Varman dynasty

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Kamarupa Kingdom

Varman dynasty
350 CE–655 CE
Varmans (in eastern India) with their contemporaries, c. 550 CE
Varmans (in eastern India) with their contemporaries, c. 550 CE
Official languagesSanskrit, Kamarupi Prakrit
• c. 350 - c. 374
• c. 518 – c. 542
• c. 600 – c. 650
Historical eraClassical India
• Established
350 CE
• Disestablished
655 CE
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Bhauma dynasty
Mlechchha dynasty

The Varman dynasty (350-650) is the first historical dynasty of the Kamarupa kingdom. It was established by Pushyavarman, a contemporary of Samudragupta.[1][2] This dynasty became vassals of the Gupta Empire, but as the power of the Guptas waned, Mahendravarman (470-494) performed two horse sacrifices and threw off the imperial yoke.[3] The first of the three Kamarupa dynasties, the Varmans were followed by the Mlechchha and then the Pala dynasties.


The capital of Varman dynasty was Pragjyotishpura. The size of the city was 30 li i.e. about 5 miles in circumference.[4]


The genealogy of the Varman dynasty appears most fully in the Dubi and Nidhanpur copperplate inscription of the last Varman king, Bhaskaravarman (600-650), where Pushyavarman is named the founder. The Dubi copper plate inscription of Bhaskaravarman asserts that Pushyavarman was born in the family of Narakasur, Bhagadatta and Vajradatta[5] (as did the other two Kamarupa dynasties)[6] three thousand years after these mythical ancestors.[7]


The dynasty traces its lineage from the mythical Narakasur, Bhagadatta and Vajradatta.[8] According to the Dinesh Chandra Sircar since the claim to Narakasur's lineage was made at the end of the Varman dynasty (Bhaskarvarman);[9] and since it was natural for the ruling house to fabricate a respectable lineage.[10]

Foreign records are conflicting, with Xuanzang claiming he is a Brahmin[11] and She-Kia-Fang-Che claiming he is a kshatriya whose ancestor came from China.[12]

Some modern scholars have opined that the Varman dynasty is probably of Indo-Aryan descent.[13][14][15]

Suniti Kumar Chatterjee calls Bhaskaravarman was a Hinduised Mlechcha king of Tibeto-Burman origin,[16][17] Urban terms all kings of Brahmaputra Valley as non-Aryans.[18]

Politics and diplomacy[edit]

Pragjyotishpura, Varmana capital

The most illustrious of this dynasty was the last, Bhaskaravarman,[19] who claimed be a descendant from god Vishnu and referred to as "lord of eastern India".[20] He accompanied King Harshavardhana to religious processions from Pataliputra to Kannauj.

Kings of Varman dynasty maintained both diplomatic and matrimonial relations with other countries of Aryavarta. Pushyavarman who himself named after king Pushyamitra Shunga, named his son Samudravarman after king Samudragupta in appreciations of kings of Aryavarta.[21][better source needed]

The alliance between king Harsha of Thanesar and Bhaskaravarman lead to spread of political influence of later to entire eastern India. Varman kings had diplomatic relations with China.[17][12]

Cultural environment[edit]

In Nidhanpur copper plate inscription of Bhaskar Varman, it is mentioned that "prakasit aryadharmaloka" i.e. king (Bhaskar Varman) spread the light of the Arya religion by dispelling the accumulated darkness of Kaliyuga.[22] According to K.L. Barua , Yuan Chwang wrote about existence of hundreds of Hindu temples. Brahmins and upper caste Hindus makes large chunk of lands population. Being a seat of learning people from other countries visits for studies.[23]

The dynasty[edit]

In the Nidhanpur plate of Bhaskaravarman, the genealogy of all rulers of dynasty mentioned therein is traced from Narakasura, Bhagadatta and Vajradatta of Bhauma dynasty of Pragjyotisha.

Reign Name succession Queen
1 350-374 Pushyavarman claimed descent from Narakasur (unknown)
2 374-398 Samudravarman son of Pushyavarman Dattadevi
3 398-422 Balavarman son of Samudravarman Ratnavati
4 422-446 Kalyanavarman son of Balavarman Gandharavati
5 446-470 Ganapativarman son of Kalyanavarman Yajnavati
6 470-494 Mahendravarman son of Ganapativarman Suvrata
7 494-518 Narayanavarman son of Mahendravarman Devavati
8 518-542 Bhutivarman son of Narayanavarman Vijnayavati
9 542-566 Chandramukhavarman son of Bhutivarman Bhogavati
10 566-590 Sthitavarman son of Chandramukhavarman Nayanadevi
11 590-595 Susthitavarman son of Sthitavarman Syamadevi
12 595-600 Supratisthitavarman son of Susthitavarman (Bachelor)
13 600-650 Bhaskaravarman brother of Supratisthitavarman (Bachelor)
14 650-655 Avantivarman[24] (unknown) (unknown)


  1. ^ Arun Bhattacharjee (1993), Assam in Indian Independence, Page 143 While Pushyavarman was the contemporary of the Gupta Emperor Samudra Gupta, Bhaskaravarman was the contemporary of Harshavardhana of Kanauj.
  2. ^ "Three thousand years after these mythical ancestors (Naraka, Bhagadatta and Vajradatta) there occurred Pushyavarman as the first historical king, after whom we have an uninterrupted line of rulers up to Bhaskarvarman." (Sharma 1978, p. xxix)
  3. ^ "According to him (D C Sircar) Narayanavarma, the father of Bhutivarman, was the first Kamarupa king to perform horse-sacrifices and thus for the first time since the days of Pusyavarman freedom from the Gupta political supremacy was declared by Narayanavarma. But a careful study or even a casual perusal of the seal attached to the Dubi C.P. and of the nalanda seals should show that it is Sri Mahendra, the father of Narayanavarma himself, who is described as the performer of two horse-sacrifices." (Sharma 1978, p. 8)
  4. ^ Chaudhury, P. D. (2010). Archaeology in Assam: An Introduction. Directorate of Archaelogy, Assam. p. 17.
  5. ^ (Sharma 1978, p. 20)
  6. ^ "(I)t is significant that like the kings of the Bhauma-Naraka family they also claim descent from Naraka or Bhagadatta, and this descent is acknowledged outside also outside their own kingdom when the Pashupatinath temple inscription of Nepal described Rajyamati, the daughter of Sri Harsha of the family of Salasthambha as bhagadatta-raja-kulaja.(Sharma 1978, p. xxxiv)
  7. ^ "The mythical ancestors of this line of rulers were Naraka, Bhagadatta and Vajradatta. Three thousand years after these mythical ancestors there occurred Pushyavarman..." (Sharma 1978, p. xxix) In the Nidhanpur copperplate inscription, it is mentioned: "When the kings of his (Vajradatta's) family had enjoyed the position (of rulers) for three thousand years had (all) attained the state of gods, Pushyavarman became the lord of the world." (Sharma 1978, p. 50)
  8. ^ "The mythical ancestors of (the Varman) line of rulers were Naraka, Bhagadatta and Vajradatta." (Sharma 1978:0.29)
  9. ^ (Sircar 1990:95)
  10. ^ "Since the Epico-Pauranic myths associated Pragjyotisha with Naraka and his descendants, it was quite natural for the kings of ancient Assam to fabricate the story of descent from Naraka's family" (Sircar 1990:96)
  11. ^ "The present king belongs to the old line (tso yari) of Narayana-deva. He is of the Brahman caste. His name is Bhaskaravarman, and his title Kumara (Keu-mo-lo)." (Beal 1884, p. 196)
  12. ^ a b "But the She-Kia-Fang-Che records that Bhaskarvarman was a Kshatriya (and not a Brahmin) and his ancestors hailed from China (=Han) itself having nothing to do with Narayana Deva" (Sharma 1978, p. xiv)
  13. ^ Kāmarūpa Anusandhāna Samiti, Readings in the history & culture of Assam - Page 179, 1984 "The Varman dynasty, which was probably the first Indo-Aryan dynasty in Assam was overthrown by Salastambha, a man of Mleccha or non-Aryan (Mongolian) origin."
  14. ^ Niśipada Caudhurī, Historical archaeology of central Assam - Page 83, 1985 "K.N. Dutta seems to be right in concluding that the Varman dynasty, which was probably the first Indo-Aryan dynasty in Assam, was overthrown by Salastambha, (Mongoloid) origin, who then made himself the king of Kamarupa."
  15. ^ Suresh Kant Sharma, Usha Sharma, Discovery of North-East India: Geography, History, Culture ..., Volume 3 - Page 275, 2005 "One may go perhaps a step further and suggest that Pusyavarman was the first Indo-Aryan ruler set up by Samudragupta over the two territories of Kamarupa and Davaka unified into a single kingdom. None can or should deny it as a fact if Bhattasali simply means to say that the process leading to the assertion of independence by the Varmans of Kamarupa commenced earlier, ie., before Bhutivarman, even without specifically bringing Mahendravarman into play. The above suggestion, that the first Indo-Aryan rule favourable to Brahmanism was founded in Kamarupa with Pusyavarman as the first ruler under Samudragupta, received its support from these two facts: (1) that Bhagadatta the great legendary ancestor of the Varmans, is described in the Nidhanpur grant of Bhaskaravarman as Indrasakhah, "The friend of Indra (the heavenly prototype of the earthly Indo-Aryan monarch)", and his father and predecessor Naraka as one begotten of the Varaha form of vishnu, and (2) the descent claimed, as known to Hwen Thsang, by the Varmans from "the god Narayana." If thus the earlier rulers of the Varmans line were Vaisnavas, at least up till Bhutivarman."
  16. ^ "Hiuen Ts’ang by mistake described Bhaskara-varman as a Brahman, but he was just a neo-Kshatriya, a member of a Hinduised mleccha or non-Hindu Indo-Mongoloid family which had been accepted within the fold of Hindu orthodoxy" (Chatterji 1974, p. 91)
  17. ^ a b Chatterji, Suniti Kumar (1951). Kirata-jana-krti. p. 90.
  18. ^ "Virtually all of Assam’s kings, from the fourth-century Varmans down to the eighteenth-century Ahoms, came from non-Aryan tribes that were only gradually Sanskritised." (Urban 2011, p. 234)
  19. ^ Barua, Kanak Lal. Early History of Kamarupa. p. 90. Bhaskaravarman was perhaps the most illustrious of monarchs of ancient Kamarupa.
  20. ^ Barua, Kanak Lal. Early History of Kamarupa. p. 69.
  21. ^ Barua, Kanak Lal. Early History of Kamarupa. p. 41. It is rather significant that the names of some of the Kamarupa kings follows closely that of the illustrious emperors of the Aryavarta. Pushyamitra Sunga usurped the Mourya throne about 185 B.C. The name of the Kamarupa king was probably given after the renowned Sunga king of Magadha. Similiarly we find Pushyavarman's son name Samundravarman after Samudragupta, the famous Gupta emperor who ruled from 330 to about 385 A.D. Even Samundravarman's queens's bore the same name as the queen of Samudra Gupta. This goes to show that Samudravarman probably ruled short time after Samudra Gupta whose illustrious name was then green in the memory of the people of northern India.
  22. ^ Barua, Kanak Lal. Early History of Kamarupa. p. 84.
  23. ^ Barua, Kanak Lal. Early History of Kamarupa. p. 91.
  24. ^ Though there exists no direct evidence, there are indirect evidence of a king who ruled for a short period after Bhaskaravarman, but was ousted by Salasthamba (Sharma 1978, pp. xxxi-xxxii).


  • Barua, Kanak Lal (1933). Early History Of Kamarupa.
  • Beal, Samuel (1884). Si-Yu-Ki. Buddhist Records of the Western World. II. Ludgate Hill: Trubner & Co. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  • Chatterji, S. K. (1974). Kirata-Jana-Krt. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society.
  • Chattopadhyaya, S (1990), "Social Life", in Barpujari, H K (ed.), The Comprehensive History of Assam, I, Guwahati: Publication Board, Assam, pp. 195–232
  • Choudhury, P. C. (1966). The History of the Civilisation of the People of Assam to the Twelfth Century AD. Gauhati: Department of Historical and Antiquarian Studies of Assam.
  • Sharma, Mukunda Madhava (1978). Inscriptions of Ancient Assam. Gauhati University, Assam.
  • Sircar, D C (1990), "Political History", in Barpujari, H K (ed.), The Comprehensive History of Assam, I, Guwahati: Publication Board, Assam, pp. 94–171
  • Sylvain, Lévi (1929). Pre-Aryan and Pre-Dravidian in India. Calcutta: University of Calcutta. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  • Urban, Hugh B. (2011). "The Womb of Tantra: Goddesses, Tribals, and Kings in Assam". The Journal of Hindu Studies. 4: 231–247. doi:10.1093/jhs/hir034.