Bhatkal – A Port of Contention


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Introduction – Bhatkal is the southernmost point of the Uttara Kannada district. It is located on the south bank of the river Sharabi. The population of the town stood at 161,576 as per 2011 census. J Burgess referred the town as Susagadi however this is not found in any inscriptions or legends. He also states that the town was also known as Manipur in olden times.

The name Bhatkal is said to be derived from the Jain saint Bhatta Akalanka who lived here in the ninth century CE. However a more appropriate derivation seems to come from its topography, as batta means circular  and kala means arena in Kannada, as the original town on the sea coast has a circular layout, surrounded by the hill ranges. It is also referred as Vrittapura in an inscription of sixteenth century CE. It has been referred in the past as Bhatta Kala, Batikula, Bhatkala, Batikala etc.

Bhatkal would have been under the Alupa rulers before they were displaced by the Badami Chalukyas. Later it moved to the Saluva (Salva) dynasty of Gersoppa. After a split in that dynasty, it came under the Hadavalli line of rulers in about 1408 CE. The Hadavalli rulers were the vassals of the VIjayanagara empire.

Bhatkal came into limelight with the advent of the Portuguese in India. The advantage of spice trade with the East brought the Portuguese to India, with Vasco de Gama landing at Calicut in 1498 CE. The Portuguese wanted to end the Muslim monopoly over the spice trade.

Since the time of Vasco de Gama, Bhatkal chiefs were paying tributes to the Portuguese rulers. It is not sufficiently known why they submitted and paid tributes to the Portuguese. There can be two reasons for this, first the Bhakal chiefs did not want the wanton destruction of their city as they had witnessed at Honavar, caused by the Portuguese, second, they did not want the Portuguese to aid the Gersoppa chiefs against Bhatkal.

According to Barbosa, there was a great commerce of many articles of trade in Bhatkal. There were Muslims and Hindu among whom were prominent merchants. Every year, many ships from Hormuz came to the port of Bhatkal to take white rice and powdered sugar, which was available there in great abundance. They packed the powdered sugar in small bags. A lot of iron was also shipped. These three articles, namely, rice, powdered sugar and iron were the main merchandise of this place.

The ships from Hormuz brought to Bhatkal many horses and pearls which were sold there for Vijayanagara empire. However, after the Portuguese occupation of Goa, the Hormuz ships took these articles to Goa. Some ships from Mecca also came to Bhatkal for spices.

Both, the Portuguese and Vijayanagara empire had a common enemy in the Muslims and the Adil Shah of Bijapur who was intruding into the territories of the Vijayanagara empire. Therefore it was beneficial for the Vijayanagara king to get into friendly alliance with the Portuguese whose naval strength is well known across quarters. It is not sure who took the first step in this friendship, but from the Portuguese writers we came to know that in the last week of October 1505, Viceroy Francisco de Almeida, received at Cannanore an embassy from Vira Narasimha, the founder of the third dynasty of the Vijayanagara empire. Narasimha proposed an alliance of friendship between him and Portuguese. He would aid them with ships and would allow them to build fortresses in his ports, except in Bhatkal, which was already given to someone else.

Viceroy was not impressed by this proposal as his had eyes over Bhatkal. Commercial importance of this town was well known among the Portuguese since the time of Vasco de Gama. Therefore, in 1508, the viceroy sent an embassy to the Vijayanagara king with his proposal to build a fortress at Bhatkal in return of his friendship. The embassy was not a great success as the Vijayanagara king, Vira Naramsimha, was not in great need to Portuguese at that time.

Though the Bhatkal chiefs were paying some tributes to the Portuguese but the latter were not allowed to establish their fortress here. The Portuguese tried hard to get control over Bhatkal however it was not possible till the time of the Vijayanagara rulers. The Bhatkal chiefs forwarded the Portuguese request to their overlords, the Vijayanagara rulers, but the latter always rejected these requests.  In 1509, viceroy Albuquerque sent another embassy to the then Vijayanagara king, Krishnadevaraya, with the same request to build a fortress at Bhatkal. However, this request was also put down by the Vijayanagara king.

Though the Portuguese were not able to build a fortress at Bhatkal, however their commerce with Bhatkal was going on as usual since 1501 CE. After the fall of the Vijayanagara dynasty, the Portuguese were able to establish their trade and fortress here.

In 1542, the Portuguese attacked over Bhatkal and destroyed the town. The town was then under the control of the Hadavalli queen, Channa-devi. A new settlement came up adjacent to the destroyed town and this new settlement is known as Mud-Bhatkal. Decline of Bhatkal started as soon as the Vijayanagara empire got disintegrated in 1565. This decline is evident with absence of mention of this town in the accounts of the foreign travelers.

In 1606, the town came under the Keladi Nayakas. It continued to enjoy the status of an important trade center and port. A modest revival was witnessed during the reign of the Keladi Nayakas after they took over the control of this region. When the English traveler Peter Mundy visited the town in 1630, the town was already in decline with impressive ruins of many temples.

British founded a factory here in 1637. Captain Wedell founded the factory on behalf of the company floated by Courten from Cornwall. The factory was shut down due to a very funny incident. A dog of the company bit a bull of a temple and the latter died. This enraged the local people and they killed 18 inmates of the factory, leading to its shutdown.

The Portuguese opened a factory here in 1678 and continued for few decades. Hyder Ali got control of the town from the hands of the Keladi Nayakas. The town came under the control of the British in 1799.

Ketpai Narayana Temple

Inscriptions – J Burgess enumerated about 24 inscriptions at site. I am not able to trace all but 8 of those.

  1. Inscription stone standing in the Parshvanatha temple – no 38 of The Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy 1939-40 – dated Saka 1330, corresponding 1408 CE – This is an epitaph of Malliraya son of Haivarasa, set up by his brother Sangiraya. After benedictory stanzas in praise of Jina-shashana, the record which is badly damaged, pays tribute to the heroism of Malliraya, son of Haivarasa and brother of Sangama-bhupa who is introduced as Mahamandaleshvara Ariraya-vibhada. Sangiraya, son of Haivarasa and Sankamma (?), and the lord of the town of Hadavalli. On the death of his brother Mallideva, Sangama provided for the congregation or “samudaya” of the whole town which is said to have set up an epitaph to him in the heart of Bhatkal town, on the date specified. By the celebration of a ‘samudaya’, the king is stated to have secured a heavenly life for his deceased brother. The record closes with the usual imprecations.
  2. Slab standing behind the shrine of Parshvanatha in the compound of Hirebasti – no 39 of The Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy 1939-40 –  dated Saka 1332, corresponding 1410 CE – This is an epitaph set up ty Mahamandaleshvara Sangiraya, son of Haivabhupa and Bhairadevi ( of Hadavalli ) to commemorate the death. of Bhairadevi which is said to have happened on the date specified. As the record is indifferently written and worn out, the writing is not quite distinct. The epitaph is stated to have heen set up after the pattana-samuddya ( congregation of the town ) had been performed by her son Mahamandaleshvara Sangiraya-Odeya.
  3. Broken stone standing in the Shankaranarayana temple – no 70 of The Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy 1939-40 – dated Saka 1449, corresponding 1527 CE – After invocations to Jina’s order and Shambhu, this damaged inscription refers itself to the reign of Maharajadhîraja Parameshvara Virapratapa Viramaharaja Krishnara[ya], ruling from his capital Vijayanagara. Gururaya-odeya son of Sangiraya-odeya was governing Bhatkala and other districts from his capital Sangitapura. The inscription records that Kalapa Joyisa, son of Siriyana Joyisa of Vasishtha-gotra had caused to be built a temple of lshvara at Batakala and made a grant of land for the offerings and decorations of the god and for the charity of feeding in the matha attached to the temple, and that a descendent of Kalapa Joisa named Devappa Joyisa made a gift of land to the same temple after gettmg it detenanted (Kulava Kadida) by Mahamandaleshvara Gururaya-odeya. It is further stated that Vindararasa-odeya, made over a gift of twenty one mude of paddy and money in cash to Kalapa Joisa. Some minor gifts are aiso recorded onwards.
  4. Hero stone standing near Parshvanatha Basti – no 75 of The Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy 1939-40 – dated Saka 1465, corresponding 1542 CE – This inscription belongs to the reign of Rajadhiraja-parameshvara Virapratapa Achutaraya-Maharaya under whom his feudatoiy [Ma]hamandaleshvara Chennadevî Ammanavaru, daughter-in-law of Devarasa-vodya was ruling over Haduvalli, Bhatakala and other rajyas from her capital Sangitapura. It commemorates the heroic death of Enkapa Nayaka in a fight with the enemies the details of which are given. It states that Kapitamera of Paranga laid a seige to Battakala on in Saka 1465 and having burnt the city marched on the palace, when Enkapa-Nayaka, brother of Naranadeva-Nayaka the aliya (sister’s son) of Linga-Nayaka attached to the service of Gururaya-Odeya, stopped the Parangadavaru at the gate and piercmg the enemy fell in the fight.
  5. Hero stone standing near Parshvanatha Basti (same as above) – no 76 of The Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy 1939-40No 76 of 1939-40 – dated Saka 1465, corresponding 1542 CE – The inscription belongs to the reign of Maharajadhiraja Parameshvara Virapratapa Achyutaraya-Maharaya under whom his feudatory [Ma]hamandaleshvara Chennadevi-amma daughter-in-iaw of Devarasavodeya was ruling over Haduvalli, Bhatkala and other rajyas from her capital Sangitapura. The record commemorates the heroic death of Enkapa-Nayaka in a fight with the enemies, the details of which are given. It states that Kapitamere of Paranga laid a seige to Battakala on the date specified, and having burnt the city marched on the palace when Enkappa-Nayaka, brother of Nannadeva-Nayaka the aliya (sister’s son) of Linga-Nayaka attached to the service of Gururaya-vodeya stopped the Parangadavaru at the gate and piercing the enemy fell in the fight. After invocation to Shambhu, the record introduces the Mahamandaleshvara Chennadevi Ammanavaru daughter-in-law of Devarasa-vodeya as ruling Bhatkala and other rajyas from her capital Sangitapura. It further states that Mahamandaleshvara Chennadevi Ammanavaru granted to Naranadeva-Nayaka sister’s son of her officer named Linga-Nayaka, a land having the sowing capacity of ten and a half mudis of paddy, belongmg to the palace, after having detenanted it from the previous tenants. This grant to Naranadeva Nayaka is stated to have been made in memory of the death of his brother Ve[n]kappa who stood near the gate of the palace to repel the attacks of the Parangadavru and fell fighting against the enemy. The details of boundaries of the gift-land are specified. It is stated that the land should pass to the female descendants as gift or to the male descendants by right of succession. Naranadeva-Nayaka in his turn is stated to have made a grant of sixty mude of paddy for the charity of feeding and twelve mude for halu-dhare (ceremony of milk-bath) in Hiriya-basti, to be performed in the name of his brother Enkata-Na[ya]ka.
  6. Stone standing in the Parshvanatha temple – no 77 of The Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy 1939-40No 76 of 1939-40 – dated Saka 1468, corresponding 1545 CE – After invocation to Jinashasana and Parshvanatha worshipped by Panditacharya, the record introduces the imperial king Sadasivaraya Maharaya as son of Rangaraya who was son of Krishnaraya, the son of lshvara-bhupa of the Salva family and says that he was served by Ramaraja-Mahamandaleshvara. Chennamamba is next introduced. Allusion is made to the rich and religious minded and professionally tactful traders of the town ( name lost, it is probably Bhatkal) in connection with the erection of a superb Jain temple of Parshvanatha having a Manastambha in front of it. In the next passage one Timmi Shrsshti is given a special tribute for his interest in the cause of Jain religion and the doctrine of piety (dayâ) for which it stood. The record then refers itself to the reign of Sadasivaraya-Maharaya who is eulogised as a bestower of mahadana as prescribed by Hemadri. Mahamandalesvara Chennabhairadevi ‘described as being very happy in the goodwill of the emperor is stated to have been rulmg Sangitapura, Vrittapura etc. Then follows the statement that the inscription recording grants for aharaddna (gifts of food) and other religious purposes was incised on slab on the date specified. Here follows the description of grants made to the temple. The first grant noted in the record is in the name of . . Setti, son of Devusetti who was private secretary to Devarasa-odeya. The antecedents of the land in question, details of its boundaries and rates of assessments are given. The second grant is dated Visvavasu Samvatsarada Krittikeya Kala, the donor’s name is lost. The third grant refers to the shops of Ambala and says that the said shops were once granted by Halaru Settikara Samastaru for the daily worship of Parshvanatha Saâmi of Hirebasadi in the name of Davarasa-odeya, grandson of Mahamandaleshvara Devarasa-odeya. This grant is said to have been made at the time of the expiry of Krittike of Pingala Samvatsara. The fourth grant is stated to have been made by [Mu]-diyana Birana-setti’s sons whose names are given as Nagapa-setti, Basavana-setti and Bommana-setti for aharadana (feeding) to be made on every Monday. Details of the grant follow. Tbis grant is not dated. The fifth grant of land to the same temple appears against the name of Naranadeva-Nayaka, introduced as son-in-law of Gudelinga-nayaka. This Narana-nayaka is said bo have made gift of a land in the name of his brother Yekapa-nayaka for varions items of worship. This is dated Visvavasu Saravatsara, Kartika. Details of boundaries and rates of assessments are given. The sixth grant of land to the same temple was made by Paraka Senbôva of Mud-Bhatkal for the continuance in his name of aharadana (feeding) in the temple. A seventh grant for aharadana (feeding) in the same temple was made by Mangu-setti. The eigth and last grant was made by the queen herself Mahamandalesvara Vira-Chennadevi, for feeding in the temple. This likewise carnes the consent of the (local)-body of traders to the effect that they would undertake to safeguard it. Mention is made, at the close, of Padamayasetti, son of Pari-setti Onmmala-setti in connection with the provision made for the golden Prabhavalis. The record is incomplete.
  7. Slab standing in Ambalkatti – no 78 of The Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy 1939-40 – This is a composite record of several gifts. The first part of the inscription refers itself to the administration of Mahamandaleshvara Channadevi Ammanavaru and states that she renewed tbe grant of land making it tax free and detenanted, which had been previoualy made by her grandmother Viramahadevi, queen of Mahamandalesvara Gururayavodeya, to the Chavvisa Tïrthankara basti, constructed by her at Mudabhatakala for the condact of worship and offermgs in the basti. The record further introduces Gururayavodeya the son of Mahamandaleshvara Sangirayavodeya, as ruling over Bhatakala and other rajyas from his capital, Sangitapura. Devappa-Jogi and Sanna-Devappa, sons of Nagarasi, wife of an officer Indaguna-adhikari are stated to have sold a piece of land in Nichchala-makki to Viradevi Aramanavara, the queen of Gururayavodeya, after receiving eight-hundred and fifty varahas trom the latter. The boundaries of the gift land are specified. Some minor gifts to the same basti are recorded. Among them Chennavodeya, Indappavodeya, Channayyavodeya, Chikavodeya figure as donors. Devalappa-senabova, son of Jogana-senabova gave 1.5 varahas for the milk-bath in the name of Viradevi-Ammanavaru. One varaha was sanctioned for the perpetual lamp of Vinayakadeva. It may be noted tbat tbe inscription records also a gift of 10 mudis of rice for the feeding of tbe ascetics in the basti. The third part of the record refers itself to tbe reign of Mahamandaleshvara Channadevi, daugbter-in-law of Mahamandaleshvara Devarayavodeya as ruling over Bhatakala and other rajyas from Sangitapura. She granted a piece of land at Bhatakala to her grand-mother Viradevi-Ammanavaru in Saka 1468. The details of tbe boundaries are supplied. The land was transferred to the donee along with the ashsabhogas connected with it. Tbe fourth part of the record refers itself to the reign of Gururayavodeya and further introduces his queen Viradevi. (Gu)mmata-setti brotber(?) of Kasiryasetti made a gift of land to Viradevi-Ammanavaru in Saka 1470. The inscription bears tbe followmg dates for the above mentioned four gifts respectively. 1) Saka 1473, 2) Saka 1455, 3) Saka 1468, 4) Saka 14(34).
  8. Slab standing in the compound of Binda Basti – no 80 of The Annual Report on Indian Epigraphy –  dated in Saka 1471, corresponding 1556 CE – The record, at the outset, pays tribute to Jina’s order and after invocation to Vardhamana-Jina proceeds to represent Bhatkal as being a town of palaces and Jina shrines and glowmg with the riches and splendor of the kingdom. Invoking the blessings of Vardhamana-Jina who had been worshipped by Sangi-raja and Krishnadeva, the record introduces Chenna Bhairava Mahadevi, daughter-in-law of the king Krishnadeva and her minister Jetti-nayaka. The narrative proceed, to state that Virana-nayaka who was a very brave general of Bhairadevi had from his pious wife Timmarasi,  a son named Narana-nayaka. This Narana-nayaka married Lingamma whose religious zeal and generosity were par-excellence. His sister Sankamamba and her daughter Mallarasi, wife of Timma, are referred to. Narana-nayaka is stated to have erected a temple to Vardhamana-Jinendra furnished with a front hall, a compound wall and a flower garden. This portion of the record which is in Sanskrit was composed by poet Vardhamana-muni. Hereafter it begins in Kannada and introduces Mahamandaleshvara Chenna Bhairadevi, daughter of Mahamandaleshvara Bhairadevî as administering Battakala and other countries from her capital Sangitapura. Narana-nayaka having purchased some lands from her is stated to have made them over to the temple of Vardhamana on the date specified. He had set up, for the decorations, offerings, food, alms and milk-bath in the temple. The contents of the text of the grant reproduced hereafter, specify the details of boundaries and rates of assessments of the lands in question.

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