Monday, March 3, 2008
100. Kadamba Dynasty
An image of Halmidi inscription with Buddhist wheel at the top.
The period of Mayura Sharma (later he was known as King Mayura Varma), who established possibly the first Kannada dynasty and his successors (ca.345-525 CE) at Banavasi (near Sirsi in the present Uttara Kannada district) is a significant milestone for both Kannada and Tulu history. There is a viewpoint that he came from northern India and settled in Banavasi area.
The traditional accounts describe him as a Brahmin turned Kshatriya. However there are claims that he hailed from an ancient tribe known as ‘Kadambu’ tribe, who worshipped Kadamba tree. The early Munda civilization that was prevalent in peninsular India since ca.3000BC had a cult of worshipping Kadamba trees. The Kadamba trees are worshipped as apart of festivals even today by the Munda tribes presently living in Chotanagapur areas.
It is possible that the selected from brighter students from the population were trained in Vedic studies and made priests (Brahmins).It is possible that Mayura thought high of an educated priestly career but could not accomplish it because of the humiliation he suffered.
His background is quite interesting. He was said to be a student and went to Kanchi, (now a part of Tamilnadu), a major educational centre of that time for pursuing Vedic studies. On an occasion, he was slighted and insulted by Pallava guard at Kanchi. The young Mayura could not bear the humiliation and vowed to avenge for it. He returned to his place, organized the people and built an army. He fought against the ruling Pallava Kings and retrieved the Kannada areas around Banavasi and other areas. The Alupas of Tulunadu were chieftains under the Kadamba Kings.
Obviously the Mayura Varma was influenced by the Tamil language and literary activities. He was impressed by the use of Tamil script for documenting literary works and temple culture of the Tamils. The Tamils had a flourishing temple culture at that time.
Introduction of Script for Kannada
Therefore when he established a new kingdom at Banavasi, he introduced a script for the archaic form of Kannada (now known as old Kannada) prevalent at that time. The script was based on the Brahmi script but was deeply influenced by the Tamil script of that time.
The Kadamba period is a datable event since the Halmidi inscription (ca.450CE) belongs to the reign of Kakusthavarma. Possibly, he can be credited for laying the foundation for evolving and popularizing the initial form of Kannada script. The script used in Halmidi (near Belur, Hassan district) used Brahmi characters but was influenced by Tamil script. Interestingly, a wheel has been sculpted at the top of the Halmidi inscription. The wheel is a symbolic of existence of Buddhism and the King who installed the Halmidi inscription (Kakustha varma?) may have been a Buddhist in faith. However, some have interpreted the wheel as ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ of Lord Vishnu.It seems that the Kadamba kings favoured all religious cults including Jainism and Buddhism.
Introduction of Temples and Brahmins
Mayura Varma, influenced by the Tamil temple culture, initiated the temple culture in Karnataka and Tulunadu. He built several new temples and organized people to run the temples in an orderly manner. This necessitated the immigration of priests (Brahmins) to regularly carry out the ceremonial pooja in the temples. He is said to have brought Brahmins (those trained in Vedic studies) from Ahicchatra and granted 144 villages (agrahara) for Brahmins to settle in the area. The exact location of Ahicchatra has been disputed with opinions ranging from banks of Godavari River to parts of Uttar Pradesh.
Until then the spirit cult was the dominant form of religious faith in both Karnataka and Tulunadu. The Spirit cult was largely centered on families and landlords, whereas the temple cult became a community affair that involved the people of the whole village or cluster of villages. New communities like Sapaligas were introduced to play musical notes in the Karavali temples. Devadiga were introduced to look after sundry works in the temple premises.
The cult of Parashurama was re-introduced during Kadamba period. The story of Mayura Sharma and his conquest of Pallava kings bear similarity to the legend of Parashurama.. Moreover the legend is a part of ‘Sahyadri Kanda’, the Sahyadri being the environs of Banavasi, the Kadamba capital. It was probable that myths of his time considered Mayura Varma to be an incarnation of Parashurama the saviour of sages and priests (Brahmins) from the tyranny of the ruling class (Kshyatriyas).
Consequent upon the introduction of Parashurama cult and the associated myths, the coastal Karavali, Malabar, Konkan people were made to believe that their land was retrieved from the Sea.
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