Categories: Panorama

The Market Towns of Konkan

Tensing Rodrigues

What do ports and market-towns have got to do with our search for the roots? A lot! We have come to a point where we can almost trace the movement of the kshyatriya across the Indian peninsula by tracking the goods that they were pushing! A nagging feeling that follows us throughout is: Any chance that these kathiyavadi kshyatriya we are talking about could be the ancestors of the proverbial gujarati baniya? We have already seen earlier that according to Russel several baniya groups (like Agarwals, Oswals, Khandelwals, Kasarwanis, Jaiswals, Maheshris, etc) believe that they are of kshatriya origin. [Russel, 1916: The Tribes And Castes Of The Central Provinces Of India, Vol II, 162; The Merchants of Rigveda, September 10, 2017; Who Are The Vani?, September 17,  2017]

Most of the time, we tend to forget that uttarapatha and daksinapatha were primarily trade routes, or rather, networks of trade routes (vanikpatha); it is only over time that the terms came to designate the regions that the routes covered. Our interest lies in the segment of the daksinapatha lying to the south of Ujjaini, and the innumerous capillary routes emanating from it. This web of cart-tracks and caravan routes connected market towns in Deccan to the hubs of trade, both domestic and overseas. [The Pastoralists of Deccan, March 19, 2017; The Ashmounds of Kupgal, March 26, 2017; The Vadukar, The Kshatriya And The Bramhana, June 11, 2017; Who Are The Vani, Septemeber 17, 2017; The Sorath Connection, November 12, 2017] Kautilya’s Arthasastra values daksinapatha much on account of the profitable trade that happened through it; it says: ‘The commodities of conch-shells, diamonds, rubies, pearls and gold are more plentiful on the southern route. … It has many mines, with commodities of high value, with well-secured movements,… with an extensive scope for sale.’

The Deccan segment of the daksinapatha properly began at Mahismati, identified with modern Mandhata in Madhya Pradesh; it was here that river Narmada was believed to be the easiest to ford; interestingly the crossing point of the river was called the tirtha. The two big hubs that dominated the daksinapatha trade were Paithan and Tagara. Periplus describes Paithan as about twenty days’ journey south of Barygaza (Bharuca, at the mouth of river Narmada); and from there, at another ten days’ journey, was a ‘very great city’ Tagara (Ter). “There are brought down to Barygaza, from these places in wagons and through great tracts without roads, from Pæthana carnelian in great quantity, and from Tagara much common cloth, all kinds of muslins and mallow cloth.” [Schoff, 1912: The Periplus of the Erythræan Sea, 43] Paithan lies on the north bank of river Godavari, 56 km to the south of Aurangabad. It has a very ancient Jaina heritage. Later a branch of daksinapatha connected Paithan to Sopara and Kalyana via Nasika.

Tagara was the next major node on daksinapatha with routes branching out to Chaul on the west and Amaravathi (Andhra Paradesh) on the south-east; the latter route branched out to connect to the ports of Dabhol and Jaigad on the western coast. We have already referred to the trade route that came from Kalinga and passed through Vemgi (Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh) to reach Amaravathi; we have also spoken about the jaina heritage of the latter. [Jaina In Brhatkonkan, January 21, 2018] Periplus confirms that Tagara was an important market town for merchandise originating on the east coast of India and destined for the Mediterranean. [Schoff, 1912: The Periplus of the Erythræan Sea, 196] Various kinds of textiles, beads and jute were exported from here to Rome; and fine pottery, with a characteristic red polish, was imported from Rome. Local potters seem to have adopted the Roman technique of double mould manufacturing. Beads of carnelian, agate, jasper, lapis lazuli, faience shell and terracotta have also been found at Tagara. [http://www.themetrognome.in/places/ter-excavations-to-throw-light-on-ancient-roman-trade]Tagara lay about 88 km north-east of Solapura, in today’s Osmanabad district of Maharashtra. We shall soon return to Tagara to study the yet ‘uncaptured’ information in Shilahara inscriptions; and the insight that it can offer us in understanding the kshatriya ingress intoKonkan.

Archaeological records evidence several more market towns in Konkan. Take for instance Candor (Chandore/Chandor), located about 20 kilometres from the Diveagara port in the Raigad district.  Though the artifacts found have been dated around the turn of the first millennium or a little later – for instance the Chinese Ming pottery, further excavations could throw up older material, as has been true with most of the Konkan sites. The Stone Age tools found at the site reinforce such a view; the excavations also revealed a microlithic horizon that could be 12 thousand years old. [Dalal, 2017: Excavations At The Medieval Site Of Chandor, 176] Images of Hara-Gauri (a form of Siva- Parvati) have been found embedded in a niche in one of the walls of a rock-cut stepped reservoir. A particular location at Candor is referred to as ‘kalavantiniche gharate’ the nest of the nautch girl – in local oral tradition; this suggests that the city at its heyday could have been a much frequented trading hub. Candor lies on a critical route between the hinterland and the ports of Mhasala and Diveagara. [http://www.themetrognome.in/places/chandore-lights-up-konkans-hoary-past]

Cincani is another location in Konkan, where evidence of inhabitation as early as the 3rd and 4th centuries CE has been found. Two shards of a unique style of Persian pottery possibly indicate its participation in external trade. Cincani lies about 80 kilometres to the north of Sopara. Candora and Cincani suggest an interesting hypothesis, given the fact that they have exact namesakes in Salcete, Goa: Chandor and Chinchinim. Could it be that a group or groups of kshatriya travelling south from Kathiyavada settled in these places, some of them in the North Konkan, and some in the South Konkan; or first in North Konkan, and then in the South Konkan? One comes across such a naming phenomenon quite frequently in case of migrations. Both Chandor and Chinchinim are chaadd’ddi villages, and have a significant presence of what we have called the kathiyavadi chaadd’ddi, that is kshatriya of pure Indo-Gangetic stock. We shall go deeper into this hypothesis when we delve into the Shilahara inscriptions.

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