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Chapter 15 – The Kingdoms of the Deccan

The term Deccan, a convenient and familiar corruption of the Sanskrit word meaning the south, may be, and sometimes is, extended so as to cover the whole of India south of the Narmada, but is more usually understood as designating a more limited territory, in which Malabar and the Tamil countries of the extreme south are not included. Thus limited, the term connotes the whole region occupied by the Telugu-speaking populations, as well as Maharashtra, or the Maratha country. With reference to modern political divisions, the greater part of the Deccan in this restricted sense is occupied by the territories of the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Physically, the country is for the most part a hot, hilly table-land, watered by two great rivers, the Godavari and the Krishna (Kistna), the latter of which receives on the south an important affluent, the Tungabhadra.

In this region the dominant power for four centuries and a half, up to about 230 A.D., was the Andhra, the history of which has already been discussed. For some

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three centuries after the extinction of the Andhra dynasty, “we have,” as remarked by Professor Bhandarkar, “no specific information about the dynasties that ruled over the country;” but there is reason to

Glimpse of Hyderabad

believe that the western territory, or Maharashtra, was governed by princes belonging to the Rashtrakuta, or Ratta, clan, which long afterward, in the middle of the eighth century, became for a time the leading power of the Deccan.

Practically the political history of the Deccan begins in the middle of the sixth century with the rise of the

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Chalukya dynasty. The Chalukyas appear to have been a race of Rajputs from the north, who imposed their rule upon the Dravidian inhabitants of the Deccan table-land. The dynasty was founded by a chieftain named Pulikesin I, who made himself master of the town of Vatapi, the modern Badami in the Bijapur District, about 550 A.D., and established a principality of modest dimensions. He aimed, however, at more extended power, and is said to have asserted his claim to a paramount position by celebrating an asvamedha, or horse-sacrifice.

His sons, Kirttivarman and Mangalesa, extended the possessions of the family both eastward and westward. The clans more or less completely subjugated by the former include the Mauryas of the Konkan, the strip of coast between the Western Ghats and the sea, who claimed descent’ from the ancient imperial Maurya dynasty.

The succession to Mangalesa was disputed between his son and one of the sons of Kirttivarman. The latter, having overcome his rival, ascended the throne of Vatapi as Pulikesin II in 608 A.D., and was formally crowned in the following year. For the space of twenty years or more this able prince devoted himself to a career of aggression directed against all the neighbouring states. On the west and north, the Kings of Lata (Southern Gujarat), Gurjara (Northern Gujarat and Rajputana), Malwa, and the Mauryas of the Konkan felt the weight of Pulikesin’s arm.

Tn the east he drove the Pallavas from Vengi, between

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the Krishna and Godavari, and established his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana there as viceroy in 609 A.D. A few years later, about 620 A.D., while Pulikesin was fully occupied by the war with Harsha of Kanauj, this prince set up as an independent sovereign, and founded the line of the Eastern Chalukyas.

All the southern kingdoms, the Chola, Pandya, and Kerala, as well as the Pallava, were forced into conflict with the ambitious King of Vatapi, who was undoubtedly the most powerful monarch to the south of the Narmada in 630 A.D. Ten years before that date he had successfully repelled the attack on his dominions led in person by Harsha, the lord paramount of the north, who aspired to the sovereignty of all India.

The fame of the King of the Deccan spread beyond the limits of India, and reached the ears of Khusru II, King of Persia, who, in the thirty-sixth year of his reign, 625–6 A.D., received a complimentary embassy from Pulikesin. The courtesy was reciprocated by a return embassy sent from Persia, which was received with due honour at the Indian court. A large fresco painting in Cave No. 1 at Ajanta, although unhappily mutilated, is still easily recognizable as a vivid representation of the ceremonial attending the presentation of their credentials by the Persian envoys.

This picture, in addition to its interest as a contemporary record of unusual political relations between India and Persia, is of the highest value as a landmark in the history of art. It not only fixes the date of some of the most important paintings at Ajanta, but also

Pulikesin II Receives the Envoys from the Persian King, Khusru II

From an Ajanta Cave Painting. (After Griffiths.)

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proves, or goes a long way toward proving, that the Ajanta school of pictorial art was derived directly from Persia, and ultimately from Greece.

The wonderful caves in the Ajanta valley were duly admired by Hiuen Tsang, who visited the court of Pulikesin II, probably in the year 640 A.D. The pilgrim was profoundly impressed by the military power of Pulikesin, who was obeyed by his numerous subjects with “perfect submission.”

But his prosperity was not destined to last much longer. In 642 A.D., the long-continued war, which, since the year 609 A.D., had been generally disastrous to the Pallavas of Kanchi, took a new turn, and brought ruin and death upon Pulikesin. The Pallava king took and plundered his capital, and presumably put him to death. For thirteen years the Chalukya power, which Pulikesin had laboured so hard to exalt, was in abeyance, while the Pallavas dominated Southern India.

In 655 A.D. Vikramaditya I, a son of Pulikesin, restored the fallen fortunes of his family by inflicting a severe defeat upon the Pallavas, whose strongly fortified capital, Kanchi, was captured. Victory inclined now to one side, and now to the other. During this reign a branch of the Chalukya dynasty succeeded in establishing itself in Gujarat, where in the next century it offered vigorous opposition to the Arabs.

The main feature of the succeeding reigns was the never ending conflict with the Pallavas, whose capital was again taken by Vikramaditya II about 740 A.D.

In the middle of the eighth century, Dantidurga,

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a chieftain of the ancient Rashtrakuta family, fought his way to the front, and overthrew Kirttivarman II Chalukya. The main branch of the Chalukyas now became extinct, and the sovereignty of the Deccan passed to the Rashtrakutas, in whose hands it remained for two centuries and a quarter.

During the two centuries of the rule of the early Chalukya dynasty of Vatapi, great changes in the religious state of the country were in progress. Buddhism, although still influential, was slowly declining, and suffering gradual supersession by its rivals, Jainism and Brahmanical Hinduism. The sacrificial form of the Hindu religion received special attention, and was made the subject of a multitude of formal treatises. The Puranic forms of Hinduism also grew in popularity, and everywhere elaborate temples dedicated to Vishnu, Siva, or other members of the Puranic pantheon, were erected. The orthodox Hindus borrowed from their Buddhist rivals the practice of excavating cave-temples, and one of the earliest Hindu works of this class is that made in honour of Vishnu by Mangalesa Chalukya, at the close of the sixth century. Jainism was specially popular in the Southern Maratha country.

Dantidurga Rashtrakuta, after his occupation of Vatapi, effected other conquests, but, becoming unpopular, was deposed by his uncle, Krishna I, who completed the establishment of Rashtrakuta supremacy over the dominions formerly held by the Chalukyas, while a branch of his family founded a principality in

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Gujarat. The reign of Krishna I is memorable for the execution of the most marvellous architectural freak in India, the Kailasa temple at Elura (Ellora), which is by far the most extensive and sumptuous of the rock-cut shrines.

The God Krishna

Krishna I was succeeded by his son Dhruva, an able and warlike prince, who continued with success the aggressive wars so dear to the heart of an Indian raja. Govinda Eli, son of Dhruva, may justly claim to be the most remarkable prince of his vigorous dynasty. He transferred his capital from Nasik to Manyakheta, generally identified with Malkhed in the Nizam’s dominions, and extended his power from the Vindhya Mountains and Malwa on the north to Kanchi on the south, while his direct rule was carried at least as far as the Tungabhadra. He created his brother Viceroy of Lata, or Southern Gujarat.

The long reign of the next king, Amoghavarsha, who occupied the throne for at least sixty-two years, was largely spent in constant wars with the Eastern Chalukya Rajas of Vengi. The Digambara, or naked, sect of the Jains was liberally patronized by this prince. The rapid progress made by Digambara Jainism late in the ninth, and early in the tenth century, under the guidance of various notable leaders, including Jinasena

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and Gunabhadra, who enjoyed the favour of more than one monarch, had much to do with the marked decay of Buddhism, which daily lost ground, until it finally disappeared from the Deccan in the twelfth century.

The war with the Cholas in the reign of Krishna III, Rashtrakuta, was remarkable for the death of the Chola king on the field of battle in 949 A.D. Much bitterness was introduced into the wars of this period by the hostility between the rival religions, Jainism and orthodox Hinduism.

The last of the Rashtrakuta kings, Kakka II, was overthrown in 973 A.D. by Taila If, a scion of the old Chalukya stock. He restored the family of his ancestors to its former glory, and founded the dynasty known as that of the Chalukyas of Kalyani, which lasted, like that which it followed, for nearly two centuries and a quarter. The impression made upon their contemporaries by the Rashtrakutas was evidently considerable, and was justified by the achievements of their period. Although the art displayed at Ellora is not of the highest kind, the Kailasa temple is one of the wonders of the world, a work of which any nation might be proud. Many other temples were the outcome of the royal munificence, and literature of the type then in fashion was liberally encouraged.

Taila, the restorer of the Chalukya name, reigned for twenty-four years, and during that time succeeded in recovering all the ancient territory of his race, with the exception of the Gujarat province. Much of his time was spent in fighting Munja, the Paramara Raja

Temple of Kailasa, Ellora

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of Dhara, who claimed the victory in sixteen conflicts. But toward the close of his reign Taila enjoyed the luxury of revenge. His enemy, having crossed the Godavari, which then formed the boundary between the two kingdoms, was defeated, taken captive, and for a time treated with the courtesy due to his rank. But an attempt to escape was visited with cruel indignities to the captive raja, who was ultimately beheaded, 995 A.D.

Two years later Taila died, and transmitted the crown to his son Satyasraya, during whose reign the Chalukya kingdom suffered severely from invasion by the Chola king, Rajaraja the Great, who overran the country with a vast host, said to number nine hundred thousand men, pillaging and slaughtering in so merciless a fashion that even the women, children, and Brahmans ‘were not spared.

In 1059 A.D., Somesvara I, who was called Ahavamalla, fought a battle at Koppam in Mysore, in which Rajadhiraja, the then reigning Chola king, lost his life. Somesvara also claims the honour of having stormed both Dhara in Malwa and Kanchi in the south, and of having defeated Karna, the valiant King of Chedi. In 1068 A.D., Somesvara, seized by an incurable fever, put an end to his sufferings by drowning himself in the Tungabhadra River, while reciting his faith in Siva. Suicide in such circumstances is authorized by Hindu custom, and more than one instance is on record of rajas having terminated their existence in a similar manner.

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Vikramaditya VI, or Vikramanka, the hero of Bilhana’s historical poem, who came to the throne in 1076 A.D., reigned for half a century in tolerable, though not unbroken, peace. He is recorded to have captured Kanchi, and late in his reign was engaged in a serious struggle with Vishnu, the Hoysala King of Dorasamudra in Mysore. His capital Kalyana, probably the modern Kalyani in the Nizam’s dominions, was the residence of the celebrated jurist, Vijnanesvara, author of the Mitakshara, the chief authority on Hindu law outside of Bengal.

Siva puja, or worship of Siva

After the death of Vikramanka, the Chalukya power declined, and in the course of the years 1156–62 A.D., during the reign of Taila III, the commander-in-chief, Bijjala, or Vijjana, Kalachurya, revolted and obtained possession of the kingdom. This was held by him and his sons until 1183 A.D., when the Chalukya prince, Somesvara IV, succeeded in recovering a portion of his ancestral dominions. But he was not strong enough to resist the attacks of encroaching

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neighbours, and in the course of a few years the greater part of his kingdom had been absorbed by the Yadavas of Devagiri on the west, and the Hoysalas of Dorasamudra on the south. The ends of the Chalukya dynasty of Kalyana may be dated in 1190 A.D., after which time the rajas of the line ranked merely as petty chiefs.

The brief intrusive reign of Bijjala, the usurping rebel, was marked by a religious revolution effected by a revival of the cult of Siva and the foundation of a new sect, the Vira Saivas, or Lingayats, which is a power to this day. Bijjala was a Jain. According to one version of the legend, he wantonly blinded two holy men of the Lingayat sect, and was assassinated in consequence in the year 1167 A.D. The blood of the saints proved, as usual, to be the seed of the Church, which had been founded by Basava, the Brahman minister of Bijjala.

In other legends the tale is told quite differently. There is, however, no doubt that the rise of the Lingayats dates from the time of Bijjala. The members of the sect, who are especially numerous in the Kanarese Districts, worship Siva in his phallic form, reject the authority of the Vedas, and cherish an intense aversion to Brahmans, notwithstanding the fact that the founder of their religion was himself a Brahman.

The growth of this new sect, which secured numerous adherents among the trading classes, up to that time the main strength of both Buddhism and Jainism,

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checked the progress of the latter religion, and drove another nail into the coffin of Buddhism, the existence of which in the Deccan cannot be traced later than the first half of the twelfth century.

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, chiefs belonging to a family or clan named Hoysala attained considerable power in the Mysore country. The first notable prince of this line was Vishnu, or Bittiga (1117 A.D.), who established his capital at Dorasamudra, the modern Halebid, famous for the fine temple which excited Mr. Fergusson’s enthusiastic admiration. During Vishnu’s reign the Jain religion enjoyed high favour under the protection of his minister Gangaraja, and the Jain temples, which had been destroyed by the orthodox Chola invaders, were restored. Vishnu boasts in his records of numerous conquests, and claims to have defeated the rajas of the Chola, Pandya, and Chera kingdoms in the south. About the year 1223 A.D., one of his successors, Narasimha II, who was then in alliance with the Cholas, actually occupied Trichinopoli.

The dynasty lasted until 1310 A.D., when the Mohammedan generals, Malik Kafur and Khwaja Haji, entered the Hoysala kingdom, laid it waste, captured the reigning raja, and despoiled his capital, which was finally destroyed by a Moslem force in 1327 A.D.

The Yadava Kings of Devagiri who have been mentioned were descendants of feudatory nobles of the Chalukya kingdom. The territory which they acquired, lying between Devagiri (Daulatabad) and Nasik, was

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known as Sevana. The first of the Yadava line to attain a position of importance was Bhillama, who was killed in battle by the Hoysala chief in 1191 A.D. The most powerful raja was Singhana (acc. 1210 A.D.), who invaded Gujarat and other countries, and established a short-lived kingdom almost rivalling in extent the realms of the Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas.

The dynasty, like that of the Hoysalas, was destroyed by the Mohammedans. When Ala-ud-din, Sultan of Delhi, crossed the Narmada, the northern frontier of the Yadava kingdom, in 1294, the reigning raja, Ramachandra, was obliged to surrender, and to ransom his life by payment of an enormous amount of treasure, which is said to have included six hundred maunds of pearls, two maunds of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires, and so forth.

When the Sultan’s incursion was repeated by Malik Kafur in 1309 A.D., Ramachandra again refrained from opposition, and submitted to the invader. He was the last independent Hindu sovereign of the Deccan. After his death, his son-in-law, Harapala, stirred up a revolt against the foreigners in 1318, but, being defeated, was flayed alive and decapitated. Thus miserably ended the Yadava line.

The celebrated Sanskrit writer, Hemadri, popularly known as Hemadpant, flourished during the reigns of Ramachandra and his predecessor, Mahadeva. He devoted himself chiefly to the reduction to a system of Hindu religious practices and observances, and with this object compiled important works upon Hindu

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sacred law. He is said to have introduced a form of current script, the Modi, from Ceylon, and has given a valuable historical sketch of his patron’s dynasty in the introduction to one of his books.

Specimen of Southern Indian Temple Sculpture

One of the characteristics of the Southern Indian temples, built in the Dravidian style of architecture, is the long pillared hall with massive sculptured figures on either side. Some of the best specimens of Indian carving arc to be found in these corridors, or choultries. as they are called. They are deserving of the attention of the student as examples of Oriental sculpture.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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