Karnataka rose to prominence during the 3rd century BC, evident from a series of minor rock-edicts of Asoka, found scattered in Chitradurga, Koppal, Bellary and Raichur districts of Karnataka, significantly located in the areas rich with mineral resources. Occurrence of major rock-edicts nos. 12-14 separate rock-edicts 1 and 2 of Mauryan emperor Asoka reported recently from Sannati, Chitapur Taluk, Gulbarga District, Karnataka, further strengthened the opinion of scholars that the northern Karnataka region played an important role in the formative stage of the early history of Karnataka and the spread of Buddhism.
Immediately after the Mauryas the Satavahanas, subjugating the Sungas in the Vindhyan region in the 1st century BC, forayed into the Asmaka region which included the Andhra and the lower Deccan including the northern part of Karnataka and in the process many Buddhist centres emerged. These new centres in fact were further extensions of the artistic traditions of Barhut and Sanchi. Particular may be made of Pithalkhora, Karla, Bedsa, Nasik, Ter, Bhokardan in the Deccan and Amaravati, Kondapur, Nagarjunakonda and other such sites in the lower Krishna valley of Andhra Pradesha. Sannati, a prolific early historic centre which formed part of the Asmaka region has emerged as the most important Buddhist site of the Satavahana period as evident from cultural vestiges found at Sannati and its surrounding areas.
Archaeological Survey of India, even since its inception in 1861, has engaged itself in promoting archaeological research in different parts of the country which has resulted in numerous outstanding discoveries to its credit. To this list we can proudly add the excavations of an ancient mound noticed at Karaganahalli in the vicinity of Sannati, not far from the famous Chandralamba temple which brought to light what seems to be an unique ornate Buddhist Stupa revealing copius information about various Satavahana rules through dated iscriptios and numismatic evidence. No other Buddhist site, so far reported from Karnataka, has yielded such a wealth of fresh information about historical personalities particularly the Satavahana rulers. However, the most interesting discovery from this site appears to be the inscribed portraits of Mauryan emperor Asoka and his family.
The trial excavations carried out at Ranamandala (habitation sit) and ancient fortification, have given enough information to establish cultural chronology at Sannati and tis suburban region. The initial work carried out by ASI at Sannati in collaboration with Society for South Asian Studies during 1994-95 has been further elaborated and interpreted in its proper perspective through the present work.
I am thankful to Dr. K. P. Poonacha, former Joint Director, ASI, and his team for carriying out stupendous and strenuous archaeological research work at Kanaganahalli and Sannati and for producing this elaborate scholarly work and I have no doubt that this would be welcomed by the scholars in India and abroad. Further, I agree with the author, that such academic work usually takes longer than anticipated particularly when we have enormous data which requies critical evaluation/assessment and meticulous examination and interpretation.
I thank Dr. P.K. Trivedi, Director, Publication Section and Shri G.S. Narasimhan, Superintending Archaeologist, Bangalore Circle for their efforts.
A.Sannat – Kanaganahalli and Its Environs
Location: Sannati (Lat 16°49' 40" N; Long. 76°54' 30" E), also spelled Sonthi (topo sheet no. 56D/13), one of the ancient cultural centres in Karnataka, attracted the attention of scholars ever since its discovery in 1954. A systematic exploration carried out in the Bhima valley, including the part of greater Sannati, revealed the ancient mound under reference (Lat. 16°50;7 N; Long. 76°56'8" E), located 244 m from the left bank of the river Bhimaa, towards north, and 550 m south of Kanaganahalli village, in the Chitapur taluk of Gulbarga district of Karnataka State. It is at a distance of 3 km from the ancient site at and the famous Chandralamba temple is at a distance of 1.58 km from it towards southwest as a crow flys. It is located about 60km due south of Gulbarga, the district headquarters. Nalwar, the nearest railway station on Bangalore-Pune line of South Central Railway is at a distance of 16 km from the site (Fig. 1).
The river Bhima, a tributary of the river Krishna, originates in the Western Ghats at Ghat at Bhimashankara, district Pune Maharashtra, and flows south-eastwards and runs along the boundary between Maharashtra and Karnataka for a distance of 83 km and enters Karnataka at village Sesgeri, district Belgaum. Flowing nearly to a distance of 298 km in Karnataka, at the village Sangam on the border of Raichur and Kurnool districts of Andhra Pradesh, it joins river Krishna. The river figures in the Mastsya, Brahma and Vamana puranas as also in the Mahabharata. At the place where the river originates, one of the Jyothirlingas, highly venerated as Bhimashankara, is located and as such it is also venerated as a Mahanadi. The river gets its name from a certain King Bhimaka of puranic times. At Sannati the river takes a northerly course (uttaravahini) and as such gets sanctified. Sannati is popularly known for the temple dedicated to Goddess Chandla (Chandrala) Parameswari or Chandralamba, a sokta deity (PL. IA,B) supprodly representing the unified concept of Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Saraswati, the feminine counterparts of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, respectively (the Traipurasha). The temple in its present form and style, with the plan and elevation of the sanctum resembling a Srichakra, is a late medieval edifice. However, the architectural and sculptural evidences like the typical dwarfish pillars with the shaft treated with dwarfs at malasthana, topped by cushion capitals of the pillars in the vestibule; austere door jambs with the depictions of Ganesha and Mahishamardini and the mutilated life size image of Kalikamba amply indicate that the temple definitely dates back to the Chalukya-Rashrakuta times. Innumerable shrines of the early Rashtrakuta period are noticed in the immediate environs of Sannati as at Sirwat and Kollur. Since then it has been a sacred place of pilgrimage.
Geology, Geomorphology and Topography: The river valley of Bhima is bestowed with a congenial geomorphology that could sustain human occupation right from prehistoric times. In the light of the above, the geomorphology of the region is briefly dealt here.
i)Geology-The district of Gulbarga has as many as four major geological
(1) Pleistocence and Recent: consisting of soil and laterite, alluvium and recent conglomerates;
(2) Tertiary: composed of Decan traps and inter-trappeans and infra-trapeans;
(3) Puranas (Precambrian): composed of Upper Bhima shales and sandstones, Middle Bhima limestones and Lower Bhima shales and sandstones; and
(4) Archaen: comprisingpeninsulargneiss with associated younger granites and Dharwar schist.
The Bima formations form one of the smallest Proterozoic basins in India. This area, also known as purana-basic, is composed of nearly horizontally laid beds of sandstone, shaled and limestone well exposed in the valley of the River Bhima. The Formations are believe to be younger in the series with a close resemblance to the Kurnool group of the Cuddapah Super sub-group and the rectilinear E-W to NW-SE trending boundaries being faulted, the extension of it beneath the cover of Deccan Trap at North cannot be precisely told. However, nearly 5200 sq km has been found lying exposed.
It is interesting to note that the River Bhima has an independent sedimentational history compared to the rest of the Proterozoic basins. It has been found that these sediments occur in a linear stretch for nearly 160 km in a north-south direction and are bound by lat. 16° 20' and 17° 35' N and long. 76° 40' R. Recent stratigraphical studies based on 150m m bore hole record that the entire sedimentation of the Bhima basic is a product of a single short-lived transgression event. The lithology of the region is of:
(1) Conglomerate of pebbles of white quartz, angular potash feldspar
cemented by siliceous matrix from which level pre-historic middle-palaeolithic
tools fabricated on quartz and other siliceous materials have been found. This
overlies a bed of gritty sansatone in which ripple marks have been observed.
(2) Sandstone – The sandstone formation
in the basic is available in thin sections, which is coarse in in grain and
reflects graded bedding.
(3) Silt stone – The is the transitional type of formation
between sanstone and shale greenish to greenish-yellow in colour and is well
(4) Shales – These are well-developed fissile and friable,
compact and calcareous in nature, the thick deposits of which are noticed in
(5) Limestone – This is the most dominant and important variety
of rock formation in the area which is reported to have thickness of nearly
100 m exhibiting the characters of fine grain waxy-lustre and has a nature of
conchoidal fracture, and
(6) Red shales-These are the uppermost formations usually
affected by overlying trap formation.
It is also reported that the characteristic horizontal bedding in the Bhima basin is less disturbed in the region when compared to the neighbouring Kaladgi series. In the absence of any fossils, the Bhima group of sediments has been dated o 600 million years BP.
Evidence of ancient mines of fold and copper are reported from the nearby Shorapur Talik as at Mangalur and Makangavi. Quartz, agate, agate cherts of varied colour, crystals of tourmaline in pegmatite veins and gypsum are found in the district. Extensive deposits of limestone, which is being even now economically harnessed as building material, form the chief mineral wealth of the place.
While no major earthquakes have been reported in the Bhima basic proper, off late Hasargundgi – a small hamlet located nearly 2 km south of Sannati on the right bank of the river Bhima – is identified as one of the active seismic of possible geological disturbances.
River drainage systems
Sannai, located in a valley, forms part of the Deccan plateau elevated between the contour intervals of 380-400 m MSL. Here, the river Bhima meanders in great loops and takes a short straight north-south course providing a natural choice for habitation on the left bank as evidenced by rich archaeological findings in and around the place. During its sojourn, river Bhima receives several rain-fed seasonal and perennial rivulets like Sirwal halla, Biral halla, Biral halla, Kollur halla, Kagna, etc. resulting in vast stretches of exposed pebble beds.
Soil, climate, flora and fauna:
Soil: The entire region is semi-arid with sparse vegetal coverage, mainly of dry deciduous type. The soil is either black soil known as regurs or more popularly the black cotton soil or red loam. The latter is found in the peninsular gneiss areas. Pebbles of chert, limestone, shale and granite embedded in the soil are a feature frequently met with in the area.
The black cotton soil of the region is devoid of rolled pebbles but is ich in nodules of Kankar of different sizes probably formed through infiltration, leaching and precipitation of calcium carbonate. This deposit of black cotton soil is usually limited to less than a metre nearer to the river and in te river vallerys it is very deep and extends up to 10 m. Since the formation of soil on either side of the river is palaeo-black soil in nature, a clear demarcation or distinct strata in the conditions, this soil becomes soft and loamy and during dry spell, forms crackled cakes and turns into a fine powder. The soil is clayed and black in colour with individualistic chemical and physical properties. As such it is described as a separate soil group such as grumusol – dark clayed soils. Organic salts of iron, titanium, aluminium silicate, sodium etc. are noticed in its composition along with organic content. Due to restricted water content, it develops black colour in a neutral and alkaline environment.
Because of its property of retaining water, the agricultural operations are carried out even after the rains gave ceased. The physical property of alternate shrinking and swelling causing sufficient air to traverse in its formation makes it a more desired soil formation for agricultural alkaline and varies from 7.2 to 8.5. It is also rich in potassium and calcium, which are well suited for the growth of cotton. The formation of this black cotton soil of Krishna basic is dated to Eocene times. In this region, granitic is seen as outcrops.
Climate: The climate is characterised by dryness with a long several summer; the annual average rainfall being about 700 mm. Southwest monsoon extends from July to September, September being the rainiest month, and brings sporadic rains. May is the hottest month with a mean daily maximum temperature of 46° C and the minimum being 14° C in December.
Flora: The area is intensely subjected to agricultural operation suitable to dry land farming sustained by rainwater. Some of the popular wood-yielding trees that are native to the place are Satin, Tirman (Anogiessus latifolia), Sriris (Albizzia lebbak), Narlinga (Albizziaamara), Amaltas (Cassia fistula), Chanangi (Lagerstroemia perviflora), Gumpana (Lennia grandis), Andak (Boswellia serrata), Nallamaddi, (Diospyros melanoxylon), Mohwa (Bassia latifolia), Tada (Grewia taliaefolia), Bhilawa (Semecarpus anacardium), Halda (Termalaia Chebula), Tari (Terminalia belerica), Sundara (Acacia sundra), Billphal (Aegle marmelos), Gumartek (Gmelina arborea), Sandal (Santalum album), Chironji (Buchanania latifolia) and Somi (Soymida febrifuga).
Fauna: Major carnivorous animals are absent in the place. However, a few panthers (Flis parduus) have been reported. Bears are found in the Chincholi forest area. Packs of hyena, wild dogs and wolves are reported attacking cattle and spotted deer. Of the deer, the spotted deer and sambar live in the semi-forest region of the place and black buck is restricted to open scrub jungles. The Indian fox, jackal, wild hog, porcupine, mongoose, langur, rabbit, monitor lizard etc. have also been sighted. Amongst birds, parrot, mynah, starling swallow, dove, woodpecker, peacock, owl, eagle and humming bird are reported. Different varieties of snakes like krait, russel viper, pit viper, cobra and innumerable variety of insects, prominent amongst them being scorpion of both red and black varieties, are also sighted.
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