In northern Maharashtra and Vidarbha (Berar), the Satavahanas were succeeded by the Vakatakas, a local power.
The Vakatakas, who were brahmanas themselves, are known from a large number of copperplate land grants issued by them.
They were great champions of the brahmanical religion and performed numerous Vedic sacrifices.
Their political history is more linked to north India than to south India. We may recall how Chandragupta II married his daughter Prabhavati Gupta into the Vakataka royal family and with its support conquered Malwa and Gujarat from the Shaka Kshatrapas in the last quarter of the fourth century ad. Culturally however the Vakataka kingdom served as a channel for the transmission of brahmanical ideas and social institutions to the south.
The Vakataka power was followed by that of the Chalukyas of Badami who played an important role in the history of the Deccan and south India for about two centuries until AD 757, when they were overthrown by their feudatories, the Rashtrakutas. The Chalukyas claimed their descent from Brahma or Manu or the Moon. They boasted that their ancestors ruled at Ayodhya, but all this was done to acquire legitimacy and respectability. In actuality they seem to have been a local Kanarese people who were accommodated in the ruling Varna with brahmanical blessings.
The Chalukyas set up their kingdom towards the beginning of the sixth century in the western Deccan. They established their capital at Vatapi, modern Badami, in the district of Bijapur, which forms a part of Karnataka. They later branched off into several independent ruling houses, but the main branch continued to rule at Vatapi for two centuries. During this period, no other power in the Deccan was as important as the Chalukyas of Badami until we come to Vijayanagar in later medieval times.
On the ruins of the Satavahana power in the eastern part of the peninsula, there arose the Ikshvakus in the Krishna—Guntur region. They seem to have been a local tribe who adopted the exalted name of the Ikshvakus in order to demonstrate the antiquity of their lineage, and also claimed to be brahmanas. They have left behind many monuments at Nagarjunakonda and Dharanikota. They began the practise of land grants in the Krishna—Guntur region, where several of their copperplate inscriptions have been discovered.
The Ikshvakus 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 Tamilnadu or the land of creepers.
It however took them some time to become completely civilized and acceptable because in Tamil, the word pallava is also a synonym of robber. The authority of the Pallavas extended over both southern Andhra and northern Tamil Nadu. They set up their capital at Kanchi, identical with modern Kanchipuram, which under them became a town of temples and Vedic learning.
The early Pallavas came into conflict with the Kadambas, who had established their control over northern Karnataka and Konkan in the fourth century. They claimed to be brahmanas, and generously rewarded their fellow caste men. The Kadamba kingdom was founded by Mayurasharman. It is said that he came to receive education at Kanchi but was unceremoniously driven nut Smarting under this insult, the Kadamba chief set up his camp in a Idlest, and defeated the Pallavas, possibly with the help of the forest tribes.
Eventually, the Pallavas avenged the defeat but recognized the Kadamba authority by formally investing Mayurasharman with the royal insignia. Mayurasharman is said to have performed eighteen ashvamedhas or horse sacrifices and granted numerous villages to brahmanas. The Kadambas established their capital at Vaijayanti or Banavasi in north Kanara district of Karnataka. The Gangas were another important contemporary dynasty of the Pallavas. They established their kingdom in southern Karnataka around the fourth century. The kingdom was situated between that of the Pallavas in the east and of the Kadambas in the west.
They are called the Western Gangas or Gangas of Mysore in order to differentiate them from the Eastern Gangas who ruled in Kalinga from the fifth century onwards. For most of their reign, the Western Gangas were feudatories of the Pallavas. Their earliest capital was located at Kolar which, given its gold mines, may have helped the rise of this dynasty.
The Western Gangas made land grants mostly to the Jains; the Kadambas also made grants to the Jains, though they favored the brahmanas more. The Pallavas for their part granted numerous villages free of taxes largely to the brahmanas. We have as many as sixteen land charters of the early Pallavas. A few, which seem to be earlier, are written on stone in Prakrit, but most of them were recorded on copperplates in Sanskrit.
The villages granted to the brahmanas were exempted from payment of all taxes and forced labour to the state. This implied that these were collected from the cultivators by the brahmanas for their personal use and profit. As many as eighteen types of immunities were granted to the brahmanas in a Pallava grant of the fourth century.
They were empowered to enjoy the fruits of the land so granted and exempted from payment of land tax, from supply of forced labour, from supply of provisions to royal officers living in the town, and free from the interference of royal agents and constabulary.
The Pallavas, the Kadambas, the Chalukyas of Badami, and their other contemporaries were great champions of Vedic sacrifices. They performed ashvamedha and vajapeya sacrifices, which legitimatized their position, enhanced their prestige, and enormously increased the income of the priestly class. The brahmanas therefore emerged as an important class at the expense of the peasantry, from whom they collected their dues directly. They also received as gifts a substantial proportion of the taxes collected by the king from his subjects.