An Early Medieval Stone Slab Inscription from Narwar Fort, Madhya Pradesh

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1 An Early Medieval Stone Slab Inscription from Narwar Fort, Madhya Pradesh Amol N. Bankar /124, Post and Telecom Colony, Salisbury Park, Gultekdi, Pune , Maharashtra, India ( Received: 10 September 2015; Accepted: 05 October 2015; Revised: 28 October 2015 Heritage: Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies in Archaeology 3 (2015): Abstract: An inscription engraved on a stone slab is reported from the ruins of Fort Narwar. This inscription was recorded during the reign of Yajvapāla king Gopāladeva. This inscription records the installation and the perpetual obeisance to god Viṣṇu by Nāgo, wife of feudal chief named Acita. Certain expressions mentioned in this Early medieval inscription are very important from the perspectives of socio religious history. Keywords: Narwar fort, Yajvapāla, Gopāladeva, Baṅglā Inscription, Nāgo, Acita, Āmalakī Ekādaśī Introduction An inscription (fig. 1) belonging to the reign of Gopāladeva was reported from Narwar (Coordinates: N E), the ancient Nalapura, which was the capital of the Yajvapāla dynasty in the latter half of the c. 13 th century AD. The place lies in the Sipri (Shivpurī) District of Madhya Pradesh, about 26 KMs from Karērā and almost equidistant South east of Shivpurī. Narwar fort contains ruins of old palaces ascribed to the ruling house of the Yajvapālas. Numerous sculptural, epigraphical and architectural fragments are still to be seen used in most of the Muhammadan buildings. Ferishtā relates that the almost entire disappearance of the Hindu remains is due to the wholesome destruction by Sikandar Lodhi. In AH 913 (AD 1508) this iconoclast remained there for six months breaking down temples and building other monuments. The details of Lodhi invasion is also mentioned in the works of Afghan historian Niāmat ullāh (Cunningham 1872: ). The Inscription This inscription is engraved on a stone slab built into the wall of a 13 th century AD shrine dedicated to Hindu god Viṣṇu near Hawā Paur inside the fort. It was earlier noted by Willis (1996) and Deshpande (1975:55) with brief abstract, but the complete text was never studied systematically. The transliteration of text from the inscription is given in next page.

2 Bankar 2015: Figure 1: Stone Slaab Inscriptio on from Narrwar Fort (N Not to scale) T Transliterati ion in Romaan Script (1) saaṁvat 1338 phā p Translaation in Dev vanāgarī Script (2) laaguna sudi 11 1 vi २) लगन स द ११ व १) स वत १३३८ फ (3) sn nudevatā yāp pyo ३) (4) accita maḍalīkaa (māṁḍalīka?) ४) अ च चत मडल क (म म डल क?) (5) bhhāryā nāgo su uhagā ५) भ य य र न ग सह ग (6) visnu bhakta praṇama p (7) tii nityaṁ नद द वत य य ६) व न भक त प रणम म ७) त न य 498

3 This inscription is written in Nāgarī characters of 13 th Century AD of ordinary type and does not call for any special remark. The palaeography of this inscription is very similar to the memorial stone inscriptions from Baṅglā, an important place situated about 8 KMs East of Narwar. The language of the record is corrupt Sanskrit and the orthography and grammar of the inscription are greatly influenced by the local dialect. The first line of the record shows the date in decimal figures only; it is the 11th of the bright half of Phālguna of the Vikrama year This can be calculated with ephemeris and corresponds to Sunday 2 nd March, 1281 AD. This inscription records the perpetual obeisance to the Hindu god Viṣṇu by Nāgo, the wife of a certain feudal chief (Maḍalīka or Māṁḍalīka) named Acita. The name of the ruling monarch is not attested in the inscription, but the date of the inscription falls under the reign of Yajvapāla king Gopāladeva (c AD). Discussion It seems that Nāgo, the lady mentioned in the inscription, was a devotee of Viṣṇudevatā as appear from the adjective Viṣṇu bhakta used for her. She had installed Viṣṇu devatā on the 11th of the bright half of Phālguna. Every 11th day in the bright half of Phālguna is celebrated as Āmalakī Ekādaśī among the Hindus. The god Viṣṇu, for whom Ekādaśī s are sacred, is believed to reside in the Āmalaka or Āmalaka tree (Phyllanthus emblica). The Āmalaka tree is ritually worshiped on this day to get the grace of the deity (Sehgal 1999:329). This festival involves fasting and worship, and often promises specific benefits for faithful performance (Lochtefeld 2002:30). In Vratakhaṁḍa, Hemādrī had quoted verses from Mahābhārata, Varāha Purāṇa and Viṣṇudharmottara Purāṇa where worship of god Viṣṇu considered auspicious in the month of Phālguna. Hindu wives believe, through fasts and rituals they can uphold their Saubhāgya (the blessed state of being married). Because a wife s ambition was to avoid becoming a widow, the religious practices a woman performs have everything to do with being a good wife for her husband and protector. The word women use to describe this ideal was pativratā, meaning one who has taken a vow (vrata) to [protect] her husband (pati). Sometimes they employ this word loosely to refer to any wife. But even in this generic sense it has an ideological nuance, for it implies a conception of how a wife should behave and of the consequences her behaviour will bring. A wife becomes a good wife, a true pativrata, by selflessly serving her husband and his family. This service includes attending to ritual and other religious responsibilities. Each household has its specific constellation of religious deities to whom household members, including women, owe devotion. They express this devotion in a number of ways. Among these is the performance of vratas, the vows that entail fasting. Besides weekly and fortnightly vratas there are annual vows, which accompany many major festivals. (Harlan 1991:45) The explanation for Nago to install as inscription can be evaluated in the frame of the more general conception widespread in all India about the pativratā. 499

4 Earlier Willis (1996) had considered Nāgo and Suhagā as names of Acita Maṁḍalīka s two different wives, which seems to be incorrect. Here the word Suhagā (appeared in line no.5) is very important from the perspectives of socio religious studies of the Early Medieval period. This word was probably adopted from the local dialect and same is suffixed after the name of the Nāgo. The word Suhagā probably indicates a woman whose husband is alive i.e. the auspicious married state of a woman. The Hindi word Suhāga is philologically closer to the Sanskrit word Saubhāgya and Subhaga, originally and literally meant good fortune or prosperity, but it came to have as its established meaning (Virūḍhalakṣaṇa) so the good fortune of the happily married woman whose husband is alive. Apte had given Saubhāgya as chiefly consisting in a man s and woman s securing the favor and firm devotion of each other. A very similar expression Avidhava, which means one with her husband alive is noted in the Early Historic inscription engraved on the pedestal of a Lajjāgaurī image installed by Mahādevī Kharhduvula the queen of Iśvāku king Ehavala Chaṁtamula at Nāgarjunakonda (Tewari 1987: 31). Also, the phrase Visnudevatā yāpyo in line no2 and 3 of the inscription, can be roughly translated as may the visnu devatā cause everything well. Willis (1996) and Deshpande (1975: 55) had associated the verse Visnudevatā yāpyo with the installation of Viṣṇu. This inscription is engraved on the left side of dvāraśākhā (door frame) of an Early Medieval single celled shrine. The dvāraśākhā of this temple is well carved. The decoration consists of band of plain lozenge shapes with diverse ornamentation (ratnaśākhā) and decoration with human figures (naraśākhā). The lalātabiṃba or dvāralalāṭa and uttarāṅga (pediment) of this shrine possess similar sculptural ornamentation. The uduṃbara (threshold) has no projections or offsets in the centre, it is adorned by floral object flaked with human figures seated on makara, elephants and lions on either sides. The dvāraśākhā is adorned by images of river goddesses Gangā and Yamunā. The dvārapāla (door keepers) figures standing in tribhaṅga are much damaged and they are holding gadā (mace) and other attributes are indistinct. The images placed in this shrine do not belong to the original shrine. It is complicated to verify the sectarian affiliation of the original temple as this shrine was destructed by the iconoclasts during medieval times and hence, it is difficult to determine if Nāgo constructed a temple, installed an image of Viṣṇu or just inscribed her obeisance in the epigraph. The expression Praṇamati nityaṁ in line nos. 6 and 7 cites the very common way of paying perpetual obeisance to a deity in an epigraph. We can locate several such inscriptions stating obeisance of devotees to their tutelary deities. The iconographical representation of a devotee paying obeisance to a deity was also common during the Early Medieval period. Vikrama year 1338 (AD 1281) is very important in the history of Narwar. Several inscriptions from Baṅglā were reported by Sircar. They refer to a battle between the Yajvapāla king Gopāladeva and the Chandella monarch Viravarman (AD ). 500

5 All the warriors commemorated in these records are stated to have fallen in field while fighting on behalf of the Narwar ruler Gōpāladēva, which may perhaps indicate that ultimately he came out victorious. The whole incident appears to have been that the Chandēlla forces took the initiative and penetrated into the Yajvapāla territories, but soon after they crossed the river, they were defeated and driven back by the army of the Yajvapāla king. Sircar had documented 15 inscriptions found on stone pillars/herostones commemorating warriors killed in battle and often bearing representations of foot men, horsemen and elephant riders engaged in battle and fallen warriors worshipping the śiva liṅga and enjoying the company of celestial damsels in heaven. On some pillars the persons are represented as worshipping the śiva liṅga jointly with their wives, implying thereby that the ladies committed Sati on the funeral pyre of their husbands. (Sircar 1987: ). The date of the Narwar inscription is four weeks prior to the battle between the Yajvapāla and Chandēlla forces. Seven of the Baṅglā inscriptions, gives the date as 7 th of the bright half of Caitra of the Vikrama year 1338, which corresponds to Friday, 28 th of March, 1281 AD. The mention of the week day as Friday in all these inscriptions goes to indicate that the battle lasted only for a day or two. The Narwar inscription indicates that the feudal chief Acita was alive on 2 nd March, 1281 AD. Unfortunately we don t know whether Acita participated in the battle or not, or if he survived after the battle. At least he is not mentioned in the list of deceased warriors in the Baglā inscriptions (Sircar 1987: ). Concluding Remarks The present inscription emphasizes the Early Medieval custom of paying perpetual obeisance to a god in the form of epigraph. This also highlights the socio religious status of woman during the 13 th century AD and illustrates how the quest for Saubhāgya (the blessed state of being married) among early mediaeval Hindu wives was constantly enhanced through fasts and rituals. Here the installation and worship of Viṣṇu devatā on the 11th day in the bright half in the month of Phālguna (Āmalaka / Āmalakī Ekādaśī) is mentioned in this inscription. Acknowledgements I am extremely grateful to Mr. Lallesh Kumar, Jiwaji University, Gwalior for sharing valuable bibliographical references and images of inscriptions. References Cunningham, A Four Reports Made During the Years , Vol. 2. Archaeological Survey of India, Simla: Government Central Press. p Deshpande, M.N. (Ed.) Indian Archalogy: A Review. Year Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India. p

6 Harlan, L Religion and Rajput Woman: The Ethic of Protection in Contemporary Narratives. University of California, Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 45. Lochtefeld, J. G The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A M. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group. p.30. Sehgal, S Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Vol. II (C G), New Delhi: Sarup and Sons, p Sircar, D.C Inscriptions of the Time of Yajvapala Gopala. in Epigraphia Indica. Vol. XXXI, Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India. p Tewari, S. P Contributions of Sanskrit Inscriptions to Lexicography.Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan. p.31. Willis, M. D Inscriptions of Gopakṣetra: Materials for the History of Central India. British Museum. London: British Museum Press. 502

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