Friday, October 16, 2009

Kadambas of Banavasi coins

The Kadamba Dynasty (345 - 525 CE) was an ancient royal family of Karnataka that ruled from Banavasi in present day Uttara Kannada district. The dynasty later continued to rule as a feudatory of larger Kannada empires, the Chalukya and the Rashtrakuta empires for over five hundred years during which time they branched into Goa and Hanagal. At the peak of their power under King Kakushtavarma, they ruled large parts of Karnataka. During the pre-Kadamba era the ruling families that controlled Karnataka, the Mauryas, Satavahanas and Chutus were not natives of the region and the nucleus of power resided outside present day Karnataka. The Kadambas were the first indigenous dynasty to use Kannada, the language of the soil at an administrative level. In the history of Karnataka, this era serves as a broad based historical starting point in the study of the development of region as an enduring geo-political entity and Kannada as an important regional language.

The dynasty was founded by Mayurasharma in 345 which at times showed the potential of developing into imperial proportions, an indication to which is provided by the titles and epithets assumed by its rulers. One of his successors, Kakusthavarma was a powerful ruler and even the kings of imperial Gupta Dynasty of northern India cultivated marital relationships with his family, giving a fair indication of the sovereign nature of their kingdom. Tiring of the endless battles and bloodshed, one of the later descendants, King Shivakoti adopted Jainism. The Kadambas were contemporaries of the Western Ganga Dynasty of Talakad and together they formed the earliest native kingdoms to rule the land with absolute autonomy.

There is no shortage of myths about the origin of the Kadambas. According to one account the dynasty was founded by one Trilochana Kadamba also known from the Halsi and Degamve records as Jayanta who had three eyes and four arms.He was born out of the sweat of Shiva, which had fallen under a Kadamba tree and hence his name Kadamba. According to another myth, Mayurasharma himself was born to Lord Shiva and mother earth and had three eyes.According to Grama Paddhati, a Kannada work dealing with the history of the Tulu Brahmanas, Mayurasharma was born to Lord Shiva and goddess Parvathi under a Kadamba tree in the Sahyadri mountains and hence the name Kadamba. An inscription of the Nagarakhanda Kadambas, a later descendent dynasty, gives a legendary account and traces their lineage back to the Nandas. According to the inscription, King Nanda who had no heir prayed to Lord Shiva in the Kailash mountains when a heavenly voice advised him that two sons would be born to him, would bear the name of Kadamba Kula and they should be instructed in the use of weapons.

There are two theories to the origin of the Kadamba dynasty, a native Kannadiga origin and the other a north Indian origin. Mention of the north Indian origin of the Kadambas are only found in their later records of their offshoot descendent dynasty and is considered legendary. The earliest record making this claim is the 1053 and 1055 inscriptions of Harikesari Deva which are copied in inscriptions thereafter, describing Mayurasharma as the progenitor of the kingdom who established his might on the summit of Mount Himavat. But this theory has not found popularity as there is no indication of this account in any of their early records. On the contrary, the family derives its name from the Kadamba tree that is common only to the South India region.

Historians are divided on the issue of the caste of the Kadamba family, whether the founders of the kingdom belonged to the Brahmin caste as claimed by the Talagunda inscription, or were of tribal origin. A claim has been made that the Kadambas were none other than a tribe called the Kadambu, who were in conflict with the Chera kingdom (of modern Tamil Nadu - Kerala region). The 'Kadambus' find mention in the Tamil Sangam literature as totemic worshippers of the Kadambu tree and the Hindu god Subramanya, a popular deity in South India.While some historians have argued that they being of Brahmin descent made Mayurasharma's ancestors natives of northern India, the counter argument is that it was common for Dravidian peoples to be received into the Brahmanic caste during early and later medieval times. Being native Kannadigas, the Kadambas promptly gave administrative and political importance to their language, Kannada, after coming to power.Its is thus claimed that the family of the Kadambas were undoubtedly of Kanarese descent and may have been admitted into the Brahminical caste.The Naga descent of the Kadambas has been stated in early inscriptions of King Krishna Varma I too, which confirms the family was from present day Karnataka..Bunts a community with naga origin concentrated in coastal karnataka have one of their surnames as Kadamba.

The Halmidi inscription at Halmidi village dated 450 CE. (Kadamba Dynasty)Inscriptions in Sanskrit and Kannada are the main sources of the Kadamba history. The Talagunda, Gundanur, Chandravalli, Halasi and Halmidi inscription are some of the important inscriptions that throw light on this ancient ruling family of Karnataka.They belonged to the Manavya Gotra and were Haritiputras (lineage), which connects them to the native Chutus of Banavasi, a feudatory of the Satavahana empire.Inscriptions of the Kadambas in Kannada and Sanskrit ascribed to the main dynasty and branch kingdoms have been published by historians.The Kadambas minted coins with Nagari, Kannada and Grantha legends which provide additional numismatic evidence of their history.

Kadambas were the first rulers to use Kannada as an additional official administrative language, as evidenced by the Halmidi inscription of 450.Three Kannada inscriptions from their early rule from Banavasi have been discovered.Several early Kadamba dynasty coins bearing the Kannada inscription Vira and Skandha was found in Satara collectorate.A gold coin of King Bhagiratha (390-415 CE) bearing the old Kannada legend Sri and Bhagi also exists.Recent discovery of 5th century Kadamba copper coin in Banavasi with Kannada script inscription Srimanaragi on it proves the usage of Kannada at the administrative level further.

One of their earliest inscriptions, the Talagunda inscription of Santivarma (450) gives what may be the most possible cause for the emergence of the Kadamba kingdom. It states that Mayura sharma was a native of Talagunda, (in present day Shimoga district) and his family got its name from the Kadamba tree that grew near his home The inscription narrates how Mayurasharma proceeded to Kanchi in 345 along with his guru and grandfather Veerasarma to pursue his Vedic studies at a Ghatika (school). There, owing to some misunderstanding between him and a Pallava guard or at an Ashvasanstha (a place of horse sacrifice), a quarrel arose in which Mayurasharma was humiliated. In high rage, the Brahmana discontinued his studies, left Kanchi, swearing vengeance on the impudent Pallavas, and took to arms. He collected a faithful group of followers and routed the Pallava armies near Srisilam region. After a prolonged period of low intensity warfare against the Pallavas and other smaller kings such as the Brihad-Banas of Kolar region, he proclaimed independence. Unable to contain him, the Pallavas had to accept his sovereignty.Thus in an act of righteous indignation was born the first native kingdom of Karnataka, the Pallava King Skandavarman condescending to recognise the growing might of the Kadambas south of the Malaprabha river as a sovereign power.The fact that Mayurasharma had to travel to distant Kanchi for Vedic studies gives an indication that Vedic lore was quite rudimentary in the region at that time. The recently discovered Gudnapur inscription states that Mauryasharma's grandfather and preceptor was Virasarma and his father Bandhushena developed the character of a Kshatriya.

Mayurasharma's successor was his son Kangavarma in 365 who had to fight the Vakataka might to protect Kuntala. He was defeated by Vakataka Prithvisena but managed to maintain his freedom.His son Bhagiratha is said to have retrieved his fathers losses but Vakataka inscriptions do not attest to this.His son Raghu died fighting the Pallavas. He was succeeded by his brother Kakusthavarma who was the most ferocious and powerful ruler of the kingdom.He maintained marital relations with even the imperial Guptas of the north, according to the Talagunda inscription. One of his daughters was married to Kumara Gupta's son Skanda Gupta. His other daughter was married to a Vakataka king Narendrasena.He maintained similar relations with the Bhatari, the Alupas of South Canara and the Western Ganga Dynasty of Gangavadi according to the Talagunda inscription. The great poet Kalidasa had visited his court.

After Kakusthavarma only Ravivarma who came to the throne in 485 was able to build upon the kingdom. His rule was marked by a series of clashes within the family, and also against the Pallavas and the Gangas. He is also credited with a victory against the Vakatakas, which extended his Kingdom as far north as the river Narmada. The crux of their kingdom essentially consisted of most of Karnataka, Goa and southern areas of present day Maharashtra. After his death, the kingdom went into decline due to family feuds. The Birur plates of Kadamba Vishnuvarman call Shantivarman "The master of the entire Karnataka region". The Triparvatha branch that broke away in 455 ruled from Murod in Belgaum for some time and merged with the main Banavasi kingdom during rule of Harivarma. Finally the kingdom fell to the prowess of the Badami Chalukyas. The Kadambas thereafter became feudatories of the Badami Chalukyas and later the Rashtrakutas and Kalyani Chalukyas. The successors of Mayurasharma took to the name "varma" to indicate their Kshatriya status.

Kadamba Kings (345-525)

Mayurasharma (345 - 365)
Kangavarma (365 - 390)
Bagitarha (390 - 415)
Raghu (415 - 435)
Kakusthavarma (435 - 455)
Santivarma (455 -460)
Mrigeshavarma (460 - 480)
Shivamandhativarma (480 – 485)
Ravivarma (485 – 519)
Harivarma (519 – 525)
(Triparvatha Branch)
Krishna Varma I (455)
Krishna Varma II
Pulakesi I (Chalukya) (543-566)