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The Making of Southern Karnataka(Society, Polity and Culture in The Early Medieval Period)

The Making of Southern Karnataka(Society, Polity and Culture in The Early Medieval Period)
Item Code: NAG052
Author: Malini adiga
Publisher: Orient Longman Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 9788125029120
Pages: 462
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 714 gms

About the Book


Southern Karnataka emerged as a regional entity between the fourth and eleventh centuries AD. Although interest in the nature of early medieval states and their social formations has defined much historical research since the 1970s, studies have until now been limited to clarifying only the political dynastic history of the region. In this path breaking new study, malini adiga reveals the political social and cultural features that characterized the region. Its distinct identity is explored by examining the processes that created this political and cultural entity: the various social strata, the nature of the socio political structure the developments in the field of religion and the manner in which the early medieval state patronized and utilized the various religious cults and sects to legitimize itself. Based on an extensive analysis of the inscriptions from the region and period under study the book also draws on the region's literary sources to explain its characteristic social ethos. Exhaustively researched carefully analysed and richly descriptive this book is essential reading for all those interested in early medieval Karnataka.


About the Author


Malini Adiga is currently a university grants commission post doctoral fellow at the department of history Mangalore University. She earned her doctorate from Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1996 for her thesis society and religion in southern Karnataka in the early medieval period. She was awarded a post doctoral research fellowship by the Indian council for historical research for the project women and kinship in early medieval Karnataka (1998-2000), and is currently working on inheritance rights of women in early medieval Karnataka. She presented the papers entitled gavundas: landlords and officers and dharmashastras, Dravidian kinship and female inheritance in medieval Karnataka at the Indian history congress sessions in Bangalore (1997) and Mysore (2003) respectively. She is also the author of a book in Kannada sivalli brahmanas: a historical analysis of their origins (shivalli pratishthan 2001).




This study is an attempt to reconstruct a picture of society in the region of southern Karnataka from the fifth to the early eleventh centuries, delineating its political, social and religious dimensions. This book and the research from which it is derived would never have been completed without the support of my parents, my husband and my brother. I also appreciate the moral support and encouragement of my two grandmothers, who were almost as anxious as I that this work be completed and published. My sons, Abhijit and Amrit, have been a source of delightful distraction from my preoccupation with the research and book for the past decade.


I take this opportunity to thank Professor Suvira Jaiswal, without whose help, guidance and encouragement this work would have remained incomplete. I am also grateful to all other faculty members of the Centre for Historical Studies from whom I have learnt so much in my years as a student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. My thanks are also due to Professor S. Settar of the Karnatak University, Dharwad, for his valuable advice, suggestions and help during my stay there in June 1990. He and Professor R. S. Sharma made several useful suggestions and I am grateful to them. I would also like to thank Dr. Kesavan Ve1uthat and Dr. B. Surendra Rao of Mangalore University for their comments and suggestions. Of course, errors, if any, are my own.


I thank the staff of the Jawaharlal Nehru University library, the Central Archaeological Library, the National Museum library, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, the Karnatak University library and the library of the Kannada Research Institute, Dharwad, for their help and cooperation. I am also grateful to Nandini Rao and Priti Anand of Orient Longman Ltd., for their help and encouragement in publishing this book. I thank their independant editor for her in-depth and meticulous copy-editing, and the editorial and production teams of Orient Longman-especially R. Sivapriya and Meera Panampilly for their help. I am also grateful to Vijayalakshmi of Universal Print Systems Limited, Chennai, for her help in typesetting this book.




Southern Karnataka first emerges from the mists of prehistory in the fourth century, when the Gangas established a small principality in the neighbourhood of Kolar. This probably occurred as a result of some stimulus from northern Karnataka, which had been a part of the Satavahana principality. From at least the second century AD, Banavasi in the North Kanara district was the capital of a branch of the Satavahanas the Cutukulananda Satakarnis. The Kadambas ousted the Cutukulananda Satakarnis to establish their own kingdom with its capital at Banavasi around the same time as the establishment of the Ganga kingdom by Konganivarman of the Jahnaveya lineage, and were themselves supplanted towards the close of the sixth century by the Chalukyas of Badami. The Gangas continued to hold sway over most of the upper Kaveri valley until the early eleventh century, except for a brief period when the Rashtrakutas established a viceroyalty in the region after overthrowing Shivamara I Ganga in the early ninth century.


It is hardly surprising, then, that the area over which the Gangas held sway came to have a distinct identity of its own. The territory ruled by them developed a corporate identity, and came to be known as the Ninety-six Thousand country in as early as the first quarter of the eighth century it was designated Gangavadi or Ganga by the ninth century That the regional identity was closely linked to the Ganga overlords hip is indicated by the fact that even when their dynastic rivals, the Rashtrakutas and the Cholas conquered this region, it was still known as Ganga mandala. The Cholas, in fact, tried to break this association by renaming the region udigondasolamandalam.


Gangavadi, like Banavasi-12,000, appears to have had an identity distinct from that of Karnata province .Pampa distinguishes between the Karnata and Varanasi (Banavasi) districts in his Adipural Karnata desa appears to have signified the northern parts of modern Karnataka, particularly the units of Belvola desa and Purigere-300. The Kannada spoken in these units is described as pure in Pampa's Vikramarjunavijayam (Anantharangachar 1977, XIV.58) and Ranoa's SahasabhIrnavijayam (Kulkarni 1985). Both authors preferred this form of Kannada in their works to that spoken in Banavasi and Gangavadi. This was despite the fact that Pampa appears to have been greatly attached to the Banavasi-12,000 region, while Ranna received his education and began his career as a soldier and poet in Gangavadi. Nevertheless, the heartland of Kannada appears to have been the Bijapur and Dharwad region, and not the southern parts of modern Karnataka.


An attempt has been made in this study to examine the emergence of the state in the region of Gangavadi. For purposes of comparison the Banavasi region, which had a longer history of state formation and was more exposed to stimuli from the north, is taken up for study. The Aluvakheda (coastal Karnataka), which also witnessed state formation in the second phase of the period under study (eighth century onwards), has been excluded owing to a paucity of epigraphic evidence. It would thus be more accurate to describe the geographical scope of this work as south interior Karnataka.


The first chapter on settlement geography describes the physical features of the region and goes on to examine whether the nature of the larger politico-geographical divisions the visaya and the nadu - were administrative or agrarian units. The significance of numerical suffixes and the existence of nadu-level corporate groups and chieftaincies is also examined. Thereafter, the village is taken up as a discrete unit of analysis: the nature of village boundaries, field and street layouts, types of soils, irrigation works and crops grown have been dealt with in detail. The nature of ham leis has been examined to determine whether they were principally tribal settlements affiliated to larger, upper-caste establishments, or were offshoots of these as irrigation led to the expansion of settlement space in villages. Evidence for the existence of pastoralism and mixed fanning is also taken up in this chapter. Finally, the nature of urbanism and the emergence of urban centres is examined in the last section.


The first section in the chapter on political scenarios studies the background of the emergence of the Gangas and examines the political developments of the period under study. Two phases have been distinguished for this purpose. The first phase includes the period from AD 400 to AD 725, when the Gangas established their over lordship in this region, and the second phase encompasses the period AD 725 to AD 1030, when the Cholas were well entrenched in this region. The predominance of Sanskrit copper-plate records (reflecting a brahmanical socio-political order) in the first phase as opposed to the predominance of lithic, vernacular records (reflecting a regional variant of the earlier order) in the second phase is the main justification for this periodisation. After examining the political history, Chapter 3 studies the composition of the subordinate class of feudatories (samanta). As will be seen, the feudatories came to include groups with varied origins in the second phase: some belonged to recognised lineages, while others merely used the title of (the vernacular variant of the Sanskrit) without mentioning their origins. Village headmen and officials like superintendents also came to be classified as feudatories. This is in contrast to the first phase, when brahmanas and a few samantas with the title of arasa were the only subordinates to whom there is reference in the inscriptions.


Chapter 4 studies the nature of the state in early medieval Karnataka. Apart from analysing the development of the polity as it emerges from the previous two chapters, it specifically studies the nature of land tenures under which the grantees held land; the dues exacted from the peasants; the evidence for peasant and artisanal bondage; the service obligations of the subordinates to the overlord; and the analytic inseparability of the cultivating tenant and the military subordinate. On the basis of all this and in the light of the current debates on the nature of the state in early medieval India more generally, I have attempted to characterise the state in southern Karnataka as feudal, in opposition to the competing theories of segmentary state and integrative polity.


The fifth chapter on religious beliefs and practices takes up the development of Jainism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism separately The patterns of patronage, the evolving Jaina pantheon, the structure of the Jaina temples 'and their rituals and changes in the Jaina monastic order are studied in the first section. The second section examines the impact of Vedic Brahmanism, which enjoyed maximum state patronage in the first phase. The varying responses of the brahmanas to declining state patronage is also examined. The third section takes up developments in Shaivism along the same lines as that on Jainism. The fourth section examines the various causes for the low popularity of Vaishnavism in southern Karnataka, and the various fonts in which the deity was worshipped. The fifth section studies the cults of the mother goddesses, which enjoyed tremendous popularity in this period.

The worship of memorial stones and the construction of shrines for the dead are also studied in the context of the forms of worship of the deified dead in the Sangam period and their survival into the modern period. The role of female temple servants in temple worship has been taken up in Appendix IV. The sources for this study are principally epigraphic, although some use has been made of archaeological reports on excavations and temples. This study also draws on tenth-century Kannada works such as the Vaqqaradhane, Pampa's Vikramarjunavijayam (also known as the Pampa Bharata and am, Ranna's Sahasabhrmavijayam (also known as the Gadayuddham) and Ajita Ttttbsksrz Pursnem and Ponna's a prose work, has also been consulted. These literary works have been used to corroborate inscriptions and to explicate the ethos of the period.








Transliteration of diacritical marks





Historical and settlement geography


Physical and economic geography


Visaya and nadu: the nature of politico geographical units


Village layout


Pastoralism and mixed farming


Urban centres



Political scenario


The emergence of the Ganga: the first phase


Maps I major politico geographical units in southern Karnataka AD 400-725


Maps 2 Growth of Ganga domians in southern Karnataka AD 400-725


The contest for hegemony : the second phase AD 725-1030


Maps 3 central dominion of the Gangas and areas under the control of feudatories post AD 800



The growth of intermediaries the character of the ruling elite


Feudatories belonging to the Ganga lineage


Other ruling lineages




The gavundas and their dual role in the polity


Service assigness


Brahmanas and sectarian preceptors


Religious preceptors and temple trustees


The woman elite



The development of polity


Land tenures




The duties of vassals


Lack of an organised bureaucracy


The Cholas in southern Karnataka



Religious beliefs and practices




Vedic Brahmanism






Cults of the mother goddesses


Cults of the deified dead





I Politico geographical units in southern Karnataka


II Urban settlements in southern Karnataka


III Inscriptional references to brahmanas


IV Devadasi and sule


V Genealogy of the western Gangas


VI Genealogy of the nolambas


VII Maps


Map 4 Urban centres


Map 5 Jaina religious sites


Map 6 Religious centres shaiva and Vaishnava


Explanatory notes and glossary








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