Brahmagiri, Maski and other Ashokan Archeological Sites

Brahmagiri is located in the Chitradurga district. BRAHMAGIRI (Minor Rock Inscription 1 & 2). Excavations at the site have revealed considerable archaeological evidence pointing to Brahmagiri having been an important centre in south India even well before the Mauryan period. Continual habitation for many thousands of years resulted in its emerging as an influential town, particularly after it had become one of the southern outposts of the Mauryan empire. It may also have been the starting point of pilgrimages to the sources of the two rivers, Godavari and Kaveri.

Bricks built caityas have been excavated in Brahmagiri 1942 and again in 1947, There is no evidence to date the caitya, though the brick sizes are similar to those from Dharanikota. A comparison with similar structures from the north is revealing.

At that time the place was called Isila Patna. The kannda word – Sila was pronounced as Isila in Prakrit, the language used by Asoka in the edict. So the place name must have been Sila Patnam (sila – rock, patnam – town). Let us see more details.

Archeological  Excavations

The site was first explored by Benjamin L. Rice in 1891, who discovered rock edicts of Emperor Ashoka here. These rock edicts indicated that the locality was termed as Isila and denoted a part of the Mauryan empire. The Brahmagiri site is a granite outcrop elevated about 180 m. above the surrounding plains and measures around 500 m east-west and 100 m north-south. It is well known for the large amount of megalithic monuments that have been found here. The e settlements found here has been dated to at least the 2nd millennium BC.

After being explored by Rice in 1891, M. H. Krishna who belonged to the Archaeological Department of the Mysore state, excavated the area in 1940. In 1947, Mortimer Wheeler further excavated the site on behalf of the Archaeological Survey of India. The region was excavated again in 1956 by Seshadri and by Amalananda Ghosh in 1965 and 1978.

During his excavations, M. H. Krishna discovered medieval stone temples, pottery, terracota beads and figurines, semiprecious stones and megalithic structures. After digging 16 trenches he identified the following cultures: Microlithic, Neolithic, Iron Age, Maurya and Chalukya-Hoysala. He named the microlithic culture as Roppa culture after the Roppa village within which the microlithic trench was located. He also found out that the neoliths found in this region were evidence of the occupation of this region by farming-herding communities in the pre-megalithic period.

In 1947, Mortimer Wheeler did further excavations at Brahmagiri, found ten domestic structures and classified them as belonging to a sequence of three cultural periods: Period I - Neolithic or Neolithic-Chalcolithic, Period II - Megalithic and Period III - an early historical culture. Brahmagiri was identified to contain a mortuary of 300 tombs with burials made in rectangular cists, cist-circles (stones surrounding granite cists) and pit-circles. The cists also included artefacts like vessels with graffiti, stone beads and iron and copper tools

Period I (Neolithic)
Dated to 3rd Millennium to 2 Millennium BC. The objects found in this period included a large number of polished stone axes made of dolerite, microliths like crescents, gravers and blades made of jasper, agate carnelian and opal, and ornaments worn by humans like bronze rings and beads of magnesite, agate and shell. Handmade vessels made of coarse grey fabric and with shapes like globular vase, shallow bowl and spouted bowl were also found. The infants who died in this period, had their body folded and were buried in urns while the adults were buried in pits in an extended way.

Period II (Megalithic)
Dated to 2nd Millennium to 1st Millennium BC. It was found that the humans who inhabited Brahmagiri during this period used iron for agricultural tools like sickles and for weapons like spears, swords and arrowheads. Pottery of this period were made in shapes like hemi-spherical deep bowl, funnel shaped lid, shallow dish and three-legged pots among others. The vessels appear in three kinds of fabrics: polished black and red ware, all-black ware, and bright and coarse dull-red ware.The burials in this period were done in stone cists or excavated pits which were surrounded by boulders arranged in the shape of a circle or concentric circles. The cists also contained funeral pots and objects like iron implements and beads.

Period III
Dated to 1st Millennium BC. In this period, sophisticated pottery was made using fast wheels. The vessels were made in shapes like shallow dish, cups and vases, coated in a russet colour and painted with geometrical designs in white colour. Ornaments found included bangles of shell, clay, bones, glass and gold, and beads of magnesite, agate, carnelian and terracotta.

Period IV (Ashoka and Satavahana period)
The Ashokan and Satavahana period sites are well documented.

K A Nilakantha Sastri, said that the Brahmagiri site, near Ashoka Siddapura, "is remarkable for its culture continuity extending from the polished stone axe culture to early historic cultures.” He also said that there were two phases of the stone axe culture here (known from a study of the pottery found here)., and that the authors of this culture knew how to use Neolithic celts, microliths, and how to work copper and bronze. The French Institute of Pondicherry, has published a Historical atlas of South India. If we superimpose the maps of the Stone Age, the New Stone Age and the Iron (Megalithic Age), we can see that Bellary had a continuous human civilization from 5,000 years.

N Kameswara Rao of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, has published a research paper in which he said that the megalithic stone circles at Brahmagiri, which have been dated at 900 BC show clear astronomical orientation.

The geometrical properties of the circle indicate the sunrise and the full moon rise at the time of solar and lunar solsitices and equinoxes. “The megalithic people were aware of the 18.61 period of the moon's solstice, in addition to keeping track of the sidereal day, the seasons and the year.”

Nearby Sites

GAVIMATH (Minor Rock Edict 1). Gavimath is situated in modem Mysore and is one among the group of places in the neighbourhood of Siddapur where this edict is found with great frequency. Its importance may have been largely due to its being a mining area or on an important route.

JATINGA-RAMESHWAR (Minor Rock Inscription 1 & 2) This site lies about three miles from Brahmagiri and the inscription belongs to the Mysore group. It might originally have been a place of religious interest since the inscription is within the precincts of the present Jatinga-Rameshwar temple.

MASKI (Minor Rock Edict 1). Maski is in the Raichur district. It lies on the bank of the Maski river which is a tributary of the Tungabhadra. The site came into prominence with the discovery of a minor rock edict of Emperor Ashoka by C. Beadon in 1915. It was the first edict of Emperor Ashoka that contained the name Asoka in it instead of the earlier edicts that referred him as Devanampiye piyadasi. This edict was important to conclude that many edicts found earlier in the Indian sub-continent in the name of Devanampiye piyadasi, all belonged to Emperor Ashoka. The edict is etched on a rock-face of Durgada-gudda, one of the gneissic outcrops that are present in the site.

An identification of Maski with Suvarinagiri has been suggested but it is unacceptable as will be clear in the consideration of the location of Suvarnagiri.

Maski was studied initially by Robert Bruce Foote in 1870 and 1888. In 1915, C. Beadon, a mining engineer, discovered Ashoka's rock edict here. In 1935-37, the archaeological department of Hyderabad state explored this region and in 1954, Amalananda Ghosh excavated this place on behalf of the Archaeological Survey of India.

The excavations indicated that the region was occupied across four different cultural periods; Period I: Neolithic-Chalcolithic, Period II: Megalithic, Period III: Early historical and Period IV: Medieval. In Period I, microliths and blades made of agate, chert, carnelian and opal are found. Ornamental beads of agate, coral, shell and other materials are also found. Dull-grey ware and painted-buff ware pottery are found, some of which were painted with linear patterns. Animal remains of cattle, buffalo, sheep and goat are also found. Period II saw the introduction of iron and five different forms of burials were discovered. Lances, ferrules, daggers and arrowheads were found, apart from beads of gold and terracotta objects. The pottery of Period II consisted of the megalithic red-and-black ware, all-black ware and red-slipped ware, some of which had graffiti on them. Coins were discovered in the Period III which also saw the use of Russet-coated painted ware. The earliest specimens of Indian glass were also discovered at Maski. A cylinder seal has also been found here.

Maski inscription is Important Inscription in three ways , first it was the first inscription to give both Priyadarshan and Ashoka , thus identifying Ashoka with Priyadarshin.

Second is Identification of Suvarnagiri with (karnataka). Before this inscription was discovered various places were identified as suvarnabhoomi and there was a wide speculation on where the ancient swarnabhoomi was. With this inscription we know swarnabhoomi is the golden land of karnataka

Third the Earliest specimen of Glass. Which shows karnataka was the pioneer of high technology in India not just now but also in ancient times as well.

PALKIGUNDU (Minor Rock Edict 1). Palkigundu lies at a distance of four miles from Gavimath. This site again belongs to the group around Brahmagiri.

To the west of Palkigundu, there is a hillock called the Malimallappa hill, on the top of which are a number of dolmens. Some of these dolmens, which are locally called Moriyara-angadi or Moriyas shops, are intact, while others are disturbed. The fields between this hill and the Palkigundu hill are called Pandavara vathara

SIDDAPUR (Minor Rock Inscription 1 & 2). Siddapur lies one mile to the west of Brahmagiri, and three miles south of the location of the Jatinga-Rameshwar inscription. This group of inscriptions may have marked the southern boundary of the empire, in addition to their importance from other points of view which we have already considered. one at Siddapura is found on ‘Emmetammana Gundu’

SUVARNAGIRI (Minor Rock Edict). Suvarnagiri is the modern town of Kanakagiri south of Maski in Hyderabad. The word means 'golden mountain' and this has been connected with the ancient gold-mining area in Raichur which to this day shows traces of ancient gold workings. Suvarnagiri was the capital of the southern province of the empire.

Brahmagiri Revisited: A Re-Analysis of the South Indian Sequence  by KATHLEEN D. MORRISON

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