The Chutu dynasty (IAST: Cuṭu) ruled parts of the Deccan region of South India between first and third centuries CE, with its capital at Banavasi in present-day Karnataka state. The Chutus probably rose to power as Satavahanas feudatories, and assumed sovereignty after the decline of the Satavahana power. Except for the edicts of Asoka, the inscriptions of the Chutu dynasty are the oldest documents found in the northern part of Karnataka State, India.

Chutu dynasty

1st century BCE–3rd century CE
• Established
1st century BCE
• Disestablished
3rd century CE
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Satavahana dynasty
Chalukya dynasty
Today part ofIndia
Coin of the Chutu ruler Mulananda c. 125-345. Lead Karshapana 14.30g. 27 mm.
Obv.: Arched hill/stupa with river motif below.
Rev.: Tree within railed lattice, triratana to right.


The name "Chutu-kula" ("Chutu family") is found in the contemporary inscriptions.[1] The coins attributed to the family bear the legends Raño Cuṭukaḷānaṃdasa ("of king Chutukalananda"), Raño Muḷānaṃdasa, and Raño Sivaḷānaṃdasa. The word "Cuṭukaḷānaṃdasa" was misread as "Cuṭukaḍānaṃdasa" by some earlier scholars, leading to different theories about the names of the kings and their dynasty.[2] For example, numismatist E. J. Rapson (1908) theorized that "Chutu-kada-nanda" meant "Joy of the City of the Chutus".[1]

The word Chutu in Kannada language means "crest". Chutu inscriptions contain the emblem of the cobra hood implying Chutu meant the "cobra crest". This connects the Chutus to the Nagas tribes as they also associated themselves with the region of the western Deccan called Nagara Khanda around modern Banavasi. The words "Sudu (Chutu)" is frequently used in the classical literature for cobra hood. Thus the "Chutukula" can be taken to stand for "Nagakula", a family of the Nagas.[3]

According to numismatist Michael Mitchiner (1983), these names appear to be matronymics.[4] For example, Raño Muḷānaṃdasa means "of king Mulananda", where "Mulananda" is a matronymic meaning "son (nanda) of a queen belonging to the Mula gotra". Similarly, Sivaḷānaṃdasa means "of the son of a queen belonging to the Sivala gotra". Mitchiner theorizes that "Chutu-kula-nanda-sa" (IAST: Cuṭukaḷānaṃdasa, "son of a queen belonging to the Chutu family") was a common name borne by multiple kings of the dynasty. This theory is based on the fact that the Banavasi inscription of king Haritiputra Vishnukada Chutukulananda Satakarni was issued shortly before the Kadamba occupation of Banavasi in c. 345, while the coins bearing the name Chutukulananda can be dated to two centuries earlier based on the stratification at Chandravalli excavations.[5]

Historian M. Rama Rao used the term "Ananda family" to describe the family, because the coin legends mention kings whose names end in "-nanda". Numismatists P.L. Gupta and A. V. Narasimha Murthy also followed this interpretation.[1]


At least two of the Chutu kings bore the title "Satakarni",[6] which is associated with the more notable Satavahana dynasty, and which was also borne by ministers and ordinary people in the Satavahana period.[7] The exact relationship between the Chutus and the Satavahanas is uncertain.[8] Modern historians varoiusly believe that the Chutu family originated as a branch of the Satavahanas,[9] was descended from the Satavahana princesses,[10] or simply succeeded the Satavahanas in southern Deccan.[11]

Numismatist Michael Mitchiner speculates that the Chutus may have been of Indo-Scythian (Shaka) origin.[5] According to him, some Chutu coins bear designs copied from the Indo-Scythian coins. For example, the obverse of the two lead coins found at Kondapur features a swastika surrounded by a legend "reminds one of the Kshaharata coins stuck for Ladhanes and Pisayu"; the reverse of the same coin bears an arrow and a thunderbolt that seems to be derived from the coins of Bhumaka and Nahapana. According to V. V. Mirashi's interpretation, the issuers of such coins variously call themselves Shakas or members of the Chutu family.[12] Mirashi and Mitchiner read the legend on the coin as Mahasenapatisa Baradajaputasa Saga Mana Chutukulasa, which means "of the Maha-senapati (chief commander) Saka Mana, the son of Baradaja, of the Chutu family.[13] Mitchiner notes that according to a Nashik inscription, the Satavahana king Gautamiputra Satakarni issued an order from his "camp of victory" at Vaijayanti (the ancient name of Banavasi).[12] He theorizes that the Chutus were originally Indo-Scythian chiefs, who became Satavahana feudatories, when Gautamiputra defeated the Indo-Scythian king Nahapana around c. 125 CE. Subsequently, they participated in the Satavahana military campaigns: one Chutu chief was appointed as the Mahasenapati in the Kondapur region, while another was appointed to govern the newly-captured city of Banavasi.[14]

Historian D. C. Sircar has disputed Mirashi's reading of the coin legend, arguing that the expression Saga Mana Chutukulasa cannot be interpreted to refer to "Saka Mana of the Chutu family". Sircar argues that if this was the meaning intended, the expression would have been Chutu-kulasa Saga-Manasa or Chutu-kula-Saga-Manasa.[15] Sircar instead reads the term Saga-Mana as Sagamana ("of the Sagamas, that is, belonging to the Sagama family").[15]

Political historyEdit

The Chutus ruled a kingdom centered around the city Banavasi in present-day Karnataka for over two centuries, from c. 125 CE to c. 345 CE.[16]

The Chutus were probably subordinate to the Satavahanas in the beginning, and assumed independence when the Satavahana power declined.[8] They were probably one of the several dynasties that are described collectively as "Andhra-bhritya" ("servants of the Andhras, that is, the Satavahanas) in the Puranas. Numismatic evidence suggests that the Chutus were surrounded by other Satavahana feudatories: the Kuras of Kolhapur in the north and the Sadakana Maharathis of Chandravalli. The coins issued by these three families are similar, and most of these coins, can be dated to the 2nd century CE.[17] Coins discovered at Chandravalli and Kondapur bear the legend "Maharathi Sadakana Chutu Krishna", which suggests that the Chutus consolidated their power by intermarriage with the other feudatory families.[14]

Numismatic evidence also indicates that by the last quarter of the 2nd century CE, the power of these three feudatory families was eclipsed by the Satavahanas, who appear to have assumed greater control over their territories. This is suggested by the discovery of the coins of the Satavahana ruler Yajna Sri Satakarni at Bramhapuri (Kolhapur) and Chandravalli: the Satavahana coins were found a more recent strata compared to the coins of the feudatory dynasties.[17]

When the Satavahana power declined in the first half of the 3rd century CE, the Chutus retained their authority at Banavasi, unlike the Kuras and the Sadakana Maharathis. Their rule is attested by at least four inscriptions dated between the 260s and the 340s CE.[18] After the fall of the Satavahanas, the Chutus appear to have controlled the far-flung areas of the south-western parts of the erstwhile Satavahana empire. They subsequently extended their power in the north and east.[19] According to historian Teotónio de Souza, the Chutus probably also controlled Kunkalli, Balli, and Kankon in present-day Goa, as subordinates of the Bhojas.[20]

After the demise of Satavahana emperor Gautami-putra Yajna Satakarni in 181 CE, the old dynasty (Satavahanas) lost control of the western provinces, which passed into the hands of another family of Satakarnis, the Chutu-kula. Chutu dynasty came to an end probably in the first or second half of the third century i.e. around 250-275 CE. Of the Chutu dynasty two kings are known through inscriptions, Hariti-putra Chutu-kadananda Satakarni and his grandson Hariti-putra Siva-skanda-varman, who ruled in Banawasi (Vaijayantipura) before the Kadamba dynasty. In 222 CE, Prithivi-sena, son of Rudra-sena I, was reigning as the Western Kshatrapa ruler, in succession to the latter - Hariti-putra Siva-skanda-varman.[21]

E. J. Rapson, while discussing the history of Nasik district, supposes that during the interregnum between the last known Satavahana inscription of Yajna-Sri Satakarni in the 7th year of his reign in 159 CE and the first Nasik inscription of the Abhira king Ishvarasena, son of Abhira Sivadatta, in his 9th regnal year (somewhere in the 3rd century CE before 236 CE), the Nasik district might have passed immediately into the power of these Abhiras, either during the reign, or after the reign of Sri-Yajna (in 181 CE), or it may have first been held by the Chutu family of Satakarnis, the 'other Andhras' or 'Andhra-Bhrtyas' ('servants of the Andhras') of the Puranas, who undoubtedly were in possession of the neighbouring maritime province of Aparanta.[22]

E. J. Rapson theorises that Skandanagasataka of Kanheri inscription is identical with Sivaskandanagasri of the Banavasi inscription of Haritiputra-Visnukada-Chutukulananda Satakarni of his 12th year of reign. G. J. Dubreuil concludes that Chutus succeeded the Satavahanas not only in Mysore (Karnataka) but also in Aparanta and western Maharashtra after Yajnasri Satakarni's reign ended in 190 CE with his death. Later the Chutus held sway over the northern parts of Kannada and Malayalam (Malabar) speaking regions.[23]

The Chutus appear to have continued the policy of consolidating their power by intermarriage with their neighbours: this is suggested by an Ikshvaku dynasty record which states that the "Maharaja of Vanavasa" (presumably the Chutu ruler of Banavasi) married a daughter of the Ikshvaku king Vira-purusha-datta. Mitchiner also believes that the occurrence of the name "Satakarni" in the names of the Chutu kings (Vishnurudra Sivalananda Satakarni and Haritiputra Vishnukada Chutukulananda Satakarni) suggests that the Chutus also married into the Satavahana family.[24] The Chutu king Sivalananda is attested by a 278 CE inscription of the Abhira ruler Vasushena from Nagarjunakonda.[25]

According to Mitchiner, the designs on the Chutu coins suggest that they were Buddhists.[26] The Chutu rule seems to have ended when Mayurasharman established the Kadamba dynasty with its capital at Banavasi in c. 345 CE.[24]


The Chalukya dynasty of Badami, which later controlled much of the present-day Karnataka, claimed descent from a son of Hariti (a woman of the Harita gotra) and of Manavya gotra. The Chalukyas had appropriated this genealogy from the Kadamba dynasty, who ruled Banavasi before them and after the Chutus. The Kadambas, in turn, had appropriated this genealogy from the Chutus.[27]

Historian Sailendra Nath Sen theorizes that the Chalukyas was related to the Chutus and the Kadambas "in some way".[28]


Banavasi inscriptionEdit

Banavasi (Vanavasi or Vaijayanti in Uttara Kannada district, Karnataka) stone inscription mentions Haritiputra Visnukada Chutukulananda Satakarni who in the 12th year of his reign made a gift of a Nagashilpa, a tank and a Vihara. The nearby Malavalli inscription refers the same king Manavyasa Gotra Haritiputra Visnukadda Chutukulananda Satakarni, the king of Banavasi, who in the 1st year of his reign made the grant of a village. Stone inscription on the same pillar of a Kadamba king of 5th century mentions a prior chieftain Manavyasa Gotra Haritiputra Vaijayantipati Sivaskandavarman who also ruled this area.[23]

Haritiputra-Satakarni issued an order to the chief revenue commissioner Mahavallabha-Rajjuka to grant a village of Sahalavati to a certain Kondamana as a Brahmin endowment in 175 CE for the enjoyment of the Mattapatti (Malavalli) god with the exemption of the soldier's entry (abhatappavesam).[29][30] Another record states that king Satakami had a daughter named Mahabhoja-Nagasri who made a grant of a tank and a Vihara to the Madhukeswara temple.[31]

This inscription is on the Nagapratima from the Chutu period kept in the Madhukeswara temple in Banavasi, which read thus- "To the prefect! In the year 12 of the century of the king (being) Haritiputa Satakarni, the cherisher of the Vehnukadachutu family, the 7th fortnight of the winter months, 1st day, the meritorious gift of the Mahabhuvi (Mahabhoji) the king's daughter, Sivakhanda Nagasri, wife of Jivaputa, with her son - of a naga, a tank and a vihara. These three are works by the prime minister, Khadasati. Nataka, the disciple of Damoraka and son of the Acharya Jayantaka and inhabitant of Sajayataka (Sanjayanti), made the Naga".

Malavalli inscriptionEdit

Malavalli (near Banavasi-Talagunda) area in Nagarakhanda area of west-central Karnataka was under the control of Satavahana and Chutu rulers right from the 2nd century CE. The hexagonal pillar set up in front of the Kalleswara temple has two separate inscriptions of the Satavahana and Kadamba rulers. The first inscription assignable to Vinhukada Chutukulananda Satakami dated in 2nd century CE, is carved on three faces of the hexagonal pillar. It contains a command to his officer Mahavallabha-Rajjuka informing him of the grant of the village Sahalatavi (or Sahalavati) for the god of Malapalli (Malavalli). The gift was made on the first day of the second fortnight.

The second inscription on the Malavalli pillar assignable to 3rd-4th century CE is engraved on the remaining three faces of the pillar. It refers to the rule of the Kadamba king Sivaskanda Varman and the renewal of the above earlier grant which had become defunct to Nagadatta, a Brahamana of Kaundinya gotra in the first regnal year.

Both the inscriptions are of paramount importance to epigraphists as they record two different palaeographic styles of characters of south Indian Brahmi of two different periods. While the earlier is in the typical triangular nail headed characters of 2nd and 3rd century CE, the latter is in typical Kadamba box headed characters of 3rd and 4th century CE.[32]

Kanheri inscriptionEdit

There is another inscription at Kanheri, which in the absence of the king's name has hitherto been assigned conjecturally to the reign of Pulumavi. But, according to E. J. Rapson, internal evidence proves that this attribution is incorrect. The donor mentioned in the inscription is Nagamulanika. She is the wife of a Maharathi, the daughter of a Mahabhoja and of the Great King, and the mother of Khamda-naga-Sataka (Skanda-naga-Sataka). There can be no doubt that she is to be identified with the donor mentioned in the inscription from Banavasi, and that she was, therefore, the daughter of King Haritrputra Visnu-kada-Cutu Satakarni, whose name must have stood originally in the present inscription.[22]


The Chutu coins have been discovered at Karwar and Chandravalli.[18]

Their coins are mostly of lead, belonging to Mulananda c. 125-345. One coin shows Arched hill (or Stupa?) with river motif below on the Obverse and Tree within railed lattice; Nandipada to right on the Reverse.[33]

The large lead coins of the Anantapur and Cuddapah districts have a doubtful reading 'Hariti'. Perhaps they refer to Haritiputra Siva Skanda Varman and Haritiputra Vishnu Kad-Cutukula Satakarni.[34]

Coins of Rano Chutukadananda (70 BCE), the 1st known ruler of the Chutu dynasty whose name was inscribed on them as Rano Chutukadanamdasa were discovered from Karwar and Banavasi surroundings of the ancient Nagarakhanda (Bandalike) town regions.

List of rulersEdit

A coin of the post-Chutus period (250-400) in bronze. (Deccan, Central India) A / Beef on the right; Below undulating line, above legend Rajavipurudapa R / 4 arches with arrows and center circle Dimension: 17 mm Weight: 1.21 g. Bronze

The following Chutu rulers are known from coins and inscriptions:

  • Chutukulananda
  • Mulananda
  • Sivalananda


  1. ^ a b c Michael Mitchiner 1999, p. 97.
  2. ^ Michael Mitchiner 1999, p. 98.
  3. ^ Aiyangar, S. Krishnaswami (1995). Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture. India: Asian Educational Services. pp. 138–140. ISBN 9788120609990.
  4. ^ Michael Mitchiner 1999, pp. 98-99.
  5. ^ a b Michael Mitchiner 1999, p. 99.
  6. ^ Michael Mitchiner 1983, p. 102.
  7. ^ K. Gopalachari (1976). Early History of the Andhra Country. University of Madras. p. 39.
  8. ^ a b Himanshu Prabha Ray (1986). Monastery and guild: commerce under the Sātavāhanas. Oxford University Press. pp. 40–41.
  9. ^ Dilip K. Chakrabarty (2010). The Geopolitical Orbits of Ancient India: The Geographical Frames of the Ancient Indian Dynasties. Oxford University Press India. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-19-908832-4.
  10. ^ Studies in Indian Epigraphy. Epigraphical Society of India / Geetha Book House. 2002. p. 75.
  11. ^ Hartmut Scharfe (2002). Handbook of Oriental Studies. BRILL. p. 167. ISBN 90-04-12556-6. It is not clear if this king and his family (the Cutus) were a branch of the Sata- vahanas or were their successors in the southern part of their dominions.
  12. ^ a b Michael Mitchiner 1999, p. 100.
  13. ^ Michael Mitchiner 1999, pp. 100-101.
  14. ^ a b Michael Mitchiner 1999, p. 101.
  15. ^ a b D.C. Sircar 1968, p. 130.
  16. ^ Michael Mitchiner 1999, pp. 95, 101.
  17. ^ a b Michael Mitchiner 1999, p. 95.
  18. ^ a b Michael Mitchiner 1999, p. 96.
  19. ^ Sailendra Nath Sen 1999, p. 175.
  20. ^ Teotonio R. De Souza (1990). Goa Through the Ages: An economic history. Concept. p. 9. ISBN 978-81-7022-259-0.
  21. ^ "Antiquities of India; an account of the history and culture of ancient Hindustan". Antiquities of India; an account of the history and culture of ancient Hindustan.
  22. ^ a b Rapson, E. J. (1989). Catalogue of the Coins of the Andhra Dynasty, the Western Ksatrapas, the Traikutaka Dynasty and the "Bodhi" Dynasty. Asian Educational Services. pp. liv, CXXXIV, 136–140. ISBN 9788120605220.
  23. ^ a b Chattopadhyaya, Sudhakar (1974). Some Early Dynasties of South India. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. pp. 130, 196, 100–103. ISBN 9788120829411.
  24. ^ a b Michael Mitchiner 1999, p. 102.
  25. ^ Michael Mitchiner 1999, pp. 96-98.
  26. ^ Michael Mitchiner 1999, pp. 102-105.
  27. ^ Daud Ali (2000). "Royal Eulogy as World History: Rethinking Copper—plate Inscriptions in Cola India". Querying the Medieval: Texts and the History of Practices in South Asia. Oxford University Press. p. 187. ISBN 978-0-19-535243-6.
  28. ^ Sailendra Nath Sen 1999, p. 360.
  29. ^ Mishra, Arun Kumar (1992). Trading Communities in Ancient India: From Earliest Times to 300 A.D. Anamika Publishers & Distributors. pp. 108, 112, 118. ISBN 9788185150130.
  30. ^ Rice, Benjamin Lewis (2001). Gazetteer of Mysore. Karnataka, India: Asian Educational Services. p. 461. ISBN 9788120609778.
  32. ^ Chugh, Lalit (2016). Karnataka's Rich Heritage - Art and Architecture: From Prehistoric Times to the Hoysala Period. Notion Press. ISBN 9789352068258.
  33. ^ Coins of the Chutus of Banavasi Archived 19 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine Attribution:Mitchiner CSI 34
  34. ^ T., Desikachari (1991). South Indian Coins. Asian Educational Services. p. 26. ISBN 9788120601550.