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Click here to go to the main page of History of Karnataka.

The Gangas, like the Kadambas, rose to political eminence in the middle of the fourth century A.D., and ruled over the southern parts of Karnataka. Their political hegemony over what was called Gangavadi lasted for a long period of seven centuries. They played an interesting role in the dynastic politics of South India, in which figured many political heavyweights like the Pallavas, the Chalukyas of Badami, the Rashtrakutas and the Cholas.

The origin of the Gangas presents many problems. Some of the later inscriptions provide an account of a tradition which connects the Gangas with Ayodhyapura. Its ruler was Harischandra of the Ikshvaku family, whose daughter-in-law, Vijayamahadevi bathed in the river Ganga and gave birth to a son named Gangadatta, who became the progenitor of the Ganga family. Another version of this legend speaks of Puruvasu, the son of Yayati; the former is said to have propitiated the river Ganga and had a son by name Gangeya, whose descendents were called the Gangas. They are referred to as having ruled from Ahichchatrapura. The legend also has it that one of the descendents of the family by name Bhagadatta established his authority over Kalinga and became the founder of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.

Another legend describes how the two Ikshvaku princes, Dadiga and Madhava, migrated to Gangaperur in the South, where they met a Jaina teacher Simhanandi who obtained for them a boon from the Goddess Padmavati, confirmed by the gift of a sword and the promise of a Kingdom. Madhava is supposed to have seized a sword and struck at a stone pillar to break it into two pieces. With the blessings and moral admonition of the preceptor Simhanandi, Madhava is said to have founded the Kingdom of Gangavadi with Nandagiri (Nandi Hills near Bangalore) as his stronghold and Kuvalala (Kolar) as the Capital. The Mythological origin of the Gangas connecting them with the Ikshvaku, however loses its consistency as the Gummareddipura plates trace the lineage of Ganga Durvinita to Srikrishna, thereby suggesting the Yadava origin of the family.

Since the Gangas claimed to belong to the Kavayana gotra, scholars like Dr. B. L. Rice and Prof. K. P. Jayaswal believed that they were related to the Kanva dynasty of the north. Sometimes, it has also been argued that they were the descendents of the Ikshvakus who ruled Andhradesa as the successors of the Satavahanas. Robert Sewell, M. Arokiyaswamy and S. V. Vishwanatha are of the opinion that the Gangas belonged to the Kongudesa, and they contend that Perur was in the Coimbatore region.

These theories assigning foreign origin to the Gangas, however, have not been accepted by scholars like R. S. Panchamukhi and Lakshminarayana Rao, who believe that they never have been immigrants to the Karnataka region. It is not likely that someone who strayed into this area could establish so popular a regime and a record of political durability. In fact, it is more than probable that the Gangas were the natives of Karnataka, and as Prof. B. Sheik Ali points out, they were the sons of the soil who took advantage of the political situation of the region to find a Kingdom of their own.

The Ganga genealogy and chronology have presented many problems to the historian. The first ruler of the dynasty was Konganivarma Madhava (C.350-370 A. D) who worked to establish his power at the expense of the Banas and by penetrating into the Kongudesa or the Salem region. He thought it wise to be friendly with the Pallavas, a policy which was followed by the early Ganga rulers. He was succeeded by his nephew Madhava II or Kiriya Madhava ( C.370-390 A. D.) who was the son of Dadiga. His successor Harivarma (C.390-410 A. D.) is said to have been installed on the throne by the Pallava Simhavarma. During this period, two branches of the Ganga dynasty were established at Paruvi and Kaivara.

Harivarma's son Vishnugopa (C.410-430 A. D.) had a quiet, uneventful reign, and was succeeded by Tadangala Madhava (C.430-466 A. D.). He is said to have been anointed by the Pallava king Skandavarma. His friendly relations with the Pallavas did not prevent him from normalising his relations with the Kadambas. In fact, he married the daughter of Kakusthavarma. He strengthened the Pallava rule by incorporating the Paruvi and the Kaivara branches into the main line. His son and successor was Avinita (C.466-495 A. D.) who consolidated the Ganga position by marrying the daughter of the Raja of Punnata. He remained friendly with the Pallavas, but was reputed to be very stern in his dealings with the enemies.

DURVINITA (C.495-535 A. D.):
Avinita's son and successor, Durvinita, was one of the most remarkable rulers of the Ganga family. His succession was a disputed one, as he had to overcome the challenge of his younger step-brother who seemed to have secured the assistance of the Pallavas and the Kadambas. The Nallala grant refers to this war of succession; so does the Kadagattur grant which gives a hint that his younger brother was supported by the Pallava King and that the " Goddess of sovereignty came to the rescue of Durvinita because of his excellent display of valour and determination".

The Pallava interference in the Ganga affairs resulted in a shift in the dynastic relations which hitherto had been cordial. Durvinita could not remain friendly with the Pallavas who had created problems for him by supporting his step-brother. The Ganga monarch swore vengeance on the Pallavas who were routed in the battle of Anderi in his fifth regal year. The Pallavas, however, continued their hostilities and it is likely that they secured the assistance of the Kadambas in their attempt to tame Durvinita. In the protracted war that ensued, several pitched encounters were fought, and the Gummareddipura record informs us that Durvinita overcame his enemies at Alattur, Porulare and Pernagra. It is possible that these victories enabled him to extend his power over Kongudesa and Tondaimandalam.

Durvinita was able to cement his friendship with the newly emerging Chalukya power. He gave his daughter to Chalukya Vijayaditya; and when his son-in-law became a victim of the Pallava aggression, Durvinita championed the Chalukyas and installed his grandson Jayasimha on the Badami throne. The timely help of the Ganga monarch did much to save the Chalukyas, and on this sure foundation was built a tradition of a durable friendship between the two ruling families.

The Gummareddipura and the Uttanur plates describe Durvinita as the Lord of Punnata. In fact, his mother was Jyeshtadevi, the daughter of Skandavarma of Punnata. It is possible that there were no male heirs to the Punnata throne and naturally the sovereignty of that Kingdom devolved upon Durvinita.

The religious outlook of Durvinita was marked by tolerance. Though he was a worshipper of Vishnu and a performer of Vedic sacrifices like Hiranyagarbha, he was a pupil of the Jaina preceptor Pujyapada. His court was adorned by many Jaina scholars. His religious catholicity is reflected in the generous patronage he extended to all religious sects.

Himself an eminent scholar, Durvinita evinced keen interest in promoting literary cultivation. The renowned Sanskrit poet Bharavi is said to have visited the Ganga court during this period. Durvinita is supposed to have written a commentary on the fifteenth canto of Bharavi's Kiratarjuniya. He also translated into Sanskrit the Vaddakatha or Brihatkatha of Gunadya, which was originally written in the Paisachi language. He is also credited with the authorship of 'Sabdavatara', a work on grammar. His Nallala grant hails him as an expert in the composition of various forms of poetry, stories and dramas. In fact, Nripatunga's Kavirajamarga hails him as one of the early writers in Kannada.

The many-sided accomplishments of Durvinita are recorded on the Nallala grant. He is compared to Kautilya in expounding the science of polity; to Narada, Tumburu or Bharatadeva in his knowledge of music and dance; to Charaka and Dhanvantri in the knowledge of medicine or to Parasurama in the use of arms. He is referred to as endowed with three constituents of royal power, namely, Prabhusakti (imperial power), Mantrasakti (the power of discretion) and Utsahasakti (the power of active will). His political achievements, military victories, diplomatic skill and many sterling qualities of head and heart prove that his claims were justified. Durvinita was indeed a great ruler of the Ganga family.

to be continued...


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