Kingdom of Kosala (Sanskrit: कोसल राज्य) was an ancient Indian kingdom, corresponding roughly in area with the region of Awadh in present-day Uttar Pradesh. It emerged as a small state during the late Vedic period, with connections to the neighboring realm of Videha. Kosala belonged to the Northern Black Polished Ware culture (c. 700-300 BCE), and the Kosala region gave rise to the Sramana movements, including Jainism and Buddhism. It was culturally distinct from the Painted Grey Ware culture of the Vedic Aryans of Kuru-Pancala west of it, following independent development toward urbanisation and the use of iron.
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, and its cultural and political strength earned it the status of a great power. However, 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.
Kosala is not mentioned in the early Vedic literature, but appears as a region in the later Vedic texts of the Satapatha Brahmana (7th-6th centuries BCE, final version 300 BCE) and the Kalpasutras (6th-century BCE).
In the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas the ruling family of the Kosala kingdom was the Ikshvaku dynasty, which was descended from king Ikshvaku. The Puranas give lists of kings of the Ikshvaku dynasty from Ikshvaku to Prasenajit (Pali: Pasenadi). According to the Ramayana, Rama ruled the Kosala kingdom from his capital, Ayodhya.
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.
In the time of king Mahakosala, the conquered neighboring kingdom of Kashi had become an integral part of the Kosala kingdom. Mahakosala's daughter Kosaladevī married with king Bimbisāra (5th cent. BCE) of Magadha. Mahakosala was succeeded by his son Pasenadi (Prasenajit) (5th cent. BCE), who was a follower of the Buddha. During Pasenadi's absence from the capital, his minister Digha Charayana raised Pasedani's son Vidudabha Virudhaka to the throne.
Not much later, the Kosala kingdom was defeated by Ajatashatru (5th or early 4th cent. BCE) of the Magadhan Haryanka dynasty, and absorbed into the Magadha kingdom, which formed the basis of the Mauryan empire. Kosala was finally annexed by Shishunaga.
It is assumed that during the Mauryan reign, Kosala was administratively under the viceroy at Kaushambi. 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. 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.
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. 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). 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.
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". Other rulers known from their coins are: Kumudasena, Ajavarman and Sanghamitra.
The Kosala region had three major cities, Ayodhya, Saket and Shravasti, and a number of minor towns as Setavya, Ukattha, Dandakappa, Nalakapana and Pankadha. According to the Puranas and the Ramayana epic, Ayodhya was the capital of Kosala during the reign of Ikshvaku and his descendants. Shravasti is recorded as the capital of Kosala during the Mahajanapada period (6th–5th centuries BCE), but post-Maurya (2nd–1st centuries BCE) kings issued their coins from Ayodhya.
Kosala belonged to the Northern Black Polished Ware culture (c. 700-300 BCE), 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. 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.
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. According to Samuel, there is "extensive iconographical evidence for a religion of fertility and auspiciousness. According to Hopkins, the region was marked by a
...world of female powers, natural transformation, sacred earth and sacred places, blood sacrifices, and ritualists who accepted pollution on behalf of their community.
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." 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.