Badami Chalukya Dynasty
For more than long 200 years the early Western Chalukyas better known as the imperial Chalukyas of Badami, the present Bijapore district, ruled over a vast tract of Deccan, from the middle of the sixth to the middle of the eighth century.
Controversy exists among the scholars as regards the origin of the Chalukyas. Dr. V.A. Smith stressed their foreign origin that formed the part of the foreign Gurjara tribe and migrated from Rajputana to Deccan. Dr. D.C. Sirkar rejected this theory. To him they were the descendants of indigenous Kanarese family having status of Kshatriya. Possibly their name derived from the name of an ancestor called Chalk or Chalukya. There are a number of legends also which pointed to ancient and divine pedigree of the Chalukyas. However, we are not very sure of their origin in any way.
It was in the first half of the 6th century A.D. that the founding father of Chalukya dynasty Jayasimha defeating the Rashtrakuta king Indra established his authority over Batapi in Bijapore district.
His son Ramaraja was an insignificant ruler. But the third son of the dynasty Pulakesin-I was a remarkable character. From 535 A.D. to 566 A.D. he ruled the land and founded the fort of Batapi. Assuming the title Maharaja he sacrificed horse and took the title Satyasraya also.
The fourth king Kirtivarman-I was an aggressive king and expanded his kingdom to a great extent. Kirtivarman-I was succeeded by his brother Mangalesa. It was he who annexed the Central and Northern Maharashtra to his dominion by defeating his enemies. But towards the end of his reign he was entangled in a fierce civil war with his nephew, Pulakesin II, the son of Kirtivarman. Thus killing Mangalesa, Pulakesin II became the king in 610 A.D. He was the most famous – of all the Chalukya kings of South India.
Thus Pulakesin II (also Pulakeshin II) ascended the throne by travelling through the blood of his uncle and his kinsmen where after he ruled for a long period from 610 A.D. to 642 A.D. The civil war had caused anarchy within the kingdom and there was the fear of foreign invasion as well. But with great skill he suppressed the forces of discord and disintegration where after he attempted for imperial supremacy. Consolidating his powers within, he then followed a policy of aggression against his neighbours. In South he defeated the Kadambas or Varanasi, the Gangas of Mysore and the Alupa of Malabar. In north he captured Puri, the Capital city of the Mauryas of Konkana “which has been identified as the Island of Elephanta in the Arabian Sea near Bombay. Adventuring further north he defeated the kings of Lata or Gujrat, Malwa and Gurjara.
The Gujrat conquest can be considered as a turning point of Pulakesin’s career. He now gets ready to fight with Harshavardhana, the Lord of the North. According to Dr. R.C. Majumdar as Harsha had an ambition to annex the regions of Lata, Malwa and Gurjara, these states sought Pulakesin’s protection. Thus the war between two super powers of North and South began on the bank of Narmada or further North. Marsha was defeated in the battle where after Pulakesin adopted the title Paramesvara. Marsha’s expansion on the West was thus checked. Being encouraged by this victory Pulakesin now conquered the Kings of Kosala and Kalinga in Eastern Deccan. He then turned to South and marched along the Eastern coast. On this march the kingdoms of Pithapuram in Godavari district, Kunala and Ellore were conquered. He then advanced to the Pallava kingdoms in far South and the long struggle between the Chalukyas and the Pallavas began. Pulakesin II defeated the Pallava ruler, king Mahendravarmana I and crossing Kaveri River made alliances with the Cholas, the Pandyas and Keralas against the Pallavas. Chalukya victory had crippled the Pallava power for the time being. Thus completing “digvijaya” Pulakesin II returned to his capital Vatapi.
But Pulakesin II’s success against the Pallava was a short lived one. Not much long after the worthy son of the defeated Pallava king Mahendravarmana I, Narasimha Varmana attacked and plundered Vatapi and possibly had killed Pulakesin II, in retaliation to Pulakesin’s attack on the Pallava Capital Kanchi. The Mahavamsa and the Pallava records narrated the incident. Thus the victorious career of a great conquer Pulakesin II came to a tragic end.
Historians have praised Pulakesin II not only as the greatest king of the House of Western Chalukyas but also as one of the greatest king of ancient India. He had built a vast empire from Gujrat to Southern Mysore in the West and from Kalinga to the Pandya countries in the East of Deccan. As he sent embassy to the court of Persian Emperor Khusru II, similarly received embassy from Persia. Hiuen-Tsang who visited Maharashtra during this period told us about his power. He was a benevolent king and people lived in peace and prosperity in his reign. It was a well administered country and for this credit undoubtedly goes to Pulakesin II.
But the Pallava onslaught had not completely destroyed the Chalukya Power. After 13 years it was again restored by Vikramaditya I, the second son of Pulakesin II. He liberated his ancestral capital Vatapi and the Chalukya kingdom from the Pallavas and after a bitter struggle for a long time ultimately expelled the Pallavas from the Chalukya country. River Tungavadra once again became the scientific natural frontier of the Chalukya country. Vikramaditya carried his victorious fire and sword into the heart of the Pallava kingdom, captured Kanchi and defeated the kings of Cholas, Pandyas and the Keralas. But ultimately he was defeated by the Pallavas and had to retire from the southern region. Vikramaditya I was succeeded by his son Vinayaditya who had considerable success against the Pallavas, Keralas, Cholas and the Pandyas. He made some nominal success in the North however. His son Vikramaditya won a dazzling victory against their hereditary enemy, the Pallavas. He also inflicted a crushing defeat on the Arabs who invaded south basin in Sindh. Under Vikramaditya II the Chalukya power reached the highest point of its glory. But at the same time it marked the beginning of the decay. In the reign of his son Kirtivarman H the disintegration of the Chalukya Empire began. Soon the Rastrakutas rose in prominence and the Rastrakuta King Krishna I established his authority over Deccan. That brought the fall of the Chalukya power.