Noble Persian in Service of Kadamba Maharaja in Ancient Gandhara

During clearance of storage boxes in the Museum für Indische Kunst, Berlin, Dr Caren Dreyer came across a bunch of old photographs taken by Mr G.W.Leitner in the Museum of Lahore at the end of the 19th century. Most of the pictures show well-known Kharosti epigraphs. The few Brähmi epigraphs are likewise well-documented. One picture, however, labelled 'VIII 10159' shows a rectangular stone-slab of about 60x20 cm length, never before presented in photography.

Some time before 1911 an estampage was made and in that year sent to the office of the Govemment Epigraphist for India by G.A. Wathen, Curator of the Lahore Museum.  In 1919, D.R. Sahni (1920) wrote a note on 'Unpublished inscriptions in the Central Museum, Lahore'. At least for this and three more pieces he seems to have seen only the rubbings, not the objects themselves. He reported on its origin «in a spring tank three miles from Abbottabad» , probably based on the notes sent by Wathen. Abbottabad is about 60 km north-east of Taxila and can be regarded as part of the cultural sphere of Gandhära, although the area today called Hazara is situated geographically at the periphery of it.

It was only in 1953 that D.C. Sircar, then Chief Epigraphist, came to see the rubbing. He published the rubbing together with his reading, referring to the fragmentary decipherment as found in Sahni's note. He dates the inscription on paleographical grounds as 3rd century AD. The Inscription came in four lines as below.

sa(m}) märgasira di pratha kärito ya
kumärasthanam gasurana makaputrena
säpharena mahäriija-kadambeSvaradäsa-ra(?)[e?]
data(h}) bhak{s}a(h})

Year 25, first day of Märgasirsa, this place for Kumära was caused to be made by
the Gasura saphara, son of Maka, [during the reign?] of the Mahäräja [calIed] the
'Servant of the Lord of the Kadamba[ -tree]'.
Food has been provided

Maharaja kadambesvaradasa
Sircar equated the King kadambesvara to be a Kushan king and tried to fit into kushan chronology. But left it off without any further additions.

We can see here that Kadambesvara is Kadamba king of South India. Kadambas worship kadamba Tree. So Kadambesvara dasa can only mean Kadambas of Banvasi. But Kadambas ruled in South India about 2000km from Abottabad. Now does the inscription says king is servant of the person, No it says the lord of the person who gave the inscription is kadamba king. Did kadamba rule extended to Afghanistan. That possibility looks remote.

Now let us come to the early part of the inscription. It says Saphara built temple of kumara (kumarasthanam). Kumara is other name of karthikeya. Now kathikeya or Shanmuga or skanda has special place in the kadamba kingdom. In Mahabharata mother of Karthikeya is venerated as Kadamba. Kadamba inscripton speaks of skanda from Kadamba tree helped to establish the dynasty.

Now kadambas are well known from the times of Mayuravarman. Mayuravarman alludes to Karthikeya, whose sign is peacock feathers. Kadamba inscriptions talk about their diety as skanda, karthikeya, Mahasena all denoting the kumara.

The spelling admits to versions, Gasurena, Gasuranam, Sircar said the inscription says Gasurana. The Term is Gasura is also spelled Gusura, Gosura or Gausura. Gusura comes from documents of Central Asia. Documents says high souled (noble) Gausuras and Servants of kings. First group is higer than later. Luders points out gusura mahatvana found in Niya Documents, regarded the highest titles in the area. Burrow says to H W Bailey, that Gusura means son of the house from Aramic and Avesta texts. H W Bailey rather than pointing out says its military rank and points to inscription from Swat by senavarman of Odi in reference to Kujula Kadphises. So Gausrana seems to either nobleman or leader of some rank.

Maka in kannada means Son. But here it seems to denote son of maka. Ancient Magas is well known. We cannot deduce maka is name of father or the clan or country he comes from.

Sapharena is name of the person giving inscription or who established the kumara temple. Sims-williams says it Saphar as name from Rabatak inscription. Now the name ends with phara, which is persian farnah similar to Gondophernes. So it indicates Persian or Iranian Background.

What does it say
The Inscription presents a highborn soldier or Knight, who is probably leader of group of soldiers. He must have been in service of Kadamba Maharaja. The knight installs a place of worship in Hazara for Kumara or Karthikeya, who is regarded as the power to kadamba king.

1. Soldiers from Northwest India (Afghanisthan), Perisa, Central Asia came to serve under leadership of Kadambas.
2. It talks about leadership qualities of Kadambas
3. Even after he goes back to his native place, he still considers to his master and dates inscription to the year of the king.
4. The kind of devotion shown by kadamba to Karthikeya , that person from different background, religion, language takes the faith of the kadamba ruler.
5. This inscription marks the beginning of the end of Karosthi and start of Brahmi inscriptions or replacement of Karosthi by Brahmi.
6. The Inscription marks the beginning of sanskrit replacing Prakrit.
7. Skanda cult was very popular in Northwest, but here the kadambas are held high on this regard replacing the local tradition.
8. The Name Hazara is derived from Urasha. Did the name came from kannada word UR (meaning from city). Did Sapharena renamed his region as URs from kannada.

Kadamba king did not go to Abbottobad to make the inscription, but his fame has reached this place. The Noble soldier in service of the kadamba king still revers the king he served even after 25 years of service and creates the temple to kartikeya worshipped by his lord kadambesvara. This shows the great Personality , Leadership, Character  of Kannada king, that person of foreign origin, born with different background, takes him as his lord, eventhough he is far removed and years have passed, out of free will with no swords dangling on him in the age of no TV, Radio or Internet. That is true character.

Six Early Brahmi Inscriptions of Gandhara by Harry Falk
Studies in the religious life of ancient and medieval India By Dineschandra Sircar


Related Topics 
Karnatka and Persia (Iran)
Buddhist Legacy
Kannada Kings

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting, was totally unaware of this aspect of Kannada history


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