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The Yadavaraya

Tensing Rodrigues

Coelho begins his ‘The Hoysala Vamsa’ with what he calls ‘an ambiguous problem’: two diametrically opposite theories suggest themselves as for the origin of the Hoysala – the tradition says that they are yadava by descent, while the inscriptions suggest that they were purely of an indigenous origin. [Coelho, 1950: The Hoysala Vamsa, 1] We are already past this ambiguity, having proved by now that the yadava of Deccan, or rather the yadava (yaddava), were very much of indigenous origin, though may be of a kshatriya-vadugar descent. (For the yadava – yaddava difference see The Dhangar Dynasties of the Deccan, August 13, 2017) The key to the resolution of the ambiguity is the fact that both the yadava of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (the kshatriya) and the vaukar yaddava of the Deccan had seamlessly mingled since very early times. [The Pastoralists of Deccan, March 19, 2017; The Dhangar Dynasties Of Deccan, Aug 13, 2017] According to Southworth even the word yadava could possibly have been derived from Dravidian yaddava, as the former has no known Indo-European etymology. [Southworth, 1995: Reconstructing social context from language: Indo-Aryan and Dravidian prehistory, 266] Though Coelho has very little by way of proving the yaddava descent of the Hoysala vamsa, the very opening of the book, bereft of its ‘ambiguous problem’, points to his affirmation of the thesis.

Fleet’s (Fleet, 1882: The Dynasties Of The Kanarese Districts of Bombay Presidency, 64) was the first major attempt to record the history of the Hoysalas of Dorasamudra. But he has nothing to say about their yaddava descent, except for the fact that they used the title Yadava–Narayana, which was also used by the Devgiri Yadava. The fact that the other title too – Dvaravati Purvara Adhishvara – was shared by the two families points to the fact that the two families shared a common origin. The copy of the Fleet’s book which I happened to peruse, was gifted by the author to one George Birdwood from Belgaum immediately after its publication. In all probability he was Sir George Christopher Molesworth Birdwood, professor at the Grant Medical College, Mumbai and one who translated Garcia da Horta’s Coloquios dos Simples e Drogas da India into English. Birdwood, seems to have taken serious interest in the history of the Deccan (he was born in Belgaum); he has made extensive notings in hand on the copy of Fleet’s book. In these he designates the Western Chalukya, the Kalachuri and the Hoysala as yadava. Contrast that with the Kadamba – of Banavasi, Hangal and Goa – whom he designates as ‘aborigines’. He is not sure about the Rastrakuta: according to Birdwood, they could either be rajput or dravida. But many historians categorise these too as yadava. [Dhere, 2011: The Rise of a Folk God, The Viththal of Pandharpur, 245] The Rastrakuta themselves claim descent from Yadu. [Sastry, 1939: South Indian Inscriptions, Vol. 9, Part 1, 39]

According to Derret, the Hoysala were from among the ‘hill chiefs’ that dominated the western edge of the Deccan plateau; they have been variously called the malepar or maleparol gandar or male bherunda; he traces their origin to ‘pre-Dravidian’ tribes. [Derret, 1957: The Hoysalas, 15] You will notice that such a description fits very well the mavale of Shivaji; Derret himself points to that commonality. But he stays short of suggesting that the Hoysala and the Maratha could have shared a common origin.

Let us now turn to the other yaddava, the Devgiri Yadava, correctly Seuna or Sevuna; they probably derive their name from Seuna Des (the area around Ahmadnagar and Nasik), where they rose to power. The founder of the dynasty was a certain Dhadiyappa (Sanskritised to Drdhaprahara); two more kings in the dynasty were known by this name. Dhadiyappa was a dhangar or a gavli in some nondescript village in Nasik-Khandes area; most probably he was some sort of a chief. This is suggested by a story that features in Jinaprabhasuri’s Vividhatirthakalpa. Once when the cows from the village had been carried off by cattle thieves, Dhadiyappa singlehandedly fought off the thieves and got back the cows. Thereupon he was honored with the title of ‘talara’, that is ‘the protector of the village’. [Jinaprabhasuri, 1934: Vividhatirthakalpa, 53] The rise from the protector of the village to the local chief to a petty king is fairly plausible. And then when a bigger threat arose, as that from a marauding monarch, their imperial ambitions were fired. Often these petty kings served those monarchs, but upon the power of the latter declining, the former asserted their sovereignty. The Seuna Yadava, for instance, served the Rashtrakuta (6th to 10th centuries) and the Kalyani Chalukya (10th to 12th centuries). But Bhillama V took advantage of a weakened Chalukya state, besieged on all sides by mercenaries, and formed an independent kingdom from the northern portions of the Chalukya domain. That seems to have been the way most of the dhangar dynasties rose to power in the Deccan.

In the folk traditions of Nasik-Khandesh area the Seuna Yadava are still known as the ‘gavli kings’. Until Bhillama V their capital was at Sinnar, near Nasik; Bhillama moved the capital to Devgiri. At Sinnar a deity named Gaulibuva is still worshiped; His image is a huge boulder. It is quite likely that this enormous Gaulibuva represents Bhillama. [Dhere, 2011: 247] It is during the Seuna reign, particularly with the ascension to power of Ramachandra, that the Old Marathi (which we have equated with Konkani in The Brhatkonkan and Konkani Language, 30 Apr 17) emerged as a literary language, shaking off the hegemony of both Sanskrit and Kannada; these were the primary languages for state inscription. This was probably an expression of the desire of the Seuna Yadava to distinguish themselves from the Kannada Hoysala. Forsaking Sanskrit could be an expression of the yaddava desire to overthrow the supremacy of the bramhana. Let us not forget that the former were looked upon as the shudra. [Narsimha Murthy, 1971: The Sevunas of Devagiri, 25] It is not a mere coincidence that the two literary works that dominated this Marathi renaissance were Lilacaritra and Jnanesvari. [Novetzke, 2016: The Quotidian Revolution – Vernacularisation, Religion, and the Pre-modern Public Sphere in India, 50] Seuna Yadava were in fact the precursors of the Maratha in forging the Marathi identity; but it had to wait for another three centuries to reach its full bloom.

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