Kingdom of Kosala (Sanskrit: कोसल राज्य) was an ancient Indian kingdom, corresponding the area with the region of Awadh[2] in present-day Uttar Pradesh to Western Odisha. It emerged as a small state during the late Vedic period, with connections to the neighboring realm of Videha.[3][4] Kosala belonged to the Northern Black Polished Ware culture (c. 700-300 BCE),[1] and the Kosala region gave rise to the Sramana movements, including Jainism and Buddhism.[5] It was culturally distinct from the Painted Grey Ware culture of the Vedic period of Kuru-Panchala west of it, following independent development toward urbanisation and the use of iron.[6]

Kingdom of Kosala

कोसल राज्य
c. 7th century BCE[1]–5th century BCE
Kosal and other kingdoms of the late Vedic period.
Kosal and other kingdoms of the late Vedic period.
Kosal and other Mahajanapadas in the Post Vedic period.
Kosal and other Mahajanapadas in the Post Vedic period.
CapitalAyodhya and Shravasti of Uttar Kosala and Kushavati of Dakshin Kosala
Common languagesSanskrit Pali
Historical eraBronze Age, Iron Age
• Established
c. 7th century BCE[1]
• Disestablished
5th century BCE
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Black and red ware culture
Today part ofIndia

During the 5th century BCE, Kosala incorporated the territory of the Shakya clan, to which the Buddha belonged. According to the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya and the Jaina text, the Bhagavati Sutra, Kosala was one of the Solasa (sixteen) Mahajanapadas (powerful realms) in 6th to 5th centuries BCE,[7] and its cultural and political strength earned it the status of a great power. It was later weakened by a series of wars with the neighbouring kingdom of Magadha and, in the 5th century BCE, was finally absorbed by it. After collapse of the Maurya Empire and before the expansion of the Kushan Empire, Kosala was ruled by the Deva dynasty, the Datta dynasty, and the Mitra dynasty.

Religious textual referencesEdit

In Vedic LiteratureEdit

The ruins of the city walls of Shravasti, the capital of the Kosala kingdom.
Gold carving depiction of the legendary Ayodhya at the Ajmer Jain temple.

Kosala is not mentioned in the early Vedic literature, but appears as a region in the later Vedic texts of the Shatapatha Brahmana (7th-6th centuries BCE,[8] final version 300 BCE[9]) and the Kalpasutras (6th-century BCE).[10]

In PuranasEdit

In the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas the ruling family of the Kosala kingdom was the Ikshvaku dynasty, which was descended from king Ikshvaku.[11] The Puranas give lists of kings of the Ikshvaku dynasty from Ikshvaku to Prasenajit (Pali: Pasenadi).[12] According to the Ramayana, Rama ruled the Kosala kingdom from his capital, Ayodhya.[13]

In Buddhist and Jain textsEdit

Procession of Prasenajit of Kosala leaving Sravasti to meet the Buddha, Sanchi.[14]

Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism taught in Kosala. A Buddhist text, the Majjhima Nikaya mentions Buddha as a Kosalan, which indicates that Kosala may have subjugated the Shakya clan, which the Buddha is traditionally believed to have belonged to.[15]



Koshala's first capital of Shravasti was barely settled by the 6th century BCE, but there is the beginnings of a mud fort. By 500 BCE, Vedic people had spread to Koshala. [16]

Kosala coin, 400-300 BCE
Kosala Karshapana, 5th century BCE.

By the 5th century BCE under the reign of King Mahakosala, the neighboring Kingdom of Kashi had been conquered.[17] Mahakosala's daughter was the first wife of King Bimbisara of Magadha. As a dowry, Bimbisara received a Kashi village that had a revenue of 100,000. This marriage temporarily eased tensions between Koshala and Magadha.[16]

The Shakya tribe was eventually brought into the territory of the Koshala kingdom. The Shakyas had their capital at Kapilavastu.[18]

Mahakosala was succeeded by his son Pasenadi (Sanskrit: Prasenajit), who was a follower of the Buddha. During Pasenadi's absence from the capital, his minister Digha Charayana raised Pasedani's son Vidudabha (Sanskrit: Virudhaka) to the throne.[19]

In 492 BCE, Ajatashatru assassinated his father, Bimbisara, and became the king of Magadha. His aggressive expansionist policy provoked the ire of Koshala and their vassal state, Kashi. After a long war between Magadha and Koshala, Koshala was forced to cede Kashi to Magadha gave a Koshala princess in marriage to Ajatashatru.[16]

The Kosala kingdom was defeated by (5th or early 4th cent. BCE) of the Magadhan Haryanka dynasty,[11] and absorbed into the Magadha kingdom, which formed the basis of the Maurya empire. Kosala was finally annexed by Shishunaga.[20]

Under the reign of Mahapadma Nanda of Magadha, Koshala rebelled but the rebellion was put down.[16]

Under Mauryan ruleEdit

It is assumed that during the Mauryan reign, Kosala was administratively under the viceroy at Kaushambi.[21] The Sohgaura copper plate inscription, probably issued during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya deals with a famine in Shravasti and the relief measures to be adopted by the officials.[22] The Yuga Purana section of the Garga Samhita mentions about the Yavana (Indo-Greek) invasion and subsequent occupation of Saket during the reign of the last Maurya ruler Brihadratha.[23]

Post-Mauryan periodEdit

Coin of ruler Muladeva, minted in Ayodhya, Kosala. Obv: Muladevasa, elephant to left facing symbol. Rev: Wreath, above symbol, below snake.
Coin of ruler Aryamitra, issued in Ayodhya, Kosala. Obv: peacock to right facing tree. Rev: Name Ayyamitasa, humped bull to left facing pole.

Map depicting 16 mahajanapadas kingdoms and other kingdoms of vedic era India in 540 BCE.

The names of a number of rulers of Kosala of the post-Maurya period are known from the square copper coins issued by them, mostly found at Ayodhya.[24] The rulers, forming the Deva dynasty, are: Muladeva, Vayudeva, Vishakhadeva, Dhanadeva, Naradatta, Jyesthadatta and Shivadatta. There is no way to know whether king Muladeva of the coins is identifiable with Muladeva, murderer of the Shunga ruler Vasumitra or not (though a historian, Jagannath has tried to do so).[25] King Dhanadeva of the coins is identified with king Dhanadeva (1st century BCE) of Ayodhya inscription. In this Sanskrit inscription, King Kaushikiputra Dhanadeva mentions about setting a ketana (flag-staff) in memory of his father, Phalgudeva. In this inscription he claimed himself as the sixth in descent from Pushyamitra Shunga. Dhanadeva issued both cast and die-struck coins and both the types have a bull on obverse.[26][27]

Other local rulers whose coins were found in Kosala include: a group of rulers whose name ends in "-mitra" is also known from their coins: Satyamitra, Aryamitra, Vijayamitra and Devamitra, sometimes called the "Late Mitra dynasty of Kosala".[28] Other rulers known from their coins are: Kumudasena, Ajavarman and Sanghamitra.[29]


The Kosala region had three major cities, Ayodhya, Saket and Shravasti, and a number of minor towns as Setavya, Ukattha,[30] Dandakappa, Nalakapana and Pankadha.[31] According to the Puranas and the Ramayana epic, Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala during the reign of Ikshvaku and his descendants.[32] Shravasti is recorded as the capital of Kosala during the Mahajanapada period (6th–5th centuries BCE),[33] but post-Maurya (2nd–1st centuries BCE) kings issued their coins from Ayodhya.

Culture and religionEdit

Kosala belonged to the Northern Black Polished Ware culture (c. 700-300 BCE),[1] which was preceded by the Black and red ware culture (c.c. 1450-1200 BCE until c. 700-500 BCE). The Central Gangetic Plain was the earliest area for rice cultivation in South Asia, and entered the Iron Age around 700 BCE.[1] According to Geoffrey Samuel, following Tim Hopkins, the Central Gangetic Plain was culturally distinct from the Painted Grey Ware culture of the Vedic Aryans of Kuru-Pancala west of it, and saw an independent development toward urbanisation and the use of iron.[6]

Local religions, before and during the rise of Buddhism and the later influence of the Vedic-Brahmanical traditions, were centered on laukika or worldly deities, including yaksas, guardian deities.[34] According to Samuel, there is "extensive iconographical evidence for a religion of fertility and auspiciousness.[35] According to Hopkins, the region was marked by a of female powers, natural transformation, sacred earth and sacred places, blood sacrifices, and ritualists who accepted pollution on behalf of their community.[35]

In contrast to the developing Brahmanical traditions of the Kuru-Pancala region, the Kosala region "was where the early ascetic movements, including the Buddhists and Jains, took shape, and it was also a very important area for the Upanishads and developments in Brahmanical traditions."[5] According to Samuels, Buddhism was not a protest against an already established Vedic-Brahmanical system, which developed in Kuru-Pancala, but an opposition against the growing influence of this Vedic-Brahmanical system, and the superior position granted to Brahmins in it.[36]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c d Samuel 2010, p. 50.
  2. ^ Mahajan 1960, p. 230.
  3. ^ Samuel 2010, p. 61–63.
  4. ^ Michael Witzel (1989), Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, 97–265.
  5. ^ a b Samuel 2010, p. 48.
  6. ^ a b Samuel 2010, p. 50-51.
  7. ^ Raychaudhuri 1972, pp. 85–6.
  8. ^ "Early Indian history: Linguistic and textual parametres." in The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia, edited by G. Erdosy (1995), p. 136
  9. ^ The Satapatha Brahmana. Sacred Books of the East, Vols. 12, 26, 24, 37, 47, translated by Julius Eggeling [published between 1882 and 1900]
  10. ^ Law 1926, pp. 34–85
  11. ^ a b Sastri 1988, p. 17.
  12. ^ Raychaudhuri 1972, pp. 89–90
  13. ^ Raychaudhuri 1972, pp. 68–70
  14. ^ Marshall p.59
  15. ^ Raychaudhuri 1972, pp. 88–9
  16. ^ a b c d Sharma, R. S. (2005). India's Ancient Past. Oxford University Press. pp. 167–169. ISBN 978-0-19-908786-0.
  17. ^ Raychaudhuri 1972, p. 138
  18. ^ Sharma 2005, p. 168.
  19. ^ Raychaudhuri 1972, p. 186
  20. ^ Upinder Singh 2016, p. 272.
  21. ^ Mahajan 1960, p. 318
  22. ^ Thapar 2001, pp. 7–8
  23. ^ Lahiri 1974, pp. 21–4
  24. ^ Bhandare (2006)
  25. ^ Lahiri 1974, p. 141n
  26. ^ Bhandare 2006, pp. 77–8, 87–8
  27. ^ Falk 2006, p. 149
  28. ^ Proceedings - Indian History Congress - Volume 1 - Page 74
  29. ^ Papers on the Date of Kaniṣka, Arthur Llewellyn Basham Brill Archive, 1969, p.118
  30. ^ Raychaudhuri 1972, p. 89.
  31. ^ Law 1973, p. 132.
  32. ^ Pargiter 1972, p. 257.
  33. ^ Samuel 2010, p. 71.
  34. ^ Samuel 2010, p. 101-113.
  35. ^ a b Samuel 2010, p. 61.
  36. ^ Samuel 2010, p. 100.