One day it will all make sense
After having written a little on the history of ancient India, I am now delving into my own family history. Some of you know that I am a Singh only by marriage. I am planning to revisit a land from where my ancestors migrated some 1,600 years ago – Ahichhatra in the state of Uttar Pradesh (near Bareilly).
Throughout my growing-up years, I thought I would visit this place one day. But, it was never a priority even when I lived in Delhi. After all, people have been migrating since times immemorial. But, now that I have to attend a friend’s wedding in Lucknow, I will make my tryst with destiny.
But let me start from the beginning. In 345 CE, Mayurasharma, also called Mayuravarma, established the Kadamba dynasty in Banavasi, in today’s northern Karnataka. The Kadambas are credited with helping in the emergence of Kannada as a major language because they made it the language of administration. From various inscriptions, we know that Mayurasharma defeated the Traikutas, Abhiras, Sendrakas, Pallavas, Pariyathrakas, Shakasthana, the Maukharis and Punnatas. The Kadambas ruled for 200 years before making way for the Chalukyas.
One of the important things that this king of Karnataka is known for is the inviting of learned Vaidika Brahmins from Ahichhatra. He wanted Brahmins who were well-versed in Sanskrit grammar, Vedic Shastras, rituals and other kinds of knowledge useful in administering a kingdom.
So, in the fourth century, a large group of families made their way from Ahichhatra in the north to Banavasi in the south (a distance of over 2,000 km) in order to honour the invitation of a king. Only 60 families managed to reach the destination. Among them were my ancestors. They were called the Shashtikas. They largely married within themselves initially, but later, they must have formed marital ties with others in their adopted land. Remember, this was a time well before the famous 3 Gurus (unless it can be proven that Adi Shankacharya was before this time).
My great-grandfather Garani Vaiyyakarani Krishnacharya was one of the most learned Sanskrit and Kannada pandits of his time (1800s). He came from a long line of Sanskrit grammarians and was a prolific author who mentored many other brilliant people who went on to become great achievers. He also dabbled in nutritional sciences, and discovered steam cooking (havyapaaka paddati) which helped him to banish his illnesses and transform himself into a healthy person. He presented a demo of his steam cooking method to the Maharaja of Mysuru in 1911. He has been described by his students as a handsome person who believed in brevity and preciseness of communication (clearly my opposite!). I have heard that even just gazing at him made students feel happy. Here is an excerpt from famous Kannada author DVG’s memoirs in which he has written about my great grandfather. “Sanskrit grammar was the ancestral property inherited by Krishnacharya.”
Krishnacharya also felt very strongly about the loss of Kannada literature, which I shared here some time back: https://www.facebook.com/sahana.singh.10/media_set…
Shri Krishnacharya’s son, my grandfather Timmanacharya too was a Sanskrit professor with an MA in Sanskrit but he additionally had an MA in English literature. He was the first principal of Sanskrit College in Mysuru and later a lecturer at National College, Bengaluru. His lectures were very popular not just because he taught so well, and made insightful comparisons between Sanskrit and English literature, but also because of his outstanding personality. Strikingly good looking and fit, he could perform the sheershasana even at the age of 70. He filled students with enormous energy and joy of learning; I’ve heard they took many liberties with him because he was so playful. Sadly, just 2 years after I was born, he suffered a stroke and could only communicate by gestures. His eyes sometimes filled with tears or laughter; I often sat on his lap and wondered what he was thinking.
Going back to Ahichhatra, it is the same site which was known as Panchala in the times of Mahabharata. There are a large number of ancient ruins lying buried under it. It was ruled by the Mauryas and Guptas. Recently, TrueIndology tweeted about it and made me feel even more eager to visit a place which was probably the nerve centre of Vedic learning and Shiva worship. https://twitter.com/TrueIndolo…/…/949938569900056576/photo/1
I don’t know what I will find. The trail is cold. But I will certainly keep my eyes open to find people who look like my cousins, uncles and aunts or even me! They might have converted to different religions. After all, this region bore the brunt of brutal invasions. The widely followed Barelvi school of Sunni Islam started from here. I will probably find apathy and poverty. And pockets of mindless modernization.
Whatever I find, I will certainly pay homage to the home of my ancestors. Their memories must be lying buried over there and trying to speak to me. I will listen.
Note: This narrative of mine must not be fed into the Aryan-Dravidian divisive narrative. There has been a tremendous intermingling of people from northern and southern India for thousands of years. My ancestors’ narrative only goes to show that we are all a part of the same Sanatana Dharma that has bestowed great civilizational unity. If anyone has more information about the migration of Shashtikas, please contact me.