Who Ruled Maharashtra before Chhatrapati Shivaji Part 2

Kailasa Temple, Ellora was built by the Rashtrakuta Kings.
  • A combination of Chalukyan and Rashtrakuta kings ruled Maharashtra before Shivaji Maharaj. This article tells about Chalukyan and Rashtrakuta Kings.

In the first part of the series on early medieval Hindu kingdoms of India, we covered Shilahar and Sevuna Yadav (of Devagiri near Aurangabad) dynasties. Part 2 will cover the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties.


Early Chalukyas (Vatapi Chalukyas)

The Chalukyas ruled from around 500CE to 757CE.


They consolidated the entire region between the Kaveri and Narmada rivers. Their rise empire saw the birth of efficient administration, overseas trade and commerce and the development of new style of architecture called “Chalukyan architecture.” It was also credited with the defeat of at least two Islamic invasions.


Jayasimha, the founder of the Chalukya dynasty was a vassal to Kadambas of Banvasi. During the struggle for supremacy between early Rashtrakuta, Nala (MP & Chhatisgarh), Maurya (Konkan) & Kadambas (Banvasi, Karnataka), in the later part of the 5th century, Jayasimha founded his own small kingdom near Vijaypura (Karnataka).


Chaluykyas rose to prominence during the reign of Pulakesin I-(Jayasimha’s grandson). After defeating Kadambas (Banvasi), he was the first to use sovereign titles like Sriprithvivallabha (conqueror of Earth) and performed various yagnyas including Ashvamedha to assert his independence. He expanded Chalukya rule in parts of north Karnataka, southern Maharashtra, and founded Vatapi as a capital.


His son Kirtivarman I adopted an aggressive policy and completely subjugated various Kadamaba branches & Mauryas of Konkan. Their capital Puri (Rajapuri) described as ‘Lakshmi of the Western Coast’ was captured. Sendraka king Senananda (Kadamaba feudatory) transferred his allegiance to Chalukyas by marrying his sister with Kirtivarman. Similarly, Alupas and Gangas (coastal & southern Karnataka) accepted the suzerainty of Chalukyas. 


Due to these victories, Kiritivarman was described as Kalratri (dark night of destruction) for enemies in Chalukya inscriptions.


After Kirtivarman-I, his brother Mangalesha became king & regent, as Pulakesin II (Kirtivarman-I’s son) was a minor. Mangalesha subjugated Kalachuri king Buddharaja and conquered Nashik, North Konkan, and southern Gujarat. His northward expansion earned him title ‘Uttara Vijigishu’ (Conqueror of the North). 


Mangalesha tried to secure throne for his son Pugavarman resulting in fratricidal war. Pulakesin II got support from vassals like Sendraka (maternal uncle) and Alupa. Mangalesha & Pugavarman were both killed in the clash and Pulakesin II became the Chalukya king (609-10CE).


Pulakesin II was considered the most influential. After reclaiming throne from Mangalesha, his primary task was subjugation of kingdoms that tried to overthrow Chalukya suzerainty. Thus, Kadambas were defeated and their territory was distributed among loyal vassals like Alupas & Gangas. He also disestablished Vishnukundins (ruling parts of coastal Andhra & Karnataka) by defeating King Indravarman and capturing Pishtapura (Pithapuram, AP) in 617-18CE. Similarly, the Mauryas of Konkan were also defeated and their territory was annexed.


The kings of Lata, Gurjara (Southern Gujarat) and Malava (Southern MP) accepted suzerainty of Pulakesin II due to fear of expansion from Harshavardhan of Kannauj.


The Battle of Narmada (Harsha-Pulakesin II war)

Ravikritti, the composer of Aihole Prashasti describes the war in which ‘the mirth (Harsha) of Harshvardhana melted away by fear, he became loathsome when his rows of lordly elephants fell in the battle.’ Similarly, Hieun-Tsang, the Chinese traveler had described ‘Siladitya (Harsha) conquered from east to west, but the people of the country Mo-ho-la-cha (Maharashtra) alone have not submitted to him.’ The battle was fought on the northern banks of Rewa (Narmada) in 618-19CE. After defeat of Harsha, the kingdoms of Dakshin Kosala (parts of Chhattisgarh & Odisha) and Kalinga (parts of Odisha & AP) also accepted suzerainty of Pulakesin II.   


A naval expedition to conquer India’s western coast (636CE) was sent during the rule of the second Caliph, Umar-bin-Akhtab, who was on a mission to spread Islam. In the battle of Thane, Chalukyan Navy of Pulakesin II successfully repelled this Arab naval expedition.  

The famous painting at Ajanta depicts the visit of Persian ambassador sent by King Khusru Perviz II to Pulakesin II. 

Pulakesin II then turned towards Pallavas (Kanchi), and defeated Mahendravarman in battle of Pallalura (620-21CE). However, later Narsimhavarman (Mahendravarman’ son) formed an alliance with Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, & with Ceylon (Anuradhapura, Shri Lanka) and attacked Chalukyas. Paranjoti, chief of Pallava army captured Vatapi, and Pulakesin II was killed (642CE). Narsimhavarman took the title of ‘Vatapi-Konda’ (Victor of Vatapi). The Ganpati vigraha won from Vatapi by Paranjoti is still worshipped today at Utrapatishwaraswamy Temple (Tiruchenkattankudi, TN). 

Vatapai Ganapati (Source TempleNet)

The era of 642-655CE was the darkest period for Chalukyas, as Vishnuvardhana, (Pulakesin II’s younger brother) founded his own dynasty at Vengi (Eastern Chalukya), dividing Chalukyan army at critical juncture. After Pulakesin II, Adityavarman (son, 642-645CE) and Abhinavaditya (grandson, 645-646CE), Chandraditya (son, 646-648CE) ruled in quick succession and most probably lost their lives while trying to recapture Vatapi from Pallavas. 


After death of Chandradtiya, his queen Vijaya became regent and took the Chalukya throne. In her grants (issued in her own regnal years), she was variously referred to as Mahadevi, Bhattarika & Mahishi indicating her royal title. She ruled for 7 years while her brother-in-law Vikramaditya I took the command of Chalukyan army. After her death, Vikramditya I became king and he freed Vatapi from Pallavas by defeating Narsimhavarman (655-56CE).           


Between 670 and 675CE, Vikramaditya I was able to defeat the Cholas, Pandyas & Chera earning him unique title ‘vanquisher of avanipatitraya’(Three kings). In a long-drawn conflict with Pallavas, Vikramaditya I also defeated Mahendravarman II (Narsimhavarman’s son) & Paramesvaravarman I (Narsimhavarman’s grandson) and captured Kanchipuram, the Pallava capital. In this endeavor, he got able support of Vinayaditya (son), Vijayaditya (grandson), Jaysimha (younger brother & founder of Navsari Chalukya), Siladitya (Jaysimha’s son). 


During Vinayaditya’s reign, Pallavas, Chola, Chera, Pandya, as well as Simhala (Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka), became his tributaries. The northward thrust was continued and according to epigraphic records, prince Vijayaditya defeated 

Adityasena or his son Devagupta (later Gupta dynasty).


Vinayaditya died while returning from northern campaign and Vijayaditya was crowned King. His northward expansion earned him title ‘Samastbhuvanashrya’ (refuge of entire earth). His 37 years of reign were much peaceful and a golden period of arts, music, temple construction, and literature.   

Vikramaditya II became Chalukya emperor in 733CE. He defeated Pallava ruler Nandivarman II and captured Kanchi. The inscription of Narsimhavarman at Vatapai’s Mallikarjuna temple was an irritant to Chalukya prestige, hence to pay back in same coin, Vikramaditya II recorded his capture of Kanchi by recording an inscription with title ‘Kanchiyan Kodu’ (captor of Kanchi) in Rajsimhesvara temple. 


The most important event during Vikramaditya II’s reign was the defeat of Arab invasion, sent by Junaid, at Battle of Navsari by Pulakesin (son of Jaysimha, Navsari Chalukya) in 737-38CE. The Navsari inscription record that ‘After plundering the kingdoms of the Saindhavas, Kachchhelas, Saurashtra, Chavotkas, Mauryas, Gurjaras, and others, Tajikas (Arabs) advanced up to Navsari. The battle was so fierce that after it was over even the headless bodies of soldiers danced accompanied by loud drums that finally they had paid the debt with their life’. 


For this critical victory, Pulakesin received various titles like ‘Dakshinapathasadhara’ (solid pillar of Dakshinapatha), ‘Chalukikulalankara’ (ornament of the Chalukya family), ‘Anivartakanivartayitri’ (Repeller of the unrepellable) & ‘Avanijanashraya’ (refuge of people on earth).


The final blow to Chalukya power came during the reign of Krittivarman II (Vikramaditya II’s son) from his Rashtrakuta feudatory Dantidurga.    


Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta

Rashtrakuta Empire at one time was extended from Kannauj to Rameswaram. Kannauj Triangle war- a tripartite struggle between Rashtrakutas, Palas & Gurjara-Pratiharas between 8th to 10th centuries was a main feature of the era.


Rashtrakutas Kings were patrons of literature and architecture. Kailasanatha Temple at Verul in Maharashtra, the Kashivishvanatha and the Jain Narayana temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka, were built by them.

Narayana Temple, Pattadakal. Pic by S Nayyar.

In the ‘Silsilat-ut-tavarikh’, Sulaiman (851CE), describes Rashtrakutas as one of four principal empires of the world. Al-Masudi (944CE), describes the power of Rashtrakutas as ‘Many of the kings of India turn their faces towards him in their prayers, and they make supplications to his ambassadors, who come to visit them.’   


Rashtrakutas trace their origin from Latur in Maharashtra however their rise started when they were ruling as a Chalukya feudatory at Achalapur (Elichpur, MH) 6th Century CE. Indra II (Chalukya feudatory) married Princes Bhavanaga (Navasari Chalukya) by Rakshas Vivah (marriage in which the consent of the adult girl is necessary for taking her away. Later the girl must be married to the man with all Hindu rituals) around 720CE.  


Dantidurga, the founder of Rashtrakuta Empire was born a year later to them. The young Dantidurga also participated in the Battle of Navsari as Chalukya feudatory gaining knowledge of Chalukya war strategies, weapons etc., which helped him later.


When Krittivarman II lost a major battle with Marvarman Rajsimha (Pandya) in 749CE, the Chalukya power was weakened and Dantidurga decided to exploit this opportunity. He first subdued outlying Chalukyan tributaries like Dakshin Kosala. Next he conquered Navsari Chalukya & Southern Gujarat. He also befriended Nandivarman II (Pallava), the arch-rival of Chalukyas.


The inevitable war between Rashtrakuta & Chalukya was fought (752-53CE) in southern Maharashtra in which Krittivarman II lost.


The victory was so sensational that Rashtrakuta inscriptions proudly describe, they ‘dethroned a power (Chalukya) that defeated Harshvardhana’. After Krittivarman II’s defeat, Dantidurga performed ‘Hiranyagarbhadana’ (an ancient Indian ritual in which the person prays to Shri Vishnu, passes through a hollow golden womb announcing his rebirth-indicating sovereignty to his earlier feudal status). However, Dantidurga suddenly died without an heir around 756 CE, hence Krishna I (uncle) became Rashtrakuta King.


Krittivarman II tried to regain the lost Chalukya territories but he was decisively defeated and killed in 758CE by Krishna I. He was credited with building Kailas Temple at Verul (Ellora), the influence of Pallava-Chalukya architecture was explained by archeologist M.K.Dhavalikar due to employment of Pallava artists who had earlier completed Kailasa temple at Kanchi & Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal. See album Kailasa Temple Ellora  Temple work started under Dantidurga and continued under Krishna I.  

Kailasa Temple, Ellora. Pic S Nayyar.

After death of Krishna I (774CE), Govinda II (elder son) ruled but he ‘neglected the kingly duties and gave preference to pleasure and vice’, hence his younger brother Dhruva tried to usurp the throne. In a fratricidal war, Dhruva defeated an alliance of Govinda and chiefs of Malva, Eastern Chalukya, Western Ganga & Pallava to emerge victorious (780CE). 

Dhruva (titled Kalivallabha- Kali who loves war), started his military campaign to punish the allies of Govinda II. Sivamara II (Ganga) was defeated, & captured, and Stambha (Dhruva’s eldest son) was sent as governor. Nandivarman II (Pallava) was also defeated and compelled to surrender a number of war elephants to Dhruva. 


Then Dhruva turned his attention to Vatsaraja (Pratihara). Vatsaraja was fighting against Chakrayudha, a puppet king established by Dharmapala (Gauda, Bengal) to establish his own nominee Indrayudha on Kannauj throne. The defeat of Vatsaraja brought Dhruva into direct conflict with Dharmapala, during which later was defeated and his royal parasols (Chhatra) were taken away.


Dhruva had four sons, namely, Stambha, Karka, Govinda & Indra. To avoid the possibility of fratricidal war, Dhruva abdicated in favor of Govinda III. Stambha tried to revolt but he was defeated by Govinda III with the help of Karka & Indra (founder of Gujarat Rashtrakuta).


The preoccupation of Govinda III was utilized by Dharmapala, who reinstalled Chakrayudha at Kannauj. However, Nagbhata II (Vatsaraja’s son) defeated Dharmapala in Battle of Monghyr. In this unstable situation, Govind III started his campaign & defeated Nagbhata II (Pratihara) as well as Dharmapala, earning title ‘Kirtinarayana’ (807-08CE).    


Later Govinda III defeated Chera, Chola, Pandya & Pallav in ‘Dakshindigvijaya’ (Victory in southern India). Traditional enemies like Vijayaditya II (Eastern Chalukya) were humbled into submission and were forced to clean Govinda III’s camp. The king of Anuradhapura as a token of submission handed over 2 statutes (1 of his own) to Govinda III which were installed at Manyakheta (809-10CE).    


Govinda III before his death (814CE) appointed his nephew Karka (Indra’s son, Gujarat Rashtrakutas) as a regent of his minor son Amoghvarsha I (born 808CE). The neighboring kingdoms especially Vijayaditya II smarting due to their earlier humiliation decided to press their advantage and Karka had to fight a war between 816 to 821CE to secure throne for Amoghvarsha I. 


Amoghvarsha, in the latter part of his life decisively defeated Vijayaditya III (Eastern Chalukya) in battle of Vingavalli (860CE). The destructive battle was described as ‘A royal feast was offered to Yama (God of death)’. Vijayaditya III was forced to flee his capital for 2 decades as it was occupied by Rashtrakutas.


Amoghvarsha I was either co-author or inspirer of ‘Kavirajmarga’, earliest treaties on Kannada poetry. Some of notable works include Ganitsarsangraha (Mathematical work by Mahaviracharya), Adipurana (Jinsena). The Sanjan plate also confirms that to avoid calamity for his subjects, Amoghvarsha sacrificed his finger and presented it to Shri Mahalakshmi of Kolhapur. He was succeeded by his son Krishna II (880CE).


Sensing this opportunity, Vijayaditya III attacked Rashtrakutas & defeated Krishna II at Kiranpura (MP) (882-83CE). Even after Vijayaditya III’s death, Krishna II was unable to hold Vengi as Bhima (Vijayaditya III’s son) defeated him and recaptured it. However, he was able to hold out against early Gurjara-Pratihara attacks by Mahendrapala, and was able to defeat Bhoja I (Pratihara feudatory) at Ujjayani (888CE).  


As Jagattunga, son of Krishna II predeceased him, Rashtrakuta throne went to Indra III (grandson, 913CE) who had earlier defeated Upendra/ Krishna (Parmara, MP) compelling him to transfer his allegiance from Pratiharas to Rashtrakuta.


Indra III went on offensive against Mahipala (Gurjara-Pratihara, Kannauj). Mahipala was defeated decisively and had to flee his capital ‘as if struck by thunderbolt, staying neither to eat nor to rest, nor to pick himself up,’ describes Kannada poet Pampa. Kannuaj was held by Rashtrakuta for next 5-6 years. The shattering blow to Pratihara prestige by Indra III helped the rise of Chandela’s & Parmaras later.  


The sudden death of Indra III (917CE), threw Rashtrakutas into chaos. He was succeeded by Amoghvarsha II (eldest son) who was ousted by Govinda IV (younger son) within a year (919CE). However, the lustful lifestyle and neglect of his duties by Govinda-IV alienated his feudatories. By 922, Mahipala was able to recapture Kannauj from Rashtrakutas but the trigger point against Govind IV was his loss against Bhima III in 934CE (Eastern Chalukya).


Amoghvarsha III (Indra III’s younger brother) who had retired and devoted his life to religious pursuits at Tripuri (MP) was pressed by Rashtrakuta feudatories & allies like Keyurvarsha (Amoghvarsha III’s father-in-law, Chedi), Arikesari (Vemulvada Chalukya), Butuga II (son-in-law, Western Ganga) to dethrone Govinda IV. After battles at Vemulvada & on the banks of Payoshni (Purna), Govinda IV was defeated and Amoghvarsha III ascended the Rashtrakuta throne (936CE). A northward thrust was executed to re-establish Rashtrakuta prestige under Prince Krishna III. Although he was able to capture areas up to Kalinjar & Chitrakoot (Uttar Pradesh) his attack on loyal allies like Chedis cost him dearly later.


After Amoghvarsha III (939-40CE), Krishna III ascended throne and undertook southern expedition. During the Battle of Takkolam (949CE), Chola Prince Rajaditya was killed by Butuga II personally by climbing atop former’s elephant resulting in retreat of Cholas, and their capital Tanjore was occupied by Rashtrakutas. Krishna III was titled ‘Tanjaiyunkonda’ (Conqueror of Tanjore). Similarly, Kanchi was captured and Rashtrakutas were reached up to Rameswaram earning tributes from Anuradhapura (Sri Lanka). 


However, Kishna III’s commitments in south affected his position in north. Shri Harsha became independent from Pratihara domination & founded his own Chandela dynasty in Jejakbhukti (Bundelkhand, UP). His successors, Yashovarman (son) & Dhanga (grandson) wrested back Kalinjar & Chitrakoot from Rashtrakutas (953CE). 


Since Krishna III’s son predeceased him & his grandson Indra IV was a minor, after death of the former (968CE), Khottiga (Amoghvarsha IV), younger brother of Krishna III became Rashtrakuta King. During his reign, Rashtrakuta power began to wane.


The first blow was received from Parmaras. Sensing that Siyaka a Rashtrakuta feudatory (Shri Harsha, Parmara) was consolidating his position, Khottiga planned a campaign against him. However, in Battle of Khalaghat on Narmada (MP), Siyaka decisively defeated Khottiga. He was chased to capital Manyakheta and killed while defending it. Manyakheta was sacked by Siyaka’s forces (972CE).        


After Khottiga, his nephew Karka II (son of Nirupama, younger brother of Krishna III) usurped the position of Indra IV, but he was unable to master the situation.


Disestablishment of Rashtrakutas

Rashtrakuta King Krishna II had married his daughter to a Chalukya feudatory named Ayanna I, who claimed descent from Bhima, (son of Vatapai Chalukya king Vijayaditya II). Like Ayanna I, Vikramaditya IV (son) & Tailapa II (grandson) were Rashtrakuta feudatories. Sensing the turmoil, Tailapa II, who was administering Tardavadi (Vijaypura, Karnataka) decided to exploit the situation.


As Tailapa II was a nephew of Yuvaraja II (Chedi King, his sister Bonthadevi was married to Vikramaditya IV) & due to the fact that Chedi’s were alienated by Krishna III’s earlier reckless attack on their domain, he got support from Chedi’s. Bhillama II (Sevuna-Yadava) another Rashtrakuta feudatory and some of the minor Rashtrakuta branches like Bhamma whose daughter Jakavva was married to Tailapa II, also supported his endeavor. 


The battle between Tailapa II & Karka II was a close contest in which the former won (974CE). As per epigraphic records, Karka II was able to escape alive but due to alienation of his feudatories, he was unable to counterattack Tailapa II and had to content himself with holding a small principality near Soraba (Karnataka) till 991CE.  


Indra IV, the next Rashtrakuta King was supported by his maternal uncle Marsimha (Western Ganga) against Tailapa, but Rashtrakuta power was broken beyond recovery. After over a year of unsuccessful attempts, Marsimha turned ascetic at Bankapur and ended his life with ‘Sallekhana’ (voluntarily fasting to death in 975CE.


Indra IV was able to hold out in parts of Southern Karnataka against Tailapa II till 982CE after which he also turned ascetic at Shravanbelgola and died with ‘Sallekhana’ thus ending the main Rashtrakuta line.


To read all articles by author

To read all articles on Maratha History



1) Political History of Chalukyas of Badami: D.P. Dikshit.

2) Rashtrakuta & their times: A.S. Altekar.

3) History of Rashtrakutas: Pandit B.N.Reu.

4) Kalachuri Nrupati & Their Times: V.V. Mirashi.

5) The Gangas of Talakad: M.V. Krishnarao.

6) The Growth of Paramar Power in Malwa: Dr. K.N. Seth.

7) Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum- Vol IV- V.V. Mirashi, 137-45.

8) Bijapur-Mumbai Copperplate by S.L.Bapat & P.S.Sohoni, BORI-2017.

9) A History of South India: K.A. Nilakanta Sastri.

10) EI18-239.

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