Category Archives: g. The Deccan Empires

Pattadakal Temples

In the Indian state of Karnataka lies the sacred village of Pattadakal, or Kisuvolal as it used to be called, and its 10 temples, constructed from the 6th to the 9th century. Pattadakal was once the place of anointment for the early Chalukya kings of Badami, and it served as their secondary capital. The Malaprabha river flows north near the old city (Annigeri 2). The people of India believe that rivers that flow north are sacred due to the fact that they are rare as most rivers in India flow to the east or the west. The surrounding mountains provided an abundant amount of sandstone to build the temples, and there are several lingas around the village that give a sense that it used to be a large place for Siva worship. Pattadakal is a marvellous masterpiece where the architectural styles of North and South India are blended (Annigeri 6). The influence between the mixing of the northern and southern styles resulted in a different adaptation of ideas. Unfortunately, tracing the development of the northern style is quite difficult as a large quantity of Nagara style temples were destroyed during periods of warfare. They are still distinguished by the tall, convex shape of the tower above the hall of the temples (Dallapiccola 1) . Architects such as Gunda and Revadi Ovajja graced Pattadakal with the construction of temples and sculptors such as Chengamma, Pullappan and Deva-arya decorated the temples with their magnificent sculptures (Annigeri 6).

The biggest of the temples at Pattadakal is the Virupaksha Temple (formerly known as Lokesvara). It was constructed between 733 and 745 CE by queen Lokamahadevi to celebrate the three victories of her husband and early Chalukya ruler, Vikramaditya II, over his rival, the Pallavas of Kanchipuram (Kadambi 266). Along with commemorating his victories, the temple also shows a sense of rajadharma (duties and obligations of a king) and moksadharma (liberation of the soul). The Virupaksha temple was modelled after the Kailasanatha temple (formerly known as the Rajasimhesvara temple) at Kanchi, the town that the king had just conquered. The Virupaksha temple was built by the architect Gunda along with others, such as Sarvasiddhi Achari and Baladeva in a Dravidian (South) style of architecture. The Virupaksha Temple has a nandi mantapa (open pavilion with roof) which Cummings argues is a shrine to the queen (as stated in Kadambi 267). Inside this pavilion resides a sculpture of Nandi (bull) in black stone (Annigeri 14). Her assumptions are proven by the two royal portraits on the temple. One of Lokamahadevi, which shows her standing on a lion throne while holding an elephant-staff in her left hand. The other picture is of the other wife of the king, Trailokyamahadevi. Coincidentally, these two queens were also sisters (Kadambi 267). The pillars of the great hall are covered in episodes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata (Annigeri 15). On the outer wall to the south, there are sculptures of Ravana killing Jatayu and Siva seated in Kailasa. On the north porch, there is an eight-armed Siva who is dancing on the demon Apasmarapurusha (Annigeri 20). Covering the rest of the outer walls are sculptures of Siva, Lakulisa, Nataraja, Lingodbhavamurti, Visnu with a conch and fruit, and more (Annigeri 20). On the ceiling of the eastern porch you can see the god Surya standing in a horse-drawn chariot, with seven horses and a lotus flower in each hand (Annigeri 15). In the shrine is the linga of Virupaksha that was worshipped (Annigeri 18).

Almost simultaneously, the Mallikarjuna temple (formerly known as Trailokesvara) was built in around 740 CE by his younger queen Trailokyamahadevi, who was also the sister of the main queen (Annigeri 25).  It was built to celebrate the victories against Kanchi, just like her sister’s temple. The two temples are very close in architecture and some of the sculptures are in identical locations on the temple (Annigeri 25). There are two Saiva Dvaraplas at the entrance to the hall and  an image of Visnu riding Garuda is on the door frame. Even with the depiction of Visnu, it can still be concluded that the temple is dedicated to Siva (Annigeri 26). The stories that are told along the walls are that of the domestic life, clothing and religious practices of the early Chalukyan era. The great victories of Krsna are depicted along the pillars of the great hall. These include Krsna holding up a mountain, killing the demons Kesi, who was in the form of a horse, and killing Kharasura who was in the disguise as a donkey (Annigeri 28). In the shrine lies a linga with a large lotus flower carved in the wall over the linga, and sculptures of Siva and Parvati all over the ceiling of the shrine (Annigeri 30).

The temple of Sangamesvara (originally known as Vijayesvara) was built by King Vijayaditya to praise the god Vijayesvara (Siva) (Annigeri 34).  There is no date on the inscription but since the King Vijayaditya reigned from 696-733 CE, we can assume it was built during that time period (Bolar 38). On the pillars in the hall are several inscriptions relating to the building of the temple. The first one speaks of how “peggade-Poleyachchi of Mahadevigeri gave 51 gadyanas for the making of this pillar” (Bolar 38). The second one explains that the pillar was donated by an individual named “Vidyasiva” (Bolar 38). The third pillar  tells how “a courtesan of this temple named Chalabbe, donated 3 pillars to the temple” (Bolar 38). The fourth pillar says that Motibodamma donated two pillars sculpted by the sculptor Paka (Bolar 38). There is an inscribed slab standing in the hall belonging to King Kirtivarma II of the Calukyas of Badami dated 754 CE which states that Jnanasivacarya granted land as a provision “for the studies of those who attend the rites of the god” (Bolar 101). The architecture of the temple is quite plain and does not have any of the great sculptures on its walls. There are big sculptures of Visnu, Varaha, Siva with Nandi and Gajasurantaka on the outside of the walls that were never finished due to some unforeseen reason (Annigeri 34). What the temple lacks in design, it makes up for in size as it has three shrines, a walkway around the main shrine and the great hall. What was once worshiped in the shrine is now a broken linga (Annigeri 34).

The Kasivisvesvara Temple was built in the Nagara (northern) style of architecture using sand-stone blocks in the 8th century CE (Annigeri 31). Interestingly enough, there happens to be miniature temples sculpted into the outer wall in a Dravidian or South Indian style of architecture in an attempt to combine the two types of work (Annigeri 32). The temple is divided into two different parts, the hall or mantapa, and the shrine and the ante-chamber or sukanasi. In the shrine there is a black stone linga in the centre (Annigeri 32). On the ceiling of the mantapa is depicted Siva, Parvati with a child in her arms, Nandi, four hybrid creatures, swans and dwarfish garland carriers (Annigeri 33). On the pillars, many stories from the Bhagavata and Sivapuranas are told. One of these such stories is the wedding scene of Siva and Parvati, where other gods have attended (Annigeri 33).

To the left and a few yards away, lies the Galaganatha Temple with its very tall structure. Having been built in the North Indian style (Nagara) in the 8th century CE, it is quite different from the Virupaksha, Mallikarjuna and Sangamesvara which are all built in the South Indian style (Dravidian) (Annigeri 37). In the shrine is a linga in black stone and a sculpture of Nataraja on the door. With age, the wall to the south has been destroyed, but it was possible to conclude their method of constructing walls, which was to lay them on each other without any cementing agent (Annigeri 38). Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this temple is the sculpture of Siva as Andhakasura. The sculpture has eight hands, one with a sword, one with a trident in the body of a demon, one with a shield, and another with a trident, and the rest placed in different poses (Annigeri 39).

The Jambulinga Temple is very small now and has no ceiling. There was once a bigger hall, but it is now in ruins. There once was sculpture of Siva and Visnu, but time has worn them down. It seems to have been built around the same time as the Galaganatha Temple (Annigeri 39).

The Chandrasekhara Temple is quite plain and has been dated to around 750 CE (Annigeri 37). It has a preserved Dvarapalas on the side of the door with a visible trident-like decoration behind his head.

The Kadasiddhesvara Temple has seen better days. It is almost impossible to determine to which god or goddess the temple was dedicated. The only evidence we have is Harihara with four hands carrying an axe, a conch and cloth on the outer wall and, an image of Siva with a serpent and a trident and Parvati and Nandi on the door frame (Annigeri 40). Again, the hall has no roof and there is a Dvarapala who stands on both sides of the door. The other gods depicted around the temple are Brahma, Visnu, Ganga, Yamuna and Ardhanarisvara (Annigeri 40).

The temple of Papanatha is situated only a few yards from the river Malaprabha. It is accepted that it was constructed at around 680 CE (Annigeri 41). This temple does not reflect the advanced architecture of the Virupaksha temple and has very weird proportions. The temple is 90ft. in length but has a very short vertical structure. The improper spacing in the temple has convinced scholars that the temple was built in the early stages of the art of temple building. Contrary to that, the inscription states that the same sculptors that worked on the Virupaksha temple worked on Papanatha, so we are led to believe that the temple could not have been built more than 30-40 years before Virupaksha (Annigeri 41). The temple was not originally dedicated to Siva this time, but dedicated to Visnu or Surya. Scholars have come to his conclusion because there is a image of Surya on the west outer wall, and the image of Nandi was placed in the hall at a later date, after the temple was constructed. But there are some scholars who say that the temple was still dedicated to Siva from the start (Annigeri 42). Even though the temple is one of the oldest, it is still decorated with images of couples and gods and stories of the ages.

The Old Jain Temple, built in the 9th century CE, consists of a second shrine on top of the main shrine that houses two Jaina sculptures. The temple is very simple with a few exceptions like the makaratorana on the doorframe of the shrine door (Annigeri 47). There is a single inscription on a pillar that tells the story of how Jnanasivacharya came from his home in the north of India to live in the Sangamesvara temple. This illustrates the religious ties between North India and Karnataka during the period of the Calukyas of Badami (Annigeri 48).

The temples at Pattadakal, depict a wide assortment of deities in the Hindu pantheon. The site at Pattadakal shows a great amount of history in its walls and tells a great story that has been solidified with the hard work of the architects and sculptors that made the temples possible. The combination of the Dravidian and the Nagara style of architecture is distinctive. Present generations can view the style advancements in temple building as they developed from the oldest temple to the newest. In 1987, Pattadakal was included in the list of World Heritage Sites. Today, for a small entrance fee, an individual can enter the grounds of the temples to look around or to give worship to the deities. The temples have become a very popular tourist destination.



Annigeri, A. (1961) A Guide to the Pattadakal Temples. Dharwad: Kannada Research Institute.

Bolar, Varija (2010) Temples of Karnataka: An Epigraphical Study (from the earliest to 1050 A.D.). New Delhi: Roadworthy Publications (P) Ltd.

Dallapiccola, Anna (2002) Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend. London: Thames & Hudson.

Kadambi, Hemanth (2015) “Cathleen Cummings, “Decoding a Hindu Temple: Royalty and Religion in the Iconographic Program of the Virupaksha Temple”, Pattadakal”. South Asian Studies, Vol. 31, No.2: 266-268.


Related Topics for Further Investigation

The caves of Badami

Temples of Aihole

The Calukyas of Badami

Temples at Mahakuta


Websites Related to the Temples of Pattadakal


Article written by: Rebecca Scott (February 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Chalukya Dynasty

The Chalukya Dynasty was an ancient Indian empire that reigned over the Deccan Plateau [Deccan comes from the Sanskrit word dakshina meaning “the south”] in southern India (Pruthi 69). They controlled this region for over 600 years, between the sixth and twelfth centuries. This empire ruled as three close but separate dynasties.  The earliest dynasty, the Badami Chalukya or early Western Chalukya Dynasty ruled from its capital of Vatapi (modern day Badami, in the state of Karnataku) from 543 to 757 CE (Hoilberg 307). The Eastern Chalukya or Vengi Chalukya had their capital in Vengi (near present day Eluru in the state of Andhra Pradesh) from 626 to 1070 CE (Hoilberg 307). The later Western Chalukya or Kalyani Chalukya ruled from the city of Kalyani (modern day Basavakalyan in the state of Karnataku) from 975 to 1189 CE (Hoilberg 307). At the close of the Kalyani Chalukya Dynasty, their reign extended from the state of Gujarat in the north to the Kaveria Basin in the south (Sen 387).

Dr. D.C. Sircar believes the origin of the Chalukyas dates back to an indigenous Kannada family, coming from the state of Karnataka in the southern part of India, who had obtained the status of kshatriyas (the nobility caste in Hindu society) (Mahajan167). This theory is thought to be accurate since the Chalukyan kings wanted the Kannada [one of the oldest and well known Dravidian languages spoken in southern India] dialect to be used in both their language and literature. Inscriptions found throughout the Chalukya temples are written in Kannada, as well as in Sanskrit [ancient Indian language used in the sacred writings of the Vedas] (Dikshit297). Professor N. Laxminarayana Rao notes that some of the names of the Chalukya princes end in a typical Kannada regal suffix, arasa, (king or chief) (Kamath 57). However, Dr. A. F. Rudolf Hoernle, an Indologist, believes their language is of a non-Sanskrit origin, as Chalukya is derived from a Turki root, chap (to gallop) (Hoernle 1906). The family name Chalukya is spelt in their ancient records [inscriptions have been found recorded on rocks, caves, pillars, temples, images, walls, slabs, and tablets (Dikshit 8)]  in various ways, such as, Chalkya, Chalikya, and Chalukya. Sircar believes the original name of their ancestors was Chalka, whereas Nilakanta Sastri suggests Chalkya was the original form and was later embellished to Chalukya (Dikshit 19).

The Chalukya reign began under King Jayasimha Vallabha (500-520 CE) and his son, Ranaraga (520-540 CE) (Tripathi 395).  However, the true founder of the Chalukya Dynasty was Pulakesin I (535-566 CE). Pulakesin I of Badami was a feudatory to Krsna Varman II, a Kadamba king; however, Pulakesin I overpowered his ruler and took control of the Kadamba empire in 540 CE (Kamath 35). Upon gaining independence, Pulakesin I established a small hill-fort kingdom with Vatapi (Badami) as its capital (Dikshit 2). He unified the Deccan region through his political prowess and knowledge of the Laws of Manu [or Manava Dharama Shastra, sacred book given to Manu, an ancient guru, by Brahma, that deals with religious and social aspects of ancient Indian life (Buhler 1886)] (Sen 359). Pulakesin I performed sacrificial rituals such as the asvamedha (horse sacrifice) to assert his dominance over other empires (Sen 359). He also performed agnistoma (the praise of Agni) [a ritual carried out once a year during the spring, including a feast for all the gods where hymns from the Sama Veda were recited] and vajapeya [a ritual to become a successful emperor and achieve complete domination over other rulers] (Orissa 28) which illustrated his deep faith in the Vedic religion [historical Hindu religion originated during the Vedic Period 1- 6th century BCE] (Dikshit37).

Pulakesin II (608-642 CE) is considered the greatest ruler of the Chalukya Dynasty as he transformed the small Chalykyan kingdom into an extensive empire (Thorpe 58). His many victories in battle enhanced his prestige and made him the absolute sovereign of southern India. He followed a technique of conquer and then dominate bordering empires that enabled him superiority over his enemies (Jayapalan 147). The rulers of neighboring kingdoms (Kosala and Kalinga) were so terrified of Pulakesin II that they immediately surrendered to him, instead of doing battle with his armies (Chaurasia233).

The newly won territory of the eastern Deccan [former region of the Kalinga Empire] was placed under Pulakesin’s II younger brother, Kubja Vishnvardhana (Dikshit 5). Vishnvardhana eventually formed the Eastern Chalukya Dynasty in 624 CE and made Vengi his capital (Madras 32). The Eastern Chalukya Dynasty’s domain was the coastal land between the rivers of the Mahanadi and the Godavari (Dikshit 5). The Vengi Chalukya Dynasty came to an end when Vijayaditya VII died in 1070 CE (Bhatt 24).

The Aihole Prasasti (634 CE) written by Ravikirit, a Jain court poet, gives a detailed account of Pulakesin’s many military accomplishments (Jayapalan147). Pulakesin II was also a notable statesmen, he established diplomatic relations with the king of Persia (Iran) (Tripathi 399). Furthermore, he was considered a great administrator as he had succeeded in unifying a large part of south India under his rule (Jayalaplan 147).  In 637 CE, Pulakesin II took the title of parameswara (paramount overlord or lord of lords) (Dikshit 68). The Pallava leader, Narashimba Verman I stormed Vatapi in 642 CE and killed Pulakesin II ending the Chalukya’s reign over much of southern India (Chaurasia 234). The Badami Chalukya Empire then came under the control of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty who ruled large parts of central and northern India between the sixth and tenth centuries. However, in 967 CE the Rashtrakuta Empire was defeated by Somesvara I, king of Western Chalukya, and the Chalkyan capital was moved from Vatapi to Kalyani (Sinha 169).

Vikramaditya VI (1076-1126 CE) was considered the greatest of the later Western Chalukya rulers.  He was believed to have been the ideal king; noble, generous, who ruled solely for the sake of his people. Although he was known for his military successes, his reign was also a time of peace. Vikramaditya VI reign marked the end of the use of the Saka Varsha (Indian calendar, the Saka Era) as he introduced a new period of time known as the Chalukya-Vikrama Varsha Era. (Sen386). Many Hindu temples were built during his rule, such as the Mahadeva Temple (1112 CE), which is dedicated to Siva and contains an inscription, which reads Devalaya Chakravarati (Emperor Among Temples) (Kamath 117). He improved his region’s administrative system and gave great attention to the welfare of his subjects; legend states that he gave land away to the needy everyday (Bhatt 20). Vikramaditya VI encouraged the development of art and literature and was a well-known patron of learning (Sen 386). The Sanskrit poet, Bilhana, wrote Vikramankedeva Charita, a Kavya (literary style of writing used by Indian court poets) which details the adventures of his patron king (Sen386). Bilhana considered Vikramaditya’s VI rule as ramarajya (reign of righteousness), “no single rule of Karnataka prior to Vikramaditya VI has left so many inscriptions as this monarch and of these records, a large majority are grants to scholars and centres of religion” (Bhatt 20). The Chalukya Dynasty came to a close in 1189 CE. The Seuna Dynasty captured the northern portions of the Chalukya territories, and the rest of the Chalukyan kingdom was captured by the Kakatiya and the Hoysala Empires (Bhatt 21).  “The Chalukyan rulers strove for the welfare and happiness of their people. Though kings had unbridled authority, they could not have behaved like tyrants for that would have provoked rebellion” (Dikshit 205).

Brahmanical Hinduism was the official religion throughout the Chalukya Dynasty (Smith 354). Yajna (sacrificial fire rituals) received special attention during this period, as well as, vrata (religious vows performed, such as fasting or mantra repetition) and dana (the generous giving of gifts) (Sastri 391). Rock cut cave temples and elaborate structural temples were erected throughout the state of Karnataka, testifying to the Chalukyan kings’ great faith in Hinduism (Smith 354). The ritual sovereignty, a king was believed to have divine, sacred powers that were established through his Brahmanical legitimization in the temple, therefore large temple complexes were built as centres for the regional kingdoms (Flood 114). Each of these ancient temples was dedicated to one of the major deities, such as, Siva or Visnu (Flood 114). Both Saivism (worshipers of the god Siva) and Vaishnavism (followers of the god Visnu) flourished during the Chalukya period (Chopra 191).

Today, throughout the state of Karnataka hundreds of temple structures still dot the landscape. Temples play an important role in Hinduism as these structures are scared dwellings where spiritual knowledge is obtained. Hindu temples are centres where the boundaries between man and the divine can be explored. The temple is the heart of the intellectual and artistic life of the Hindu community, serving as a holy place of worship, but also as the focal point where all artistic activities are established (Michell 58).

Badami, Aihole, and Pattadakal are considered the earliest group of the ancient temple complexes; today, Badami is still regarded as a place of pilgrimage (Hardy 65). These early monuments were built to showcase the king’s outstanding power and skill, as well as, the region’s courage and strength. In Pulakein’s I fortress of Vatapi (Badami) there are three beautiful rock cut cave temples that have been carved out of the side of a sandstone cliff (Javid 108). The Chalukya sculptors were among the greatest creators of Hindu iconography and many of the Hindu gods were depicted in stone for the first time (Kulke 120). The three cave temples are of the Hindu faith and contain many mythological sculptures, exquisite carvings, beautiful murals, and inscriptions describing in detail the achievements of the Chalukya kings. Cave One was carved in 578 CE and is dedicated to Siva, featuring a sculpture of an eighteen-armed Siva as Nataraja (The Lord of Dance) and also Harihara (half Siva and half Visnu) (Burgess 413). Cave Two is dedicated to Visnu where he is depicted in various avatars (incarnations) (Burgess 412). [Visnu is the defender of the world and the restorer of dharma (righteous order) and his ten avatars appear on earth when there is chaos.] Cave Three, also called The Great Cave, is almost twenty-two metres wide, and is dedicated to Visnu (Burgess 410). This cave contains a sculpture of Visnu seated on the body of the great snake Ananta (Burgess 407). Visnu is also represented in the cave as Chatturbhuj (four armed) holding a sankha (conch shell), a saranga (bow), a padma (lotus), and a chakra (discus) in his four hands with Garuda (the king of birds) as his vahana (vehicle) (Burgess 408).

The Chalukya Dynasty started a new style of architecture called Vesara (to blend or a mixture) that was used primarily in the construction of their temples (Gupta 2566). The Vesara style contains elements found in both Dravida (pyramid shaped temples of southern India) and Nagara (beehive-shaped and multi-layered tower temples of northern India) architecture (Gupta 2567). An example of Verara architecture can be found in Pattadakal at the Virupaksha Temple that has been functioning uninterrupted since its completion (Javid 136). The temple was constructed by Queen Lokamahedevi to commemorate King Vikramditya’s II (733-747 CE) victory over the Pallava rulers

(Javid136). Inside the temple are carvings of Siva, whom the temple is dedicated to, as well as elaborate carved scenes from the Hindu epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata (Michell 389).

The Chalukyan kings supported and promoted knowledge and higher education for all their subjects. They encouraged the development and growth of the Kannada literature which reached great heights under the Chalukyan rulers (Reddy 68). During the ninth century, Durgasimba (a Brahman scholar, foreign minister under Jayasimba II) wrote the Panchatantra (Five Principles), translations from the tales of Baital Pachisi that had first appeared in the Indian epic Brihatkatha of Gunadhya (Asiatic Society 12).  Pampa, Ponna, and Ranna were called Ratna-Traya (the three gems) of Kannada literature, as they contributed greatly to the advancement of Kannada literature (Reddy 68). Pampa, considered the Father of Kannada Poetry, (Kamath 18) was called the adi (first) kavi (poem or poet) and wrote the Vikramarjuna-vijaya (Victory of the Mighty Arjuna), a narrative of the epic Mahabharata, with Arjuna as the hero (Garg 67). Ponna (939-968 CE) wrote both in Sanskrit and in Kannada, and was given the title of ubhaya-kavi-chakravarti (imperial poet of two languages) (Singh 29). In 950 CE, Ponna wrote Ramakatha, a secular epic based on the Ramayana adventure (Garg 67). Ranna authored the Gadayuddha [which is considered one of the greatest works of Kannada literature] an epic describing the Chalukya rulers’ fight for power and control of the surrounding land around Karnataka (Garg 67). Ranna received the title kavi-chakravarti (emperor of poets) from King Tailapa for his masterful writings (Narasimhachar 68).  Also, furthering the progression of Kannada literature was Nagavarma I, a Jain poet and author of Chandombudhi (Ocean of Prosody) (990 CE), which is an early study of poetic metres (Reddy 68). Nagavarma I also wrote Karnataka Kadambari that explains the concept of the chandalas (untouchables) in the Hindu caste system (Naronakar 8). Basava (1106-1167 CE) a philosopher and humanitarian introduced Vachana literature to convey high philosophical ideas to the common man in simple language (Reddy 68). In this example of a Vachana by Basava, the message of the poem states the fact that even a poor individual can contribute to temple building.

“Those who have means will not devote them to the building of a temple to

God Siva. Then I, though a poor man, will build Thee one, O Lord.

My legs shall be the pillars, my body the shrine, my head the golden finial.

Hearken, O Kudala Sangamadeva! [important temple for pilgrimages]

The fixed temple of stone will come to an end; but this movable temple of the spirit will never perish (Rice 57).”

Brahmasiva, being a court poet of Western Chalukya was well versed in the Vedic scriptures, the Puranas (ancient Hindu religious texts) and the religious texts of Saivism (Datta 2006:576).  Brahmasiva wrote the Samayapariksa, the first satirical work in the history of Kannada literature, which criticizes other religious faiths (Datta 576) and in 1100 CE he received the title kavi-chakravarti with honours from Chalukya King Traialokyamalla (Narasimhachar 68).Vijnaneshwara, a scholar in the Western Chalukya court during the twelfth century and author of Mitaskshara (a legal treatise on inheritance), introduced Hindu law to the citizens of Karnataka. The Mitaskshara was used during the time the British administrated the law in India and today the book has become one of the most important texts used in Hindu law (Manek 25).


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Manek, Mohanlal Dayalji (1952) Handbook of Hindu Law. Bombay: N.M. Tripathi Private Ltd. p. 250.

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Michell, George, and Philip H. Davies (1989) Guide to the Monuments of India: Buddhist, Jain, Hindu. London: Viking Publisher.  p. 389.


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Related Topics for Further Investigation

Aihole Temple

Badami Cave Temple

Pattadakal Temple

Virupaksha Temple

Mahadeva Temple



Andhra Pradesh


Deccan Plateau

Pulakesin I

Pulakesin II

Vikramaditya VI

Somesvara I

Kubja Vishnvardhana


Chalukya Vesara Architecture

Laws of Manu




Chalukya-Vikrama Era

Vikramankedeva Charita





Ranna Nagavarma I





Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

Article written by: Kyle Orpin (April 2010) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Rashtrakuta Dynasty

The Rashtrakuta dynasty ruled over large portions of India from the 8th to 12th century. India at the time was under the threat of invasion from the Arabs, who conquered Sind in 712 (Thapar 2002:407) and were looking to expand to the west and control trade routes in the region. A royal family called the Calukyas controlled this territory and successfully resisted Arab attacks. This significantly weakened their power though. Seeing an opportunity an official in the Calukyas’ administration named Dantidurga declared his independence in 753 (Thapar 2002:334). The dynasty that he and his family formed the core of was called the Rashtrakuta, with their capital based in Ellora. After Dantidurga came Krsna 1, who was responsible for starting construction of Kailasa temple at Ellora in the late 8th century (Majunder 244). This rock-temple was entirely out of a hillside to represent Mt. Kailasa, which is a mountain in the Himalayas said to be the home of Vishnu. The physical dimensions of Kailasa are staggering. It is estimated to be 109 feet wide and 164 feet deep with over 200 000 tons of rock excavated in its creation (Smith 38).

Kailasanatha rock-hewn temple (Rashtrakuta Dynasty), Ellora

This dynasty had the advantage of geographically situated nearly in the middle of India along the top of the Deccan Plateau (Robb 57). This position afforded many opportunities for expansion. The Rashtrakutas took advantage of this and frequently interfered with both the northern and southern kingdoms of India. The northern kingdoms were particularly easy to prey on, as there was no one powerful enough to effectively repel the Rashtrakutas.

The Rashtrakutas also controlled large portions of the western coast of India. The majority of the trade with West Asia came through these ports and much of the Rashtrakutas wealth along with it. Tea and cotton textiles were exported out of the kingdom and horses were imported to be sold further inland (Thapar 2002:408). The Rashtrakutas under Amoghavarsha also maintained good relations with the Arabs in Sind and traded extensively with them. Amoghavarsha was one of the longest-reigning kings in India (ruled from 815-877) and also one of the most powerful. His power was so great he was acknowledged as one of the greatest monarchs in the world along with the Caliph of Baghdad, Emperor of China, and the Emperor of Rome (Smith 216). He was favorable to the Jain religion, and may have been partially responsible for its rise in popularity, along with the decline in Buddhism (Robb 52).

A major focus of the Rashtrakuta dynasty was the control of Kanauj. This northern city was a hub of trade routes heading both east and south. It has been viewed as a symbol of power in northern India since the post-Gupta period (Thapar 1966:406). The Rashtrakuta, Pratihara, and Pala were all kingdoms focused on controlling this city, with the Rashtrakutas doing so on two occasions. One of these conquests came in 916 when Indra III captured the capital from Mahipala. Indra III was unable to control the city for long however (Smith 204).

By the end of the 10th century the geographical advantages the Rashtrakutas had enjoyed turned to disadvantages, as new powers in the north and south emerged as threats. In the south Deccan the Colas were becoming the dominant kingdom in the area (Thapar 1966:364). The Calukya dynasty, whom the Rashtrakutas had originally overthrown, was regaining much of their former power and territory. With this new threat in the south the Rashtrakutas were unable to keep the Colas from regaining their northern territories. Along with the threat of these two kingdoms was the rise of the Shilaharas in the north-western Decca. They took over much of the western coast and port cities of Western India. This power was so absolute that the Shilaharas gave themselves the title of “Lords of the West” (Thapar 2002:369) in reference to their control over trade in the region. In the end the Rashtrakuta’s dynasty came full circle and was overthrown by the Calukyas that Dantidurga had claimed independence from hundreds of years ago.

References and Recommended Further Reading

Datta, Kalinkar,. Majunder, R.C,.and Raychaudhuri, H.C. (1967) An Advanced History of India. New York: St. Martin’s Press

Smith, G.E. Kidder (1990) Looking at Architecture. New York: Harry Abrams

Thapar, Romila (1996) A History of India Vol 1. Baltimore: Penguin Books

Thapar, Romila(2002) Early India: From Origins to AD 1300. Berkley: University of California Press

Vincent, Smith (1981) The Oxford History of India 4th Edition. Delhi: Oxford University Press

Wolpert, Stanley (1997) A New History of India 5th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press

Related Topics


Arabs in India


Trade Routes

Deccan Plateau



Calukya Dynasty

Pala Dynasty

Pratihara Dynasty

Related Websites

Written by Scott Wong (Spring 2009), who is solely responsible for its content.