Kuru (Sanskrit: कुरु) was the name of a tribal union in northern Iron Age India (c. 1200 – c. 900 BCE), encompassing the modern-day states of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and the western part of Uttar Pradesh (the region of Doab, till Prayag). It was the first recorded state-level society in the Indian subcontinent, and has a number of Hindu myths attached to it. It was the dominant political and cultural center of the region during its prime.
The main contemporary sources for understanding the Kuru kingdom are ancient religious texts, containing details of life during this period and allusions to historical persons and events. Within the frame story of the Mahabharata (an epic poem), the historical kings Parikshit and Janamejaya are featured significantly as scions of the Kuru clan.
The Kuru tribe was formed in the Middle Vedic period as a result of the alliance and merger between the Bharata and Puru tribes, in the aftermath of the Battle of the Ten Kings. With their center of power in the Kurukshetra region, the Kurus formed the first political center of the Vedic period, and were dominant roughly from 1200 to 800 BCE. The first Kuru capital was at Āsandīvat, identified with modern Assandh in Haryana. Later literature refers to Indraprastha (modern Delhi) and Hastinapura as the main Kuru cities.
The tribes that consolidated into the Kuru Kingdom or 'Kuru Pradesh' were largely semi-nomadic, pastoral tribes. However, as settlement shifted into the western Ganges Plain, settled farming of rice and barley became more important. Records and literature of this time period indicates the growth of surplus production and the emergence of specialized artisans and craftsmen. Iron was first mentioned as śyāma ayas (literally "black metal") in the Atharvaveda, a text of this era. The earliest examples of coins in this region was also the Kuru coin.
Another important development was the fourfold varna (class) system, which replaced the twofold system of arya and dasa from the Rigvedic times. The Brahmin priesthood and Kshatriya aristocracy, who dominated the arya commoners (now called vaishyas) and the dasa labourers (now called shudras), were designated as separate classes.
The Atharvaveda (XX.127) praises Parikshit, the "King of the Kurus", as the great ruler of a thriving, prosperous realm. Other late Vedic texts, such as the Shatapatha Brahmana, commemorate Parikshit's son Janamejaya as a great conqueror who performed the ashvamedha (horse-sacrifice). These two Kuru kings played a decisive role in the consolidation of the Kuru state and the development of the srauta rituals, and they also appear as important figures in later legends and traditions (e.g., in the Mahabharata).
According to post-Vedic Sanskrit literature, the capital of the Kurus was later transferred to Kaushambi, in the lower Doab, after Hastinapur was destroyed by floods as well as because of upheavals in the Kuru family itself. By the 6th century BCE, the Kuru dynasty evolved into Kuru and Vatsa janapadas, ruling over Upper Doab/Delhi/Haryana and lower Doab, respectively.
Kuru kings ruled with the assistance of a rudimentary administration, including a priest, village headman, army chief, food distributor, emissary, herald and spies. They extracted mandatory tribute (bali) from their population of commoners as well as from weaker neighboring tribes. They led frequent raids and conquests against their neighbors, especially to the east and south.
To aid in governing, the kings and their Brahmin priests arranged Vedic hymns into collections and developed a new set of rituals (the now orthodox Srauta rituals) to uphold social order and strengthen the class hierarchy. High-ranked nobles could perform very elaborate sacrifices, and many rituals primarily exalted the status of the king over his people. The ashvamedha or horse sacrifice was a way for a powerful king to assert his domination in northern India
The Kuru kingdom decisively influenced the era it was in and later societies. They collected hyms, developed rituals, and re-organized the class system, changed the Vedic heritage of the early Vedic period, arranging the Vedic hymns into collections, and developing new rituals which gained their position in Indian civilization as the srauta rituals, which contributed to the so-called "classical synthesis" or "Hindu synthesis". the middle Vedic Period during the reigns of Parikshit and Janamejaya, Despite a later decline, some of these tradtions survive.