By Sanjay Godbole
‘Karad’ is one of the important cities and centers in the district of ‘Satara* in Maharashtra. ‘Karad’ is situated 17° 17′ N. Latitude and 74° 13′ Longitude and lies in the valley of rivers Krishna and Koyna. Karad has been assuming importance centuries after centuries on account of several unique features and specialties. We also get stray references from the chronicles of ancient history as to how this place got to acquire it’s present name “karad’. There is a place called ‘Bharuth’ near ‘Jabalpur’. In the inscription surfacing at the stupa at Bharuth [ 2n Century B.C.] a mention has been made, of the donations given by the ‘ Bhikku sangham’ [Confederation of Bhikkhus] of Karad. This mention refers to “karad’ as ‘Karahakat’. There are rock cut caves at “kuda’ near “Alibaug’. At’ Kuda’ Karad has since been referred to as ‘Karhakad’. The oldest available remains in the precincts of Karad are the Buddhist rock cut caves at “Agashiva’. These rock cut caves belong to Hinayana sect. There is an inscription in these rock cut caves stating that these caves were donated to the Bhikkhu Sangham by ‘sanghamitra’. Some archaeological experts are of the opinion that looking to the style of the rock cut cave and the Sculpture and the monasaries in them this rock cut cave belonging to Hinayana Sect must belong to the second century.
In the area surrounding Karad many remains frequently surface. These remains are mostly in the form of terracotta’s, ancient coins, beads and potsherds. The Royal Asiatic society has taken a due congnizance of the remains surfacing in this area. In the rainy season, all rivers are in spate. After the spate water is over, numerous ancient coins are found. Previously, all such coins were deposited with the District collectorate at Satara.
The Asiatic society has made a special mention that majority of these and such coins belong to the western Kshatraps. The Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal of Pune has a Lion’s share in surfacing the various remains found near Karad. The Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal, Pune, has brought to light a very ancient Jain idol. Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal, Pune initiated an excavation project at an ancient hillock near the ramparts (of a fort) called (pant Kot) in the year 1948 at Karad. During this excavation, the following articles surfaced, belonging to Satavahana period Ring-wells, dishes, utensils, earthen pots, Roman styled potsherds and Chinese Celedon type wares & utensils. In addition to these, Satavahana period pedestals, ivory sticks for eye make-up i.e. application of Lamp black (Kajal), terracottas & coins were also surfaced. The research scholars of Bharat Itihas Sanshodhak Mandal and Shri. Y.R. Gupte, the Assistant director Epigraphy Karad also has published a detailed report as to the history of Karad. Shri. B.M. Purandare, has found a Roman bullae from the area surrounding Karad, Mr. G.H. Khare Praised Shri. Purandare on this count.
Even as on today, the area around Karad abounds in ancient coins. Majority of these coins are struck in Lead. On obverse of these coins, an image of a Lion and on the reverse a symbol of an arrow and a bow are depicted. These coins invariably make a reference to the ‘Kumara’ dynasty, and have been brought to light from this area. It is from this very area an important coin from numismatic point of view has been brought to light. This coin weighed 3.200 gms, was oblong in shape and was made of Lead. On the obverse side, there is a motif of a Lion; and on the reverse side there are letters reading as ‘Maha Senapati Kumaras’ in the Brahmi Script around the Swastika symbol. While studying the pattern and the type of this coin one is sure to remember the Swastika type coins struck by Mahasenapati Manamahisha of Kondapur in Andhra Pradesh. I published an exhaustive note of that coin in the newsletter (May 1997) of the Oriental Numismatic Society. It was at this site only that the famous oriental scholar, Shri Bhandarkar came across a copper-plate belonging to ‘King Krishna’ the third of (he Rashtrakuta Dynasty. This copper plate refers to Karad as ‘Karhat’. At Karad, one comes across many remains belonging to the Muhamedian regimes of medieval times. A majority of those remains belong to the Adilshahi period or times. The deputy chief of the Bijapur court was stationed at Karad at that time. Those, desirous of undertaking the Haj pilgrimage traditionally went to Dabhol harbour via karad in those times. An entry gate situated in the north of Karad was called the ‘Dabhol’ gate. There is also a large sized well, in the west of Karad, said to belong to Adilshahi period. In the surrounding area one sees the remains of the embankments of an old water storage tank.
There are two Dargas built in 1350 AD & 1391 A.D. in Guruwar peth at Karad. [Peth is an area identified in the name of a week day.] One of these Dargahs is having considerable height. There is also an old monument in Shaniwar peth in karad, known as Khwaja Khizar Dargah’. Most of the Dargahs do have sanctioned annual gifts or gratuities since the times of Adilshahi regimes. The most picturesque and attractive Building in Karad happens to be the mosque built by Ibrahim khan between the year 1557 A.D. & 1580 A.D. during the regime of Ali Adilshah the first. There are imposingly magnificent minarets 106 ft. high by the side of this mosque. A legend is making rounds in 1659, here that fazal Khan, the son of Afzal Khan after he [ Afzal Khan] was slain, went into hiding in these minarets. Rooms and baths are built in the precincts of this mosque for convenience of the pilgrims. There is a specific reference in the stone inscription that the above work of construction, was completed in the year 1580 A.D. [Year 983 as per Hijari calender]
One can obtain a sight of these Minarets from at a distance. With a view to make an indepth study of this structure, I went inside the minarets, after obtaining the necessary permission from the authorities. The steps inside the Minaret were built instone and the tread and rise were abnormally wide & high. The diameter ( inner one) of the minar was like a room, according to my estimate. 1 could also have a close look at the stone inscription detailing the establishment of the foundation of this mosque. The inscription of this Adilshahi mosque was in Persian. During the tenure of my mission of exploration at Karad, I tried very extensively, to know whether any Persian documents or manuscripts could be made available to me. I learned that some gentleman at Karad was in possession of a collection of Persian verses. I however, could not contact him at that time. All the same, I could see an incomplete manuscript of ‘ Sheikh Saadi’s’ poems of Mughal period called ‘Gulistan’.
There is an ancient ‘Eid gah’ meeting ground during ‘Eid’ at Karad [Eid- gah a meeting ground for offering Namaz prayers for a large congregation] It is 250 feet long and it’s construction was completed during the year 1577 A.D. [ Year 980 as per Hijari Calender]
Between the years 1992 – 1995, A.D. I myself and one of my friends (late) Shri Shrikant Sahastrabuddhe went to Karad, in search of ancient remains. There was one Mr. Gharge, a local resident of Karad who was a collector and compiler of such old and rare and historically precious items and had made a sizable collection of sculptures. We saw Mr. Gharge’s entire collection preserved in a local school. Had some one cared to take out a small handbook or brochure giving informative details of all the antiquities, it would have gone a long way to help the students of ancient hisotory & art in systematically studying the same.
During our study tour of Karad we frequently visited the scrap dealers and goldsmiths & jewelers and many times we could discover ancient coins or old brass wares or copperwares. Majority of coins surfaced at Karad belonged to medieval sultans [Such as from, Adilshahi, Bahmani & Nizamshahi sultans]. In some of the instances, the coin chronology dated back straight to Satavahana Period. At Karad, numerous coins have surfaced belonging to ‘Ashmak’. At Karad mainly the coins belonging to “kumara Dynasty’ who were tributory to “Satavahana have surfaced. One such coin has since been described earlier. At Karad many ‘Lead’ coins were available which were mostly associated with or pertinently related to Satavahana and / or Kumara dynesties . On some of these coins, more importantly, we found that a symbol consisting of a ‘Bow and Arrow’ was depicted, a fact which indicated that these coins belonged to “Kura’ Dynesty.
At Karad, many a time, terracotta Roman Bullaes are reported during explorations. Since Roman coins were famous in the world for their excellent craftsmanship and artistic form, these Bullaes were made from the impressions of these coins as a die – cast- mould. These Bullaes surfacing at Karade are 2:– cm in diameter and have two small apertures pieced in these so that these could be sported as necklaces.
Numerous ancient remains such as Roman styled red polished ware, glass bangles, Terracotta earrings, potsherds, Roman wares with decorative motiffs, earthen beads with motif, Bangles made out of Conch -shells, have surfaced in Karad. All these must have reached Karad due to international trading activities.
Gold coins of later chalukyas in the shape of a horse – shoe very frequently surfaced in karad, meaning thereby, that these were in vogue or in circulation, in those periods.
In addition, Medieval period earthenware pots and utensils also are found in the precincts of Karad, though sporadically. On account of these ancient remains surfaced at Karad, it is evident that Karad was a prominent trade centre during ‘ Satavahana Period’. The caves belonging to “Hinayana’ sect and the remains of jain idols clearly establish the significant rapport of people practising jain & Buddhist faith with the city of “karad”. like the ancient period, the importance of Karad has not been belittled in any way during Medieval periods. This Fact is borne out by the presence of the structures existing and other related remains surfaced at Karad.
*(The author is a noted Archeologist, based in Pune)