Abhira dynasty

Third-century empire in India

The Abhira dynasty was a dynasty that ruled over the western Deccan, where they maybe succeeded the Satavahanas. From 203 to roughly 260, they formed a vast kingdom. Abhira Era started by Ishwarsena in AD 249, continued with them and was called Abhira-Traikutika era.[1] This era was later continued by Kalachuri Dynasty, calling it Kalachuri era, and later Kalachuri-Chedi era.[2] After the rule of five Traikuta kings, they retired to central provinces and assumed the name Haihaya and Kalachuri.[3] Historians call this entire era as Abhira-Traikutika-Kalachuri-Chedi era.[4] In the Ramayana and Mahabharata the Abhiras in the West are spoken of, and in the Puranic Geographie, the country on the western coast of India from the Tapti to Devagarh, is called Abhira or the region of cowherds. It seems probable that they were connected with the Yadavas who were in power in the eighth, and again appear as the rulers of Devagiri or Daulatabad in the 12th and 13th century.[5][6]

Origin change

According to sociologist M. S. A. Rao, The Abhiras are equated with Ahirs, Gopas and Gollas, and all of them are considered Yadavas.[7]

The Bhāgavata calls the Abhiras as Saurastra and Avantyas rulers (Sauraṣṭra-āvanty ābhirāḥ) and the Vişņu treats the Abhiras as occupying the Surastra and Avanti Provinces.[8][9] The Abhiras have been well-known since epic times as a martial tribe.[10]

According to the Mahabharata, the Abhiras lived near the seashore and on the bank of the Sarashvati, a river near Somnath in Gujarat.[11][12]

Accoording to some authors, the origin of the Abhiras is steeped in obscurity. Though, we often come across references about them in Ancient Indian literature, hardly any of them throw light on the problem of their origin. The Mahābhashya of Patañjali simply mentions them as a caste/tribe distinct than the Sudras.[13][14]

Some sources state that Abhiras are Kshatriyas and specifically Yaduvanshi.[15]

They were among the successors of the Satavahanas in the Western Deccan. Some of them entered the military service of the Western Satraps (Sakas), and helped them in conquest of new territories. By 181 A.D, the Abhiras had gained considerable influence at the Kshatrapa court. Some of them were even serving as generals.[16]

The Gunda inscription dated Saka year 103 (181 CE) refers to Abhira Rudrabhuti as the senapati (commander-in-chief) of the Saka satrap (ruler) Rudrasimha.[17][18][19][20][21] The inscription also gives a detailed genealogy of the kings up to Rudrasimha:[22]

Gunda inscription of Rudrasimha, Saka year 103.

"Hail ! On the [auspicious] fifth tithi of the bright fortnight of Vaisakha during the auspicious period of the constellation of Rohini, in the year one hundred and three — 100 3 — (during the reign) of the king, the Kshatrapa Lord Rudrasiha (Rudrasimha), the son of the king, the Maha-Kshatrapa Lord Rudradaman (and) son’s son of the king, the Kshatrapa Lord Jayadaman, (and) grandson’s son of the king, the Maha-Kshatrapa Lord Chashtana, the well was caused to be dug and embanked by the general (senapati) Rudrabuthi, the son of the general (senapati) Bapaka, the Abhira, at the village (grama) of Rasopadra, for the welfare and comfort of all living beings."

— Epigraphia Indica XVI, p.233

The inscription refers Rudrasimha to as simply a ksatrapa, ignoring the existence of any mahaksatrapa. According to Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya, this indicates that the Abhira general was the de facto ruler of the state, though not assuming any higher title. The inscription states Abhira Rudrabhuti as the son of the general Bapaka.[17] The Abhira dynasty was probably related Abhira Rudrabhuti.[17]

History change

"Ābhīra" in later Brahmi script in the Allahabad Pillar inscription of Samudragupta.[23]

The history of the Abhiras is shrouded in much obscurity. The Abhira dynasty was founded by Ishwarsena. The branch came to power after the demise of the Satavahanas in the Nasik region of Maharashtra, with the help and consent of the Western Satraps (Sakas). They were known as Gavali rajas indicating that they were cowherds by profession before becoming kings. Ten Abhira kings ruled in the Maharashtra region of the Deccan, whose names have not been mentioned in the Puranas. An Abhira king is known to have sent an embassy to the Sassanid Shahanshah of Persia, Narseh, to congratulate him on his victory against Bahram III.[24]

During the time of the Gupta Empire, the Indian emperor Samudragupta recorded Abhira as a "frontier kingdom" which paid an annual tribute. This was recorded by Samudragupta's Allahabad Pillar inscription, which states the following in lines 22–23.

"Samudragupta, whose formidable rule was propitiated with the payment of all tributes, execution of orders and visits (to his court) for obeisance by such frontier rulers as those of Samataṭa, Ḍavāka, Kāmarūpa, Nēpāla, and Kartṛipura, and, by the Mālavas, Ārjunāyanas, Yaudhēyas, Mādrakas, Ābhīras, Prārjunas, Sanakānīkas, Kākas, Kharaparikas and other nations."

— Lines 22–23 of the Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudragupta (r.c.350-375 CE).[23]

The duration of the Abhira rule is uncertain, with most of the Puranas giving it as sixty-seven years, while the Vayu Purana gives it as one hundred and sixty-seven years.[25] According to V.V Mirashi, the following were the feudatories of the Abhiras-[26]

The Abhiras spoke Apabhraṃśa, and seem to have patronized Sanskrit. The Nasik cave inscription of Isvarsena is written mostly in Sanskrit. Several guilds flourished in their kingdom, in which people invested large amounts for making endowments. This indicates peace, order and security in the kingdom of the Abhiras.[25]

Mahaksatrapa Isvaradatta change

According to Dr. Bhagwan Lal, The Abhira or Ahir King Ishvardatta entered Gujarat from North Konkan defeated Vijayasena, a Kshatriya and established his supremacy.[27]

Patanjali in his Mahabhashya mentioned about Abhira kings. Abhira chieftains served as Generals to the Saka rulers. In the second century A.D., an Ahir Chief Isvaradatta became the Mahakshatrapa(Supreme King). The Abhira played a key role in causing downfall of Satvahanas in third century A.D.[28]

Saka Satakarni change

Another king claiming to be a son of Mathari besides Abhira Ishwarsena is Sakasena. He is identified with Saka Satakarni, whose coins have been found over Andhra Pradesh and is taken to be a Satavahana king and successor of Yajna Sri Satakarni. However, K.Gopalchari thinks that Sakasena was a Abhira king. Reasons:

  • The name of Sakasena or Saka Satakarni does not occur in the Puranic genealogies of the Satavahana kings. He claimed to be th son of Mathari, the wife of Abhira Sivadatta, as indicated by his epithet Mathariputra.
  • The traditional title of Siri which is found on most coins and inscriptions of the Satavahanas is significantly absent in the case of this ruler.
  • Considering the dynastic rivalry between the Saka Kshatrapas, the naming of a Satavahana prince with its main content as Saka is very unnatural and unlikely.
  • The Abhiras were earlier in the service of the Saka rulers of Ujjaini, and in those days, feudatory chiefs used to name their sons after the names of their overlords. The name of Sakasena was probably a result of this practice. The suffix of Sena in his name also suggests that he was an Abhira king and related to Ishwarsena.

So this concludes that Ishwarsena's predecessor was his elder brother Sakasena, and Ishwarsena ascended the throne after his death.

Sakasena was probably the first great Abhira king. His inscriptions from the Konkan and coins from Andhra Pradesh suggest that he ruled over a large portion of the Satavahana Empire.

Abhira Ishwarsena change

Ishwarsena was the first independent Abhira king. He was the son of Abhira Sivadatta and his wife Mathari. Ashvini Agrawal thinks he was a general in the service of Rudrasimha I who deposed his master in 188 A.D and ascended the throne. Ashvini Agrawal further says that Rudrasimha I soon deposed him and regained the throne in 190 A.D.[16] He (Ishwarsena) started an era which later became known as the Kalachuri-Chedi era. His descendants ruled for nine generations.[29] Ishwarsena's coins are dated only in the first and second years of his reign and are found in Saurashtra and Southern Rajputana.[30]

The Traikuta rule of Aparanta or Konkan begins in A.D. 248 (Traikuta era) exactly the time of Ishwarsena's rule, hence Traikutas are identified with the Abhira dynasty.[31]

The Abhiras began to rule in Southern and western Sourashtra from the second half of the 10th century A.D their capital was vamanshtali, modern vanthali nine miles west of Junagadh. They became very powerful during the reign of Graharipu who defeated the Saindhavas and the Chaulukyas.[32]

is evident from the epigraphical records of the Yadavas of Devagiri and the Hoysalas that the Abhiras were called Ahuras and Gualas in the 13th century. This proves that the Abhiras, Gopas and Ghoshas were not different people.[33]

List of rulers change

The following is the list of the sovereign and strong Abhira rulers-

  • Abhira Sivadatta
  • Sakasena alias Saka Satakarni
  • Abhira Ishwarsena alias Mahaksatrapa Isvaradatta
  • Abhira Mahakshatrapa Vashishthiputra Vasusena

Territory change

The Abhiras ruled western Maharashtra which included Nasik and its adjoining areas,[34] Aparanta, Lata, Ashmaka,[27][35] and Khandesh[36] Their core territory included Nasik and the adjoining areas.[17][37] The Abhira territory also may have consisted of Malwa, which they gradually seized from the Kshahratas.[38]

Decline change

After the death of Abhira Vashishthiputra Vasusena, the Abhiras probably lost their sovereign and paramount status. The Abhiras lost most of their domains to the rising Vakatakas (north) and the Kadambas (south-west).[39] The Abhiras were finally supplanted by their feudatories, the Traikutakas. But still many petty Abhira chieftains and kings continued to rule until the fourth century, roughly till 370 AD, in the Vidarbha and Khandesh region. They continued to rule, but without sovereignty, until they came into conflict with the Kadamba king Mayurasarman and were defeated.[24]

Descendants change

The descendants of the Abhiras can be recognized by their surnames, such as Ahir, Ahire, Ahir-Rao etc. These surnames are commonly found in Khandesh and Western Maharashtra. According to Ganga Ram Garg, the modern-day Ahir caste are descendants of Abhira people and the term Ahir is the Prakrit form of the Sanskrit term Abhira.[40] This view gets support in many writings.

Related pages change

References change

  1. A Comprehensive History of India: pt. 1. A.D. 300-985. Orient Longmans. 1981.
  2. Numismatic Digest. Numismatic Society of Bombay. 1982.
  3. Choubey, M. C. (2006). Tripurī, History and Culture. Sharada Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-88934-28-7.
  4. The Numismatic Chronicle. Royal Numismatic Society. 1983.
  5. India, United Service Institution of (1879). Journal of the United Service Institution of India.
  6. Historical and Descriptive Sketch of His Highness the Nizam's Dominions. Printed at the Times of India Steam Press. 1883.
  7. Rao, M. S. A. (1987). Social Movements and Social Transformation: A Study of Two Backward Classes Movements in India. Manohar. ISBN 978-0-8364-2133-0.
  8. Society, Bihar Research (1933). The Journal of the Bihar Research Society. The Bhagavata calls the Abhiras, 'Saurashtra' and 'Avantya' rulers ( Saurashtra-Āvanty Ābhīrāḥ), and the Vishnu treats the Abhiras as occupying the Surashtra and Avanti provinces.
  9. Yadav, J. N. Singh (1992). Yadavas Through the Ages, from Ancient Period to Date. Sharada Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-85616-03-2.
  10. Gokhale, Balkrishna Govind (1962). Samudra Gupta: Life and Times. Asia Publishing House.
  11. Garg, Gaṅgā Rām (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World. Concept Publishing Company. ISBN 978-81-7022-374-0. According to the Mahabharata (Sabha. 31), the Abhiras lived near the seashore and on the bank of the Sarasvati, a river near Somanāth in Gujarāt.
  12. Soni, Lok Nath (2000). The Cattle and the Stick: An Ethnographic Profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture. ISBN 978-81-85579-57-3. Some people say that the Abhira were Sudra, but it is wrong and Mahabharat mentions both of them distinctly. It says that both the Sudra and the Abhira were living on the bank of river Saraswati. The Abhira who ruled over the Deccan for some time, were, according to Patanjali's counting, a caste by themselves, not included among the Sudra (Ghurye 1961 : 62). The word 'Jati' is applied by the great grammarian Patanjali to such ethnic groups as the Abhira, whom he declares to be other 'Jati' than the Sudra. By implication the Sudra too were a 'Jati'. 'Varna' and 'Jati' would thus appear to be inter-changeable terms. It is clear that other groups than the four traditional ones were not only in existence, but had come to be recognised as jatis (Vyakaranamahabhashya : 1,2,72).
  13. Congress, Indian History (1959). Proceedings - Indian History Congress.
  14. Ghurye, Govind Sadashiv (1957). Caste and Class in India. Popular Book Depot.
  15. Soni, Lok Nath (2000). The Cattle and the Stick: An Ethnographic Profile of the Raut of Chhattisgarh. Anthropological Survey of India, Government of India, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Department of Culture. ISBN 978-81-85579-57-3.
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  18. Salomon, Richard (1998). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the Other Indo-Aryan Languages. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 90. ISBN 9780195099843.
  19. Mishra, Susan Verma; Ray, Himanshu Prabha (2016). The Archaeology of Sacred Spaces: The temple in western India, second century BCE–8th century CE. Routledge. p. 39. ISBN 9781317193746.
  20. Damsteegt, Th (1978). Epigraphical Hybrid Sanskrit: Its Rise, Spread, Characteristics and Relationship to Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. BRILL. p. 201. ISBN 978-9004057258.
  21. Vogel, Jean Ph (1947). India antiqua. Brill Archive. p. 299.
  22. Thomas, F. w (1921). Epigraphia Indica Vol.16. p. 233.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Fleet, John Faithfull (1888). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol. 3. pp. 6–10.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Singh Nijjar, Bakhshish (2008). Origins and History of Jats and Other Allied Nomadic Tribes of India. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 434. ISBN 9788126909087.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Majumdar, M R. "Chronology of Gujarat". Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya (1974). Some Early Dynasties of South India. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 128–130. ISBN 978-81-208-2941-1.
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency: pt. 1. History of Gujarát". google.co.in. 1896.
  28. Gaṅgā Rām Garg (1992). Encyclopaedia of the Hindu World, Volume 1. Concept Publishing Company. p. 114. ISBN 9788170223740.
  29. Arun Kumar Sharma (2004). Heritage of Tansa Valley. Bharatiya Kala Prakashan. pp. 33, 92. ISBN 9788180900297.
  30. Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi era, Part 1
  31. Mookerji, Radhakumud (2007). The gupta empire (5th ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 9788120804401. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
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  34. Sudhakar Chattopadhyaya (1974). Some Early Dynasties of South India. Motilal. p. 129. ISBN 9788120829411. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  35. Maharashtra (India). Gazetteers Dept (1977). Maharashtra State Gazetteers: Sholapur Gazetteer of India Volume 24 of Maharashtra State Gazetteers, Maharashtra (India). Gazetteers Dept. Director of Government Printing, Stationery and Publications, Maharashtra State. p. 40.
  36. Subodh Kapoor (2002). Encyclopaedia of Ancient Indian Geography, Volume 1. Cosmo Publications. p. 2. ISBN 9788177552980. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  37. "5 Post Maurya Dynasties (In South India)". History discussion. 7 August 2015. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  38. Krishnan, V. S.; Shrivastav, P. N.; Verma, Rajendra (1996). Rajgarh By Madhya Pradesh (India). Government Central Press. p. 18.
  39. Mitchiner, Michael (1978). The Ancient & Classical World, 600 B.C.-A.D. 650. Hawkins Publications. p. 634. ISBN 9780904173161.
  40. Radhakrishnan, S. (2007). Identity And Ethos. Orient Paperbacks. pp. 31–32. ISBN 978-8-12220-455-1.

Sources change