Kali- the 1061 year old dog

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's” said Mark Twain. These creatures are often called man’s best friend today. Though history might not use the same phrase, it gives us various stories and evidences to prove the fact that these faithful animals also have played a part in human history.

Pre Historic evidences: Domestication of these canines that humans call dogs is said to have happened around 15,000 years ago in the Eurasian mountains. Earliest tangible evidence is from a Paleolithic burial site in Germany, dated to around 14,000 years ago, wherein; human remains are buried along with dog bones and teeth. Another discovery is from the site of Jiahu in China, where evidences of several domesticated animals including dogs were found. This site is dated to the early Neolithic period (7000-5800 BCE).

Kali, the faithful critter:

After a brief travel to Germany and China, we return to India after a gap of thousands of years. An inscription and a hero stone discovered in a temple called ‘Chelleshvara’ in Atakur village of Karnataka (Mandya District) pays tribute to a faithful dog named Kali.

The long inscription (dated 950 CE) about a battle called the Battle of Takkolam, about which we shall read later, speaks about the dog in its 10th and 11th lines. The inscription also has an action packed sculpture of a dog fighting with a wild boar.

The Rashtrakuta dynasty (under the king Kannaradeva or Krishna-III) along with the support of the western Gangas (King Butuga –II) fought with the Cholas. The King Butuga-II had a favorite dog called ‘Kali’. This dog helped a warrior named ‘Manalera’ fight the Cholan King Rajaditya in the battle field of Takkolam. The warrior Manalera drove the armies away from the King, while Butuga killed the Chola rival from his elephant. For achieving this feat, Manalera was awarded the possession of the dog Kali.

The inscription reads -

“Manalerange anuvaradOl mecchi bEdikoL endode, dayEya merevoL emba kAliyam dayegeyyendu kondanA nAyam…..”

The King Butuga-II said “Make your request” and the warrior replied “Give me with kindness your favorite dog, kAli”

In a separate incident, the dog was killed by a wild boar during a hunt, which led to both the animals’ death. The inscription which is the subject matter of this article was erected by a sorrowful Manalera in memory of his dog. He also had arranged a priest to offer food to the stone in memory of the dog. The priest is warned that if he eats before offering food and worship to the memorial stone, he shall be earning a sin.

The Inscription reads-

“goravana kallam pUjisaduntarappodE nAya geyda pApamam kondam| Om||”

The priest is called a Gorava and is said, should he fail to perform his duty of offering worship to this memory stone, he shall obtain the sin that the wild boar had earned, i.e. the sin of killing a faithful dog.

While hero stones for humans are very common in India, especially in Karnataka region, it is rare to see a hero stone and worship being instituted for a hound. It shows the deep connection that the warrior had with his pet. This inscription is housed today in the Bangalore museum, to the left of the main entrance door.

Additional reading on the Battle:-

The Takkolam Battle:

The above mentioned inscription gives a detailed account of the battle and how the Chola king Rajaditya was killed in the battle. Takkolam of yesteryears is Wallajapet of Arakkonam district of today’s Tamilnadu. Rajaditya, the Cholan king is celebrated by two copper plates of the Cholas, which differ in their narration of the story.

Chola Version of the war:

The larger Leiden grant (grants of Rajaraja) reads thus,

“rAjAdityasya vIrO ravikulatilaka: krishnarAjam sasainyam sankshObhyAkshObhyamAjau nijanishita sharai: sampadadbhi: samantAt| nAgEndraskandhavaktIm vidalitahrudayastannishAtEshupAtai: AruhyOschaivimAnanrtibhuvanamahitO vIralOkAnjagAma”

Rajaditya was like a tilaka to the sun clan. He fought with the strong army of Krishna and made him suffer. Rajaditya died on the elephant, fighting like Indra, pierced by the arrows of the enemy and attained the heavens of martyrdom.

However, the Copper Plate of Thiruvalangadu issued by Rajendra reads that Rajaditya won the battle. (krishnarAjam jitvA yuddhE…) Rajaditya Chola was also later called 'yAnai mEl thunjiya thEvar' - Meaning the king who dies on the elephant. It is clear that he lost his life in the battle ground fighting atop his elephant

References: 1. Epigraphia Indica Volume 6 2. South Indian Inscriptions Volume 3 3. Epigraphia Indica Volume 33 4. Chozhar seppEdugal – Pulavar Mahadevan and Sankaranarayanan

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