Compiled by Ch Kalyanachakravarthy, Research Associate
( A gist of the detailed notes prepared using No. 30-VILASA GRANT OF PROLAYA-NAYAKA (1 Plate) N. VENKATARAMANAYYA AND M. SOMASEKHARA SARMA, MADRAS )
A piece of hard evidence in the form of a Grant is a sure source for a researcher to understand what might have happened in that particular time period. Vilasa Grant was such a solid source for researchers to understand the events of 14th century in the Andhra country.
“This grant was originally discovered long ago, nearly a century back, in the village of Kandarida, near Pithapuram in East Godavari District, by Sri Hundi Venkata Rao Pantulu garu. He and his partner in business, the plates which went to the share of Sri Venkata Rao were preserved in his family with superstitious care as a unique treasure. Two generations after, their existence was revealed to Sri Sabnavia Satyakesava Rao Pantulu garu, a public worker and a scholar of repute, he knew the value of copper plate grants in general to history. Some two decades back, when Sri M. Somasekhara Sarma, one of the editors of the grant under study, had gone to Visakhapatnam, Sri Hundi Venkata Rao Pantulu, the owner of the plates and the great grandson of their original discoverer, was good enough to place them in the hands of Sri Sarma for decipherment and publication. Sri Somasekhara Sarma takes this opportunity to convey his grateful thanks to all those concerned for placing this record in his hands. The inscription is very valuable specially for the history of the Andhras, and throws a flood of light on the political conditions of the Andhra country subsequent to the fall of Warangal in 1323 A. D.”
The following is an extract from the description of the plates given in the Annual Report:-
“This is a set of seven thick copper-plates the first and last of which are slightly bigger than the others measuring about 10 1/4 inch long by 4 1/4 inch broad, while the others (plates 2 to 5) measure about 9 1/2 inch by 4 1/2 inch. Their writing, which is engraved on the inner side of the 1st plate and on both sides of the other six, is well preserved and protected by broad and raised rims covering their edges on three sides, while the right margin is left plain. This rim is about broad and is also as much in thickness. The plates are numbered in serial order on their inner sides in the breadth of this rim. They have ring holes about 3/16 inch in diameter near their left margin but the ring which must have passed through them and held them together is now missing. The plates weigh 510 tolas. In the right margin of the 2nd and 4th plates there is a slight knob-like projection, the purpose of which is not clear,”
Language on the Plates
The inscription on the plates is neatly executed and is in a good state of preservation. The letters, almost all of which attained their modern forms by the date of this record, are deeply inscribed and are very beautiful. Very rarely do we come across such specimen of handsome Telugu writing in the granta issued in the early post-Kakatiya period. The script is Telugu which was current in the first half of the fourteenth century A. D. is the Andhra country and is akin to that found in the Dönepundi grant of Namaya-nayaka. The language of the inscription is Sanskrit with the exception of the passage in Telugu describing the boundaries of the village granted. The language, excepting the passage describing the boundaries, is chaste and is entirely in verse. This is a beautiful inscriptional kavya in Sanskrit, replete with alamkaras, the like of which is rarely seen in the grants of the medieval period. Unfortunately the name of the composer is not given. Another noteworthy feature of this grant is the absence in it of the usual imprecatory verses that are generally found at the close of the inscriptions. The inscription ends with the signature of the donor which reads as Prölä-neni vralu (the signature of Prölä-neda).
How experts commented on the Grant
The charter under review throws a flood of light on the history of Andhra in the years immediately following the Muslim conquest and the downfall of the Kakatiya dynasty. While describing the circumstances in which the gift registered in the charter came to be made, the political changes through which the country went through are briefly recounted. The following points present in the inscription need a few words of elucidation:
(1) The history of Prataparudra, his enmity with Ahammadu Suratrana of Delhi, his early victories over the Muhammadans, and his ultimate defeat, captivity and death
“ the present inscription throws some new light on the circumstances in which Prataparudra met with his death.. According to Shama-i-Shiraj Afif, the Rai of Tiling, whom Sultan Muhammad sent to Delhi, died upon the road. The correctness of the statement has, however, been questioned.”
(2) The character of the Muslim rule
“ Although the Andhra country was thus rapidly subjugated, it did not long remain under Muslim rule. This was mainly due to the oppressive character of their government which is vividly portrayed in the present inscription (vv. 22-27). Unlike other conquerors of India, the Mussalmans were not satisfied with the acquisition of mere political power. They descended on the Deccan not as mere conquerors in search of new countries but as crusading warriors to spread the true faith in the land of the infidels. To stamp out heathenism, and gather all the people within the fold of Islam, they prohibited, as stated in the inscription, the public exercise of Hindu religion, and subjected its followers to inhuman tyranny. The Hindus could not dress well, live well, and appear to be prosperous. Vexatious taxes were imposed on them; their seats of learning were destroyed; their temples were plundered and demolished; and the images of their gods were defaced and broken and used as building material for erecting prayer houses for the faithful. That this is not an exaggeration but genuine truth is proved by independent accounts of the condition of the Hindus in other parts of South India subjugated by the Mussalmans.”
(3) The rise of the Musunuri family and the formation of the Confederacy of Andhra Nayakas under the leadership of Prōlaya-nayaka
“Unable to bear the grinding tyranny of the Musalmans, which was set on foot to wipe out their race, religion and culture, the Andhras as a people joined together and rose up in revolt. Nobles and common folk, if we can trust the evidence of the inscription under consideration, voluntarily flocked to the standard of Prölaya-nayaka to rid the country of the barbarous hordes of Islam, which by the decree of an evil fate descended on their native land. The Brahmanas and the farmers of the soil paid, of their own free will, taxes to enable the leaders to carry on the struggle for freedom successfully. It was the first national movement in Indian history; and the Andhras showed to the rest of India how a people could, by their united effort, expel the enemy and regain their lost freedom”
(4) The conquest of Tilinga by Prolay-nayaka and the reestablishment of the Hindu dharma;
“ This was no easy task. Muhammad bin Tughlaq was a powerful monarch, who was cruel and merciless in thrashing his enemies. No Hindu ruler of the South, however strong and warlike, was able to resist the irresistible advance of his armies. It is noteworthy that in that deplorable state of utter helplessness, the Andhras were able to organise themselves into a confederacy, strike a blow to gain independence, and successfully accomplish their purpose.”
“ The information furnished by the grant under review about the Musunuri family is very meagre. It simply states that king Prola of the Musunuri family was born in the fourth caste; he headed the movement to free the country from the Muslim yoke, and having successfully driven them out, he made Rekapalli on the Godavari at the foot of the Malyavanta mountain his capital and entrusted the administration of the country to his younger brothers, such as Kapaya-nayaka, devoting himself entirely to the performance of charitable and meritorious deeds. Nothing is known from this grant about Prölaya-nayaka’s history and career, except that he had many younger brothers, of whom Käpaya-nayaka was one. This dearth of information about his family is made up by the Prolavaram grant of Käpaya-nayaka, dated in the Saka year 1267, expressed by the chronogram giri-tarka-bhanu, in the cyclic year Parthiva. As he is also stated in the grant to have belonged to the Musunuri family and as the date of the grant in very near to the date of the fall of Warangal, there need be no doubt that he is identical with Käpaya-nayaka, Prola’s brother mentioned in the grant under review. Fortunately for us, the Prolavaram grant furnishes a short pedigree of three generations of the Musunüri chiefs”
(5) His benefactions, especially the gift of the village of Vilasa in Kōna-mandala to the Brahmana scholar Vennaya of Bharadvaja götra.
“ This record registers, on the occasion of a lunar eclipse, the grant of Vilasa, the best of the fertile villages of the Kōna-mandala on the banks of the Godavari, as an agrahara to Vennaya, the elder brother of Gapaya-arya and son of Annaya, grandson of Vennaya and great-grandson of Annaya of the Bharadvaja götra and Yajur-vadin The donee is described in high sounding terms as a learned scholar of note and a well-to-do person of charitable disposition. Several yayajükas of blemishless conduct, who had performed many sacrifices with the money given by him, are said to have shone like the flags of fame, etc. When Prölaya-nayaka, finding Vennaya to be a danapatra (ie., a person worthy of a gift), implored him to receive the gift of a village, he accepted it out of consideration for him, in spite of his aversion to do so. After having received Vilasa as an agrahara, he, along with his brother, re-granted it to a number of Brahmanas, having divided it into one hundred and eight shares. There were eighty donees in all including the two deities, Gautamaavara and Kesava of the village. The list of donees with their names of götras, sakhas and the number of shares given to each is appended hereto. This agrahara was pre-eminently granted to the Bharadvaja-götrins, who received more than fifty four shares in the village. With the exception of a few, most of the donees were Yajur-vadins who were proficient in the sacrificial lore, besides being poets, commentators, Ved-ädyapakas and adhyetris and experts in sutras and daria:as. The titles given to many of the recipients indicate the high level of their scholarship and skill in the various sciences and arts. It is unusual to find so many scholars of repute among the donees mentioned in the grants of the late medieval period. It is yet strange and unfortunate that not even one of the works of these reputed scholars, who were not only proficient in ganita, jyotisha, grammar, logic, agamas, darsanas and vedanta but were also scholarists and poets, has come to light. It is for future research to unearth their works. It is interesting to find two donees of the Parasara gotra and Yajus shakhi who were experts in the guru-tantra. The mention of the gira-tantra in the grant under review shows that even pūrva-mimämsä was studied in the coastal Andhra country as late as the fourteenth century. It is also worth noting that the donees, with the exception of a few, were experts in the ritual of sacrifices. This is significant as indicating the revival of Vedism and Vedic sacrifices in the early post-Kakatiya period in the coastal region, subsequently to the attainment of independence and the re-establishment of Hindu monarchy. The establishers of independence voluntarily undertook the task of purifying the places in Andhra (Indhras-pralesan) defiled by the sinful feet of the Muhammadans, by the continuous performance of Vedic sacrifices by Brahmanas, which were stopped during the Mussalman rule (kritva pravrittaa viruta-prasaigla yajian hacir-dhuma-paraparabhi). This revival of sacrifices and Vêdism gave a re-orientation to the then existing religion of the country by giving it a strong Védic tinge, and had a profound influence on the Vaishnava cult of the South. “
(6). The statement that Sultan Muhammad suffered defeat no less than seven times at the hands of Prataparudra before he could ultimately vanquish him furnishes interesting information on the history of Muslim invasions of Tiling and demands careful examination.
The Muslim historians thus enumerate five expeditions between 1303 and 1323 against Tiling, of which three were successful and the rest abortive. The Hindu records on the other hand refer to several Muslim expeditions-eight according to the present grant-of which all, excepting the very last, ended in the defeat of the Muslim armies and their expulsion from Tiling. These are said to have taken place in the reign of Prataparudra.
The Muslim invasions of Tiling began in right earnest after Prataparudra’s accession in 1296 A.D. According to the present grant, which was issued within a decade of the Muslim conquest, the Muslims attacked Tiling no less than eight times. Prataparudra is said to have defeated the Sultan of Delhi seven times
The Pratapacharitra, a late quasi-historical prose work, states, like the present record under consideration, that there were no less than eight Muslim invasions against Warangal, and that though Prataparudra vanquished and put them to flight on the first seven occasions, he suffered defeat during the last expedition. Warangal fell into the hands of the Turakas, and he himself was carried away as a prisoner to Delhi.”
Though the Muslim and the Hindu sources are in perfect agreement regarding the final conquest of the Kakatiya kingdom and the captivity of Prataparudra, they are at variance about the number of Muslim expeditions and the events that happened in them. Whereas contemporary epigraphic evidence fixes their number at eight, Muslim historians mention only five. The difference is perhaps due to the omission, by the latter, of abortive attempts of conquest, which they considered unworthy of notice. While the Hindu sources claim victory uniformly over the Mussalmans in all expeditions excepting the last, the Muslim historians admit defeat only twice which they attribute to unforeseen circumstances.
It is stated that the grant was made on the occasion of a lunar eclipse; but neither the Saka year or the cyclic year nor the month in which the lunar eclipse occurred is specified. Hence the precise date of the grant cannot be definitely ascertained. However, the period in which it was given, can be approximately calculated. The grant was certainly subsequent to 1325 A.D. (Saka 1247), the earliest date known for the establishment of Hindu independence in the coastal region.