The Śālabhañjikā (शालभंजिका) is a recurring sculptural motif in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist sacred spaces. The Shalabhanjika is a stylised sculpture that usually exaggerates feminine features, of a standing woman, holding a branch of a tree.
Shalabhanjika sculptures often adorn the pillars of a temple, or are placed along the circumambulation path (pradakshina path) of the deity, or in the temple’s architecture as bracket figures. It is assumed to be a symbol of fertility and auspiciousness.
Literally, the word Shala-bhanjika means, “the breaking/bending of a branch of the Shala tree” (Shorea robusta). The word has been in use in ancient Indian literature since the 5th century BCE. The earliest carvings of this sculpture form emerged during the Maurya period (4th Century BCE) and continued to appear in various places during the Sunga and Satavahana periods. (2nd Century BCE to 1st Century AD).
A “pastime” or a “garden game” in folk tradition is suggested in the Ashtdhyayi of Panini, and is limited to the eastern parts of the country where Shala trees were in abundance. The connotation of the terms Shalabhanjika is such a game, where ladies used bend branches of the Shala tree, pluck the flowers and throw them on each other.
According to Buddhist texts, when Mayadevi, the mother of Lord Buddha, was on her way to her father’s city, she stopped on the way when she saw the Lumbini grove, full of Shala trees, in full bloom. She, with her escorts entered the grove to entertain themselves. At the time, Lord Buddha was in her womb. As the Queen gracefully stood along a Shala tree, her labour pains commenced, and Lord Buddha was born there. The Queen stood in the classical tribhanga pose, and this scene, therefore is considered auspicious by the Buddhists.
Over time, the motif took on two forms, one representing the “nativity” scene, which was essentially sacred, and the other in which a charming beauty was depicted with the branch clasped in her hands, which was secular.
Shalabhanjika: In Sculpture
A typical Shalabhanjika sculpture depicts a woman standing in a tribhanga pose (the body is ‘broken’ at two points to give three bends in the body — one at the neck and the other at the hip) holding a branch of a tree. More often than not, the sculpture is adorned with heavy jewellery and complex hairstyles. In later sculptures, other trees found their way as a part of this motif — the Ashok tree, the Mango tree also feature in some Shalabhanjika sculptures.
Shalabhanjika in Literature
The term Shalabhanjika has been used in many literary works including:
Harshacharita and Kadambari, by Bana
Viddha-shalabhanjika by Rajashekhara
Arya-saptashati, by Givardhanacharya
Naishadhiyacharita, by Sriharsha
Locations well-known for beautiful Shalabhanjika sculptures between the 2nd Century BCE to the 1st Century CE) include the art at Sanchi (see featured image), Bharhut, Kaushambi, Mehrauli, and Amravati. Mathura has a few masterpieces from the Kushana period (1st – 3rd Century CE). Later masterpieces include the 12th century Hoysala temples of Belur and Halebidu.
Featured image: Shalabhanjika at Sanchi Stupa (Image Copyright: The Custodians)
Karnataka’s Rich Heritage – Temple Sculptures & Dancing Apsaras: An Amalgam of Hindu Mythology, Natyasastra and Silpasastra, by Lalit Chugh
Salabhanjika Motif in Sanskrit Literature, by U. N. Roy
A few decades should count as a small blip in the long history of human civilization. The last few decades, however, have been immensely transformative for the human race. Many objects and experiences that were a persistent part of human story in the preceding millenniums are fading away quite fast. Mass hunger was one of them. It came often, it came hard and it left some deep hollow spaces in the tree of humanity.
The story of an officer’s efforts in dealing with mass hunger in a small town in Central India in 1833, and eyewitness accounts of other famines offer us an insight into what it was like to live through a calamity like this.
The end of Anglo-Maratha wars in 1818 effectively concluded the British conquest of India, with the British now gaining control of most of India. Among the newly conquered territories a large portion was what is now known as the state of Madhya Pradesh. The ancient land of Gonds, Satavahanas, Guptas, Chandelas, Bundelas, Mughals and Marathas was now ruled by the mega corporation: the East India Company.
The company which was initially chartered to explore the “trade of merchandize” with India was now deeply ensconced not only in the matters of Diwani (Revenue and Civil Administration), but also for Nizamat (Criminal and Police Administration). People in central India who recognised their rulers through clans, now saw officers coming from far away lands as representatives of the faceless corporation. Some of these officers found themselves in a position where their actions had a very significant impact on a large number of people. Many officers were acutely aware of the burden tied to their bureaucratic strings. Among them, there was Sir William Henry Sleeman.
Born in Stratton, in Cornwall, Sleeman had come to India in 1809 at the age of 21 as an infantry cadet in the Bengal Army. He participated in the Nepal war during 1814-16 as a lieutenant. By the end of this war he had learned Arabic and Persian and had gained expertise in the religious customs and traditions of India. He moved to a civil posting in 1820 and was appointed Junior Assistant to the Agent of the Governor-General, in the Sagar and Nerbudda territories.
Sleeman soon found himself tackling the wide array of administrative tasks in the course of his postings in the region. Among them were matters of revenue collection, law and order, Sati burnings and other social reforms, treasury and mint, agriculture, thuggie and famines.
The Hunger Spiral
Famine was a frequent occurrence. Droughts, floods, warfare, locusts, monsoon, and many other factors caused frequent famines in medieval India. The Jataka tales, Jain literature, and other ancient texts mention severe famines in India. Contemporary writings during Mughal period mention severe famines of great intensity. During the reign of Shah Jahan some three million people are said to have perished due to famines.
It often started with crop failures, which led to food shortage, and increase in the price of food grain. In those closed loop economies, without much transportation and communication links with the outside world, speculation played a vital role. Nearly every generation had seen serious famines and people relied on old tales to make significant decisions that weighed heavily on their families’ fate. One old saying went:
सावन कृष्ण एकादशी, यदि गरजै अधिराक। तुम पिय जाओ मालवा, हम जावें गुजरात।।
(If there are heavy thunders during the Krishna Ekadashi of Sravan month; oh father, you go to Malwa and I will go to Gujarat)
Malwa was seen as a more fertile land where famines were less frequent. With the spread of panic, started a trail of migrations. Not knowing what to do, poor families abandoned their farms, homes, and cattle and often moved towards the centres of authority – local rulers or the administrative headquarters. Many rulers organised charity kitchens. As the famines intensified, torrents of poor, famished people flowed to cities.
At the sight of scarcity, the agriculture economy froze like a scared animal. The value chain consisted of farmers, traders, transporters, financiers, and consumers. Traders would often hoard the grain, sensing headwinds. Shortage of cattle added to the transportation challenges. The produce was carried on bullocks, covering 6-8 miles a day. Prices doubled for every 100 miles of transportation, and tripled in a season of scarcity. Insolvency of any debtors crippled the money supply in the markets dominated by small, closed communities. With the complete shutdown of a functioning society, the focus eventually came to the one and only essential commodity – FOOD
Those Sights, Sounds and Stench
Contemporary observers of famines describe a society stricken with hunger in chilling detail.
Still fresh in memory’s eye the scene I view,
The shrivelled limbs, sunk eyes, and lifeless hue ;
Still hear the mother’s shrieks and infant’s moans,
Cries of despair and agonizing groans.
In wild confusion dead and dying lie;–
Hark to the jackal’s yell and vulture’s cry,
The dogs’ fell howl, as midst the glare of day,
They riot unmolested on their prey !
Dire scenes of horror, which no pen can trace,
Nor rolling years from memory’s page efface.
~ Charles John Shore Baron Teignmouth (referring to the Bengal famine of 1770)
(Memoir of the Life and Correspondence of John, Lord Teignmouth, Volume 1)
Poor people, now homeless, without any possessions, were seen wearily dragging themselves along major roads. Those left behind in their villages, each passing day played Russian roulette with death; weighing the odds of improvement in the situation against the risk of abandoning their home, while they had the means and physical energy to do so. The definition of “food” started changing. Seed-grain was consumed, damaging the prospects of next year’s crops. Shrubs like Jharberi and many plant seeds became a large portion of diet. Grass, tree leaves were consumed. When the famines intensified, many cattle were slaughtered or abandoned by their owners.
The abandoned animals howling in agony of thirst and hunger went eventually silent. The stench of animal carcasses was felt in the air. The surviving animals, in their bare bones, scourged for food in shrubs, roots, and trees in extreme desperation. F.H.S. Merewether describes:
As we were coming back from the court-house, the Commissioner pointed out to me a few frameworks of cattle on the wayside; they were absolutely burrowing in the ground, like pigs, to get at the roots.
And it subsequently moved to humans. Younger children, in absence of prolonged absence of meals, were the most vulnerable and often perished quickly. In desperation, many children were sold into slavery. The practice of selling children during famines was an old one. Ain-e-Akbari mentions that Akbar had legalised the practice during the times of famines and distress, and gave their parents an option of buying them back later.
The malnourished children developed a swollen abdomen due to protein deficiency, a symptom known as Kwashiorkor. This was a fatal stage and very few children survived after that. The children tottered with a feebly, bereft of any childlike demeanour. Merewether describes:
One of the first objects I noticed on entering was a child of five, standing by itself near the middle of the enclosure. It’s arms were not so large round as my thumb its legs were scarcely larger; the pelvic bones were plainly shown; the ribs, back and front, started through the skin, like a wire cage. The eyes were fixed and unobservant; the expression of the little skull-face solemn, dreary and old. Will, impulse, and almost sensation, were destroyed in this tiny skeleton, which might have been a plump and happy baby. It seemed not to hear when addressed. I lifted it between my thumbs and fore-fingers; it did not weigh more than seven or eight pounds. Probably its earliest recollections were of hunger, and it could never have had a full meal. It was now deserted by those who had brought it into the world, or they were dead; its own life would be gone in a day or two. Its skin was quite cold. dry and rough. Pain had been its only experience from the first; it had never known or imagined the comforts that babies have.
As for adults, death came in many forms. Tribals wandered into forests in search of food, disoriented, and died of exhaustion there. Shortage of herbivorous animals caused wild beasts to wander into human territories and many people were killed by tigers. Many families chose to kill themselves with opium or other means after having all provisions exhausted. Pandita Ramabai, a famine survivor describes:
At last the day came when we had finished eating the last grain of rice – and nothing but death by starvation remained for our portion. Oh, the sorrow, the helplessness, and the disgrace of the situation •••• We assembled together and after a long discussion came to the conclusion that it was better to go into the forest and die there than bear the disgrace of poverty among our own people. Eleven days and nights – in which we subsisted on water and leaves and a handful of wild dates – were spent in great bodily and mental pain. At last our dear old .father could hold out no longer the tortures of hunger were too much for his poor, old, weak body. He determined to drown himself in a sacred tank nearby and thus to end all his earthly suffering ••• It was suggested that the rest of us should either drown ourselves or break the family and go our several ways.
Weakened bodies crawled around waiting to die, trying to avoid being mauled by impatient jackals and vultures. Sleeman wrote about the famine in Sagar:
At Sagar, mothers, unable to walk, were seen holding up their infants and imploring the passing stranger to take them in slavery, that they might at least live. Hundreds were seen creeping into gardens, courtyards, and old ruins, concealing themselves under shrubs, grass, mats, or straw, where they might die quietly, without having their bodies torn by birds and beasts before the breath had left them.
The Intervention Dilemma
In 1833 Sleeman was in the middle of his famous Thuggie trials, while serving as a magistrate in Saugor (Sagar) district in Bundelkhand. The autumn rains failed, and the spring crops could not be sown owing to the hardness of the ground, caused by the premature cessation of the rains, followed by the outbreak of famine. As the famine intensified in the countryside, streams of people started migrating towards Sagar, causing the all too familiar explosive situation.
Sagar was a major cantonment centre. Major Gregory, the military officer posted in Sagar, unsure of the future supply of grain and apprehensive of discontentment among his soldiers, decided to procure a large supply of grain at high prices. Everyone, consumers as well as traders, saw this as a certain signal of an impending crisis. Soon the markets got exhausted of any known supply of food, and the trade stopped.
Hoarding compounded the problem. The merchants hid the grain in underground granaries, pits inside their homes and warehouses. The greed for profit caused the merchants to accumulate grain, and the fear of rioting or coercive action by authorities caused them to hide it. This made it hard for authorities to estimate the actual quantity of grain available in the market. Quite often the grain rotted in the traders pit without reaching the markets. This led to authorities raiding the traders storage, confiscating it or forcing them to sell it at a discounted prices. Arthashastra by Kautilya recommended making the rich “vomit (वमनं)” their wealth during harsh famine.
With the intensifying famine, shortage of food and arrival of migrants, Sleeman faced the pressure to act against the traders. The kotwal of Police declared that a crisis was impending and the police and others would be unsafe unless such action is taken.
Sleeman had been a long advocate of free trade. His concern was that the forcing a trader to sell his stock deprived him of his cash flow. In absence of incentives and the fear of such actions discouraged the traders to import grains from elsewhere, which in the ensuing period made things much worse.
But was there any grain from other districts to import? Sleeman got an estimate of stock in Jabalpur and other places, which indicated that there was stock.
With that confirmation, Sleeman issued a formal proclamation, with a pledge that a trader’s right to sell his grain whenever and wherever will be respected. He expressed hope that people will be assured that his solemnly pledged word would never be broken, and that people would sell what stores they had, and apply themselves without apprehension to the collecting of more.
He showed his pledge to Major Gregory, assuring that no amount of clamour should ever make the administration violate the pledge given to the traders, and he was prepared to risk his situation and reputation as a public officer upon the result.
This proclamation was issued in the city in the afternoon and further police force was deployed to provide assurance to the traders.
As Sleeman had hoped, the markets started to open. Grain started to appear in the market, and traders, with their apprehensions reduced and cash flows operating again, sent out to import grain from other districts. The high prices attracted more people to venture into the trade, and soon the prices started coming down.
The crisis, at least for a while, was avoided.
A lot of water has passed under those medieval bridges crossed by Sleeman in the 1800s.
He went on to become the Commissioner for the Suppression of Thuggee and Dacoity, and later a resident a Gwalior and eventually at Awadh, with Wajid Ali Shah. After spending 47 years in India, he died in February 1856 near Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the age of 67, on the way home. He was buried at sea.
Sleeman’s footprints can be traced across the landscape of central India. Among them, a bounty of literature describing the world he saw. Statistical records of his time, a variety of sugarcane he brought from Fiji, first Dinosaur fossils in India found by him, the modifications he made in the Indian penal code, the institutions he establishe and a little village called Sleemanabad near Jabalpur.
The British administration presided over many severe famines, causing several millions of deaths. India gained independence in 1947. The Food Corporations Act of 1964 resulted in the establishment of Food Corporation of India in 1965.
In 2012, Madhya Pradesh became the second largest wheat-producing state in India, much of the wheat comes from the region around Sagar. There has not been a single large-scale famine in India since independence. That stench, those shrieks and groans, howling of animals and that stench of death have been largely forgotten.
Sleeman’s collectorate in Sagar was demolished in 2016 to make way for new construction. Few other relics of that era survive.
Etched in the DNA of humanity, there are traces of events that created major voids in the genealogy trees. Somewhere around them there are also markers of a day in a bygone era when some hungry people were able to eat.
Memoirs on the History, Folk-lore, and Distribution of the Races of the North Western Provinces of India Link
Rambles and recollections of an Indian official
by Sleeman, Sir, William Henry Link
Indian Famines: Their Historical, Financial, & Other Aspects, Containing Remarks on Their Management, and Some Notes on Preventive and Mitigative Measures Link
The Starvation Process: Dearth, Famishment and Morbility. Link
What it cannot make up for in size and scale, the Khidrapur temple makes up in grandeur and ornateness. This temple is dedicated to the wrathful form of Lord Shiva, known as Kopeshwar. Of the Shiva temples, this one is unique, in that the Nandi is absent. We don’t know why.
Long time ago, there lived a chief of Gods called Daksha. He was married to Prasuti, the daughter of Manu, who bore him sixteen daughters. Satī was the youngest of them all, and had her heart set on Shiva.
Daksha and Shiva did not see eye-to-eye. There was, to say the least, a general animosity; more on Daksha’s side. When Satī was of marriageable age, Daksha held a Swayamvar, where he invited all, except Shiva. Satī had made up her mind about who she would choose, but not seeing Shiva in the assembly, flung the garland in the air and asked of Shiva to accept it. Shiva appeared there, middle of the assembly – garland around his neck. Daksha had no choice, but to grudgingly accept; Satī and Shiva were married.
Much later, Daksha held an ashwamedh(horse sacrifice) – again, all Gods were invited to partake of the offerings of the sacrifice; except Shiva. When Satī heard of this she was furious and after an argument with Shiva proceeded to the sacrifice, uninvited. Some insults ensued, and Satī released an inward consuming fire and died at Daksha’s feet. (some versions say Satī self-immolated in the sacrificial fire)
Shiva soon got to know of this and was consumed with rage. In that state he tore a lock of his hair and flung it to earth, which gave rise to the frightful form of Virbhadrā, who wrecked havoc at the sacrifice. Daksha was beheaded, among other ‘divine’ casualties. Brahmā and Vishṇu had to intervene to stop the carnage. Shiva bestowed a goat’s head to Daksha and made good, all injuries caused. Thus, all was well; all those present bowed to the Trinity, and departed.
Construction of this temple was started by the Śilāhāra King, Gandarāditya I, (the youngest of five sons of Mārasimha) around 1126 CE (Some sources put the date at 1028 CE). For more information of dynasties of Maharashtra, see The Dynasties of Maharashtra
The Śilāhāras were originally feudatories of the Rāśtrakuta empire, and ruled in North Konkan, from around 800 CE. By 900 CE, there were three branches of the dynasty; apart from the original North Konkan branch, they now also ruled South Konkan and South Maharashtra (Kolhapur). Gandarāditya I (r. 1108 – 1138), of the Kolhapur branch, started the construction of the Khidrapur temple. Gandarāditya was a prolific temple-builder and is credited for building four temples in the region and providing grants for a few more, including Jain and Buddhist temples. Gandarāditya was succeeded by Vijayāditya and Bhōja II, after which this dynasty came to an end at the hands of the Seuna Yādavs.
Construction of the temple continued for over seventy years during the reign of his successors, Vijayāditya and Bhōja II. The structure was still incomplete when the Yādav king Singhana annexed the Śilāhāra kingdom, and remains such, to this day. Singhana also possibly contributed to the construction of the temple, according to some inscriptions in the temple.
The temple consists of the garbha-grha (sanctum), the antarāla (antechamber), the gūḍha-maṇḍapa (enclosed hall) and the raṅga-maṇḍapa, constructed in a row. Usually, there is a dvāra-maṇḍapa in front of such a gūḍha-maṇḍapa but here its place is taken by a detached large octagonal maṇḍapa (called sabhā-maṇḍapa or ranga-maṇḍapa), as in the case of the Sun Temple at Modhera. Inside, are twelve pillars in a circle which open to the sky, because the ceiling was never constructed. It is believed by the local people that a pious man who stands on the slab below that opening, goes to heaven. Hence, it is also called the swarga-maṇḍapa.
The garbha-grha, the antarāla and the gūḍha-maṇḍapa are star-shaped on the outside Their walls are decorated with various images from top to bottom The lowest part of the jaṅghā (pillars) are adorned with beautiful figures of elephants (Gajapeetha), with various Gods such as Indrā, Brahmā and Vishṇu riding them. There are 92 such elephants, 46 on each side. (Adapted from CII Vol. 4)
The construction methodology followed is the dry mortar bedding technique. (ASI, Mumbai Circle)
Here’s another extract (with minor edits for consistency and readability) from the The Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency (Vol. XXIV – Kolhapur) about Khidrapur:
Khidrapur, lies on the Krishnā river about twelve miles south-east of Shirol. The chief interest of the village is the temple of Kopeshwar which lies in the centre of the village and is 10½’ x 65’ x 52½’ high, to the top of the dome. The walls are made of black stone richly carved and the dome is covered with stucco. To the main building are attached two richly carved sculptured mandaps or vestibules. In the vestibule are two concentric squares; the outer with twenty and the inner with twelve pillars, richly carved. In front of the temple is round roofless structure called the Swarga Mandapa or Heavenly Hall, on the plan of what would be a twenty-rayed star, only that the spaces for four of the rays are occupied by four entrances. On the outside on a low screen wall stand thirty-six short pillars, while inside is a circle of twelve columns. Further from the temple is the nagārkhāna or drum-chamber. The outer walls of the temple are broken at oblique angles as in the Nilang Hemādpanti temple.
By the south door of the temple is a Devgiri Yādav inscription of Sinhadev in Devnāgari dated Shak 1135 (A.D. 1213) granting the village of Khandaleshwar in Miraj for the worship of Kopeshwar.
Khidrapur is about 65kms south-east of Kolhapur and well laid out on Google Maps.
Entrance to Garbha-grha
Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum. Vol. 6 Inscriptions of the Śilāhāras
Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency Vol. 24 – Kolhapur
The Kachchhapaghata dynasty ruled the north-western parts of Madhya Pradesh during the 10th and 12th CE. They are assumed to be the progeny of the Nāgas and were the vassals of the Gurjara-Pratiharas and later, of the Chandelas of Central India.
Hindola Toran & Chaukhamba, Gyaraspur
Click to see details
Hindola Toran, Gyaraspur
West Pillar, Hindola Toran, Gyaraspur
East Pillar, Hindola Toran, Gyaraspur
Hindola Toran, Gyaraspur
Hindola Toran, Gyaraspur
Hindola Toran, Gyaraspur
This dynasty contributed much to art and architecture and many temples were built under their patronage. Their early work follows the Gurjara-Pratihara style, and later developed unique and new trends in temple construction.
The Vishnu Temple (some sources refer to it as a Trimurti temple) at Gyaraspur is one example of the Kachchhapaghata style of architecture. Not much remains of this temple except the four pillars (Chaukhamba) of the central sanctum and a gateway (Hindola Torana).
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Sculpture Details, Chaukhamba, Gyaraspur
Sculpture Details, Chaukhamba, Gyaraspur
Sculpture Details, Chaukhamba, Gyaraspur
Sculpture Details, Chaukhamba, Gyaraspur
Sculpture Details, Chaukhamba, Gyaraspur
Sculpture Details, Chaukhamba, Gyaraspur
Sculpture Details, Chaukhamba, Gyaraspur
Sculpture Details, Chaukhamba, Gyaraspur
There are ornate carvings on the two sandstone pillars of the Hindola Torana depicting the ten incarnations of Vishnu; these beams carry two horizontal beams, with two ornamental arches between the two beams. This gateway is the southern entrance to the east-facing temple, which is believed to have been 150 ft east to west and about 85 ft north to south. The four pillars, Chaukhamba, are the central pillars of the hall, which are equally adorned by ornate carvings on all sides.
An overview of the various dynasties that ruled the region that is now Maharashtra, from 230 BCE – 1300 CE. A very short description of all these dynasties follows.
We are very grateful to Brigadier Gerard, who had first posted this as a sketch on Twitter, and gave us permission adapt it and post it here.
The Dynasties of Maharashtra
Most of the content below is sourced from Wikipedia. Apart from this, some references have been made to various books listed at the end.
A note on dates: You will notice some discrepancies in the dates in the infographic above and sources (including Wikipedia). This is primarily due to how historians interpret dates. Some take it starting from when a dynasty was established, some take it at later time. Most of the dynasties listed below were vassals or feudatories of the dynasties that preceded them. In such situations, they were semi-independent to an extent.
The Satavahana dynasty ruled the Deccan region between 230 BCE – 225 CE. They were probably vassals of the Mauryas, and established their supremacy in the Deccan after the decline of the Maurya Empire. The dynasty was established by Simuka, however, Gautamiputra Satakarni (86–110 CE) is the most well-known king of this dynasty. The Satavahanas ruled from Pratishthana (modern-day Paithan) and Amravati (Dist. Guntur, Andhra Pradesh) [Link]
The Satavahanas were succeeded by the Vakatakas, who ruled during 250 – 525 CE, with their capital at Nandivardhana (modern-day Nandardhan, near Ramtek) and Vatsagulma (modern-day Washim). This dynasty was founded by Vindhyashakti (c. 250 – c. 270 CE). Vakatakas are known for their patronage of art & architecture. The famous Ajanta caves, were built by under the patronage of Vakataka emperor, Harishena. [Link]
The Kalachuri dynasty, ruled in Ujjayini, Vidisha, and Anandapura; and their capital was Mahishmati, which lies along the banks of the Narmada River. Not much is known about the founder of this dynasty; the earliest mentioned king was called Krishnaraja. Like the Vakatakas, the Kalachuris were also patrons of art & architecture. The Elephanta caves and the early Ellora caves were built under their patronage. [Link]
Chalukyas of Vatapi (Badami)
One of the most significant dynasties of the Deccan, the early Chalukyas, or the Chalukyas of Vatapi ruled a large area of the Deccan between 550 – 760 CE, covering the entire region between the Narmada and the Kaveri rivers. Their rule is considered to be an era of prosperity. It also saw the birth of a new architectural style called Chalukyan architecture. The Chalukyas were natives of Karnataka; this dynasty was founded by Pulakeshin I. [Link]
The Rashtrakuta dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent, between 753 – 973 CE, with their capital at Manyakheta (Modern-day Malkhed). The Rashtrakutas were feudatories of the Chalukyas of Vatapi and at peak, the Rashtrakutas ruled from the Ganges River to Cape Comorin. This period saw the development of many literary works as well as development of architecture, which include the Kailashnath temple at Ellora and the Jain Narayana Temple at Pattadakal. [Link]
The Silahara were vassals of the Rashtrakutas and were split in three branches: North Konkan, South Konkan, and Kolhapur. Across these three branches, the Silaharas ruled between 765 – 1215 CE. The Northern branch was founded by Kapardin, and their capital was Puri (modern-day Rajapur, in the Raigad district). The Silaharas of Kolhapur originally ruled from Karad, and later shifted their capital to Kolhapur. The Panhala fort, near Kolhapur was originally built by the Silahara ruler, Bhoja II between 1178 and 1209 CE. [Link]
Chalukyas of Kalyani
The Chalukyas of Kalyani, or the Western Chalukyas, ruled the Indian subcontinent during 973 CE – 1180 CE, with their capital, earlier at Manyakheta, and later at Kalyani (modern-day Basavakalyan). Major ruling families of the Deccan, the Hoysalas, the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri, the Kakatiya dynasty and the Southern Kalachuris of Kalyani, were subordinates of the Western Chalukyas. The Western Chalukyan architectural style is well known as the transitional style between the earlier Chalukyas and the Hoysalas. [Link]
The Kadamba dynasty ruled northern Karnataka and the Konkan from Banavasi. The dynasty was founded by Mayurasharma in 345 CE. Kadambas were the first rulers to use Kannada as another official administrative language. The Kadambas of Goa, first ruled from Chandor, and laters shifted their capital to Gopakapattana (Goa). The Kadambas of Goa ruled between 960 – 1310 CE and succumbed to the Seuna Yadavs. [Link]
The Seuna Yadavs were feudatories of the Western Chalukyas, and established their independence as the Chalukyan power declined. The Yadavas of Devgiris, as they are also known, ruled from 1189 – 1310 CE, from Devgiri (modern-day Daulatabad). The name Seuna comes from Seunachandra, who originally ruled a region called Seunadesha (modern-day Khandesh), this dynasty was established by Bhillama V (1173–1192 CE). Singhana II (1200–1247 CE), however is considered the greatest ruler of this dynasty who expanded the Seuna kingdom. In 1317 CE, this kingdom was annexed by the Khilji Sultanate. [Link]
A., N. S. (1976). A history of South India from prehistoric times to the fall of Vijayanagar. Madras: Oxford University Press.
Bhāndārkar, R. G. (1957). Early History of the Dekkan. Calcutta: Gupta.
Sultan Alla-Ud Din Bahman of the Bahmanid Dynasty shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar in 1427 and built his fort along with a number of monuments in it. The fort was captured by Bijapur Sultanate in 1619–20, but fell to the Mughals in 1657; as a part of a Peace treaty.
The fort has five gates, 37 bastions and is surrounded by multiple moats. It houses multiple monuments, of which Rangin Mahal is the most decorated of them all. [Link]
Mangalore was an important town even during the early historic times referred to by Greek Geographers Pliny (23 AD) and Ptolemy (c. 150 AD). It was the capital of the Alupa rulers for a long time. In 1526 AD Mangalore was taken over by the Portuguese who were subsequently expelled by the Nayakas of Bidnur in the early 18th century. Haider Ali captured this place in 1763. In 1768, it went into the hands of the British.
Sultan Bateri, a watch tower, is said to have been built by Tipu Sultan to contain the warships into the Gurpur River. Though it is a simple watch tower, it looks like a miniature fortress with its many musket holes for mounting canons all round.
Most literary sources of the history of ancient India are religious texts, and any historical information of use has to be extracted from them. Apart from the Vedas and the Puranas, we have available to us a host of literature from Buddhist and Jain literature. The Sangam literature is the earliest that we have for South India, among other Kannada and Telugu literature. Apart from religious texts, other texts on subjects like grammar, poetry, statecraft, philosophy etc. provide a preview of the then life and times. The purpose of these texts, however, was not history.
Very early in his book, What is History?, Edward Hallett Carr, proposes this thought, about what history is:
History consists of a corpus of ascertained facts. The facts are available to the historian in documents, inscriptions and so on, like fish on the fishmonger’s slab. The historian collects them, takes them home, and cooks and serves them in whatever style appeals to him.
In the 12th century, one man decided to write for the purpose of history, and as a historian. Kalhana (कल्हण) is regarded as the first historian of India. In 1148 CE, Kalhana started writing the history of the rulers of Kashmir, starting from legends to the kings and queens of the 12th century. It took him two years to complete the book, and in 1150 CE he had completed the Rajatarangini – the River of Kings.
Very little is known about Kalhana. He was the son of Chanpaka, a minister in the employ of King Harsha of Kashmir (1089-1101 CE). Chanpaka is referred in Rajatarangini as dvarapati or the Lord of the Gates; commander of the frontier troops. Kalhana was born in Parihaspura now know as Paraspore in the Baramulla district of Jammu & Kashmir.
The Rajatarangini is a Sanskrit kavya composition (poetic metre), of 7,826 verses, set in eight cantos of varying length; each a Taranga or a wave. Kalhana used multiple sources to chronicle this sequential history of the kings of Kashmir, including sculpture, architecture, coinage, and manuscripts, because of which he makes claim for an authentic representation of history.
In the preamble of the first canto of Rajatarangini, Kalhana elucidates the nature of writing a historical account. The seventh verse says:
That noble-minded [poet] is alone worthy of praise whose word, like that of a judge, keeps free from love or hatred in relating the facts of the past.
and soon after:
What is the skill required in order that men of a later time should supplement the narrative of events in the works of those who died after composing each the history of those kings whose contemporaries they were ? Hence my endeavour is to give a connected account where the narrative of past events has become fragmentary in many respects.
Kalhana clearly was attempting to create the first historical account of the kings of Kashmir. Most translators and later historians however, are of the opinion that while the intent for removal of bias was there, it was not always followed. Regardless, the purpose, structure, and method help us classify this as a valid historical account. Kalhana takes care to ensure that, while being a historical account, it is not dull. He believed that a historical text should also be a work of art. The accounts are graphic, vivid and show the love he has for the country, when he describes certain scenes.
Of the eight cantos or books, the earlier ones primarily draw from the Itihaas-Purana tradition. The middle ones are drawn from various sources; the later ones, which deal with the 8th-12th century history of Kashmir, are the most accurate.
The Rajatarangini depicts the kings and queens in equal measure. While his personal bias does seem to creep in, there is no attempt to hide or tone down the importance and relevance of women, who have ascended the throne or have been powers behind the throne. While he clearly disapproves of women rulers like Didda, he describes their role in founding and destroying royal lineages. ‘The contrast between the narrative and didactic sections of Kalhana’s text, evident in his alternate glorification and denigration of women, not only stresses their agency but also reveals the complex power equations in the royal domain.’ (Rangachari, 2012)
The most definitive translation of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini is that by Sir Auriel Stein [Download]. The others are by Jogesh Chandra Dutt and by Ranjit Sitaram Pandit.
Three Rajataranginis followed that of Kalhana’s Rajatarangini; by Jonaraja, Pandit Srivara, and the last is a work of two authors, Prajyabhatta and Suka.
Singh, U. (2008). A history of ancient and early medieval India: from the Stone Age to the 12th century. New Delhi: Pearson Education.
Singh, U., & Lahiri, N. (2010). Ancient India: new research. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Tombs and mausoleums represent a large portion of Islamic architecture in India. The culmination of this rich funerary tradition is, of course the Taj Mahal in Agra. Perhaps because it is among the most well known monuments of the sub-continent, it is easy [to] take for granted the grand manner in which deceased rulers and holy men have been honoured, a practice that seems difficult to reconcile with a religion that has a history of discouraging veneration of humans through monuments. The earliest Islamic tomb in the subcontinent was that of Iltutmish of the Mamluk Dynasty, built in 1236 AD. The interior of his tomb is decorated with inscriptions, from thirty chapters of the Koran, about the power and unity of God, and duties of the devout believer. [This] practice of Koranic inscription continued through the tomb-building tradition in India and is mostly associated with the promise of Paradise to the true believer. This promise is also reflected in certain architectural elements, which represent aspects of Paradise which is visible in many tombs of the Deccan, through floral motifs, in the painting of the domes, and carving of masonry starting with the Bahamani style. The second possible reason for the growth of the funerary culture in India is the need for leaders, who came from abroad, bringing new traditions, languages, and religion, to establish a lasting relationship with the […] people they ruled.
This first occurred in India through the sufi saints of the Chisti order, who were the first religious leaders to be buried in the subcontinent.
The sufi saints became the medium for discourse between locals and their new rulers.
This legitimised new sultanates simultaneously, as Muslim and Indian spaces.
In 1422 AD, Gaisu Daraz (Bande Nawaz) of the Sayyid family (descendants of the Prophet) was buried in Gulbarga, which transformed the Deccan from a land of infidels open for conquest by Muslim invaders, to an Islamic sultanate, under the Bahamani Dynasty.
The Bahamani rulers were buried near his tomb, to receive his eternal benediction, but at the same time, created an eternal bond with Gulbarga, validating and bearing testament to their rule.
The Haft Gumbaz, meaning “seven domes” is a mausoleum of the Bahamani royal family, located on the outskirts of Gulbarga.
Individual ambitions, not only of the kings, but of their ministers and commanders account for the rich funerary tradition among Deccan sultanates.
While the ministers often overthrew, blinded, and assassinated weaker rulers they did not declare themselves “shah” or “sultan” but continued to pay tribute to an overthrown king.
Perhaps their desire to maintain social order accounts for these grand tombs, dedicated even to short reigning or puppet rulers.
Four of the Haft Gumbaz tombs are identifiable as those of Mujahid Shah Bahamani, Daud Shah Bahamni, Shams-ai-din, and Ghyas-al-din Bahamani, and Firuz Shah Bahamani.
The earlier tombs show predominant Tughlaqi influence, while the latest and most elaborate tomb, that of Firuz Shah, shows traces typical of what became the Bahamani style of architecture, the first Islamic style of the Deccan that deviated completely from Tughlaqi precedents.
A simple infographic depicting the reign of the five dynasties that comprised the Delhi Sultanates. The Delhi Sultanate is a term used to cover five dynasties, Delhi based kingdoms or sultanates, mostly of Turkic and Pashtun (Afghan) origin in medieval India. The sultanates ruled from Delhi between 1206 and 1526 (320 years), when the last dynasty — the Lodi dynasty — was replaced by the Mughal dynasty. (Wikipedia)