For the first time, a team of archaeologists has unearthed a sealing that dates back nearly 1,500 years and belonged to Prabhavatigupta, the queen of Vakataka king Rudrasena II, who ruled the kingdom from Nagardhan in Ramtek taluka, located about 50 km from Nagpur.
The oval sealing that bears images of the queen and a conch, accompanied with some inscriptions in Brahmi letters, was found on top of a mega wall, now believed to be a part of a palace structure located in the capital city of the Vakataka dynasty.
Elaborate excavations were carried out by researchers from the Department of Archaeology and Museums, government of Maharashtra, and Deccan College, Pune, during 2015 and 2018. Remains from these excavations — performed by archaeologists Virag Sontakke, Abhijit Dandekar , Suken Shah, Shantanu Vaidya and Shrikant Ganvir — have offered newer insights into the Vakataka dynasty, which is credited to have created the world-renowned paintings in Ajanta caves.
Scholars say that even though the Vakataka rulers were primarily Shaivites, these rulers had forged several matrimonial alliances with other dynasties. Of these, the most important alliance was stitched with Prabhavatigupta, the daughter of Emperor Chandragupta II of the Gupta dynasty, who were Vaishnavites. Guptas were more powerful rulers from north India than the Vakatakas, who ruled central India, said Virag Sontakke, assistant director, Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Maharashtra.
“What we now understand is that Prabhavatigupta enjoyed significant power as a Vakataka ruler, and she became more powerful after ascending the throne post the sudden demise of her husband,” Sontakke told The Indian Express.
This is because it was from this very site at Nagardhan, believed to be the capital of the Vakataka dynasty, where the queen issued seals.
The excavated sealing measured 35.71 mm by 24.20 mm, had a thickness of 9.50 mm and weighed 6.4 gm.
“The text on the sealing is like an ode to the Gupta lineage and mentions names of Prabhavatigupta’s father Chandragupta II and her grandfather Samudragupta. The conch symbolises the close affiliation that the Guptas had to the Vaishnav sect of Hinduism,” the researchers said.
The evidence also suggests that construction of many of the non-religious structures at Nagardhan could have started during the reign of Prabhavatigupta.
Some of the temples dedicated and identified as Keval Narasimha , Rudra Narasimha and one dedicated to Varaha, could be traced to Ramtek and showcased strong affinity to Vishnu’s incarnations. However, none of these structures were present at the site till the queen’s rule that lasted for eight to 10 years, till her sons took over.
On the powers that the queen enjoyed, Sontakke said, “Despite getting married into a Shaivite family, queen Prabhavatigupta was so powerful that she had the freedom to choose and worship a deity of her choice, in this case, Lord Vishnu. This is rare for those times. Besides, she also propagated Vaishnav practices and beliefs in Nagardhan.”
The sealing also dates back to the time when more Vaishnav believers started settling in present-day Nagpur region. The worship of Narasimha in Maharashtra must have started from Nagardhan and some of the temples found here date back to 1,500 years, said Sontakke.
When asked what purpose the sealing served during the Vakataka dynasty, which ruled from the 3rd to the 5th Century CE, the researchers said, “The sealing could have been used on a document, giving the royal permission to carry out certain activities. This also indicates that the queen enjoyed a powerful position in the otherwise male-dominant rulers of the dynasty”.
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