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The Hoysalas and their contributions

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The Hoysalas stepped into the area vacated by the Gangas and ruled over the Southern part of Karnataka from the 11th to the 14th centuries. They started as the subordinates of the Chalukyas of Kalyana, but gained the sovereign status when their overlords grew politically weak and ineffective. In the heyday of their power, the Hoysalas fought against the mighty Seunas with distinction, and extended their political influence in the Tamil country when the formidable Chola Empire was showing signs of disintegration. Moreover, the Hoysalas made remarkable contributions to Karnataka culture, particularly in the field of art and architecture.

Origin of the Hoysalas:
The origin of the Hoysalas is a matter of much interesting speculation and controversy. Like their distinguished contemporaries, the Seunas, the Hoysalas too claim their descent from Yadu and call themselves the Yadavas. The conventional titles like, "Yadavanarayana", "Yadavakutambra - dyumani" and "Dvaravati Puravaradhisvara" are common to both the Seunas and the Hoysalas. The scholars, however, have not been able to accept the Hoysala association with the legendary family nor could they agree with the theory the Hoysalas hailed from Dwaraka in Gujarat.

The story relating to the founder of the kingdom named Sala, tries to explain the family designation "Hoysala" by splitting the term into "poy" or " hoy" and "sala".

According to this tale Sala, a young student was directed by his teacher Sudatta Muni, who asked him to smash tiger (poy-sala i.e., "smash, oh Sala), when it rushed in the precincts of the temple of goddess Vasantika at Sosevur. Sala is said to have hit the ferocious tiger and killed it, winning thereby the appreciation and blessings of Guru, who commanded him to establish a kingdom. This account became so popular that it is narrated in all the elaborate Hoysala epigraphs, which describe the hero sala as the originator of the family. The event gained prominence that the figure representing the story of Sala attacking the tiger with a dagger, became the royal emblem of the family, and it is seen almost in every Hoysala temple.

But many scholars have discredited the story of Sala. C. Hayavadana Rao regards Sala as the "mythical founder" of the Hoysala dynasty. He was "the eponymous hero", and says Hayavadana Rao, "As Romulus was to the Romans, so was sala to the Hoysalas".

J. D. M. Derrett suggests "We should regretfully pass with a smile over the charming myth"

Mr. B. R Joshi in his learned article in the Indian Historical Quarterly (1946) illustrates the inconsistencies of facts that are associated with the Sala story, and expresses his inability to believe the historicity of Sala as the founder of the Hoysala kingdom.

Some scholars have tried to identify sala with Nripa Kama, an early chief of the family who figures in the genealogical accounts in the later Hoysala epigraphs. But it is difficult to accept the equation, since the records do not furnish any reliable evidence on this point.

Dr. B. L. Rice and C. Hayavadana Rao believe that the Hoysalas were of indigenous origin. They were a family of hill - chiefs in the Western ghats of Karnataka - the Malepas, over whom they rose to become prominent. In fact, the Hoysala rulers assumed the proud title of Malaeparol - Ganda (Hero among the Malepas).

Mr. B. R. Joshi has argued that the Hoysalas were related to the community of people called Hosaleru in the West coast of North Canara district, who were said to rank below Hale - Paikas and above the Holeyas and Madigas.

However, as Dr. Derrett remarks, it is "useless to speculate on their racial origin; whatever the nature of their ancestry, it inspired no scorn among the contemporaries of their prosperity".

Prof. N. Subrahmaniam of Madurai, in his paper read in the Seminar on the Hoysala Dynasty conducted by the Mysore University in 1970, argued that the Hoysalas were related to the ancient Velir, and said that the "Hoysalas, by another name but in the same locality, existed and flourished as early as the days of Ashoka".

The theory is indeed an interesting one. Most the scholars on the subject agree that the Hoysalas were, to start with, a tribe of hill-dwellers. From their modest beginning they developed into a formidable political power when the opportunities came their way and when guided by resourceful leadership like the Mawalis in Shivaji's Maratha empire.

Political History:
Nripa Kama or Kama Hoysala (C. 1000 - 1045. A. D.) is the first known ruler of the Hoysala family. He is said to have fought several encounters against the Cholas, sometimes in association with the Kadambas and perhaps with the Gangas. His son and successor was Vinayaditya (C. 1045 - 1098 A. D.) and his reign, according to Derratt, constituted "period in which the strength and resources of the Hoysala dominions were conserved and consolidated." His policy was on friendship and collaboration with his Chalukya overlords, whom he assisted against the Cholas.

He maintained matrimonial relations with the Chalukyas, and his son Ereyanga remained in the Chalukya capital to render his master valuable military assistance against the paramaras. After Vinayaditya's death, his son Ereyanga ruled for a brief, uneventful period (C. 1098 - 1100 A. D.). His eldest son, Ballala (C.1100 -1108 A. D.) however, must have made a bold a bid for independence by flouting the Chalukya authority; and also by undertaking daring schemes of conquests. But Chalukya Vikramaditya VI was able tosecure the submission of Ballala, who was forced to abandon his bid for ilndpendence. His younger brother Vishnuvardhana succeeded him.


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