Khadga Dynasty

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Khadga Dynasty ruled the vanga and samatata areas of ancient Bengal in c 7th-8th century AD. Information about the dynasty comes from two copperplates discovered at Ashrafpur (near Dhaka), coins, and the Chinese accounts of Sheng-che (c 7th cent AD) etc. Of these, the Ashrafpur plates are the most important. The first known ruler of the dynasty is Khadgodyama (c 625-640 AD); but nothing is known about his predecessors. Khadgodyama was succeeded by his son Jatakhadga (c 640-658 AD). The line of succession continued through his son Devakhadga (c 658-673 AD) and his grandson Rajabhata (c 673-690 AD). Rajabhata was probably succeeded by his brother Balabhata (c 690-705 AD). The second Ashrafpur grant refers to an Udirnakhadga. The last part of his name may indicate that he too probably belonged to the Khadga dynasty, but the period of his reign is yet to be determined.

The Khadga kings did not use any paramount title like paramexvara. This indicates that they were local rulers. The extent of their territory is difficult to ascertain. In one of the Ashrafpur plates there are references to Talapataka and Dattakataka, identified respectively with Talpara and Datgaon villages under Raipura upazila in Narsingdi.

The Khadgas were politically dominant in the region of Vanga. The Ashrafpur plates were issued from the Jayaskandhavara of Jayakarmantavasaka, indentified with barkanta (Badkamta) in Comilla, in the 13th regnal year (c 671 AD) of Devakhadga. So, it appears that Devakhadga had extended his power from Vanga to Samatata uprooting the Rata king Sridharana Rata (c 660 - 670 AD). This is epigraphically supported by the Deulbadi Sharvani image inscription of Queen Prabhavati. The inscription depicts Devakhadga as benevolent (Danapati) and powerful (pratapi) and the conquerer of all enemies (Vijitarikhanda). The conquest probably required legitimisation through construction of or patronage to religious establishments. In accordance with the tradition of the age, this might have led Devakhadga to grant lands to Buddhist monastic establishments.

Both Ashrafpur grants make it clear that Devakhadga and his son Rajabhata together donated 15 patakas and 20 dronas of land to the four viharas and viharikas in charge of the revered preceptor Sanghamitra. The amount of the land donated to each vihara corresponds to about 484 bighas (1 pataka at least 128 bigha) at an average. Devakhadga, however, did not get the monasteries constructed; rather the establishments were already in existence and the Khadga king brought them within a single campus (ekagandikrta') therby making it a sacred landscape.

Attempts were made to achieve economic gains by utilising the donated lands. An important aspect of the plate is that it refers to Krsyamanaka, meaning tillers of land. The cultivators appear to have been mere agricultural labourers because they were neither landowners, nor did they have any right to enjoy the lands; land ownership lay with the monastic establishments. And the lands were enjoyed by another stratum of Bhujyamanakas mentioned in the grants. Those who enjoyed the land (bhujyamanakas) were different from those who actually cultivated (krsyamanakas) it. This difference leads one to conceive of a three tier land system in vogue: land-owning monasteries (Viharas and Viharikas), the beneficiaries (bhujyamanakas), and the actual tillers of the soil (krsyamanakas). The system appears to have been the same as mentioned in the Yajnavalkya Smrti (c 200 BC-200 AD) mahipati (King), Ksetrasvami (landowner) and Karsaka (actual tiller).

Both Devakhadga and his son Rajabhata supported the Buddhist practices in Samatata. The Chinese monk Sheng-Che Ch'an Shih writes that when he came to Samatata (his arrival time is not known) the king of the country was Ho-luo-She-Po-t'o or Rajaraja (bhata), Devakhadga's son. He was a great admirer of the three-gems - the Buddha, the Law and the Order (San-pao) and a zealous upasaka (Wu-po-so-chia) who followed the five Buddhist commandments. The king is said to have given to the monks and nuns offerings (not specified) for their maintenance. Every morning on behalf of the king an officer was sent to the monastery to ask the welfare of the resident monks including Sheng-che. The vihara where the monks and the great Che used to live was the Rajavihara. This Rajavihara may be suggested to have been the same as mentioned in the Gunaighar Copper plate of Vainyagupta (AD 507). All these supports/patronages may be explained as the king's efforts towards legitimising his royal power.

The copper plate of Balabhata, another son of Devakhadga, describes him as having granted 28 patakas of land in the area of Dhanalaksmipataka (unidentified) for the maintenance of the viharas and stupas and for the renovation and repair works at the axramas. The plate refers to mahabhogaxrama, meaning probably the ashrama where grand religious festivals were held. The viharas were apparently eight in number and in them, the Parimitamatam and Danachandrika were taught and discussed. The donations were apparently made for the residential religious structures erected in the name of the Buddhist Trinity- the Buddha, the Dharma and the Samgha.

The first Ashrafpur copperplate, however, furnishes a little more information about the religious leaning of the dynasty. It refers to the inscription of the name Srimat Devakhadga below the bull facing the left and not dharmachakra (Wheel of Law). This may indicate Devakhadga's Shaiva leaning which appears to have continued through his son Balabhata who also described himself as paramahesvara Rajaputra in his copperplate.

Devakhadga's queen Prabhavati also caused the goddess Sharvani to be covered with gold leaves out of reverence for the goddess (mahadevibhaktya hemaliptam-akarayat) at the village of deulbaRi in Comilla. The goddess Sharvani has eight arms which hold the thunderbolt, the bell, the bow and the shield on the left; and the concheshell, the goad, the sword, and the wheel on the right. She stands on a lotus-seat on the back of a conchant lion and belongs to the Brahmanical pantheon.

No where in the Deulbadi image inscripton, however, has it been mentioned that the goddess Sharvani was built and installed at Deulbadi. Indeed if we go by the inscription, we can surmise that the image of the goddess was already in existence at Deulbadi when the queen covered it with gold leaves.

The Shaiva leanings of Devakhadga, his queen Prabhavati, and their son Balabhata, should be explained as an act of stabilising Khadga royal power in the newly conquered area of Samatata (Vijitarikhanda). The queen's act of covering the goddess with gold leaves occurs following the word Vijitarikhanda relating to Devakhadga.

Two more inscriptions of the Khadgas have been found in the Shalvan Vihara excavated area which, however, do not point out any thing about the activities of the dynasty.

The deva dynasty, as has been epigraphically suggested, might have supplanted the Khadgas in 8th century AD. [Krishnendu Ray]

Bibliography BM Morrison, Lalmai, A Cultural Centre of Early Bengal, Washington, 1974; Kamalakanta Gupta, Two Mainamati Copper plate Inscriptions of the Khadga and Early Deva Times (7th and 8th cent. AD), Bangladesh Archaeology, I, 1979; DC Sircar, Pal-Purva Yuger Vamsanucarita, Calcutta, 1985; ABM Hussain (ed), Mainamati - Devaparvata, Dhaka, 1997.