THE DISCOVERY OF THE VAKATAKAS
THE DISCOVERY OF THE VĀKĀṬAKAS
...THE Vākāṭakas were one of the most glorious dynasties that flourished in South India
in ancient times. Their empire at one time extended from Mālwā and Gujarāt in the
north to the Tuṅgabhadrā in the south and from the Arabian Sea in the west to the Bay
of Bengal in the east. They were great patrons of literature. The liberal patronage
they gave to Sanskrit and Prakrit poets soon brought the Vaidarbhī and Vachchhōmī
rītis into prominence and induced great poets like Kālidāsa to adopt them for their works.
They themselves composed kāvyas and subhāshitas which have evoked praise from famous
poets and rhetoricians like Bāṇa and Daṇḍin, Kuntaka and Hēmachandra. The temples
they erected are no longer in existence, but the sculptures found in their ruins have attracted the notice of art-critics, who rank them among the best specimens of ancient times.
The magnificent vihāra and chaitya caves which their ministers and feudatories excavated
out of solid rock at Ajaṇṭā and Gulwāḍā still excite the admiration of the world. In view
of these achievements there is hardly any exaggeration in the following observation1 of Prof.
J. Dubreuil : “Of all the dynasties of the Deccan that have reigned from the third to
the sixth century, the most glorious, the most important, the one that must be given the
place of honour, the one that has excelled all others, the one that has had the greatest
influence on the civilization of the whole of the Deccan is unquestionably the illustrious
dynasty of the Vākāṭakas” .
...Still, the existence and even the name of this illustrious dynasty had passed
into oblivion and became known only when the Siwanī copper-plate grant2 of
Pravarasēna II was discovered in Madhya Pradesh in 1836. Vindhyaśakti, the founder
of this dynasty, was indeed mentioned in the Purāṇas, but partly owing to bad readings
and partly due to misconstruction, he was believed to have belonged to the Yavana or Greek
race. Even after deciphering the inscription in Ajaṇṭā Cave XVI which gives the royal
genealogy from the earliest time to the last Vākāṭaka king Harishēṇa, Dr. Bhau Daji
remarked in 1862 that ‘the Vākāṭakas were a dynasty of the Yavanas or Greeks who took
the lead in the performance of Vedic sacrifices as well as in the execution of most substantial
and costly works for the encouragement of Buddhism3 ‘. It has since been pointed out
that Vindhyaśakti, the founder of the dynasty, is described in that inscription as a dvija, which usually means a Brāhmaṇa. The gōtra Vishṇuvṛiddha of the Vākāṭakas is also
mentioned in almost all their copper-plate grants. It is now generally accepted that like
the Sātavāhanas, the Vākāṭakas also were a Brāhmaṇa family that rose into prominence
in the early centuries of the Christian era.
...The period during which the Vākāṭakas flourished had long been uncertain. Unlike the Guptas, they did not start any era, but dated all their grants in regnal years,
Their age had therefore to be conjectured from the characters of their inscriptions.
1 Dubreuil, Ancient History of the Deccan, p. 71.
2 J.A.S.B., Vol. V (1836), pp. 726, f.
3 J.B.B.R.A.S., Vol. VII, pp. 69 f.