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Karnataka History
Sources of Karnataka History

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The earliest inscriptions discovered in Karnataka belong to Ashoka. His Minor Rock Edicts are found at Brahmagiri, Jantinga Rameshwara and Siddapura in Chitradurga district. Maski and Gavimatha - Palkigunda in Raichur district and three more minor Rock Edicts were found recently at Nittur in Bellary District. They are in Prakrit language and Brahmi script. It is only in the 5th century A. D. that Prakrit yielded place to Sanskrit. The Satavahanas used Prakrit in their epigraphs, which are found engraved on the walls and pillars of the exquisite cave temples at Kanheri, Karle and Nasik. The inscriptions at Myakadoni, Malavalli and Banavasi point to the rule of the Satavahanas and the Chutus in Karnataka.

Among the important inscriptions of the Kadambas of Banavasi, mention may be made of the Chandravalli inscription, the Halmidi inscription or the Talagunda record. For the study of the history of Chalukyas of Badami the historian has at his disposal a number of remarkable epigraphs like the Badami Cliff inscription of Pulakeshi I, the Mahakuta Pillar inscription of Mangalesa, the Aihole inscription of Pulakeshi II, the Kanchi inscription of Vikramaaditya II and the Nerur plates.

For the history of the Rashtrakutas many epigraphs like the Samangad plates of Dantidurga, the Talegaon plates of Krishna I, the Jethwai plates of Dhruva, the Sanjan plates of Amoghavarsha or the British Museum Plate of Govinda III are of inestimable value. Similarly we have many valuable inscriptions for the reconstruction of the history of the Chalukyas of Kalyani, the Kalachuris, the Seunas and the Hoysalas.

For writing the history of Vijayanagara alone nearly 5,000 inscriptions are available for the historian. The Wodeyars of Mysore or the Nayakas of Keladi have also available for the history of the Bahmani kingdom, for the Maratha activities in Karnataka and for the rule of Haidar and Tipu.

In short the epigraphical sources in Karnataka are noted for their abundance and versatile use.

Numismatics or the study of coins can be an important aid in the historian's labours. The circulation of coins can help us determine the extent of a kingdom, as the types of metals used in the coinage can hint at its economic prosperity. The legends on the coins may provide useful data on rulers and their achievements or the dates on them may help us in fixing the chronology.

Lewis Rice discovered the Roman coins of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius at Yeshwantpur near Bangalore in 1891. Similar discoveries have been made at Chandravalli, which speak of the trade contacts of Karnataka and the Mauryan empire must have popularized the circulation of punch-marked coins in the Karnataka region. The Satavahanas used lead for many of their issues and their coins bear legends of the names of Kings. The coins of Gautamiputra Satakarni were found at Banavasi and that of Vasistaputra Pulumayi at Chandravalli and Chitradurga.

One of the most interesting types of the Satavahana coins in that bearing a two-masted ship on the obverse, which indicate their maritime power and activity. The Kadambas of Banavasi are said to have inaugurated the tradition of issuing the Padmatanakas, which are small, round, cup-shaped gold coins. The Chalukyas of Badami had Varaha or boar as their emblem, as Prof A. V. Narasimha Murthy points out, the coins containing the boar became so popular in South India and Deccan that Varaha became a common terminology for gold coins in the region.

Although no Rashtrakuta coin has been definitely identified. We have a large number of coins belonging to the Chalukyas of Kalyana. Their inscriptions mention coins like Gadyana, Pana, Honnu, Haga, Kagini, Visa, Gulike and Bele. Gadyanas are mentioned along with the name of the mint such as Lokkigundi Gadyana. The Hoysalas too issued a variety of coins. The coins of Vishnuvardhana refer to his titles like Talakadugonda, Malaparolganda or Nolambavadigonda.

The Vijayanagara rulers gave a new dimension to the coinage of Karnataka. The department of mints in the empire was responsible for testing the purity and fineness of gold coins. Gadyana, Varaha, Pon, Pagoda, Pratapa, Pana, Kasu and Jital were the various coins issued in the Vijayanagar period. They are also rich from the point of view of iconographic details, as they contain the profiles of Hanuman, Garuda, Uma-Maheshwara, Venkatesha, Durga, Gandabherunda and others. The coinage of Vijayanagara reveals the prosperity of the empire, substantiating the eye-witness accounts of foreign visitors.

The Bahmani coinage generally imitated the pattern evolved by the Delhi Sultanate. They issued coins in gold, silver and copper. The coins of Tipu Sultan are praised for their artistic merit and fine calligraphy. He issued sixteen varieties of coins from the Gold coin Ahmadi of four-pagoda value to the one-eighth paisa. The Wodeyars of Mysore generally imitated Vijayanagara coinage.

However, the value of coins in reconstructing the past should not be over-emphasized. It is rightly observed that numismatics is a pigmy in comparison with the epigraphical giant, and that its evidence is generally subsidiary and corroborative, for, it gives us only a few nuts and screws for the framework of history.

to be continued...

Mr. Arthikaje

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