Rajput Culture and History: The distortions, the conspiracies, and the truth – Part 8 ( The Ikshvakus of Andhra country)

This article covers the rein of the Ikshvakus in Andhra country in the outline.

[1]: The earliest known Ikshvakus kings ruling over territories in the Dakshinapatha can be found in the epic Ramayana, where the ancestors of lord Rama have been described as ruling the southern countries. The most conspicuous being King Dandaka after whom the thick forest zones of central-south India were named Dandakaranya. During the period of his exile, lord Rama spent appreciable time in these forests engaging and neutralizing several demon war lords.

[2]: In the historical period as well, we find a powerful family of Ikshvakus lording over the Andhra country. King Vasishithiputra Santamula I was ruling in the Andhra country in the second quarter of the third century CE immediately after the fall of the Satavahanas.

[3]: Just as the independence of a Muslim King in the medieval era was ascertained by the issue of his own coins and by an order to insert his own name in the Khutbah instead of the name of his overlord, even so the independence of a Hindu monarch in the ancient period could be ascertained by his celebration of the Ashvamedha sacrifice. It must be noted that King Vasishithiputra Santamula I did celebrate a horse sacrifice, which is a clear indication of him casting off his vassal identity and asserting independence. His immediate antecedents are difficult to establish, but the possibility of this ‘Andhra family’ being an offshoot of the celebrated branch of the Ikshvaku family which migrated from Ayodhya to Deccan cannot be taken lightly. In the Puranas, an Ikshvaku family of the far south has been styled as Sriparvatiya Andharas; sriparvatiya being the ancient name of the Nallamalur range. King Vasishithiputra Santamula I perhaps belonged to this line of the Ikshvakus.

[4]: The Ikshvakus of the far south seem to have ruled from their capital at Vijayapuri situated in the valley of Nagarjunikonda hills. In the absence of the proper material records the political history the King Vasishithiputra Santamula I and his descendants is difficult to establish, but from the textual evidence it is clear that he was a staunch Vedic Kshatriya who besides Ashvamedha performed Vajapeya and several other Vedic sacrifices. Like the Kadambas and Chalukyas of the later era, these Ikshvakus have been styled as the monarchs favored by Mahasena (Skanda – Kartikeya).

[5]: King Vasishithiputra Santamula I was succeeded by his son Mathariputra Vira-purusha-datta who ruled for at least 21 regnal years. One of his queens was the daughter of the King of Ujjain. Records relating to King Vira-purusha-datta have been found at the Buddhists sites of Amravati, Jaggayapeta, and Nagarjunikonda. The latest dates furnished by the records indicate the 20th regnal year of this king. The Nagarjunikonda epigraphs record the benefactions of some female member of this ruling family to the great monastery situated close to the capital city. These females appear to be of the Buddhist faith. This begs the question as to what was the faith of this king and his descendants? Did they follow the Vedic Dharam like their ancestors or became Buddhists? The fact we find no record of King Vira-purusha-datta performing Vedic sacrifices like his father, does indicate he went through a change of faith, but this view however cannot be confirmed, in the absence of a positive evidence. There are instances where members of the same royal families have practiced different religions at the same time.

[6]: King Mathariputra Vira-purusha-datta was succeeded by his son Vasishithiputra Ehuvula Santamula II who ruled for 11 years after which the independent ruled of this family seems to have come to a halt. They seem to have been deposed by the Pallava princes, whose feaudatries they became. There is however evidence to suggest that as a local power the dynasty continued to rule in their native regions for a long time before they seem to have migrated from this region. A record from the Kekaya family of Mysore belonging to 5th century CE refers to a matrimonial alliance between the Kekaya kings and the royal sages of the Ikshvakus family of Andhra. This family must be rightly identified with the descendants of King Vasishithiputra Santamula I who not only survived but also maintained their power during all vicissitudes as local chieftains in the valley of Nagarjunikonda hills.

[7]: Interestingly, the traditional family accounts of the ‘Pundir clan of Rajputs’ speak of a northwards migration around 544 CE from their original home nestled among the southern hills situated in modern day Andhra – Telangana region. This movement fits well with the end of Ikshvaku dominance in the region. However, this is just a conjecture at the moment, but it does stand to reason that the Pundirs could be the rightful descendants of the old Ikshvaku rulers of the valley of Nagarjunikonda hills.

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