Radha2 A distinct geopolitical unit (commonly called janapada) of ancient Bengal which probably included a large part of the modern Indian state of West Bengal. The earliest reference to Radha/ Rarha/ Ladha/ Lara is to be found in the Jaina chronicle, Acharangasutra where it is related that Mahavira travelled in the pathless country of 'Ladha' in Vajjabhumi and Subbhabhumi in the sixth century BC in trying to propagate his religion. During this period the settlement was 'pathless and lawless' and its people treated Mahavira harshly. Dipavangsha and Mahavangsha record the tradition that Sri Lanka was colonised by Vijaya who hailed from Simhapura in 'Lala', identified with Radha.

The earliest epigraphic reference to Radha is possibly found in an inscription from Mathura which records the erection of a Jaina image at the request of a Jaina monk who was an inhabitant of the territory of 'Rara'. The epigraphic records from Khajuraho refer to the wives of the kings of different kingdoms including Radha as being imprisoned by the Chandella ruler. The Naihati Copper plate inscription of vallalasena mentions Radha as the ancestral settlement of the Senas. The Bhuvaneshvara inscription of Bhatta Bhavadeva records that Radha was a waterless, dry and woody region, a description that suits the western part of Bengal. A tradition mentioned in Digvijayaprakasha locates Radha to the north of River Damodar and to the south of gauda. tabaqat-i-nasiri also suggests that the territory of Radha lay to the west of the Ganges.

Epigraphic and literary records of the 9th-10th century AD mention two divisions of Radha, viz, Daksina Radha (south Radha) and Uttara Radha (north Radha). These divisions roughly correspond to the Vajjabhumi and Suhmabhumi of earlier times. The Tirumulai rock inscription of Rajendra Chola (11th century AD) clearly mentions two divisions of Radha, the northern and southern. In this record Takkana-Ladam (ie Daksina-Radha) is distinguished from Danda-bhukti, Vangala-desha and Ladam (ie Uttara Radha). Daksina-Radha is also mentioned in the Gaonri Plates of Vakpati Munja (10th century), Shridharacharya's Nyayakandali, the Amareshvara Temple inscription of Mandhata (Nimar district in Madhya Pardesh), Krsna Mishra's Prabodha-Chandrodaya and Mukundarama's Chandimangal (1593-94 AD).

On the basis of the above records we come to know that Daksina Radha included different large settlements of the modern districts of Howrah, Hughli and Burdwan in West Bengal, or considerable portions of West Bengal lying between the rivers Ajay and Damodar. In all probability, its southern boundary reached the Rupanarayan and its western boundary extended beyond the Damodar far into the Arambagh sub-division. Aparo Mandala, which was very closely connected with Daksina-Radha as a territory and subject to the same ruling family (Shura) in the 11th century AD, was perhaps identical with Mandaran in the Arambagh sub-division of Hughli. Regarding the major settlements of Radha it may be noted that Shridharacharya and Krsna Mishra mentioned the two famous villages - Bhurisrsta or Bhurishresthika and Navagram; this is in addition to Mukundrama's mention of his own village of Damunya or Daminya. Bhurisrsta or Bhurishresthika is identified with the modern village of Bhurasut in the district of Howrah; whereas Navagram and Damunya or Daminya can be identified with villages in the districts of Hughli and Burdwan respectively.

The earliest reference to Uttara-Radha (north Radha) is found in a sixth century inscription of the Chola King Devendravarman. This part of Radha has been clearly mentioned as a distinct geographical unit in the eleventh century Tirumulai inscription of Rajendra Chola. The Belava copper plate of Bhojavarman refers to the village of Siddhala in Uttara-Radha as the birthplace of Bhatta Bhavadeva. The Naihati grant of Vallalasena also mentions a village named Vallahittaha in Svalpadaksinavithi of Uttara-Radha mandala. Siddhala has been identified with Siddhalagram in modern Birbhum in West Bengal. The other village mentioned in the Naihati grant has been identified with Balutiya on the northern fringe of the district of Burdwan. It is worth mentioning that the Shaktipur grant of laksmanasena states the location of northern Radha in the Kankagram-bhukti whereas according to the Naihati grant northern Radha was a part of Vardhaman-bhukti.

The river Ajay is usually regarded as constituting the boundary line between north and south Radha. However, on the basis of different epigraphic records we may assume that northern Radha comprised the western parts of the modern district of Mursidabad, the entire district of Birbhum, including some parts of Santal Parganas, and the northern part of the Katwa sub-division of Burdwan district.

Regarding the existence of large settlements in the form of administrative and commercial centres, large villages, as well as nucleus village settlements in the geographical unit of Radha (both north and south) it may justifiably be suggested that well-known archaeological sites like Mahanad, Betur (in Howrah district), Saptagram, Garh Mandaran, (in Hughli district), Bharatpur, Mangalkot (in Burdwan district) and possibly Dihar and Puskarana (in Bankura district) belong to Daksina-Radha; whereas sites like Rajbadidanga and Gitagram (in Murshidabad district), Paikor, Batikar, Bahiri, Kagas, Kotasur (in Birbhum district) and Vallalarajardhibi (in Nadia district) belong to Uttara-Radha. Their archaeological assemblages and traditional accounts show the existence of settlements that may help us to visualise the emergence of Radha as a distinct geopolitical unit in the early medieval period. [Rupendra K Chattopadhyaya]