South Indian Inscriptions
THE DISCOVERY OF THE VAKATAKAS
Almost all the Vākāṭaka grants are incised in box-headed characters, which soon became stereotyped. Experts therefore differed on the interpretation of their palaeographic evidence. Dr. Bühler referred the Vākāṭaka grants to the fifth century A.C.1 ., while Fleet2 and Kielhorn3, whose opinion Sukthankar4 cited with approval, assigned them to the eighth century A.C. The latter view appeared to be supported by the mention, in Vākāṭaka grants, of Mahārājādhirāja Dēvagupta as the maternal grandfather of Pravarasēna II. Fleet identified this Dēvagupta with Mahārājādhirāja Dēvagupta of Magadha, the son of Ādityasēna, mentioned in the Dēo-Barṇārka inscription, who flourished towards the close of the seventh century A.C. The Vākāṭakas were therefore believed to have ruled in the seventh and eighth centuries A.C. This estimate of their age proved to be wide of the mark by the discovery, in 1912, of the Poonā plates of Prabhāvatīguptā, which Prof. K. B. Pathak and Rao Bahadur K.N. Dikshit first briefly noticed in the Indian, Antiquary, Vol. XLI, (1912), pp. 214 f. and later edited fully in the Epigraphia Indica, Vol. XV, pp. 39 f. These plates explicitly mention that Prabhāvatīguptā, the chief queen (agra-mahishī) of the Vākāṭaka king Rudrasena II and mother of the crown-prince Divākarasēna, was the daughter of the illustrious Gupta king Mahārājādhirāja Chandragupta II.
These plates, though discovered with a coppersmith of Poonā, really belong to the
Hiṅgaṇghāṭ tahsil of the Wardhā District in Vidarbha.5 The places mentioned in that
grant could not be identified at the time, but the matrimonial relation of the Vākāṭakas
and the Guptas explicity stated therein placed Vākāṭaka chronology on a sound basis.
Thereafter, Vincent Smith, who had not written a single line on this dynasty in his Early
History of India (third edition, published in 1914), wrote a lone article on it in the Journal
of the Royal Asiatic Society (1914), pp. 317 f., setting forth, with his characteristic precision
and clarity, the available evidence of copper-plate grants and stone inscriptions, and giving
a history of the dynasty based on it. Later, Prof. J. Dubreuil6 and Dr. S.K. Aiyangar7 threw more light on the history of this royal family. It was, however, the late Dr. K.P.
Jayaswal who brought the Vākāṭakas into prominence and assigned them their rightful
place in the ancient history of India. In the book History of India, 150 A.D. to 530 A.D. to which he gave the significant name ‘Nāga-Vākāṭaka Imperial Period ,’Jayaswal
tried to show that “imperial rule and paramount sovereignty had ben in the hands and
keeping of the Vākāṭakas full sixty years before Samudragupta8.’ According to Jayaswal
Pravarasēna I, the son of Vindhyaśakti, evolved a clear political thesis. “His thesis was
a Hindu Empire for the whole of India and the enthronement of the Śāstras. Secondly, a
great literary movement in favour of Sanskrit begins about 250 A.D. and in 50 years reaches
a pitch at which the Guptas take it up. . . . . Thirdly, revival of Varṇāśramadharma and
Hindu orthodoxy is emphasised very pointedly ; it was the cry of the time. The society
under the Vākāṭaka imperialism was seeking to purge the abuses crept in under Kushāṇa
rule. It was a Hindu Puritan Movement which was greatly fostered and which received
a wide imperial implication under Pravarasēna I . . . . . Fourthly, under the Vākāṭakas the
art of sculpture and the graphic art of Ajaṇṭā which lay under their direct government
1 A.S.W.I., Vol. IV, p. 119.