Kings of the Wild: The re-use of local and Vedic elements in the legitimation process of Medieval Karnataka

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This geo-map is the outcome of the project “Kings of the Wild”, funded by the Institutional Strategy of the University of Tübingen (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, ZUK 63).

Principal Investigator: Dr. Elena Mucciarelli

Research Fellow: Dr. Cristina Bignami

Photos Credit: Dr. Cristina Bignami

Digital Humanities Expert: Dr. Fabian Schwabe

The project analysed the formation of the early medieval kingdoms in the area that is now the southern union of Karnataka, India; it aimed at charting the adaptive re-use of the ancient Vedic tradition (1500 c.a. BC – 500 c.a. B.C.) and the local cults in the complex construction of the dynastic authority (11th -13th cent. CE) with a special focus on the Hoysaḷa dynasty.

The research entailed a new approach to the topic by combining two methodologies: the philological study of the textual material has been enhanced by the art-historical investigation on the medieval sacred areas. Moreover, a digital edition of the textual and artistic relevant documents has been created in collaboration with the eScience-Center of Tübingen University. Through Neatline we could map and display both the inscriptions, along with their translations, and the photographic documentation of the temples and of the sacred areas taken during the during the field trips in Karnataka.

The Epigraphia Carnatica & Benjamin Lewis Rice

The pioneering historian Benjamin Lewis Rice (1837-1927) worked on the twelve volumes of the Epigraphia Carnatica from 1886 until 1905. The entire corpus is composed of 18 volumes, the last six being added between 1940-1950 by Narashimacharya and M. Krishna. Based on his research, Rice published, among others, History of Mysore and Coorg from Inscriptions as a compendium based on the Epigraphia Carnatica, and Report of Mysore Census of 1881. His interest for Karnataka cultural history lead him also to study the literary production in vernacular language and he edited Vikramārjunavijaya, one of oldest poetic production in Kannaḍa language and a fine adaptation of the Indian epic Mahābhārata.

The Epigraphia Carnatica was a patient reconstruction of information collected centuries before with the aim to build the past annals of the country. The Mysore King Cikka Dēva Rājā who ruled from 1672 to 1704 had lists of the inscriptions throughout his country for the purpose of checking his endowments. These documents went partially lost during the reign of Tipu Sultān. On the restoration of the Hindu Raj, the Colonel Mackenzie took copies of thousands inscriptions. At the end of the nineteenth century, the introduction of photography gave him the chance to write down the original inscriptions, amending the mistakes that were unwittingly propagated by unreliable copies of inscriptions. The publication of the Epigraphia Carnatica began in 1886 with the material collected previously; between the years 1890-1897, Rice started his exploration of Karnataka transcribing all inscriptions district by district, using a systematic procedure based on geographical parameters.

The corpus of the Epigraphia Carnatica contains more than 9,000 inscriptions in Sanskrit, Kannaḍa, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu. It entails an overwhelming amount of data that represent a unique reference for Indian history on many different aspects, such as, e.g., social and political history (trades, legal regulations, public events), religion (rituals, donations to the priestly groups, creation of monasteries), and cultural history (artifacts, literary production, patronage). The study of the Epigraphia Carnatica has been initiated by a collaboration with the Tübingen University Library for the digitization of the entire corpus. Dr. Cristina Bignami and Dr. Elena Mucciarelli have indexed the scans prepared by the University Library of Tübingen and made the complex content of the whole first edition easily accessible to the public:

The website is officially online since March 1st 2017.