Vakataka Dynasty and Queen Prabhavati
Recent archaeological excavations at Nagardhan in Ramtek taluka, near Nagpur, have provided concrete evidence on the life, religious affiliations and trade practices of the Vakataka dynasty that ruled parts of Central and South India between the third and fifth centuries.
After a 1,500 year-old sealing was excavated for the first time, efforts have been made to understand the Vakataka rule under Queen Prabhavatigupta.(The copperplate issued by Queen Prabhavatigupta starts with a genealogy of the Guptas, mentioning the Queen’s grandfather Samudragupta and her father Chandragupta II.)
Nagardhan is a large village in Nagpur district.A Koteshwar temple dating back to the 15th-16th centuries stands on the banks of a stream. The existing village sits on top of the ancient habitation. The Nagardhan Fort stands south of present-day Nagardhan village. This was constructed during the Gond Raja period and later renovated and re-used by the Bhosales of Nagpur during the late 18th and 19th centuries.
Why is the excavation important?
- Very little was known about the Vakatakas, the Shaivite rulers of Central India between the third and fifth centuries. All that was known about the dynasty, believed to hail from the Vidarbha region, was largely through some literature and copperplates.
- It is the first time clay sealings have been excavated from Nagardhan. The oval-shaped sealing belongs to the period when Prabhavatigupta was the queen of the Vakataka dynasty. It bears her name in the Brahmi script, along with the depiction of a conch.
- The sealing was traced on top of a mega wall that researchers now think could have been part of a royal structure at the capital city of the kingdom.
- The copperplate issued by Queen Prabhavatigupta starts with a genealogy of the Guptas, mentioning the Queen’s grandfather Samudragupta and her father Chandragupta II.
- Since the Vakataka people traded with Iran and beyond through the Mediterranean Sea, scholars suggest that these sealings could have been used as an official royal permission issued from the capital city.
- The Vakataka rulers were known to have forged several matrimonial alliances with other dynasties of their times. One of the key alliances was with Prabhavatigupta of the mighty Gupta dynasty, which was then ruling north India.
- After marrying Vakataka king Rudrasena II, Prabhavatigupta enjoyed the position of Chief Queen. When she took over the Vakataka kingdom, after the sudden demise of Rudrasena II, her stature as a woman Vakataka ruler rose significantly
- The Vakataka rulers followed the Shaiva sect of Hinduism while the Guptas were staunch Vaishnavites
- While she was married into a family that belonged to the Shaiva sect, the queen’s powers allowed her to choose a deity of worship, that is, Lord Vishnu. The researchers believe that the practice of worshipping Narasimha in Maharashtra emerged from Ramtek, and that Queen Prabhavatigupta had a pivotal role in propagation of Vaishnava practices in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.
- Some of the temples identified as Keval Narasihma, Rudra Narasimha and the one dedicated to Varaha could be traced to Ramtek, and showcase strong affinity to the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. None of these religious structures was, however, present here until the Queen took the throne. Queen Prabhavatigupta ruled for about 10 years until her son Pravarasena II succeeded.
Earlier results from the excavations here had traced evidence in the form of ceramics, ear studs of glass, antiquities, bowls and pots, a votive shrine and tank, an iron chisel, a stone depicting a deer, and terracotta bangles. Some terracotta objects even depicted images of gods, animals and humans, along with amulets, scotches, wheels, skin rubbers and spindle whorls.
An intact idol of Lord Ganesha, which had no ornaments adorned, too was found from the site.