May 10, 2015



Ganapati - Silahara Period (8th cent.)
Pilar Museum - Goa Velha
The first amongst the three Silahara kingdoms of the middle ages, the South Konkan Silaharas or the Goa Silaharas ruled areas of modern day Goa and Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra between the eighth and the eleventh centuries, chiefly as the feudatories of the mighty Rashtrakutas who were the preeminent political dynasty in much of the Sub-continent during this time. Like most 'minor' dynasties that rose and fell during this age, our knowledge about these kings, their administration, the prevalent socio-economic conditions and so on is meager to say the least; as a matter of fact, most information regarding the political history of this dynasty comes from the few copper plates that have been found so far, the most famous being that of one Rattaraja - probably, the last king of this dynasty which were found in the village of Kharepattan in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. These plates are no less than the famous 'Rosetta Stone' since they give a detailed genealogy of the whole clan beginning from the man who established this kingdom and his subsequent successors up to Rattaraja including their exploits. Of course, relying completely on this to rewrite the political history of this clan could be a costly mistake. However, in absence of other credible sources, validating the information present in these plates to reconstruct the South Konkan Silahara history is not possible.

Gokapattanam or Govapuri (Goa Velha) along the Zuari River is said to have been their capital with some historians stating that it was later moved to some prominent place in the Sawantwadi - Ratnagiri region. This assumption seems to be correct since the Kharepattan plates mention of the presence of a separate ruling family at Chandor which is not very far from Goa Velha. Though this family, of which we do not have any specific information was generally sub-ordinate to the Goa Silaharas, there have been instances recorded of hostilities between the two. As such, it would have been a strategic blunder for the capital to be so close to Chandor. Hence the observation of the South Konkan Silahara capital being in somewhere in modern day Ratnagiri region seems to make a lot of sense although the historical records to back this claim by be lacking at present.


Like all other Silahara kingdom, the kings of the South Konkan branch claim to be descendants of King Jamutivahana - the mythical Vidyadhara king who is the prime protagonist of the Sanskrit epic Nagananda which is attributed to the great Vardhana Emperor Harsha. In this drama, the wise king who gives up his empire and retires to the forests, offers himself as a sacrifice to save the serpent race from the wrath of the Garuda. As the mythical bird realizes its mistake, Jamutivahan is revived from the dead and Garuda promises to end his annihilation of the snakes, bringing 'ananda' (joy) to the Nagas (serpents).

While the records of the branches at Thana and Kolhapur say that they were natives of the town of Ter, the Goan Silaharas records mention relations with the Kings of Simhala. People familiar with history would naturally and rightly identify Simhala with Ceylon or modern day Sri Lanka. However, Altekar suggests that Simhala here meant 'Tiswadi' - the island along the Goan coast on which the city of Panjim is situated. In fact, this conclusion seems to be correct since Goa was an integral part of the South Konkan Silahara kingdom. More interestingly, if the above conclusion is correct, Silaharas may actually be the first native Goan kings.


Ganesh - Silahara period (10 cent.)
The Goa State Museum, Patto - Panjim
As per the Kharepattan plates, the kingdom was founded by Sanaphulla who was granted the land between the Sahaya mountains (possibly the Sahayadris or the Western Ghats) and the Arabian Sea by the Rashtrakuta Emperor Krishna I in the mid-eight century. In fact, the Southern Silahara kings continued to owe their allegiance to their overlords at Manyakheta till the end of that clan. The claims in the plates suggests that Sanaphulla aided his 'master' Krishna I who was the second ruler in the Rashtrakuta clan, in subjugating the Konkan coast which was under the influence of the Badami Chalukyas till the downfall of the dynasty in AD 753. As the emperor left after conquering the coast, he perhaps appointed Sanaphulla as his 'Viceroy' or 'Governor', thereby establishing the dynasty.

Another scenario that is possible is that following the fall of the Chalukyan empire due  to the defeats inflicted upon them by the Pandyas and the Rashtrakutas, Sanaphulla who may be hailed from Goa, gathered a fighting force and drove away the Chalukyan defenders or their allies who guarding the rich port city of Govapuri. After expanding his influence in nearby areas along the coast, he might have submitted to the authority of the Rashtrakutas who were fast emerging as the undisputed masters of the Deccan. Though Goa was a prosperous region back then and a lots of money flowed in due to the international sea trade, the nascent kingdom stood no chance in front of the strong Rashtrakutan army. Moreover, there would definitely have been other contenders who were eager to bring the port city under their control. Probably, this is why he voluntarily accepted Rashtakuta overlordship and obtained their permission to rule the southern Konkan region by promising to pay an annual tribute and assist them as and when needed.


   Sr. No.   
Avasara I
Avasara II
Avasara III

a. This is the chronology of the South Konkan Silahara dynasty as given in the Kharepattan plates of Rattaraja.

b. In the absence of accurate details regarding the regnal years of the above mentioned kings, historians generally attribute a reign of 25 years to each of them which is the average reign for Indian kings ruling in the medieval times.


Sanaphulla's successor was Dhammayira who is said to have consolidated his family's hold over the nascent kingdom by erecting a fort at Vallipattana or Ballipatana. Though there is no conclusion, historians have identified this port with places like Velim in South Goa, Kharepattan in Ratnagiri district and so on. It seems to have been a bustling port during this time and and well connected to other nearby ports of Chandrapur (Chandor, Goa) and Chemul (Chaul, Maharashtra). Moreover, the Kharepattan plates also mention ships from far and wide docking in its yard and the taxes that they paid to the Southern Silahara treasury. Some believe that in course of time, Vallipattana could even have served as a second capital of their kingdom apart from the first seat of power at Goa Velha.

Aiyaparaja, the third king in this line is said to have won a victory over the local ruler of Chandrapur. This was perhaps a major boost to the Silahara kingdom. Firstly, this victory would have helped in maintaining their supremacy in the neighborhood. Moreover, Chandor was a prosperous port having trading contacts with other coastal towns along the Western coastline and bringing it under the influence of the Silaharas would have earned them certain financial benefits too.

Silaharas - Silver Coins (11th - 12th Cent.)
The Goa State Museum, Patto - Panjim


Though the Kharepattan plates may refer to Avasara I as the 'Vanquisher of the Enemies', it was his son - Adityavarman who in my opinion was the greatest ruler of this clan. The contemporary North Konkan Silahara ruler - Lagu Kapardin II was still a minor and Adityavarman used this opportunity to increase his supremacy over most of the Konkan region. As per the plates, he is said to have offered assistance to the rulers of Chandrapur and Chemul. If we consider these two places as the northern and the southern limits of the South Silahara 'sphere of influence', then it means that Adityavarman was the master of nearly 500 kilometer of Konkan coast, leaving only the Mumbai-Thana region for the Northern Silaharas. Thus the kingdom reached its zenith under him.


Adityavarman was succeeded by Avasara II, Indraraja and Bhima who is recorded as being 'ambitious'. It was during his reign that the Goa Kadamba dynasty rose and captured Chandor. Since the Kadambas were loyal to the Kalyana Chalukyas who were the sworn enemies of the Rashtrakutas - the overlords of the South Konkan Silaharas, the two clans are believed to have been hostile towards each other. Bhima is said to have won a victory over the first Kadambas king Shashthadeva or his son Chaturbhuja. However, this win was in no way decisive since it was the Goa Kadamba dynasty that would play a key role in bringing an end to the South Konkan Silahara kingdom.

As if the Kadamba takeover of Chandor was not enough, the Silaharas were delivered a crushing blow when the Rashtrakuta dynasty was overthrown by the Kalyana Chalukyas during the reign of Avasara III. Though most of the vassals of the Rashtrakutas had switched their allegiance to Tailapa II by now, the Goan Silaharas continued to be loyal to them. In fact, the Kharepattan grant of Avasara's successor - Rattaraja contains the genealogy of the Malked clan, a right reserved only for the imperial overlords. By the time this grant was given, it was over two decades since the last of the Rashtrakuta kings were deposed yet the Goa Silaharas seem to have had some sense of gratitude and affection towards them which is strange. Thus while the North Konkan Silaharas accepted the suzerainty of the new rulers of Deccan, namely the Chalukyas, their counterparts down south were still held up in the past and this proved to be a costly mistake. The demise of the Rashtrakutas and the emergence of the Goa Kadambas who had allied themselves with the Kalyana Chalukyas proved disastrous for the Silaharas of southern Konkan. A grant of this ruler named as the Chikkodi or the Pattanakuddi plate dated AD 988 is the earliest of the three land grants belonging to this clan which have been found so far.


Two grants of Avasara's son and successor - Rattaraja have been found so far. The first dated AD 1008 are the Kharepattan plates which record the grant of three villages namely Kushmandi, Asavanire and Vadagule to Atreya the Brahmin belonging to the Karkaroni branch of Mattamayura clan of Saiva sect for the worship of God Aveshvara. Another grant issued two years later records the grant of a plot in the village of Bhaktagrama and a garden of betel nut to Sankamaiya, son of the Brahmin Senavi Bagamaiya. This was one of the earliest mention of the Shenvi Brahmanas who went on to dominate the Goan society in the later periods.

The series of events that culminated in the demise of this dynasty are unclear; neither are we sure as to who the last Goan Silahara king was - Rattaraja or his immediate successor. Anyway, what we can tell for sure is that the refusal of these kings to acknowledge the supremacy of the Chalukyas would have not gone well with the latter. Moreover, the Kadambas too were sensing on an opportunity to settle scores with them. Whatever be the reason for it, it is pretty clear that Chalukya emperor Jayasimha II invaded the South Silahara kingdom and deposed its ruler while returning from a campaign against the Cholas, probably after Rattaraja renounced his allegiance to the Kalyana clan following the death of its ruler Satyasraya or Vikramaditya V. It is also possible that the invasion weakened the Goa Silaharas and soon after the Chalukyan army withdrew, the city of Govapuri was attacked and captured by the Kadambas who are considered to be the political successors to the Goa Silaharas.


Naga - Silahara Period (10th cent.)
The Goa State Museum, Patto - Panjim
The relationship between the kingdom and their imperial overlords in Manyakheta is 'enigmatic' to say the least. The Southern Silaharas were fiercely loyal to the Rashtrakutas; at a time when the power equations in the Deccan were fast changing in the later half of the tenth century and the Kalyana Chalukyas were the devouring vast swathes of the erstwhile Rashtrakuta empire, the kingdom continued to swear its allegiance to the Manyakheta court. In fact, even after the termination of this glorious line of rulers by Taila II, the grants of the Goan Silahara kings continued to begin with the genealogy of the now 'dead' clan. A copper plate of Rattaraja mentions with regret as to how the Rashtrakuta family was crushed by the weight of the mountain that fell on it in the form of Taila. It seems that the Silaharas later accepted the suzerainty of the Chalukyas but were doomed once they raised the banner of revolt leading to the invasion of the Goa region by Jayasimha II.

Though there are no questions regarding the loyalty of the Silaharas towards the Rashtrakutas, the relation between the two families is not as per the general convention of these times. For example, a vassal state was suppose to send in troops whenever its overlord undertook an expedition or was defending his sovereignty. We know for sure that the Rashtrakutan army fought many wars and their records do mention the sub-ordinate kings who helped them in their battles; however, the Southern Silaharas find no mention in all these records which is strange. After all, a dynasty that mourns the demise of its imperial masters in its personal records is expected to stand by them during their hour of need, isn't it? Moreover, we have no record of any sort of matrimonial alliance between the two families which too was a norm in most cases. Hopefully, our understanding of the nature of the relations between these two dynasties will enhance after more records of the Southern Silaharas are discovered in the future.


An important point that historians tend to miss while writing about this kingdom is the role that it would have played in the rich and prosperous Indo-Arab trade. We know that the Arabs were in contact with the Rashtrakutas as the Arab text Silsilatuttavarikh names them as one of the four greatest empires in the contemporary world. With the ships from the Gulf dominating the Arabian Sea region during this time, most of the trade or diplomatic relations between the two worlds i.e. India and Arabia would have happened through the seas. As the port cities in Konkan, Goa and Karavali (coastal Karnataka) were under the rule of states sub-ordinate to the Rashtrakutas, most of this trade would have happened here. Thus, both the Silahara kingdoms would have served as the 'Gateway to India' for the Arabs.

Medieval ports like Chandrapur (Chandor), Gokapattna (Goa Velha), Vallipattnam, Kharepattan, Chemul (Chaul), Puri (Elephanta) and Kalyan which were under the influence of the two Silahara clans were definitely the melting pot where these two worlds, each rich not only in terms of money but in science and culture as well, would converge benefiting both. From the perspective of the Silaharas, the trade would have been a rich source of revenue. The Kharepattan plates mention the Arabic ships docking at the port of Vallipattnam and the taxes that they paid to the authorities there.

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