In this article we have discussed some of the most important dynasties of South India (600-1200 A.D.).
The period of big empires was begun in south India by the Satvahanas. Beginning from late 1st century B.C., they maintained an extensive empire in the South till early 3rd century A.D. Their empire included most of the territories of south India and a part of north India though, of course, the Chera, the Chola and the Pandya kingdoms of the far south were, certainly, excluded from it.
Their rule remained glorious in south India from several points of view. After them, the Vakatakas repeated their performance. Beginning from late 3rd century A.D., the Vakatakas maintained a big empire in the South till early 6th century A.D. After them, the politics of south India passed in the hands of the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas, the Pallavas and the Cholas who ruled there during the period 600-1200 A.D.
A parallel can be drawn between the histories of north and south India during 600-1200 A.D., at least in one respect. In the north, the Pratiharas and the Palas contested for sovereignty. In the same way after the destruction of the Vakataka empire, the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas of Dakshinapath (Deccan) and the Pallavas, the Cholas and the Pandyas of the far south contested among themselves for the mastery of the South.
From the middle of the sixth century A.D. onward, the Chalukyas of Badami, the Pallavas of Kanchi and the Pandyas of Madura fought against each other for nearly two hundred years. Then, the Chalukyas were replaced by the Rashtrakutas and the contest between them and the Pallavas and the Pandyas continued for a hundred years. By the middle of the ninth century A.D., the Pandyas and the Pallavas were thrown out of contest and their place was taken by the Cholas.
The Cholas fought for sovereignty over South India for nearly 350 years (850-1200 A.D.), first against the Rashtrakutas and then against their successors, the Chalukyas of Kalyani. A few powerful rulers of these south Indian dynasties interfered in the politics of north India as well, and sometimes their interference proved quite effective but mostly they concentrated themselves on the politics of the South.
The mutual contest of rulers of these different dynasties led to the political division of the South like that of the North, as none of them succeeded in conquering the entire south India and, thus, failed to bring about the political unity of the South. Then, they suffered the same fate as the Hindu rulers of the North. When Ala-ud-din Khalji attempted to bring under his subjugation the South, he found his task easier because of the conflicts of the rulers of south India.
In the beginning of the fourteenth century, besides a few small kingdoms the Yadavas of Devagiri, the Kakatiyas of Warangala, the Hoysalas of Diwarasamundra and the Pandyas of Madura constituted the powerful kingdoms of the south.
Indifferent towards the politics of the North and the consequences of the Muslim conquest of north India, each of them was fighting against each other for the extension of his territories at the cost of each other when the Muslims attacked the South. Malik Kafur could defeat them one by one and sometimes was supported by one against another.
However, Ala-ud- din did not absorb their kingdoms within his empire. But, Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq and Muhammad bin-Tughluq decided to be more aggressive. They conquered them and made them a part of the Delhi Sultanate.
Thus, the south Indian dynasties met with the same fate as their counterparts in the North. They succumbed to the invasions of the Muslims and lost their existence though, of course, it happened when the Muslims had completed consolidation of their conquest of the North.
1. The Chalukyas:
The foundation of the imperial dynasty of the Chalukyas was laid by the Chalukyas of Badami or Vatapi (District Bijapur). They are also known as early western Chalukyas. There were other branches also of the Chalukyas. One was that of the eastern Chalukyas who established an independent kingdom at Vengi or Pishtapura in the first half of the seventh century A.D., another was that of the Chalukyas of Vemulavada who were the feudatories of the Rashtrakutas and yet another was that of the later Western Chalukyas of Kalyani who overthrew the Rashtrakutas in the second half of the tenth century A.D. and established once more the lost glory of the Chalukyas.
I. The Chalukyas of Badami:
The Chalukyas of Badami ruled over Dakshinapatha (the territories between Mt. Vindhya and the river Krishna which included Maharashtra in the west and the territories of Telugu speaking people in the east) from the middle of the eighth century. They ruled it for nearly the next two hundred years.
Dr V.A. Smith described the Chalukyas as of foreign origin and related them to the Gurjaras. But modern historians neither accept the Guijaras nor the Chalukyas as of foreign origin. According to Dr D.C. Ganguly, the Chalukyas of Badami represented an indigenous Kanarese family that claimed the status of Kshatriyas. It appears that Chalukyas, the name of the dynasty, was derived from that of an ancestor, called Chalka, Chalika or Chaluka.
The first ruler of this dynasty, about whom something is known, was Jayasinha. He was followed by his son Ranaraga. Both flourished in the Badami region of Bijapur district in the first half of the sixth century A.D. However, the first independent ruler of this dynasty was Pulakesin I, son of Ranaraga.
He ruled during 535-566 A.D., made Badami his capital and constructed a fort there. He was succeeded by his son Kirti Varman I (566-67 to 587-98 A.D.) who assumed the title of Maharaja. He defeated the Nalas, the Mauryas and the Kadambas and, thereby, extended his kingdom. After his death, his brother Mangalesa ruled over the kingdom on behalf of his son, Pulakesin II.
II. The Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi:
Pulakesin II had appointed his brother, Vishnu Vardhana, as the governor of Pishtapura. There he declared his independence, established the empire of the eastern Chalukyas and ruled between 615-633 A.D. The first capital of the Eastern Chalukyas was Pishtapura. Then, it was transferred to the ancient city of Vengi and lastly to Rajamahendri.
Vishnu Vardhana was succeeded by Jayasinha I (633-663 A.D.), Indra Varman (663 A.D.), Vishnu Vardhana II,. Sarvalokasraya (672-696 A.D.), Jayasinha II (696-709 A.D.). Kokuli Vikramaditya (709 A.D.), Vishnuvardhana III (709-746 A.D.), and Vijayaditya I (746-764 A.D.) respectively. By this time, the Rashtrakutas had destroyed the kingdom of the Chalukyas of Badami.
During the reign of Vijayditya I, the Rashtrakutas started their attempts to destroy the kingdom of the eastern Chalukyas as well. It led to constant fighting between the Rashtrakutas and the Eastern Chalukyas.
Vijayaditya I was succeeded by his son, Vishnu Vardhana IV who ruled during 764-799 A.D. In 769 A.D., the Rashtrakutas defeated and forced him to acknowledge their suzerainty. In 799 A.D., there ensued a struggle between Govinda II and his younger brother, Dhruva, for the throne of the Rashtrakutas. The Chalukyas supported the cause of Govinda II but Govinda II was defeated by Dhruva.
When Dhruva captured his throne, he decided to punish the allies of his brother, including the Chalukyas. Vishnu Vardhana IV was forced to accept the suzerainty of Dhruva. Vijyaditya II succeeded Vishnu Vardhana IV in 799 A.D. and continued to rule up to 847 A.D. except for a few years in between when his kingdom was snatched away by his brother, Bhima, with the help of the Rashtrakuta king Govinda III. Vijayaditya II fought against the Gangas and the Rashtrakutas as well for continuously twelve years. In the beginning, he succeeded too, but, in the end, the Rashtrakuta ruler Amoghavarsha I forced him to accept his suzerainty.
Vijayaditya II was succeeded by his son Vishnu Vardhana V but he ruled only for 18 to 20 months and died about 848 A.D. Then Vijayaditya III, son of Vishnu Vardhana V, ascended the throne. He ruled during 848-892 A.D. and proved himself as the greatest king of the eastern Chalukyas.
He undertook wars of conquests in every direction, succeeded in all and revived the glory of the Chalukyas. He defeated the Pallavas, the Pandyas, the Gangas, the Kosalas, the Kalachuris, the ruler of Kalinga and his hereditary enemies, the Rashtrakutas.
Chalukya Bhima I (892-922 A.D.) succeeded Vijayaditya III. He constantly fought against the Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna II, was defeated several times but, ultimately, succeeded in turning the Rashtrakutas out of his territories. But, the continuous struggle of the Chalukyas weakned them very much and their empire moved towards disintegration.
Chalukya Bhima I was succeeded by Vijayaditya IV (922 A.D.), Amma I (922-929 A.D.), and Vyayaditya V, respectively. Vijayaditya V ruled only for fifteen days and was deposed from the throne by Tala, grandson of Vishnu Vardhana V. From that time onwards, the rival princes of the Chalukyas fought against each other to capture the throne. Tala was deposed from the throne just after a month by Vikramaditya V who himself ruled for only about 10 months.
Bhima II, who deposed him from the throne, could rule for only eight months and was sent out of power by Yuddhamalla II who ruled during 930-935 A.D. By this time, the Rashtrakutas had become very powerful in Andhra Pradesh. Yuddhamalla II was deposed by Bhima III, who ruled for nearly twelve years.
Then followed Amma II (946-956 A.D.), Badapa Tala II, Amma II once more, Danarnava and Choda-Bhima, respectively. Sakti Varman, son of Danarnava, killed Choda-Bhima and captured Vengi in 999 A.D. with the help of the Chola king Rajaraja I. Soon after, the Chalukyas lost their independence and became the feudatory chiefs of the Cholas. Thus, the conflict against the Rashtrakutas and the fratricidal wars among the royal princes brought about the destruction of the eastern Chalukyas by the end of the tenth century A.D.
III. The Later Chalukyas of Kalyan:
The Chalukyas of Kalyan were the feudatories of the Rashtrakutas. During the reign of Rashtrakuta Karkka II, his Chalukya noble, Taila II, revolted, defeated him and occupied the kingdom of the Rashtrakutas. Indra, one of the descendants of the Rashtrakutas, attempted to recover the throne of his ancestors with the help of his uncle Mara Singh, the ruler of the Gangas, but failed. Thus, Chalukaya Taila II established the rule of the later Chalukyas of Kalyan on the remnants of the Rashtrakuta empire.
Taila II (993-997 A.D.) was a capable commander. He defeated the Chedis, the rulers of Kuntala and Orissa, the Chalukyas of Gujarat, Parmara of Malwa and king Uttam of the Cholas. He conquered Lata and Panchal Pradesh. He extended his kingdom, claimed to be the descendant of the Chalukyas of Badami, and once more revived their glory.
The successor of Taila II was Satyasraya (997-1008 A.D.) who, too, fought many battles. The Parmara Sindhuraja attacked his kingdom and recovered the territories which were wrested by Taila II from Munja. The Kalachuri Kokalla II also defeated him. But, he defeated the Silaharas of northern Konkan and also, probably, Chalukya Chammundaraja of Gujarat.
However, his greatest success was against Chola Rajaraja who attacked his kingdom. He was able to defeat Rajaraja and forced him to return to his country. Satyasraya was succeeded by Vikramaditya V (1008-1014 A.D.) and Ayyana II (1014-1015 A.D.) respectively. Nothing important could be achieved during their reigns.
Then, Jayasinha II ascended the throne in 1015 A.D. The Cholas and the Chalukyas attempted to conquer the kingdom of the Chalukyas during his time. Kalachuri Gangayadeva, Paramara Bhoja and Rajendra Chola formed a confederacy and launched simultaneous attacks on the Chalukya kingdom. But Jayasinha II successfully repulsed their attacks and kept intact the territories of his kingdom.
Jayasinha II was succeeded by his son Somesvara I who ruled during 1043- 1068 A.D. Somesvara I conquered Konkan and attacked Gujarat, south Kosala and Kerala. He also fought against the Kalachuri ruler Kama. But his greatest enemy was Chola Rajadhiraj. Rajadhiraj once succeeded in conquering even his capital, Kalyan, but, ultimately, Somesvara I killed Rajadhiraj in a battle.
But, the Cholas repulsed the attacks of Somesvara under the leadership of their new king, Rajendra II and, finally, succeeded in giving a crushing defeat to Somesvara I in 1063 A.D. Somesvara I was succeeded by Somesvara II (1068-1076 A.D.) and Vikramaditya VI (1076-1125 A.D.) respectively. The struggle with the Cholas continued during their time as well.
However, Vikramaditya VI proved a capable commander, fought many battles against his foes and extended his kingdom. His empire extended from the river Narmada in the north to Mysore in the south. He was succeeded by Somesvara III (1126-1138 A.D.), Jagadekamalla (1138-1151 A.D.) and Taila III (1151-1156 A.D.) respectively. The kingdom of the Chalukyas was destroyed during the reign of Taila III primarily due to internal revolts.
Taila III succeeded in repelling the attacks of the Chalukya Kumarapala and the Chola Kulottunga II but failed to suppress the revolt of the Kakatiyas of Telingana. Taila III was imprisoned by the Kakatiyas, though, afterwards, released from the prison.
But the incident destroyed the prestige of the Chalukyas and encouraged other feudatory chiefs to rise in revolt. In 1156 A.D. the feudatory chief, Bijjala of the Kalachuri dynasty succeeded in capturing the kingdom of the Chalukyas after the death of Taila III.
He and his successors ruled over the Deccan for nearly a quater of a century till the fortunes of the Chalukyas were once again revived by Somesvara IV, son of Taila III. But the success of Somesvara IV (1181-1189 A.D.) was temporary. He was driven out of his kingdom by the Yadava Bhillama in or before 1189 A.D. Somesvara IV, the last ruler of the Chalukyas, then, passed his life under the shelter of one of his feudatory chiefs, the Kadamba Jayakesm III of Goa.
IV. The Importance of the Chalukyas:
The Chalukyas established an extensive empire in the Deccan. They brought glory to their family, first under the Chalukyas of Badami for nearly two hundred years, and, then, for nearly the same period of time, under the Chalukyas of Kalyan. Thus, the dynasty ruled over an extensive area of south India for quite a long time. It produced many capable rulers both as military commanders and good administrators.
Many rulers of this dynasty fought against the mighty rulers of both the south and north India and succeeded many times. They assumed high titles like Parameswara, Paramabhattaraka, etc., and governed their empire well. Thus, this dynasty played an important part in the politics of south India for quite a long time.
The Chalukyas also helped in the progress of south Indian culture. The kingdom of the Chalukyas was economically prosperous and it had several big cities and ports which were the centres of internal and external trade even with countries outside India. The Chalukyas utilised this prosperity for the development of literature and fine arts.
The Chalukyas were the followers of Hinduism. The Chalukyas performed many yajnas according to Vedic rites and many religious texts were written or compiled during their rule. They constructed many temples also in honour of Siva and Vishnu. But the Chalukyas were tolerant rulers. They showed respect to other religions. Jainism was a popular faith in south Maharashtra and therefore, the Chalukyas treated it with respect.
The famous Jain scholar Ravikirti was given the highest honour in the court of Pulakesin II. Vijayaditya and Vikramaditya also donated many villages to Jain scholars. Buddhism was certainly on the decline in India but the Chalukyas treated it with tolerance. The Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang found many well established Viharas and monasteries during his visit to the kingdom of the Chalukyas. Even the Parsees were allowed to settle down and practise this faith, without any interference by others, in the Thana district of Bombay.
Among fine arts, primarily, it was painting and architecture that flourished under the patronage of Chalukyas. Some of the frescoes of the caves of Ajanta were prepared during the reign of the Chalukyas. One of these fresco-paintings exhibits the scene of welcome to the ambassador of Persia at the court of Pulakesin II. In the field of architecture, the temples constructed during the rule of the Chalukyas helped in the progress of the art.
Many temples were built under the patronage of the Chalukyas. One important feature of this temple architecture was that practically all temples were carved out of mountains. Many cave-temples and Chaitva halls, which were constructed during their rule, have been found at different places. The cave-temple in honour of Vishnu was constructed at Badami by king Mangalesh. The temple of Siva at Meguti, which has the Prasasti of king Pulakesin II prepared by Ravikirti, was built in 634 A.D.
The temple of Vishnu at Aihole, which also has an inscription of king Vikramaditya II, has been regarded as a fine specimen of temple-architecture of the age of the Chalukyas. King Vijavaditva constructed the Siva temple of Vijayeswara in the district of Bijapur which now is called the temple of Sangameswara. A sister of king Vijayaditya constructed a Jaina temple at Lakshameswara, while the wife of king Vikramaditya constructed another temple in honour of Siva in the Bijapur district called the Lokeswara temple.
Now this temple is called the temple of Virapaksya. Mr Havell has praised the art of this temple very much. Another wife of king Vikramaditya built the temple of Trilokeswara near this temple. All these temples have been regarded as fine specimens of south Indian architecture.
Thus, the Chalukyas contributed not only to the politics of the Deccan but also to the economic and cultural progress of south India.
2. The Rashtrakutas:
The Rashtrakutas established their empire after destroying the empire of the Chalukyas of Badami. They maintained their ascendancy in the Deccan for nearly 223 years and then were destroyed by later Chalukyas of Kalyana. Several views have been expressed regarding the origin of the Rashtrakutas.
Some scholars have maintained that originally the family lived in Maharashtra and was related to the ancient family of Yadu (Yadavas); some others regard them as related to the Reddi-family of Telugu; a few others accept them as Kshatriyas; while yet others have opined that they were peasants of Andhra Pradesh who were made hereditary officers at their places by the Chalukya rulers.
However, the most acceptable view is that they were head of district administration under the rule of the Chalukyas and their title was Rashtrakuta from which they derived their family name.
Afterwards, when their family assumed Imperial dignity, they claimed to be the descendants of one or other famous ancient Kshatriya ruling family. Dr A.S. Altekar has described that their original homeland was Karnataka from where their different family units moved to Maharashtra and settled there.
In the seventh century A.D., the Rashtrakutas, who rose to the Imperial rank afterwards, were simply feudatory chiefs of the Chalukyas. One of their ancestors, Indra I, established a strong principality at Ellichpur in Berar. He further strengthened his position by marrying a Chalukya princess. His son and successor, Dantidurga has been regarded as the founder of the Imperial Dynasty of the Rashtrakutas.
The Importance of Rashtrakutas:
The Rashtrakutas occupied the most important place in the history of the Deccan at one time. No other ruling dynasty of south India was able to create such an extensive powerful, glorious and durable empire in the South prior to the Rashtrakutas nor could anybody achieve it after them till the rise of the Marathas in the eighteenth century. Therefore, the Rashtrakutas have been regarded as the most powerful rulers of the South in the history of ancient India.
Dr A.S. Altekar has rightly remarked: “No other ruling dynasty in the Deccan played such a dominant part in the history till the rise of Marathas as an imperial power in the eighteenth century ” The rulers of this dynasty once held their sway over the entire southern India. Krishna III reached as far as Ramesvaram in the course of his victorious career.
Besides, among the rulers of the South, the Rashtrakutas were the first who attacked north India and seriously affected the course of its history. Dhruva, Govinda III and Indra III successively attacked the North, defeated the Pratiharas and the Palas who were the most powerful ruling dynasties of the North at that time and occupied Kannauj in turn. Of course, they could not consolidate their power in the North because of the difficulty of communication at that time.
Yet, their success was unique because no other ruling dynasty of south India penetrated into the North as far as the Rashtrakutas. The Rashtrakutas, too, met reverses in their turn, but during the rule of their powerful rulers, they remained unchallenged throughout India. Rather, they defeated all powerful ruling dynasties of India at one time or the other.
The powerful Pratiharas and the Palas of the North and the Chalukyas and the Cholas of the South, in turn, were defeated and left humiliated before the Rashtrakutas. After the mighty Guptas no other ruling dynasty had achieved such a brilliant success in arms as the Rashtrakutas. This alone is sufficient to place the Rashtrakutas among the most respectable ruling dynasties of India.
The Rashtrakutas assumed high sounding titles like Parmesvara, Parambhattarak, Maharajadhiraja. etc. Thus, they regarded themselves as all powerful and the representative of God on earth.
Among them, the succession was hereditary and the eldest of the sons was regarded as the legitimate successor to the throne. The emperors pursued the ancient rules of polity based on Rajya-Dharma and regarded the welfare of their subjects as their foremost duty. The emperor was supported by his ministers and other high officials.
The empire was divided into Rastras, Bhuktis and villages. The important officers of district administration were called Rastrapatis or Vispatis. Provincial governors enjoyed wide powers concerning their provinces. They were supposed to support the emperor with their armies in times of war.
The Rashtrakutas were the followers of Hinduism. They performed many yajnas according to vedic rites and worshipped Hindu gods and goddesses. Hinduism, certainly, flourished under their protection, though a few of them gave protection to Jainism also. The Rashtrakutas were extremely liberal rulers in religious affairs. Emperor Amoghavarsha worshipped Hindu goddess Lakshmi and Jaina Tirthankara Mahavira as well.
During the reign of Krishna II, Prithvi Raja and his son constructed many Jaina temples. Of course, Buddhism was on the decline at that time but it was because of its own weaknesses. The policy of the Rashtrakutas had nothing to do with its decline.
Even Islam was treated well by the Rashtrakutas. The Arabs were permitted not only to trade but also to settle down and pursue their religion freely within the empire of the Rashtrakutas. All this testifies to the liberal and progressive views of the Rashtrakutas.
The Rashtrakutas patronised education and learning. Besides Sanskrit, Kanarese literature grew during their age. The emperors gave encouragement to both Hindu and Jaina scholars. Emperor Amoghavarsha was himself a scholar who wrote the Kavirajamarga, the earliest Kanarese work on poetics.
His court was adorned by a number of scholars as Jinasena, the author of the Adipurana and the Harivansha, Mahaviracharya. the author of the Ganitasarasangraha and Sakatayana, the author of the Amoghavritti. Besides, Ponna, Pamma and Ranna, the famous scholars of Kanarese language also flourished during the age of the Rashtrakutas.
Though no new school of architecture or sculpture flourished during the period of Rashtrakutas, the emperors certainly constructed many temples and images of different gods and goddesses. However, there remains only one temple now from among those which were constructed by the Rashtrakutas.
And, that is the Kailash Temple of Ellora which is the most famous among the temples of south India and has been regarded as a unique example of the art of architecture of Hindu India. Dr V.A. Smith has described it as the most wonderful piece of architecture.
Thus, the Rashtrakutas played an effective role not only in the politics of south India but also in that of northern India. Of course, their interference in the politics of the North, ultimately, proved detrimental to the interest of India because, neither they themselves built up a strong empire in the North nor they allowed the Pratiharas to build such an empire which alone could provide security to India against impending foreign aggressions of the Turks.
Yet, it gave them power and prestige which placed them among the most powerful Indian rulers of their age. As regards the South, they prevailed on the politics of the South for a long time and determined its course and also helped in the cultural development of the South which, in turn, contributed fairly to the culture of India.
3. The Pallavas:
The southernmost part of the Indian sub-continent, which has been separated from the plateau of Deccan by the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra, has been called the Far South. It has also been called Tamil Pradesh. The earliest dynasties which established their rule there were the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Cheras. The literature of Sangams (which were assemblies of scholars) provides us the sourer material to the history of the Far South.
It describes that the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Cheras constantly fought against each other for the supremacy of the Far South for a long time. In turn, first the Cholas, then the Pandyas and lastly the Cheras gained supremacy. Yet, none of them succeeded in establishing a great empire in the Far South, consolidating its entire territory. The task was first fulfilled by the Pallavas. After the downfall of the Satavahanas, their southeast territories were occupied by the Pallavas who made Kanchi their capital.
There is as yet no consensus among scholars regarding the origin of the Pallavas. Some European scholars identified Pallavas with the Pahlwas or Parthians but now nobody accepts their viewpoint. Some other historians described them belonging to the Chola-Naga family.
However, it is generally accepted that the Pallavas were the original residents of Tondamandalam which was a province in the empire of Asoka enjoying the benefits of Mauiyan administration for nearly fifty years. Tondiyara is a Tamil word whose equivalent word in Sanskrit is Pallava. Therefore, the residents of Tondamandalam were called the Pallavas. That is why their ruling dynasty was also called the Pallava dynasty.
As regards their family the opinion is again divided. While some scholars have regarded them as Kshatriyas, there are others who describe them as Brahmanas. Dr K.P. Jayaswal regards them as an offshoot of the Vakatakas for the reason that they were both Brahmanas of the Bharadwaja gotra. Dr Dashratha Sharma also describes them as Brahmanas.
The Pallavas raised themselves to the status of a ruling dynasty in the middle of the third century A.D. and their early important rulers were Sivaskanda Varman. Vishnugopa. etc. But the beginning of the greatness of the Pallavas was attempted by Sinhavishnu in the later part of the sixth century A.D.
The Importance of Pallavas:
The administration of the Pallavas was mostly like that of the great Guptas. The emperor was the head of the State and all powers were concentrated in his hands. He held titles like Paramesvara, Parambhattaraka, etc. But the emperor was not despotic. His primary duty was to look after the welfare of his subjects and he performed his duty according to ancient Rajya-Dharma.
The emperor was assisted by ministers and many other high officials of the state. The empire was divided into Rashtras, Kottamas and villages for the convenience of administration. The Pallavas had succeeded in providing an efficient and good administration to their empire.
The Pallavas were the devotees of Hinduism. They performed different yajnas and constructed temples and images of different Hindu gods and goddesses like Vishnu, Siva, Brahma, Lakshmi, etc. They encouraged Hindu religion and Sanskrit literature and, thus, helped in the process of Aryanisation in the South. The Hindu religious movements which flourished in south India in the eighth century originated within the frontiers of the Pallava empire.
Kanchi became a great centre of learning in south India and its university helped in the progress of Aryan culture in the South, while the city itself was accepted as one of the seven religious cities of the Hindus. However, the Pallavas were tolerant rulers. They patronised, of course. Saivism and Bhagavatism but gave protection to Jainism and Buddhism as well.
The period of the Pallavas was marked by literary progress. The University o Kanchi mostly contributed to this progress. The celebrated Buddhist scholar Diganaga, remained at the University of Kanchi for several years. A few of those Pallava rulers were scholars themselves, while most of them patronised scholars. Emperor Mahendra Varman wrote the Mattavilasa-Prahasana.
Emperor Vishnu Varman had invited the well-known scholar of his age Bharavi to visit his court and Dandin. another celebrated scholar, received the patronate of the royal court. Besides Sanskrit literature. Tamil literature also developed during the period of the Pallavas.
In the far south, the temple architecture began with the Pallavas. Many temples were constructed in honour of different Hindu gods and goddesses under the royal patronage. The Pallava architecture grew in stages. Its progress has been marked in four different stages according to the changes which were introduced in it from time to time.
The art, when it made its beginning between the period 600-625 A.D., has been called the Mahendra school of art. The art which developed during the period 625-647 A.D has been called the Mamalla school of art. The Rath temples of Mamallapurama (Mahabalipuram) were constructed during this period. These have been regarded as the finest pieces of the art of architecture in south India.
Besides, temple of the five Pandavas and Varaha temple were also constructed during this period. These temples have got beautiful images of gods and goddesses and fine specimens of paintings as well. The art, developed during the period of emperor Rajasinha in the eighth century, has been called the Rajasinha school.
Some of the temples of Kanchi and Mahabalipuram were constructed during this period among which temple of Kailashnatha (Siva) at Kanchi has been regarded as the finest. The last school was named Aparajita school after the name of king Aparajita. The temple of Bahasara was constructed under this school. This was the highest stage of the growth of the art of architecture under the Pallavas.
Thus, the period of the Pallavas witnessed the growth of literature, both Sanskrit and Tamil, the growth of fine arts, particularly that of architecture, and Hindu religion and economic prosperity also.
The Pallavas succeeded not only in establishing a durable empire but also in the growth of culture, particularly, that of Aryan culture in the South. Besides, the Pallavas contributed to the progress of Indian culture in the countries of South-East Asia as well. Thus, the period of Pallavas has been regarded as one of the remarkable periods in the history of south India.
4. The Cholas of Tanjore:
The Chola dynasty was one of the ancient ruling dynasties of the far South. The dynasty maintained its power and prestige during the Sangama age but afterwards it was reduced to feudatory status. In turn, the Cholas remained subordinate chiefs of the Rashtrakutas, the Chalukyas and the Pallavas.
During the middle of the ninth century A.D., they got the opportunity not only to revive their independence but to establish themselves as a supreme power of the far south. The Cholas maintained an extensive empire which included all the territories south of the river Tungabhadra and many islands of the Arabian Sea for more than two hundred years. They contributed fairly to the polity and culture of south India.
The Importance of the Cholas:
1. The Central and Provincial Administration:
The king was the head of the administration and all powers were concentrated in his hands. The Chola kings assumed high sounding titles. Tanjore, Gangaikondacholapuram, Mudikondan and Kanchi remained the various capitals of different Chola rulers at various times. The Chola empire was extensive and properous and the rulers enjoyed high powers and prestige.
The images of the kings and their wives were also maintained in various temples which indicated that they believed in the divine origin of kingship. Yet, the Chola rulers were not despotic rulers. They accepted the welfare of their subjects as their primary duty. The Chola rulers started the practice of electing their successor or Yuvaraja and of associating him with administration during their life-time.
That is why there were no wars of succession among the Cholas. The position of the king was hereditary and, normally, the eldest son of the king was nominated as the successor. But, sometimes, if the eldest son was found incompetent, the successor was chosen from amongst the younger sons or brothers of the king.
The king was assisted by ministers and other high officials of the state in administration, who were given high titles, honours and lands as jagirs. The Cholas had organised an efficient bureaucracy and their administration was successful.
The Cholas maintained powerful armies and navies. The infantry, the cavalry and the war elephants constituted the main parts of the army of the Cholas. It seems that the Cholas had seventy regiments. Probably, the army consisted of 1,50,000 soldiers and 60,000 war elephants.
The Cholas spent huge amounts to maintain an efficient cavalry and imported the best horses from Arab countries to equip their army. In peace time, the army remained in cantonments where proper arrangements were made for its training and discipline. The kings kept their personal bodyguards, called the Velaikkaras, who were sworn to defend the person of the king at the cost of their lives.
The soldiers and the officers, who distinguished themselves in war, were given titles like Kshatriya Sirotnani. The credit of maintaining a strong navy, both for offensive and defensive purposes, went first to the Cholas among Indian rulers. The Cholas attacked and forced the kings of Ceylon and Srivijava empire to accept their suzerainty, defended their trade on high seas and became the masters of the Bay of Bengal.
But, the Cholas did not observe the Hindu morality of warfare, i.e. Dharma Yudha. The Chola army caused much injury to the civil population, including women. The soldiers engaged themselves in loot, destruction, killing of civil population and dishonouring of women during warfare.
The primary source of the income of the state was land revenue. Rajaraja I took 1/3rd of the produce as land revenue from his subjects. The revenue was collected both in cash and kind. The land was divided into different categories on the basis of its productivity; it was measured; and revenue was charged on the actual produce. The revenue was charged directly from the cultivators but, in certain cases, from the entire village as one unit. The officers observed severity while collecting the revenue.
But, the Cholas also tried their best to develop artificial means of irrigation. They built several dams on the river Kaveri and also made lakes for purposes of irrigation. Besides land revenue, taxes on trade, various professions, forests, mines, irrigation, salt etc. were other sources of the income of the state. The main items of expenditure of the State were the expenses of the king and his palace, the army, the civil services and public welfare works.
The empire was divided into Mandals for the convenience of administration. They were either seven or eight in number. The Mandals were divided into Nadus and Nadus into Kurrams or Kottams. Every Kurram had several villages which were the smallest units of administration.
2. Local Self-Government:
The arrangement of local self-government has been regarded as the basic feature of the administration of the Cholas. Probably, no other ruling dynasty of either the North or the South had such an extensive arrangement of local self-government at different units of the administration as the Cholas. The administration of the Cholas had the provision of local self- government beginning from the village up to the Mandal level at the top.
The Mahasabha of the village played an important role in the administration of the village. Besides, there was provision of representative bodies at the level of Kurram, Nadu and Mandal as well, which all helped in the administration. An assessment can be made of the nature of the local self-government by the rights and duties of the Mahasabha of the village.
For the formation of Mahasabha, first a village was divided into thirty wards. The people of each ward used to nominate a few people possessing the following qualifications: ownership of about an acre and a half of land; residence in a house built at one’s own site; age between thirty-five and seventy; knowledge of one Veda and a Bhashya; and he or any of his relations must not have committed any wrong and received punishment.
Besides, those who had been on any of the committees for the past three years and those who had been on the committee but had failed to submit the accounts were excluded from being nominees. From among the persons duly nominated, one was chosen from every ward to be the member of the Mahasabha.
At this stage the members were not chosen by election but by the lot system. Names of persons were written on palm-leaf tickets which were put into a pot and shuffled and a young boy was directed to take out the ticket. The same procedure was followed for the formation of the different committees of the Mahasabha.
Thus, the Mahasabha of a village was constituted of educated and economically independent persons of the village and, in all, had thirty members. There were also different committees of the Mahasabha to look after different things concerning the village like the judicial committee, the garden committee, the committee to look after tanks and irrigation, etc.
The Mahasabha enjoyed wide powers. It possessed proprietary rights over community lands and controlled the private land within its jurisdiction. The Central or the provincial government consulted the Mahasabha of the village concerning any change in the management of the land of the village. It helped the officials of the government in the assessment of production and revenue of the village.
It collected revenue arid, in cases of default, had the power to sell the land in question by public auction. It looked after the reclamation of waste land and forest which were within its jurisdiction. It imposed taxes and appointed paid officials to look after the administration of the village. The judicial committee of the Mahasabha, called the Nyayattar, settled cases of disputes, both civil and criminal. It looked after the roads, cleanliness, lighting of temples, tanks, rest- houses and security of the village.
Thus, the Mahasabha looked after civic, police, judicial, revenue, and all other functions concerning the village. It was an autonomous body and functioned mostly independently. The Central Government interfered in its working only when it was felt absolutely necessary. Thus, the villages under the administration of the Cholas were practically “little republics” which drew admiration from even British administrators.
Dr K.A. Nilakanta Sastri writes, “Between an able bureaucracy and the active local assemblies, which in various ways fostered a lively sense of citizenship, there was attained a high standard of administrative efficiency and purity, perhaps the highest ever attained by the Hindu state.”
3. Social Condition:
Society was based on Varna-Asram Dharma but the different Varnas or castes lived peacefully with each other. Inter-caste marriages were permitted and it had led to the formation of different sub-castes. The position of women was good. They were free from many restrictions which came to be imposed on them by the Hindu society later on. There was no purdah-system and women participated freely in all social and religious functions.
They inherited and owned property in their own right. There were stray cases of sati but it was not a widely practised custom. Normally, monogamy was the prevalent rule but the kings, the Samantas and the rich people kept several wives. The Devadasi system was also in vogue and there were prostitutes also in cities. The slave system was also prevalent.
4. Economic Condition:
The Chola empire enjoyed widespread prosperity. The Cholas had arranged for proper means of irrigation which had helped in the reclamation of waste land and increased agricultural production which provided the base for the prosperity of both rulers and the ruled. The Cholas maintained peace and security within the territory, constructed well-connected roads, provided safety to travellers and traders and, above all, kept a strong navy on high seas.
In such conditions, trade, both internal and external, grew resulting in increased prosperity of the state. The traders had brisk trade with China, Malaya, Western gulf and the islands of South-East Asia. Industries also grew up under the protection of the Cholas. Cloth, ornaments, metals and their different products, production of salt and construction of images and temples were a few of the important industries which grew and prospered under the protection of the Cholas.
5. Religious Condition:
The Chola emperors were the devotees of either Bhagavatism or Saivism. both of which were the most important sects of Hinduism. Both of these sects became very popular in South India under the protection of the Cholas. The reign of emperor Vijayalaya marked the beginning of the rise of these sects and, then, every Chola emperor contributed in his own way to their progress.
During this period, temples of different gods and goddesses were constructed in large numbers and they became the predominant feature of Hinduism. Hindu temples not only became centres of worship but also those of education, arts and social welfare. The temples satisfied not only the religious urge of the people but also served the purpose of social welfare and progress.
The Chola emperors helped in the progress of Hindu society and religion by constructing a large number of temples of Hindu gods and goddesses. The Cholas were tolerant rulers. Barring one or two examples, every Chola emperor respected and gave equal protection to even’ religious faith. And, whenever intolerance was attempted, it resulted in revolt among the people. This proves that tolerance in religion was observed not only by the rulers but even the ruled accepted and pursued it as a matter of rightful duty.
The period of the rule of the Cholas was the golden age of Tamil literature. Mostly, the texts were written as Kavya (poetry). Different scholars received patronage from different rulers and engaged themselves in scholarly writings. Among noted scholars of this period were Tirutakadevara, who wrote the Jiwana-Chintamani, Tolamokti, who wrote the Sulamani, Jayagodar, who wrote the Kalingatuppani and Kambana, who wrote the Ramavatrama. Kambana was one of the greatest figures in Tamil poetry.
His Ramayana known as the Kamba Ramayana has been regarded as a masterpiece of Tamil literature. The Buddhist scholar, Buddhamitra, wrote the text named the Rasoliyan while another Buddhist scholar wrote the Kundalakesha and the Kalladama. Scholars, like Dandina and Pugalenda, also flourished under the patronage of the Cholas. Besides Tamil, texts were written in the Sanskrit language also. During the reign of Parantaka I, Venkatmadhava wrote has commentary of the Rigveda while Keshavaswamina wrote his scholarly work titled Nanartharnava. Thus, literature, both in Tamil and Sanskrit, progressed under the rule of the Cholas.
7. Fine Arts:
The Cholas constructed cities, lakes, dams, tanks etc. at different places. Rajendra I constructed a huge lake at his capital, Gangaikondacholapuram which was filled up by the waters of the rivers Kalerun and Bellara and which supplied water to many canals constructed for irrigation purposes. The same way, many dams at different rivers, canals and tanks were constructed by different Chola rulers.
But the chosen fields of the Cholas were architecture and sculpture. Huge and beautiful temples cut out from rocks or from hills and images of different Hindu gods and goddesses were constructed by the Cholas. The best specimens of the Chola art of early period are the temples of Vijayalaya-Cholesvara, the Nagesvara temple, the Koranganatha temple and the Muvarakovitna temple.
The Vijayalaya-Cholesvara temple at Narttamalai is interesting for its circular shrine chamber enclosed within a square ambulatory. The Nagesvara temple has many beautiful images of men and wonwn on its stone walls, while Koranganatha temple at Srinivasanallur which was, probably, constructed during the reign of Parantaka I, has been regarded as the best example of the initial phase of the Chola development of the Dravida temple art.
However, when the Chola empire grew in strength and its prosperity also increased, still more grand temples were constructed by the Cholas. Rajaraja I constructed the Rajarajesvara temple at Tanjore and the temple of Viruvalisvarama in the Tinnaveli district. Rajendra Chola also constructed a huge temple of Siva at his capital Gangai-kondacholapuram.
Rajaraja II constructed the temple of Airavatesvara at Darasuram while Kulottunga II constructed the temple of Kampaharesvara at Tribhuvanam. All these temples possess both the grandeur and the beauty of the art of architecture. The Rajarajesvara temple at Tanjore stands within a walled quadrangle, 500 feet by 250 feet. It has fourteen storeys which rise up to 190 feet from the ground. At the top of it is a 25 feet high tomb which weighs 80 tonnes and has been constructed by cutting a single rock.
The entire temple is covered with beautiful images of different Hindu gods and goddesses carved in stone walls. Percy Brown writes of it, “It is the touchstone of Indian architecture as a whole.” These various temples justify the opinion that the south Indian architecture or the Dravida temple art had reached the stage of perfection during the reign of the Chola emperors. Of course, it was inspired by the Pallava art in its early stages but, afterwards, it developed its own qualities and perfected itself.
The art of sculpture also progressed during this period. The Cholas worshipped all Hindu gods and goddesses and therefore, built the images of all. Besides, images were carved out on the stone walls of the temples. The Chola emperors also built their own images as well as of their wives and placed them also in temples. But the finest specimens of images constructed during the period of the Cholas were the bronze statues out of which the statue of Nataraja Siva has been regarded as the best and which has become widely popular even during modern times.
Painting also progressed during the period of Cholas. The wall-paintings at the Siva temple of Tanjore can be favourably compared to the frescoes at the caves of Ajanta.
Thus, the period of the Cholas was remarkable from many aspects. It contributed fairly to the polity and culture of south India and thereby, to Indian polity and culture. Its contribution has been widely accepted in the domain of local self-government, construction of a powerful navy, growth of Tamil literature and in the fields of architecture and sculpture.