Ancient tradition recognizes the “Kingdoms of the South” as three – the Pandya, the Chola, and the Chera. Of these three the Pandya kingdom occupied the extremity of the peninsula, south of Pudukottai, the Chola kingdom extended northwards to Nellore, while the Chera kingdom lay to the west, and included the Malabar coast.
In the third century B.C., the Chola and Pandya realms were well known to Asoka; but in lieu of the Chera state he specifies two kingdoms, those of Kerala and Satiyaputra. The former of these is undoubtedly the Malabar coast south of the Chandragiri River; the latter should probably be identified with the tract on the same coast to the north of that river, of which Mangalore is the centre, and in which the Tulu tongue, one of the Dravidian languages, is spoken. In the Kerala of Asoka, which may be regarded as synonymous with the Chera of tradition, the prevailing language is
Malayalam. The Chola and Pandya kingdoms both belong to the Tamil-speaking region. Thus all the kingdoms of the south were occupied by races speaking Dravidian languages, who are themselves generally spoken of as Dravidians.
No Aryan language had penetrated into those kingdoms, which lived their own life, completely secluded from Northern India, and in touch with the outer world only through the medium of maritime commerce, which had been conducted with success from very early times. The pearls of the Gulf of Manar, the beryls of Coimbatore, and the pepper of Malabar were not to be had elsewhere, and were eagerly sought by foreign merchants, probably as early as the seventh or eighth century before Christ.
But the ancient political history of Southern India is irretrievably lost, and the materials for tracing the development of the high degree of civilization unquestionably attained by the Dravidian races are lamentably scanty. Nor is it possible to define with any accuracy the time when Aryan ideas and the religion of the Brahmans penetrated to the kingdoms of the south, although there are reasons for assuming that 500 B.C. may be taken as a mean date.
The missionaries of Asoka introduced Buddhism, and his brother Mahendra built a monastery in the Chola country, but whether or not they found any form of the Brahman religion in possession it is impossible to say. The Jain religion also found great favour in the southern countries, but how or when it was
introduced from the north, there is no good evidence to show.
The historical period begins much later in the south than in the north, and it is quite impossible to carry back the story of the south, like that of the north, to 600 B.C. As will appear in the following pages, the orderly history of the Chola and Pandya dynasties does not commence until the ninth and tenth centuries A.D. respectively, although both kingdoms existed in Asoka’s time.
The earliest dynastic annals are those of the Pallavas, which begin in the second century A.D. The Pallava realm is not included in the three traditional “kingdoms of the south,” the reason apparently being that the Pallavas were an intrusive foreign, non-Dravidian race, which lorded it over the ancient territorial Dravidian kingdoms in varying degrees from time to time.
The Pandya country, as defined by tradition, extended north and south from the Southern Vellaru River (Pudukottai). to Cape Comorin, and east and west from the sea to the “great highway,” the Achchankovil Pass leading into Kerala or Travancore, and was thus nearly co-extensive with the present Districts of Madura and Tinnevelli. The kingdom was ordinarily divided into five principalities, known as the “five Pandyas.” The capital of the premier chief was in
early days at Korkai on the Tamraparni River in Tinnevelli.
Korkai, or Kolkai, the Greek Κολκοι, now an insignificant village, was once a great city, and is indicated by all native traditions as the cradle of South Indian civilization, the home of the mythical three brothers, who were supposed to have founded the Pandya, Chera, and Chola kingdoms. In the days of its glory the city was a seaport, the headquarters of the pearl trade, which constituted the chief source of wealth enjoyed by the Pandya kings, whose special crest or cognizance was the battle-axe, often associated with the elephant. In the course of time, the silting up of the delta rendered Korkai inaccessible to ships, and the city gradually decayed, like the Cinque Ports in England.
Its commercial business was transferred to the new port, Kayal (Coel), which was founded three miles lower down the river, and continued to be for many centuries one of the greatest marts of the east. Here Marco Polo landed in the thirteenth century, and was much impressed by the wealth and magnificence of prince and people. But the same process which had ruined Korkai caused the abandonment of Kayal, and compelled the Portuguese to remove their trade to Tuticorin, where a sheltered roadstead, free from deposits of silt, offered superior convenience. The site of Kayal is now occupied by the huts of a few Mohammedans and native Christian fishermen.
Madura, which was regarded in later times as the Pandya capital, and the central seat of Tamil literature
and learning, is also of high antiquity, and probably coexisted with Korkai from a very early date. The Kings of Madura adopted a fish, or a pair of fishes, as the family crest.
No continuous history of the Pandya dynasties prior to the twelfth century can be written. The scraps of information concerning them before that time are exceedingly meagre. The most ancient mention of the name Pandya is found in the commentary of the grammarian Katyayana, who may be assigned to the fourth century B.C. In Asoka’s time the Pandya kingdom was independent, and lay altogether outside the limits of the northern empire, which extended to about the latitude of Madras.
A Pandya king sent an embassy to Augustus Caesar, and the pearl fishery in his dominions was well known to the Greeks and Romans of the first century A.D. Pliny was aware that the king resided at Madura in the interior. Roman copper coins of the smallest value have been found in such numbers at Madura as to suggest that a Roman colony was settled at that place. They come down to the time of Arcadius and Honorius (400 A.D.).
Roman gold coins of the early empire have been discovered in such large quantities in Southern India that it is apparent that they served for the gold currency of the peninsula, as the English sovereign now does in many foreign countries. Five coolie loads of aurei were found in 1851 near Cannanore on the Malabar coast, mostly belonging to the mintage of Tiberius
and Nero, and many other large hoards of Roman coins, gold, silver, and copper, have been discovered in various localities from time to time.
It is, therefore, certain that the Pandya state, during the early centuries of the Christian era, shared along with the Chera kingdom of Malabar a very lucrative trade with the Roman empire, and was in exclusive possession of the much prized pearl fishery, which had its headquarters first at Korkai, and afterward at Kayal.
From the fifth century onwards, occasional references to the Pandya dynasty and country are met with in literature and inscriptions. When Hiuen Tsang visited the south in 640 A.D., and stayed at Kanchi, the southern limit of his travels, he ascertained that the inhabitants of the region called by him Malakottai, which was equivalent to the Pandya state and the Malabar coast with a portion of the traditional Chola country, were reputed to care little for learning. In ancient times many Buddhist monasteries had existed, but these were in ruins at the time of his visit, only the bare walls remaining, though the country was studded with hundreds of Brahmanical temples and the adherents of the Jain sect were numerous.
The most ancient Pandya king to whom an approximate date can be assigned is Rajasimha, the contemporary of Parantaka I, Chola (907–47 A.D.), who claims to have defeated his southern neighbour, and “destroyed” Madura. A great-grandson of the same Chola king fought with a Pandya raja bearing the name of
Vira. The fact that many names or titles, Sundara, Vira, Kulasekhara, and others, recur over and over again, causes special difficulty in attempts to construct the Pandya dynastic list.
The Pandya state, in common with the other kingdoms of the south, undoubtedly was reduced to a condition of tributary dependence by Rajaraja the Great about the year 1000, and continued to be more or less under Chola control for a century and a half, or a little longer, although, of course, the local administration remained in the hands of the native rajas.
The Jain religion, which was popular in the days of Hiuen Tsang in the seventh century, and had continued to enjoy the favour of the Pandya kings, was odious to their Chola overlords, who were strict adherents of Siva. A credible tradition affirms that, apparently at some time in the eleventh century, a Pandya king named Sundara was married to a Chola princess, sister of King Rajendra, and was converted from Jainism to the Saiva faith by his consort. King Sundara displayed even more than the proverbial zeal of a convert, and persecuted his late co-religionists, who refused to apostatize, with the most savage cruelty inflicting on no less than eight thousand innocent persons a horrible death by impalement. Certain unpublished sculptures on the walls of a temple at Trivatur in Arcot are believed to record these executions.
The long duration of Chola supremacy suffices to explain in large measure the lack of early Pandya inscriptions. The series does not begin until near the
end of the twelfth century, but, after that time, the records are so numerous that a dynastic list which seems to be almost complete for the thirteenth century has been constructed by Professor Kielhorn. The dynasty can be traced, with some breaks, up to the middle of the sixteenth century, but it lost most of its political importance after the sack of Madura by Malik Kafur’s Mohammedan host in 1310 A.D. The maritime commerce of the kingdom, however, continued to exist on a considerable scale to a much later date.
The most conspicuous event in the political history of the Pandya kingdom is the invasion of the Sinhalese armies under the command of two generals of Parakrama-bahu, King of Ceylon, which occurred about 1175 A.D. Two detailed accounts of this incident, written from different points of view, are extant. The story, as told in the island chronicle, the Mahavamsa, naturally represents the victorious career of the invaders as unbroken by defeat; but the rival account, preserved in an inscription, proves that the invading army gained considerable success at first, but was ultimately obliged to retire in consequence of the vigorous resistance of a coalition of the southern princes. The occasion of the Sinhalese intervention was a disputed succession to the Pandya throne of Madura, contested by claimants bearing the oft-recurring names of Vira and Sundara.
Very little can be said about the south-western kingdoms, known as Chera, Kerala, and Satiyaputra. The last-named is mentioned by Asoka only, and its exact
position is unknown, but should probably be identified with that portion of the Konkans – or lowlands between the Western Ghats and the sea – where the Tulu language is spoken, and of which Mangalore is the centre.
The name of Kerala is still well remembered, and there is no doubt that the kingdom so called was equivalent to the Southern Konkans, or Malabar coast. The ancient capital was Vanji, also named Karur, or Karuvur, the Κάρουρα of Ptolemy, situated close to Cranganore. This represents Muziris, the port for the pepper trade, mentioned by Pliny and the author of the Periplus at the end of the first century A.D.
The etymological identity of the names Kerala and Chera is affirmed by philologists of high authority, but whether this theory be correct or not, it is certain that in early times the Chera kingdom included that of Kerala. According to an unverified tradition, the latter separated in 389 A.D., after which date the Chera realm was restricted to Coimbatore and the southern parts of Mysore and Salem.
The crest or cognizance of the Chera kings was a bow. Their coins are very rare, and only two types, characterized by the bow device, are known, which are found in Salem and Coimbatore. The existence of a native work, the Keralolpati, which professes to give the history of Kerala, raises hopes which are disappointed by perusal.
The authentic list of the Rajas of Travancore begins in 1335 A.D., and that of the rajas of the neighbouring
state of Cochin, which is less complete, does not commence until more than two centuries later.
According to tradition, the Chola country (Cholamandalam) was bounded on the north by the Pennar, and on the south by the southern Vellaru River, or, in other words, it extended along the eastern coast from Nellore to Pudukottai, where it abutted on the Pandya territory. On the west it extended to the borders of Coorg. The limits thus defined include Madras, and several other British districts on the east, as well as the whole of the Mysore state. The most ancient capital was Uraiyur, or old Trichinopoli, so far as is known with certainty.
But the existence of well-known traditional boundaries must not be taken to justify the inference that they always agreed with the frontiers of the Chola kingdom, which, as a matter of fact, varied enormously. The limits of the Chola country, as determined by tradition, seem to mark ethnic rather than political frontiers, at least on the north and west, where they do not differ widely from the lines of demarcation between the Tamil and the other Dravidian languages. Tamil, however, is as much the vernacular of the Pandya as of the Chola region, and no clear ethnical distinction can be drawn between the peoples residing north and south of the Vellaru.
The kingdom of the Cholas, which, like that of the Pandyas, was unknown to Panini, was familiar by name
to Katyayana, and was recognized by Asoka as independent. Inasmuch as the great Maurya’s authority unquestionably extended to the south of Chitaldurg in Mysore, and down to at least the fourteenth degree of latitude, the Chola kingdom of his time must have been of modest dimensions.
A passage in the work of Ptolemy, the geographer of the second century A.D., is usually interpreted as referring to the Chola kingdom, and intimating that Arcot was then the capital. But the language used is
obscure, and the true meaning doubtful. Occasional references to the country throw little light upon its history.
From about the middle of the second century A.D. the lordship of the Chola country, as defined by tradition, was disputed by the intrusive Pallava clans of foreign origin. Chola rajas continued to exist throughout all political vicissitudes, and to take part in the unceasing internecine wars which characterize the early history of Southern India. It is clear, however, that these rajas were often reduced to a merely subordinate position, and were much circumscribed in authority.
The observations of Hiuen Tsang give an interesting notice of the Chola kingdom in the seventh century, the significance of which has not been fully appreciated. His visit to the south may be dated with almost absolute certainty in the year 640 A.D. At that time the kingdom of Chola (Chu-li-ye) was a restricted territory, estimated to be four or five hundred miles in circuit, with a small capital town barely two miles in circumference. The country was wild and mostly deserted, consisting of a succession of hot marshes and jungles, occupied by a scanty population of ferocious habits, addicted to open brigandage. The few Buddhist monasteries were ruinous, and the monks dwelling in them as dirty as the buildings. The prevailing religion was Jainism, but there were a few Brahmanical temples.
The position of the country is indicated as being some two hundred miles or less to the southwest of Amaravati. It must, therefore, be identified with a
portion of the Ceded Districts, and more especially with the Cuddapah District, which possesses the hot climate and other characteristics noted by the pilgrim, and was still notorious for brigandage when annexed by the British in 1800. The pilgrim speaks merely of the
country” of Chola, and makes no mention of a king, doubtless for the reason that the local raja was a person of small importance, subordinate to the reigning Pal-lava King of Kanchi, the powerful Narasimha-varman, who two years later destroyed the Chalukya power.
In the ninth century, the Chola rajas seem to have begun to recover their authority, and at the beginning of the tenth century, an able and vigorous prince, Parantaka I (907–47 A.D.), succeeded in making himself formidable to his neighbours, with whom he was constantly at war during his long reign. He claims to have carried his victorious arms even to Ceylon. Inscriptions recorded in the North Arcot and Chingleput Districts prove the extension of his power into the heart of the Pallava dominions, and are of especial interest to students of village institutions by reason of the full details which they give of the manner in which local affairs were administered by committees, or panchayats, exercising their power under royal sanction.
Rajaditya, the son and successor of Parantaka, was killed in battle with Krishnaraja III, the Rashtrakuta king, in 949 A.D. His death was followed by a period of disturbance lasting for thirty-six years, during which the names of five obscure rajas are recorded.
The accession in A.D. 985 of a strong ruler, Rajarajadeva
the Great, put an end to dynastic intrigue, and placed at the head of the state a man qualified to make it the leading power in the south. In the course of a busy reign of some twenty-seven years, Rajaraja passed from victory to victory, and, when he died, was beyond dispute the lord paramount of Southern India, ruling a realm which included nearly the whole of the Madras Presidency, Ceylon, and a large part of Mysore.
His earliest recorded conquests were won on the mainland toward the north and west between the twelfth and fourteenth years of his reign, and comprised the Eastern Chalukya kingdom of Vengi, formerly held by the Pallavas, Coorg, and extensive regions in the table-land of the Deccan. During the next three years, Quilon (Kollam), on the Malabar coast, and the northern kingdom of Kalinga were added to his dominions. Protracted campaigns in Ceylon next occupied Rajaraja, and resulted in the annexation of the island in the twentieth year of his reign.
The ancient enmity between the Chalukyas and the Pallavas was inherited by the Chola power, and led to a four years’ war which ended in the defeat of the Chalukyas, who had not long been freed from subjection to the Rashtrakutas. Rajaraja, moreover, did not confine his operations to the land.- He possessed a powerful navy, and his last martial exploit was the acquisition of a large number of unspecified islands, meaning, perhaps, the Laccadives and Maldives.
The magnificent temple at his capital, Tanjore (Tanjuvur), built by his command, the walls of which are
engraved with the story of his victories, stands to this day as a memorial of his victorious career.
Although himself a worshipper of Siva, he was sufficiently liberal-minded to endow a Burmese Buddhist temple at the port of Negapatam, where two such temples continued to be the object of foreign pilgrimages until the fifteenth century. One of them, probably that endowed by Rajaraja, survived in a ruinous condition until 1867, when the remains of it were pulled down by the Jesuit Fathers and utilized for the construction of Christian buildings.
Rajendra-Choladeva I, the son and successor of Rajaraja, continued his father’s ambitious career, and added still more territory to the Chola dominions. He spent a long reign in war with his neighbours, as befitted a self-respecting king, and carried his arms far to the north, even into Orissa and Bengal. He did not neglect the navy, and sent an expedition by sea against a place called Kadaram, situated somewhere in Lower Burma or the Indo-Chinese peninsula.
His successor, Rajadhiraja, an equally vigorous fighter, emphasized his claim to paramount power by reviving the ancient and costly rite of the horse-sacrifice, or asvamedha. In the year 1059 A.D. he was killed at the battle of Koppam in Mysore, while fighting the Chalukyas. The war in which this battle occurred was waged with great bitterness, owing to the religious animosity between the combatants.
The next king worthy of notice was Rajendra-Choladeva II, son-in-law of the first of that name, and a
member of the Eastern Chalukya dynasty of Vengi. That province, situated between the Krishna and Godavari Rivers, had been ruled, after its conquest in the time of Rajaraja, by the local kings as a fief of the Tanjore monarchy. In 1070 A.D., however, Rajendra-Choladeva II took advantage of internal dissensions to seize the throne of his lord, and thus to found a new line of Chola-Chalukya kings. His special achievement in war was his defeat of the Paramara King of Dhara in Central India.
Vikrama Chola, whose exploits are the subject of a Tamil poem of some merit, is remembered for a successful raid on Kalinga in 1120 A.D.
After the time of Vikrama, the Chola power gradually declined, and during the thirteenth century the Pandya Kings of Madura recovered their independence, and even reduced the Chola rajas to a position of inferiority. The Mohammedan invasion under Malik Kafur in 1310 deprived the Chola kingdom of its importance, but local chiefs of the old dynasty may be traced as late as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Although the Pallavas seem to have been the premier power in the south for more than four centuries, it is strange that no mention of them is to be found either in the vernacular historical legends or in the native dynastic lists. They had been forgotten, and remained unknown to European inquirers until the accidental
discovery of a copper-plate grant in 1840 reminded the world that such a dynasty had existed. Sixty years of patient archaeological research have elicited so many facts that it is now possible to write an outline of Pallava history, with some breaks, from the second century A.D. to the Chola conquest in 996, and for the last few centuries of that long period to write it almost continuously.
The origin of the Pallava clan or tribe is obscure. The name appears to be identical with Pahlava, the appellation of a foreign clan or tribe frequently mentioned in inscriptions and Sanskrit literature, and ultimately with Parthiva, or Parthian.
This apparently sound etymology naturally suggests the theory that the Pallavas, who became a ruling race in the south, must have come originally from the countries beyond the north-western frontier of India, and gradually worked their way down to Malabar and the Coromandel coast. This theory is supported by the ascertained fact that Pahlavas formed a distinct and noticeable element in the population of Western India early in the second century, when they were classed by native writers with the Sakas and Yavanas as objects of hostility to native kings.
Vilivayakura II, the Andhra king (113 to 138 A.D.), prided himself on his prowess in expelling the Sakas, Yavanas, and Pahlavas from his dominions on the western coast; and it is reasonable to believe that some of the defeated clans retired into the interior toward the east and south. The Sakas retained the government of
the peninsula of Surashtra until the closing years of the fourth century, but no Pahlava principality in Western India is mentioned, and it is quite credible that the Pahlavas may have sought their fortune in the south.
When first heard of in the second century A.D. the Pallavas are already a ruling race, and their king, Sivaskanda-varman, was lord of so many subordinate chiefs that he considered himself authorized to perform the asvamedha, or horse-sacrifice, a rite permissible only to a paramount sovereign.
On the whole, although positive evidence of the supposed migration is lacking, it is highly probable that the Pallavas were really identical with the Pahlavas, and were a foreign tribe which gradually fought its way across India and formed three principalities at Kanchi, Vengi, and Palakkada, which were known as “the three Pallava dominions.” This movement from the west must have occupied a considerable time, and may be assumed to have ended before 150 A.D. The three Pallava chiefs seem to have belonged to different sections of the tribe, which had become thoroughly Hinduized, with a special leaning, occasionally to Buddhism and Vishnuism, but more often to the Saiva faith.
The home territories actually colonized and directly administered by the Pallavas do not seem to have been very extensive. The Pallava power was superimposed upon the ancient territorial states, much in the same way as the Mahratta power was in later times, and presumably was confined ordinarily to the levying of
tribute and blackmail. This view of the nature of the Pallava government explains the fact that its existence was forgotten.
Every man could tell the position of the Chola country, but nobody could define the Pallava country, the extent of which depended on the relative strength of a predatory tribe. In fact, during the seventh century, almost the whole of the traditional “Chola country” was in subjection to the Pallavas, and the special Chola territory was limited to a small and unhealthy tract in the north. About the time (642 to 655 A.D.) the Pallavas succeeded in imposing their rule for a few years upon the whole of the Western Chalukya kingdom, and at an unspecified date they levied tribute even from the Kalinga territory in the north.
The three Pallava chiefs held their courts at Kanchi, or Conjevaram, a strongly fortified town, between Madras and Arcot; at Vengi, between the deltas of the Krishna and Godavari; and at Palakkada, or Palghat, in Malabar, situated at the gap in the Western Ghats. A town named Dasanapura, from which some grants were issued, does not seem to have been the capital of a principality, and may have been only a precinct of Kanchi, which was always the headquarters of the clan.
In religion the Pallavas were, so far as is known, orthodox Hindus, with the exception of one Buddhist chief, Simha-varman II, who is described as a lay worshipper of Buddha, and as having presented an image at Amaravati. Several of the princes were devoted to
the worship of Vishnu, but in later times the rajas inclined to the cult of Siva, and adopted the figure of a bull as the family crest.
The celebrated rock-cut temples at Mamallaipuram near Madras, commonly called the “Seven Pagodas,” were excavated under the orders of various kings of the dynasty during the sixth and seventh centuries, as were also the cave-temples at Mahendravadi and Mamandur in North Arcot. The temples at the former place, three Saiva and one Vaishnava, date from the reign of Mahendra-varman I, who came to the throne about A.D. 600.
The first Pallava king about whom anything substantial is known was Sivaskanda-varman, who lived in the second century A.D. His capital, although not expressly named, was doubtless Kanchi, and his power extended into the Telugu country as far as the Krishna River, over territory included at times in the Andhra kingdom. He had officers stationed at Amaravati (Dhanakataka), the famous Buddhist holy place, but he himself was an orthodox Hindu, with a special devotion for Siva. The king’s boast that he had celebrated the asvamedha, or horse-sacrifice, is good evidence that he exercised jurisdiction over a considerable number of subordinate rajas. He confirmed a grant made by an ancestor named Bappa, possibly his father, who may be regarded as the founder of the dynasty.
The next glimpse of the Pallavas is obtained two centuries later from the record of the temporary conquests effected by the northern monarch, Samudragupta,
One of the Seven Pagodas
who claims to have defeated eleven kings of the south. Among these rajas three seem to have been Pallavas, namely, Vishnugopa of Kanchi, Ergrasena of Palakka ( = Palakkada), and Hasti-varman of Vengi.
The last-named prince may be reasonably identified with King Attivarma, who issued an undated grant in the Prakrit tongue, which was found in the Guntur District to the south of the Krishna River. It is possible that the Vishnugopa of Kanchi, conquered by Samudragupta, may be identical with the yuvaraja, or crown prince of the same name, who issued a grant in the Sanskrit language during the reign of his elder brother Simha-varman, but it is more probable that the author of the grant was distinct from and later than the foe of Samudragupta.
The grant made by the crown prince is but one of several illustrations of the Pallava custom, in virtue of which the heir apparent was associated in the government with his father or elder brother as colleague for years before he obtained the succession in natural course. Much confusion in chronology results when the years of office as crown prince are combined with the regnal years after accession. The Dravidian fashion of dating, which was also used in the early Andhra records, is peculiar, in that the division of the year into months is ignored, and the date is expressed by quoting the serial number of the fortnight in each of the three seasons – hot, rainy, and cold; as, for example, an inscription of Sivaskanda-varman is dated on the
fifth day of the sixth fortnight of the rainy season in the eighth regnal year.
Several Pallava grants are known to have been issued from the court at Palakkada, and it is reasonable to assume that Ugrasena of Palakka was a Pallava, a kinsman and subordinate of the King of Kanchi, like Hasti-varman of Vengi. An early inscription of approximately the same period, found in Mysore, mentions a grant of land “on the shore of the western ocean” as having been made by the Pallava sovereign of Kanchi.
From all these particulars the conclusion may be drawn that in the fourth century three Pallava chiefs were established at Kanchi, Vengi, and Palakkada, the latter two being subordinate to the first, and that Pal-lava rule extended from the Godavari on the north to the Pandya boundary, or the Southern Vellaru River, on the south, while it stretched across Mysore from sea to sea.
A raja named Simha-varman II, son of the Crown Prince Vishnugopa previously mentioned, issued a grant in the eighth year of his reign from Dasanapura. His father’s grant and this document, when read together, give a complete genealogy of the Kings of Kanchi for five generations and an equal number of reigns, covering a period of about a century, but, unfortunately, neither the initial nor the terminal year of this period can be fixed with precision.
Numerous documents executed by both Pallava and Chalukya kings during the sixth, seventh, and eighth
centuries, furnished with copious genealogical details, supply sufficient material for the reconstruction of the . outline of Pallava history during the period extending from about 575 to 770 A.D.
The Pallava dominion was evidently of wide extent during the reign of Simhavishnu, who claims to have defeated the King of Ceylon, as well as sundry continental kings, including the Chola, Pandya, and Kerala rajas. His successor, Mahendra-varman I, was contemporary with the earlier years of Pulikesin II, the greatest of the Western Chalukya sovereigns, who fought his way to the throne in 608 A.D. and was crowned in the following year. The ambition of this monarch naturally brought him into conflict with the Pallavas, at that time the leading power of the south.
About the year 609 or 610 A.D., Pulikesin defeated Mahendra-varman, and drove him to take shelter behind the walls of his capital, Kanchi. The seriousness of the defeat is proved by the fact that the province of Vengi, which had been in the possession of a Pallava chieftain for centuries, was annexed by the Chalukya king, who placed it in charge of Vishnuvardhana, his younger brother. After a few years, in or about 620 A.D., this prince established himself as an independent sovereign, and so founded the Eastern Chalukya line, which subsisted as a separate dynasty until 1070 A.D., when it was merged in the Chola dynasty.
Notwithstanding the loss of this important province, the Pallava king claimed to have gained a victory over the invader at Pullalura near Kanchi. This boast probably
means that Pulikesin was repulsed in an attempt to seize the Pallava capital, and was compelled to retire to his own territory.
Hiuen Tsang, who visited Kanchi in the year 640 A.D., during the reign of Narasimha-varman I, and stayed there for a considerable time, calls the country of which Kanchi was the capital by the name of Dravida, and describes it as about a thousand miles in circuit. It corresponded, therefore, very closely with the traditional “Chola country” (Chola-mandalam) between the Pennar and Southern Vellaru Rivers. The soil was fertile and regularly cultivated, producing abundance of grain, flowers, and fruits. The capital was a large city, five or six miles in circumference.
The pilgrim had intended to proceed thence to Ceylon by sea, a three days’ journey, but he learned that it was in a state of disorder, and abandoned the proposed visit. While staying at Kanchi he occupied himself in collecting from his informants the Buddhist legends current in the island, and in recording such particulars as interested him concerning the Indian kingdoms of the extreme south, which he was unable to visit personally. He then turned to the northwest, across Mysore, until he reached the kingdom of Kongkin-na-pu-lo in the west, and so made his way into the kingdom of the Chalukya sovereign, Pulikesin which he calls Maharashtra.
In the Pallava realm of Kanchi he found some hundreds of Buddhist monasteries, occupied by a large number of monks, estimated at ten thousand, all attached, like the majority of the Ceylonese, to the Sthavira school of the Mahayana, as well as about eighty Brahmanical temples, and numerous adherents of the Jain or Nirgrantha sect, which had gained great vogue in Southern India from very early times. In the kingdom of Kong-kin-na-pu-lo, the exact situation of which is uncertain, there was a similar mixture of religions, and “several hundred temples, in which many sectaries dwell together,” were to be seen.
The war between the Pallavas and Chalukyas, initiated by Pulikesin II, proved to be of long duration, and in its course fortune favoured sometimes one, and sometimes another combatant. Pulikesin himself experienced the full bitterness of the instability of fortune
and in 642 A.D., at the close of his reign and life, suffered the mortification of seeing his kingdom overrun, and his capital, Vatapi (Badami), taken by the Pallava king, Narasimha-varman I. The Chalukya power then remained in abeyance for some thirteen years, during which the Pallavas governed the kingdom, doubtless through the agency of local rajas.
In or about 655 A.D., Vikramaditya I, a son of Pulikesin, retrieved the fortunes of his family, and recovered his father’s dominions from Paramesvara-varman, who had succeeded to the Pallava throne. During this war Kanchi was taken and occupied for a time by the Chalukyas. On the other hand, the Pallavas claimed a victory gained at Peruvalanallur. .
The perennial conflict continued during the succeeding reigns, and Kanchi was again taken by Vikramaditya II Chalukya, about 740 A.D., in the reign of Nandi-varman Pallava, who may be considered the last of his line to enjoy extensive dominion.
When the Rashtrakutas supplanted the Chalukyas in the middle of the eighth century, the traditional hostility of the two powers was not abated, and the new rulers took up the old quarrel with the Pallavas. King Dhruva, cousin of Dantidurga, who had overthrown the Chalukya dynasty, inflicted a defeat on the Pallavas about 775 A.D., and his son, Govinda III, levied tribute from Dantiga, King of Kanchi, in 803 A.D.
During the tenth century we hear of wars between the Pallavas and the Ganga Kings of Gangavadi, or Mysore, who are now commonly known as the Western
Gangas, in order to distinguish them from the family of the same name which ruled Kalinga, and held court at Kalinganagara, the modern Mukhalingam in the Ganjam District.
Toward the close of the tenth century, Rajaraja the Great, the Chola king (985–1011 A.D.), succeeded ih reducing to subjection all the kingdoms of the south, and in making himself lord paramount of Southern India. This able monarch annexed Vengi in 996 A.D., and in subsequent years brought under his sway both Kalinga and the territories of the Rashtrakutas, which had been recovered by Taila, the Chalukya king, in 973 A.D. The operations of Rajaraja put an end to the Pallava independent power, which had lasted for more than eight centuries.
The later Pallava chiefs sank into the position of mere feudatory nobles and officials in the service of the territorial kingdoms, and it is on record that the Pallava raja took the first place among the feudatories of King Vikrama Chola early in the twelfth century. The rajas can be traced as in possession of limited local power down to the thirteenth century, and Pallava nobles are mentioned as late as the close of the seventeenth century.
The raja of the Pudukottai tributary state, who is the recognized head of the Kallar tribe, still styles himself Raja Pallava, and claims descent from the ancient royal family. The Vellalas, who admittedly hold the first place among the Tamil-speaking agricultural classes, profess to be descended in the female line from
the Pallava kings, with whom the Palli caste, as well as the Kallar, boasts a connection. The latter caste exercised, during the eighteenth century, a formidable control over the peaceable inhabitants of the Carnatic, from whom its members levied blackmail on a regular system, and so probably continued the practice which had made the Pallavas a terror to their neighbours in the early centuries of the Christian era.
This collection transcribed by Chris Gage