XuenZang’s Maharashtra (MO-HOLA-CH’A) -Part II

The first camp

On his return journey from Kanchipuram in southern India to China, XuenZang was accompanied by seventy monks from Sri Lanka. XuenZang describes this journey as

Leaving the country of Ta-lo-pi-ch’a (Dravida) and travelling northwards, we enter a forest wild, in which are a succession of deserted towns, or rather little villages. Brigands, in concert together, wound and capture (or delay) travellers. After going 2000 li or so we come to Kong-kin-na-pu-lo.” (Beal Translation)

His follower monk, ‘Shraman Hwui Li’ describes his master’s journey in following words.

From Dravida, he went north-west in company about 70 priests from Simhala, and visited the sacred traces for the purpose of reverent observation. After going about 2000 Li, we came to Kin-na-po-lo”

I find many loose ends here in the two descriptions. Firstly there is no unanimity in the name of the destination from these two travel accounts. Since both these names have been translated by the same person, his interpretation of the original Chinese name, right or wrong, could be considered as same.

XuenZang calls this place Kong-kin-na-pu-lo, whereas Hwui Li calls it Kin-na-pa-lo. Another translator, Mr. Thomas Watters has added further confusion in this name by pointing out the differences in this name from various other texts . He mentions in his book that “ In the Chinese text of this passage for Kung-kin-na-pu-lo of other texts, has Tu (that is Da) han-na-pu-lo, Hwui Li calls it Kin-na-pu-lo and yet another text the name appears as Kung-ta-na-pu-lo.” It appears that entire confusion has come about the reading of the actual Chinese text as

Watters however agrees that there is unanimity amongst historians that the name of this place must be Kokanpur. Since I have no means to verify any of the claims, I shall presume for the time being that the name of the first camp, where XuenZang stayed for some time, was Kokanpur.

The other major difference between descriptions of XuenZang and Hwui Li, is about the direction in which the travel was made. XuenZang writes about travelling Northwords and Hwui Li describes it as North-West. Some more points can also be noted from these two descriptions.

1.Firstly, the entire travel between Kanchipuram and Kokanpur was done in wild forest area infested with brigands who were used to capture the travellers.

2. XuenZang saw on his way, many deserted towns or little villages.

3. Distance between Kanchipuram and Kokanpur is 2000 Li.

Another observation also can me made here. XuenZang has always invariably mentioned in his book, whenever he crossed a major river. We can therefore infer that in this segment of his journey, no major river came across his path.

XuenZang and Hwui Li both describe Kokanpur in some details. XuenZang mentions about Kokanpur as “ This country is about 5000 li in circuit. The capital is 3000 li or so round. The land is rich and fertile ; it is regularly cultivated, and produces large crops. The climate is hot; the disposition of the people ardent and quick. Their complexion is black, and their manners fierce and uncultivated. They love learning, and esteem virtue and talent. There are about 100 sanghdrdmas, with some 10,000 priests (followers). They study both the Great and the Little Vehicle. They also highly reverence the Devas, and there are several hundred temples in which many sectaries dwell together. By the side of the royal palace is a great sangharama with some 300 priests, who are all men of distinction. This convent has a great vihara, a hundred feet and more in height. In it is a precious tiara belonging to Sarvarthasiddha (Yih-tsai-i-sh’ing) the prince. It is somewhat less than two feet in height, and is ornamented with gems and -precious stones. It is kept in a jewelled casket. On fast-days it is brought out and placed on a high throne. They offer to it flowers and incense, on which occasions it is lit up with radiance. By the side of the city is a great sangharama in which is a vihara about 50 feet high. In this is a figure of Maitreya Bodhisattva carved out of sandal-wood. It is about ten feet high. This also on fast-days reflects a bright light. It is the work of the Arhat Wen-‘rh-pih-i (Srutavimansatikoti).

To the north of the city not far is a forest of Tala trees about 30 li round. The leaves (of this tree) are long and broad, their colour shining and glistening. In all the countries of India these leaves are everywhere used for writing on. In the forest is a stupa. Here the four former Buddhas sat down and walked for exercise, and traces of them still remain. Beside this is a stupa containing the bequeathed relics of the Arhat Srutavimansatikoti. Not far to the east of the city is a stupa which has sunk down into the ground from its foundations, but is still about thirty feet high. The old tradition says, In this stupa is a relic of Tathagata, and on religious days (Holy days) it exhibits a miraculous light. In old days, when Tathagata was in the world, he preached in this place, and exhibited his miraculous powers and converted a multitude of men. Not far to the south-west of the city is a stupa about a hundred feet high, which was built by Asoka-raja. Here the Arhat Srutavimansatikoti exhibited great miraculous

powers and converted a great many people. By the side of it is a sangharama, of which only the foundations remain. This was built by the fore-named Arhat. “

I am afraid that not much information, useful for our purpose, can be obtained from above description. However some valid observations can certainly be made.

1.The circumference around the country is 5000 Li (800 miles) . We can infer that the country or Kingdom is not very large.

2.Since Xuen Zang describes Kokanpur as a capital of a country, it is obviously an independent kingdom and certainly it is not part of country of Maharashtra, ruled by Pulikeshin II. However it could be a vessel state to him.

3.The land is rich and fertile ; it is regularly cultivated, and produces large crops.

4.The climate is hot; the disposition of the people ardent and quick.

5.The complexion of the people is black, and their manners fierce and uncultivated. They love learning, and esteem virtue and talent.

6.There are large number of places of worship for Buddhist (Both vessels) and Hindu religion.

7.To the north of the city not far is a forest of Tala trees about 30 li round.

8.Not far to the south-west of the city is a stupa about a hundred feet high, which was built by Asoka-raja.

Since Kokanpur could not be within borders of Country of Maharashtra, ruled by Pulikeshin II, it becomes important to find about the real borders of the state in those times.

‘Aihole’ is a tiny, non-descript village presently in the state of Karnataka. In this village, there are number of temples that even were built in earlier to Pulikeshin’s time. In one of the Jain temples, there exists an epigraphical inscription. This inscription precisely tells us about the borders of the Pulikeshin II’ s empire. As per this inscription, in short, his empire was spread right up to the seas on the west and on the east and to the Narmada river in the north. In southward direction, entire region stretching upto the banks of Kaveri river was in his empire.

 Pulikeshin II ‘s Empire

Another important historical fact is very significant in this context. Kachipuram, from where XuenZang began his return journey, was the capital of the Kingdom of Pallava king, ‘ MahendraVarman’ at that time. Pulikeshin II and Mahindra Varman had fought a major war few years earlier to XuenZang’s visit. Pulikeshin II had won a major victory in this war and his army had reached up to a point just 40 miles short of the capital city of Kanchipuram. He was not able to proceed further and his victorious army had gone back to Badami (Lat. 15.90, Long,75.67), which was the traditional capital of the Chalukya kings, destroying everything on the way (as was the tradition in those days). This fact also finds a mention in the ‘Aihole’ Epigraph mentioned above. The city of Kanchipuram is located South-East of Badami and it is important to note that borders of Pulikeshin II’s Mahrashtra or the Chalukya kingdom was extended only up to Pennar river in this direction.

Before we proceed any further and attempt to make a guess regarding Kokanpur, let us first find out the names of places suggested by historians as possible candidates for Kokanpur’s location.

1.Bavavasi in Shimoga district of Karnataka, suggested by Saint Martin (336 Miles from Kanchipuram)

2.Anagundi village on banks of Tungbhadra river as per Cunningham (280 Miles from Kanchipuram)

3.Nagpattan near Mysore – Fergusson (213 Miles from Kanchipuram)

4.Golkonda near Hyderabad – Beal (321 Miles from Kanchipuram)

5.Koknur in Andhra Pradesh, as per Burgess’s opinion. (310 Miles from Kanchipuram)

6.Chandrapur in present day’s Maharashtra (490 Miles from Chandrapur)

The principle reason for selection of these places by these Nineteenth century historians, appears to be the distance between these places and Kanchipuram (Around 330 Miles)and the fact that these (except Nagpattan) are located to North or North-East of Kanchipuram. I carried out a simple exercise and pin pointed these places on a Google earth image. This image can be seen below.

 Candidates for Kokanpur Location, suggested by Historians

 Out of this list, Nagpattan is almost to the South-West of Kanchipuram. Banavasi is on West. Both these places can be rejected for this reason. Chandrapur is almost 500 miles North and thus can be rejected. Anegundi, Kuknur and Golgonda have the right distance as well as right general direction no doubt, but all these places are located well within the empire of Pulikeshin II , as seen by the map above showing limits of his empire. Kokanpur, for which we are looking for, is a capital of an independent country or at least of a vessel state to Pulkeshin II. I therefore feel, that none of the places mentioned above and which were suggested by the historians, really can foot the bill and must be rejected.

From the political map given above, we can be sure that there were no other independent countries between Pulikeshin II’s Maharashtra and the Pallava Kingdom. (Kanchipuram was capital of this Pallava Kingdom) We therefore need to limit our search to vessel kings who had pledged their alliance with Pulikeshin II or with Pallava King MahendraVarman.

In fact, there were two such vessel kings in this geographical area in that time. The first was the Western Ganga kingdom founded by KonganiVarman Madhav. King Durvinita was ruling this kingdom during this time. The ‘Aihole’ inscription referred above, mentions the name of this kingdom as a vessel kingdom to Pulkeshin II. This kingdom was spread in present day Mysore-Bengluru area of Karnataka, Kongu district in Tamil Nadu and some parts on Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border around Hindupur District. The capital of this kingdom was at Talkad, kolar or Nandgiri at various points of times.

The second kingdom that was there during this time, was the Kingdom of Bana. Initially this was a vessel kingdom of Pallava kings. When Pulikeshin II defeated Pallava state, this kingdom switched the sides and pledged their alliance with Pulikeshin II. This kingdom was spread from Chittor in Karnataka to Kadappa and Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. The capital of this kingdom in those times, was near village Parigi located in Anantpur district and Hindupur taluk of present day Andhra Pradesh. River Pallar was the southern border of this kingdom.

Let us first consider the feasibility of Western Ganga kingdom being Kokanpur. It had three capitals over a period of time. Out of the three, Talakada and Kolar are clearly to South-West and West of Kanchipuram and thus can not be considered. Nandgiri village is actually North of Hyderabad and was well within the boundaries of Pulikeshin II ‘s Maharashtra boundaries. We are thus left only with village of Parigi , which was known as Parivipura and was the capital of ancient kingdom of Bana.

  Capitals of Ancient Kingdoms of Western Ganga and Bana

Let us now see whether description for Kokanpur as given by Xuen Zang and Hwui Li compares well with the actual location of Parigi or Parivipura.

1.XuenZang mentions that Kingdom of Kokanpur was a small country with a perimeter of about 800 Miles only. The description fits the Bana kingdom which was essentially spread between Hindupur, Kadappa and Nellore from present day Andhra Pradesh state.

2.’As a crow flies’ distance between Parivipura and Kanchipuram is 170 Miles. However the elevation of Kanchpuram is just 252 feet, where as Parivipur has an elevation of 2150 feet. Parivipur is located on The Deccan plateau and between these two places, ‘Eastern Ghat mountain range’ has to be crossed. If we have a look at the present road structure between these two places, it is clear that one would have to travel more than 300 miles to reach Parivipur from Kanchipuram.

  ‘Eastern Ghat mountain ranges’ and present highways between Kanchipuram and Parivipura

3.Parivipur is located in the North-West direction of Kanchipuram.

4.Since a major war was fought in this area between Pulikeshin II and Kanchipuarm king, only few years earlier, it is no wonder that XuenZang saw many villages and a town in deserted condition as these must have been destroyed by the returning victorious army of Pulikeshin II. Since Parivipur is located on way to Badami city from Kanchipuram, it is obvious that this army must have returned by the same route, by which XuenZang had travelled later.

5.No major river is required to be crossed for this journey.

6.The land around Parivipur is rich and fertile ; it is regularly cultivated, and produces large crops.

7.The climate is hot; the disposition of the people ardent and quick.

8.The complexion of the people is black, and to a stranger, their manners may appear fierce and uncultivated. They love learning, and esteem virtue and talent.

9.The region around Hindupur and Kadappa is known for many Buddhist relics. XuenZang’s description about stupas and Sanghramas in Kokanpur, may not be out of place for this region.

10.Two small rivers, Pennar and Chitravati flow in this region. XuenZang must have observed dense forest in the ‘Eastern ghat mountain ranges’ and heard about brigands here, on his way. It is possible that around Parivipur, a forest of Tala trees could have existed around those times.

 Since I have reached the location of Parivipur by process of elimination and also XuenZang’s description matches well with the place, I feel that XuenZangs illusive city of Kokanpur must be the capital of Bana country, Parvipur or Paravipura.

 (To be continued )

30 May 2011


About chandrashekhara

I am a retired electronics engineer. I am interested in writing, reading books. Other hobbies include Paper models, wooden fret work and social networking.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

My New e-Book

To read Click the picture

e book- Looking Glass World

To read click on the image

Search Old Posts


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 430 other followers

%d bloggers like this: