Bhaskaravarman

Summary

Bhaskaravarman (bʱaːskərə'vərmən) (600–650), the last of the Varman dynasty, was perhaps the most illustrious of the kings of the medieval Kamarupa. After being captured by the Gauda king during the reign of his father, he was able to re-establish the rule of the Varman's. He made political alliances with Harshavardhana of Thaneswar, against the alliance of the Gauda and East Malwa.[3] He was visited by Xuanzang and Wang Xuance, the envoy of the Tang dynasty who have left accounts of the king and the kingdom.

Bhaskaravarman
Kamarupa Kingdom of Bhaskar Varman.png
The 7th century Kamarupa under Bhaskaravarman.[1] The kingdom extended to the east up to the hills that led to China,[2] according to the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang who visited Bhaskaravarman's court during his heydays around 643 CE.

Bhaskaravarman came to power after his brother Supratisthitavarman had died. He was the first Kamarupa king to claim descent from the mythical Narakasura, Bhagadatta and Vajradatta.[4] After his death Salasthambha, who established the Mlechchha dynasty, acquired power in Kamarupa Kingdom.

He issued the Dubi and Nidhanpur copper plate grants, re-issued after his ancestor Bhutivarman, and a clay seal found in Nalanda.

BackgroundEdit

After Susthitavarman was defeated by Mahasenagupta, his son Supratisthitavarman came to power, who built Kamarupa's elephant army but died prematurely without an heir. Thus, the younger son, Bhaskaravarman, came to power in Kamarupa.[5] Even after he succeeded to the throne c. 600 CE, Bhaskaravarman was known as kumara (prince), probably because he was a bachelor throughout his life.[6][better source needed]

RivalsEdit

Mahasenagupta, in alliance with Shashanka, had defeated Susthitavarman[7] and took control over north and central Bengal.[citation needed] After the death of Mahasenagupta Shashanka became the ruler of this portion. On ascending the throne Bhaskaravarman found two strong rival powers growing in northern India, viz. one in central and northern Bengal under Shashanka and the other in mid-India under Prabhakaravardhana, the father of Harshavardhana.[6][better source needed]

When Shashanka murdered Rajyavardhana who had succeeded Prabhakaravardhana as the king at Thaneswar, Bhaskaravarman sent an envoy, Hangsavega, to form an alliance. This incident by both Bana and Xuanzang.[8][better source needed]

Alliance with HarshaEdit

The Harsha Charita of Bana gives a detailed account of Hangsavega's meeting with Harsha. Plying him with gifts and praise, the diplomat was able to effect an offensive and defensive alliance between the two kings.

The Nidhanpur copper-plate grant was issued from Bhaskaravarman's victorious camp at Karnasuvarna,[9] the erstwhile capital of Shashanka.

Chinese accountsEdit

Xuanzang's accountEdit

The Chinese traveller, Xuanzang, visited Bhaskaravarman in his court on his invitation, and noted that the King patronised Buddhism though a non-Buddhist.[10][better source needed] According to the text of the Si-yu-ki, the circumference of the capital of Kamarupa was thirty li. It further claims Bhaskarvarman to be a Brahmana,[11] contradicting the text She-Kia-Fang-Che which claims Bhaskarvarman to be a kshatriya whose ancestors came from China.[12] According to Suniti Kumar Chatterjee Bhaskaravarman was a Hinduised Mlechcha king of Indo-Mongoloid origin.[13]

Wang Xuance's accountEdit

After 648 CE the Chinese emperor Tang Taizong of the Tang dynasty sent a return emissary Wang Xuance to Harshavardhana's court. Harsha had died in the meantime and his successor drove out the mission. Wang returned with an army, imprisoned the successor king and took him back to China. In the military mission, Bhaskaravarman helped Wang with supplies of cattle, horse and accouterments.[14] Bhaskaravarman is recorded as Ch-Kieu-mo (Sri-Kumara) and his kingdom as Kia-mu-lu (Kamarupa). During the audience Bhaskaravarman is said to have given Wang a map and asked for an image of Laozi.[15]

Kamarupa of BhaskaravarmanEdit

Xuanzang, in his travelogue, noted that he crossed a great river Karatoya before entering the Kamarupa. The eastern boundary was a line of hills close to the Chinese frontier. He also said Kamarupa was nearly 1700 miles in circumference. The climate was genial. He mentioned that the people were are short height and of yellow complexion and Bhaskar Varman was Hindu and not Buddhist. The people were honest. Their speech differed a little from that of mid-India. They were of violent disposition but were persevering students. They worshipped the Devas and did not believe in Buddhism. The Deva-temples were some hundreds in number and the various systems had some myriads of professed adherents. The few Buddhists in the country performed their acts of devotion in secret. The pilgrim ascertained from the people that to the east of the country was a series of hills which reached as far as the confines of China. The inhabitants of these hills were akin to the "Man of the Lao". In the south-east of the country elephants were plentiful.[16]

DescriptionEdit

Xuanzang notes that Kamarupa was low and moist, and that the crops were regular. Cocoa-nuts and jackfruits grew abundantly and were appreciated by the people. The description provided is around the present-day Guwahati.

According to the account given in the Si-yu-ki, the circumference of Kamarupa was about 1,700 miles (2,700 km). As Edward Albert Gait has pointed out, this circumference must have included the whole of the Assam valley, Surma valley, parts of North Bengal, and parts of Mymensingh.

ReligionEdit

Bhaskaravarman was a worshiper of Shiva, though he had great reverence for learned Buddhist priests and professors of his time, and was distinctly inclined towards Buddhism. The general populace worshiped the Devas worshiped in many temples, and adherents of Buddhism practised devotion secretly.

CultureEdit

According to Xuanzang, the people of Kamarupa were honest, albeit with a violent disposition, but were persevering students. The people were short in height and of yellow complexion. Their speech differed from that of mid-India. The Nidhanpur grant issued from Karnasuvarna contained local literary forms and offices not found in subsequent Kamarupa inscriptions.

Art and industryEdit

The gifts from Bhaskaravarman to Harshavardhana contained mostly products of the land—royal umbrella of exquisite workmanship studded with valuable gems, puthis written on Sachi-bark, dyed cane-mats, Agar-essence, musk in silk-bags, liquid molasses in earthen-pots, utensils, paintings, a pair of Brahmini ducks in a cage made of cane and overlaid with gold, and a considerable quantity of silk-fabrics indicating industry was rudimentary.

Nidhanpur inscriptionEdit

 
Nidhanpur inscription of Bhaskaravarman

In his Nidhanpur copper-plate inscription Bhaskaravarman is said to have revealed the light of the Arya religion by dispelling the accumulated darkness of Kali age, by making a judicious application of his revenues; who has equalled the prowess of the whole ring of his feudatories by the strength of his own arm, who has derived many a way of enjoyment for his hereditary subjects whose loyal devotion to him was augmented by his steadiness, modesty and affability, who is adorned with a wonderful ornament of splendid fame made of the flowery words of praise variously composed by hundreds of kings vanquished by him in battle; whose virtuous activities, like those of Sivi, were applied in making gifts for the benefit of others; whose powers, as of a second preceptor of the Gods (Brihaspati), was recognised by others on account of his skill in devising and applying the means of politics that appear in suitable moments; whose own conduct was adorned by learning, valour, patience, prowess and good actions".[17]

Nalanda sealEdit

 
The Nalanda seal of Bhaskaravarman (dated 643 CE)

Bhaskaravarman's close connection with Harsha and Xuanzang led to his association with the famous Buddhist university of Magadha, for his seal has been discovered at the site of Nalanda in the company of two fragmentary seals of Harsha. The seals were found by Dr. Spooner during the excavation of the ruins of Nalanda in the year 1917–18. The text of the seal is as follows:[18]

Sri Ganapati Varma Sri Yajnavatyam Sri Mahendra Varma.
Sri Suvratayam Sri Narayanavarma Sri Devavatyam Sri Mahabhuta Varma.
Sri Vijnana Vatyam Sri Chandramukha Varma Sri Bhogavatyam.
Sri Sthitavarma tena Sri Nayana Sobhayam (Sri Susthitavarma)
(Sri Syama Lakshmyam) Sri Supratisthita Varma.
Sri Bhaskara Varmeti.

K.N. Dikshit, in his "Epigraphical notes of the Nalanda finds", thinks that the seal probably accompanied Bhaskaravarman's letter to Silabhadra inviting Xuanzang.[19][full citation needed] As however it was found in the company of the two Harsha seals the probability is that both Harsha and Bhaskaravarman, on their march from Rajmahal to Kanauj, visited Nalanda together with the Chinese pilgrim and, to commemorate their visit, left their respective seals at the university.[20]

DeathEdit

It is not known how or when Bhaskaravarman died, but it is estimated that his reigned ended about 650.[citation needed]

LegacyEdit

Kumar Bhaskar Varma Sanskrit and Ancient Studies University of Nalbari, Assam has been named after him.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ (Dutta 2008:282), reproduced from (Acharya 1968).
  2. ^ "He travelled from Pun-na-fa-tan-na (Pundravardhana) on the east more than 900 li or 150 miles; crossed a large river and reached Kia-no-leu-po (Kamarupa). The T'ang Shu refers to this large river as Ka-lo-tu which undoubtedly meant the Karatoya. The pilgrim further states that to the east of the country was a series of hills which reached as far as the confines of China." (Baruah 1986:75)
  3. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. p. 39. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  4. ^ "The mythical ancestors of (the Varman) line of rulers were Naraka, Bhagadatta and Vajradatta." (Sharma 1978:0.29)
  5. ^ (Sircar 1990b:109)
  6. ^ a b Barua 1933, p. 58.
  7. ^ (Sircar 1990b:107)
  8. ^ Barua 1933, p. 62.
  9. ^ Epigraphia Indica Vol XII. p. 78.
  10. ^ (Gait 1906:53–55)
  11. ^ "The present king belongs to the old line (tso yari) of Narayana-deva. He is of the Brahman caste. His name is Bhaskaravarman, and his title Kumara (Keu-mo-lo)."(Beal 1884, p. 196)
  12. ^ "But the She-Kia-Fang-Che records that Bhaskarvarman was a Kshatriya (and not a Brahmin) and his ancestors hailed from China (=Han) itself having nothing to do with Narayana Deva."(Sharma 1978, p. xiv)
  13. ^ "Hiuen Ts’ang by mistake described Bhaskara-varman as a Brahman, but he was just a neo-Kshatriya, a member of a Hinduised mleccha or non-Hindu Indo-Mongoloid family which had been accepted within the fold of Hindu orthodoxy."(Chatterji 1951, pp. 90–91)
  14. ^ Chatterji, Suniti Kumar (1951). Kirata-jana-krti. pp. 90, 92.
  15. ^ (Sircar 1990b:119)
  16. ^ (Gait 1926:23–24)
  17. ^ Epigraphia Indica Vol XII. p. 78.
  18. ^ J.B.O.R.S Vol VI. p. 151.
  19. ^ ibid.
  20. ^ Barua 1933, p. 98.

ReferencesEdit

  • Acharya, N. N. (1968), Asama Aitihashik Bhuchitravali (Maps of Ancient Assam), Bina Library, Gauhati, Assam
  • Barua, Kanak Lal (1933). Early History Of Kamarupa.
  • Baruah, S L (1986), A Comprehensive History of Assam, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt Ltd
  • Dutta, Anima (2008). Political geography of Pragjyotisa Kamarupa (PhD). Gauhati University. hdl:10603/68309.
  • Gait, E A (1906), A History of Assam, Thacker, Spink and Co., Calcutta
  • Gait, Sir Edward (1926), A History of Assam, Lawyer's Book Stall, Guwahati
  • Ghosh, Suchandra (2012). "Karnasuvarna". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  • Sircar, D C (1990b), "Political History", in Barpujari, H K (ed.), The Comprehensive History of Assam, vol. I, Guwahati: Publication Board, Assam, pp. 94–171
  • Kāmarūpa-Kaliṅga-Mithilā:a politico-cultural alignment in Eastern India : history, art, traditions by Chandra Dhar Tripathi, Indian Institute of Advanced Study
  • Sharma, Mukunda Madhava (1978). Inscriptions of Ancient Assam. Gauhati University, Assam.