Between 1 and 500 CE, Guptas, Madhya Pradesh

Khoh – A Temple Fallen

Introduction – Khoh (खोह) is a very small settlement near town Unchehara in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh. Though it is a small village now however it would have held a very important position during the Gupta period. Not less than eight copper-plate grants are discovered at this place and all are dated in the Gupta Era.  There were two dynasties ruling over this region, Baghelkhand, the Parivrajakas and Uchchakalpas.

Alexander Cunningham visited  Khoh in 1873 and reported its antiquities. His main purpose was to visit its great mound and found the exact finding spots of various grants which were in possession of the King of Uchachara. He found various statues during his excavation of the mound.

History of the Parivrajaka Dynasty - Three copper grants of Parivrajaka rulers are discovered at Khoh, two of Maharaja Hastin and one for Maharaja Samkshobha. Their epigraphs are discovered at other places as well like Bhumara, Jabalpur however no epigraph of other than these two kings are discovered. They calin their descent from the great sage, Susarman of Naga-gotra. Genealogy of the dynasty, after analysing their epigraphs, is as follows:

Maharaja Damodara
Maharaja Prabhanjana
Maharaja Devadhya
Maharaja Hastin
Maharaja Samkshobha

 

The earliest known date for Maharaja Hastin is the year 156 of the Gupta Era, 475-76 CE, found on one of the grant discovered at Khoh. The earliest know date of Maharaja Samkshobha is year 199 of the Gupta Era as per his Betul plates. Last know that of this king is year 209 of the Gupta Era. Now giving average 20 years rule to all the ancestors, their updated genealogy looks as given below:

Maharaja Damodara 412-432 CE
Maharaja Prabhanjana 433-453 CE
Maharaja Devadhya 454-474 CE
Maharaja Hastin 475-517 CE
Maharaja Samkshobha 518-528 CE

 

One riddle is whether the Parivrajakas were a feaudatory of the Guptas or they were under the Guptas at their start but got independence later on. Hastin continuously mentions in his grants that these many years have been passed in enjoyment of this earth by the Gupta rulers however he did not mention any name of his overlord, if he had. Was he independent by this time or it is not considered as a grave mistake to omit your overlord’s name.

Both the possibilities may be true. Samudragupta won many kings of South India but how many mentioned about him or any other Gupta emperor? It may be said that because he returned back their kingdoms so there was no necessity to mention his name as an overlord. Ok agreed, how about his tributary states which were paying tributes under his royal emblem, Garuda-danda. None of the inscriptions coming from these state mention the Guptas as their overlords though some used their calendar to date their inscriptions. Now you may say that these tributary states were very far so such omissions were hard to detect. But the issue is that is such an omission be seen as a serious mistake on part of the donor even if detected?

Time of Maharaja Hastin falls after the Gupta Emperor Skandagupta whose last year was 467 CE and during the reign of the Gupta emperor Budhagupta (476-495 CE). Time between Skandagupta and Budhagupta was a troublesome period for the Gupta dynasty as we witnessed two rulers in the short frame of nine years. Did Hastin take advantage of this and asserted his independence? But if he asserted his independence then he would have been subdued again as Budhagupta enjoyed a good rule over a vast land as his epigraphs are found at Eran.

So, if there is any question of independence then it must have been in the time of the father or grand-father of Hastin. But there is no epigraph found of Hastin’s ancestors found which probably suggests that his ancestors were not holding much influence to issue grants of their own. Hastin, though still a feudatory under the Guptas, held sufficient position and influence to issue his own grants. It may be a possibility that he helped Budhagupta in reasserting the Gupta dominion over the land and in return acquired this influence. But all the ancestors of him are referred with same title as of his, Maharaja. It may be said that though the titles are same but what matters is influence and power you hold. Its like interpret a statement the way it suits to your theory. One statement you say that these titles are of much important and another statement you say what matters is power and influence, isn’t it funny?

One thing I may say that during the time of Budhagupta, it seems strange if Hastin was ruling independently in a region lying within the boundaries of the Gupta ruler. Is there a possibility that Budhagupta lost some part of his land during his reign only? Eran inscription of Budhagupta is dated in the Gupta Era year 165. Eran also has an inscription of another Gupta ruler, Bhanugupta, dated in year 191 of the Gupta Era. Maharaja Hastin ruled between year 156 and 199 of the Gupta Era. In all his grants he did not mention any of his overlord. In such a case the possibility of losing a region by Budhagupta to Hastin is ruled out.

But these are just theories, the truth is that Hastin did not mention any overlord and we have to believe what’s there in an epigraph until and unless we have a contradicting evidence. The last possibility is geographical aspect of these two kingdoms. The Guptas were ruling from Pataliputra (present Patna) and Budhagupta would have been ruling from there only. His inscription is found at Eran, which is near Sagar. Hastin’s epigraphs are found at Khoh, Jabalpur and Majhagawan, all situated near Jabalpur. If you look at India’s map, a straight line drawn from Patna to Sagae will pass through Satna.

But are the boundaries of kingdoms are carved in straight lines, the answer is no. See current map of India, its boundary is all zig-zag, isn’t it? Then what used to mark boundaries between the kingdoms in those times, the answer is river, hill, forest or similar things. Kaveri, in South India, has been the boundary between the Pallavas and the Cholas for a long time. But what it would be in our case here. I think it might be some hill as rivers are scarce in this region. A hill, Parasmania is present in between Jabalpur and Satna. Also we have one such inscription, to be discussed later in the history of Uchchakalpas, which supports this hypothesis.

From all the above discussions, though we have many reasons to believe that Hastin might be ruling under the dominion of the Guptas, still, as he did not mention his overlord in any of his grant so we much accept that he was ruling as an independent king. M S Sampath, while editing epigraphs of Madhya Pradesh, writes that Parivrajaka rulers took advantage of Skandagupta’s death in 467 CE and asserted their independence. This would have happened during the rule of Hastin or his father. Samkshobha seems to their last ruler, they might have been lost under the turmoil created after the Huna invasion.

History of the Uchchakalpa Dynasty – The Uchchakalpas were ruling from Uchchakalpa which would be an ancient name of Unchehara town. This dynasty was contemporary of the Parivrajaka. Though they did not mention the era in which their grants are dated, however an inscription of Maharaja Hastin and Maharaja Sarvanatha found at Bhumara proves their contemporaneity. Bumhara was the boundary line between these two kingdoms as per that inscription.

The Uchchakalpas also did not mention any of the Gupta king in their grants which suggests that they also asserted their independence similar to the Parivrajakas. Their end would also be in similar fashion as of the Parivrajaka, due to Huna insurgency. Interestingly, both the dynasties started at the same time and ended also in near same time.

Many of their grants are discovered at Khoh, about five grants. Their other epigraphs are discovered at Karitalai and Sohawal. Epigraphs of only two kings are found, two of Jayanatha and five Sarvanatha. The genealogy of these kings is as follows:

Name of King Name of Wife
Maharaja Oghadeva Mahadevi Kumaradevi
Maharaja Kumaradeva Jayasvamini
Maharaja Jayasvamin Ramadevi
Maharaja Vyaghra Ajjhitadevi
Maharaja Jayanatha Murundasvamini
Maharaja Sharvanatha

 

The earliest date of Jayanatha is year 174 of the Gupta Era. He issued another grant in year 177 of the Gupta Era. The earliest grant of Sarvanatha is in year 189 of the Gupta Era and his last grant is dated in year 214 of the same era. With these dates, and applying average 20 years reign to all ancestors, we come to the below chronology

Maharaja Oghadeva 409-429 CE
Maharaja Kumaradeva 430-450 CE
Maharaja Jayasvamin 451-471 CE
Maharaja Vyaghra 472-492 CE
Maharaja Jayanatha 493-507 CE
Maharaja Sharvanatha 508-533 CE

 

General Epigraphs – A total of eight plates are discovered at Khoh, three of the Parivrajaka dynasty and five of the Uchchakalpa dynasty.

  1. Khoh copper plate of Maharaja Hastin – published in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol III (Fleet’s edition) – dated in year 156 probably of the Gupta Era (475-476 CE) – Invocation to Mahadeva (Shiva). Mentions that 156 years have been passed in the enjoyment of the sovereignty by the Gupta kings. It further tells that Maharaja Hastin, of Parivrajaka family, grants a village of Vasuntarashandika to a Brahmana, Gopasvamin, of Vajasaneya-Madhyamadina shakha and Kautsa gotra along with Bhavasvamin, Sandhyaputra, Divakardatta, Bhaskaradatta and Suryadatta. A verse from Mahabharata is quoted which mentions the duty of a king to protected the granted land, granted by him or by his ancestors. Maharaja Hastin’s genealogy is given as, Maharaja Damodara -> Maharaja Prabhanjana -> Maharaja Devadhya -> Maharaja Hastin – written by Suryadatta, the great-grandson of Amatya Vakra, the grandson of Bhogika Amatya Naradatta, the son of Bhogika Ravidatta – dutaka is Bhagraha 
  2. Khoh copper plate of Maharaja Hastin – published in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol III (Fleet’s edition) – dated in year 163 probably of the Gupta Era (482-483 CE) – Invocation to Mahadeva (Shiva). Mentions that 163 years have been passed in the enjoyment of the sovereignty by the Gupta kings. It further tells that Parivrajaka Maharaja Hastin grants an agrahara (village) of Korparika to a Brahmana, Devasvamin, son of Agnisvamin, of Bharadvaja gotra and Vajasaneya shakha along with few other Brahmanas. A verse from Mahabharata is quoted which mentions the duty of a king to protected the granted land, granted by him or by his ancestors. Maharaja Hastin’s genealogy is given as, Maharaja Damodara -> Maharaja Prabhanjana -> Maharaja Devadhya -> Maharaja Hastin – written by Mahasandhivigrahika Suryadatta, the great-grandson of Amatya Vakra, the grandson of Bhogika Amatya Naradatta, the son of Bhogika Ravidatta – dutaka is Bhagraha
  3. Khoh copper plate of Maharaja Jayanatha – published in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol III (Fleet’s edition)  – dated in year 177 probably of the Gupta Era (496-497 CE) – Hail from Uchchakalpa. The object of the grant is to record a donation of a village with all related taxes to the god in the custody of Divira Sarvavadha of Shasataneya gotra and his son Bhagvata Ganga and latter’s sons Rankabota and Ajagaradasa. A verse from Mahabharata is also quoted which tell the duty of a king to protect the grant made by him or his ancestors. Maharaja Jayanatha’s genealogy is given as, Maharaja Oghadeva married to Mahadevi Kumaradevi -> Maharaja Kumaradeva married to Jayasvamini -> Maharaja Jayasvamin married to Ramadevi -> Maharaja Vyaghra married to Mahadevi Ajjhitadevi -> Maharaja Jayanatha – written by samdhivigrahika Gallu, the grandson of Amatya Phalgudatta, the son of Bhogika Varahadinna – dutaka is Uparika Dikshita
  4. Khoh copper plate of Maharaja Sharvanatha – undated – Hail from Uchchakalpa. The object of the grant is to record a donation of a half-village of Dhavashandika with all related taxes to Chhodugomika. Maharaja Sharvanatha’s genealogy is given as, Maharaja Oghadeva married to Mahadevi Kumaradevi -> Maharaja Kumaradeva married to Jayasvamini -> Maharaja Jayasvamin married to Ramadevi -> Maharaja Vyaghra married to Mahadevi Ajjhitadevi -> Maharaja Jayanatha married to Mahadevi Murundasvamini -> Maharaja Sharvanatha
  5. Khoh copper plate of Maharaja Sharvanatha – published in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol III (Fleet’s edition) – dated in year 193 probably of the Gupta Era (512-513 CE) – Hail from Uchchakalpa. The object of the grant is to record a division and then donation of a village, Ashramaka, into four parts, two of which belong to Vishnunandin and another one to a merchant, Saktinaga, and his son Svaminaga and fourth and the last one to Kumaranaga and Skandanaga.  A verse from Mahabharata is quoted which mentions the duty of a king to protected the granted land, granted by him or by his ancestors. Maharaja Sharvanatha’s genealogy is given as, Maharaja Oghadeva married to Mahadevi Kumaradevi -> Maharaja Kumaradeva married to Jayasvamini -> Maharaja Jayasvamin married to Ramadevi -> Maharaja Vyaghra married to Mahadevi Ajjhitadevi -> Maharaja Jayanatha married to Mahadevi Murundasvamini -> Maharaja Sharvanatha – written by Mahasamdhivigrahika Manoratha, the grandson of Amatya Phalgudatta, son of Varahadinna – dutaka is Mahabaladhikrita Shivagupta 
  6. Khoh copper plate of Maharaja Sharvanatha – published in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol III (Fleet’s edition) – dated in year 197 probably of the Gupta Era (516-517 CE) – Hail from Uchchakalpa. The object of the grant is not known as the plate on which it was written is missing. A verse from Mahabharata is quoted which mentions the duty of a king to protected the granted land, granted by him or by his ancestors – written by Mahasamdhivigrahika Manoratha, the grandson of Amatya Phalgudatta, son of Varahadinna – dutaka is Mahabaladhikrita Shivagupta 
  7. Khoh copper plate of Maharaja Samkshobha – published in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol III (Fleet’s edition) – dated in year 209 probably of the Gupta Era (528-529 CE) – Invocation to Vasudeva (Vishnu). Mentions that 209 years have been passed in the enjoyment of the sovereignty by the Gupta kings. It further tells that Parivrajaka Maharaja Samkshobha grants a half-village, Opani, at the request of Chhodugomin for the purpose of worship of divine Pishtapuri, a temple built by Chhodugomin. A verse from Mahabharata is quoted which mentions the duty of a king to protected the granted land, granted by him or by his ancestors. Maharaja Samkshobha’s genealogy is given as, Maharaja Damodara -> Maharaja Prabhanjana -> Maharaja Devadhya -> Maharaja Hastin -> Maharaja Samkshobha. Maharaja Hastin is mentioned to be governing the kingdom of Dahala, which came to him by inheritance, together with all countries included in the eighteen forest kingdoms – written by Ishvaradasa, the grandson of Jivita, the son of Bhujamgadasa
  8. Khoh copper plate of Maharaja Sarvanatha – published in Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum Vol III (Fleet’s edition) – dated in year 214 probably of the Gupta Era (533-534 CE) – Hail from Uchchakalpa. The object of the grant is to record a donation of two villages, Vyaghrapallika and Kacharapallika, to Pulindabhata for the purpose of the worship of the divine goddess Pishtapurikadevi at the temple which was built by Chhodugomin at Manapura. A verse from Mahabharata is quoted which mentions the duty of a king to protected the granted land, granted by him or by his ancestors. Maharaja Sharvanatha’s genealogy is given as, Maharaja Oghadeva married to Mahadevi Kumaradevi -> Maharaja Kumaradeva married to Jayasvamini -> Maharaja Jayasvamin married to Ramadevi -> Maharaja Vyaghra married to Mahadevi Ajjhitadevi -> Maharaja Jayanatha married to Mahadevi Murundasvamini -> Maharaja Sharvanatha – written by Mahasamdhivigrahika Natha, the grandson of Amatya Phalgudatta, son of Varahadinna – dutaka is Dhritisvamika

Monuments – There is no monument of architectural interest at Khoh. However if you have somehow reached here and wants to see something, you may visit the followings.

Ataria Mound

Ataria -This mound was reported by Cunningham in his reports and he refers it as Atariya or Ataritekra. Now a days it is known as Ataria among the locals. Cunningham mentions that it stands on the south bank of the Barua Nala. I am not sure about the location of this Barua Nala, however present mound is located in between cultivated fields. It was 29 feet high at his time however now it is not this high. Cunningham states that the temple, which was standing there, would have been ruined in a fire as he found that whole of the statues were split into small fragments, such as could not readily have done with hammer.

The temple was dedicated to Vishnu as he found a part of a colossal statue of Narasimha and Varaha. He also found various fragments of  various Vaishnava symbols like discus and shell. The large sizes of these fragments suggest that there would have been a Vishnu image of at least twice the natural height.

Varaha

Varaha Statue -This Varaha image was excavated by Cunningham during his excavations. He mentions that there was a Naga image between the Varaha legs who is canopied by five hoods and holds out two vessels in his hands below the Varaha’s snout. This image was in Sagar museum for a long time till the Municipality of Unchehara requested the statue to be sent to their office so that they are reminded about their heritage.

At present this statue is installed in a high platform in the compound of the Municipality office. As per a plaque there, this installation was carried in 1980. The Naga, reported, by Cunningham is no more there. It is 5.5 feet in length and about 4 feet in height. Unlike other Varaha image found in Madhya Pradesh, this statue is simple and devoid of any miniature figure on its body.


How to Reach
– Khoh is very near to Unchehara which is on Maihar-Satna state highway no 11. However you cannot locate the mound without any help from a local. Best would be that you contact the municipality office at Uchehara, as I did, and they will find a guy who can take you to Ataria. Uchehara has a small railways station, Satna is the nearest considerable railway station and Jabalpur is the nearest airport.

References:

  1. Agrawala, V S (1977). Gupta Art. Prithivi Prakashan. New Delhi.
  2. Cunningham, Alexander (1879). Report of a Tour in the Central Province in 1873-74-75-76 (Vol IX). Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
  3. Deva, Krishna (1969). Temples of North India. National Book Trust. New Delhi. ISBN 9788123719702.
  4. Harle, J C (1974). Gupta Sculpture. Munshiram Manoharlal. New Delhi. ISBN 8121506417
  5. Mishra, S N (1992). Gupta Art and Architecture. Agam Kala Prakashan. New Delhi.
  6. Rai, Uday Narayan (2006). Bhartiya Kala (in Hindi). Lokbharati Prakashan. Allahabad. ISBN 8180310973
  7. Sampath, M D (2001). Epigraphs of Madhya Pradesh. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16364670995288781667 Rahul Singh

    खोह का नाम सुनते ही तत्‍काल जो दो संदर्भ (त्‍वरित हैं इसलिए पुष्टि योग्‍य) मुझे याद आते हैं उनमें पहला राज्‍य सीमा दर्शाने वाला शिलालेख और एकमुखलिंग, जो शायद अब इलाहाबाद संग्रहालय में हैं.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10460310200883662583 Anu

    tell me something…. have the excavations stopped here? i am sure there must be much left to be discovered by someone who does some detailed work on it… the varaha looks great!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16485971842518838054 Saurabh Saxena

    @Anu – this mound is not under ASI so I assume that all excavation work is already over and done. Otherwise they would have marked it as protected monument.

  • rajaram singh

    i m rajaram singh from sahijana kothar near unchehara i have went khoh shiv mandir in 1990 at school time…………

  • rajaram singh

    presently i m working with BPSL, sambalpur orissa. mob 09124914036

  • sachin pathak

    khoh ka jo najara hai wah sari duniya me kahi nahi ho sakta hai ye mera dawa hai aap se