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The Chalukyas

To describe any monument of a country without giving some account of the people who raised them would be to deprive them of credit. The first accounts about the Eastern Chalukyas came from the copper plate translations and Dr. Fleet’s accounts in the first volume of The Bombay Gazetteer. He mentions that the country where the remains are found embraces the southern part of the Bombay Presidency, the northern part of Mysore, and the districts of the Madras Presidency and Nizam’s territory. He dates these remains between the fifth and the twelfth century A.D with no activity for 200 years between them.

Of these records, most of them consist of inscriptions upon stone tablets, pillars and temples. When discovered, most of them were neglected and uncared for by the people. There was hardly any village without a tablet or a memorial stone, and as a rule, neglected except where they serve some useful purpose such as convenient slabs for culverts or for the cattle to rub themselves against.

One of the earliest inscriptions giving an account of the Chalukya family is engraved upon a large slab built into the eastern wall of the Meguti hill temple in Aihole. It is of the time of the Western Chalukya King Pulakesi II and is dated in the year 634-5 A.D. It gives no information respecting the Chalukyas, but shows that they had, as neighbors and enemies, the Nalas, the Kadambas, the Matangas and the Kalachuris whom they subjugated.

The earliest historical name that we have for this dynasty is that of Jayasimha I. This name is given in genealogical records of subsequent kings, no inscriptions of his own being known. And it is likely that he, or some other predecessor not far removed from him, was the founder of the family. Aihole may have been the first domicile in the south when Pulakesi I moved from the North. However, it is recorded that Pulakesi I eventually took up his headquarters at Vatapi, the modern Badami, which be appears to have wrested from the Kadambas of Banavasi, and established himself to be the first king of the dynasty some where about 550 A.D.

Pulakesi I was succeeded by his son Kirtivarman I in 566 A.D. There is one record of his time, an inscription in the verandah of the cave in Badami dated 578 A.D, which records that his brother Mangalesa, made certain gifts to the temple and to some Brahmins. Kirtivarman I was succeeded by Mangalesa, who was described as paramabhagavata, or most devout worshipper of Vishnu.  His warlike expeditions extended across India from coast to coast. Of his time, there are three records – an undated inscription on a rock outside a Badami cave, a copper-plate grant in Nerur and an inscription upon a great sand-stone pillar in Mahakuteswara (modern day Mahakuta). Mangalesa’s death is placed in 608 A.D.

Pulakesi II, son of Kirtivarman I followed his uncle upon the throne. He was without doubt, the greatest of the early Chalukyan kings. He ruled from the present day Gujarat till the Coramandal coast. He laid siege to Kanchipuram, the capital of the Pallavas. He had wars with the Cholas as well as Cheras of Kerala. During his reign, the Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang toured India and said to have spent some time in the territories of Pulakesi II during 639 A.D. About this time, the Chalukya family split up and one part of the family ruled between Godavari and Krishna and called Western Chalukyas or Kalyani Chalukyas (current Basavakalyan). The Eastern Chalukyas are now called the Badami Chalukyas.

We will look at both these branches in detail in the next post.

References:

  1. The Chalukyan Architecture of the Kanarese Districts by Henry Cousens – 1926
  2. A Sketch of the Dynasties of Southern India by Robert Sewell – 1883
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