Saletore's Knack for Selecting Unique Subjects

This article is part 5 of 8 in the series B.A. Saletore

Karnataka's Trans-Oceanic Contacts

The next book we can survey is also another example of Saletore’s knack for selecting unique and out-of-the-box subjects and developing them into full-blown works of research and historical insight. Titled Karnataka’s Trans-Oceanic Contacts, its incredible contents include a high-level study of the Vira Banajigas, a business community from Karnataka and their contacts with Babylon and Assyria. This work beautifully complements Saletore’s exposition of the same community during the Vijayanagara period in his magnum opus.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find the full book but only some incomplete reviews of it. Purely based on these sources, we can arguably conclude that Saletore’s work in this area is another good example of his patha-pradarshaka (path-illuminating) method of history and historiography.

Wild Tribes in Indian History

The next work we can examine is a topic that is not only unique but notable for Saletore’s pioneering forays in the area. Titled Wild Tribes in Indian History, it is truly one of its kind. It is a slim work running into less than two hundred pages of which sixty pages are dedicated to notes and bibliography. But Saletore has packed this small space with a veritable treasure of rich information covering the socio-political-cultural and economic aspects of this often-neglected area of Indian history. He draws from an extraordinary range of primary sources – Puranas, epics, native accounts, writings of foreign travelers, epigraphy, and literature, both Hindu and Buddhist.  

But more importantly, Wild Tribes in Indian History is one of the definitive works that proves that, contrary to the modern vandalism of Indian history, Hindu kings always showed a lenient, magnanimous and warm-hearted policy towards the so-called wild tribes or Atavikas, from the earliest period and shows how there was an atmosphere of mutual friendship and harmony between Nagarikas and Atavikas.

Saletore also demonstrates on the strength of these evidences that the so-called wild tribes were every bit Hindu in outlook, customs, and religious practices.  

Here is a brief list of the tribes Saletore provides: Kiratas, Sabaras, Bedars or Bedas, Pulindas, Dasharnas, Maatangas, Pundras, Lambakarnas, Oshtakarnas, Karnapravaranas, Ekapadas, Kalamukhas, Lohamukhas, Yakshas, Kinnaras, Nishadas with almost precise geographical details of their locations and how they evolved over space and time.

The other great ancillary value of this short work is the fact that in a tangential fashion, it is yet another useful source to disprove the so-called Aryan Invasion or Migration Theory.

By itself, Wild Tribes in Indian History is a powerful rebuttal to the pseudo-scientific academic disciplines known as sociology and anthropology, which “studies” tribes with a laboratory or museum-like approach. Saletore on the other hand, correctly treats the subject using the prism of the indivisible or Akhanda Sanatana cultural bond and the real lives and achievements of real people.

In fact, I will offer a conjecture at the risk of being open to criticism: that a fuller study of this book has enough potential to debunk many dangerous theories about our North Eastern brothers & sisters. As we all know, such theories have had a disastrous impact on our national security itself. In this context, we can cite Saletore’s warning about the disastrous consequences of the tribal policies followed by later Vijayangara Kings. He quotes Krishnadevaraya’s classic Amuktamalyada to bolster his point:  

Minding the small faults of the forest chiefs who do not have extensive power is like trying to clean a mud wall by pouring water on it. If he gets angry with them, he cannot destroy them utterly. But if he attaches himself to them by kind words and charity, they would be useful to him in invading foreign territories and capturing fortresses.

And then Saltore gives his own verdict:

The non-observance of these noble maxims of Krishnadevaraya the Great by his successors had a profound effect on the life of the powerful Hindu Empire.

As history shows, after the appalling wreckage of Hampi by the Bahamani barbarians, forest tribes regularly plundered whatever wealth remained and took to full-time dacoity.

Medieval Jainism with Special Reference to the Vijayanagara Empire

Now we can briefly examine Saletore’s work entitled Medieval Jainism with Special Reference to the Vijayanagara Empire.  

In a way, this again, is a special work in the sense that Saletore studies Jainism from the non-religious standpoint, making a clear departure from typical Jain histories that mix up fantastic myths, divinity, and fiction with facts.  

In his own words, Saletore declares that the scope of the work is to study Jainism in southern India from the perspective of "kings, feudatories, nobles, priests, citizens, and women…this is described with the aid of contemporary historical records." Saletore also emphatically makes a vital observation:

The connecting link in the history of the pre-Vijayanagara and Vijayanagara Jainism was the great Vijayanagara House.

This point may sound rather simple and direct, but its true significance is still missed by historians of our own time such as they are, and the ungodly spirit of sectarianism and force-fitting historical truths to pet biases continues unabated even today. Perhaps this is also the reason why truth-seekers like Saletore are in such short supply.

Medieval Jainism, is an evidence-ridden virtuoso performance that shows the spirit of mutual harmony that existed between the Vijayanagara rulers and the Jain community in their empire. Saletore shows how royal benevolence towards Jainism begot a similar response from the community. The chapters titled Princely Patronage, Jaina Men of Action, Women as defenders of the Faith, Vijayanagara's Pledge and Jaina Celebrities in the Vijayanagara Empire are brilliant and moving. We can examine a small excerpt from the book which gives a flair of Saletore’s prowess:

To the Hindu monarchs of the south, especially Karnataka, toleration was a vital principle and not a matter of political expediency. It was their most precious gift to humanity…In 1368, a dispute arose between the Jainas and Srivaishnavas. The Jainas of all the Nadus including Anegondi, Hosapattana, Penugonda and the city of Kalleha (today, Magadi, near BLR), petitioned to Bukka Raya about the injustices done to them by the Srivaishanavas. The monarch, after due inquiry, "took the hand of the Jainas and placing it in the hand of the Srivaishnavas of the 18 Nadus including all the Acharyas of Srirangam, Tirumala, Kanchi, and Melkote and those of the satvikas, moshtikas, savanta-bovas, holeyas, madigas, declared that there was no difference between the Vaishnava darshana and the Jaina darshana. Then he decreed as follows: "if loss should be caused to the Jaina darshana through the Srivaishnavas, the Vaishnavas will kindly deem it as loss caused to their own darshana. The Srivaishanavas will kindly set up a sasana to this effect in all the Basadis of the kingdom. For as long as the sun and the moon endure, the Vaishnava creed will continue to protect the Jaina darshana.

Further elaboration on the fabled spirit and demonstration of the Vijayanagara magnanimity is superfluous.

Indeed, Saletore was among the greatest votaries whose pen transformed the innate nobility of the Vijayanagara monarchs into a contemporary reality for the readers of his own time, and for us, his posterity.   

Needless, Saletore’s method was characteristic of the other exemplars of his period: in the foregoing passage, he quotes directly from Bukkaraya's edict itself instead of relying on secondary sources and that great devil of our time, "interpretation."

To be continued

Author(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.

Prekshaa Publications

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

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சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
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உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
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