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The Malavas

Posted January 29th, 2017 at 02:53 AM by Bhrigu

The Malavas were another militarised gana originating in southern Panjab, and neighboured other ganas such as the Kshudrakas, the Yaudheyas, the Sibis etc. Their core territory is not certainly known, but it is clear that they were based in area encompassing both sides of the lower Sutlej and their eastern boundary roughly corresponded to the Sarasvati river. The origins of the Malavas are unclear, but they were ruling southern Panjab during the times of Alexander, as evidenced by the Greek accounts. Therefore, it can be deduced that, like the Yaudheyas, the Malavas too were very ancient clans, directly descending from the Vedic tribal republics that ruled in north-western India.

After the fall of the Mauryan empire, the Malavas consolidated the lower Panjab, and also started expanding gradually in both east and south. They established strongholds in eastern Rajasthan, as is indicated by their coins found near Jaipur, that bear the legend Malavanam Jayah, meaning "victory to the Malavas." These coins have been dated to around 150 BC; therefore, it can be assumed that these migrations towards south and east were a result of the Indo-Greek invasions in the 2nd century BC. The Malavas migrated to the east and settled around Ludhiana-Patiala, giving their name to this region and it's language. After this, they were in constant conflict with the Sakas, and defeated the Uttambhadras, who were the vassals of the Sakas. The Malavas of Panjab soon submitted to the Sakas, but those in Rajasthan remained powerful and independent. They expanded further towards the east and settled around Ujjain, again giving their name to this region and it's language. The Malavas also appear to have started the Vikrami Samvat (or Malava era) to commemorate the victories that they gained over Sakas and their vassals. This is because the earliest use of this era is found in the Malava inscriptions of Rajasthan and MP, and also, this era was exclusively used by Indian clans, while those like non-Indian clans followed foreign eras such as Saka or Varsha.

Before the Sakas could make further moves towards the east, they were subjugated by the Kushanas; and under the suzerainty of the Kushan emperor Kanishka, the Kardamak Saka family defeated the Malavas and established itself at Ujjain. But the Malavas seem to have kept ruling their territories in Rajasthan, as they later expanded east towards MP, and their inscriptions bearing the Samvat era have been found in the Hadoti region. One such inscription refers to a Mahasenapati Bala of the Maukhari clan, indicating that this clan was subordinate to the Malavas. This Maukhari clan would later establish a kingdom at Kannauj.

After the decline of the Kushana authority, the Malavas continued their conflict with the Western Kshatraps as the Kshatrap Nahapan (2nd century AD) claims to have relieved the Uttambhadras from the Malava forces in Ajmer by scoring a hard-fought victory, in his Nasik cave inscription of 120 AD. The conflict between the Sakas and Malavas continued well into the 4th century, when the Sakas were permanently crushed by Chandragupta II. From their inscriptions and coins, it seems that, along with such powerful clans as the Yaudheyas and Arjunayans, the Malavs maintained their independence throughout this time period, and akin to their medieval successors in the form of the Rajputs, never halted their resistance against mleccha invaders.

Finally, they are also listed in the Allahabad inscription of Samudragupta among his republican vassals, e.g. the Yaudheyas, the Madras etc. Last notable figure from this clan was the chief Yasodharman who scored a decisive victory over the Sakas, and erected a victory pillar in Mandsaur. He belonged to the Aulikara sub-clan of the Malavas. After this, the Malavas are not heard of again.
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