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History of Karnataka
The Hoysalas
Administration, Economy and Society

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As rulers over the former Ganga territory and erstwhile feudatories of the Later Chalukyas, the Hoysalas inherited and adopted their administrative framework. The ancient political ideas were not forgotten, and a large number of Hoysala inscriptions refer to the names of Chanakya and Manu.

The King was the pivot of administration; he was the supreme authority in the Kingdom. Referring to the Hoysala ideal of kingship, Derrett observes that it was “tyranny modified by expediency”.

But this view is somewhat unsympathetic, because the Hoysala monarchy was tempered with Dharma.

The Hoysala Kings were aware that their duty was “Dushta Nigraha” and “Sishta Rakshana”, that is, punishing the wicked and protecting the pious ones.

There was no undiluted absolutism under the Hoysalas as the King functioned in unison with “Saptanga” or seven attributes of sovereignty.

He was assisted in administration by the Yuvaraja, and sometimes by the queen.

There was a council of ministers, which played an important role in the administration.

The inscriptions indicate the prevalence of a council of five ministers (Pancha Pradhanas), consisting of Sandhivigrahi (Minister for External Affairs), Srikaranadhikari (Head of the State Secretariat), Hiranyabhandhari (Minister of the Treasury), Senadhipati (Head of the Army) and Mahapasayata (Head of the Royal Establishment).

The Hoysala Empire was divided into Nadus, Kampanas, Vishayas and Deshas. Feudatory chiefs called Samantas administered the hereditary fiefs in the empire. Officers like Nadaprabhu, Nadagauda and Nadasenabhova were in charge of smaller territorial units like Nadus.

The head of the village was called Gauda Heggade or Oorodeya. The village councils functioned actively, and representative idea was prevalent. An official called Pattanaswami who had both civil and military functions looked after the towns.

Economic Life:
The Hoysala economy was based on prosperous agriculture and a few basic industries, which flourished. The numerous roads that connected different parts of the kingdom promoted commerce and trade.

The traders organized themselves into guilds, and by far the biggest of the trading associations was the “Five hundred of Ayyavole”.

They described themselves as the followers and protectors of “Virabhanajigadharma” and called themselves “Nanadesis”.

They maintained steady trade contact with Chera, Chola and Pandya countries, the Malaya archipelago, Magadha, Kosala, Nepahal, Persia, Arabia and other countries.

They enjoyed respect in society and they displayed their generosity by their munificent grants to temples and Mathas.

The Hoysala society was comparatively liberal, the rulers themselves scaling the heights of honour from a humble origin. But the caste system continued to flourish and determine the social divisions.

Some women could make remarkable progress either in the realm of music, dance and literature, or in the more challenging domain of politics and administration.

But Sati was prevalent and prostitution seemed to have enjoyed social acceptance.

Acts of dedicated heroism was remarkable in the Hoysala period.

The warriors like the Ankakaras, Lenkas, Velekaras, and Garuda pledged to defend the king even at the cost of their lives, much in the same way as the Samurai in Japan.

to be continued......


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