Post Gupta Age

  • Harshavardhana



    • Harsha, also called Harshavardhana, (born c. 590 CE—died c. 647), was a ruler of a large empire in northern India from 606 to 647 CE.
    • Harsha’s reign seemed to mark a transition from the ancient to the medieval period, when decentralized regional empires continually struggled for hegemony.
    • He was the last ruler of the Vardhana Empire, the last great empire in ancient India before the Islamic Invasion.
    • After the fall of great Gupta Empire in the middle of the 6th century CE, under whom India saw its own golden age, it was Harshavardhana who unified most of northern India and ruled for four decades from his capital Kanyakubja


    History and Extent

    • The Pushyabhuti dynasty, also known as the Vardhana dynasty, came into prominence after the decline of the Gupta Empire.
      • He was succeeded by his elder son, Rajyavardhana.
      • After his brother’s death, at the age of 16, Harshavardhana became the undisputed ruler of Thaneshwar (modern-day Haryana).
    • Being one of the largest Indian empires of the 7th Century CE, it covered the entire North and North-western India.
      • In the east, his empire extended till Kamarupa and ran all the way down to the Narmada River.
      • It is said that his empire was spread across the present day states of Orissa, Bengal, Punjab and the whole of Indo-Gangetic plain.
    • The Vardhana Empire consisted of two distinctive types of territories: areas directly under Harsha’s rule such as Central Provinces, Gujarat, Bengal, Kalinga, Rajputana, and the states and kingdoms which had become feudatories under him including Jalandhar, Kashmir, Nepal, Sind, Kamarupa (modern-day Assam).




    Administration and the Empire

    • It is said that Harshavardhana’s empire reminded many of the great Gupta Empire, as his administration was similar to that of the administration of the Gupta Empire.
      • There was no slavery in his empire and people were free to lead their life according to their wish.
      • His empire also took good care of the poor by building rest houses that provided all the amenities required.
      • In many texts, Harshavardhana has been described as a noble emperor who made sure all his subjects stayed happy.
      • He did not impose heavy taxes on his people and the economy was somewhat self-sufficient.
      • His capital Kannauj (in present day Uttar Pradesh) attracted many artists, poets, religious leaders and scholars who traveled from far and wide.
      • He also maintained cordial relations with the Chinese. He even sent an Indian mission to China, establishing a diplomatic relationship between India and China. The famous Chinese monk and traveler Xuanzang spent eight years in his empire.
    • During the course of his rule, Harshavardhana built a strong army.
      • Historical records suggest that he had 100,000 strong cavalry, 50,000 infantry and 60,000 elephants during the peak of his reign.
    • Further, during Harsha’s reign, there was paucity of coins in most parts of North India. This fact suggests that the economy was feudal in nature.
      • Independent rulers, collectively known as ‘Mahasamantas,’ paid tribute to Harshavardhana and also helped him by supplying military reinforcements.
      • This played an important role in the expansion of Harshavardhana’s empire.


    Art and Education

    • Harsha was a patron of both art and education. He himself was an author and wrote three Sanskrit plays, Nagananda, Ratnavali, Priyadarshika. One-fourth of his revenue went for patronizing scholars.
    • Further, Hiuen Tsang gives a quite vivid description of the famous Nalanda University which was at its zenith during Harsha’s reign.
      • Nalanda had around 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers.
      • The curriculum included Vedas, Buddhism, philosophy, logic, urban planning, medicine, law, astronomy, etc.
    • Also, a famous Indian writer and poet named Banabhatta served as the ‘Asthana Kavi’ (primary poet of the kingdom) in the court of Harshavardhana.

    Ruins of Nalanda University

    Society and Religion

    • Caste system was prevalent among Hindus. They were divided into four castes or varna: Brahmana, Vaishya, Kshariya and Shudra, which among them had their own subcastes.
    • The status of women declined as compared to the liberal era of earlier times.
      • Satipratha (widow immolation) was common, and widow remarriage was not allowed in higher castes.
    • Harsha was a worshiper of Shiva in the beginning but later became a Mahayana Buddhist.
      • Yet, he was tolerant of other faiths.
      • With a view to popularize and propagate the doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism, Harsha arranged at Kanyakubja a great assembly which was presided over by Hiuen Tsang, in 643 CE.
    • Also, every five years religious ceremonies were celebrated at the ancient city of Allahabad. Here, he held the ceremony of Dana, or giving, which lasted for three months. During this, most of the wealth accumulated in the last five years was exhausted.

    Death and Legacy

    • Harsha’s empire marked the beginning of feudalism in India.
      • Land was granted in villages, which made the local landlords powerful.
      • This led to the weakening of the empire and gave rise to local feuds. Harsha had to be in constant movement to keep things in order.
    • After ruling over most parts of North India for more than 40 years, Harsha died in 647 C.E.
      • Since he did not have any heirs his empire collapsed and disintegrated rapidly into small states.
      • The demise of King Harshavardhana marked the end of the mighty Vardhana dynasty.


  • Pallavas



    • The Pallavas ruled south-eastern India from the 3rd through the 9th centuries CE. Their empire covered what is today the Tamil Nadu state.
    • Their origin is shrouded in mystery though historians believe their roots might have been from Andhra Pradesh state, north of Tamil Nadu. The Pallavas were one of the greatest dynasties of South India. They played significant role in the political, social and cultural history of South India.



    • Early Pallavas
      • Pallavas rose to the power during the latter part of the Ikshvaku rule in Andhra.
        • Pallava king, Simhavarma defeated the Ikshvaku king Rudrapurushadatta in 300 CE and established Pallava rule in Coastal Andhra, which was known at that time as, ”Karmarashtra” and started as a political power in south India.
      • It is believed that Simhavarma ( 280- 335 CE ) was the founder of this dynasty and Sivaskandavarman who ruled probably about the beginning of the fourth century CE, seems to have been the greatest of the early Pallavas.
        • His dominions extended from the Krishna to the South Pennar and upto the Bellary district.
      • Nandivarman I was the last of the early Pallava kings. During his time the Pallava kingdom experienced the invasion of the Kalabhras.
    • Imperial Pallavas
      • Simhavishnu (575 – 590 CE), was the first ruler of this line
        • Simhavishnu defeated the Kalabhras and laid foundation for the establishment of the “Age of the Imperial Pallavas”.
      • Mahendravarman I (590 – 630 CE), was a versatile genius.
        • The long drawn Pallava-Chalukya conflict began during this period
      • Narasimhavarman I (630 – 668 CE), was the greatest of the Pallavas who raised the power and prestige of the dynasty to an amazing height
    • He had the title Mahamalla or Mamalla
    • The Pallava-Chalukya conflict that was started by his father was successfully continued by him
    • Another notable achievement of Narasimhanvarman I was his novel expedition to Srilanka, to reinstate the Sinhalese princes Manavarman
    • During his reign Hiuen Tsang visited the Pallava capital Kanchi and noted that Buddhism and Jainism flourished in the city besides Hindusim
    • Besides he was a great builder having constructed Mamallappuram and created the Monolithic Rathas (Rock-cut Rathas) during his reign.
    • Mahendravarman II (668 – 670 CE), ruled for a very short period of two years, since he was killed by Chalukya king Vikramaditya I.
    • Paramesvaravarman I (670 – 695 CE), finally won a decisive victory over the Chalukyas and their ally, the Gangas.
    • Narasimhavarman II (695 – 722 CE), had the title ”Rajasimha‟. He enjoyed a peaceful reign and credited with the construction of large and beautiful temples like the Shore temple at Mamallapuram and the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi.
      • The famous Sanskrit scholar Dandin is said to have adorned his court.
      • He sent embassies to China and the maritime trade flourished during his reign


    • Nandivarman II (731 – 795 CE), was a worshipper of Vishnu and a great patron of learning.
      • During his reign, several old temples were renovated and new ones like the Vaikuntaperumal temple at Kanchi were constructed.
    • End of the Pallava Rule
      • Vikramaditya II’s attack and the temporary occupation of Kanchi may be regarded as the beginning of the end of the Pallava supremacy over South India.
    • Also, The Pandyas, the western Gangas and the Rashtrakutas attacked the Pallava kingdom.
    • The Pallava rule lasted till the end of the 9th Century CE
      • Nandivarman III (846 – 869 CE), Nripatunga (869 – 899 CE) were the other rulers.
      • Aparajitavarman (903 CE), was the last Pallava king
    • The Chola king Aditya I defeated the Aparjitavarman and seized the Kanchi region.
      • With this, the Pallava domination over South India came to an end.



    • The Pallavas had a well-organized administrative system.
      • Monarchy was the order of the day.
      • The title ”Dharma-Maharaja‟ assumed by the kings show that they exercised their rule righteously.
      • The king was the head of the state, the fountain of honour, judge, and leader of the armed forces.
    • The Pallava state was divided into Kottams. The Kottam was administered by officers appointed by the king
    • The village is the basic unit of administration.
      • Different types of villages like villages with inter caste population, Brahmadeya and Devadana existed during this period.
      • The village administration was run by various local autonomous assemblies.
    • Sabha, Urar, were the most popular assembles of this period.
      • Every village had got a court of justice, viz.Dharamasasana.
      • Every village was provided with professional servants like potters, weavers, carpenters, smiths etc.
      • It appears that the village acted like self-sufficient miniature republics in the Pallava period.
      • Entrusting the administration of a smaller territorial to an assembly or a local autonomous institution appears to be a very important feature of the Pallava polity
    • Land revenue was the major source of income.
      • The Pallavas also levied taxes on professions, marriages, manufacture of salt, sugar and textiles, draught cattle etc.,
      • It is evident from the testimony of Hiuen Tsang that the people were very hard working and the soil was very fertile, the labourers who did agricultural work were paid in kind.



    • The heterodox religions viz. Buddhism and Jainism were still very active in the Pallava kingdom, which is evident from the testimony of Hieun Tsang
      • Jainism enjoyed popularity in the beginning.
    • Most of the Pallava kings were the followers of both Vaishnavism and Saivism.
      • The Pallava kings assumed not only the title “Dharma-Maharaja‟ but also performed the Vedic sacrifices like Agnisthoma, Vajapeya and Asvamedha sacrifices, which were in conformity with the Vedic sacrifices.
      • As a result, Buddhism and Jainism lost the royal patronage and mass support.
    • This paved the way for the rise of Vedic religion.
      • Besides the performance of Vedic sacrifices, the worship of gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva became popular.
      • From the 7th century onwards the Nayanars and Alvars contributed to the growth of Saivism and Vaishnavism. This is known Bhakti movement.
      • The cult of Bhakti began to dominate the religious life of the South Indians, and the Alvars and Nayanars played a great part in propagating it
    • The Vedic tradition was further reinforced by a movement started by Sankaracharya.
      • This movement was aimed at cleaning the Vedic philosophy of its obscurities and its inconsistencies thereby making it both comprehensible and acceptable to the people at large.
      • Sankaracharya achieved fame by advocating Advaita philosophy.


    Education and Literature

    • The Pallavas were great patrons of learning.
      • The University of Kanchi became the nucleus of learning and intellectualism. It attracted students from different parts of India and abroad.
      • The founder of the Kadamaba dynasty, Mayurasarman, studied Vedas at Kanchi.
    • Several works in Sanskrit were produced during this period.
      • The Kiratarjuniyam of Bharavi, Dasakumaracharita of Dandi and the Mattavilasaprahasana of Mahendravarman I were the best Sanskrit works of the period.
    • The Tamil literature had also developed under the patronage of the Pallavas.
      • Tiruvelluvar, the author of ‘kural’ lived during this period.
      • Perundevanar was patronized by Nandivarman II and he translated Mahabharata into Tamil.
      • The ‘Thevaram’ composed by the Nayanars and ‘Nalayaradivyaprabhandam’ composed by the Alvars represent the religious literature of the period.
      • The Tamil devotional saints exploited music and dance to realize the ‘concept of compassionate God’.
      • The religious hymns were sung with the accompaniment of music and dance. This became a regular feature in the temple festivals.


    Art and Architecture

    • The religious revival of the period gave an impetus to the architectural activity.
    • The contribution of the Pallavas to the Indian Art and Architecture is immense.
    • In fact the history of Dravidian style of Indian Architecture in the south began with the Pallavas.
      • It was a gradual evolution starting from the cave temples to the monolithic Rathas and culminated in structural temples.
    • The Five Rathas popularly called as the ‘Pancha Pandava Rathas (Rock-cut Rathas), at Mamallapuram signifies five different styles of Architecture.

    Pancha Rathas of Mamallapuram

    • The Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi and Shore temple at Mamallapuram remain the finest examples of early structural temples of the Pallavas. The Kailasanatha temple is the greatest Architectural master piece of Pallava Art.

    The Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi

    • The Pallavas had also contributed to the development of sculpture.
      • The Mandapas contain beautiful sculptures on its walls.
      • The sculpture depicting the ‘Descent of Ganges or the Penance of Arjuna’ at Mamallapuram is a master piece of classical art.
    • Music, Dance and Painting had also developed under the patronage of the Pallavas.
    • Also, the Paintings at the caves of Sittannavasal belonged to the Pallava period

    Paintings at the caves of Sittannavasal


    • The crowning achievement of the Pallavas was that they became torch-bearers of Hindu culture in South-East Asia.
    • This later on paved the way for the creation of Greater India.



  • Chalukyas



    • The Chalukya dynasty refers to an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the sixth and twelfth centuries.
    • During this period, they ruled as three closely related, but individual dynasties.
      • The earliest dynasty, known as the Badami Chalukyas, ruled from their capital Badami from the middle of the sixth century.
        • The Badami Chalukyas began to assert their independence at the decline of the Kadamba kingdom of Banavasi and rapidly rose to prominence during the reign of Pulakesi II.
      • After the death of Pulakesi II, the Eastern Chalukyas became an independent kingdom in the eastern Deccan.
        • They ruled from the capital Vengi until about the eleventh century.
      • In the western Deccan, the rise of the Rashtrakutas in the middle of eighth century eclipsed the Chalukyas of Badami before being revived by their descendants, the Western Chalukyas in late tenth century.
        • Those Western Chalukyas ruled from Basavakalyan till the end of the twelfth century.



    • The rise of the Chalukyas marks an important milestone in the history of South India and a golden age in the history of Karnataka.
    • The political atmosphere in South India shifted from smaller kingdoms to large empires with the rise of Badami Chalukyas.
    • For the first time in history, a South Indian kingdom took control and consolidated the entire region between the Kaveri and the Narmada rivers.
    • The rise of that empire also saw the birth of efficient administration, rise in overseas trade and commerce and the development of new style of architecture called Vesara.
    • Around the ninth century, it also saw the growth of Kannada as a language of literature in the Jaina Puranas, Veerashaiva Vachanas and Brahmanical traditions.
    • Further, the eleventh century saw the birth of Telugu literature under the patronage of the Eastern Chalukyas.


    Sources of Chalukyan History

    • Inscriptions constitute the main source of information about the Badami Chalukya history. Important among them are:
      • the Badami cave inscriptions (578) of Mangalesa
      • Kappe Arabhatta record of 700
      • Peddavaduguru inscription of Pulakesi II
      • the Kanchi Kailasanatha inscription and
      • Pattadakal Virupaksha Temple inscriptions of Vikramaditya II
    • Hiuen-Tsiang, a Chinese traveller visited the court of Pulakesi II
      • At the time of that visit, as mentioned in the Aihole record, Pulakesi II had divided his empire into three Maharashtrakas or great provinces comprising of 99,000 villages each.
      • That empire possibly covered present day Karnataka, Maharashtra and coastal Konkan
    • Vidyapati Bilhana, the famous poet in the court of Vikramaditya VI of the Western Chalukya dynasty of Kalyana, mentions a legend in his work, Vikramankadeva Charita, which has been used to reconstruct History as well.


    History of the Chalukyas

    • Chalukyas of Badami
      • In the sixth century, with the decline of the Gupta dynasty and their immediate successors in northern India, major changes began to happen in the area south of the Vindyas— the Deccan and Tamilaham
      • Pulakesi I established the Chalukya dynasty in 550.
        • He took Vatapi (Badami in Bagalkot district, Karnataka) under his control and made it his capital.
        • They ruled over an empire that comprised the entire state of Karnataka and most of Andhra Pradesh in the Deccan.
      • Further, Pulakesi II had been perhaps the greatest emperor of the Badami Chalukyas.
        • Pulakesi II extended the Chalukya Empire up to the northern extents of the Pallava kingdom and halted the southward march of Harsha by defeating him on the banks of the river Narmada.
      • Later, the Badami Chalukya dynasty went into a brief decline following the death of Pulakesi II due to internal feuds.
        • It recovered during the reign of Vikramaditya I, who succeeded in pushing the Pallavas out of Badami and restoring order to the empire.
        • The empire reached a peak during the rule of the illustrious Vikramaditya II
      • Eventually, the Rashtrakuta Dantidurga overthrew the last Badami Chalukya king Kirtivarman I in 753.


    • Chalukyas of Kalyani
      • The Chalukyas revived their fortunes in 973 C.E., after over 200 years of dormancy when the Rashtrakutas dominated much of the Deccan.
      • The reign of the Kalyani Chalukyas had been a golden age in Kannada literature.
    • Tailapa II, a Rashtrakuta feudatory ruling from Tardavadi-1000 (Bijapur district) overthrew Karka II and re-established the Chalukyan kingdom and recovered most of the Chalukya empire.
      • This dynasty came to be known as the Western Chalukya dynasty or Later Chalukya dynasty.
      • Scholars widely considered Vikramaditya VI the greatest ruler of the dynasty; his 50 year reign called Chalukya Vikrama Era.
    • Later, the Western Chalukyas went into their final dissolution 1180 with the rise of the Hoysalas, Kakatiya and Seuna.

    • Eastern Chalukyas
      • Pulakeshin II conquered the eastern Deccan, corresponding to the coastal districts of modern Andhra Pradesh in 616, defeating the remnants of the Vishnukundina kingdom.
      • After the death of Pulakeshin II, the Vengi Viceroyalty developed into an independent kingdom and included the region between Nellore and Visakhapatnam.
      • After the decline of the Badami Chalukya empire in the mid-8th century, territorial disputes flared up between the Rashtrakutas, the new rulers of the western deccan, and the Eastern Chalukyas.
      • Later, the fortunes of the Eastern Chalukyas took a turn around 1000 C.E.
      • Initially, the Eastern Chalukyas had encouraged Kannada language and literature, though, after a period of time, local factors took over and they gave importance to Telugu language.


    Art and Architecture

    • The period of Badami Chalukya dynasty saw art flourish in South India.
    • It brought about some important developments in the realm of culture, particularly in the evolution and proliferation of a new style of architecture known as Vesara, a combination of the South Indian and the North Indian building styles.
    • One of the richest traditions in Indian architecture took shape in the Deccan during that time, called Karnataka Dravida style as opposed to traditional Dravida style.
    • The Kalyani Chalukyas further refined the Vesara style with an inclination towards Dravidian concepts, especially in the sculptures. They built fine monuments in the Tungabhadra – Krishna river doab in present day Karnataka.
    • Badami Chalukyas
      • More than 150 monuments attributed to the Badami Chalukya, and built between 450 and 700, remain in the Malaprabha basin in Karnataka.
      • The rock-cut temples of Pattadakal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Badami and Aihole constitute their most celebrated monuments. This marks the beginning of Chalukya style of architecture and a consolidation of South Indian style.

    Pattadkal Temple Architecture


    • In Aihole, the Durga temple (sixth century), Ladh Khan temple (450), Meguti temple (634), Hucchimalli and Huccappayya temples (fifth century), Badami Cave Temples (600) provide examples of early Chalukyan art.

    Aihole Temple Architecture


    • The rule of the Chalukyas embodies a major event in the history of Kannada and Telugu languages.
    • During the ninth – tenth century, Kannada language had already seen some of its greatest writers. The three gems of Kannada literature, Adikavi Pampa, Sri Ponna and Ranna belonged to that period
    • In the eleventh century, the patronage of the Eastern Chalukyas, with Nannaya Bhatta as its first writer gave birth to Telugu literature.
    • Famous writers in Sanskrit from that period include Vijnaneshwara who achieved fame by writing Mitakshara a book on Hindu law.
    • Somesvara III became a great scholar and king, compiling an encyclopedia of all arts and sciences called
    • From the period of the Badami Chalukya no major Kannada literary work has been recovered, though many works have been referenced in later centuries.
      • The extant Kappe Arabhatta record of 700 in tripadi (three line) metre represents the earliest work in Kannada poetics.
      • The literary work Karnateshwara Katha, quoted later by Jayakirti, belonged to the period of Pulakesi II with the great king himself as the hero.
      • Other Kannada writers of that time included Syamakundacharya of 650 who wrote Prabhrita, the celebrated Srivaradhadeva also called Tumubuluracharya of 650 (who wrote Chudamani, a commentary on Tattvartha-mahashastra in 96,000 verses)


    Badami Chalukya Government

    • Army
      • The army consisted of infantry, cavalry, elephant corps and a powerful navy.
      • Rashtrakuta inscriptions use the term Karnatabala referring to their powerful armies.
      • The government levied taxes called Herjunka, Kirukula, Bilkode, and Pannaya.
    • Land governance
      • The empire was divided into Maharashtrakas (provinces), then into smaller Rashtrakas (Mandala), Vishaya (district), Bhoga (group of ten villages).
      • Later, many autonomous regions existed ruled by feudatories like Alupas, Gangas, Banas, and Sendrakas. Local assemblies looked after local issues.
      • Groups of mahajanas (learned brahmins), looked after agraharas (like Ghatika or place of higher learning) like the ones at Badami (2000 mahajans) and Aihole (500 mahajanas).
    • Coinage
      • The Badami Chalukyas minted coins of a different standard compared to the northern kingdoms.
      • The coins had Nagari and Kannada
      • They minted coins with symbols of temples, lion or boar facing right, and the lotus. The coins weighed four grams, called honnu in old Kannada and had fractions such as fana and the quarter fana, whose modern day equivalent being hana (literally means, money)
    • Religion
      • The rule of the Badami Chalukya proved a period of religious harmony.
      • They initially followed Vedic Hinduism, as seen in the various temples dedicated to many popular Hindu deities with Aihole
      • Later, from the time of Vikramaditya I, the people took an inclination towards Shaivism and sects like Pashupata, Kapalikas and Kalamukhas existed.
        • They actively encouraged Jainism, attested to by one of the Badami cave temples and other Jain temples in the Aihole complex.
    • Society
      • The Hindu caste system appeared .
      • Sati may have been absent as widows like Vinayavathi and Vijayanka are mentioned in records.
      • Devadasis’ appeared in temples.
      • Sage Bharata’s Natyashastra the precursor to Bharatanatyam, the dance of South India had been popular as seen in many sculptures and mentioned in inscriptions.V
      • Women enjoyed political power in administration.



    • Thus, the Chalukya era may be seen as the beginning in the fusion of cultures of northern and southern India making way for the transmission of ideas between the two regions.
      • This becomes clear from an architectural point of view as the Chalukyas spawned the Vesara style of architecture including elements of the northern nagara and southern dravida styles.
      • The expanding Sanskritic culture mingled in a region where local Dravidian vernaculars had already become popular.
    • During the Chalukya rule, the Bhakti movement gained momentum in south India in the form of Ramanujacharya and Basavanna later spreading to north India.

    Related aspects in News

    • A celebration called Chalukya utsava, a three-day festival of music and dance, organised by the Government of Karnataka, is held every year at Pattadakal, Badami and Aihole.
      • The event is a celebration of the achievements of the Chalukyas in the realm of art, craft, music and dance.
      • The program, which starts at Pattadakal and ends in Aihole, is inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Karnataka.
      • Singers, dancers, poets and other artists from all over the country take part in this event.