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Chapter 2 – The Deckan

Early state and divisions of the Deckan

The history of the Deckan, as it has no pretensions to equal antiquity, is less obscure than that of Hindostan, but it is less interesting. We know little of the early inhabitants; and the Hindus do not attract so much attention where they are colonists as they did in their native seats628.All the traditions and records of the Peninsula (says Professor Wilson) recognise, in every part of it, a period when the natives were not Hindus;” and the aborigines are described, before their civilisation by the latter people, as foresters and mountaineers, or goblins and demons. Some circumstances, however, give rise to doubts whether the early inhabitants of the Deckan could have been in so rude a state as this account of them would lead us to suppose.

The Tamul language must have been formed and perfected before the introduction of the Shanscrit: and though this fact may not be conclusive (since the North American Indians also possess a polished language), yet, if Mr. Ellis’s opinion be

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well founded, and there is an original Tamul literature as well as language, it will be impossible to class the founders of it with foresters and mountaineers629. If any credit could be given to the Hindu legends, Ravan, who reigned over Ceylon and the southern part of the peninsula at the time of Rama’s invasion, was the head of a civilised and powerful state; but, by the same accounts, he was a Hindu, and a follower of Siva; which would lead us to infer that the story is much more recent than the times to which it refers, and that part of it at least is founded on the state of things when it was written, rather than when Rama and Ravan lived.

It is probable that, after repeated invasions had opened the communication between the two countries, the first colonists from Hindostan would settle on the fruitful plains of the Carnatic and Tanjore, rather than in the bleak downs of the upper Deckan; and although the sea might not at first have influenced their choice of an abode, its neighbourhood would in time give access to traders from other nations, and would create a rapid increase of the towns along the coast.

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Such seems to have been the case about the beginning of our aera, when Pliny and the author of thePeriplusdescribe that part of India.

Even the interior must, however, have received a considerable portion of refinement at a still earlier period; for the companions of Alexander, quoted in Strabo and Arrian, while they remark the points of difference which still subsist between the inhabitants of the south and north of India, take no notice of any contrast in their manners.

Professor Wilson surmises that the civilisation of the south may possibly be extended even to ten centuries before Christ.

It has been mentioned that there are five languages spoken in the Deckan; and as they doubtless mark an equal number of early national divisions, it is proper here to describe their limits.

Dravira or Tamul country

Tamul is spoken in the country called Dravira; which occupies the extreme south of the peninsula, and is bounded on the north by a line drawn from Pulicat (near Madras) to the Ghats between that and Bangalor, and so along the curve of those mountains westward to the boundary line between Malabar and Canara, which it follows to the sea so as to include Malabar.

Carnata or Canarese country

Part of the northern limit of Dravira forms the southern one of Carnata, which is bounded on the west by the sea, nearly as far as Goa, and then by the western Ghats up to the neighbourhood of Colapur.

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The northern limit will be very roughly marked by a line from Colapur to Bidr, and the eastern by a line from Bidr through Adoni, Anantpur, and Nandidrug, to the point in the Ghats formerly mentioned between Pulicat and Bangalor.

Telingana or Telugu country

This last line forms part of the western limit of the Telugu language; which, however, must be prolonged in the same rough way to Chanda, on the river Warda. From this the northern boundary runs still more indistinctly east to Sohnpur on the Mahanaddi. The eastern limit runs from Sohnpur to Cicacole, and thence along the sea to Pulicat, where it meets the boundary of the Tamul language.

Maharashtra or the Maratta country

The southern limit of the Maratta language and nation has already been described in fixing the boundaries of Carnata and Telingana. It runs from Goa through Colapur and Bidr to Chanda.

Its eastern line follows the Warda to the chain of hills south of the Nerbadda, called Injadri or Satpura.

Those hills are its northern limit, as far west as Nandod, near the Nerbadda, and its western will be shown by a line from Nandod to Daman, continued along the sea to Goa630.

Orissa or Urya country

The Urya language is bounded on the south by that of Telingana, and on the east by the sea. On

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the west and north, a line drawn from Sohnpur to Midnapur in Bengal, would in some measure mark the boundary.

The large space left between Maharashtra and Orissa is in a great part the forest tract inhabited by the Gonds. Their language, though quite distinct from the rest, being reckoned a jargon of savage mountaineers, is not counted among the five languages of the Deckan631.

Kingdoms and principalities of the Deckan

The most ancient kingdoms are those in the extreme south, in all of which the Tamul language prevailed.

Two persons of the agricultural class founded the kingdoms of Pandya and Chola.

Kingdom of Pandya

The first of these derives its name from its founder. It is uncertain when he flourished, but there seem good grounds for thinking it was in the fifth century before Christ.

Strabo mentions an ambassador from King Pandion to Augustus; and this appears from thePeriplusand Ptolemy to have been the hereditary appellation of the descendants of Pandya.

The Pandion of the time of thePeriplus” had possession of a part of the Malabar coast; but this must have been of short duration; the Ghats in general formed the western limit of the kingdom, which was of small extent, only occupying what we now call the districts of Madura and Tinivelly.

The seat of the government, after being twice

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changed, was fixed at Madura, where it was in Ptolemy’s time, and where it remained till within a century of the present day.

The wars and rivalries of all the Pandyan princes were with the adjoining kingdom of Chola; with which they seem, in the first ages of the Christian era, to have formed a union which lasted for a long time. They, however, resumed their separate sovereignty, and were a considerable state until the ninth century, when they lost their consequence, and were often tributary, though sometimes quite independent, till the last of the Nayacs (the dynasty with which the line closed) was conquered by the Nabob of Arcot in 1736.


The history of Chola takes a wider range.

Its proper limits were those of the Tamul language, and Mr. Ellis thinks that it had attained to this extent at the beginning of the Christian sera; but the same gentleman is of opinion that, in the eighth century, its princes had occupied large portions of Carnata and Telingana, and ruled over as much of the country up to the Godaveri as lay east of the hills at Nandidrug.

They seem, however, to have been first checked, and ultimately driven back, in the twelfth century, within their ancient frontiers. In this state they continued to subsist, either as independent princes or feudatories of Vijayanagar, until the end of the seventeenth century, when a brother of the founder of the Maratta state, who was, at that time, an officer under the Mussulman king of Bijapur, being

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detached to aid the last raja, supplanted him in his government, and was first of the present family of Tanjore.

The capital, for most part of their rule, was at Canchi, or Conjeveram, west of Madras.


Chera was a small state, between the territory of the Pandyas and the western sea. It comprehended Travancore, part of Malabar, and Coimbatur. It is mentioned in Ptolemy, and may have existed at the commencement of our era. It spread, at one time, over the greater part of Carnata, but was subverted in the tenth century, and its lands partitioned among the surrounding states.


According to the mythologists, the country of Kerala, which includes Malabar and Canara, was (together with the Concan) miraculously gained from the sea by Paris Ram (the conqueror of the Cshetryas), and as miraculously peopled by him with Bramins. A more rational account states that, about the first or second century of our era, a prince of the northern division of Kerala, introduced a colony of Bramins from Hindostan; and, as the numerous Bramins of Malabar and Canara are mostly of the five northern nations, the story seems to be founded in fact.

However the population may have been introduced, all accounts agree that Kerala was, from the first, entirely separate from the Concans, and was possessed by Bramins, who divided it into sixty-four districts, and governed it by means of a general assembly of their cast, renting the lands to men of the inferior classes.

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The executive government was held by a Bramin elected every three years, and assisted by a council of four of the same tribe. In time, however, they appointed a chief of the military class, and afterwards were, perhaps, under the protection of the Pandyan kings. But, though the language of Kerala is a dialect of Tamul, it does not appear ever to have been subject to the kingdom of Chola.

It is not exactly known when the northern and southern divisions separated; but, in the course of the ninth century, the southern one (Malabar) (Malabar) from its prince, who had become a Mahometan, and broke up into many petty principalities; among the chief of which was that of the Zamorins, whom Vasco di Gama found in possession of Calicut in the end of the fifteenth century.

The northern division (Canara) seems to have established a dynasty of its own, soon after the commencement of our sera, which lasted till the twelfth century, when it was overturned by the Belall rajas, and subsequently became subject to the rajas of Vijayanagar.


The Concan, in early times, seems to have been a thinly inhabited forest, from which character it has, even now, but partially escaped. I suppose the inhabitants were always Marattas.

Carnata and Telingana

Belala Rajas

From there being the same language and manners through all Carnata, it seems probable that the whole was once united under a native government; but the first historical accounts describe it as divided between the Pandya and Chera princes, and

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those of Canara (or the northern half of Kerala). It was afterwards partitioned among many petty princes, until the middle of the eleventh century, when one considerable dynasty appears to have arisen.

This was the family of Belala or Belall, who were, or pretended to be, Rajputs of the Yadu branch, and whose power, at one time, extended over the whole of Carnata, together with Malabar, the Tamul country, and part of Telingana. They were subverted by the Mussulmans about AD 1310 or 1311.

The Yadavas

The eastern part of Telingana seems to have been from the beginning of the ninth to near the end of the eleventh century, in the hands of an obscure dynasty known by the name of Yadava.

Chalukyas of Carnata

A Rajput family of the Chalukya tribe reigned at Calian, west of Bidr, on the borders of Carnata and Maharashtra. They are traced with certainty by inscriptions, from the end of the tenth to the end of the twelfth century. Those inscriptions show that they possessed territory as far to the south-west as Banawasi in Sunda, near the western Ghats; and, in one of them, they are styled subjugators of Chola and Guzerat. Mr. Walter Elliott, who has published a large collection of their inscriptions632, is of opinion that they possessed the whole of Maharashtra to the Nerbadda. Professor Wilson thinks that they were also superior lords of the west of Telingana, a prince of which (probably

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their feudatory) defeated the Chola king633: and this is, probably, the conquest alluded to in the inscription.

The same pretension with respect to Guzerat probably originated in the acquisition (already mentioned) of that country by a prince of this house through his marriage with the heiress of the Chaura family.

The last king of the race was deposed by his minister, who, in his turn, was assassinated by some fanatics of the Lingayet sect, which was then rising into notice. The kingdom fell into the hands of the Yadus of Deogiri634.

Chalukyas, of Calinga

Another branch of the tribe of Chalukya, perhaps connected with those of Calian, ruled over Calinga, which is the eastern portion of Telingana, extending along the sea from Dravira to Orissa.

Their dynasty certainly lasted through the whole of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and, perhaps, began two centuries earlier. It was greatly reduced by the Ganapati kings of Andra, and finally subverted by the rajas of Cattac.

Kings of Andra

The kings of Andra, whose capital was Varangul (about 80 miles north-east of Heiderabad), are alleged to have been connected with the Andra race in Magada; but it must have been by country only; for Andra is not the name of a family, but of all the inland part of Telingana635.

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The records of the inhabitants mention Vicrama and Salivahana among the earliest monarchs: after these they place the Chola rajas; who were succeeded, they think, about 515 AD, by a race called Yavans, who were nine in number, and reigned, as they say, for 458 years, till AD 953. About this time, the same records make the family of Ganapati rajas begin; but the first authentic mention of them, and, probably, their first rise to consequence, was in the end of the eleventh century, under Kakati, from whom the whole dynasty is sometimes named. He has been mentioned as an officer or feudatory of the Chalukyas, and as having gained victories over the Chola kings. Their greatest power was about the end of the thirteenth century, when the local traditions represent them as possessed of the whole of the peninsula south of the Godaveri. Professor Wilson, however, limits them to the portion between the fifteenth and eighteenth degrees of latitude.

In 1332 their capital was taken, and their importance, if not their independence, destroyed, by a Mahometan army from Delhi. At one time, subsequent to this, they seem to have been tributary to Orissa. They merged, at last, in the Mussulman kingdom of Golconda.


The history of Orissa, like all others in the Deckan, begins with princes connected with theMaha Bharat.” It then goes on with a confused history (much resembling that of the commencement of the Andra kings), in which Vicramaditya

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and Salivahana are made to occupy the country in succession; and in which repeated invasions of Yavans from Delhi, from a country called Babul (supposed to mean Persia), from Cashmir, and from Sind, are represented as having taken place between the sixth century before Christ and the fourth century after Christ.

The last invasion was from the sea, and in it the Yavans were successful, and kept possession of Orissa for 146 years.

The natives suppose these Yavans to be Mussulmans; and, with similar absurdity, describe two invasions of troops of that persuasion under Imarat Khan and another Khan, as taking place about five centuries before Christ. Some will prefer applying the story to Seleucus, or the Bactrian Greeks; but it is evident that the whole is a jumble of such history and mythology as the author was acquainted with, put together without the slightest knowledge of geography or chronology636.

The Yavans were expelled by Yayati Kesari in AD 473.

This Mr. Stirling justly considers as the first glimmering of authentic history. Thirty-five rajas of the Kesari family follow in a period of 650 years, until AD 1131, when their capital was taken

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by a prince of the house of Ganga Vansa, whose dynasty occupied the throne till near the Mahometan conquest. Mr. Stirling supposes this family to have come from Telingana; but Professor Wilson637 proves, from an inscription, that they were rajas of a country on the Ganges, answering to what is now Tamluk and Midnapur; and that their first invasion was at the end of the eleventh century of our aera, some years before the final conquest just mentioned.

Their greatest internal prosperity and improvement seems to have been towards the end of the twelfth century; and for several reigns on each side of that epoch they claim extensive conquests, especially to the south.

These are rendered highly improbable by the flourishing state of the Chalukya and Andra governments during that period. In the middle of the fifteenth century, however, the government of Orissa had sent armies as far as Conjeveram, near Madras; and, about the same time, their raja, according to Ferishta, advanced to the neighbour. hood of Bidr to assist the Hindu princes of those parts against the Mussulmans.

Before these last events, the Ganga Vansa had been succeeded by a Rajput family, of the race of the sun; and after performing some other brilliant exploits, and suffering invasions from the Mussulmans, both in Bengal and the Deckan, the government

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fell into confusion, was seized on by a Telinga chief in 1550, and, ultimately, was annexed to the Mogul empire, by Akber, in 1578638.

Maharashtra or Maratta country

From the great extent of the country through which the Maratta language is spoken, and from its situation on the frontier of the Deckan, one would expect it to be the first noticed and the most distinguished of the divisions of the peninsula: yet we only possess two historical facts regarding it until the time of the Mussulmans; and, in those, the name of Maharashtra is never once mentioned.


After the fables regarding Rama, whose retreat was near the source of the Godaveri, the first fact we hear of is the existence of Tagara, which was a great emporium in the second century, is mentioned in inscriptions as a celebrated place in the twelfth century, and is still well known by name, though its position is forgotten.

It is mentioned by the author of thePeriplus,” but its site is fixed with so little precision, that we can only guess it to have lain within something more than 100 miles in a direction to the east of Paitan on the Godaveri. It is said to have been a very great city, and to have been one of the two principal marts of Dachanabades639, a country so called from Dachan, which (says the author) is the word for south in the native language. The other

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mart is Plithana. Neither is mentioned as a capital640.

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Wherever Tagara was situated, it afterwards became the capital of a line of kings of the Rajput family of Silar, with whom the ruler of Calian near Bombay, in the eleventh century, and of Parnala near Colapur, in the twelfth, were proud to boast of their connection641.

The next fact relating to the Maratta country is the reign of Salivahana, whose aera begins from AD 77. Salivahana seems to have been a powerful monarch; yet scarcely one circumstance of his history has been preserved in an authentic or even credible form.

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He is said to have been the son of a potter; to have headed an insurrection, overturned a dynasty, and to have established his capital at Paitan, on the Godaveri. He is said also to have conquered the famous Vicramaditya, king of Malwa, and to have founded an extensive empire642. The first of these assertions, in reference to Vicramaditya himself, is impossible, as there is 135 years between the aeras of the two princes; and no war with any subsequent king of Malwa is mentioned. His empire was probably in the Deckan, where his name is still well known, and his sera still that in ordinary use. After this the history of Maharashtra breaks off, and (except by the inscriptions of the petty princes of Calian and Pernala) we hear no more of that country till the beginning of the twelfth century, when a family of Yadus, perhaps a branch of that of Bellal, became rajas of Deogiri643.


In AD 1294, Maharashtra was invaded by the Mussulmans from Delhi. A raja of the race of Yadu still reigned at Deogiri. He was rendered tributary either then or in 1306; and his capital was taken and his kingdom subverted in AD 1317.

About this time the Mussulman writers begin to mention the Marattas by name. It is probable that strangers, on entering the Deckan, called the first country they came to by that general designation, and did not distinguish the different nations

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by name till they had met with more than one. It is probable, also, that there was little in the Marattas to attract notice. If they had been for any time under one great monarchy, we should have heard of it, as of the other Deckan states; and they would, probably, like the others so circumstanced, have had a peculiar literature and civilisation of their own. But they are still remarkably deficient both in native authors and in refinement; and what polish they have seems borrowed from the Mussulmans, rather than formed by Hindus.

On the other hand, their cave temples argue a great and long-continued application of skill and power; and those of Ellora attracted the attention of the Mussulmans in their very first invasions.

The celebrity of the Marattas was reserved for recent times, when they were destined to act a greater part than all other Hindu nations, and to make a nearer approach to universal sovereignty than any of those to whom modern writers have ascribed the enjoyment of the empire of India.

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628. The whole of the following information, down to the account of Orissa, is derived from Professor Wilson’s Introduction to the Mackenzie Papers; though it may be sometimes modified by opinions for which that gentleman ought not to be answerable.

629. It is, perhaps, a proof of the establishment of Tamul literature before the arrival of the Bramins, that some of its most esteemed authors are of the lowest cast, or what we call Pariars. These authors lived in comparatively modern times; but such a career would never have been thrown open to their class if the knowledge which led to it had been first imparted by the Bramins.

630. The establishment of a Maratta government at Nagpur has drawn many of the nation into that part of Gondwana, and made their language general for a considerable distance round the capital.

631. In the plains towards the north of Gondwana the language is a dialect of Hindostani.

632. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. iv. p. 1.

633. Introduction to the Mackenzie Papers, p. cxxix.

634. Mr. Elliot, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. i. p. 17.

635. Introduction to the Mackenzie Papers, p. cxxii.

636. The same remark applies to the Yavans of Telingana, who, by the bye, have all Shanscrit names. Dr. Buchanan (vol. iii. pp. 97. 112.) is surprised to find a dynasty of Yavans at Anagundi on the Tumbadra in the eighth and ninth centuries: this, however, is not physically impossible, like the others; for the first Arab invasion was in the seventh century after Christ.

637. Preface to the Mackenzie Papers, p. cxxxviii. Their name meansrace of the Ganges.”

638. The whole of the account of Orissa, where not otherwise specified, is taken from a paper of Mr. Stirling, Asiatic Researches, vol. xv. p. 254.

639. Dakshinapatha is the Shanscrit name for the Deckan.

640. We have scarcely any ground to go on in fixing these places. The following are the words of thePeriplus:” –Of those in Dachanabades itself, two very distinguished marts attract notice, lying twenty days’ journey to the south from Barygaza. About ten days’ journey towards the east from this is the other, Tagara, a very great city. [Goods] are brought down from them on carts, and over very great ascents, to Barygaza; from Plithana many onyx stones, and from Tagara ordinary linen, &c.” It is evident from this, that the two towns are Plithana and Tagara; and as Tagara is the other, there must have been one first mentioned, or intended to be mentioned, and that one must have been Plithana: the mode of expression, no doubt, is inaccurate and confused. If this interpretation be correct, the first step to be taken is to ascertain the position of Plithana, which must be somewhere to the southward of Barygaza, distant twenty days’ journey, and above the Ghats. Barygaza is admitted to be Baroch. A day’s journey has been taken by Colonel Wilford at eleven miles, which (after allowing for horizontal distance) does not differ greatly from that allowed by Rennell to armies with all their incumbrances. 220 miles to the southward of Baroch is therefore the point to be sought for; and the first step will naturally be, to look for some place within that circuit the name of which resembles Plithana. None such is to be found. Colonel Wilford, indeed, mentions a place called Pultanah, on the Godaveri; but nobody else has heard of it, and the probability is, that he meant Phultamba. If so, the resemblance ceases at once; for Phultamba would be written in Greek Φουλταμβα, instead of Πλιθανα; and the supposition is otherwise untenable, as Phultamba, by a circuitous road, is only seventeen days’ journey from Baroch. We are therefore left to seek for a Plithana; but Colonel Wilford, I conceive, has brought us into the right neighbourhood, and has assisted us by an ingenious conjecture, though intended for another purpose. He says that Ptolemy has mistaken Plithana (ΠΛΙΘΑΝΑ) for Paithana (ΠΑΙΘΑΝΑ); and I would contend that, on the contrary, the copyist of thePeriplus” has changed Paithana into Plithana (the more likely as the name only occurs once); and that the real name of the first emporium is Paitan, a city on the Godaveri, between twenty and twenty-one days’ journey (230 miles) from Baroch, and distinguished as the capital of the great monarch Salivahana. As this king flourished towards the end of the first century (77), it would be strange if his royal residence had become obscure by the middle of the second; and even if the distance did not agree so well, we should be tempted to fix on it as one of the great marts of the Deckan. With regard to Tagara, we remain in total uncertainty. It cannot possibly be Deogiri (Doulatabad); because, even if we allow Phultamba to be Plithana, Doulatabad is within three days and a half or four days’ journey, instead of ten; nor is there any situation to be found for Plithana so as to be twenty days’ journey from Baroch and ten from Doulatabad, except near Puna, which, being within seventy miles of the sea, would never have sent its produce twenty days’ journey to Baroch. We need have the less reluctance in giving up Deogiri, as that place is never spoken of as a city until more than 1000 years after the date generally assigned to thePeriplus.” If Plithana be Paitan, Tagara must have lain ten days’ further east, and probably on the Godaveri; but that Plithana is Paitan rests on a mere conjecture.

641. See inscriptions, Asiatic Researches, vol. i. p. 357., and Bombay Transactions, vol. iii. p. 391.

642. Grant Duff’s History of the Marattas, vol. i. p. 26.

643. Wilson’s Preface to the Mackenzie Papers, p. cxxx.

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