Read this article to learn about the History of the Pallavas of Kanchipuram !
The Ikshvakus of the Krishna – Guntur region were supplanted by the Pallavas. The term Pallava means creeper, and is a Sanskrit version of the Tamil word tondai, which also carries the same meaning.
The Pallavas were possibly a local tribe who established their authority in the Tondainadu or the land of creepers.
The earliest records of the Pallavas are inscriptions in Prakrit followed by inscriptions in Sanskrit and subsequently in both Sanskrit and Tamil. The Prakrit inscriptions were made when the Pallavas were still a local dynasty ruling at Kanchipuram (200 – 575 A.D.).
The latter inscriptions had carried by what historians have called the Imperial Pallavas (570-800 A.D.) when the dynasty controlled Tamilnadu and became the first Tamil dynasty of real consequence.
Amongst the later group of Pallava rulers, Simha Vishnu’s (575-600 A.D.) career was long and eventful. He waged war against the Cholas, the Pandyas and their allies. He put an end to the Kalabhra interregnum in Tondaimandalam (Kanchi region) and extended his kingdom southward upto the Kaveri delta.
He was also known as Avanisimha. A sculptural representation of this war-like king, attended by his two queens is found in bas-relief in the northern niche of a cave temple, known as the Adivaraha Mandapa atMahabalipuram.
His son and successor, Mahendravarman II (600-630 A.D.) was the msot remarkable of the Pallavas monarch. A ardent Jaina in his earlier life, he was later persuaded by one Appar, a Saiva saint, to worship Siva.
He was contemporary of Harshavardhana and was also a dramatist, musician and poet of same standing. He was the author of a play, Mattaritasa-Prahasana (The Delight of the Drunkards) and was also associated with the so-called ‘musical inscription’ at Pudukkottai.
His various birudas such as Mattavilasas, Gunabhara, Vichitra – chitta, Lattankura and the like, seem to allude to those accomplishments. He introduced the cave style of architecture. Mahendravarman-I suffered severe defeats at the hands of Chalukya Pulakesin – II. The territory of Vengi was lost to Pulakesin who sent his brother, Vishnuvardhana, there to start the line of the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi.
Narasimhavarman I, surnamed Mahamalla (630-660 A.D.), the son and successor of Mahendravarma I is considered the greatest of the Pallava rulers. He is credited with repelling the second invasion of Pulakesin II, killing him and capturing the Chalukyan capital Vatapi and won thereby the title of Vatapikonda (conqueror of Vatapi).
It was possibly in his struggle with Pulakesin II that he received aid from the Simhalese Prince Mana-Vamma whom he afterwards assisted in securing the crown of Ceylon. Hiuen Tsang visited Kanchi about the year 642 A.D. during the reign of Narasimhavarman I.
He was an ardent lover of art and consecrated cave-temples at different places such as Trichinopoly and Pudukkotai. His name is, however, best known in connection with the so-called Rathas of Mahabaiipuram. The original name of the place, Mahamallapura commemorates its royal founder, Mahamalla, i.e., Narasimhavarman I.
Mahendravarman II (668-670 A. D.) ruled for a very short period, since he was killed by Vikramaditya I the Chalukya king. The Pallava power began to dwindle during the reign of Narasimhavarman’s grandson Parameshwaravarman I (670-680 A.D.)
He lost his capital (Kanchi) to the Chalukya prince Vikramadity I, but seems to have recovered it soon. The reign of his son and successor Narasimhavarman II (680-720 A.D.) is marked by peace and prosperity. He is also known as Rajasimha. Besides the well known Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi, he built the Shore temple at Mahamallapura. He is also said to have sent embassies to China, and maritime trade flourished during his reign.
Parameshwaravarman II (728-731 A.D.), the next king faced the combined attack of Chalukyas and the Gangas in which he was killed. As there being no direct heir to the throne, the council of ministers appointed a member of the collateral branch of the family (descendent of Bhimavarman, a younger brother of Simhavishnu) who reigned as Nandivarman II (731-795 A.D.)
The Chalukya king, Vikramaditya II again invaded and captured the Pallava capital during his reign but withdrew from Kanchi without destroying it. He constructured the Vaikuntaperumal temple at Kanchi.
Somehow, the Pallava’s rule continued upto the ninth century A.D. However their authority during the ninth century was no longer that of a major power. The last of the Pallavas, Aparajita was defeated by defeated by Aditya Chola I by the early tenth century A.D.
Contribution of the Pallavas
Art and Architecture:
The development of temple architecture, particularly Dravida style, not only set the standard in the South Indian peninsula, but also largely influenced the architecture of the Indian colonies in the Far East. The characteristic Pallava or Dravidian type of Sikhara is met with in the temples of Java, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Mahendravarman I’s reign shows the influence of the cave style of architecture. Examples are the rock-out temples at Bhairavakonda and Anantesvara temple at Undavalli. Narasimhavarman I built the Rathas of Mahabalipuram which are seven in number, each of which is known out of a single rock- boulder.
In the reign of Rajasimha Narasimhavarman II the rock-cut technique was replaced by the structural temple of masonry and stone. The so-called Shore temple of Jalashayanaswami is built of dressed stone of excellent workmanship.
Another remarkable monument of the reign of Rajasimha is the Kailashanatha temple at Kanchipuram built about 700 A. D. and consists of three separate parts, a sanctum with a pyramidal tower, a mandapa and a rectangular courtyard showing a series of subsidiary shrines or cells. Nandivarman II built the Vaikuntaperumal temple at Kanchi and other smaller temples such as temples of Muktesvara and Matangesvara at Kanchi.
The Pallavas also contributed to the development of sculpture in South India. The best example is the ‘Descent of the Ganga’ or Arjuna’s Penance at Mahabalipuram.
Literature and Religion:
Sanskrit was the official language of the Pallavas and Kanchi, the Pallava capital, was a great centre of Sanskrit learning. Both Bharavi and Dandin, the authors of Kiratarjuniyam and Dasakumarcharitam respectively, lived in the Pallava court. Dandin was also the author of the text “Avanti Sundari Kathasara”.
Pallavas were orthodox Brahmanical Hindus and their patronage was responsible for the great reformation of the medieval ages. Most of the Pallava kings were devotees of Siva, the exceptions being Simhavishnu and Nandivarman who were worshippers of Vishnu.