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Vanga was an ancient kingdom and geopolitical division within the Ganges delta in the Indian subcontinent. The kingdom is one of the namesakes of the Bengal region. It was located in southern Bengal, with the core region including present-day southern West Bengal (India) and southwestern Bangladesh. Vanga features prominently in the epics and tales of ancient India as well as in the history of Sri Lanka.
Vanga was probably the center of the Gangaridai Empire mentioned by numerous Greco-Roman writers. The exact capital of ancient Vanga kingdom could not be identified. After the rule of Gupta empire, ancient Bengal was divided into two independent states. They were the Gauda Kingdom and Vanga kingdom and archaeologists think that Kotalipara in present-day Bangladesh was the capital of the independent Vanga kingdom.
Indian and Greco-Roman writers referred to the region's war elephants. In Indian history, Vanga is notable for its strong navy. There are numerous references to Vanga in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, which is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of India. The other epic, the Ramayana, mentions the kingdom as an ally of Ayodhya.
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The Vanga kingdom emerged in the lower Ganges delta during the Northern Black Polished Ware Period. It controlled many of the islands of the delta with its naval fleet and embarked on overseas exploration. Ancient Indian records refer to Vanga as a hub of sailors. In the 5th century BCE, the Vanga king Sinhabahu's son prince Vijaya sailed across the Bay of Bengal and established a kingdom in what is now Sri Lanka. The religious traditions of the kingdom included Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Vanga is recorded as an administrative unit in the Arthashastra written by Kautilya. It is described as a notable naval power by Kalidasa. There are also records of subdivisions within Vanga, including an area called "Upa Vanga" (minor Vanga) which corresponds to Jessore and forested areas corresponding to the Sundarbans.
The rulers of the Vanga kingdom remain mostly unknown. After the 2nd century BCE, the territory became part of successive Indian empires, including Mauryans, Guptas, Shashanka's reign, Khadgas, Palas, Chandras, Senas and Devas. The term Vangala was often used to refer to the territory. For example, an inscription of the South Indian Chola dynasty referred to the region as Vangaladesha during a war with the Chandra dynasty. After the Muslim conquest of Bengal , the region was referred to as Bangalah, which may have evolved from Vangala. The names are the precursors of the modern terms Banga and Bangla.
The core region of Vanga lay between the Padma-Meghna river system in the east and the Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system in the west. In the east, it encompassed the modern Bangladeshi Khulna Division excluding pre-1947 Jessore District i.e. Upa Vanga which is in Paschim (West) Vanga and Barisal Division, as well as the southwestern part of Dhaka Division. In the west, it included Presidency Division of West Bengal and may have extended to Burdwan Division and Medinipur division. Its neighbors included Samatata in the east; Pundravardhana in the north; and Magadha, Anga, Suhma and Radha in the west.
The Vanga kingdom encompassed the many islands of the Ganges delta and the Sundarbans mangrove forest.
Chandraketugarh and Wari-Bateshwar ruins are the major archaeological site of the kingdom.
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