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The Jaina Paradox

TENSING RODRIGUES

We have said earlier that the entire ‘belt’ of ports in Komkan, which replaced Kathiyavad, is strewn with Jaina, Buddhist, and Siva related archaeological remains and cultural influence. And we have taken that as a strong evidence of the movement of kathiyavadi ksatriya into Komkan. The logic behind it may not be immediately obvious. It helps if we read it in the context of an earlier statement: the ksatriya-kirat fusion created a unique culture in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plain. It was in this land that a number of religious and spiritual movements arose, most famous among them being BuddAhism and Jainism.

We have made a fundamental difference between Jainism as a religion and the jaina culture. The latter was the unique culture that emerged in the eastern Indo-Gangetic plain as a result of the ksatriya-kirat cultural and genetic fusion. The dominant characteristic of this culture was ahimsa and atmavidya. This culture of ahimsa and atmavidya is what we have called the jaina culture. It was in this land of jaina culture, and as a natural consequence of it, that the two religions Jainism and Buddhism arose. So, we look upon the traces of Jainism and Buddhism, along with those of Siva, as sure markers of ksatriya-kirat ethnicity [Who Are Vidyadhara, July, 30 2017; Who Are The Jaina, December 17, 2017].

But we have still not answered the question we posed to ourselves earlier: how did the kathiyavadi ksatriya travel to Komkan, overland along the western coast of India, or through the sea? We have no literary records to go by, no folk stories to rely on, and no evidence of archaeological remains; we have no way to know it for certain. Using the same logic as we used in case of the early man travelling out of Africa and down the west coast of India, we can safely conclude that they must have preferred to navigate the waters along the coast to conserve energy.

Well, that is a rather superfluous speculation. Kathiyavad was a thriving port, and kathiyavadi ksatriya were a sea faring people; they ventured into Komkan in search of ports. It would be ridiculous to suppose that they trudged through the hills and valleys of the coast. We have the story of Purna, from a Buddhist text titled Purnavadana which has been dated between first and fourth century CE by different authors. Though the historicity of the person may be a matter of debate, the contextual description of the place and life at his time is bound to be far more authentic [The Story Of Purna, April 22, 2018]. Purna belonged to a kathiyavadi ksatriya trading family based in Sopara, near modern Nala Sopara to the north of Mumbai, which had trade relations with Africa and Near East [Tatelman, 2000:The Glorious Deeds Of Purna]. And it is not a mere coincidence that eventually he became one of the ten great disciples of Buddha.

The story of kathiyavadi ksatriya in Komkan is immensely interesting; in Komkani context we have called them kathiyavadi caddi [The Lost Ports of Goa, May 20, 2018; The Dhows With Dates, May 27, 2018]. As the kathiyavadi caddi gained control of the trade and established their hegemony over the ports, a new future unfolded for them. Their fortunes grew and some of them became sresthi (very rich ship owning merchants) or nauvittak (one whose vitta, meaning wealth, is derived from nau, meaning ship) [Chakravarti, 2000 : Nakudas and Nauvittakas : Ship Owning Merchants On The West Coast, in Journal Of The Economic And Social History Of The Orient, volume 43, number 1, 37]. This seems to have triggered a quantum change in their status and in their role; besides in their wealth. The trade and shipping at this time was driven and funded by private initiative, most probably the local Merchants’ Guilds, but earned significant revenue for the rulers. In addition, the sresthi contributed generously for the economic and social activities in the kingdom. It was only natural therefore, that they came to wield political power [The Silahar Story – A Sequel, June 10, 2018].

We find an evidence of this in a strange place. In his collection of sermons titled ‘Vonmalyamco Molo’ (Vonmalleancho Mollo – Jardim dos Pastores) (1658), the Jesuit missionary Miguel de Almeida has included a sermon he preached at Capela de S Lourenço (1651) in Arossim village of the then Jesuit province of Salcete. In this sermon he refers to a man named Arussu, who according to him was the ‘prathamalo dhany’ or ‘saibu’ of Arossim. ‘He was not only the lord of Salcete, but won over the kings of entire Konkan (Concannesteall = komkanesthala = konkannesthalla) up to Miraj’. His first son Cunvaranaicu conquered the entire Kanara territory (Cannaddy vilatha) and ‘sat on the throne’ (razepatta baisalo). His second son was Cunvaragauddu; he was the owner of vast areca nut and coconut orchards and rice fields (samagra kulagaram, malagaram and setam). His third son Cunvaraxette (xette = sresthi) built ships and traded across the oceans. Almeida reminded the people of Arossim that the descendants of these ‘princes’ are among the inhabitants of the village, constituting three vangod of the ‘gamvkari’ [D’Silva, 2015: Unravelling History – The Village Of Arossim, Goa, 161]. There is, however, no way to know which period of time Almeida is referring to; nor do we know from where Almeida sourced this information. But if it be true that some families of Arossim have descended from Arussu, our description of kathiyavadi ksatriya is validated. It would be worthwhile to identify the three vangod of Arossim gamvkari that constitute the descendants of Arussu. Gomes Pereira refers to gamvkar in Arossim apparently with only three surnames: Naik, Garo/Gadd(gauddu ?), and Chatim (Xette) [Gomes Pereira, 1978: Hindu Temples and Deities, 85]. Since these seem to tally with the three sons of Arussu, does it imply that all the gamvkar of Arossim are their descendants?

Probably kathiyavadi ksatriya could be compared to what Kristiansen calls the warrior aristocracies in the context of later European prehistory [Kristiansen, 1999: The Emergence of Warrior Aristocracies in later European Prehistory, in Carman et al: Ancient Warfare]; though their origin seems to be different.

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