Kotivarsa

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Kotivarsa identified with Bangarh (South Dinajpur district of West Bengal, India) and is located on the left bank of the river Punarbhava or rather on the fork between Punarbhava on the west and Atrai on the east. Four Damodarpur copperplates, ranging from the year 128 to the year 224 of the Gupta era (448 - 544 AD), refer to Kotivarsa as a visaya belonging to pundravardhana bhukti. In the Abhidanachintamani (IV, 977) of Hemachandra (11th century) Devikota, Umavana, Banapura and Sonitapura are referred to as synonyms of Kotivarsa. The Vayupurana (XXIII, 209) and the Brhat Sanghita (XI, II) refer to Kotivarsa as a town.

Archaeological excavations at Bangarh also reflect its urban character. The citadel area revealed five cultural phases dating from the time of the Mauryas to the medieval period. It is believed that the city had a modest beginning in which the rampart wall was possibly an earthen one. It was only in the following phase (BC 200-AD 300) that we find a brick built wide rampart wall with drains, cesspits and residential buildings made of burnt bricks of a very large size, thereby showing distinct signs of prosperity and burgeoning urbanism.

In the Gupta period, though the excavated materials from Bangarh may not be comparable with the richness and diversity of those belonging to Kusana cultural phase, yet it is evident from the Damodarpur copperplates of Kumaragupta I and Budhagupta that the city continued to be an important centre. It is mentioned as anubahamana kotivarsa visaye. From these inscriptions we learn that Kotivarsa was a district level territorial unit under the authority of a visayapati of the rank of Kumaramatya appointed by the Uparika ie the provincial governor. The visayapati was helped in the administration by a board consisting of four members viz the guild president (nagara xresthi), the chief merchant (prathama sarthavaha), the head of the artisans (prathama kulika), and the chief scribe (prathama kayastha). It appears that representatives of important socio-economic groups in the city of Kotivarsa were associated with the local administration. This structure was a unique administrative experiment and here we have the first traces of popular representation in the local government.

Though the late Gupta phase of Bangarh is marked by decadence, particularly in terms of building activities, the Pala period (mid 8th century AD-12th century AD), in sharp contrast, indicates a picture of efflorescence. Rampart walls, compound walls, residential quarters, temples with ambulatory path and its enclosing walls, damp proof granaries, bathrooms, drains, ring wells etc suggest a prosperous condition of the city. In the Pala period, three mandalas and some villages were under the jurisdiction of Kotivarsa visaya, though, local level administration is not recorded. This is evident from the Bangarh inscription of mahipala i, (11th century), the Amgachhi grant of Vigrahapala III (12th century) and the Manahali grant of Madanapala (12th century).

Kotivarsa was a cultural centre where various religious groups co-existed. It was particularly an important centre of Vaishnavism. It continued to be a religious centre in the later period, when it came to be known as Devikota or devkot. [Suchandra Ghosh]