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Know about the first kingdom to rule Karnataka-Chutu dynasty

Before the great ‘Mayuraverma’ established the first kannada dynasty of Kadamba, there was a small dynasty which ruled from Banavasi for over 200 years, called the Chutu dynasty.

The Chutu dynasty ruled between first and third centuries CE, with its capital at Banavasi in present-day Karnataka state. The Chutus probably rose to power as Shatavahanas feudatories, and assumed sovereignty after the decline of the Shatavahana power. Except for the edicts of Asoka, the inscriptions of the Chutu dynasty are the oldest documents found in the northern part of Karnataka State, India.

They were kannada speaking rulers, but they are not mentioned as ‘first kannada’ dynasty to rule karnataka because of the use of Prakrit as administrative language.

The name Chutu in Kannada means crest/hood. Chutu inscriptions begin with the expanded cobra hood, in this case, Chutu clearly meant the cobra crest, hence clearly making the Chutus as Nagas as they also associated themselves with the western Deccan region called Nagara Khanda, the region around Banavasi. Sudu (Chutu) is frequently used in the classical literature for cobra hood, thus Chutukula can be taken to stand for Nagakula, a family of the Nagas.

According to numismatist Michael Mitchiner (1983), thenames appear to be matronymics . For example, Rano Mulanamdasa means “of king Mulananda”, where “Mulananda”  meaning “son (nanda) of a queen belonging to the Mula gotra”. Similarly, Sivalanamdasa means “of the son of a queen belonging to the Sivala gotra”. Mitchiner theorizes that “Chutu-kula-nanda-sa” ( “son of a queen belonging to the Chutu family”) was a common name borne by multiple kings of the dynasty; this theory is based on the fact that the Banavasi inscription of king Haritiputra Vishnukada Chutukulananda Shatakarni was issued shortly before the Kadamba occupation of Banavasi in c. 345, while the coins bearing the name Chutukulananda can be dated to two centuries earlier based on the stratification at Chandravalli(chitradurga) excavations.

According to a Nashik inscription, the Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satakarni issued an order from his “camp of victory” at Vaijayanti (the ancient name of Banavasi). the Chutus were originally Indo-Scythian chiefs, who became Shatavahana feudatories, when Gautamiputra defeated the Indo-Scythian king Nahapana around c. 125 CE. Subsequently, they participated in the north-western part military campaigns: one Chutu chief was appointed as the Mahasenapati in the Kondapur region, while another was appointed to govern the newly-captured city of Banavasi.

When the Shatavahana power declined in the first half of the 3rd century CE, the Chutus retained their authority at Banavasi, unlike the Kuras and the Sadakana Maharathis, their rule is attested by at least four inscriptions dated between the 260s and the 340s.

Chutus succeeded the Shatavahanas not only in Mysore (Karnataka) but also in Aparanta and western Maharashtra after Yajnasri Satakarni’s reign ended in 190 CE with his death. Later the Chutus held cobtrol over the northern parts of Kannada and Malayalam (Malabar) speaking regions.

The chutus ruled Banavasi, the ancinet and oldest city of Karnataka for a period of two centuries before Mayuraverma made Banavasi the capital of Kadamba dynasty in 345 AD.

The Chutus appear to have been the longest surviving of the great feudatory families who lived along the borders of the Andhra realm.

The Chutus appear to have continued the policy of consolidating their power by intermarriage with their neighbours: this is suggested by an Ikshvaku dynasty record which states that the “Maharaja of Vanavasa” (presumably the Chutu ruler of Banavasi) married a daughter of the Ikshvaku king Vira-purusha datta. the occurrence of the name “Shatakarni” in the names of the Chutu kings (Vishnurudra Sivalananda Shatakarni and Haritiputra Vishnukada Chutukulananda Shatakarni ) suggests that the Chutus also married into the Shatavahana family. the Chutu king Sivalananda is attested by a 278 CE inscription of the Abhira ruler Vasushena from Nagarjunakonda.

Chutu dynasty came to an end probably in the first or second half of the third century i.e. around 250-275 CE. Of the Chutu dynasty two kings are known through inscriptions, Hariti-putra Chutu-kadananda Shatakarni and his grandson Hariti-putra Siva-skanda-varman, who ruled in Banawasi (Vaijayantipura) before the Kadamba dynasty. In 222 CE, Prithivi-sena, son of Rudra-sena I, was reigning as the Western Kshatrapa ruler, in succession to the latter – Hariti-putra Siva-skanda-varman

Coinage:

Michael Mitchiner in article “The Chutus of Banavasi and their Coinage ” gives details of chutu era coinage.

Coins of Chutus were first found at Karwar, a town near Banavasi in 1833, then from excavation at Chandravalli(Chithradurg) in 1908 and in 1947. when a coin stuck by Sivalananda was discovered, it lead to reassessment and to interpretation of Chutus and their Coinage.

Legends of coins are read as

Rano Chutukulanamdasa

Rano Mulanamdasa

Rano Sivalanamdasa

In addition to the coinage, Chutukulananda is known to have been a name borne by one of the last Chutu kings of Banavasi.

Karshapana of ChutusMulananda

8 arched chaitya (stupa) with a big central arch, river flowing below, legend rano mulanam dasa

8 arched chaitya (stupa) with a big central arch, river flowing below, legend rano mulanam dasa

Tree in 12-bracketed railing, Triratna symbol

Tree in 12-bracketed railing, Triratna symbol

Issued by Mulanam(Based on brahmi legend).

 Karshapana of ChutusMulananda

8 arched chaitya (stupa) with a big central arch, river flowing below, legend rano mulanam dasa

8 arched chaitya (stupa) with a big central arch, river flowing below, legend rano mulanam dasa

Tree in 12-bracketed railing (center), Nandi-pada/trinana (left), Swastika (below), Srivatsa (right), Indra-dhvaja (below)

Tree in 12-bracketed railing (center), Nandi-pada/trinana (left), Swastika (below), Srivatsa (right), Indra-dhvaja (below)

Issued by Mulananda (Based on brahmi legend)

Karshapana of Chutuschtukulananda

8 arched chaitya (stupa) with a big central arch, river flowing below, legend rano chatukulanam dasa
8 arched chaitya (stupa) with a big central arch, river flowing below, legend rano chatukulanam dasa.

Tree in 12-bracketed railing (center), Nandi-pada/trinana (left), Swastika (below), Srivatsa (right), Indra-dhvaja (below)

Tree in 12-bracketed railing (center), Nandi-pada/trinana (left), Swastika (below), Srivatsa (right), Indra-dhvaja (below)

Issued by Chatukulanda (Based on brahmi legend)

The Chalukya dynasty of Badami, which later controlled much of the present-day Karnataka, claimed descent from a son of Hariti (a woman of the Harita gotra) and of Manavya gotra; the Chalukyas had appropriated this genealogy from the Kadamba dynasty, who ruled Banavasi before them and after the Chutus. The Kadambas, in turn, had appropriated this genealogy from the Chutus.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth

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