The fall of the Yadavas of Devagiri and the Kakatiyas of Warangal at the hands of Alauddin Khilji marks a turning point in the history of the Deccan and the peninsular South. It was an event of extraordinary historical significance. On the one hand the immense wealth which Alauddin carried from his Devagiri expeditions enabled him to accomplish his political designs at Delhi and on the other it paved the way for the domination of Islam to the south of the Deccan. In the aftermath of the fall of these two once mighty kingdoms, Devagiri and Warangal, the Gonds of Chandrapur- Gadchiroli seem to have made their rise as a political power.
The original seat of the Gond kings of Chandrapur-Gadchiroli is considered to be Sirpur, twenty miles to the south-west of Chandrapur proper, on the southern bank of the Painganga river, also known as Wardha here. From here they shifted their capital to present Ballarsah and finally to Chandrapur of historic fame. A long list of the Gond Kings who ruled from these places is given by Major Lucie Smith in his Settlement Report of Chanda District, 1869. When he was preparing the land revenue settlement report of Chandrapur, 1863-1869, he compiled a genealogy of the Gond Kings based on oral and written traditions which he had collected.
According to the local Gond traditions there arose among them a hero known as Kol Bhill of great strength and wisdom. He rallied round the scattered Gond tribes and formed them into a sort of nation, teaching them how to extract iron from the ore. It is significant to note that Kol Bhilla while gathering the scattered Gonds together felt the need of teaching them the extraction or iron from the ore. In order to carve out an independent kingdom for the Gonds it was necessary to teach them the use of iron for the manufacture of war weapons, which they probably did not know before. The political powers which surrounded the Gonds learn the use of iron. Gonds had known the use of iron long since. In the history of human civilization it is a well known fact that iron weapons gave superiority to those who possessed them over their rivals having non-ferrous weapons. Kol Bhill, therefore, ushered in a revolution when he taught his Gond brethren the use of iron. It at once put the Gonds on par with the neighbouring political powers in the struggle for supremacy.
Following Kol Bhill, we have Bhim Ballal Sing, who is said to have established a Gond Kingdom with Sirpur as its capital. From Bhim Ballal the line of Gond Kings ruling over Chandrapur-Gadchiroli is as below:
|1.||Bhim Ballal Sing||870-895 A.D.|
|2.||Kharja Ballal Sing||895-935|
|4.||Andia Ballal Sing||970-995|
|9.||Surja Ballal Sing alias Ser Sah||1207-1242|
|10.||Khandakya Ballal Sah||1242-1282|
|12.||Bhuma and Lokaba, Joint Rule||1342-1402|
|14.||Babji Ballal Sah||1442-1522|
|15.||Dhundya Ram Sah||1522-1597|
Another genealogical list of the Gond Kings of Chandrapur-Gadchiroli found with one Dhume family of Vani, District Yavatmal,
in the service of the last two Gond Kings, tallies well with that compiled by Major Lucie Smith. The only difference
in the list of the Dhume family is that the reign of the first King Bhim Ballal Sing is given between 890 and 915 A.D.
and that of the last King Nilkanth Sah 1735 to 1743. The reigns of the other Kings also differ by about twenty years in
The list shows that out of the total nineteen Kings, six ruled for sixty years each, one for seventy and one for eighty years. The average reign of each king comes to 46.5 years. By any historical standard even a family blessed with good longevity cannot claim such a high average life over as many as nineteen generations. Of these nineteen Kings, the historicity of Nilkanth Sah, Ram Sah and Babji Ballal Sah is beyond doubt. Ram Sah and Nilkanth Sah were contemporaries of Bhosale Raghuji I, and their reigns given in the genealogy can be taken as more or less correct. The Ain-i-Akbari records that when the list of the territories of Akbar was compiled, a Gond prince Babji by name, was ruling at Chandrapur. This is obviously Babji Ballal Sah of the list. On the evidence of Ain-i-Akbari Babji Ballal Sah could be taken to have ruled between 1570 and 1595 A.D. Retracing the four generations preceding Babji on the basis of twenty-five years for each generation, we get the reign of Khandakya Ballal Sah the founder of the city of modern Chandrapur from 1470 to 1495. Working on this hypothesis back for nine generations we have the date of the founder of the Gond dynasty at Sirpur to be 1320 A.D. (1495-9x25=1320). Let us see to what extent this date corresponds to the known historical facts of the period.
Gond family at Sirpur founded after 1320.
Babji Ballal Sah became a feudatory of the Moghal emperor Akbar and the Chanda kingdom formed part of the Moghal territory. By 1598 Berar had been annexed to the Moghal empire. The fort of Manikgadh was included in the new Subha of Berar. With the defeat of Ramadeva of Devagiri in 1296 by Alauddin Khilji, the former among other things promised to code the revenue of Ellicpur. This was the beginning of the Muslim rule over Berar. In 1318 when the last of the Yadava rulers Harapaladeva fell, the whole of Berar passed under the Khiljis though they could not hold it beyond 1320. themselves being defeated by the Tughlaqs.
The Yadava King. Singhana II ruled from 1210 to 1246. His general Kholeswar defeated a Paramar King of Chandrapur recorded
in the Ambe inscription. Chanda has been identified with Chandrapur the metropolis of the
later Gond Kings. A stone inscription in old Marathi at Bhandak, sixteen miles to the north-west of Chandrapur mentions the
renovation of a temple dedicated to Naga Narayana by a Paramar King The evidence establishes Paramar rule in the region of Chandrapur or Cahanda before it fell to the prowess of
the Yadavas. In addition to the reference to Chanda in the Ambe inscription of 1228 A.D., the inscription of Ramtek and
Lanji bear testimony to the Yadava rule to the east of Berar. According to a tradition, Utnur in Andhra Pradesh, District
Adilabad, was in olden times Vithalnagar named after the patron deity of the Yadavas, Visnu or Vithala. There are also some
ruins of a Visnu temple at Utnur. Utnur at the heart of the tribal country is not far away from Sirpur, the
original seat of the Gonds of Canda. The temple of Honakdev or Honakeswar twenty-five miles to the east of Ma hut on the
Painganga dates from the Yadava times. The inscription on the temple belonging to the last quarter of the thirteenth
century is counted among the earliest known Marathi inscriptions. Further east at Jainat there are quite a few old temples.
At Candur at the foothills of Manikgadh there are remains of old temples. To the south of Ballarsah, at Rajura, there is an old temple of Someswar. In the Mahanubhava literature, the territory to the east of Berar or Vidarbha forming part of Gondavana is often referred to as, Zadi Mandal, meaning ' wooded country'. The founder of the Mahanubhava Sect speaks of his visits to the Gonds in his autobiography dated around 1275 A.D. [PAGA. p. 16.] Thus, inscriptional, monumental and literary evidence leaves no doubt about the Yadava rule at and around Chandrapur.
In 1307, Malik Naib Kafur invaded Devagiri on the pretext of collecting tribute from Ramadeva its ruler, who had failed to
pay it as agreed to in the previous expedition. Ramadeva was taken a prisoner to Delhi and subsequently allowed to go back
to his capital with the honorific title ' Rai Rayan'. In 1309 Malik Naib Kafur carried an expedition into the Kakatiya
Kingdom of Warangal by way of Basiragarh (Wairagadh) and invested the fort of Sirbar (Sirpur). Ramadeva offered all kind
of help to Malik. The garrison at Sirpur could not resist the might of the Muslim and Yadava, i.e., Maratha forces, in
spite of their valiant defence. Women and children committed themselves to flames and the brother of the commandant
surrendered to the invader. It is evident that till 1309 Sirpur was under the Kakatiyas,
of Warangal. At least it was not under the Gonds as they arc not mentioned in the contemporary works. Sirpur was a frontier
town between the kingdoms of the Yadavas and the Kakatiyas. Chandrapur and the adjoining country formed the easternmost
part of the Yadava Kingdom. The Gonds in this frontier region now partly in the Adilabad district and partly in Chandrapur
district could not have risen to power prior to 1318-1323. The Yadava Kingdom fell in 1318 and the Kakatiyas of Warangal
surrendered in 1323. The Khiljis were succeeded by the Tughluqs in 1320. During the reign of Muhammad Tughluq, the successful revolt in the Deccan led to the establishment of the Bahamani Kingdom at Gulbarga-Kalburgi in 1347. Firuz Sah (1397-1422) of this dynasty defeated the Gond Raja Narasing Rai of Khedla, about four miles north of Betul in Madhya Pradesh. The Raja had invaded Berar at the instigation of the Muslim rulers of Malwa and Khandes, and on the advice of the Raja of Vijay-nagar. This campaign against the Gond Raja was led some time after 1417, During the reign of Ahmad Sah Bahamani (1422-1436), according to Ferishta, the fort of Mahur was invested and the town of Kalamb was taken possession of. Both these places had diamond mines and they belonged to the Raja of Gond. The identity of the Raja of Gond is not known. But in all probability he was the Gond ruler of Chandrapur as both Mahur and Kalamb are nearer to Chandrapur than to Khedla where Narasing Rai ruled.
In the tangle for power between the Bahamanis and the Muslim rulers of Khandes and Malwa, by proximity, it is the kingdom of Khedla that often comes into picture than the Gond Kingdom of Chandrapur. Chandrapur was rather away from Western Berar, the scene of fast changing political happenings.
Adil Khan (1457 - 1503), the ruler of Kha'ndes, is said to have forced the Rajas of Gondawana and Gadha Mandala to acknowledge his supremacy. He freed the country from the depredations of the Kolis and Bhills. He assumed the title Shah-i-Jharkhand (King of the Forest). It is not known who the Rajas of Gondwana were. But the term Gondwana may be taken to have included the Gond Kingdom of Chandrapur along with others.
In 1482 after the assassination of Mahmud Giivan the Bahamani kingdom disintegrated giving rise to the five Sahis of the Deccan. One of these Sahis, Imad sahi of Berar with its seat at Ellicpur had practically assumed independence by 1490. In 1574 Imad Sahi Kingdom was absorbed by the Nizam Sahi of Ahmadnagar which in its own turn was conquered by Akbar in 1600. With these changes in the history of Berar one might presume that the Gond Kingdom of Chandrapur after the Bahamanis first passed under Imad Sahi and later under the Nizam Sahi.
Thus, following the fall of the Yadavas and the Kakatiyas of Warangal-1318, 1323-the Gonds of Sirpur must have got an opportunity to establish themselves as an independent power. This might have required at least a decade, i.e., 1333 or 1340 if we take the round figure. From this time the Gonds of Chandrapur seem to have enjoyed independence till about 1422 or a little more, when Ahmad Sah Bahamani subjugated them. The Gond kings of Chandrapur thus, were independent since the days of their founder for less than a century. We have no means to ascertain the exact nature of the hold over them either of Imad Sahi or of Nizam Sahi.
In the light of these historical facts the traditional date of the foundation of the Gond Kingdom of Sirpur, 870 A.D., recorded by Major Lucie Smith has got to be rejected. Some time around 1340 the kingdom was founded at Sirpur by Bhim Ballal Sing. The dates of Babji Ballal Sah who was a contemporary of Akbar, and those of Ram Sah and Nllkanth Sah who were contemporary personalities of Bhosale Raghuji I, could be determined without any difficulty.
The first three kings who ruled at Sirpur were Bhim Ballal Sing, Kharja Ballal Sing and Hir Sing. Kharja was of gentle nature
. His son Hir was warlike and prudent. He for the first time levied tax on occupied land. He was respected by his people.
He was succeeded by Adiya Ballal Sing, who was a tyrant. The fort of Ballarsah according to the anecdote recorded in the old Gazetteer of Canda district was constructed by Khandakya Ballal Sah, the tenth descendant of the dynasty. But the credit of constructing the fort is given to Adiya by the account given in the History of Wani. It is more likely that Adiya who shifted the capital from Sirpur to Ballarsah should have construct-ed a fort there for protection and defence as practically every capital in those days had a fort.
The fort stands on the eastern bank of the Wardha occupying six acres of land. The entrance faces the east. Outside the fort stands the temple of Kesavnath meant for the visit-darsana of the members of the royal family. In 1822 a stone image of Kesavnath was installed by Punj Patil, an officer of the Bhosales as the original gold-enamelled image was stolen in 1818. A huge mound of debris in the fort was probably the site of a once moderately splendid palace. Nilkanth Sah, the last ruler of the Chandrapur dynasty, was confined here by Bhosale Raghuji I. From the ruins one could guess that the fort had all the necessary equipment-residential buildings, offices, stores magazine, cellars and stables.
From the fort walls, the Wardha, when in floods, presents a wild panoramic view. Because of its crescent shape at this spot the Wardha is called Candrabhaga after the Candrabhaga of Pandharpur.
After Adiya the following five kings in succession ruled at Ballarsah-Talvar Sing, Kesar Sing, Dinkar Sing, Ram Sing and Surja Ballal Sing alias Ser Sah.
Talwar being fickle-minded was not respected by his people. He was succeeded by his youngest son Kesar whom he loved dearly. Kesar was an able ruler. He subdued the rebellions that broke out in his kingdom and extended it to the boundaries of the Bhil country. He possessed horses and oxen, and was wealthier than any of his predecessors. His son Dinkar was a man of peaceful pursuits. He invited to his court Gond bards and learned men from outside, and encouraged the study of religion and philosophy. For the first time he invited Marathi literati to reside at his capital though no details are available about them. The peace and prosperity which the people enjoyed during his reign led them to believe that Dinkar Sah was in possession of a philosopher's stone.
Ram Sing who succeeded Dinkar was brave and ambitious. He governed the Kingdom righteously and enlarged its boundaries. For the defence of his territory he constructed hill forts in the south-west part and maintained a chosen band of invincible soldiers called tadavel. A rare orchid growing occasionally on the bamboo when eaten with certain ritual was supposed to make the person steel-bodied and, therefore, invulnerable. It is not known whether the plant eaten was a kind of orchid growing on the bamboo or was bamboo shoot itself.
It seems that during the reign of Ram Sing the western part of his kingdom was threatened by the Bahamanis. As already observed Ahmad Sah Bahamani (1422-1436) invested the fort of Mahur and rook the town of Kalamb, which belonged to the Gond Raja. This Gond Raja was Ram Sing. Ahmad Sah is said to have massacred a large number of Hindus in this campaign. The Thakurs of this region bore the brunt of the attack. In memory of this tragic incident the people of Mahur celebrate a day called ' jaya takari '. On the death of Ram Sing his son Surja Ballal Sing mounted the throne. Surja was very handsome, brave and adventurous. The legend recorded in the old Gazetteer of Canda about the exploits of Surja needs careful scrutiny. Surja Ballal is said to have been to Kasi to learn the art of war and music. During his stay there, his escort plundered the country around eventually drawing upon itself the wrath of the emperor of Delhi. In a skirmish that followed between the followers of Surja Ballal and the emperor's men the former came out successful. Later, Surja Ballal while wandering alone was captured by the emperor's soldiers and taken a captive to Delhi. At this time the Rajput chief of Kaibur, Mohan Sing, had incurred the displeasure of the emperor by refusing to offer his daughter of infatuating beauty asked for by the emperor. The emperor had sent a force against the Rajput chief which was defeated. In the meanwhile Surja Ballal's men who had returned to the capital, Sirpur, acquainted the. regent Jarba about the happenings at Kasi during Surja's stay there. Upon this Jarba collected a force of 70,000 men, of whom 10,000 were tadavels and proceeded to Delhi. When the force was on its march the emperor's daughter's admiration was excited on frequently hearing the melodious songs of the captive Surja.
At the request of his daughter the emperor sent for Surja and asked him whether he would fight for him. Surja readily agreed to serve the emperor and took upon himself the task of reducing the fort of Kaibur. While Surja was preparing to return to Gondavana in order to make necessary preparations for the attack on Kaibur, the force under Jarba, the regent, reached the precincts of Delhi. Jarba was presented to the emperor. Under the leadership of Surja the Gond force together with the imperial contingent attacked Kaibur fort and reduced it. In the engagement the Rajput chief Mohan Sing was killed. Among the spoils secured was a sacred sword which is said to have been preserved in the royal Gond family till today. On Mohan Sing's death his widow entreated Surja to save her daughter and herself from the impending dishonour at the hands of the emperor. Surja promised them protection. On reaching the emperor's court Surja presented the daughter of Mohan Sing to the emperor disguised as the young prince of the dead Rajput chief. The emperor seated the prince in his lap and blessed him as his own child. When the emperor asked Surja about the beautiful daughter of Mohan Sing, Surja explained that she was already with emperor as his child in the lap. The emperor though chagrined at this trick conferred a dress of honour on the Gond King and allowed Mohan Sing's daughter to return home with grace. The Gond King was allowed to retain the entire territory from Bengal to Bundelkhand, and as far as Rajmahendri as was once held by his ancestors.
He was granted the title of Ser Sah. Henceforth all the Gond Kings from Surja suffixed the title Sah to their names.
This legend about Surja's adventure is not supported by the known historical facts. The name of the emperor at Delhi is
not known, and no emperor is recorded to have asked for the help of a Gond King named Surja for securing the daughter of
the Rajput chief [According to J. N. Seal (History of the Central Provinces and Berar, Calcutta, 1917, p.59) the emperor
of Delhi in whose custody Surja was for some time,must be Firuz Tughluq-1351-88. On the basis of chronology computed for
the Gonds of Chanda in the previous pages, Surja's reign comes to 1445-70. Even if Surja is considered as a contemporary
of Firuz Tughluq, there is no evidence to show that Surja had been to the court of Firuz Tughluq.]. This story, therefore,
has been concocted in order to enhance the importance of the Gond King Surja. Any ruler in those days who merited the attention of Delhi naturally merit-ed the attention of the public gaining name for himself. The fact in the anecdote is that Surja Ballal Sing alias Surja Ballal Sah accepted the supremacy of the Muslim rulers, most probably, of the Bahamanis.
On the death of Surja alias Ser Sah, his son Khandkya Ballal came to the throne. This prince had tumours all over his body.
He was looked after by his wise and beautiful wife. When no remedy could heal Khandkya she induced him to leave Sirpur and
reside on the northern bank of the Wardha, where he erected a fort named Ballalpur. One day, as the legend goes, while the
king was hunting north-west of Ballalpur he grew thirsty and rode up to the dry bed of the Jharpat river in search of water.
He discovered water trickling from a hole, and after drinking, washed his face, hands and feet. That night he slept soundly
for the first time in his life. Next morning the queen was delighted to see that many of the tumours on her husband's body
had disappeared. On enquiry the wonderful cure was ascribed to the water of Jharpat where the King drank water and washed
his face. The queen requested Khandkya to take her to the spot where he had quenched his thirst. Both proceeded to the
Jharpat and in a little while the hole was found. On clearing the grass and sand there were seen five footprints of a cow
in the solid rock, each filled with water. The water source at the spot was inexhaustible. The place was holy-the Tirtha of
Acalesvar of the Treta Yuga fame. When the King bathed in the water all the tumours on his body vanished. That night the
royal party encamped near the place, and in the visions of sleep Acalesvar appeared to the King, and spoke comforting words. On hearing the dream the queen advised the erection of a temple over the healing waters, and the King, approving of the idea, sent his officers to collect skilled architects for the work. He took great interest in its progress. One morning, after his daily visit, while he was riding he saw a hare darting out of a bush and chasing his dog. Astonished at this unusual sight he looked on and saw the dog running in a wide circle while the hare took zig-zag cuts to catch it. At one point it closed in with the dog which how-ever shook it off and continued its flight. On nearing the point where the chase had commenced, the dog turned on and killed the hare. The King found that on the forehead of the hare was a white spot. Pondering what this might mean, he rode home and recounted to his wife all that he had seen. That wise woman counselled that the occurrence was a good omen, and that a fortified city should he built within the circuit of the chase, with walls following the hare's track. She further advised that special bastions should be erected, both where the hare had closed in upon the dog and where the dog had killed the hare. She ex-pressed her belief that the latter point would prove to be dangerous to the city in future. The King lost no time in giving effect to her suggestions. A trench was dug along the hare's track, which was easily discernible by the footprints of the King's horse. The gates and bastions were planned, the whole marked out, and the foundations commenced. The work was under the management of the Rajput officers of the King, called Tel Thakurs. Thus began the building of the city of Canda or Chandrapur. Some scholars derive the name from Indupur (city of the moon), which stood near the Jharpat in the Treta Yuga, but the common people see its origin in the white spot (Candar) which marked the forehead of the wondrous hare.
The Sanivar Palace at Poona is said to have been constructed by Pesva Bajirav I on a site where he saw a hare chasing a dog while he was on his morning ride.
Khandkya Ballal Sah thus founded the city of Chanda or Chandrapur. He used to reside both at Ballalpur. or Ballarsah and
Chandrapur. He died at Ballalpur.
The tomb of Khandkya Ballal Sah is on the Sironca-Alapalli road, half a mile to the east of the Ballarsah station in the jungle. It is constructed of black stone, square in shape and adorned with a dome. It looks like a Muslim monument. A small platform in front of this tomb is said to be the monument of the chief queen Hiratani. Nearabout lies a stone marked with a pair of forty-two foot-prints considered to be the monument of the forty-two minor queens of Khandkya who killed themselves after the sati custom on the death of their lord.
Hir Sah succeeded Khandkya Ballal. One of the notable achievements of this King was the encouragement he gave to cultivation.
He issued a declaration (firman) stating that one who brought new land under the plough by clearing the forest would be
granted a sanad as the Zamindar of that piece of land and would be raised to the status of a nobleman-Sardar. Any one
constructing a tank was rewarded with as much land as could be Watered by the tank. These incentives had their results soon.
The thick forest was felled and as many as twenty new land proprietorships-Zamindaris-were established covering an area of
nearly 5,000 square miles. The boundaries of the lands owned by individuals were well demarcated. Land grants were freely
made to those who constructed wells and canals. At the same time Hir Sah sternly warned the old land proprietors that their
lands would be confiscated should they keep them fallow. Hir Sah constructed a tank at Junona, six miles to the east of
Chandrapur for the use of poor farmers. He personally toured the country, carefully inspecting whether the new incentives
he had offered were properly utilised. According to a legend the farmers paid their rent not in cash but in field implements which were taken to the King every year and changed by him into gold. Hir Sah introduced all these measures having understood the importance of agronomy for the prosperity of his kingdom which traditionally depended upon the forest wealth.
Hir Sah is stated to have paid tribute to none. There is much significance historically in this statement. On the basis of the reigns of the different Gond Kings calculated in the previous pages of this chapter, Khandkya Ballal Sah ruled between 1470 and 1495. His successor, Hir Sah, therefore, has to be given the period from 1496 to 1521. The Bahamani kingdom ceased to exercise any power after the assassination of Mahmud Gavan in 1481, though in theory it continued to exist till the death of its last ruler Kalim-ulla-sah in 1527. The collapse of the Bahamanis coincides with the reign of Hir Sah. The statement, therefore, that Hir Sah paid tribute to none is historically corroborative. It is not borne out by facts that the immediate predecessors of Hir Sah paid tribute to the Haihayas of Ratanpur.
Hir Sah filled in the foundation of the walls which his father had begun, He erected high gates facing the four main quarters. On the gates he carved the typical Gond royal crest. It represents a lion treading on an elephant with its left front foot and pulling the trunk with its right front paw. The hind right leg of the lion is planted on the back of the elephant. The projecting tongue of the lion and its curved tail impart motion and grace to the carving. The elephant looks quite helpless in the grip of the lion. The lion is much larger than the elephant, and though this is unnatural, it is probably intended to convey the prowess of the lion. Crests of this type are repeated on all the fort-gates constructed by the Gonds. In the absence of any literary evidence it is not possible to interpret the exact meaning of this emblem. Nor are the Gonds of to-day able to explain its meaning
[In the ' Report of the Land Revenue Settlement of the Chanda District, Central Provinces' (1869) by Major Lucic Smith, p.70,the meaning of the crest has been interpreted as follows:-
" The device of the Gond kings was a Sing or Griffin destroying an elephant and doubtless had reference to their family name of Sing-This crest is carved, upon wall and gateway and tower wherever the Bullal Sing line held sway, and is to be seen far beyond the boundaries of the present Chanda district."
" The Gond kings styled themselves as," Great King of Kings, Lord of the Earth" but their official seal came from Delhi, and bore a far humbler legend. Only two of these seals can now be found, and in the older of the two, granted by the Delhi Emperor to Ram Shah in 1719,A.D.,the inscription runs-Mohumud Gazee Emperor of Supreme dignity, to Raja Ram Sing, Dependent, 1131 Sun."].
Hir Sah constructed a citadel and within its confines prepared a palace for his own stay. One of the gates of the citadel was styled as lal daravaja. It was a common fashion in those days to name a number of gateways and buildings as lal daravaja and lal mahal. Inside the citadel was built the temple of Somesvar and a tank called Kohinur for the use of the members of the royal family. All these constructions bear testimony to the artistic sense of Hir Sah.
Hir Sah was sonless. He had two daughters Gangubai and Virubai. The former was married to Ankum, the ruler of Junganv and the latter to Ramji, the Gond nobleman of Rajgad, about thirty miles to the east of Chandrapur. Ankum who was attracted by Virubai on seeing her wanted to have adulterous relations with her. When his efforts bore no fruit he hatched a plot with a view to raping Virubai for which he succeeded in securing the consent of his wife, who was unwilling at the beginning. Virubai was childless and sought God's grace for a child by prayers and worship. In order to carry the plot through, Gangubai urged her sister Virubai to come to Junganv and offer prayers to the deity Balesvar there, known to fulfil the wishes of his devotees. When Virubai entered the temple of Balesvar. Ankum who was hiding raped her. Helpless, Virubai came home and narrated the tragedy to her husband Ramji. Ramji vowed vengeance common with the Gonds. Soon it was declared that Ramji was dead and his wife who pretended to be a widow secretly invited Ankum to her place. On the appointed day lovelorn Ankum came and Ramji who was hiding seized him and blinded him. Ankum according to this legend repented all his life for the crime he had committed
Sonless Hir Sah's widow, Hirabai, adopted Bhuma and Lokba as successors to the gadi from the Gond family of Movad. Hirabai looked after the administration of the Kingdom till the two adopted sons came of age. The two brothers Bhuma and Lokba ruled peacefully and were well respected by the people. Every summer on an appointed day all the Gond feudatories assembled at Canda or Chandrapur the capital of their sovereign and presented to him specimens of every animal and jungle produce obtained in their territory. There was dancing and singing accompanied by instrumental music. The participants painted their bodies in bright variegated colours and beautified their head-dress with peacock feathers. The revelry was concluded with a grand bouquet at the palace. All this was quite in keeping with the custom common to many an aboriginal tribe.
During the reign of the two brothers the chief of Amaravati near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh offered them a valuable diamond. Pleased with the gift they ceded a large part of their eastern Kingdom to the chief of Amaravati. This is a rare instance in which a portion of the kingdom is bartered for a valuable gift. It indicates what importance the Gonds attached to the terra firma highly valued by the civilised people.
On the death of the two brothers, Kondya Sah alias Karan Sah became the chief of Chandrapur. He was a great supporter of the Hindu religion and a devotee of Siva in particular. A large number of Telugu Brahmins along with other communities migrated to Chandrapur during the reign of Kondya Sah owing to oppression of the neighbouring Kings. It is, however, not known who the neighbouring kings were.
Kondya Sah liberally gave rent-free lands and villages to the Telugu Brahmins and conferred upon them varsasanas or annual pensions. The presence of a large number of Telangis in the Chandrapur area even today probably dates back to this period.
As a devotee of Siva, Kondya constructed a good number of Siva temples, repaired the old ones and cleared the wild growth of vegetation which had covered caves and temples. One of the temples in the Pathanpura ward of modern Chandrapur is said to have been constructed by Kondya. in which, a Siva linga is mounted on an elephant. This is a rare instance of a Siva linga.Kondya listened attentively to the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and arranged for their recitals.
Up to this time the Gond rulers did not interfere with the disputes of the individual subjects. They allowed the operation of the crude jungle law of 'eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth', in the case of the complaints that reached them. Kondya Sah abandoned this practice. He summoned the two parties, the Plaintiff and the Defendant. to his Court, carefully heard them and then delivered the judgment. An accused telling a lie was banished from the Kingdom, but if he confessed the guilt he was reprimanded and released. On the second occasion the accused was given the same concession. However, if he repeated the crime for the third time he was expelled from the Kingdom.
During the reign of this King the walls of the city of Chandrapur rose to half of their estimated height.
Babji Ballal Sah mounted the throne after the death of Kondya. This pleasure-loving King entrusted every thing to his ministers who. for him. were fortunately able administrators, and spent his time in the harem and the wine flask. The Ain-i-Akbari mentions this King as an independent ruler who paid no tribute to Delhi having tinder him a force of 10,000 horse and 40.000 infantry. He conquered the fort of Wairagad once noted for diamonds with the help of Puram Sah of Tipagad. his feudatory.
This fort was one of the strong-holds of the Gonds. The temple of Kesavnath in the fort is said to have been constructed by Babji. The fort occupies an area of about ten acres. It has a moat. At present it is a protected monument .
Babji Ballal Sah became feudatory to Akbar. After the conquest of Berar by the Moghals, they included Manikgad in the Subha of Berar. Manikgad is to the south of Chandrapur. Further south is Utnur in the modern Andhra Prades. Utnur passed to the Moghals as part of Berar and was the seat of a Sarkar then known as Nabinagar. All this proves that Babji Ballal accepted the supremacy of Akbar.
According to a tradition noted by Major Lucie Smith, Puram of Tipagad in the Muramganv Zamindari, was a mighty Gond King. He had a body-guard of 2,000 men, five elephants and twenty-five horses. He held the Wairagad country under his sway. Envious of his growing power his subordinates in the Chattisgad area advanced against him. The contending armies met at Kotgal. Countless fell to Puram's sword and the Chattisgadi forces were beaten back. In the thick of the battle one of the Chattisgadi soldiers picked up an embroidered sandal of Puram that had slipped off and showed it to his queen at Tipagad. Thinking that Puram had fallen on the battle field, the Rani bedecked with gold ornaments and royal jewellery rode in a bullock-driven cahriot and like a true sati disappeared in the waters of a neighbouring lake. Puram with his victorious army returned to the capital in the midst of thundering drums and clashing cymbals. But alas, the queen was no more to greet him. Unable to bear the pangs of separation Puram too plunged into the lake where his dear queen had drowned herself, and disappeared. Thereafter Tipagad became a deserted place.
After the death of Puram his general Harcand was appointed as the keeper of the Wairagad fort by Babji Ballal Sah, the ruler of Chandrapur. Harcand founded around Wairagad seven holy temples-Sapta dhama-i.e., Bhandareswara, Nandikeswara, Pataleswara, Dubaleswara, Acaleswara, Rameswara and Maha-bajeswara. At present the last alone survives as a protected monument atop a hill to the south of Wairagad. The temple of Siva at Armori standing on the edge of a tank, according to General Cunningham's Archaeological Survey of India Report was constructed by one Raja Haracandra Gond. In all probability this was Harcand, the general of Puram.
The fort of Wairagad is 80 miles to the north-east of Chandrapur on the confluence of Khobragadi and Satnale. It is a
place of great antiquity supposed to have been founded in the Dvapara Yuga by a king named Wairocana, and therefore, known
as Wairagad after him. The place was ruled by the Mima kings from whose hands it was wrested by the Gonds. It is difficult
to decide the date of transfer of this place from the Manas to the Gonds with any certainty. The manas belonged to the
Nagavamsi Ksatriyas. One of the descendants of the Manas constructed the fort of Manikgad about 27 miles to the south of
Chandrapur. The gate of this fort has a carving of a cobra and not the usual Gond crest. This may mean that the fort
belong-ed originally to the Manas. The Manas in their own turn were conquered by the Haihayas of Ratanpur.
It is interesting to note that in one of the heroic songs of the Gonds there is an account of a hero called Hirakhan. He was the king of Hiragad and his Kingdom included the forts of Hiragad, Bairagad (Wairagad), Sirpur, Bhanpur, Caipara, etc. The name of his queen was Kamal Hiro. No further details are known about this king of Bairagad or Wairagad.
Babji Ballal Sah died in about 1597, and was succeeded by Dhundya Ram Sah. Dhundya Ram Sah completed the construcion of the
Canda fort which was commenced by Khandkya Ballal Sah (1470-1495). The walls encircling the city vary in height from 15 to
20 feet, and cover an area of 7.5 miles. The rampart has semicircular bastions with embrasures at suitable points to fire
through. At the main four quarters are the imposing gates named Jatpura (north), Vinba or Ghod-maidan (west), Pathanpura
(south) and Mahakali or Acaleswar (east). The five small gates are Cor, Vithoba, Hanumant, Masan and Bagad. There is
cultivable land within the walls. The suburbs outside the walls were Jatpura, Govindpur, Hivarpuri, Lalpet and Babupet.
The important historic remains which attract a visitor today are the city walls of black cut stone, the gates adorned with the typical Gondi crest, the glittering Ramala tank and the tombs of the Gond kings. The monoliths at Lalpeth, the temples of Acalesvar, Mahakali and Muralidhar are equally interesting. Just after the rainy season Canda or Chandrapur with the Manikdurg hills to its south shining under a clear blue sky, the green-fields all around and the Jharpat-Irai closing the fort on two sides presents an enchanting view to the eye.
Some of the temples and gates were constructed by the successors of Dhundya Ram Sah late in the Maratha period. One Rayappa of Komati caste was the chief architect of Dhundya.
When the work of the Canda fort was finished Dhundya Ram Sah celebrated a function with great pomp. The courtiers assembled at Chandrapur and offered presents. Gifts were liberally given to the Brahmins and the poor. A sanad of Despandeship of paragana Ghatkul was granted to a Brahmin of Rajur in the former Nizam State. The paragands of Kelapur, Bhori, Yavatmal, Kalam and Haveli were conferred on a Lingayat Baniya.
The old Gazetteer of Canda District which in many respects is an exact copy of the account given by Major Lucie Smith in his Report of the Land Revenue Settlement of the Canda District, Central Provinces, 1869, describes Dhundya Ram Sah as foolish, drunken, untruthful and treacherous. But from his actual achievements it seems that he was tolerably good. Major Lucie Smith, one is forced to say, just wrote down uncritically what-ever information he got in writing and by oral tradition. In the interest of historical truth it would have been better if Major Smith had exercised his judgment.
Krisna Sah the son of Dhundya came to the throne after the latter's death. He governed his subjects well. The practice of sacrificing a cow in honour of Parsapen or Badadev common among the Gonds was banned by Krsna Sah. He substituted a goat for the cow as the traditional Gond practice touched the feelings of the Hindu population. His father is said to have prohibited human sacrifice which was performed per force clandestinely.
During Krisna Sah's reign the Chandrapur Gond house recognised the independence of the Devgad rulers by a treaty. According
to the Ain-i-Akbari the ruler of Devgad, Jataba, was a feudatory to Akbar. He extended his territory as far as Nagpur and
constructed there a fort. Jataba during Akbar's reign was a well-known Gond ruler having 2.000 cavalry, 50,000 infantry and
100 elephants. A powerful ruler like Jataba must have ceased to pay allegiance to the week Chandrapur Gond house.
According to C. U. Wills, Kiba, the Zamindar of Chandrapur helped Khan Dauran in his attack on Nagpur fort which was held by Koka Sah of Devgad. Kiba. the Chandrapur Zamindar arrived at Nagpur with 1,500 horse, 3,000 infantry and presented a sum of Rs. 70,000.. It is difficult to say who this Kiba was, but in all probability he was Krsna Sah.. Krsna Sah (1622-1640) was a contemporary of Sab Jahan (1627-58). Khan Dauran was sent against Nagpur in 1637.
Bir Sah succeeded to the throne on the death of his father Krisna Sah. Bir Sah is described as a valiant prince who ruled successfully.
When Aurangzeb was the governor of the Deccan for the appointed as the governor of the Deccan which post he held first from 1636 to 1644, and from 1652 to 1658 for the second time.
When Aurangzeb was the governor of the Deccan for the second time, Bir Sah appealed to him for the remittance of the annual tribute as he was financially in bad straits. Aurangzeb secured sanction for this from his lather. A similar appeal was made by Kesar Sing of Devgad. Kesar Sing, it was reported, possessed an elephant named Jatasarikar of rare elegance. Sah jahan urged his son in the Deccan to secure the animal and send it to him. Kesar Sing had no such elephant with him. Through the mediation of Bir Sah of Chandrapur who had good relations with Aurangzeb, Kesar Sing convinced Aurangzeb that he did not have the animal and the enquiry was closed .
In September 1657 Sah Jahan's serious illness, plunged the empire in Civil War. Aurangzeb hastily retreated his steps to
the north, took possession of Agra fort and imprisoned Sah Jahan for life [SMRI. Part II, pp. 503, 469.]. This naturally
gave respite to the Gond Kings and Bir Sah of Chandrapur seems to have stopped the payment of tribute to the Moghals. With a
view to punishing Bir Sah for this act of defiance, Aurangzeb sent Diler Khan to Gondavana with a large army. Bir Sah unable
to face the Moghals offered rupees five lakhs to Diler agreeing to pay heavy fine to the Emperor. Bir Sah on the whole ruled
wisely and successfully.
Bir Sah had only one daughter whom he loved dearly. She was married to prince Durgpal alias Durg Sah of Devgad. On learning that she was insulted by her husband. Bir Sah marched on Devgad and killed his son-in-law. His severed head was brought to Chandrapur and ceremonially offered to Goddess Mahakali. This was quite in keeping with the Gond practice of reacting revengefully for redressing the wrong.
At the court of Bir Sah there was a Rajput called Hiraman who was said to possess a magic sword of wood. Bir Sah often asked him about the sword out of curiosity hut never got any reply. On the occasion of his own second marriage Bir Sah pressed Hiraman to show him the magic sword in the presence of the assembled courtiers. The king imagined that some misfortune might befall him if he did not acquaint himself with the mystery of the sword. Hiraman, however, did not like that the king should press him to show the sword in the presence of the courtiers. He at once grew furious and struck the king down dead while the gathering looked dumb-founded at the tragedy. Bir Sah was celebrating his second marriage as he had no male issue from his first wile Hirai. Thus ended the life of Bir Sah.
As Bir Sah died sonless his widow adopted a boy from the royal Gond family of Candankheda related to Bir Sah. This boy was the famous saintly Ram Sah. He proved to be a wise and good ruler.
Rani Hirai reconstructed the temple of Mahakali as the Goddess had proved to be propitious when Bir Sah vowed to kill his son-in-law Durga Sah. The present temple of Mahakali was built by her. In memory of the victory over Durga Sah atop the templ e his head in stone was placed facing Devgad. In honour of the Goddess Mahakali a fair is held on the full-moon day of Caitra when devotees flock to Chandrapur from places far and near Rani Hirai.
Hirai took great interest in building temples. In place of the old temple of Acalesvar a new one was built. By the side of the statue of Mahakali was installed the image of Ekavira. On the full-moon day of Caitra, Mahakali-Ekavira meeting is celebrated after the usual offerings to Mahakali.
Bir Sah is said to have started the construction of the temple of Ganapati and Hirai carried it to completion. The temple today is known as Ganapati of the Khatis as one Ambabal Khati during the reign of Vyankoji Bhosale (1788-1811) donated her wealth to the temple. Ambabai burnt herself as a sati.
In honour of her husband. Hirai built a beautiful tomb in the mansion opposite to the temple of Acalesvar.
At Wairagad, Hirai constructed the temple of Gorajai. About forty miles to the east of Chandrapur on the bank of Wainganga a temple of Siva which was in ruins was rebuilt by Hirai. As at all famous Siva temples, a fair is held here on the Sivaratri day in the month of Magha. Bapuji Vaidya, the Divan of Rani Hirai constructed a temple of Siva and a spacious well.
The seventeenth century was an age of faith. Construction of a temple, a tank or well, a rest house or any building of
public utility in the eyes of the public was considered an act of piety, and therefore a matter of achievement. Hirai's
place, therefore, as a builder in the history of Chandrapur is the same as that of Ahilyabai Holkar in the eighteenth century
Hirai, the mother regent, entrusted the charge of the Chandrapur Kingdom to her adopted son Ram Sah in 1691. Ram Sah was noted for his piety. He is said to have possessed divine qualities as a result of which there was minimum crime during his reign. But as ill-luck would have it, he had to send an army against his own noblemen of Sirpur.
At Sirpur in the tahsil of Wani on the western bank of the Wardha there lived three Gond brothers Agba, Bagba and Raghba by name. They were mokasdars of paragana Sirpur and were nephews of king Ram Sah. Bagba, the most handsome of them, had once been to Chandrapur for official work. As pre-arranged he met Ram Sah's beautiful daughter who was of marriageable age. The next day he left for Sirpur. He had left his shoe in the apartment of his beloved unawares. Ram Sah on learning about this love affair was naturally upset, and sent a small force to punish the unwarranted lover of his daughter. Bagba gathered his men to face the calamity and the two armies met at Ghughus twenty miles to the north-west of Chandrapur. Agba and Raghba fell fighting, and Bagba in order to save his honour crossed the Wardha and hid himself in a cellar along with his family. There he beheaded his family members and killed himself.
This love episode is wholly based on the ballad composed some time before 1862, i.e., about 175 years after the actual event.
When Ram Sah was ruling at Chandrapur (1691-1735), his territory was invaded by Kanhoji Bhosale the second Sena-Saheb-Subha.