Dakśiṇāvarta or Dakśiṇāpatha or dakśiṇa Bhārata, is the region south of Vindhyas, the southern part of Bharata khanḍa, of Bharata varṣa, in turn part of Jambū dvīpa.
The cultural continuity and integration themes in Bhārata are explained here. There are several themes that tell how the seers of Bhārata saw Bhārata.
- The sacred geography of Bhārata:
- 18 Śakti pīṭhās that are charged by different body parts of Sati, indicating how the different regions of Bhārata are but limbs of one landscape
- 12 Jyotirlingas
- The journey of Rāma and Pānḍavās across the landscape of Bhārata, telling how they saw this land as one.
- Sugrīva (starting from dakśiṇa patha) dispatches his armies in search of Sita to all four directions, and their search ends where the landscape of Bhārata ends. Similarly the Vijaya yātra of Pānḍavās (starting from Uttarāpatha) happens in all four directions covering the landscape of Bhārata.
- The Aśvamedha done by Rāma, Pānḍavās and other rulers later on, telling how they saw Bhārata as one cultural landscape which needed to be brought under a single political umbrella.
The interesting aspect in Sugrīva’s case (Rāmayaṇa, Kishkindha Kanda sargas 40-43) is that Rāmayaṇa predates Mahābhārata. Sugrīva’s sense of Bhārata landscape, thus predates Pānḍavās’ sense of Bhārata landscape. This goes against the idea that Bhārata is a notion that north Indian Aryans developed. Rāvaṇa in south, Sugrīva in south (Kishkindha, near Hampi), Kārtavīrya in central and southwards (Mahiṣmati), all had a full sense of Bhārata landscape.
Kārtavīrya is listed among one of the six great emperors (cakravarti) and had his capital in madhya Bhārata (close to Vindhya). Bali a celebrated emperor and devotee of Viṣṇu hailed from Dakśiṇāpatha.
There is an interesting story about how civilization developed in Dakśiṇāvarta. When all the devatas and rishis were attending grand rituals in Uttarāpatha, Agastya was asked by Rudra to go and live in Dakśiṇāpatha so that his tapas in Dakśiṇāpatha alone balances the weight of all those men in Uttarāpatha. Agastya subdues the rising Vindhyas on his way south and settles in Dakśiṇāpatha.
This is often made to mean knowledge development in Dakśiṇāpatha started with the movement of Agastya. Interesting however is the fact that Agastya moved down south because the weight got concentrated in the north. So before the concentration happened, devatas and risihis were distributed all over. This implication is ignored in historic speculation of the rise of civilization of Dakśiṇāpatha.
There are several misconceptions that rose, primarily as a result of historiography that undermines the symbolism of epics, about the rise of civilization in Dakśiṇāpatha.
- One is the notion that Dakśiṇāpatha was more a rakshasa region that the Aryas invaded. As a matter of fact Rāvaṇa was an asura who happens to have set up his capital south of Vindhyas but not originally hailing from south.
- Another is the notion that north-south was always seen as two parts. Political alliances in the epics, such as Jarasandha-Rukmi (Magadha-Vidarbha), Pānḍavās-Pandya (Indraprastha-Dravida) show no Uttara-dakśiṇa divide.
- Arya-dravida language families are often shown as indicators of north-south divide.
If the north-south divide had any historic reality, we would expect wars along those lines, which we do not see in the epics. There are no wars where the kings south of Vindhyas allied to fight the kings north of Vindhyas. On the contrary, we see kings of south and north allying on both sides of major wars. Both Pānḍava and Kaurava side in Mahābhārata war had kings from north and south.
Political unification of Bhārata also happened from time to time, through yajnas like Aśvamedha, Rājasūya and Vaiṣṇava where kings from different regions are brought under an umbrella either through alliance (preferred) or through conquest (second option).
Though Bhārata was always seen as a single landscape, political capital was not deemed fixed. The cakrasthzna or capital of the cavrakarti/Samrat depended on who unified the geo-polity. It was at Hastināpura for some time (Kurus), then Pāṭalīputra (Magadha lineages), then Dhānya kaṭaka (Sātavāhanas), Ujjain (Mālava lineages) etc. This also does not indicate north as the defacto capital as it was practically anwhere in the subcontinent. Bigger empires like Choḻa, Chāḻukya and Tuḻu had their capitals south of Vindhyas in the last millennium. Even the last known Hindu empire of Marathas had defacto capital south of Vindhyas though the de jure capital for formality was left at Delhi for various reasons.
During the last millennium Bhārata faced unending waves of invasions and colonizing, and has only started decolonizing in the recent decades.
During the long and bloody invasion centuries, Bhārata acted as a single organism with several limbs. As Uttarāpatha faced the worst in terms of military and cultural destruction, more groups took up the role of warriors. The soft functions like knowledge moved down south, and synthesized schools of bhakti and Vedanta which were required for the vitality of Bhārata. Empires like Vijayanagara which could be called centers of high civilization thrived in Dakśiṇāpatha, which acted not only in protection but in synthesis of culture that was corroding in other regions.
Marathas who reclaimed Bhārata from sultanates were pushed down as far as Jinji the final hold out (during Bhosle king Rajaram’s time), and used that as cushion to recover the regions up to Vindhyas and then north.
The 27 year war is famous, but the cognition of Bhārata seen as a single landscape by the Marathas is not a fact that is often paid attention to. This was not an idea created by Marathas but only inherited from the times immemorial, from the times of 6 cakravartins, Ikṣvākus, Kurus, Mauryas, Paramāras and others.
After the Marathas fell and British colonized Bhārata, the freedom struggle had elements trying to liberate regions as well as the entire subcontinent, but any struggle specific to a region was only limited because of the strength of the movement and not because the vision was limited to the region. From the Marathas to Panjabi to Bangali freedom fighters none wanted freedom limited to their region. The demand was that British leave Bhārata and the dream was the Bhārata becomes free again.
This is a very brief introduction of collective consciousness about Bharata in Dakśiṇāpatha. On military, political, spiritual, cultural, social and economic lines, there are countless integration themes that show Bhārata as one and Dakśiṇāpatha as always being part of that collective consciousness.