Rashtrakutas and Other South Indian Kingdoms

Rashtrakutas and Other South Indian Kingdoms

The Rashtrakutas (755 – 975 A.D.)

• The Rashtrakutas were of Kannada origin and Kannada language was their mother tongue.
• Dantidurga was the founder of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. He defeated the Gurjaras and captured Malwa from them. Then he annexed the Chalukya kingdom by defeating Kirtivarman II. Thus, the Rashtrakutas became a paramount power in the Deccan.

• Dantidurga successor Krishna I was also a great conqueror. He defeated the Gangas and the eastern Chalukyas of Vengi.
Krishna I built the magnificent rock-cut monolithic Kailasa temple at Ellora.
• The next important king of this dynasty was Govinda III. He achieved victories over north Indian kingdoms.
• Govinda III successor Amoghavarsha I (815- 880 A.D.) ruled for a long period of 64 years. He had lost control over Malwa and Gangavadi. Yet, his reign was popular for the cultural development. He was a follower of Jainism. Jinasena was his chief preceptor. He was also a patron of letters and he himself wrote the famous Kannada work, Kavirajamarga. He had also built the Rashtrakuta capital, the city of Malkhed or Manyakheda.
• Among the successors of Amoghavarsha I, Krishna III (936-968 A.D.) was famous for his expeditions. He marched against the Cholas and defeated them at Takkolam. He marched further south and captured Tanjore. He went as far as Rameswaram and occupied it for sometime. He built several temples in the conquered territories including the Krishneswara temple at Rameswaram. Throughout his reign he possessed the Tondaimandalam region including the capital Kanchi. After his death, the power of the Rashtrakutas declined.


• The Rashtrakuta Empire was divided into several provinces called Rashtras under the control of Rashtrapatis.
• Rashtras were further divided into Vishayas or districts governed by Vishayapatis.
• The next subdivision was Bhukti consisting of 50 to 70 villages under the control of Bhogapatis. Bhogapatis were directly appointed by the central government.
• The village administration was carried on by the village headmen. However, the village assemblies played a significant role in the village administration.

Society and Economy

• The Hindu sects of Vaishnavism and Saivism flourished during the period of Rashtrakutas. Yet, they did not affect the progress of Jainism under the patronage of Rashtrakuta kings and officers. Almost one third of the population of the Deccan were Jains.
• There were some prosperous Buddhist settlements at places like Kanheri, Sholapur and Dharwar.
• There was harmony among various religions.
• There was a college at Salatogi, situated in modern Bijapur district. It was run by the income from the endowments made by the rich as well as by all the villagers on occasions of functions and festivals.
• The economy was also in a flourishing condition. There was an active commerce between the Deccan and the Arabs. The Rashtrakuta kings promoted the Arab trade by maintaining friendship with them.

Cultural Contributions

• The Rashtrakutas widely patronized the Sanskrit literature and there were many scholars in the Rashtrakuta court.
• Trivikrama wrote Nalachampu and the Kavirahasya was composed by Halayudha during the reign of Krishna III.
• The Jain literature flourished under the patronage of the Rashtrakutas.
• Amogavarsha I, who was a Jain patronized many Jain scholars. His teacher Jinasena composed Parsvabhudaya, a biography of Parsva in verses.
• Another scholar Gunabhadra wrote the Adipurana, the life stories of various Jain saints. Sakatayana wrote the grammer work called Amogavritti.
• The great mathematician of this period, Viracharya was the author of Ganitasaram.
• The Kannada literature saw its beginning during the period of the Rashtrakutas.
• Amogavarsha’s Kavirajamarga was the first poetic work in Kannada language.
• Pampa was the greatest of the Kannada poets. His famous work was Vikramasenavijaya.
• Ponna was another famous Kannada poet and he wrote Santipurana.

Art and Architecture

• The art and architecture of the Rashtrakutas were found at Ellora and Elephanta.
• At Ellora, the most remarkable temple is the Kailasa temple.

– It was excavated during the reign of Krishna I.
– It is carved out of a massive block of rock 200 feet long, and 100 feet in breadth and height.
– The temple consists of four parts – the main shrine, the entrance gateway, an intermediate shrine for Nandi and mandapa surrounding the courtyard.
– The temple stands on a lofty plinth 25 feet high.
– The central face of the plinth has imposing figures of elephants and lions giving the impression that the entire structure rests on their back.
– It has a three-tiered sikhara or tower resembling the sikhara of the Mamallapuram rathas.
– In the interior of the temple there is a pillared hall which has sixteen square pillars.
– The Kailasa temple is an architectural marvel with it beautiful sculptures.
– The sculpture of the Goddess Durga is shown as slaying the Buffalo demon.
– In another sculpture Ravana was making attempts to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Siva.
– The scenes of Ramayana were also depicted on the walls.
– The general characteristics of the Kailasa temple are more Dravidian.

• Elephanta is an island near Bombay and was originally called Sripuri.

– The Portuguese after seeing the large figure of an elephant named it Elephanta.
– The sculptural art of the Rashtrakutas reached its zenith in this place.
– There is a close similarity between the sculptures at Ellora and those in Elephanta.
– At the entrance to the sanctum there are huge figures of dwara-palakas.
– In the walls of the prakara around the sanctum there are niches containing the images of Shiva in various forms – Nataraja, Gangadhara, Ardhanareesvara and Somaskanda.
– The most imposing figure of this temple is Trimurthi.
– The sculpture is six metre high which represent the three aspects of Shiva as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer.

The Cheras (9th to 12th Century)

• The Chera kingdom was another of the historical Tamil chiefdoms of southern India, which controlled the most of the Canuvery river valley.
• It first arose some time after the 3rd century BC with Karuvur-Van-chi as its inland political centre and Muchiri on the Kerala cost as its port of trade, where merchants exchanged pepper for gold and wine from the Roman empire.
• The Cheras exercised a clan rule under different lingages.
• Its rulers apparently fought intertribal conflicts with the Cholas and Pandyas, and subjugated minor chiefs of the Velir clan.
• The Chera kingdom of Makotai was established in the 9th century in the Periyar valley of Derala, with Makotaipuram (Kodungallur) and Quilon as its first and second capital.
• The kingdom acquired an agrarian base through land grants to Brahmins and Brahmin institutions, such as temples to Siva and Vishnu, trading ventures with Arab and Jewish lands provided commercial resources.
• Contemporary texts give an account of the ruling dynasty’s legendary origins and history.
• Makotai was supposedly hostile to the Pandyas but friencly with the Mushakas of Kerala.
• Despite a series of defensive wars, constant invasisons by the Cholas of Tanjavur led to the disintegration of the Makotai kingdom by the early 12th century.


The Yadavas of Devgiri (12th to 13th Century)

• The first member of the dynasty was Dridhaprahara.
• However, Seunachandra I, the son of Dridhaprahar, was the first to secure feudatory status for his family from the Rashtrakutas.
• The importance of Seunachandra I can be assessed from the fact that the territory ruled by the Yadavas came to be known as Seuna desa.
• Meanwhile, the great Chalukyan power was already on the road to decline and the Yadavas naturally took advantage of the situation and asserted their independence.
• Bhillama, thus, laid the foundationof the Yadava Empire which endured for about a century.
• Simhana was the most powerful ruler of the family.
• As the Hoyasalas proved a great obstacle to the further expansion of the kingdom in the south, Simhana launched a successful campaign against them.
• Elated by successes in the south, Simhana waged war against his hereditary enemies in the north the Paramaras of Malwa and the Chalukyas of Gujarat.
• Simhana defeated and killed the Paramara king Arjunavarman. Thus, the Yadava kingdom reached the zenith of its glory and power in the reign of Simhan.
• None among the Hoyasalas, the Kakatiyas, the Paramaras and the Chalukyas dared to challenged his supremacy in the Deccan.

• Simhana was also a patron of music and literature.
• Singitaratnakara of Sarangadeva, an important work on music, was written in his court.
• Anantadeva and Changadeva were the two famous astronomers who also adorned his court.
• Changadeva establidhed a collage of astronomy at Patana in Khandesh in memory of his illustrious grandfather, Bhaskaracharya.
• Anantadeva wrote a commentary on Bharhmagupta’s Brahmasutra Siddhanta and Varahamihira’s Brihat Jataka.
• Sankaradeva was probably the last of the Yadava rulers. After his accession, he immediately repudiated the authority of Alauddin.
• Malik Kafur easily defeated Sankaradeva, put him to death and annexed the Yadav kingdom.

Literature and Science

Under the Chalukyas of Kalyani

• The Chaludya period withnessed a phenomenal growth in literature, both in Sansdrit and Kannada.
• Among the Sanskrit writers of the period, the foremost in Bihana, the court poet of Vidramaditya VI.
• Vikramankadevacharita of Bilhana is a mahakavaya.
• The great jurist Vikramaditya, wrote the famous Mitaksara, a commentary on the Yanjavalkya Smriti,
• Somesvara III was the author of encyclopadic work, Manasollasa or Abhilashitarha-chintamani.
• Under the western Chalukyas, Kannada literature reached great heights.
• The three Literary gems, Pampa, Ponna and Ranna, contributed to the development of Kannada literature in the 10th century. Of the three, Ranna was the court poet of Satyasraya, while the other two belonged to earlier decades.
• Nagavarma I was another poet of fame. He was the author of Chandombudhi, ‘Ocean of Prosody’, the earliest work on the subject in Kannada. He also wrote Karnataka-Kandambari which is based on Bana’s celebrated romance in Sanskrit.
• The Verasaiva mystics, especially Basava, contributed to the development of Kannada language and literature, particularly prose literature. They brought into existence the Vachana Literature to convey high philosophical ideas to the common man in simple language.

Under the Yadavas

• The Senas gave a great impetus to the development of Sanskrit Literature.
• The family of the famous astronomer and mathematician Bhaskaracharya belonged to this period.
• Bhaskaracharya’s father, Mahesvari (known as Kavisvara), wrote two works on astrology, Sekhara and Laghutika.
• Of the numerous works of Bhaskaracharya, the most famous are Siddhanta Siromani (composed in 1150) and Karanakuthuhala, the first being the best treatise on algebra to be found in Sanskrit Literature.
• Bhaskaracharya’s son Lakshmidhara and his grandson Changadeva were the court astrologers of Jaitugi and Simhana respectively.
• Bhaskaracharya’s grand-nephew Anantadeva, a protege of Simhana, was a master of the three branches of astronomy and wrote a commentary on the Brihat Jataka of Varahamihira and also on one chapter of Brahmasphuta Siddhana of Brahmagrupta.

Under the Kakatiyas

• The kakatiya rules extended liberal patronage to Sanskrit.
• Several eminent Sanskrit writers and poets authored inscriptions which must be regarded as kavyas in miniature.
• Of these writers, Achinterdra was commissioned by Rudradeva to compose the Prasati embodies in the Anumakonda inscription.
• Telugu literature also flourished in the Kakatiya Kingdom.
• Several inscriptions were composed party or wholly in Telugu verse, like the inscriptions at Gudur of (Beta II), Karimnagar (Gangakhara), Upparapalle (Kata) and Konnidena (Opilisiddhi).
• The new religious movement like Vaishnavism and Virasaivism gave a great impetus to Telugu literature.

Contact with Southeast Asia

• Indians have been moving out from ancient time to different parts of the world for trade and other activities.
• As far as the Indian contact with Southeast Asia is concerned, it appears to be as old as fifth century B.C.
• Jatakas, the Buddhist texts belonging to this period refer to Indians visiting Suvarnadvipa (island of gold), which is identified with Java.
• Such early contacts with Southeast Asia are confirmed by the recent archeological finds of pearls and ornaments of agate and carnelian, the semi-precious stones of Indian origin, from the coastral sites in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc. These finds belong to as far back as first century BC.
• According to the Chinese traditions, the first kingdom in South east Asia was founded at Funan (Cambodia) in the fourth century AD by a brahman known as Kaundinya who had come from India and had married the local princess.
• Indian and Southeast Asian contacts became closer from 5th century AD onwards when inscriptions in Sanskrit language start appearing in many areas.
• It reached its peak during AD 800-AD 1300 when many kings and dynasties with Indian names emerge all over Southeast Asia.
• The Southeast contact was largely on account of trade.
• Southeast Asia is rich in cardamom, sandal wood, camphor, cloves etc. which formed important items of trade between India and the West.
• Initially, the Indian traders appear to have settled along the coast, but gradually they shifted their network to the interior.
• Along with the traders came the priests particularly the Buddhist and brahmanas, to meet the ritual requirements of the Indian settlers and thus created a situation for the spread of Indian social and cultural ideas in South east Asia.
• But it must be noted that Indian contact did not uproot the local culture. It was rather a case of peaceful intermixing of Indian concepts with local cultural features.
• While Sanskrit was accepted as a language of court and religion in Southeast Asia the regional languages continued to be used side by side, and we find many inscriptions in mixed Sanskrit and local language.
• Similarly, the concept of varna was known to the south east Asians and brahmanas were respected in society, but social divisions were not rigid as it was in India.
• The most important empire which come to be founded in South east Asia in the 8th Century AD was the Shailendra empire. It comprised Java, Sumatra, Malay- Pennisula and other parts of the Southeast Asian region. They were a leading naval power and on account of their geographical position controlled the trade between China and India as well as other countries in the west.
• The Shailendra kings were followers of Buddhism and had close contact with the Indian rulers. One of the kings of this empire, built a monastery at Nalanda in the ninth century, and at his request the Pala king Devapala of Bengal granted five villages for its upkeep.
• Similarly in the eleventh century another Shailendra king was permitted by the Chola king Rajaraja I to build a Buddhist monastery at Nagapattam on the Tamil Coast.
• The Shailendras also built a beautiful temple dedicated to Buddha at Barabudur in Java. It is situated on the top of a hillock and consists of nine gradually receding terraces.
• Besides Buddhism, the worship of Hindu gods such as Vishnu and Siva was also quite popular in Southeast Asia and the temples dedicated to them have been found at various places which show distinct traces of Indian influence and inspiration.
• One of the most famous temples, dedicated to Vishnu, is Angkorvat temple built in the 12th century by Surya Varman II, the king of Kambuja (Cambodia). It is surrounded by a moat, filled with water. It has a huge gopuram (gateway) and number of galleries, the walls of which are decorated with sculptures based on themes drawn from Mahabharat and Ramayana.