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Guhila Rajputs between the 7th and 10th century AD in Mewar (Southern Rajasthan), Part-I

A look at the 7th century map of Mewar clearly proves that Southern Rajasthan was the lineage domain of the Guhila Rajputs. — Prof. Nandini Kapur Sinha


Evidence of the beginnings of state formation at a local level in Mewar can be traced to the seventh century. Two centres of Guhila royal families at Nägda-Ahada and Kiskindha in the Mewar hills and a small Guhila chief at Dhavagartâ (Dhor in Jahazpurtahsil, Bhilwara district) in the upper Banas plain under the suzerainty of the Moris (later Mauryas of eastern Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh) of Chittaurgarh appear on the map of seventh century Mewar. We identify this royal family as the Guhilas of Nagda-Aha a not on the basis of their initial or later capital towns but on the basis of the area under their control in the seventh century. Nagdâ is only 22 km north of Ahada (modern Udaipur). It is beyond doubt that this family based at Nagda must have controlled a territory that lay 22 km south of their seat of power during this period.

These Guhila chiefs began their career in the Nagda-Aha a belt of the western Berachvalley in Udaipur district. In the seventh century, Guhila power was confined to this belt. The Guhilas of Kiþkindha based themselves in the southern portion of the Mewar hills touching Bagar (tribal pocket of the Bhils) locality in the middle Mahi basin (northern part of Dungarpur district). Kiþkindha is identified with present Kalyanpur in southern Udaipur district, bordering Dungarpur.

Guhila acknowledgement of the Mori sovereigns is evident from the subordinate titles of the Kiskindha Guhilas, such as vapt-asesamahasabdah, samadhigata-panc-mahasabdah, samuparjjita-pancmahasabdah, etc. It is also reflected that Dhavagarta Guhila chief Dhanika’s reference to his overlord as parama-bhammaraka-maharajadhiraja-paramesvarasridhavalappadevapravardhamanarajye as well as in the title of raval for the legendary Bappa Raval (ancestor of the Nagda-Ahada Guhila family). Their limited territorial control is obvious not only from the proximity of the Moris of Chittaurgarh but more importantly from their simple claims to social status. If a small Guhila chief of Dhavagartã referred to himself merely as guhilaputra- namsridhanika, Guhila kings of Kiskindha and Nagda-Ahada introduced themselves simply as guhilaputtranavaye, guhilanaradhipavaAse, and guhilanvaya.  However, Guhila acknowledgement of Mori sovereignty did not minimize the Guhila predominance in the seventh century Mewar. There is no evidence in the records to prove that the Moris settled these Guhila rulers in these three different nuclear centres. On the contrary, there is Mori acknowledgement of Mewar as the domain of the Guhilas. The fact is evident from the following expression in the Dabok inscription: ‘guhilaputranamsri (dh) anikasyopabhu (jya) manayam (dha)-vagartayam’. This literally means that the village of Dhavagartã lay in the domain (or in the enjoyment) of Guhilaputra Sri Dhanika. The family was not settled by the Mori sovereign through the system of land grants. Therefore, the term bhujyamana indicates that the Moris formally recognized the Guhilas as the most prominent political element in the locality of Dhavagarta.

The emphasis upon guhilaputra, guhilänvaya, guhilanaradhipavamse, etc., made both by the Kiskindha and Nagda-Ahada Guhilas also indicates an attempt to highlight their lineage (in the sense of vamsa) identity. Hence, the Mewar hills had emerged as the domain of the Guhila royal families and their kinsmen.

The creation of lineage domain and mobilization of lineage power in areas of pre-state polity (absence of local states) such as the Mewar hills of the pre-seventh century period evidently involved change of the economic pattern of the region by expansive lineages. In this case, the emergence of ‘ruling lineages’ (royal families originating from different vamsas), would correspond to ‘primary state formation’ and introduction of monarchical rule. Evidences have been cited from early medieval north Rajasthan, Gujarat, south India and the Deccan in which close relationships between lineage and territory were expressed through territorial names, e.g. Gurjarabhumi, Gurjaratra, Gurjaradharitri and Gurjaradhara for the Gurjaras in north Rajasthan and Gujarat, Cola nadu, Cera-nadu, Tondai-nadu, Ganga-padi, Nolamba-padi, etc., for the south and the Deccan. Undoubtedly, such lineages originated from agrarian bases.

Richard G. Fox in his discussion on the formation of a lineage, views the lineage ancestors as agricultural entrepreneurs. Marc Bloch traces the origin of some of the seigniorial families in medieval Europe to a similar process. The ancestors of others, perhaps, were among those rich peasants of whose transformation into landlords, each with group of tenements, we catch a glimpse in certain documents of the tenth century.” Thus, formation of lineage domains entailed a process of transformation of the rich peasants of a particular lineage into landlords. The ultimate success in the growth of these landlords would manifest itself in their assumption of political or royal power.  In other words, it is the assumption of ‘kingship’ which would distinguish these lineage heads from the rest of society. Once a family of the dominant lineage transformed itself into a royal house in its domain, the process of state formation began at the local level.

Neither contemporary nor succeeding Guhila sources speak of matrimonial relations between the three Guhila ruling families. Lineage exogamy suggests possible ancestral connections, however remote, between these Guhila families. But the process of the political rise of the Guhila lineages and the formation of Guhila royal houses was uneven, leaving its mark on the phenomenon of state formation.

The beginning of the process of state formation at a local level in Mewar is amply borne out by a prosperous agrarian base of the local Guhila states in the seventh century including settlements in the tribal belt. It is also corroborated by the evidence of political incorporation of the Tocal chiefs through a system of ranking and distribution of roles and services, and through royal patronage of local sects and cults. Theagrarian base of the Dhavagarta Guhila is evident by the Guhila grant of saradyagraismkaksetram (fields that can be tilled in autumn as well as in summer). The boundaries of the donated plots touched the fields of many other individuals, indicating the presence of many more well cultivated fields in the village.  What is most significant are the references to the araghamma (or Persian wheel). 

These irrigational works were owned both by individuals and by the royal family. Just like vahiyalinamaraghammakcetram (field irrigated by araghatta named vahiyali), reference is also made to rajakiyaaraghammakullya (araghamma owned by the royal house). These references are indicative of royal and individual initiative in expanding agricultural fields, within the spatial limits of the village. Such initiatives point to conscious attempts to strengthen the resource base of the locality.

Author is a Ph D Programme Coordinator, SOITS, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi

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