A stunning find of a fragmentary stone inscription in an old well near Kandhar in 1959 with a detailed description of the buildings in the ancient capital and the philanthropic activities of Raja Krishna III of the mighty Rashtrakuta dynasty threw light on one of the unknown capitals of the dynasty. The inscription mentions the name of the ancient city as Kandharpura which is the present-day Kandhar. The monarch has been given the title of Kandharpuravaradhishwara in many historical records. The city was also called Krishna Kandhara after the king Krishna III.
The writing mentions the deeds of the king and credits him with the construction of a mandapa called Sarwalokashraya near the temple of the renowned god Kshetrapala. The inscription mentions the temples in this city which historians have managed to identify with difficulty as many of them have undergone extensive damage since the time they were built.
This city lies about 50 km south-west of Nanded, on the left bank of Manyad River. The city has been occupied by the Rashtrakutas, Yadavas of Devagiri and the invaders namely Delhi Sultanate, Bahmani Sultanate, Ahmadnagar Sultanate also known as Nizam Shahis of Ahmadnagar and the Nizam of Hyderabad (viceroy of the Mughals). The ruins of this ancient city have been found in and around Kandhar.
Excavations conducted in the fields in Manaspura unearthed fragments of a gigantic sculpture popularly known as the Colossus of Kandhar which have been kept in the Kandhar fort. It is widely accepted that the shrine of Kshetrapala must have been located in the field where the ruins have been discovered. The face which is in two parts measures 1.57 m in height from the top of the head to the nose and measures 2.48 m from eyes to the left ear! The third eye and the face appear to have been carved separately and joined at the eye level as the broken edges of the slabs are smooth. The left ear is about 1.60 m high with two rings having three pearls each suspended on the upper part of the earlobe. It would appear that the sculpture was not finished at the back.
Besides the face, portions of the belly, hands and legs of this colossal figure have been found. Two anklets adorn the legs and rings are there on all toes. The sole and lower side of the toes are well-finished suggesting that this massive sculpture was designed to be installed in its supine position. Based on the fragments found, the figure is thought to be over 16 m in height and carved out on a low hillock opposite the field where it was found.
The Kandhar Fort itself is a unique structure originally thought to be of wood though the present structure spread over 24 acres appears to have been renovated several times by the occupants of the city. The original structure is thought to be built by Raja Krishna III in the 10th century.
The moat around the fort is believed to have been constructed by the Rashtrakutas. A stepwell within the fort complex is from the period when the Yadavas of Devagiri ruled over this city. The layered ramparts are additions of the Delhi Sultanate and further strengthened by the Ahmadnagar Sultanate.
The design and development of this fortress is typical of the architecture style favoured by the Bahmani Sultanate. This fort being on ground level without the advantage of height offered in hill forts made up for its inadequacies with its impressive 18 watchtowers and cannons and 12 m high enclosure wall. Rangin Darwaza and Dhana Buruj are some of the structures that have been renovated recently.
The fort has two levels of fortification with the outer wall completely in a state of disrepair while the inner wall has undergone some restoration. An ancient man-made reservoir called Jatatunsagar which is a rare find in Maharashtra is seen in the fort complex. Sheesh Mahal which in all probability was built over the palace of the Rashtrakutas has some lovely glass work and remnants of a bath with hot and cold-water storage arrangements.
Ambar Khana, Rani Mahal and Lal Mahal built by the Mughals have survived the test of time. There are many dilapidated structures still standing which might have been living quarters. A replication of the Mughal Garden was attempted here without much success. Figures of Lord Mahavira, Lord Ganesha, Shiva Lingas and others have been placed inside the fort.
Interestingly, the locals believe that Kandhar is actually Panchalpuri where Draupadi married the Pandavas. Another noteworthy point is that the valley near the city is called Pandavdara.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)