Role of Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta and its Polity during Post-Gupta Period!
The Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta or Malkhead rose to prominence in Western Deccan after the decline of the Badami or Vatapi Chalukyas.
The Rastrakutas played in important role in the history of Deccan and South India for a period of nearly two centuries from AD 753 to 973.
Romila Thapar aptly observes that the geographical position of the Rastrakutas led to their involvement in wars and alliances with both the northern and more frequently, the southern neighbours.
The Rashtrakuta’s effective interference in the politics of Kanauj made them masters of Kanauj for a brief period in the early tenth century. This imbued them with confidence and made them feel a great, strong power.
The origin of the Rashtrakutas is shrouded in mystery, in spite of a number of theories professing to identify the origin of this ruling lineage. The term Rashtrakuta does not signify any particular community, caste or a Jati. Later-dated epigraphs of the Rastrakutas claim descent from Satyaki, a close associate of Krishna of the epic tradition.
Some historians identify the Rashtrakutas with the Reddy community of Andhradesa. Other historians consider them as a branch of the Kshatriyas who figure in the records of Asoka. Several Chalukyan epigraphs of Eastern Deccan refer to the term Rashtrakutapramukhanam who are identified as agriculturists of the Andhradesa.
R.C. Majumdar, K.K. Datta and H.C. Raychaudhari are of the view that it is not improbable that the Rashtrakutas were originally Dravidian agriculturists who obtained hereditary governorships of the provinces under the Chalukyas. It is suggested that, as the Sanskrit literature and epigraphs refer to the administration of a territory of Rastra or province as Rastrika or Rastriya and Ratthi in Prakrit, some of the officials in charge of the administration of the Rashtras might have declared independence and assumed royal titles and became rulers. We come to know from Undikavatika copper plate of Rashtrakuta Abhimanyu that there existed a Rashtrakuta kingdom in southern Maharashtra with Manapura or Manyapura as its capital.
We also come to know that prior to the establishment of the Chalukyan power in Badami area, there existed a Rashtrakuta power and with the establishment of Chalukyan power, the Rashtrakuta power disappeared. We do not have any evidence to establish the relationship between the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta and the earlier Rashtrakuta families of southern Maharashtra or Vidarbha or Badami. Rashtrakutas proclaimed themselves as ‘rulers of Lattaluru’ and it is identified with Latur presently situated in Osmanabad district of Marathwada.
The first ruler of Rastrakuta family appears to be Nannaraja, who ruled between AD 630-650. We have references to Dantivarma, Indrabhattarakaraja, Govindaraja, Karkkaraja and they are said to have ruled in between AD 650 and 735. The founder of the independent Rastrakuta power was Dantigdurga, who was an official of high rank under the Chalukyas of Badami till AD 742 and after the death of Badami Chalukya Vijayaditya II in 747, Dantidurga appears to have declared independence and ruled till AD 755. Dantidurga was followed by his paternal uncle Krishna I, who ruled between AD 756 and 772. Krishna I consolidated and extended the Rashtrakuta power. He became famous as the patron who caused the carving of the Kailasa cave temple at Ellora.
The death of Krishna I resulted in a civil war between his sons Govinda and Dhruva. In this civil war Dhruva won victory in AD 780 and ruled till AD 793. Dhruva is said to have defeated the Gangas, Pallavas and Vengi Chalukyas and he led his armies against northern Indian rulers, and occupied Kanauj and defeated Dharmapala.
He also acquired Ganga Yamuna Torana and Palidhwaja. By these conquests Dhruva made Rashrakutas, a very strong and formidable power. He nominated his son Govinda III as ruler in AD 793. He ruled with the titles of ‘Rajadhiraja’ and ‘Rajaparamesvara’, ‘Sri Vallabha’, ‘Janavallabha’, ‘Tribhuvanamalla’ and ‘Kirtinarayana’. Govinda III had to face the opposition of his eldest brother Stambha who took advantage of disturbances in the Rashtrakuta territory. Dharmapala reconquered Kanauj. But Govinda III successfully curbed his brother and regained the lost ground and by AD 795.
He re-established the Rashtrakuta power. He once again led his armies north and gained victory over Dharmapala before AD 810. He also defeated Eastern Chalukya Vijayaditya II and occupied Kanchi by AD 802. The whole of South India acknowledged his sovereignty and even the ruler of Ceylon sought his friendship by offering presents. Undoubtedly, Govinda III is an eminent 150 The Post-Gupta Period in the Deccan and the Peninsula conqueror and statesman of repute among the Rashtrakutas. By his conquests over Pala and Pratihara rulers in the north, he established the greatness of the Rashtrakuta power. The political influence of the Rashtrakutas extended from the plains of the Ganges in the north to Kanyakumari in the south.
After Govinda III, his son Sarvudu with the name of Amoghavarsha ascended the throne in AD 814. But as he was a mere boy of thirteen, Karkka was appointed as regent. Amoghavarsha had the titles of Nrpatunga and Viranarayana. We come to know from the Sirur epigraph of Amoghavarsha that he defeated the rulers of Anga, Vanga, Magadha, Malava and Vengi. Amoghavarsha built the city of Manyakheta and changed his capital to that city in AD 860. He was also a patron of art and letters. He himself authored “Kavirajamarga” in Kannada. Jainasena, the author of “Adipurana” and Sakatayana, the author of “Ganitasara Sangraha” belong to his times. He professed Jainism yet showed religious tolerance. Amoghavarsha was not a blood-thirsty conqueror but was a peace loving ruler.
Amoghavarsha died in AD 878 and was followed by Krishna II. He married the daughter of the Chedi ruler Kokalla. He gave his daughter in marriage to Adityachola, the Chola ruler of Thanjavoor. He fought with Prathihara Bhoja and Eastern Chalukya Bhima I. Krishna II died in AD 914 and was followed by Indra III.
After Krishna II, his grandson, Indra III ascended the throne in AD 914 and ruled till AD 922. He was also a conqueror of repute and led his armies against Gurjara Prathihara Mahipala and defeated him. After his sudden death, his son Amoghavarsha II became ruler but he too was killed by his brother Govinda IV. As Govinda IV proved to be very wicked, he was replaced by Amoghavarsha III in AD 939. After Amoghavarsha III, his son Krishna III ruled from AD 940 to 968.
Krishna III continued hostilities with the Cholas. Sometime in AD 943, he attacked the Cholas and secured control of Tondaimandalam. In AD 949, Krishna III defeated the Cholas in the battle of Takkolam and proceeded to Rameshwaram to erect a pillar of victory and he built the temples of Krishnesvara and Gandamartandaditya at Rameshwararam. He also led an expedition to northern India in AD 963, but not much is known about the consequences of this expedition. He appears to have succeeded in placing his nominee on the Vengj throne. Though he cannot be compared to Dhruva, Govinda III or Indra III he too occupies an important place in the line of the Rashtrakutas as the lord of the large part of the Deccan and parts of South India. Thus, the Rashtrakuta power ruled over a vast territory in its heyday extended from South Gujarat, Malwa and Baghel Khand in the north to Thanjavoor in the south. The contemporaneous Arab writers rank them as one of the four great sovereigns of the world, along with the emperors of China, the Caliphs of Baghdad and the emperor of Constantinople.
Krishna III was followed by his younger brother Khottiga in AD 967. During his reign, Paramara Siyaka invaded the Rashtrakuta territory and devastated Manyakheta and this led to the death of Khottiga. Khottiga was succeeded by Karkka II. Tailapa II of the Chalukyas of Kalyani defeated and drove away Karkka II and became the overlord of the Deccan.
The Rashtrakutas also followed monarchical form of government, wherein the king was the head of the state and exercised control over judiciary, executive and legislative functions. The Yuvaraja was assigned a key role. The king was usually assisted by a council of ministers. The Rashtrakutas do not appear to have had any organized bureaucracy. For administrative convenience, they divided their territory into administrative units – Rastras and Vishayas, Bhuktis and Villages.
The Rashtrakutas promoted agricultural operations and trade and commerce. The Rashtrakutas appointed Arabs as officers and governors in their territory and made use of their services to enrich their economy. In order to continue commercial relations with West Asia, the Rastrakutas utilized the services of the Arabs appointing them in the Sanjan area, which are very essential and useful for commercial relations with Western Asia.
Epigraphic reference is available about an Arab Muslim who called himself Maduramati, who has became a governor granting land to a wealthy Brahman ‘matha’. The same epigraph further affirms that the said governor controlled many of the harbour officers on behalf of the Rashtrakutas. This makes us suggest that there was long distance sea trade during the time of the Rashtrakutas.
The worship of Siva and Vishnu was popular in the Rashtrakuta territory. Epigraphs refer to various gods and they performed Hiranyagarhhadana and Tuladam. They too constructed temples to promote Bhakti based worship of Saiva and Vaishnava deities. Besides Puranic dharma, there prevailed the faith of Jainism. The Rastrakuta rulers Amoghavarsha I, Indra III, Krishna II and Indra IV patronized Jainism.
The Rashtrakutas made significant contribution to Indian art. The rock-cut temples at Ellora and Elephanta belong to this period. The culmination of rock-cut architecture reached its highest stage in the monolithic temple of Kailasa, which was carved out of the live rock. This monolithic temple was excavated during the reign of Rashtrakuta Krishna I. K.A.N. Sastri, observes “in its general plan, it bears a certain resemblance to the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal, though it is more than twice its size. The Kailasa temple has four parts – the main body, entrance gateway, a Nandi shrine in between, and cloisters around the court yard. The temple’s main body, measures roughly 150 by 100 feet with projections at intervals througjiout the entire height of its structure.”
Percy Brown, the eminent art historian describes this temple as follows: “Standing high on this plinth is the temple proper, approached by flights of steps leading to a pillared porch in its Western side and it is here that its designers rose to the greatest’ heights.
There is no pronounced departure from the conventional combination of the Mandapa and the Vimana, but the manner in which various architectural elements, all definite and sharply 152 The Post-Gupta Period in the Deccan and the Peninsula outlined, such as cornices, pilasters, niches and porticos, have been assembled in an orderly and artistic manner to form a unified whole, which is masterly.
Then rises the stately tower in three tiers, with its prominently projecting gable-front, and surmounted by a shapely cupola, reaching up to a total height of 95 feet while the interior consists of a pillared hall, from which a vestibule leads to the cells.
This hall is a well proportioned compartment measuring 72 by 62 feet having sixteen square pieces in groups of four in each quarter, an arrangement which produces cruciform central aisle with an effect of great dignity”. The sculptured panels of Dasavatara, Bhairava, and Ravana shaking the mount Kailasa, dancing Siva and Vishnu and Lakshmi listening to music are superb.
We may agree with Percy Brown that the “Kailasa temple is an illustration of one of those occasions when mens” mind, hearts and heads work in unison towards the consummation of a supreme ideal. It was under such conditions of religious and cultural stability that this grand monolithic representation of Siva’s paradise was produced”.
We may agree with the view of A.S. Altekar that the period of Rastrakuta ascendancy in the Deccan from about AD 753 to 975 constitutes perhaps the most brilliant chapter in its history. No other ruling dynasty in the Deccan played such a dominant part in the history of India till the rise of the Marathas as an imperial power in the eighteenth century.