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In the Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 105 when Satyavati coaxes her son Vyasadeva to give her grandchildren, he say this:

'If the princess of Kosala can bear my strong odour, my ugly and grim visage, my attire and body, she shall then conceive an excellent child.'
'Let the princess of Kosala clad in clean attire and checked with ornaments wait for me in her bed-chamber.'

And then:

Satyavati then went to her daughter-in-law and seeing her in private spoke to her these words of beneficial and virtuous import, 'O princess of Kosala, listen to what I say.'

So, what do they mean by this? Weren't Ambika and Ambalika the daughters of the king of Kashi?

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First of all, the Mahabharata does not actually say "princess of Koshala", it says Kausalya. Here is the original Sanskrit verse:

yadi me sahate gandhaṃ rūpaṃ veṣaṃ tathā vapuḥ |
adyaiva garbhaṃ kausalyā viśiṣṭaṃ pratipadyatām ||

And indeed, throughout the Mahabharata, Ambika and Ambalika are often referred to as Kausalya, for instance in the Adi Parva chapter I discuss in my answer here.

What's the reason for this? My best guess is that it's because their mother was named Kausalya, as described in an earlier chapter of the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata:

vicitravīryaḥ khalu kausalyātmaje 'mbikāmbālike kāśirāja duhitarāv upayeme

Vichitravirya married two daughers born to the king of Kashi through his wife Kousalya — Ambika and Ambalika.

And I assume that the reason that the king of Kashi's wife was named Kausalya was because she was an actual princess of Koshala.

I don't think Koshala and Kashi were one at the time; in the Mahabhaarata war, the king of Kashi fought on the side of the Pandavas (see the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita) and Brihadbalaa king of Koshala fought on the side of the Kauravas (and was killed by Abhimanyu). Of course, it's possible that things changed between the time of Bhishma and the time of the Mahabharata war.

  • So how does the mom's name come to the daughters? – Surya Oct 21 '15 at 4:50
  • So did you find an answer to my question? – Surya Mar 8 '16 at 16:31
  • Oh and where is the Vichitravirya Sloka? Why is it in prose format? – Surya Mar 8 '16 at 16:32
  • @Surya I'm not sure, perhaps the matronymic was used in some cases rather than the patronymic. In the Vedas Vishwakarma is referred to as "Vishwakarma Bhauvana"; see my answer here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/7395/36 That would be a matronymic: it's saying his mother was Bhuvana. Also in the Chandogya Upanishad there's the notorious "Krishna Devakiputra". – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 8 '16 at 17:05
  • @Surya The shloka is verse 53 here: sacred-texts.com/hin/mbs/mbs01090.htm I'm not sure why it's not in poetic meter. Perhaps when you're doing a long list sometimes you break the poetic meter. – Keshav Srinivasan Mar 8 '16 at 17:08

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