May 02, 2015

THE SILAHARAS - Part I

THE THREE SILAHARA KINGDOMS

One of the least known dynasties to have ruled over the country, the Silaharas ruled over three, possibly related kingdoms in Western India between the 8th and the 12th century AD. I would not be surprised if most of us, even those taking a keen interest in Indian history would not have heard much about this clan. In fact, in the state of Goa, a place which was the very epicenter of the Southern Silahara kingdom, the dynasty just finds a few passing references in the state's history textbooks.

Although each of these three kingdoms lasted for over 150 years each, the kings were chiefly the feudatories to other powerful families ruling over contemporary Deccan like the Rashtrakutas or the Kadambas. Much against the general norm that existed around this time, it seems that these kings did not participate in the military campaigns of their 'overlords'; neither do we have any record of their matrimonial alliance with their 'masters'. Perhaps that was the reason that not much is said or written about them in the dynastic records of the other powerful houses. The paucity of material in the form of inscriptions and monuments from this era means that our understanding of the Silaharas is rather limited

THE THREE KINGDOMS

The earliest amongst these three kingdoms were the South Konkan Silaharas or the Goan Silaharas who ruled modern day Goa between mid-eight century to the early eleventh century. Though the North Konkan Silaharas or the Thana Silaharas rose about half a century later when compared to their southern counterparts, their power lasted for nearly four and half centuries until it was absorbed by the Yadavas. The last of these three - the Kolhapur Silaharas began their rule sometime around AD 1000 and last for over two centuries and like the Thana kingdom was later defeated and extinguished by the Yadavas who undertook expansionist activities during the thirteenth century in modern day Maharashtra.

ORIGIN

Though the three kingdoms share the name - Silahara, we are not sure about what kind of relationship existed between them. The only thing that we know was common between them, apart from the name was the fact that they claimed to be the descendants of the mythical hero - Jimutavahana from the Nagananda which is attributed to the great king Harsh Vardhan. As per the story, the king Jimutavahana of the Vidhyadharas offered himself as 'ahara' (food) to the bird Garuda on a 'sila' (rock) to save the Nagas or serpents from destruction and hence the name - Sila-hara. Unlike the Chalukyas or the Yadavas who claim that to be descendants of Gods like Rama or Krishna, it is rather surprising to see the Silaharas 'chose' a not so famous ancestor. Perhaps, the Gods were only reserved for the more powerful families; just a thought!

The Goan Silaharas claimed to have originated from Simahala which either was Sri Lanka or Goa whereas the records of the other two houses say that they were natives of Tagara. The exact location of this medieval city is unknown with historians connecting it with Ter, Kolhapur and so on.

WERE THEY RELATED?

Other than the fact that all three Silahara clans claim to be the descendants of Jimutavahana, two families, namely the Thana Silaharas and the Kolhapur Silaharas also shared the Garuda emblem which cannot be brushed aside as mere coincidence.

Considering that the North Konkan Silahara dynasty began about forty years after the establishment of the Goan Silahara kingdom, it is possible that the founder of the former kingdom was a member from the royal family that ruled over Goa. Perhaps, the viceroy who was appointed to govern northern Konkan broke off all allegiance to Goa and founded a new kingdom. Similarly, the founder of the house at Kolhapur too was in some way related to either of the other two houses. However, these are just some speculations that I am making and there are no historical evidence to back these claims.