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Rata Dynasty

Rata Dynasty of samatata is known from a single record, the Kailan copperplate inscription of Shridharana Rata. It was discovered sometime before 1945 at Kailan (or Kailain), a large village about 29 km southwest of Comilla. This record, which very closely resembles samanta Lokanatha's Tippera copperplate, was first deciphered and published by dineschandra sircar in 1946, whose observations were followed by those of nalini kanta bhattasali and others.

The Kailan supplies a variety of interesting information regarding ancient Samatata, but not much about the dynasty itself or of its rule. Shridharana Rata, the second ruler of the dynasty, issued it in the 8th year of his reign from his capital at devaparvata. By this charter the king donated 25 patakas of land for charitable purposes: 4BD patakas to Buddhist organisations, 13 patakas to Brahmins and 7BD patakas to be retained (temporarily) by the king's minister. The lands lie in two visayas: the well-known Guptinatana (in or near Mainamati) and Patalyika, not yet identified. The description of the donated lands contain certain interesting place-names and local terms such as Dashagrama village, Advaganga river, Billa (=Bil), Naudanda (=Naudara), Nau-Shivabhoga, etc. They quite clearly indicate that some of these lands were situated in an area where water and boats played a significant role in the life of the people. The description agrees well with the geographical and topographical condition still prevailing in the areas round Kailan and indeed in most of the areas of central Comilla outside the Lalmai-Mainamati hills.

The inscription mentions the ruling king, Parama-Vaisnava Shridharana Rata, his father and predecessor and the founder of the dynasty Shri Jivadharana Rata, Yuvaraja Baladharana Rata, and the king's mother Bandhudevi. Both the Rata kings are styled as Samatateshvara. But except a few vague general eulogies, the record supplies no significant information about them or their kingdom.

However, the description of the capital and the river Ksiroda is graphic and picturesque. The vast capital city was centred round the royal residence, probably inside a hill-fort, and is aptly described as sarvatobhadraka because of its four prominent gateways facing the four cardinal points. And the river Ksiroda encircled it like a moat, and 'elephants played in its waters and both of its banks were adorned with a cluster of boats'.

Jivadharana Rata, the founder of the dynasty, appears to have started his career as a feudatory chief. The Tippera grant of Samanta Lokanatha records that he and his overlord came into violent conflicts with one Nrpa Jivadharana, a powerful recalcitrant feudatory chief under the same overlord. He is now definitely identified by scholars with Jivadharana Rata of the Kailan plate. Thus the contemporaneity of Lokanatha and Nrpa Jivadharana is beyond dispute, and their common overlord is also widely regarded to be the contemporary Khadga ruler.

On the basis of this synchronism and analysis of relevant information from available contemporary records, the Rata dynasty's rule in Samatata is now placed in the second half of the 7th century AD, after the decline of Khadga rule. When or how the rule of the Khadgas ended in Samatata and when or how the Rata dynasty took over is not known at present.

In this connection it is noteworthy that some twenty years back three copper-plate inscriptions, reportedly of the Ratas, were discovered accidentally while an irrigation canal was being dug at Uriswar (Paharpur Union) village under Muradnagar thana of Comilla district. The area of the findspot of the plate is littered with ancient brickbats and potsherds. In 1995 a hoard of pre-Muslim coins, kept inside a small earthen pot, was recovered from a derelict pond in the neighbourhood of Uriswar. A life-size black stone Surya image, datable to about 10th-11th century AD, was discovered from Babutipara in the neighbourhood of Uriswar. These finds prove the antiquity of the place. Decipherment of the three Rata copperplates reported, now preserved in the Bangladesh National Museum, would perhaps allow a detailed recosntruction of the history of the Rata dynasty.

Neither Shridharana, nor his father Jivadharana Rata, is given any imperial tittle in the Kailan grant. From this and also from the epithet prapta-pancha-mahashabda, usually a feudatory title, DC Sircar concluded that the Ratas (and also the Khadgas) were probably semi-independent feudatory chiefs. There is, however, absolutely nothing in the record to indicate their subordinate position. Moreover, there are several instances to show that omission of royal or imperial titles in a grant is no proof of the subordinate position of a ruler.

These records of the Ratas were discovered in outlying areas of their dominion and quite far from their capital. This does not seem to be purely accidental. The findspots of these records represent archaeological sites located in areas rich in ancient remains that have not yet been properly explored. If and when those sites are systematically investigated, they could reveal interesting information regarding the cultural development of the whole of Samatata. [M Harunur Rashid]