While flipping through the pages of a book on inscriptions found in Andhra Pradesh, I came across two interesting inscriptions which give a jolt to certain notions I had about the Seuna Yadava rulers of Devagiri. These raise a lot of questions regarding the kind of history we are taught in our schools and colleges.
1.A little background…
But I will digress here for a bit to give a brief background on the subject. Devagiri (modern day Daulatabad fort and its surroundings) was the seat of power of the Yadava rulers who ruled most of present day Maharashtra from 1173 to 1317 CE.It was a prosperous kingdom and a golden age in the history of Maharashtra. The conventional view of how the Yadavas of Devagiri fell to the Islamic onslaught is briefly like this:
In 1297 CE, Ala-ud-din Khilji conducted a surprise raid on Devagiri with a small cavalry based force. After defeating intital resistance near Baglana he besieged the capital itself. The Yadava king Ramachandra Deva had to shut himself in the fort as there were very few troops at hand.Most of the army was campaigning under his son Simghana down South against Veera Ballala III.On hearing of the Muslim attack Simghana rushed back to his fathers aid with a force of 20,000 soldiers.They are almost on the verge of finishing Khilji off when Ala-ud-dins reinfoircements arrive.Thinking that the entire Delhi army is attacking the Yadava army breaks and is defeated.Ramachandra has to empty his treasury and give his daughter in marriage to Ala-ud-din.Gradually the kingdom loses its independence till the last ember of freedom is extinguished by Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Khilji in 1317 CE.The entire royal family of the Yadavas is massacred and Haripala Deva (the son in law of Ramachandra Deva) is skinned alive and hung from the gates of Devagiri fort.
The inferences drawn from the above account are :
1. The Yadavas were utterly incompetent in matters of intelligence and their communication system was flawed. Otherwise how could Ala-ud-din penetrate right upto the capital without being detected?
2. They were so busy fighting senseless wars with their Hoysala and Kakatiya neighbours that they lost sight of the Islamic monster looming in the horizon.
To my mind something was missing from the narrative. It did not gel that a powerful kingdom which excelled in every sphere of life (arts, culture, music etc) could be so blind to the intentions of the Islamic vandals who had entrenched themselves at Delhi for over a hundred years.
2.The Panagallu Inscription of Sarangapanideva
The inscription I talked about earlier is by Sarangapanideva,a son of the Yadava ruler Simghana I who ruled Devagiri from 1200-1247 CE.For unknown reasons this prince had migrated to Wrangal and was made administrator of the Panumganti sthala (area) by the kakatiya king Rudradeva.Theinscription records a gift of wet land to the temple of Chhaya Someshwara.The most intresting aspects of the inscription are some of the titles assigned to Sarangapanideva:
i.Prarajya-rajya-Turuhkopaplavamedini-Samuddharana : which means “ protector of the great kingdom from the trouble of the Turushka (Muslim) armies.”
ii. Gurjararaya-varana-ankusa : which means the ankush (controller) of the king of Gurjara desa.
iii.Malaviya-mana-mardana : Destroyer of the rpide of the Malavas (Malwa,central India).
iv. Gambhira-abhira-prachanda : Very ferocious for the yadavas (cow herds).
The government epigraphist has mentioned that Sarangapanideva probably inherited these titles from his father Simghana I as in an inscription found near Dharwad Simghana I has nearly the same epithets.
Additionally there is one more epithet found in the Dharwad inscription of Simghana I dated from 1239 CE : “Turushka kopa pralaya maharnava magna medini samuddharana maha varaha.” Which means “incarnation of Lord Vishnu (in his varaha avatar) in lifting the earth from the deluge of the muslims.”
3.Inferences drawn from the inscriptions
The most obvious inference is that Simghana I ( and probably his sons) crossed swords with the Islamic jihadis pouring out from Delhi and defeated them. Their most likely adversary was Shams-ud-din Iltutmish who ruled over the Delhi sultanate from 1211-1236 CE. There is no record of the Islamic hordes having crossed the Vindhyas at this early date. This means that Simghana I most likely battered the Islamic armies in central India and Gujarat.In this period the Chaulukyas of Gujarat were actively assisting the survivors of Prithviraj Chauhan’s Ajmer kingdom in their freedom struggle. The inclusion of Malwa and Gurjara regions in the titles indicates that Simghana assisted these regions in throwing back the muslim offensive or defeated the muslims in his campaigns against these regions.
This militates against the view that the Yadavas sealed themselves off from the events overtaking northern India.
4.Questions raised by the inscriptions
1. Why was Devagiri unable to muster resources to fight the Islamic offensive? In previous decades it had clearly taken the offensive to the muslims, what happened in a fifty year period that sapped its aggressiveness?
2.Was there a natural calamity such as a long drought followed by famine that dimished the resources of the kingdom?
3.The fact that the Seuna Yadava’s could mount offensives beyond the Vindhya mountains indicates that they had some kind of an intelligence and communications system. Did it break down by 1297 CE? If so for what reasons?
4. The period from the 1290’s onwards was one in which the Islamic offensive of the Delhi sultanate gained new power and many large Hindu kingdoms ceased to exist by the 1320’s.This included Gujarat,Devagiri,Jalor,Ranthambor etc. Is there something we are not seeing in this pattern of collapse?