Monthly Archives: February 2013

Pulakeshin II, the Dakshinapatheshwara (The Lord of the South)

The credit of unifying Karnataka and extending its territory up to river Narmada in the north goes to the Chalukyas of Badami who ruled from 540 to 753 A.D. Their domain included the whole of present day Karnataka, Maharashtra, parts of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Tamil Nadu. The founders of this family were local peasants taking to martial career. To substantiate this we have a good number of their inscription which is in Kannada language. Another proof to validate this claim is the names of the princes of this dynasty which have Kannada suffix Arasa like Kattiyarasa, Bittirasa and Mangalarasa. The name of the first ruler of this dynasty Pulakesin I further suggests their Karnataka origin. Pulakesi in Kannada means ‘tiger haired’. The founder of this dynasty was Pulakeshin I, whose rule must have started from 540 A.D. from Badami also known as Vatapi.

Pulakeshin II (609 -642 A.D.) was one of the greatest ruler of this dynasty who converted the Chalukyan kingdom into an empire comprising most part of the Deccan plateau and extending its northern boundary till river Narmada. He was the son of Kirtivarman I who before his death had nominated his brother Mangalesha as a regent as Pulakeshin II was still a minor. When Pulakeshin II attained majority his uncle Mangalesha did not show any inclination to hand over the throne and hence Pulakesin II sought an alliance with one of their feudatories, the Banas and with their support declared war against his uncle. When Mangalesha invaded the Bana territory Pulakesin II defeated him at Elpattu-Simbhige and ascended the throne. Soon he had to face two refractory chiefs, Appayika and Govinda. Pulakeshin II defeated both of them and the former fled while the latter submitted. In the confusion created by the civil war, the Gangas of Talkad, the Kadambas of Banavasi, the Alupas of Aluvakheda and Mauryas of Konkana whose sovereign status had earlier been reduced by Kirthivarman I withdrew their allegiance and  Pulakeshin II had to march against these kingdom and bring them under the imperial fold.

Face to Face with Harshavardhana: The martial prowess of Pulakeshin II and also the fear that the ruler of Kanuaj, Harshavardhana may force them to accept his suzerainty  made the rulers of Malava and Gurjara  to submit to Pulakeshin II. Harshavardhana viewed this act as intrusion into his own preserve and this resulted in a war between him and Pulakeshin II. Harsha’s southward advance was checked by Pulakeshin II as mentioned by the Chinese traveller Huien Tsang. The Aihole Record tells us that Harsha surrounded by infinite number of his feudatories lost his harsha (cheerfulness) when he saw a large number of elephants in his army fell dying. Later Pulakeshin II subjugated the kingdoms of Kosala and Kalinga. He then marched against the Vishnukundins of Vengi and after defeating them bestowed the kingdom of Vengi to the care of his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana. When the port of Thana was attacked by the Arabs in 637 A.D., Pulakeshin II succeeded in repulsing them.

His war with the Pallavas: Pulakeshin II probably in 632 A.D. defeated the Pallavas at Manimangala and led his forces upto the Pallava capital and forced the inexperience and newly anointed ruler Narasimhavarman I to shut himself up inside the fort. But after a decade of careful preparations, Narasimhavarman I marched his forces against Pulakeshin II and in two bloody battles fought at Pariyala in the Kurnool and suramara in the Anantapur regions came out victorious. He also took the capital Vatapi and assumed himself as Vatapikonda. Pulakeshin II died in the battlefield probably killed or out of shock.

The fresco paintings of Ajanta, which depicts the Chalukya monarch Pulakeshin II receiving a Persian embassy and also the account of the Persian historian, Tabari shows that Pulakeshin II’s fame had reached beyond the borders of India. He had titles like Sathyashraya, Prithvivallabha, Parameshvara and Dakshinapatheshvara. Pulakeshin II had married a Kadamba princess, Agramahadevi and another Ganga princess, Gangamahadevi, daughter of Durvinita. He had four sons Vikramadithya I, Chandraditya, Adityavarma and Dharasraya. His only daughter was Ambera.

Pulakeshin II was the first ruler to establish an empire in the south which covered the whole of south India. The whole of Karnataka came under one rule and extended from Godavari in the north to Kaveri in the south.

Administration: The Chalukyas of Badami followed the administrative traditions of the Guptas in the north. The crown prince assisted the king in the administration and at times the king’s brother was appointed to that position. Their record speaks of Mahasandhivigrahika or the minister of war and peace. The kingdom was divided into Maharashtrakas or great provinces and they in turn into Rashtrakas also known as Mandalas. Below Mandalas were Vishaya and under it was Bhoga, which consisted of a group of villages. The Chalukyan army was famously known as ‘Karnatabala’ and described as ajeyam (invincible). Its army consisted of infantry, cavalry and elephants. Hiuen Tsiang mentions that these war elephants were intoxicated with liquor before being sent for war. The fact that Mangalesha led an invasion on the island of Revati and that Pulakeshin II sailed up to Puri and led an invasion indicates the maintenance of a navy in those days. The martial qualities of Kannadigas were held in high repute and even kings of Bengal employed soldiers from Karnataka.

Trade, Commerce and Merchant guilds: Trade and commerce thrived during the Chalukyan rule. Cosmos Indikapleustus speaks of the flourishing overseas trade with China, Malaya and Africa. The Arabs and the Chinese were actively trading at the Indian ports. Mangalore, Thana, sopara and Kalyana were flourishing ports at that time.

The Ayyavole 500 was the most famous merchant guild of medieval South India which flourished during that period. They had a prasasti (charter) of their own which recounted their tradition and achievements. They made their own rules and regulations and its members were worshippers of goddess Bhagavathi. Their headquarters was in Aihole with an executive committee of 500 members. The chief was called Pattanaswami. They were the protectors of the Vira Bananju dharma i.e. the law of the noble merchants, Bananju being obviously derived from the Sanskrit word Vaanija meaning merchant. They had the picture of bull on their flags and were noted for their daring and enterprise throughout the world. Among the countries they visited were the Chera, Chola, Pandya, Malaya, Magadha, Kosala, Saurashtra, Kambhoja, Lata, Parasa (Persia) and Nepala. They travelled both by land and sea routes and traded in elephants, sapphires, pearls, rubies, diamonds, topaz, emeralds, cardamoms, cloves, sandle, camphor, musk, saffron and other spices and perfume. They either sold wholesale or hawked them carrying their goods on their shoulders. They paid sunka (tax) regularly and filled the royal treasury with gold and jewels. They were famous for their philanthropist activities and build many temples. Apart from trade they successfully discharged diplomatic functions and even acted as intermediaries and avoided circumstances of war or hatred between the kings thus bringing about peace and friendly environment in the kingdom.

The Chalukyas of Badami had the boar (Varaha) on their royal emblem. It is generally believed that the early gold coins of South India and the Deccan which contained a boar on their obverse were issued by the Chalukyas of Badami. These gold coins became so popular in South India and the Deccan that Varaha became a common terminology for gold coins of a particular type.

Chalukyan Architecture: Under the Chalukyas of Badami architecture entered a new vigorous phase and a new style of architecture, the Vesara style came into existence. The Chalukyas not only excavated cave temples but also built structural temples. In fact Aihole where a number of temples belonging to the Chalukyan era can be found is called the cradle of temple architecture. Noted Kannada Scholar and Jnanapeeta awardee, Dr. Shivaram Karanth calls the Chalukyan period as the golden age of Karnataka art. Hundreds of monuments of their period are found scattered in the Malaprabha basin of which the important ones are found in Aihole, Badami and Pattadakallu. At Badami we find their rock-cut temples, three Vedic and one Jaina. Superb carved images of Ardhanarishwara, Harihara, Mahisha Mardini, Narasimha, Varaha, Trivikrama and Nataraja are found carved insides these cave temples. Aihole has about 125 temples of which three, Ladkhan, Durga and Huchchimalli Gudi are famous. Pattadakal has the famous Virupaksha temple resembling the Kailasanatha temple of Kanchi. One notable characteristic feature of the Chalukyan temples is the construction of their tower (Shikara) in all the three styles, namely Dravida, Rekha Nagara and Kadamba Nagara. The examples of the temples with dravida shikara are the Sangameshvara temple at Pattadakal, Malegitti Sivalaya at Badami and the Mahakuteshvara at Mahakuta. The Virupaksha and Mallikarjuna temple at Pattadakal have dravida shikara and also a projection in the shikara called sukhanasa which is a prominent feature of the rekha nagara style. The rekha nagara sikaras are seen in the temples of Durga, Surya, Huchchimalli, Tarappa, Huchchappayya at Aihole, temples of Jambhulinga, Galaganatha, Papanatha and Kasivisvesvara at Pattadakal and most of the temples at Alampur. The shikaras in these temples have projections filled with a sculpture of a deity connected with the god installed in the sanctum. The Durga temple mention above is unique in another aspect for it is having an apsidal back similar to the Buddhist chaityas found in western India. Coming to temples having Kadamba nagara shikara or the stepped pyramidal superstructures, we have the temples of Galaganatha and the Mallikarjuna at Aihole and in some of the temples at Mahakuta. Revadi, Ovajja, Narasobba and Anivarita Gunda were some noted architect of that period.