Rashtrakuta Dynasty

From New World Encyclopedia
ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರಕೂಟ / राष्ट्रकूट
Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta
(Subordinate to Badami Chalukyas until 753)
753 – 982 Blank.png
Location of Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta
██ Extent of Rashtrakuta Empire, 800 C.E., 915 C.E.
Capital Manyakheta
Language(s) Kannada, Sanskrit
Religion Hindu, Jain
 - 735–756 Dantidurga
 - 973 – 982 Indra IV
 - Earliest Rashtrakuta records 753
 - Established 753
 - Disestablished 982

The Rashtrakuta Dynasty (Sanskrit: राष्ट्रकूट rāṣṭrakūṭa, Kannada: ರಾಷ್ಟ್ರಕೂಟ) had been a royal Indian dynasty ruling large parts of southern, central and northern India between the sixth and the thirteenth centuries. During that period they ruled as several closely related, but individual clans. The earliest known Rashtrakuta inscription comes from a seventh century copper plate grant that mentions their rule from Manpur in the Malwa region of modern Madhya Pradesh. Other ruling Rashtrakuta clans from the same period mentioned in inscriptions had been the kings of Achalapur, modern Elichpur in Maharashtra and the rulers of Kannauj. Several controversies exist regarding the origin of those early Rashtrakutas, their native home and their language.

The clan that ruled from Elichpur had been a feudatory of the Badami Chalukyas and during the rule of Dantidurga, it overthrew Chalukya Kirtivarman II and went on to build an impressive empire with the Gulbarga region in modern Karnataka as its base. That clan came to be known as the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta, rising to power in South India in 753. At the same time the Pala Dynasty of Bengal and the Prathihara dynasty of Gujarat gained force in eastern and northwestern India respectively.

That period, between the eight and the tenth centuries, saw a tripartite struggle for the resources of the rich Gangetic plains, each of those three empires annexing the seat of power at Kannauj for short periods of time. At their peak the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta ruled a vast empire stretching from the Ganga River and Yamuna River doab in the north to Cape Comorin in the south, a fruitful time of political expansion, architectural achievements and famous literary contributions. The early kings of that dynasty had been Hindu but Jainism strongly influenced the later kings.

During their rule, Jain mathematicians and scholars contributed important works in Kannada and Sanskrit. Amoghavarsha I emerged as the most famous king of that dynasty, writing Kavirajamarga, a landmark literary work in the Kannada language. Architecture reached a milestone in the Dravidian style, the finest examples appearing in the Kailasanath Temple at Ellora and the sculptures of Elephanta Caves in modern Maharashtra as well as in the Kashivishvanatha temple and the Jain Narayana temple at Pattadakal in modern Karnataka, all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Shiva sculpture at Ellora
Core territory of Rashtrakuta empire of Manyakheta

The origin of Rashtrakuta dynasty has been a controversial topic. Those issues pertain to the origins of the earliest ancestors of the Rashtrakutas during the time of Emperor Ashoka in the second century B.C.E.,[1] and the connection between the several Rashtrakuta dynasties that ruled small kingdoms in northern and central India and the Deccan between the sixth and seventh centuries. The relationship of those medieval Rashtrakutas to the most famous later dynasty, the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta (present day Malkhed in the Gulbarga district, Karnataka state), who ruled between the eighth and tenth centuries has also been debated.[2]

The sources of Rashtrakuta history include medieval inscriptions, ancient literature in the Pali language,[1] contemporaneous literature in Sanskrit and Kannada, and the notes of the Arab travelers.[3] Theories about the dynastic lineage (Surya Vamsa—Solar line and Chandra Vamsa—Lunar line), the native region and the ancestral home have been proposed, based on information gleaned from inscriptions, royal emblems, the ancient clan names such as "Rashtrika," epithets (Ratta, Rashtrakuta, Lattalura Puravaradhiswara), the names of dynasty princes and princesses, and clues from relics such as coins.[1] Scholars debate over which of the many ethnic groups the early Rashtrakutas belonged, the north western ethnic groups of India,[1] the Kannadiga,[2][4] Reddi,[1] the Maratha,[5] or the ethnic tribes from the Punjab region.[1]

Scholars concur that the kings of the imperial dynasty in the eighth to tenth century made the Kannada language as important as Sanskrit. Rashtrakuta inscriptions, written in the two languages of Kannada and Sanskrit,[6][7][8][9] and the kings encouraged literature in both languages. The earliest existing Kannada literary writings had been written by their court poets and royalty.[10][11][12] Though those Rashtrakutas had been Kannadigas,[13][14][15] they had been conversant in a northern Deccan language as well.

The heart of the Rashtrakutas empire included nearly all of Karnataka, Maharashtra and parts of Andhra Pradesh, an area which the Rastrakutas ruled for over two centuries. The Samangadh copper plate grant (753) confirms that the feudatory King Dantidurga, who probably ruled from Achalapura in Berar (modern Elichpur in Maharashtra), defeated the great Karnatic army (referring to the army of the Badami Chalukyas) of Kirtivarman II of Badami in 753 and took control of the northern regions of the Chalukya empire.[16] He then helped his father-in-law, Pallava King Nandivarman regain Kanchi from the Chalukyas and defeated the Gurjaras of Malwa, and the kings of Kalinga, Kosala and Srisailam.[17][18]

Dantidurga's successor Krishna I brought major portions of present day Karnataka and Konkan under his control.[19] During the rule of Dhruva Dharavarsha who took control in 780, the kingdom expanded into an empire that encompassed all of the territory between the Kaveri River and Central India.[20][19] He led successful expeditions to Kannauj, the seat of northern Indian power where he defeated the Gurjara Pratiharas and the Palas of Bengal, gaining him fame and vast booty without territorial gain. He also brought the Eastern Chalukyas and Gangas of Talakad under his control.[21] According to a historian, the Rashtrakutas became a pan-India power during his rule.[22]

The ascent of Dhruva Dharavarsha's third son, Govinda III, to the throne heralded an era of success like never before.[23] Uncertainty exists about the location of the early capital of the Rashtrakutas at that time: Modern Morkhandi in Bidar district[24] or modern Morkhand in Maharashtra.[1] During his rule a three way conflict between the Rashtrakutas, the Palas, and the Pratiharas for control over the Gangetic plains took place. Describing his victories over the Pratihara King Nagabhatta II and the Pala King Dharmapala,[19] the Sanjan inscription states the horses of Govinda III drank from the icy waters of the Himalayan streams and his war elephants tasted the sacred waters of the Ganga.[25][26] His military exploits have been compared to those of Alexander the Great and Pandava Arjuna of Mahabharata.[27] Having conquered Kannauj, he traveled south, took firm hold over Gujarat, Kosala (Kaushal), Gangavadi, humbled the Pallavas of Kanchi, installed a ruler of his choice in Vengi and received two statues as an act of submission from the king of Ceylon (one statue of the king and another of his minister). The Cholas, the Pandyas, and the Keralas all paid him tribute.[28][29] As one historian puts it, the drums of the Deccan sounded from the Himalayan caves to the shores of the Malabar.[27] The Rashtrakutas empire now spread over the areas from Cape Comorin to Kannauj and from Banaras to Broach.[26]

The successor of Govinda III, Amoghavarsha I made Manyakheta his capital and ruled a large empire. Manyakheta remained the Rashtrakutas regal capital until the end of the empire.[30] He came to the throne in 814, struggling to suppress revolts from feudatories and ministers until 821. Amoghavarsha I made peace with the Gangas by giving them his two daughters in marriage, and then defeated the invading Eastern Chalukyas at Vingavalli and assumed the title Viranarayana. The Bagumra record claims Amoghavarsha saved the "Ratta" kingdom, drowned in an "ocean of Chalukyas." [31] He ruled less militantly than had Govinda III as he preferred to maintain friendly relations with his neighbors, the Gangas, the Eastern Chalukyas and the Pallavas with whom he also cultivated marital ties. He enriched the arts, literature and religion during his reign. Widely seen as the most famous of the Rashtrakuta kings, Amoghavarsha I established himself as an accomplished scholar in Kannada and Sanskrit.[32][33] His Kavirajamarga represents an important landmark in Kannada poetics and Prashnottara Ratnamalika in Sanskrit constitutes a writing of high merit, later translated into the Tibetan language.[1] Because of his religious temperament, his interest in the arts and literature and his peace-loving nature, he has been compared to the emperor Ashoka and called "Ashoka of the South."[34]

During the rule of Krishna II, the empire faced a revolt from the Eastern Chalukyas and its size decreased to the area including most of the Western Deccan and Gujarat.[35] Krishna II ended the independent status of the Gujarat branch and brought it under direct control from Manyakheta. Indra III recovered the dynasty's fortunes in central India by defeating the Paramara and then invaded the doab region of the Ganges and Jamuna rivers. He also defeated the dynasty's traditional enemies, the Pratiharas and the Palas, while maintaining his influence over Vengi.[35] The effect of his victories in Kannauj lasted several years according to the 930 copper plate inscription of King Govinda IV.[36][37] After a succession of weak kings during whose reigns the empire lost control of territories in the north and east, Krishna III the last great king consolidated the empire so that it stretched from the Narmada River to Kaveri River and included the northern Tamil country (Tondaimandalam) while levying tribute on the king of Ceylon. From the Siddalingamadam record of 944 - Krishna III captured Kanchi and Tanjore as well and had full control over northern Tamil regions.[38] From the Tirukkalukkunram inscription - Krishna III annexed Kanchi and Tanjore. From the Deoli inscription - Krishna III had feudatories from Himalayas to Ceylon. From the Laksmeshwar inscription - Krishna III constituted an incarnation of death for the Chola Dynasty.[39][40]

During the rule of Khottiga Amoghavarsha, the Paramara King Siyaka Harsha attacked the empire and plundered Manyakheta, the capital of Rastrakutas. That seriously undermined the reputation of the Rastrakuta Empire and consequently led to its downfall. The final decline came suddenly as Tailapa II, a feudatory of the Rashtrakuta ruling from Tardavadi province in modern Bijapur district, declared himself independent by taking advantage of that defeat. Rashtrakuta Krishna III gave the province of Tardavadi in the very heart of the Rashtrakuta empire to Tailapa II as a fief (provincial grant) for services rendered in war.[41][42] Indra IV, the last king, committed Sallekhana (fasting unto death practiced by Jain monks) at Shravanabelagola. With the fall of the Rashtrakutas, their feudatories and related clans in the Deccan and northern India declared independence. The Western Chalukyas annexed Manyakheta and made it their capital until 1015 and built an impressive empire in the Rashtrakuta heartland during the eleventh century. The focus of dominance shifted to the Krishna River - Godavari River doab called Vengi. The former feudatories of the Rashtrakutas in western Deccan came under the control of the Chalukyas and the hitherto suppressed Cholas of Tanjore became their arch enemies in the south.[43]

In conclusion, the rise of Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta had a great impact on India, even on India's north. Sulaiman (851), Al Masudi (944), and Ibn Khurdadba (912) wrote that their empire constituted the largest in contemporary India and Sulaiman further called it one among the four great contemporary empires of the world.[44] Some historians have called those times an "Age of Imperial Kannauj."[45] Since the Rashtrakutas successfully captured Kannauj, levied tribute on its rulers and presented themselves as masters of North India, the era could also be called the "Age of Imperial Karnataka."[45] During their political expansion into central and northern India in the eighth to the tenth centuries, the Rashtrakutas or their relatives created several kingdoms that either ruled during the reign of the parent empire or continued to rule for centuries after the its fall or came to power much later. The Rashtrakutas of Gujarat (757–888), the Rattas of Saundatti (875–1230) in modern Karnataka, the Gahadavalas of Kannauj (1068–1223), the Rashtrakutas of Rajasthan (known as Rajputana) and ruling from Hastikundi or Hathundi (893–996),[1] and Dahal (near Jabalpur),[46] Mandore (near Jodhpur), the Rathores of Dhanop,[1] Rashtraudha dynasty of Mayuragiri in modern Maharashtra[47] and Rashtrakutas of Kannauj had been among the best known.[48]


Rashtrakuta Kings (753-982)
Dantidurga (735 - 756)
Krishna I (756 - 774)
Govinda II (774 - 780)
Dhruva Dharavarsha (780 - 793)
Govinda III (793 - 814)
Amoghavarsha I (814 - 878)
Krishna II (878 - 914)
Indra III (914 -929)
Amoghavarsha II (929 - 930)
Govinda IV (930 – 936)
Amoghavarsha III (936 – 939)
Krishna III (939 – 967)
Khottiga Amoghavarsha (967 – 972)
Karka II (972 – 973)
Indra IV (973 – 982)
Tailapa II
(Western Chalukyas)

Inscriptions and other literary records show the Rashtrakutas selected the crown prince based on heredity. The crown sometimes passed the eldest son, abilities considered more important than age and chronology of birth, as exemplified by the crowning of Govinda III, the third son of king Dhruva Dharavarsha. The Chief Minister (Mahasandhivigrahi) whose position came with five insignia commensurate with his position namely, a flag, a conch, a fan, a white umbrella, a large drum, and five musical instruments called Panchamahashabdas held the most important position under the king. The commander (Dandanayaka), the foreign minister (Mahakshapataladhikrita) and a prime minister (Mahamatya or Purnamathya), all usually associated with one of the feudatory kings and must have held a position in government equivalent to a premier who, as his main responsibility, drafted and maintained inscriptions or Shasanas as would an archivist,[49] under the Chief Minister. A Mahasamantha signified a feudatory or higher ranking regal officer. All cabinet ministers had been well versed in political science (Rajneeti) and possessed military training. In some cases, women supervised significant areas as when Revakanimaddi, daughter of Amoghavarsha I, administered Edathore Vishaya.

The kingdom divided into Mandala or Rashtras (provinces). A Rashtrapathi ruled a Rashtra who, on occasion, had been the emperor himself. Amoghavarsha I's empire had 16 Rashtras. Under a Rashtra sat a Vishaya (district) overseen by a Vishayapathi. Trusted ministers sometimes ruled more than a Rashtra. For example, Bankesha, a commander of Amoghavarsha I headed Banavasi-12000, Belvola-300, Puligere-300, Kunduru-500 and Kundarge-70, the suffix designating the number of villages in that territory. Below the Vishaya, the Nadu looked after by the Nadugowda or Nadugavunda; sometimes two such officials administered, with one assuming the position through heredity and another appointed centrally. A Grama or village administered by a Gramapathi or Prabhu Gavunda occupied the lowest division.[50]

The Rashtrakuta army consisted of a large infantry, numerous horsemen, and many elephants. A standing army always stood ready for war in a cantonment (Sthirabhuta Kataka) in the regal capital of Manyakheta. The feudatory kings, expected to contribute to the defense of the empire in case of war, maintained large armies. Chieftains, and all the officials, served as commanders whose postings could transfer if the need arose.[51]

The Rashtrakutas issued coins (minted in an Akkashale) such as Suvarna, Drammas in silver and gold weighing 65 grains, Kalanju weighing 48 grains, Gadyanaka weighing 96 grains, Kasu weighing 15 grains, Manjati with 2.5 grains and Akkam of 1.25 grain.[52]


Natural and agricultural produce, manufacturing revenues and moneys gained from its conquests sustained the Rashtrakuta economy. Cotton constituted the chief crop of the regions of southern Gujarat, Khandesh and Berar. Minnagar, Gujarat, Ujjain, Paithan and Tagara stood as important centers of textile industry. Paithan and Warangal manufactured Muslin cloth; Bharoch exported the cotton yarn and cloth. Burhanpur and Berar manufactured White calicos, exporting it to Persia, Turkey, Poland, Arabia, and Cairo. The Konkan region, ruled by the feudatory Silharas, produced large quantities of betel leaves, coconut and rice while the lush forests of Mysore, ruled by the feudatory Gangas, produced such woods as sandal, timber, teak and ebony. The ports of Thana and Saimur exported incense and perfumes.[2]

The Deccan soil, though less fertile than the Gangetic plains, had rich minerals. The copper mines of Cudappah, Bellary, Chanda, Buldhana, Narsingpur, Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Dharwar constituted an important source of income and played an important role in the economy.[2] Diamonds mines in Cudappah, Bellary, Kurnool and Golconda yielded abundant diamonds; the capital Manyakheta and Devagiri had been important diamond and jewelry trading centers. The leather industry and tanning flourished in Gujarat and some regions of northern Maharashtra. Mysore with its vast elephant herds proved important for the ivory industry.[2]

The Rashtrakuta empire controlled most of the western sea board of the subcontinent which facilitated its maritime trade. The Gujarat branch of the empire earned a significant income from the port of Bharoch, one of the most prominent ports in the world at that time. The empire exported chiefly cotton yarn, cotton cloth, muslins, hides, mats, indigo, incense, perfumes, betel nuts, coconuts, sandal, teak, timber, sesame oil and ivory. Pearls, gold, dates from Arabia, slaves, Italian wines, tin, lead, topaz, storax, sweet clover, flint glass, antimony, gold and silver coins, singing boys and girls (for the entertainment of the royalty) from other lands numbered among its major imports. Trading in horses emerged as an important and profitable business, monopolized by the Arabs and some local merchants. The Rashtrakuta government levied a shipping tax of one golden Gadyanaka on all foreign vessels embarking to any other ports and a fee of one silver Ctharna (a coin) on vessels traveling locally.[2]

Artists and craftsman operated as corporations (guilds) rather than as individual business. Inscriptions mention guilds of weavers, oilmen, artisans, basket and mat makers and fruit sellers. A Saundatti inscription refers to an assemblage of all the people of a district headed by the guilds of the region. Some guilds had reputations as superior to others, the same with some corporations, and received royal charters determining their powers and privileges. Inscriptions suggest those guilds had their own militia to protect goods in transit and, like village assemblies, they operated banks that lent money to traders and businesses.[2]

The government's income came from five principal sources: regular taxes, occasional taxes, fines, income taxes, miscellaneous taxes and tributes from feudatories. The government imposed an emergency tax occasionally, applicable when the kingdom suffered duress, such as when it faced natural calamities, or prepared for war or overcoming war's ravages. Income tax included taxes on crown land, wasteland, specific types of trees considered valuable to economy, mines, salt, treasures unearthed by prospectors. Additionally, the king or royal officers on such festive occasions as marriage or the birth of a son received customary presents.[2]

The king determined the tax levels based on need and circumstances in the kingdom while ensuring that peasants received taxes within their means to pay. The land owner or tenant paid a variety of taxes, including land taxes, produce taxes, and payment of the overhead for maintenance of the Gavunda (village head). Land taxes varied, based on type of land, its produce and situation and ranged from 8 percent to 16 percent. A Banavasi inscription of 941 mentions reassessment of land tax due to the drying up of an old irrigation canal in the region. The land tax may have been as high as 20 percent to pay for expenses of a military frequently at war. In most of the kingdom, people paid land taxes in goods and services, rarely in cash. A portion of all taxes earned by the government (usually 15 percent) returned to the villages for maintenance.[2]

The government levied taxes on artisans such as potters, sheep herders, weavers, oilmen, shopkeepers, stall owners, brewers and gardeners. Taxes on perishable items such as fish, meat, honey, medicine, fruits, and essentials like fuel reached as high as 16 percent. Taxes on salt and minerals had been mandatory although the empire permitted citizens to participate in joint ownership of mines, implying that private mineral prospecting and the quarrying business may have been active. The state claimed all such properties whose legal owner died without immediate family to make an inheritance claim. Ferry and house taxes came under miscellaneous taxes. Only Brahmins and their temple institutions received lower tax rates.[2]



The Rashtrakutas kings supported the popular religions of the day in the traditional spirit of religious tolerance.[53] Scholars have offered various arguments regarding which specific religion the Rashtrakutas favored, basing their evidence on inscriptions, coins and contemporary literature. The Rashtrakutas may have been inclined towards Jainism since many of the scholars who flourished in their courts and wrote in Sanskrit, Kannada and a few in Apabhramsha and Prakrit had been Jains.[54] The Rashtrakutas built well known Jain temples at locations such as Lokapura in Bagalkot district and their loyal feudatory, the Western Ganga Dynasty, built Jain monuments at Shravanabelagola and Kambadahalli. Scholars have suggested that Jainism stood as a principal religion at the very heart of the empire, modern Karnataka, accounting for more than 30 percent of the population and dominating the culture of the region.[55] King Amoghavarsha I had been a disciple of the Jain acharya Jinasena and wrote in his religious writing, Prashnottara Ratnamalika, "having bowed to Varaddhamana (Mahavira), I write Prashnottara Ratnamalika." The mathematician Mahaviracharya wrote in his Ganita Sarasangraha, "The subjects under Amoghavarsha are happy and the land yields plenty of grain. May the kingdom of King Nripatunga Amoghavarsha, follower of Jainism ever increase far and wide." Amoghavarsha may have taken up Jainism in his old age.[1]

Most evidence shows the Rashtrakuta kings ardent Hindus, followers of the Shaiva, Vaishnava and Shakta faiths. Almost all of their inscriptions begin with an invocation of Vishnu or Shiva. The Sanjan inscriptions tell of King Amoghavarsha I sacrificing a finger from his left hand at the Lakshmi temple at Kolhapur to avert a calamity in his kingdom. King Dantidurga performed the Hiranyagarbha (horse sacrifice) and the Sanjan and Cambay plates of King Govinda IV mention Brahmins performing such rituals as Rajasuya, Vajapeya and Agnishtoma.[56] An early copper plate grant of King Dantidurga (753) shows an image of Lord Shiva and the coins of his successor, King Krishna I (768), bear the legend Parama Maheshwara (another name for Shiva). The kings' titles such as Veeranarayana showed their Vaishnava leanings. Their flag had the sign of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, perhaps copied from the Badami Chalukyas.[1] The famous Kailasnatha temple at Ellora and other rock-cut caves attributed to them show that Hinduism flourished.[57] Their family deity, the goddess Latana (also known as Rashtrashyena, Manasa Vindyavasini), took the form of a falcon to save the kingdom.[1] They built temples with iconification and ornamentation that satisfied the needs of different faiths. The temple at Salotgi had been built for followers of Shiva and Vishnu and the temple at Kargudri for worshipers of Shankara, Vishnu, and Bhaskara (Surya, the sun God).[58]

In short, the Rashtrakuta rule tolerated multiple popular religions, Jainism, Vaishnavaism and Shaivism. Buddhism too found support and popular following in places such as Dambal and Balligavi, although it had declined significantly by that time.[59] The decline of Buddhism in South India began in the eighth century with the spread of Adi Shankara's Advaita philosophy. A sixteenth century Buddhist work by Lama Taranatha speaks disparagingly of Shankaracharya as close parallels in some beliefs of Shankaracharya with Buddhist philosophy had been viewed unfavorably by Buddhist writers.[60] Islamic contact with South India began as early as the seventh century, a result of trade between the Southern kingdoms and Arab lands. Jumma Masjids existed in the Rashtrakuta empire by the tenth century[61] and many Muslims lived and mosques flourished on the coasts, specifically in towns such as Kayalpattanam and Nagore. Muslim settlers married local women; their children became known as Mappilas (Moplahs), they actively participated in horse trading and manning shipping fleets.[61]


Chronicles mention more castes than the four commonly known castes in the Hindu social system, some as many as seven castes. One traveler's account mentions 16 castes including the four basic castes of Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Chandalas.[2] The Zakaya or Lahud caste consisted of communities specializing in dance and acrobatics. People in the professions of sailing, hunting, weaving, cobblery, basket making, and fishing belonged to specific castes or subcastes. The Antyajas caste provided many menial services to the wealthy. Brahmins enjoyed the highest status in Rashtrakuta society; only those Kshatriyas in the Sat-Kshatriya sub-caste (noble Kshatriyas) stood higher in status.[2]

The careers of Brahmins usually related to education, the judiciary, astrology, mathematics, poetry and philosophy or the occupation of hereditary administrative posts. Also Brahmins increasingly practiced non-Brahminical professions (agriculture, trade in betel nuts and martial posts). The royal Kshatriya sub-castes or Brahmins found guilty of heinous crimes escaped capital punishment, although a widespread punishment. The killing of a Brahmin in medieval Hindu India had been considered a heinous crime. As an alternate punishment to enforce the law, the courts ordered a Brahmin's right hand and left foot severed, leaving them disabled.[2]

By the ninth century, kings from all the four castes had occupied the highest seat in the monarchical system in Hindu India. Admitting Kshatriyas to Vedic schools along with Brahmins had been customary, but the children of the Vaishya and Shudra castes had been prohibited. Inscriptions record landownership by people of all castes. Whereas only highly placed Kshatriya girls and Brahmin boys could have intercaste marriages in the higher castes, other castes intermarried relatively frequently. Intercaste functions had been rare; people of various castes avoided dining together.[2]

Joint families had been the norm but legal separations between brothers and even father and son have been recorded in inscriptions. Women and daughters had rights over property and land as recorded by inscriptions noting the sale of land by women.[62] The arranged marriage system followed a strict policy of early marriage for women. Among Brahmins, boys married at or below 16 years of age, while the brides chosen for them had been 12 or younger. That age policy had been loosely followed by other castes. Sati (a custom in which a dead man's widow tended to immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre) had been practiced only seldom; the few examples noted in inscriptions took place mostly in the royal families. The system of shaving the heads of widows happened infrequently as epigraphs note allowing widows to grow their hair but discouraging decorating. The remarriage of a widow occurred rarely among the upper castes although more commonly among the lower castes.[2]

In the general population men wore two simple pieces of cloth, a loose garment on top and a garment worn like a dhoti for the lower part of the body. Only kings could wear turbans, a practice that spread to the masses much later. Dancing had been a popular entertainment, inscriptions speaking of royal women charmed by dancers, both male and female, in the king's palace. Devadasis (girls "married" to a deity or temple) often lived in temples. Other recreational activities included attending animal fights of the same or different species. An Atkur hero stone (virgal) has been found made for the favorite hound of the feudatory Western Ganga King Butuga II that died fighting a wild boar in a sport. Records exist of game preserves for hunting by royalty. Astronomy and astrology had been well developed as subjects of study, many superstitious beliefs, such as catching a snake alive proved a woman's chastity, abounded. Old persons suffering from incurable diseases preferred to end their lives by drowning in the sacred waters of a pilgrim site, or by a ritual burning.[2]


Kannada became more prominent as a literary language during the Rashtrakuta rule with its script and literature showing remarkable growth, dignity and productivity.[10][12] That period effectively marked the end of the classical Prakrit and Sanskrit era. Court poets and royalty created eminent works in Kannada and Sanskrit that spanned such literary forms as prose, poetry, rhetoric, Hindu epics, and life history of Jain tirthankaras. Famous scholars wrote on secular subjects such as mathematics.

Kavirajamarga (850) by King Amoghavarsha I represents the earliest available book on rhetoric and poetics in Kannada,[33] though evident from this book, other styles of Kannada literature and poetry had already existed in previous centuries.[63] Kavirajamarga serves as a guide to poets (Kavishiksha) that aims to standardize those various styles. The book references early Kannada writers such as the sixth century King Durvinita of Western Ganga Dynasty in prose. Amoghavarsha I and court poet Sri Vijaya may have co-authored Kavirajamarga.[64][65][66]

Adikavi Pampa, widely regarded as one of the greatest Kannada writers, became famous for Adipurana (941). Written in champu (mixed prose-verse style) style, the work depicts the life of the first Jain tirthankara Rishabhadeva. Vikramarjuna Vijaya (941), the author's version of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, with Arjuna as the hero constitutes Pampa's other notable work.[67] Also called Pampa Bharata, it praises the writer's patron, King Chalukya Arikeseri of Vemulavada (a Rashtrakuta feudatory), comparing the king's virtues favorably to those of Arjuna. Pampa demonstrates such a command of classical Kannada that scholars over the centuries have written many interpretations of his work.[66]

Sri Ponna, patronized by King Krishna III and famed for his description of the life of the sixteenth Jain tirthankara Shantinatha entitled Santipurana, stands out as another great writer in Kannada. He earned the title Ubhaya Kavichakravathi (supreme poet in two languages) for his command over both Kannada and Sanskrit. His other writings in Kannada include Bhuvanaika-karamabhyudaya, Jinaksaramale, and Gatapratiagata.[68][33] Adikavi Pampa, Sri Ponna have been called "gems of Kannada literature".[67]

Prose works in Sanskrit had been prolific during that era as well.[10] Mahaviracharya, a native of Gulbarga, who belonged to the Karnataka mathematical tradition and patronized by King Amoghavarsha I postulated important mathematical theories and axioms.[69] Ganitasarasangraha, a writing in nine chapters, stands as his greatest contribution. Somadevasuri of 950 wrote in the court of Arikesari II, a feudatory of Rashtrakuta Krishna III in Vemulavada. He authored Yasastilaka champu, Nitivakyamrita and other writings. The champu writing aimed mainly to propagate Jain tenets and ethics. The second writing reviews the subject matter of Arthasastra from the standpoint of Jain morals in a clear and pithy manner.[70]

Trivikrama, a noted scholar in the court of King Indra III, wrote the classics Nalachampu (915), the earliest in champu style in Sanskrit, Damayanti Katha, Madalasachampu and Begumra plates. Legend has it that Goddess Saraswati helped him in his effort to compete with a rival in the kings court.[70] Jinasena had been the spiritual preceptor and guru of Amoghavarsha I. A theologian, his contributions included Dhavala and Jayadhavala (written with another theologian Virasena). Those writings had been named after their patron king, also called Athishayadhavala. Adipurana later completed by his disciple Gunabhadra, Harivamsha and Parshvabhyudaya numbered among other contributions from Jinasena.[69]


View of Kailasanath Temple at Ellora
Top view of Kailasanath Temple at Ellora
Dravidian style architecture. Top view of Navalinga Temples at Kuknur, Karnataka

The Rashtrakutas contributed much to the architectural heritage of the Deccan. The splendid rock-cut cave temples at Ellora and Elephanta, located in present day Maharashtra, reflect the Rashtrakuta contributions to art and architecture. The Ellora site originally belonged to a complex of 34 Buddhist caves probably created in the first half of the sixth century in rocky areas also occupied by Jain monks whose structural details show Pandyan influence. Cave temples occupied by Hindus only became feasible later.[71]

The Rashtrakutas renovated those Buddhist caves and re-dedicated the rock-cut shrines. Amoghavarsha I espoused Jainism and there are five Jain cave temples at Ellora ascribed to his period. The most extensive and sumptuous of the Rashtrakutas work at Ellora is their creation of the monolithic Kailasanatha temple, a splendid achievement confirming the "Balhara" status as "one among the four principle Kings of the world".[72] The walls of the temple have marvelous sculptures from Hindu mythology including Ravana, Shiva, and Parvathi, while the ceilings have paintings.

King Krishna I commissioned the Kailasanath Temple project after the Rashtrakuta rule had spread into South India from the Deccan, using the Dravidian architectural style. Absent of the Shikharas common to the Nagara style, the temple had been built on the same lines as the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka. Art historians consider the Kailasnatha temple an unrivaled work of rock architecture, a monument that has always excited and astonished travelers.

While some scholars have attributed the architecture at Elephanta to the Kalachuri, others claim that it had been built during the Rashtrakuta period.[73] Some of the sculptures such as Nataraja and Sadashiva excel in beauty and craftmanship even that of the Ellora sculptures. Famous sculptures at Elephanta include Ardhanarishvara and Maheshamurthy. The latter, a three-faced bust of Lord Shiva, stands 25 feet (8 m) tall and is considered one of the finest pieces of sculpture in India. In the world of sculpture, few works of art depicting a divinity have achieved comparable balance. Other famous rock-cut temples in the Maharashtra region include the Dhumer Lena and Dashvatara cave temples in Ellora (famous for its sculptures of Vishnu and Shivaleela) and the Jogeshvari temple near Mumbai.

Kashivishvanatha temple and the Jain Narayana temple at Pattadakal, both UNESCO World Heritage sites constituted their most famous temples in Karnataka. Other well known temples include the Parameshwara temple at Konnur, Brahmadeva temple at Savadi, the Settavva, Kontigudi II, Jadaragudi, and Ambigeragudi temples at Aihole, Mallikarjuna temple at Ron, Andhakeshwara temple at Huli, Someshwara temple at Sogal, Jain temples at Lokapura, Navalinga temple at Kuknur, Kumaraswamy temple at Sandur, at Shirival in Gulbarga and the Trikunteshwara temple at Gadag, later expanded by Kalyani Chalukyas. Archaeological study of those temples show some have the stellar (multigonal) plan later used profusely by the Hoysalas of Belur and Halebidu. One of the richest traditions in Indian architecture took shape in the Deccan during that time and one writer calls it Karnata Dravida style as opposed to traditional Dravida style.[74]


Ninth century old Kannada inscription at Navalinga temple in Kuknur, Karnataka

With the ending of the Gupta Dynasty in northern India in the early sixth century, major changes began taking place in the Deccan south of the Vindyas and in the southern regions of India, embracing political as well as linguistic and cultural changes. The royal courts of peninsular India (outside of Tamilakam) interfaced between the increasing use of the local Kannada language and the expanding Sanskritic culture. Inscriptions, including bilingual, demonstrate the use of Kannada as the primary administrative language in conjunction with Sanskrit.[7][8] Government archives used Kannada for recording pragmatic information relating to grants of land.[75] The local language formed the desi (popular) literature while literature in Sanskrit constituted more marga (formal). Educational institutions and places of higher learning (ghatikas) taught in Sanskrit, the language of the learned Brahmins, while Kannada increasingly became the speech of personal expression of devotional closeness of a worshiper to a private deity. The patronage Kannada received from rich and literate Jains eventually led to its use in the devotional movements of later centuries.[76]

Contemporaneous literature and inscriptions show that Kannada had been popular in the modern Karnataka region and that the linguistic change had spread further north into present day southern Maharashtra and to the northern Deccan by the eighth century.[5] Kavirajamarga, the work on poetics, refers to the entire region between the Kaveri River and the Godavari River as "Kannada country".[77][78][79] Higher education in Sanskrit included the subjects of Veda, Vyakarana (grammar), Jyotisha (astronomy and astrology), Sahitya (literature), Mimansa (Exegesis), Dharmashastra (law), Puranas (ritual), and Nyaya (logic). An examination of inscriptions from that period shows that the Kavya (classical) style of writing had been popular. The awareness of the merits and defects in inscriptions by the archivists indicates that even they, though mediocre poets, had studied standard classical literature in Sanskrit.[2] An inscription in Kannada by King Krishna III, written in a poetic Kanda meter, has been found as far away as Jabalpur in modern Madhya Pradesh.[80] Kavirajamarga, a work on poetics in Kannada by Amoghavarsha I, shows that the study of poetry had been popular in the Deccan during that time. Trivikrama's Sanskrit writing, Nalachampu, represents perhaps the earliest in the champu style from the Deccan.[2]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Pandit Bisheshwar Nath Reu, History of the Rashtrakutas (Rathodas) (Jaipur: Publication Scheme, 1997, ISBN 8186782125).
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 Anant Sadashiv Altekar, The Rashtrakutas And Their Times (Poona: Oriental Book Agency, 1967).
  3. Suryanath U. Kamath, A Concise history of Karnataka: From pre-historic times to the present (Bangalore: Jupiter books, Kamath, 1980/2001), 72.
  4. Kamath 1980/2001, 72–73.
  5. 5.0 5.1 C. V. Vaidya, History of Mediaeval Hindu India (Being a History of India from 600 to 1200 C.E.) (Alpha Editions, 2019, ISBN 978-9353602406).
  6. Kamath 1980/2001, 73.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sheldon Pollock, The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006, ISBN 0520245008), 332.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Jan E. M. Houben, Ideology and Status of Sanskrit: Contributions to the History of the Sanskrit language (Leiden: Brill, 1996, ISBN 9004106138), 215.
  9. Andrew Dalby, Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004, ISBN 0231115695), 300.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Kamath 1980/2001, 88–90.
  11. Romila Thapar, Penguin History of Early India: From origins to AD 1300 (New Delhi: Penguin, 2003, ISBN 0143029894), 334.
  12. 12.0 12.1 R. Narasimhacharya, History of Kannada Literature (New Delhi; Madras: Asian Educational Services, 1988, ISBN 8120603036), 17–18, 68.
  13. A.P. Karmarkar, Cultural history of Karnataka: Ancient and medieval (Dharwar: Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, 1947), 26.
  14. Colin P. Masica, The Indo-Aryan Languages (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1991, ISBN 0521299446), 45-46.
  15. P. N. Chopra, T. K. Ravindran, and N. Subrahmanian, History of South India (Ancient, Medieval and Modern) (New Delhi: Chand publications, 2003, ISBN 8121901537), 87.
  16. Kamath 1980/2001 57, 65.
  17. Nilakanta K.A. Sastri, A History of South India from Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar (New Delhi: Indian Branch, Oxford University Press, 1997, ISBN 0195606868), 141.
  18. Thapar 2003, 333.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Sastri 1997, 143
  20. Kamath 1980/2001, 75.
  21. Thapar 2003, 333.
  22. Kamath 1980/2001, 75.
  23. Kamath 1980/2001, 77.
  24. Kamath 1980/2001, 76.
  25. Kamath 1980/2001, MCC, 76.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Dr. Jyotsna Kamat, The Rashrakutas Kamat's Potpourri. Retrieved November 13, 2023.
  27. 27.0 27.1 John Keay, India: A History (New York: Grove Publications, 2000, ISBN 0802137970), 199.
  28. Kamath 1980/2001, 76.
  29. Sastri 1997, 144.
  30. Sastri 1997, 4, 132, 146.
  31. Kamath 1980/2001, 78.
  32. Narasimhacharya 1988, 1,
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 Kamath 2001, 90.
  34. Kamath 1980/2001, 80.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Sastri 1997, 161.
  36. Kamath 1980/2001, 82.
  37. Thapar 2003, 333.
  38. Kamath 1980/2001, 82–83
  39. Thapar 2003, 334.
  40. Sastri 1997, 162.
  41. Sastri 1997, 162.
  42. Kamath 1980/2001, 101
  43. Kamath 1980/2001, 100–103.
  44. Keay 2000, 200.
  45. 45.0 45.1 Kamath 1980/2001, 94.
  46. Jain 2001, 67–75.
  47. J.L. De Bruyne, (translator), Rudrakavi's Great Poem of the Dynasty of Rastraudha: Cantos 1-13 and 18-20 (Leiden: E.J. Brill Academic, 1968, ISBN 9004030980).
  48. R. C. Majumdar, The Struggle for Empire (Delhi: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1966), 50–51.
  49. Kamath 1980/2001, 85.
  50. Kamath 1980/2001, 86.
  51. Kamath 1980/2001, 88.
  52. Kamath 1980/2001, 88.
  53. Kamath 2001, 92.
  54. Kamath 1980/2001, 92.
  55. Kamath 1980/2001, 92.
  56. Kamath 1980/2001, 91.
  57. Kamath 1980/2001, 91.
  58. Kamath 1980/2001, 92.
  59. Kanai Lal Hazra, The Rise and Decline of Buddhism in India (Munshiram Manoharlal: South Asia Books, 1995, ISBN 8121506514), 288–294.
  60. Thapar 2003, 349–350, 397.
  61. 61.0 61.1 Sastri 1997, 396.
  62. Altekar 1934, 341.
  63. Narasimhacharya 1988, 12.
  64. Sastri 1997, 355–356.
  65. Other early writers mentioned in Kavirajamarga include Vimala, Udaya, Nagarjuna, Jayabhandu for Kannada prose and Kavisvara, Pandita, Chandra and Lokapala in Kannada poetry. Narasimhacharya, 1988, 2
  66. 66.0 66.1 Jyotsna Kamat, Kannada Literature under the Rashtrakutas Kamat's Potpourri. Retrieved November 13, 2023.
  67. 67.0 67.1 Sastri 1997, 356.
  68. Narasimhacharya 1988, 18.
  69. 69.0 69.1 Kamath 2001, 89.
  70. 70.0 70.1 Sastri 1997, 314.
  71. K. V. Soundara Rajan, Rock-cut Temple Styles (Mumbai, India: Somaily Publications, 1998, ISBN 8170392187), 19, 115–116.
  72. Keay 2000, 200.
  73. Kamath 1980/2001, 93.
  74. Adam Hardy, Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation (Abhinav Pubns, 1995, ISBN 978-8170173120).
  75. Romila Thapar, Penguin History of Early India: From origins to AD 1300 (New Delhi: Penguin, 2003, ISBN 0143029894), 393–394.
  76. Thapar 2003, 396.
  77. Sastri 1997, 355.
  78. E.P. Rice, Kannada Literature (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1921, ISBN 8120600630), 12.
  79. B.L. Rice, Mysore Gazetteer Compiled for Government, vol 1. (New Delhi, Madras: Asian Educational Services, 2001 (original 1897), ISBN 8120609778), 497.
  80. Kamath 2001, 73

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Altekar, Anant Sadashiv. The Rashtrakutas And Their Times. Poona: Oriental Book Agency, 1967. ASIN B091TZ3K1G
  • Chopra, P.N., T.K. Ravindran, and N. Subrahmanian. History of South India (Ancient, Medieval and Modern). New Delhi: Chand publications, 2003. ISBN 8121901537
  • Dalby, Andrew. Dictionary of Languages: The Definitive Reference to More Than 400 Languages. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. ISBN 0231115695
  • De Bruyne, J.L. (trans.). Rudrakavi's Great Poem of the Dynasty of Rastraudha: Cantos 1-13 and 18-20. Leiden: E.J. Brill Academic, 1968. ISBN 9004030980
  • Hardy, Adam. Indian Temple Architecture: Form and Transformation. Abhinav Pubns, 1995. ISBN 978-8170173120
  • Hardy, Adam. Temple Architecture of India. John Wiley and Sons Ltd., 2007. ISBN 0470028270
  • Hazra, Kanai Lal. The Rise and Decline of Buddhism in India. Munshiram Manoharlal: South Asia Books, 1995. ISBN 8121506514
  • Houben, Jan E.M. Ideology and Status of Sanskrit: Contributions to the History of the Sanskrit language. Leiden: Brill, 1996. ISBN 9004106138
  • Kamath, Suryanath U. A Concise History of Karnataka: From pre-historic times to the present. Bangalore: Jupiter books, 2001.
  • Karmarkar, A.P. Cultural History of Karnataka: Ancient and medieval. Dharwar: Karnataka Vidyavardhaka Sangha, 1947. ASIN B0006E4EAM
  • Keay, John. India: A History. New York: Grove Publications, 2000. ISBN 0802137970
  • Majumdar, R.C. The Struggle for Empire. Delhi: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1966. ASIN B00DQ50GY6
  • Masica, Colin P. The Indo-Aryan Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. ISBN 0521299446
  • Narasimhacharya, R. History of Kannada Literature. New Delhi, Madras: Asian Educational Services, 1988. ISBN 8120603036
  • Pollock, Sheldon. The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. ISBN 0520245008
  • Rajan, K.V. Soundara. Rock-cut Temple Styles. Mumbai, India: Somaily Publications, 1998. ISBN 8170392187
  • Reu, Pandit Bisheshwar Nath. History of the Rashtrakutas (Rathodas). Jaipur: Publication Scheme, 1997. ISBN 8186782125
  • Rice, E.P. A History of Kannada Literature. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1982. ISBN 8120600630
  • Rice, B.L. Mysore Gazetteer Compiled for Government-vol 1. New Delhi, Madras: Asian Educational Services, 2001. ISBN 8120609778
  • Sastri, Nilakanta K.A. A History of South India: From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar. New Delhi: Indian Branch, Oxford University Press, 1997. ISBN 0195606868
  • Thapar, Romila. Penguin History of Early India: From origins to AD 1300. New Delhi: Penguin, 2003. ISBN 0143029894
  • Vaidya, C.V. History of Medieval Hindu India (Being a History of India from 600 to 1200 C.E.). Alpha Editions, 2019. ISBN 978-9353602406

External links

All links retrieved November 7, 2023.

Middle kingdoms of India
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