Mekalas were a small tribe living in the Amarkantak Hills. Mekalas as a tribe have been referred in a number of Puranic Indian texts in different ways.
The Mekalas were a small tribe inhabiting the tract of a country comprising the modern Amarkantak hills and the surrounding region. In ancient times, the Amarkantak range was known as Mekala from where the name of the tribe is derived; and as the river Narmada has its source in these hills, she was known as Mekalasuta or Mekalakanya, that is the daughter of Mekala. The Mekala Mountain is a part of the Vindhyas; and in the Puranas, the Mekalas are referred to as a Vindhyan tribe. This is also supported by the Brahma Purana which locates the Mekalas along with the Karusas, Bhojas, Dasarnas, Nisadhas and others, just below the Vindhyan range. The identification of the locality is confirmed by mythological allusions as well; for Mekala is said to have been a Risi, the father of the river Narmada. The mountain where the river rises is also known as Mekaladri. According to the Bengal recension of the Ramayana, Mount Mekala is referred to as the source of the river Son.
According to the Epic tradition as contained in the Drona Parva of the Mahabharata, Kama is said to have conquered the Mekalas along with the Utkalas, Paundras, Kalingas, Andhras, Nisadas, Trigarttas and Vahiikas. In the Ramayana also, the Mekala country is associated with the Utkala and Dasarna countries. The army of monkeys which was despatched in search of Sita was asked to visit Mekala, Utkala, and Dasarna, among other countries of the south.
The Markandeya Purana probably associates the Mekalas with the Ambasthas: the reference is to Mekhalamusta, which appears to be a corruption of Mekala and Ambastha. History says that when the Ambasthas or a section of them had migrated from their original habitat in Punjab to south-eastern India, near the Mekala hill in the upper regions of the Narmada River.
There is another reference to Mekala in the Vishnu Purana, where ten kings are said to have had Mekala as their land of birth.
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