• 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.