For three hundred years after the mid sixth century three major kingdoms of south India were involved in conflict. These were the Chalukyas of Badami, the Pallavas of Kanchipuram, and the Pandyas of Madurai. The Chalukyas built their kingdom on the ruins of the Vakatakas, who in turn had built theirs on the remains of that of the Satavahanas. The Vakatakas, who were in alliance with the Guptas, declined when Gupta power was on the wane. The Chalukyas began with their base in northern Mysore at Vatapi or Badami and the adjacent Aihole, from where they moved northwards and annexed the kingdom of the Vakatakas, which was centred around Nasik and the Upper Godavari. The eastern part of the Satavahana kingdom, the deltas of the Krishna and the Godavari, had been conquered by the Ikshvaku dynasty in the third century A.D. Ikshvaku rule in this region ended with its conquest by the Pallavas. The latter were also responsible for the overthrowing of the Kadamba rulers and the annexation of their kingdom, which existed to the south of the Chalukya kingdom.
The earliest records of the Pallavas are inscriptions in Prakrit followed by inscriptions in Sanskrit and subsequently in both Sanskrit and Tamil. According to one of the earlier inscriptions the Pallava king performed various Vedic sacrifices, including the ashvamedha. Amongst the later group of PaIlava rulers, Mahendra-Varman I (600-630) was responsible for the growing political strength of the Pallavas and established the dynasty as the patrons of early Tamil culture. He was a contemporary of Harsha Vardhan and was also a dramatist and poet of some standing, being the author of a play, Matta-vilasa-prahasana (The Delight of the Drunkards). It was during his reign that some of the finest rock-cut Pallava temples were built, including the famous temples at Mahabalipuram. Mahendra-Varman began his life as a Jain but was converted to Shaivism by the saint Appar. But his reign was not merely one of poetry, music, and temple-building; wars had also to be fought. His northern contemporary Harsha was too far away for there to be any conflict, but nearer home was the recently established Chalukya power, and Mahendra-Varman's contemporary was Pulakeshin II, who was determined to confine the ambition of the Pallavas and prevent their control over Vengi. His aim started a long series of Chalukya-Pallava wars, which ceased for a while on the termination of the two dynasties but recommenced with the rise of their successors.
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