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The Silahara Story

Tensing Rodrigues

Today we seek to unravel the yet to be deciphered ethnic story in the Silahara inscriptions. The three Silahara families – North Konkan (800 CE), South Konkan (765 CE) and Kolhapur (940 CE) – have claimed descent from the vidyadhara prince Jimutavahana. For instance, the Kharepatana plates of Rattaraja dated 1008 CE proclaim: “There was the lord of the vidyadhara, Jimutavahana by name, a good son of Jimutaketu, who sacrificed his life to Garuda. From him was descended the Silahara family, the best among the royal families of Simhala.” [Mirashi, 1977: Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol 6, 191] Reading this in the context of the references to vidyadhara in Jaina Ramayana, Gunadhya’s Brhatkatha and Samghadasaganin’s Vasudevahimdi, we have already concluded that the vidyadhara could be a community that arose out of the ‘cultural and racial’ miscegenation of the kshatriya (of pure Indo-Gangetic stock) and the kirata. [Vidyadhara And Kirat, April 1, 2018]

The Silahara history carries two clear markers that point to their origin – the Jaina religion and the Siva worship; the former is the evidence of their jaina (kshatriya from the eastern Indo-Gangetic plain) ancestry, and the latter of their kirata heritage. In his introduction to the volume VI of Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum devoted to Silahara inscriptions, Mirashi writes: “The Silaharas were ardent Saivas. Most of their grants were made for the worship of Siva. …Jhanjha of North Konkan (Silahara) is said to have built twelve temples of that god, evidently at the sites of the twelve jyotirlimgas and named them after himself. Chhittaraja (North Konkan Silahara) began the construction of the famous temple of Siva at Ambarnath, which was completed in the reign of his youngest brother Mummuni. The Kharepatana plates of Rattaraja (South Konkan Silahara) record certain grants made by the king for the worship of Avvesvara, evidently Siva installed by his father Avasara III, and named after himself.” [Mirashi, 1977: xlvii]

Though no archaeological remains of Jaina shrines built by Silahara have yet been found, their jaina past can be inferred from the story of Karakanda, the Anga prince, found in Harishena’s Brhatkosa and the Kanakamara’s Karakandacariu. In the course of his digvijaya Karakanda came to Terapura or Terapura, where he came to know about a cave on the adjoining hill with an image of Parsvanatha therein. On inquiry he learned that the cave had been excavated by two vidyadhara princes Nila and Mahanila, who originally belonged to the Himalayas. According to Mirashi, the account seems to be historical as six caves, including two with Parsvanatha image in padmasana posture, still exist on the on the slope of the hill twelve miles southwest of Ter. [Mirashi, 1977: v]

The inscriptions of the two of the three Silahara families (North Konkan and Kolhapur) state with pride that they were Tagarapuraparamesvara or Tagarapuravaradhisvara, meaning the lords of the city of Tagara; which has now been generally identified as the modern Ter in the Usmanabada District of Maharashtra; the South Konkan Silahara inscriptions do not make this claim. [Mirashi, 1977: xxxix] The simple conclusion that follows from the above two paragraphs is that the three Silahara families belong to a common ethnic group, the vidyadhara; but, while the North Konkan and Kolhapur Silahara originated in Tagara, the South Konkan Silahara did not. The South Konkan Silahara called themselves the ‘best among the royal families of Simhala’ (Kharepatana plates, 1008 CE); Simhala has been identified as a territory more or less contiguous with Goa. The founder of the South Konkan Silahara, Sanaphulla, who acquired the territory from the Rastrakuta emperor Krsna I, had his capital at Candrapura, modern Chandor, on the left bank of the Paroda river in South Goa. [Mirashi, 1977: xxii] His son and successor Dhammiyara is said to have founded Balipattana or Valipattana, identified with modern Bali, 12 kilometres to the south-west of Chandor, and close to the Betul port. [Valipattana: The Silahara Capital, July 23, 2017] This makes it amply clear that, the South Konkan Silahara originated in Goa. That is, though the three Silahara families belonged to a common ethnic group, the North Konkan and Kolhapur Silahara originated in Tagara and the South Konkan Silahara originated in Goa.

To place this hypothesis in the proper perspective, we need to see it in the context of what we have already discussed earlier; let us briefly recapitulate that discussion. The kshatriya probably entered the subcontinent from the North-Western passes along the banks of the Indus river around 8,000 BCE or before. [The Two Waves, April 8, 2018] We still do not know what drove them into the Indian peninsula or drew them into it. It could be both. But the trade was definitely a strong factor; they seem to have been drawn by the ‘bright lights’ of Kathiyavada. This flourishing entrepôt linked West Asia and Africa to China and East Asia. It is at the eastern end of this ‘silk route’ that the kshatriya encountered the kirata; the latter could have entered the Indian peninsula along the banks of Brahmaputra around 6,000 BCE or before. The eastern Indo-Gangetic plain became the cauldron in which the ‘cultural and racial’ identities of the two ethnicities fused creating the vidyadhara community. [Vidyadhara and Kirat, April 1, 2018]

Trade seems to have taken the vidyadhara southwards too, both overland along the daksinapatha into Deccan and by the sea to the Konkan coast. The two big hubs that dominated the daksinapatha trade were Paithan and Tagara. [The Market Towns Of Konkan, May 6, 2018] But the submergence of Kathiyavada around the end of the last Ice Age seems to have driven the vidyadhara more vigorously into new territories. This again seems to have happened mainly along the same two routes: over land to the trading hubs like Tagara, and by the sea to the emerging ports on the Konkan coast. [A Survey Of Ancient Konkan Ports, April 29, 2018; Ports Of Goa, May 20, 2018]

It is not too big a leap from here to visualize the emergence of the two Silahara families: the Tagarapuraparamesvara (North Konkan and Kolhapur Silahara) and the Simhalavaradhisvara (South Konkan Silahara). However these two or three were not the only Silahara branches; according to Desai, there were at least another seven spread all across what we have called the Brhatkonkan. Inscriptions of different Silahara rulers, who were mahamamdalesvara or mahasamamta of the ruling dynasties, have been found from Belagavi to Akkalkot (Solapur District, Maharashtra) and from Hattanur (Kalaburagi District, Karnataka) to Bijapur. All these seem to have belonged to the wave of vidyadhara that moved along the daksinapatha.[Desai, 1956: Akkalkot Inscription of Silahara Indarasa, in Epigraphia Indica, vol 27, 70]

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