In Mahabharata, Rohitaka is referred at three places.
The city of Rohtak (28°53’45.14″N & 76°35’37.52″E) is located about 75 km west of Delhi and is one of the important industrial, cultural and political hub of Haryana.
According to the local folks the city was founded by Raja Rohtash but this is not based on or in accordance with the historical sources.
It seems that the city have been named after the tree Andersonia (Rohita) popularly known as Rohira.
The word Rohtak appears to have derived and corrupted from Rohitaka as in several places in ancient literature we find name of city as Rohitaka such as in the Maitrayani Sanhita the name of tree Andersonia, Rohitaka, locally known as Rohira is mentioned. The Jaiminiya Brahmana and Panchavisa Brahmana also indirectly refer to Rohitaka (Rohtak). Famous grammarian, Panini also mentioned Rohtak in his famous book Ashtadhyayi.
In Mahabharata, Rohitaka is referred at three places viz. in Udyogaparva as Rohitakaranya (forest covered by the army of the Kurus), Rohitakas in Vanaparva it is referred that it was conquered by Karna during Digvijaya and Rohitakais also mentioned in Sabhaparva that Nakul, the Pandava warrior (of the Kuru kingdom) conquered the city of Kartikeya (Rohitaka) and capital of the Yaudheyas located in the west of Khandava-Parastha.
Yaudheya was the most powerful republic tribe of ancient India and present day Khokhrakot was capital of that republic tribe.
Jain & Buddisth Literature
In Jaina, sacred literature Rohtak is referred as Rohidiya a religious and holy place where lord Mahavira visited several times. In the Buddhist literature (Vinayapitaka) Rohitak is mentioned as important town of that period and Gautam Buddha himself visited here and preached the people. Divyavadana describes that ancient city of Rohtak was fortified by several walls and adorned by sixty two gates. The city spread over twelve yojanas in length and seven yojanas in breadth.
It was a prosperous city having distinct roads, court-yards, markets and shopping centers therein. The Mahamayuri 4th Century A.D. work also refers to Rohitaka (Rohtak) saying that the city is filled with delightful people. It has gardens, assemblies and lotuses like those of Gods Indra and Vishnu. Its water pools are embellished by different types of flamings and it is inhabited by the kings, nobles and traders. Kartikeya (son of Shiva) is the god of the city.
According to the Buddhist literature famous Physician Jivak also visited here. Rohitaka is also referred in Suryasiddhanta a well known book on astronomy. It is mentioned that it is the city that lay on north-south line of Himalayas, Sannihita (Kurukshetra), Rohitaka, Avanti and Srilanka.
1st Century onwards
In the end of the first century B. C., Rohtak fell into the hands of the Indo-Greeks as is evident from the discovery of a large number of coins and coin moulds of the Indo-Greeks from Khokhrakot. After the Indo-Greeks, this area came under the rule of the Sunga dynasty. Towards the first century A.D. the Sunga were subjugated by the Kushanas who had their kingdom in a large area of North India.
The Kushanas were succeeded by the Yaudheyas. During the third and fourth centuries A.D., the Yaudheyas were ruling over a wide area, i.e. Haryana, Punjab, eastern U.P. and Bahawalpur region of Pakistan. The Yaudheyas of Rohtak were known not only for their fighting power but also for their interest in cultural activities.
A fourth century A.D. work Chaturbhani refers to a group of musicians of Rohitaka, who attract a lot of people by their folk music in the bazaars of Ujjain. In the mid 4th century A.D., the powerful Yaudheyas were defeated by Samudragupta towards the middle of the fourth century A.D.
The Allahabad pillar inscription states Samundragupta conquered eastern India, 12 rulers of South India, 9 kings of Aryavarta and nine republics.
Yaudheyas also fell a prey to his conquests. Rohtak was deserted during Gupta period due to the invasion of the Huns and the habitation was shifted to a new site located in the eastern suburbs of the modern city of Rohtak near village Asthal Bohar Majra.
Rohtak’s history from 6th to 11th Centuries A.D. has not much literary evidences.
After the Gupta empire, about in the first half of the seventh century A.D., the region was under the control of Harsa Vardhana. After the decline of Vardhanas, the Pratiharas ruled over the region.
A coin minting place of the Mihira Bhoja a Pratiharas ruler was recovered from here. Most of the coin moulds recovered from the site belong to Adivaraha type coins of Mihira Bhoja (836-872 A.D.).
During the Pratiharas Rohtak was a religious centre.
Large number of sculptures from here, which include beautiful sculpture of standing Balram, sited Vishnu, unfinished sculpture of Lord Vishnu, Ganesha, standing Parsvanatha, Shantinath, and Jaina Saraswati . After the Pratiharas Rohtak came under the rule of Tomaras and Chahamans.
Among the Chahamana kings, Prithviraj-III was the most powerful ruler. He defeated the foreign invader Muhammad Gauri in the first battle of Tarain (Trawardi) in 1191 ACE. Next year in 1192 ACE, he was defeated and killed by Gauri in the second battle of Tarain.
When he came near Rohtak, local rulers, the Khokars attacked and defeated him and took a big chunk of the treasure he looted from Delhi. After reaching back to his native place Mohammad Gauri ordered Qutb al-Din Aibak, governor of Delhi to destroy the Khokhars.
Qutb al-Din Aibak attacked Khokhrakot and put it on fire as is also evident by the deposit of ash and charcoal on at many parts of the site visible in the exposed sections and trenches dug by the local peoples to remove soil from the site.
This is also evident from the site itself as we are not getting remains of the later periods from here.
The writer is Assistant Professor at Department of History, All India Jat Heroes Memorial College in Rohtak.
Pictures courtesy: Manoj Dhaka & The Writer
Acknowledgements Author owes sincere thanks to Professor Manmohan Kumar and Dr. Shabnam Rathee.