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Samanta In Hinduism

Samanta in Hinduism is the term used for a tributary prince. It is a Sanskrit term for a vassal chief holding the position of a minister or governor and associated with religious and cultural activities. The kings of important dynasties of ancient and medieval India often conquered large territories and left some parts of their empires under the administration of loyal tributary princes, who were sometimes the former rulers of the conquered territories.

The Samanta owed allegiance to his overlords and paid tribute to them. For example, Kalidasa mentions in his play Vikramorvasiyam that the samantas bowed to the orders of the King Pururavas and the Karandai inscription of King Rajendra Chola I mentions that his samanta, who possessed many good qualities, rode along with him on horseback and followed him everywhere. The inscriptions of the Gupta monarch, Samudra Gupta, mention that some of the kings defeated by him were reinstated as his vassals.

Many of the samantas maintained large and well-trained armies. The kings often needed their support in the form of money, as well as troops, when they waged wars against their enemies. The part played by the tributary princes often became an important factor in the rise and fall of dynasties all over India. Samantas also left their mark in the cultural sphere and many epigraphs speak of their contributions to religion and culture.

Maha Samantas were higher in rank than the samantas. Many inscriptions mention these mahasamantas. The mahasamantadhipati was the title of feudatories who were higher in rank than the mahasamanta. For example, the Khalimpur inscription of a king named Dharmapala states that he, at the request of his mahasamantadhipati named Narayanavarman, granted some villages to a Vishnu temple built by Narayanavarman himself.

A samanta of the King Rajaraja Chola was Krishnan Raman, who contributions to the construction of the Brihadishwara temple in Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu) are recorded in the inscription of the temple. Brother-in-law of Rajaraja Chola, Vandya Thevar, is described in an inscription as the chief of the samantas.

Mahasamantaraja was another feudatory title. An inscription mentions Mahasamantaraja Bharatadeva of the Rashtrakuta dynasty of Kannauj (13th century CE), His daughter, Uddalladevi, built the temple of Vindhyeshwara and consecrated it.