [64] Edict I, it appears that a Kumāra was in charge of Kaliṅga with his headquarters at Tosali (Tosala) ’Tosali (variant Tosala) was the name of a country as well as a city. Levi points out that the Gaṇḍavyūha refers to the country (Janapada) of “Amita Tosala” in the Dakṣiṇāpatha, “where stands a city named Tosala.” In Brahmanical literature Tosala is constantly associated with (south) Kosala and is sometimes distinguished from Kaliṅga. The form Tosulei occurs in the Geography of Ptolemy. Some Mediaeval inscriptions (EP. Ind. IX. 286; XV, 3) refer to Dakṣiṇa Tosala and Uttara Tosala.’ (PHAI., p. 191.) or Samāpa. For the identification of Samāpa, see IA., 1923, pp. 66 ff.

In the Hāthigumphā inscription we are told that King Khāravela brought back to his realm, from Aṅga-Magadha, the throne of Jina which had been carried from Kaliṅga by King Nanda.

It appears from the record of Khāravela’s 8th regnal year that Khāravela stormed Goraṭṭhagiri, a stronghold of the Magadhan army in the Barabar hills, and caused a heavy pressure to be brought to bear upon the citizens of Rājagaha, the earlier capital of Magadha.

From the record of the 12th regnal year, it appears that King Khāravela also compelled King Bahasatimita of Magadha to bow down at his feet.

Khāravela has been described in his own inscription as Kaliṅgādhipati, and in the inscription of his chief queen as Kaliṅga Cakkavattī.

The Hāthigumphā inscription clearly shows that the capital of Kaliṅga during the reign of Khāravela was Kaliṅganagara which has been satisfactorily identified with Mukhalingaṁ on the Vaṁśadharā and the adjacent ruins in Ganjam district, Madras Presidency.

According to the Mahāvastu (Senart’s Ed., III, p. 361) Dantapura which is mentioned by Yuan Chwang as a city of the Kaliṅga country was a capital city. Evidently it was the capital of the Kaliṅga kingdom (according to Mahāvastu), and existed ages before the Buddha (Jāt., II, p. 367).

’Probably it is the Dantapura where Kriṣṇa crushed the Kaliṅgas (Udyogaparva, XLVII, 1883); Dandagula or Dandaguda, the capital of Calingoe, mentioned by Pliny shows that the original form was Dantakura and not Dantapura’ (CAGI., p. 735).

According to the Raghuvaṁśa (IV, 38–43) the Kāliṅga country lay to the south of Vaṅga beyond the river Kapisā (modern Kāsāi on which stands Midnapore) and stretched southwards so far as to include Mt. Mahendra (portions of the Eastern Ghats above the river Godāvarī).

According to the Mahābhārata (Vanaparva, CXIV, 10096–10107) the ancient Kaliṅga country seems to have comprised modern Orissa to the south of the Vaitaraṇī and the sea coast southward as far as Vizagapatam and its capital was Rājapura (Śāntiparva, IV).

According to the Kurma Purāṇa (II, XXXIX, 19) it included the Amarakantaka hills. (CAGI, pp. 734–7 35).


[65] In the Vessantara Jātaka (Jāt., VI, p. 514) we are told that the village of Duṇṇiviṭṭha was a Brāhmaṇagāma in Kaliṅgaraṭṭha.


Purikā is referred to in the Barhut Inscription (Barua and Sinha, p. 14). It is Pulika of the Mahābhārata, Purikā of the Khila-Harivaṁśa and Paurika and Saulika of the Purāṇas. In the Purāṇas, this is included in the list of countries of the Deccan. In the Vāyu, the Brahmāṇḍa and the Agni, it is mentioned before Daṇḍaka, while in the Vāmana, it occurs after Daṇḍaka but before Sārika. In the Khila-Harivaṁśa (Viṣṇupurāṇa, XXXVIII, 20–22), the city of Purikā is placed between two Vindhya ranges, near Māhiṣmatī and on the bank of a river flowing from the Rikshavanta mountain.


The Paṁḍiyas (Pāṇḍyas) are mentioned in the R.E. II and III of Asoka. Their country lay outside the southern frontiers of his vast kingdom. Asoka was in friendly terms with the Paṁḍiyas who had probably two kingdoms, one including Tinnevelly on the south and extending as far north as the high lands in the neighbourhood of the Coimbatore gap, the other including the Mysore State.

In the Mahāvaṁsa we read that Vijaya, King of Ceylon, married a daughter of the Pāṇḍu King whose capital was Madhurā or Mathurā in southern India. Madhurā (Dakṣiṇa Mathurā) is Madura in the south of the Madras Presidency.

Another capital was probably at Kolkai. The rivers Tāmraparṇi and Kritamālā or Vaigai flowed through it.


In Khāravela’s inscriptions, we have mention of a place founded by the former kings of Kaliṅga and known by the name of Pithuḍaga or Pithuḍa, which had become, in 113 years, a watery jungle of grass.

Pithuḍaga is the same as Sanskrit Prithudaka and Pithuḍa is but a shortened form of Pithuḍaga. In the Gaṇḍavyūha we find a reference to Prithurāshtra, which is evidently not different from what Ptolemy in his Geography calls Pitundra which is but the Greek form of Pithuṇḍa.

Prof. Sylvain Levi draws our attention to the story of Samudrapāla in See. XXI of the Jaina Uttarādhyayana-Sūtra in which there is mention of Pithuṇḍa as a sea-coast town reminding us at once of Khāravela’s Pithuda-Pithuḍaga and Ptolemy’s Pitundra. ’Prof. Levi says that Ptolemy locates Pitundra in the interior of Maisolia between the mouths of the two rivers Maisolos and Manadas, i.e., between the delta of the Godāvarī and the Mahānadī nearly at an equal distance from both. It would, therefore, be convenient to search for it location in the interior of Chikakole and Kalingapatam, towards the course of the river Nāgāvatī which bears also the mane of Lāṅguliya.


[66] The Pulindas are mentioned in Rock Edict XIII of Asoka as a vassal tribe along with the Andhras, and Bhojas.

In a passage of the Aitareya Brāhmaṇa (VII, 18) the Pulindas are mentioned along with the Andhras; in the Purāṇas (Matsya 114, 46–48 and Vāyu, 45, 126), however, they are mentioned with the Sabares and are referred to as Dakṣiṇāpathavāsinaḥ together with the Vaidarbhas and the Daṇḍakas.

The Mahābhārata (XII, 307, 42) also places the Pulindas, Andhras and the Sabares in Dakṣiṇāpatha.

Pulindanagara, the capital of the Pulindas, was situated near Bhilsā in the Jubbalpore district of the Central Provinces. The Pulinda kingdom must have certainly included Rupnath, the findspot of one version of Asoka’s Minor Rock Edicts.


Satiyaputta is referred to in Rock Edict II. It has been differently identified by different scholars. Some identity it with Satyabrata-Kṣetra or Kanchipura (e.g., Venkateswara, J.R.A.S., 1918, pp. 541–4:2), others (Bhandarkar and Aiyangar) with Sātpute, still others (Smith, Asoka, p. 161) with Satyamangalam Taluk of Coimbatore and yet others (E. J. Thomas, J.R.A.S., 1923, p. 412) who prefer to identity it with Satyabhumi, a territory which corresponds roughly to North Malabar including a portion of Kasergode Taluk, South Canara.


Suvarṇagiri is mentioned in Minor Rock Edict I (Brahmagiri text) of Asoka. It was a viceregal seat of Asoka’s provincial government in the Deccan and here a Kumāra was posted as Viceroy.

It is difficult to identity the ancient Suvarṇagiri. Hultzsch (C.I.I., p. XXXVIII), however, identifies it with Kanakagiri in the Nizam’s dominions, south of Maski, and north of the ruins of Vijayanagara. Dr. H. C. Ray Chaudhuri thinks that ’a clue to the location of this city is probably given by the inscriptions of the later Mauryas of Konkan and Khandesh, apparently the descendants of the southern Viceroy (Ep. Ind., III, 136). As these later Maurya inscriptions have been found at Vāda in the north of the Thāṇa district and at Wāghlī in Khandesh, it is not unlikely that Suvarṇagiri was situated in the neighbourhood. Curiously enough there is actually in Khandesh a place called Songir.’ (PHAI., p. 195, f.n. 3.)


Isila was another seat of government in the Deccan ruled over by a Mahāmātra. Isila is not yet identified, but may have been the ancient name of Siddāpura.


Thera Rakkhita was sent as a missionary to Vanavāsī for the spread of Buddhism there (Mv., Chap. XII). During the Buddhist period as also afterwards, Northern Canara was known as Vanavāsī. According to Dr. Buhler, it was situated between the Ghats, Tungabhadra and Barodā. Tha Sāsanavaṁsa (p. 12) also [67] refers to a country called Vanavāsī which, however, is identical with the country round Prome in Lower Burma.

Rivers, Lakes, etc.


According to the Sarabhaṅga Jātaka (Jāt., V, p. 132) it is a river near the Kaviṭṭha forest. The Godāvarī is considered to be one of the holiest rivers in Southern India, and had its source in Brahmagiri situated on the side of a village called Tṛyamvaka which is twenty miles from Nāsika.

Narmadā or Narbudā:

The river Narbudā is referred to in the Kakkaṭa Jātaka (Jāt., II, p. 344) as well as in the Citta Sambhūta Jātaka (Jāt., IV, p. 392). It rises in the Amarakaṇṭaka mountain and falls into the Gulf of Cambay.

Hills, Caves, etc.


In the Saṁkhapāla Jātaka (Jāt., V, p. 162) we are told that the Mahiṁsaka kingdom was near the Mount Candaka. It is stated that the Bodhisatta built a hut of leaves in the Mahiṁsaka kingdom, near the Mount Candaka, in a bend of the river Kaṇṇapaṇṇā, where it issues out of the lake Saṁkhapāla. It is the Malaya-giri, the Malabar Ghats.


In the southern country in the kingdom of Avanti is the Ghanasela mountain (Jāt., V, p. 133).

Parks, Forests and Jungles


The Daṇḍakārañña is mentioned in the Milindapañho (p. 130). According to Mr. Pargiter, it comprised all the forests from Bundelkhand to the river Kriṣṇā.


It is referred to in the Milindapañho (p. 130). According to Cunningham, the Kāliṅgārañña lay between the Godāvarī river on the south west, and Gaoliya branch of the Indrāvatī river on the north west (CAGI., p. 591). According to Rapson, however, it was between the Mahānadī and the Godāvarī (Ancient India, p. 116.).