A country or kingdom. The word Aṇga (Anga) is also used to refer to the citizens of the kingdom of Aṇga. Usually, it is mentioned along with four other kingdoms situated in eastern India—Aṇga, Vaṇga (Banga), Kaliṇga (Kalinga), Suhma (Suhma) and Puṇḍra (Pundra). Perhaps these five kingdoms formed a confederacy of which the capital was Aṇga. In a curious little tale in Mahābhārata (Mahabharata), it has been chronicled that five sons were conceived by King Bali’s wife Sudeṣṇa (Sudeshna) from sage Dīrghatamā (Dirghatama)—appointed a surrogate by King Vali who belonged to the lineage of Yayāti’s (Jajati) son, Anu. These sons were Aṇga, Vaṇga, Kaliṇga et al, and the kingdoms were named after them.
It can be surmised from Mahābhārata that a half-caste was formed in the land of Aṇga by the union of brāhmaṇas and kṣatriyas (kshatriyas). The creation of Aṇga initiated the conception of this half-caste—
evamanye maheṣvasa brahmanaiyaḥ kṣatriya bhuvi/jātāḥ paramadharmajṅa bīrjyabanto mahābalāḥ.
Elsewhere in Mahābhārata, the inhabitants of Aṇga have been identified as experts in elephant-war and as mlecchas (mlechchhas; a derogatory term for people who did not abide by the Aryan norms).
[Brahma Saṃhita 14.8]
We find the name Aṅga first mentioned in Atharvaveda where the country is an annexure of Muñjavāna (Munjavana) or Magadha. According to Purāṇas, Aṅga was the son of Bali who belonged to the the fourth generation in the family of King Titikṣu (Titikshu) of eastern India, and to the fourteenth generation under Anu. The nomenclature of the country of Aṅga comes from its ruler of the same name.
In the Purāṇas mentioned above, Aṅga et al have sometimes been referred to as vāleya kṣatriya (baleya kshatriya; kṣatriya children born to Vali) as they were born to Bali by a surrogate; then again, they have been called vāleya brāhmaṇa (baleya brahmana; brāhmaṇa children born to Vali) as their biological father was the brāhmaṇa sage Dīrghatamā. Thus, the accounts of Mahābhārata are proven correct, that the inhabitants of Aṅga fundamentally established the half-caste between brāhmanas and kṣatriyas.
In the Buddhist texts, Aṅga has been referred to as one of the sixteen major kingdoms (ṣoḍaśa mahājanapada).
[B.C. Law, Geography of Early Buddhism, P.8]
According to the Mahāparinibbana Sutta, there were 80000 villages in the country of Aṅga. Āpaṇa (Apana) and Aśvapura (Ashwapura) were the two main commercial centres of the country.
Harivaṃśa (Harivangsha) relates that earlier, the capital of Aṅga was Mālinī (Malini). Romapāda, a descendant of the previous King Aṅga, is a renowned character in Rāmāyaṇa (Ramayana). The name of the capital city was changed from Mālinī to Campā (Champa) after Romapāda’s great-grandson, Kind Campa (Champa)—
campasya tu prī campā ya mālinyabhavat pura.
But we may beg to differ. This is because Mahābhārata documents that the locale of Aṅga was previously under the rule of the king of Magadha, Jarāsandha (Jarasandha). When Karṇa, the king of Aṅga emerged victorious in a duel with Jarāsandha, the latter was impressed, and gifted to Karṇa the city of Mālinī . However, it has also been recorded that Jarasandha himself ruled Campā—
prītya dadau sa (jarasandhaḥ) karṇā mālinīṃ nagarīmatha/pālayāmāsa campañca karṇaḥ parabalārdanaḥ.
This leads us to believe that Mālinī and Campā were not one and the same and were situated in different areas. Both were well-known cities of Aṅga.
During the era of Mahābhārata, it seems that Aṅga was under the jurisdiction of the Kuru clan, because Duryodhona gifted this kingdom to Karṇa.
However, during the Rāmāyaṇa era, the kingdom of Aṅga was situated at the confluence of Gaṅga and Sarayū and was under the governance of Daśaratha’s friend Romapāda.
In Rāmāyaṇa, sage Viśvamitra (Vishwamitra) pointed out to Rāma (Rama) the kingdom of Aṅga and said— Madanadeva, burned by the fire from Śiva’s third eye, became incorporeal (anaṅga) by shedding his mortal form. It was here in Aṅga that Madana underwent this process of casting off his earthly appearance and transforming to divinity— sa cāṅgaviṣayaḥ śrīmān yatrāṅgaṃ sa mumoca ha.
According to Śaktisaṅgama Tantra (third volume), the country of Aṅga spanned from Vaidyanatha or modern Deoghar to Puri and Bhubaneshwar in Odisha— vaidyanāthaṃ samārabhya bhubaneśantagaṃ śive/ tāvadaṅgābhidho deśo yātrāyaṃ na hi duṣyati.
From Mahābhārata we gather that Aṅga constituted of the Bhagalpur and Munger districts in modern Bihar and stretched to River Kaushiki or Koshi in the north. Aṅga also included the western part of the Purniya district. The two villages Champanagar and Champapur near Bhagalpur are still reminiscent of Campā , the capital of Aṅga. According to archaeological findings, it is likely that Aṅga was located near the city of Lakhisarai situated on the western border of Munger district at the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Champa (modern Chadan or Chhadan river). George Birdwood, however, states that the Birbhum and Murshidabad areas of West Bengal along with the Santhal Parganas constituted Aṅga. King Bimbisara, in 6th century BC, annexed this region with Magadha. The fact of the matter is, River Champa or Chadan flowed between the countries of Aṅga and Magadha, and there is considerable difference of many generations between the existences of the two kingdoms.
[Saktisangama Tantra, Vol. 3 (Sundarikhanda), 7. 16];
[E.A. Pargiter, Ancient Countries in Ancient India, Vol. 66 (1897), p.95];
[B.C. Law, Geography of Early Buddhism, pp. 6, 36];
[The Manual of Buddhism, p. 163 fn. (based on an account of Tibetan Dulva)]