The mystery of Mumbai’s medieval ruler

Kurush F. Dalal, assistant professor (archaeology), Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Mumbai, delivering a talk at Asiatic Society.

Kurush F. Dalal, assistant professor (archaeology), Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Mumbai, delivering a talk at Asiatic Society.  

Existence of two Hambiraraos who came to city in 14th century, his inscriptions were among subjects of discussion at an Asiatic Society lecture

Few in the city would have heard, or much less, known about Hambirarao.

A lecture at the Asiatic Society on Friday attempted to unravel the mysteries around the little-known medieval ruler of Western Maharashtra.

The session, by Kurush F. Dalal, Assistant Professor (Archaeology), Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, University of Mumbai, tried to piece together the rule of Hambirarao, a 14th century ruler of Mumbai, through inscriptions from the relevant period found in archaeological excavations till date.

“From 1300 A.D. till 1366, there are no inscriptions of rulers in Western Maharashtra in any part of the world. There is silence in history from Ramchandra Yadav till Hambirarao,” Dr. Dalal said. The last inscription available before Hambirarao’s rule in 1366 is of Ramchandra Yadav’s time in 1300. Yadav was believed to have been defeated by Alauddin Khilji. If Yadav’s rule was followed by Khilji’s, he would have used ‘shasan patras’ and documentation systems. “But the inscriptions we have found dated 1366 are on copper plates and stones, which is more in sync with Hambirarao being the ruler,” Dr. Dalal said.

He added that there is also a theory that believes Ferozshah Tughlaq appointed Hambirarao as his vassal.

According to Mr. Dalal, five inscriptions of Hambirarao’s time have been found at Uran, Nagaon, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre campus, Vaghran and Nandgaon, with the most recent one being found in May 2018.

“Thane-Konkan is an ancient political boundary that we are covering. The entire stretch from Mumbai to Janjira is covered by inscriptions,” he said.

The session also included discussions on the confusion between the existence of two Hambiraraos, one who is supposed to have ruled in 1366 and the other who is mentioned in Mahikavatichi Bakhar, a historical narrative text in Marathi. History is still ambiguous over which one came to Mumbai first.

“The inscriptions bearing Hambirarao’s name carry a ‘Gadhegal’, a Marathi term. The Gadhegal is basically an engraving depicting donkeys having sexual intercourse with women. These engravings were used to denote the punishments that will be inflicted if the stated orders in the inscriptions were not followed. “Though there are no records of such punishment being meted out, the inscriptions reflect the status of women during those times,” Dr. Dalal said.

Drawing parallels among the text of different inscriptions found, Mr. Dalal said there is usage of Sanskrit and Persian-Arabic in the 14th Century A.D. inscriptions and the initial lines of two inscriptions are similar, thereby suggesting that there are chances of there being more such inscriptions along the coastline.

“The text signifies that older Sanskrit traditions were continuing even though Marathi was emerging as the official language. A Persian-Arabic word such as ‘Bakshi’ (from which the word baksheesh or reward is derived) tells us that there is trade happening across the sea and how inclusive language was at that time,” he said, adding that the sales deed inscriptions found at Uran and Nandgaon show comformity with those times.

“Archaeology and history are two horses that pull the same chariot,” Dr. Dalal said, assuring the attendees that there will be many more sessions conducted on the interface of History and Archaeology.

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Printable version | Mar 24, 2020 11:21:45 AM |

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