South Indian Kingdoms–The Chalukyas

Besides the Pallavas, the Western Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas in the Deccan constitute important political forces. Both these kingdoms had their rivals in the far south, namely the Pallavas and later the Cholas. Their period has also been important in the history of India for their cultural contributions.

Chalukyas (543 – 755 A.D.)

The Western Chalukyas ruled over an extensive area in the Deccan for about two centuries after which the Rashtrakutas became powerful. The family of Western Chalukyas had its offshoots like the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi and the Chalukyas of Kalyani. Pulakesin I was the founder of the Chalukya dynasty. He established a small kingdom with Vatapi or Badami as its capital.

Pulakesin II (608-642 A.D.)

The most important ruler of this dynasty was Pulakesin II. The Aihole inscription issued by him gives the details of his reign. He fought with the Kadambas of Banavasi and the Gangas of Mysore and established his suzerainty. Durvinita, the Ganga ruler accepted his overlordship and even gave his daughter in marriage to Pulakesin II. Another notable achievement of Pulakesin II was the defeat of Harshavardhana on the banks of the river Narmada. He put a check to the ambition of Harsha to conquer the south. In his first expedition against the Pallavas, Pulakesin II emerged victorious. But he suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Narasimhavarman I near Kanchi. Subsequently, the Chalukya capital Vatapi was captured and destroyed by the Pallavas. The most important event in the reign of Pulakesin II was the visit of Hiuen Tsang to his kingdom.

The successor of Pulakesin II was Vikramaditya. He once again consolidated the Chalukya kingdom and plundered the Pallava capital, Kanchi. Thus he had avenged his father’s defeat and death at the hands of the Pallavas. Kirtivarman II was the last of the rulers of the Chalukyas. He was defeated by Dantidurga, the founder of the Rashtrakuta dynasty.

Administration and Social Life under the Chalukyas

The Chalukya administration was highly centralized unlike that of the Pallavas and the Cholas. Village autonomy was absent under the Chalukyas. The Chalukyas had a great maritime power. Pulakesin II had 100 ships in his navy. They also had a small standing army.

The Badami Chalukyas were Brahmanical Hindus but they gave respect to other religions. Importance was given to Vedic rites and rituals. The founder of the dynasty Pulakesin I performed the asvamedha sacrifice. A number of temples in honour of Vishnu, Siva and other gods were also built during this period. Hiuen Tsang mentioned about the decline of Buddhism in western Deccan. But Jainism was steadily on the path of progress in this region. Ravikirti, the court poet of Pulakesin II who composed the Aihole inscription was a Jain.

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