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.
His successor Krishna I was also a great conqueror. He defeated the Gangas and the eastern Chalukyas of Vengi. He 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.
His 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.
Administration of the Rashtrakutras
The Rashtrakuta Empire was divided into several provinces called rashtras under the control of rashtrapatis. They 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. These officers 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. An inscription gives details of this educational centre. 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.
The Rashtrakutas widely patronized the Sanskrit literature. 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.