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SONDHNI PILLARS: WHERE PUNJABIS MET WITH THEIR WATERLOO 1500 YEARS AGO



SONDHNI PILLARS: WHERE PUNJABIS MET WITH THEIR WATERLOO 1500 YEARS AGO

Sondhni Pillers remind us of the Huna debacle at the hands of Hindustanis

The Punjab has been a boiling cauldron where many races from the west met with the eastern and fused with each other to evolve the present race of Punjabis. Similarly Hunas a barbarian north-western tribe  defeated Punjab about 400 AD and was slowly itself absorbed in the mainstream of Punjab. Mihirkula the Huna invaded Central India  and was crushed by Yashodharman at Malwa the Mandaur the erstwhile Dashpur. He erected pillars to commemorate his victory in the great battle. Sondhni pillars now since fallen on ground have preserved this great epoch in history reports B.S.Goraya

“He who made the great Himalayas shed its pride of being impregnable The one who would bow before  none except lord Siva: that great Huna emperor Mihirkula and lo he is at the feet of 'king Yashodharman,” thus wrote royal poet Vasul in the first half of 'sixth century AD. And the inscription is very much intact today at the two Pillars of Victory, near village Sondhni, 6 kms. off Mandsaur in M.P.
Erected by king Yashodharman of Malwa to commemorate his victory over the Hunas, the two identical, l4 metre high stone pillars are now prostrating before that great, the invincible : time.

"His Arms as strong as these pillars the great Yashodharman erected them to measure the whole of earth." sings praises the Brahmi inscription on the pillars. "and the pillars will survive even the dooms day."  
The poet's wishes would have perhaps fallen short  if Arthur Sullivan a British officer had not noticed in sorry state one of the pillars in 1879. Sullivan was prompt to dispatch a hand written copy of the inscription to the noted historian Cunningham.
In 1885 excavations under the direction of an acknowledged archaeologist John Faithful Fleet were carried out around the pillar site the second pillar along with some sculptures and pillar blocks were then discovered. When deciphered the inscription shed a strong flash enlightening an otherwise a  dark epoch in the ancient history as nothing was known as to the Mandsaur defeat of those barbarian Huna invaders and no legend or  folklore of Malwa had preserved the glorious name of that great king Yashodharman.
The Archealogical Survey of India has placed the pillars on a cemented platform and the scholars agree that it is their original site.
 Now lying disintegrated ( in original blocks) the Sondhni pillars are typical of the Gupta era pillars i.e. composed of four parls: the pillar proper, the  neck, capitol and the crown. The pillar proper is a 5.2 metre long sixteen sided tapering single piece stone which rested on 1.35 metre high base slab. On the pillars was a bell shaped slab carved with the Lotus petals, which in turn held the 0.8 metre high capitol. The capitol is carved with images of a couple of upright sitting lions on all the four faces of the square slab. In the middle of each pillar a set of lions is carved with a distracting ghostly face with the eyes bulging out and tongue protruding. Typical of the Gupta period structures a superstition symbol to protect from evil eyes. The crown possibly an image of some bifaced God has since completely disappeared.
 The total height of each of Sondhni pillars, blocks of which were held together by female, male mortice tenon type of locking is l4 meter. Except one piece of a pillar  all the blocks are intact and it is, felt the true appreciation of Sandhni would be to restore the pillars to their of glory by re-erecting them.
The pillars are chiseled from white sand stone which is not available around here and might had been transported from a distance of about I00 kms : again a remarkable feat in those days of poor transportation means.
On the pillars proper is carved a nine line Sanskrit inscription in Brahmi script of the Gupta era type and its duplicate is carved on the second pillar also. Except the names of "Govind' the scribe and "Nanhappa and dasappa" the expert masons  possibly both from South India. The inscriptions are in verse.
The poet who composed the inscription is 'Vasul son of Kackak' and tense of inscription confirms that the pillars were erected right during the life time of king Yashodharman. Another detailed composition by this poet has also been discovered at a village named Rings that too in Mandasaur in 1983, where the name of king in the inscription is given as Prakashdharman and some scholars believe Prakashdharman was Yashodharman's father who defeated Tormana, the Huna emperor Mihirkula's father.
Late Dr. Vishnu S. Vakankar Padma-shree, believed that these pillars were erected in front of a Siva temple which had no mandapa.
The two identical images now lying erect near the pillars are dwarpalas or the gatemen of the temple garbha grih in front which the pillars stood. It was customary in those times to have an image of a dwarpal on both the sides of sanctum sanctorum door. The height of dwarpals images indicates the temple was higher than the pillars.
 Another contemporary sculpture now on display near the dwarpals bears a romantic scene where a couple is manifest taking wine and in the height of scintillating moods a clothe begins to slip from place.
 On the other side of this slab is carved a saint studying some scripture, and below it are exhibited two ladies running behind a bull one holding its tail.
A 6th century image from Sondhni is now preserved at the National Museum Delhi where Gandharav and Apsara the Fairy are shown in a perfect posture of flight. The Mandsaur district, famous for opium poppy cultivation is a rich treasure of ancient monuments and artifacts. Some of the sculpture found in the city include a rare giant linga carved with eight face images of lord Siva in two tiers which was found in the Sivna stream 60 years ago. The 6th century AD, 7.25 ft. high linga weighing 46 quintals has now been installed in a temple named Pashupati Nath, on the bank of Shivna.
The most preponderant sculpture in Mandsaur is the 7th century trident holding Shiva now installed at Collector's office. The 3.81 metre high compound statue was unearthed 3 metre below the ground level by D.B. Spooner in 1925. Standing on a platform with the front carved of an orchestra scene the statue has two images of attendants of god with two ghostly images in the background. The sculpture has many fine details an artist would Love and appreciate. One imagines how magnificent was the temple where this image stood.
Ours is a funny religious heritage. There is separate god for every aspect of life and situation and a green stone statue at Mandsaur reminds there could be gods approving the acts and aspects society considers evil. Holding a 'murga' the chicken in one hand, Kag kush type hair style, tail of loin cloth reaching right up to ankles and shawl type 'chaddar  hanging from both the shoulders make a beauty of this art piece which is an image of god of thieves and robbers.
Then there is a Sitlamata statue for the museum where the eight arm goddess of smallpox in all her nudity is sitting on a donkey back and also a beautiful image of a goddess with child in her lap. A child lover or savior ? No, it is Hariti : the child eater goddess : nonetheless worshipped. Little known in history Yashodharman was an Aulikar king who ruled over the whole of Malwa and the present Rajasthan up to Aravali rages. His capital was Dashpur the Mandsaur.
The Hunas a wild tribe originating from Central Asia in China ruled over Punjab and Afghanistan for a considerable period though often invaded other parts of India. They are known to historians as barbarian and cruel rulers. They were impressed and thus adopted the rich culture and religion of India of those times and were absorbed in the mainstream leaving no trace of their Huna identity in the following centuries. We termed them Punjabi because by the time of Mandsaur invasion they have become Punjabi and their army must have been composed of the Punjabi and Afghan soldiers….Z 
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TEXT OF INSCRIPTION
Mandasor Pillar Inscription of Yashodharman May that very long banner of (the god) Shûlapâni destroy the glory of your enemies;
— (that banner) which bears (a representation of) the bull (Nandi), marked by the five
fingers (dipped in some dye and then) placed on him by (Pârvati) the daughter of the
mountain (Himâlaya), who causes the distant regions, in which the demons are driven
wild with fear by (his) terrible bellowings, to shake; (and) who makes the glens of (the
mountain) Sumêru to have their rocks split open by the blows of his horns!
 (Line 2.)— He, to whose arm, as if (to the arm) of (the god) Shârngapâni,— the
fore-arm of which is marked with callous parts caused by the hard string of (his) bow,
(and) which is steadfast in the successful carrying out of vows for the benefit of
mankind,— the earth betook itself (for succour), when it was afflicted by kings of the
present age, who manifested pride; who were cruel through want of proper training; who,
from delusion, transgressed the path of good conduct; (and) who were destitute of
virtuous delights:
 (L. 3.)— He who, in this age which is the ravisher of good behaviour, through the
action simply of (his good) intentions shone gloriously, not associating with other kings
who adopted a reprehensible course of conduct,— just as an offering of flowers (is
beautiful when it is not laid down) in the dust;— he in whom, possessed of a wealth of
virtue, (and so) falling but little short of Manu and Bharata and Alarka and Mândhâtri,
the title of "universal sovereign" shines more (than in any other), like a resplendent level
(set) in good gold:—
 (L. 4.)— He who, spurning (the confinement of) the boundaries of his own house,
enjoys those countries,— thickly covered over with deserts and mountains and trees and
thickets and rivers and strong-armed heroes, (and) having (their) kings assaulted by (his)
prowess,— which were not enjoyed (even) by the lords of the Guptas, whose prowess
was displayed by invading the whole (remainder of the) earth, (and) which the command
of the chiefs of the Hûnas , that established itself on the tiaras of (many) kings, failed to
penetrate:—
 (L. 5.)— He before whose feet chieftains, having (their) arrogance removed by the
strength of (his) arm, bow down, from the neighbourhood of the (river) Lauhitya up to
(the mountain) Mahêndra, the lands at the foot of which are impenetrable through the
groves of palmyra-trees, (and) from (Himâlaya) the mountain of snow, the tablelands of
which are embraced by the (river) Gangâ, up to the Western Ocean,— by which (all)
the divisions of the earth are made of various hues through the intermingling of the rays
of the jewels in the locks of hair on the tops of (their) heads: —
 (L.6.)— He by whom (his) head has never been brought into the humility of
obeisance to any other save (the god) Sthânu;— he, through the embraces of whose arms
(Himâlaya) the mountain of snow carries no longer the pride of the title of being a place
that is difficult of access;— he to whose two feet respect was paid, with complimentary
presents of the flowers from the lock of hair on the top of (his) head, by even that
(famous) king Mihirakula, whose forehead was pained through being bent low down by
the strength of (his) arm in (the act of compelling) obeisance: —
 (L. 7.)— By him, the king, the glorious Yashôdharman, the firm beams of whose
arms are as charming as pillars, this column, which shall endure to the time of the
destruction of the world, has been erected here,— as if to measure out the earth; as if to
enumerate on high the multitude of the heavenly lights; (and) as if to point out the path of
his own fame to the skies above, acquired by good actions;— (this column) which shines
refulgent, as if it were a lofty arm of the earth, raised up in joy to write upon the surface
of the moon the excellence of the virtues of Yashôdharman, to the effect that— "His
birth (is) in a lineage that is worthy to be eulogised; there is seen in him a charming
behaviour that is destructive of sin; he is the abode of religion; (and) the (good) customs
of mankind continue current, unimpeded (in any way) by him."
 (L. 9.)— From a desire thus to praise this king, of meritorious actions, (these) verses
have been composed by Vâsula, the son of Kakka. (This eulogy) has been engraved by
Gôvinda.
From: Fleet, John F. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum: Inscriptions of the Early Guptas.
Vol. III. Calcutta: Government of India, Central Publications Branch, 1888, 147-148. 
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