Isanavarman

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Isanavarman was a king of The Maukhari Dynasty, classically called the Megar Dynasty, ruled a large region of North India for over six generations. The game of chess (then called Chaturanga, meaning "army") was invented during their rule in the 6th century. They earlier served as vassals of the Guptas. They were related to Harsha and his short-lived Vardhan dynasty.

From the Asirgarh Copper seal Inscription of Sarvavarman we get the names of Maukhari rulers as under:

An incomplete Sanskrit inscription found in the south gate of the Jami Masjid at Jaunpur has traditionally been ascribed to the Maukhari king of Kanauj Īśvaravarman (first half of 6th century). Collation of this inscription with another Maukhari inscription (the Haraha Stone Inscription of Īśānavarman) makes it clear that the Jaunpur inscription is to be ascribed to his son Īśānavarman or one of his successors. This collation is made possible by recovering the metrical structure of the very fragmentary Jaunpur inscription.[1]

Haraha stone Inscription of Isanavarman

The Harahā stone Inscription of Isanavarman found at place Haraha (हरहा) in Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh is dated vikrama 611 (=AD 554) is one of the earliest and mosti mportant epigraphic record of Maukharis. This inscription of Isanavarman is different from other maukhari inscriptions. This mentions the deeds of Isanavarman, who is mentioned here as Maharajadhiraja.It writes Isanavarman's sons name as Sooryavarman, the name not found in other records. It aims to renovate temple of god Shankara, known here as Kshemeshwara by Suryavarman. This gives ancestry of Maukhari rulers upto Isanavarman.

Note on Haraha stone Inscription of Isanavarman

Note - This note is from Indian Antiquary June 1917:Nanigopal Majumdar, p.125

IN December 1915, Mr. R. D. Banerji, of the Archaeological Survey of India, made over to me two excellent inked estampages of a Maukhari inscription which had not been published before. It consists of 22 lines. The inscription is incised on a slab of stone. Excepting the engraver's name at the end of the inscription, it is entirely in verse. The language is Sanskrit and represents a highly artificial and complex style of composition. The incision is nicely executed and no letters have peeled off. They belong to the northern class of the later Gupta alphabets, such as were prevalent in the fifth and sixth centuries A. D.

The object of the inscription is to record the reconstruction of a dilapidated temple of Siva by Suryavarman, son of Isanavarman, the reigning king of tho Maukhari dynasty.

Before the discovery of this inscription, five other n cords of the Maukhari dynasty were already known :

  • (2) A third inscription of king Anantavarman, incised above the door-way of a cave on the Barabar Hill.

(4) A Copper-seal inscription of king Sarvavarman, discovered at Asirgadh, in the Nimar District (now Bhurhanpur district), in the Central Provinces.

The above inscriptions are all undated ; so scholars were forced to rely mainly upon palaeographical grounds, in order to assign them to a particular period of Indian history. The great importance of the Haraha inscription lies in its being dated. The date is expressed in a chronogram which runs thus :

Ekadasatirikteshu shatsu satitavidvishi
Sateshu saradam patyau bhuvah srisana Varmani. (verse-21)

The above verse gives the year 611 (600+11) of a particular era, the name of which is not mentioned. But there is little doubt that it must be assigned to the Vikrama era, which makes it equivalent to A.D. 554. The reasons in support of this, are simple. King Madhavagupta, we know from the Aphsad inscription, was a contemporary of king Harshadeva, or Harshavardhana, who reigned approximately from A.D. 606 to 647. So Madhavagupta must have lived in the first half of the seventh century A. D. The Maukhari king Isanavarman to whose reign this inscription belongs, was a contemporary[2] of king Kumaragupta, the great-grandfather of Madhavagupta, as the Aphsad inscription represents him to have fought with the former. So it stands to reason that the date of Isanavarman must be placed earlier than the first half of the seventh century. Now, in order to get a date that would be earlier than the first half of the seventh century, we are constrained to refer the year 611 to the Vikrama era. No other era can give us a date slightly earlier than the time of Harshavardhana. Our conclusion is also not opposed to the palaeographioal considerations.

The Asirgadh seal gives a genealogy of the Maukhari princes down to Sarvavarman. The present inscription adds one more name to the Maukhari list. This is Suryavarman, another son of Isanavarman. But it omits the name of Sarvavarman. The inscription opens with two laudatory verses in honour of the god Siva. Then follows the usual genealogy beginning with Harivarman, the first king of the dynasty (v. 4). From him was born Adityavarman. He was a pious man, and frequently performed sacrifices (vs. 6-7). Isvaravarman was his son (vs. 8-10). From him was born Isanavarman, who was, as it were, the beaming moon in the firmament of subordinate kings (rajanrajaka-mandalamvarasati: v. 11). The 13th sloka, which gives a description of the conquests of Isanavarman, is very important. It runs as follows :

jitv=Āndhr=ādhipatim sahasra-gaṇita-tredhā-ksharad=vāraṇam
vyāvalgan=niyut-āti-sankhya-turgān bhaṅktvā Śulikān
kṛitvā ch=āyati-mau(mo)chita-sthala-bhuvo Gauḍān samudr-āśrayā
n-adhyāsishṭa nata-kshitīśa-charaṇah siṅghā(mhā)sanam yo jitī[3]

From the above it follows that Isanavarman defeated in battle the king of the Andhras, and the Sulikas and the Gaudas who were all compelled to accept his sovereignty. When he was ruling the earth, his son Suryavarman was born. One day when the prince was out on-hunting, he lighted upon an old temple of Siva, which he caused to be reconstructed (v. 20). The building was finished in the rainy season of the year 600 exceeded by 11, when Isanavarman was the lord of the earth (v. 22). The poet of the inscription is Ravismti, son of Kumarasamti, an inhabitant of Garggarākaṭa (v. 23). The name of the engraver then follows. It was incised by Mihiravarman.


The most interesting point of the foregoing summary is Isanavarman's victory over the Andhra king, the Sulikas and the Gaudas. The old Andhra empire had now perished; so it is not quite certain what is signified here by the mention of an Andhra king. Who the Sulikas were, is also not known. According to Fleet, they are identifiable with the Mulikas, mentioned in the Brihat-saihhita (XIV, 48, 23). Fleet places them in the north-western frontier. The tribe or country mulaka, mentioned in the Nasik cave-inscription of Balasri, mother of the Andhra king Sri Satakarni Gotamiputra, is identified with Mtilika by Prof. Rapson. In former times the letters Sa and Ma were often interchangeable. So it might be that the Sulika stands here for the Mulika or Mulaka, The defeat of the Andhras is also mentioned in a mutilated inscription of the Maukhari king Isvaravarman, father of Isanavarman. The portion in which the name of the man who defeated them was mentioned, is broken. But it is probable that the allusion is to their defeat by the armies of king Isvaravarman. This is clear from the Haraha inscription. It is apparent from the verse quoted above that Isanavarman's glorious undertakings preceded his sitting on his father's throne i.e. they took place when his father was still ruling. This creates a strong presumption in favour of what is stated above, that probably the defeat of the Andhra king, mentioned in the mutilated Jaunpur inscription, is to be assigned to the reign of Isvaravarman. It is interesting to note that the name Gauda occurs for the first time in the new inscription from Haraha. We do not as yet know what local dynasty was ruling in Bengal in the sixth century A. D. But the conquest of the province by the Maukharis undoubtedly signalises the extinction of Gupta rule in Bengal.

I think, it is necessary here to point out that the discovery of this dated inscription of the Maukharis settles the chronology of the several undated Maukhari inscriptions hitherto discovered. The Jaunpur inscription, as it belongs to the reign of Isvaravarman father of Isanavarman, must be put earlier than tho year A.D. 554 the only known date at which Isanavarman was ruling. It may be safely placed in the last quarter of the fifth or the first quarter of the sixth csntury. For the three other undated inscriptions which arc on the Barabar and Nagarjuni Hills, an unusually late period is suggested by Mr. C. V. Vaidva. According to him the Maukhari princes mentioned in them are to be assigned to a date later than that of Harsha. But the letters of the inscriptions of Anantavarman are older in form even than those of the Haraha inscription. The tripartite ya which is a characteristic of tho Kushan and the Early Gupta alphabets," is used promiscuously along with its later developed form, in the Haraha inscription. But in the inscriptions of Anantavarman only the tripartite form of ya is to be met with. This is a clear indication that they are of considerably earlier date. [4]

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