Silver Coin of Shilaharas
of Southern Maharashtra (Coinex 2006 - Souvenir)
Three distinct families of chiefs or
minor princes with the name Shilahara or Shilara ruled over different parts of
country. The Shilahara family at Kolhapur was the latest of the three and was
founded about the time of downfall of the Rashtrakuta Empire. This branch of the
Shilaharas ruled over Southern Maharashtra, comprising the modern districts of
Satara, Kolhapur and Belgaon. Their family deity was the goddess Mahalakshmi of
Kolhapur, whose boon, they claim to have secured in their copperplate grants
(Mahalakshmi-labdha-vara-prasada ) . Like their relatives of the northern branch
of Konkan, the Shilaharas of Kolhapur claim to be of the lineage of the
Vidyadhara Jimutavahana, the son of Jimutketu and who saved the Naga king
Sankhachuda from Garuda by offering his own body to be torn instead of his.
Their family name is supposed to have been derived from this incident (Shila+Aahara
- Meal kept on a stone for Garuda). They ccarried the banner of golden Garuda
also ( Suvarnagarudadhwaja ) . One of the many titles used by the Shilaharas was
‘Tagarapuravaradhisvara‘ i.e. Supreme Sovereign ruler of Tagara. (Bhandarkar :
1957, Fleet: 1896)
The first capital
of the Shilaharas was probably at Karad during
the reign of Jatiga-II as known from their
copper plate grant of Miraj and
‘Vikramankadevacharita ‘of Bilhana (Dept.
Gazetteer: 2002) Hence sometimes they are
referred as ‘Shilaharas of Karad’. Later on
although the capital was shifted to Kolhapur,
some of their grants mention Valavada, and the
hill fort of Pranalaka or Padmanala, (Panhala)
as the places of royal residence. Even though
the capital was shifted to Kolhapur, Karhad
retained its significance during the Shilahara
period. This branch rose to power the latter
part of the Rashtrakuta rule and so, unlike the
kings of the other two branches, those of this
branch do not mention the genealogy of the
Rashtrakutas even in their early grants. Later
on they acknowledged the suzerainty of the
later Chalukya for some time. They had used
Kannada as the official language as can seen
from their inscriptions. This branch continued
to hold the Southern Maharashtra from circa
A.D. 940 to A.D. 1220.
Previously the coins of Chhittaraja (Deyell:
1990), and a silver coin of Aparaditya Deva (Bhandare: 2001) of Thane
branch of the Shilaharas were published. The small silver coin illustrated
above is from my collection and it was found in Krishna riverbed from place
Wai in Satara district (Metal – Silver, Size – 7 mm, Weight – 0.21 Grams,
Shilaharas of Kolhapur , King Bhoja ?
2) Year : 12 th Century AD
3) Unit :
Unknown , Silver
4) Obverse : Garuda standing to right, fighting
with Serpent, three dots behind the head of Garuda.
5) Reverse : Inscription in Kannada script the
larger is 'Bh' and the smaller, placed inside the
larger, is ‘Ra’, which accompanied with Sun and Moon symbol.
These types of Coins were first published by Walter Elliot in 1880 (Elliot: 2005
Reprint). However he did not identify the issue. It takes took more than a
century to first attribution of these coins. Michael Mitchiner has attributed
similar coins to the Vijayanagara Empire (Mitchiner: 1998). He Based his views
mainly on the finds of these coins, it may show that this type is concentrated
tightly around West Ahmednagar district, South Pune district, and areas in
Satara district such as Bhor, Wai, Karhad, Shirwal etc. Some of them are
occasionally found in Kolhapur. The Vijayanagar Empire never held its sway as
far as these regions which lie immediately beyond the Krishna-Bhima Rivers; in
fact they very rarely came in control of areas beyond the Ghataprabha -
Malaprabha Rivers in Karnataka. Also, the type characteristics are evidently
Shilahara – the Garuda with snake was the Shilahara dynastic emblem.
Dr.Shailendra Bhandare in personal communication has suggested that the letter
on the reverse ‘Bh’ & ‘Ra‘could be the initial for ‘Bhoja Raaya (or other regal
title) of ‘Bhoja‘, one of the prominent ruler of Shilahara family. Eventually
there were two rulers named Bhoja of Shilahara family hence attribution to
particular ruler will remain conjectural.
I had studied some ‘Walve hoard ‘type peculiar
‘V’ shaped gold coins in private collections at Wai. They had a gold wire
bent into V- Shape and stamped with three punches , two punches have Kannada
legends and the centre punch depicting ‘Boar‘ or ‘Garuda‘ (fig.1) . These
particular issues are sometimes attributed to ‘Shilaharas of Karad‘.
Somewhat similar depiction of ‘Garuda’ is made on my coin (fig.2). It is
possible that the ‘Boar’ type coins were issued by Chalukyas or Shilaharas
(to show loyalty to their masters i.e. Chalukyas). The ‘Garuda’ type coins
could be the independent issue of Shilaharas. Also some uninscribed Gold
coins known from Kolhapur having Trident without handle, Sun and moon on
obverse and Garuda on reverse are attributed to Shilaharas of Kolhapur
(Gupta: 2004, Mitchiner: 1998).
It seems that Bhoja-II was the last ruler of
this family and he was overthrown and dispossessed by Singhana, in or soon
after Saka 1131 (1219-20 AD) .This is borne out by one of Singhana’s
inscriptions dated Saka 1160 Which speaks of him as having been ‘a very
Garuda in putting fight the serpent which was the mighty king Bhoja-II,
whose habitation was Panhala ‘Pamnala–nilaya–prabhala-bhojabhupala–vyala–vidaravana–vihamgaraja’
(Fleet : 1896)
I am grateful to Dr Shailendra Bhandare,
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, U.K & Govindaraya Prabhu, Eminent Numismatist for
their constant inspiring support and discussion on SACG. The Author can be
contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Bhandarkar R.G. (1957): Early History of Deccan, Sushil Gupta (I) Pvt
2.Fleet J.F (1896) :The Dynasties of the Kanarese District of The Bombay
Presidency, Written for the Bombay Gazetteer .
3.Department of Gazetteer , Govt of Maharashtra (2002) : Itihaas : Prachin
Kal, Khand -1 ( Marathi)
4.Deyell John S. (1990): Living without Silver, The monetary History of
Early Mediaeval North India, Oxford University Press.
5.Bhandare Shailendra (2001) : Shilaharas - a coin of Aparaditya, king of
Thane , ONS Newsletter- 167
6.Gupta P.L. (1958): Interesting Hoard of Gold coins from Walve, JNSI -20.
7.Gupta P.L. (2004): Coins, National book Trust, New Delhi.
8.Mitchiner Michael (1998): The Coinage and History of Southern India,
Part-I, Karnataka-Andhra, London.
9.SACG: South Asian Coins Group, internet based discussion forum.
10.Elliot Walter (2005) Reprint: Coins of South India, Bharatiya Kala