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Chitradurga: Spatial Patterns of a Nayaka Period Successor State in South India

From: Asian Perspectives
Volume 42, Number 2, Fall 2003
pp. 267-286 | 10.1353/asi.2003.0046


South Indian historical accounts, inscriptions, and literature describe many attempts at state formation and political independence by local elites between the collapse of Vijayanagara control of its heartland in the sixteenth century and the eighteenthcentury rise of British hegemony in the south. Most of these elites, known variously as "little kings," nayakas, and poligars, did not survive long in the political turmoil of the era. Those that did endure into the early nineteenth century were soon marginalized or removed from power by East India Company policies and direct military intervention. Archaeological site surveys, guided by contemporaneous East India Company manuscript maps, fort inventories, building plans, and other records, enable researchers to reconstruct and interpret major spatial patterns of the cultural landscapes of these small polities. This approach, which the authors are currently applying in their investigations of the Mysore kingdom, yields a fresh perspective of South Indian little kings and chiefs that complements the work of historians and contributes significantly to the understanding of the nature of these polities. This article describes a case study of the major spatial patterns of the Chitradurga poligars of central Karnataka, as they were in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The results provide a fresh perspective on this poligar province and illustrate the significant interpretative value of contemporaneous colonial documents for archaeological site survey and spatial analyses in India.

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