Western Chalukya Empire

From New World Encyclopedia
ಪಶ್ಚಿಮ ಚಾಲುಕ್ಯ ಸಾಮ್ರಾಜ್ಯ
Western Chalukya Empire
(Subordinate to Rashtrakuta until 973)
973 – 1189 Blank.png
Location of Western Chalukya Empire
Extent of Western Chalukya Empire, 1121 C.E.
Capital Manyakheta, Basavakalyan
Language(s) Kannada
Religion Hindu
 - 957 – 997 Tailapa II
 - 1184 – 1189 Somesvara IV
 - Earliest records 957
 - Established 973
 - Disestablished 1189

The Western Chalukya Empire (Kannada:ಪಶ್ಚಿಮ ಚಾಲುಕ್ಯ ಸಾಮ್ರಾಜ್ಯ) ruled most of the western Deccan, South India, between the tenth and twelfth centuries. Sometimes called the Kalyani Chalukya after its regal capital at Kalyani, today's Basavakalyan in Karnataka, and alternatively the Later Chalukya from its theoretical relationship to the sixth century Chalukya dynasty of Badami. It is commonly called Western Chalukyas to differentiate from the contemporaneous Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi, a separate dynasty. Prior to the rise of those Chalukyas, the Rashtrakuta empire of Manyakheta controlled most of deccan and central India for over two centuries. In 973, seeing confusion in the Rashtrakuta empire after a successful invasion of their capital by the Paramara of Malwa, Tailapa II a feudatory of the Rashtrakuta ruling from Bijapur region defeated his overlords and made Manyakheta his capital. The dynasty quickly rose to power and grew into an empire under Somesvara I who moved the capital to Kalyani.

For over a century, the two empires of southern India, the Western Chalukyas and the Chola dynasty of Tanjore fought many fierce wars to control the fertile region of Vengi. During those conflicts, the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi, distant cousins of the Western Chalukyas but related to the Cholas by marriage, took sides with the Cholas further complicating the situation. The Western Chalukya empire convincingly eclipsed the Cholas and reached its peak with territories spreading over most of the deccan during the rule of Vikramaditya VI in the late eleventh century. Vast areas between the Narmada River in the north and Kaveri River in the south came under Chalukya control. During that period the other major ruling families of the Deccan, the Hoysalas, the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri, the Kakatiya dynasty and the Southern Kalachuri, lived as subordinates of the Western Chalukyas and gained their independence only when the power of the Chalukya waned during the later half of the twelfth century.

The Western Chalukyas developed an architectural style known today as a transitional style, an architectural link between the style of the early Chalukya dynasty and that of the later Hoysala empire. Most of its monuments stand in the districts bordering the Tungabhadra River in central Karnataka. The Kasi Vishveshvara Temple at Lakkundi, the Mallikarjuna Temple at Kuruvatii, the Kalleshwara Temple at Bagali and the Mahadeva Temple at Itagi represent well known examples. Western Chalukyas ushered in an important period in the development of fine arts in Southern India, especially in literature as the Western Chalukya kings encouraged writers in the native language of Kannada and Sanskrit.


Mahadeva Temple at Itagi in Koppal district, Karnataka

Knowledge of the Western Chalukyas history has come through examination of the numerous excavated Kannada language inscriptions left by the kings and from the study of important contemporary literary documents in Western Chalukya literature such as Gada Yuddha (982) in Kannada by Ranna and Vikramankadeva Charitam (1120) in Sanskrit by Bilhana.[1] The earliest inscription dates 957, during the rule of Tailapa II when the Western Chalukyas existed as a feudatory of the Rashtrakutas and Tailapa II governed from Tardavadi in present day Bijapur district, Karnataka.[2] The genealogy of the kings of that empire still remains unclear. One theory, based on contemporary literary and inscriptional evidence plus the finding that the Western Chalukyas employed titles and names commonly used by the early Chalukyas, suggests that the Western Chalukya kings belonged to the same family line as the illustrious Badami Chalukya dynasty of sixth century while other Western Chalukya inscriptional evidence indicates they belonged to a distinct line unrelated to the early Chalukyas.

Inscriptional evidence attesting to the rise of a local Chalukya King Chattigadeva of Banavasi-12000 province dated 967 who declared himself independent has been found, indicating an alliance between him and local Kadamba chieftains. That rebellion proved unfruitful but paved the way for his successor Tailapa II.[3] A few years later, Tailapa II re-established Chalukya rule and defeated the Rashtrakutas during the reign of Karka II by timing his rebellion to coincide with the confusion caused in the Rashtrakuta capital of Manyakheta by the invading Paramaras of Central India in 973.[4]According to a 973 inscription, Tailapa II helped by Kadambas of Hangal, destroyed the Rattas (Rashtrakutas), killed the valiant Munja (Paramara kingdom), took the head of Panchala (Ganga dynasty) and restored the royal dignity of the Chalukyas.[5] After overpowering the Rashtrakutas, Tailapa II moved his capital to Manyakheta and consolidated the Chalukya empire in the western deccan by subjugating the Paramara and other aggressive rivals and extending his control over the land between the Narmada River and Tungabhadra River.[6] Some inscriptions indicate that Balagamve in Mysore territory may have been a power center up to the rule of Somesvara I in 1042.[7]

The intense competition between the kingdoms of the western deccan and those of the Tamil kingdoms came to the fore in the eleventh century over the acutely contested fertile river valleys in the doab region of the Krishna and Godavari River called Vengi (coastal Andhra Pradesh). The Western Chalukyas and the Chola Dynasty fought many bitter wars over control of that strategic resource. The imperial Cholas gained power during the time of the famous king Rajaraja Chola I and the crown prince Rajendra Chola I. The Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi had been cousins of the Western Chalukyas but became increasingly influenced by the Cholas through their marital ties with the Tamil kingdom. As that had been against the interests of the Western Chalukyas, they wasted no time in involving themselves politically and militarily in Vengi. When King Satyasraya succeeded Tailapa II to the throne, he ably protected his kingdom from Chola aggression as well as his northern territories in Konkan and Gujarat although his control over Vengi proved shaky. His successor, Jayasimha II, fought many battles with the Cholas in the south while both powerful kingdoms struggled to choose the Vengi king. Simultaneously, Jayasimha II subdued the Paramara of central India.

Western Chalukya (973-1200)
Tailapa II (957 - 997)
Satyasraya (997 - 1008)
Vikramaditya V (1008 - 1015)
Jayasimha II (1015 - 1042)
Somesvara I (1042 - 1068)
Somesvara II (1068 -1076)
Vikramaditya VI (1076 - 1126)
Somesvara III (1126 – 1138)
Jagadhekamalla II (1138 – 1151)
Tailapa III (1151 - 1164)
Jagadhekamalla III (1163 – 1183)
Somesvara IV (1184 – 1200)
Veera Ballala II
(Hoysala Empire)
(1173 - 1220)
Bhillama V
(Seuna Empire)
(1173 - 1192)
(Kakatiya dynasty)
(1158 - 1195)

Jayasimha's son, Somesvara I, moved the Chalukya capital to Kalyani in 1042 as hostilities with the Cholas continued and while both sides won and lost battles, neither lost significant territory[8] during the ongoing politics of installing a puppet on the Vengi throne.[9] In 1068, Somesvara I, suffering from an incurable illness, drowned himself in the Tungabhadra River (Paramayoga).[10] Despite many conflicts with the Cholas, Somesvara I had managed to maintain control over the northern territories in Konkan, Gujarat, Malwa, and Kalinga during his rule. His successor, his eldest son Somesvara II, feuded with his younger brother, Vikramaditya VI, an ambitious warrior who had initially been governor of Gangavadi in the southern deccan when Somesvara II had been the king. Married to a Chola princess (a daughter of Virarajendra Chola), Vikramaditya VI maintained a friendly alliance with them. After the death of the Chola king in 1070, Vikramaditya VI invaded the Tamil kingdom and installed his brother-in-law, Adhirajendra, on the throne creating conflict with Kulothunga Chola I, the powerful ruler of Vengi who sought the Chola throne for himself.[11] At the same time Vikramaditya VI undermined his brother, Somesvara II, by winning the loyalty of the Chalukya feudatories: The Hoysala, the Seuna and the Kadambas of Hanagal. Anticipating a civil war, Somesvara II sought help from Vikramaditya VI's enemies, Kulothunga Chola I, and the Kadambas of Goa. In the ensuing conflict of 1076, Vikramaditya VI emerged victorious and proclaimed himself king of the Chalukya empire.[12]

The fifty year reign of Vikramaditya VI, the most successful of the later Chalukya rulers, had been an important period in Karnataka's history, referred to by historians as the "Chalukya Vikrama era."[13] He successful controlled his powerful feudatories in the north and south as well as successfully dealing with the imperial Cholas whom he defeated in the battle of Vengi in 1093 and again in 1118. He retained that territory for many years despite ongoing hostilities with the Cholas. That victory in Vengi reduced the Chola influence in the eastern deccan and made him emperor of territories stretching from the Kaveri River in the south to the Narmada River in the north, earning him the titles Permadideva and Tribhuvanamalla (lord of three worlds). The scholars of his time paid him glowing tributes for his military leadership, interest in fine arts and religious tolerance. Literature proliferated and scholars in Kannada and Sanskrit adorned his court. Poet Bilhana, who immigrated from far away Kashmir, eulogized the king in his well known work Vikramankadeva Charitam.[14] Vikramaditya VI proved himself an able warrior and a devout king, as indicated by his numerous inscriptions that record grants made to scholars and centers of religion.

The continual warring with the Cholas exhausted both empires, giving their subordinates the opportunity to rebel.[15] In the decades after Vikramaditya VI's death in 1126, the empire steadily decreased in size as their powerful feudatories expanded in autonomy and territorial command. The time period between 1150 and 1200 saw many hard fought battles between the Chalukyas and their feudatories also at war with each other. By the time of Jagadhekamalla II, the Chalukyas had lost control of Vengi and his successor, Kakatiya Prola defeated Tailapa III in 1149. Tailapa III, taken captive, and later released bringing down the prestige of the Western Chalukyas. Seeing decadence and uncertainty seeping into Chalukya rule, the Hoysalas and Seunas also encroached upon the empire. Hoysala Narasimha I defeated and killed Tailapa III but failed to overcome the Kalachuris who vied for control of the same region. In 1157, the Kalachuris under Bijjala II captured Kalyani and occupied it for the next twenty years, forcing the Chalukyas to move their capital to Annigeri in the present day Dharwad district.

The Kalachuris originally had been immigrants into the southern deccan from central India and called themselves Kalanjarapuravaradhisavaras. Bijjala II and his ancestors had governed as Chalukya commanders (Mahamandaleshwar) over the Karhad-4000 and Tardavadi-1000 provinces (overlapping region in present day Karnataka and Maharashtra) with Mangalavada as their capital. Bijjala II's Chikkalagi record of 1157 calls him Mahabhujabala Chakravarti (emperor with powerful shoulders and arms) indicating he had thrown off his subordinate role to the Chalukyas. The successors of Bijjala II failed to hold on to Kalyani and their rule ended in 1183, when the last Chalukya scion, Somesvara IV made a final bid to regain the empire by recapturing Kalyani. Chalukya general Narasimha Kalachuri killed King Sankama in that conflict. During that time, Hoysala Veera Ballala II grew ambitious and clashed on several occasions with the Chalukyas and the other claimants over their empire. He defeated Chalukya Somesvara IV and Seuna Bhillama V bringing large regions in the Krishna River valley under the Hoysala domains, but failed against Kalachuris. The Seunas under Bhillama V succeeded in expanding their empire when the Chalukyas regained Kalyani. Chalukya general Barma temporarily stemmed their ambitions by their defeat in 1183 but they later had their vengeance in 1189.

The overall effort by Somesvara IV to rebuild the Chalukya empire failed and the Seuna rulers, who drove Somesvara IV into exile in 1189, ended the dynasty. After the fall of the Chalukyas, the Seunas and Hoysalas continued warring over the Krishna River region, each inflicting a defeat on the other at various points in time. That period saw the fall of two great empires, the Chalukyas of the western deccan and the Cholas of Tamilakam. The Kingdoms of their feudatories mutual antagonisms filled the annals of Deccan history for over a hundred years. The Pandyas took control over some regions of the erstwhile Chola empire, buidling on the ruins of those two empires.[16]


Dodda Basappa Temple at Dambal in Gadag district, Karnataka

The Western Chalukya kingship had been hereditary, passing to the king's brother if the king lacked a male heir. The administration had been highly decentralized, feudatory clans such as the Alupas, the Hoysalas, the Kakatiya, the Seuna, the southern Kalachuri and others allowed the authority to rule their autonomous provinces, paying an annual tribute to the Chalukya emperor. Excavated inscriptions record titles such as Mahapradhana (Chief minister), Sandhivigrahika, and Dharmadhikari (chief justice). Some positions such as Tadeyadandanayaka (commander of reserve army) represented a specialized function while all ministerial positions included the role of Dandanayaka (commander), showing that cabinet members had been trained as army commanders as well as in general administrative skills.

The kingdom divided into provinces such as Banavasi-12000, Nolambavadi-32000, Gangavadi-96000, each name including the number of villages under its jurisdiction. The large provinces divided into smaller provinces containing a lesser number of villages, as in Belavola-300. The big provinces, called Mandala, had under them Nadu further divided into Kampanas (groups of villages) and finally a Bada (village). A Mandala came under a member of the royal family, a trusted feudatory or a senior official. Tailapa II himself ruled Tardavadi province during the Rashtrakuta rule. Chiefs of Mandalas transfered based on political developments. For example, an official named Bammanayya administered Banavasi-12000 under King Somesvara III but transferred later to Halasige-12000. Women from the royal family also administered Nadus and Kampanas. Army commanders had the title Mahamandaleshwaras while those who headed a Nadu received the title Nadugouvnda.

The Western Chalukyas minted punch-marked gold pagodas with Kannada and Nagari legends in the form of large, thin gold coins with several varying punch marks on the obverse side. They usually carried multiple punches of symbols such as a stylized lion, Sri in Kannada,[17] a spearhead, the king's title, a lotus and others. Jayasimha II used the legend Sri Jaya, Somesvara I issued coins with Sri Tre lo ka malla, Somesvara II used Bhuvaneka malla, Lakshmideva's coin carried Sri Lasha, and Jagadhekamalla II coinage had the legend Sri Jagade. The Alupas, a feudatory, minted coins with the Kannada and Nagari legend Sri Pandya Dhanamjaya.[18] Lakkundi in Gadag district and Sudi in Dharwad district had been the main mints (Tankhashaley). Their heaviest gold coin, Gadyanaka, weighed 96 grains, Dramma weighted 65 grains, Kalanju 48 grains, Kasu 15 grains, Manjadi 2.5 grains, Akkam 1.25 grains and Pana 9.6 grain.


Parapet wall relief carvings at Kedareshwara Temple in Balligavi, Shimoga district.

Agriculture had been the empire's main source of income through taxes on land and produce. The majority of the people lived in villages and worked farming the staple crops of rice, pulses, and cotton in the dry areas and sugarcane in areas having sufficient rainfall, with areca and betel being the chief cash crops. The living conditions of the laborers who farmed the land must have been bearable as no records of revolts by the landless against wealthy landlords exist. If peasants felt disgruntled, they commonly migrated in large numbers out of the jurisdiction of the ruler who mistreated them, thereby depriving him of revenue from their labor.[19]

The government levied taxes on mining and forest products, and raised additional income through tolls for the use of roads. The state also collected fees from customs, professional licenses, and judicial fines.[20] Records show a horse and salt tax as well as taxes on commodities (gold, textiles, perfumes) and agricultural produce (black pepper, paddy, spices, betel leaves, palm leaves, coconuts and sugar). The government based land tax assessment on frequent surveys evaluating the quality of land and the type of produce. Chalukya records specifically mention black soil and red soil lands in addition to wetland, dry land and wasteland in determining taxation rates.[21]

Part of a series on
History of Karnataka
Origin of Karnataka's name
Kadambas and Gangas
Chalukya dynasty
Rashtrakuta Dynasty
Western Chalukya Empire
Southern Kalachuri
Hoysala Empire
Vijayanagara Empire
Bahamani Sultanate
Bijapur Sultanate
 Political history of medieval Karnataka 
Kingdom of Mysore
Unification of Karnataka

Societies    Economies
Architectures    Forts

Key figures mentioned in inscriptions from rural areas included the Gavundas (officials) or Goudas. The Gavundas belonged to two levels of economic strata, the Praja Gavunda (people's Gavunda) and the Prabhu Gavunda (lord of Gavundas). They served the dual purpose of representing the people before the rulers as well as functioning as state appointees for tax collection and the raising of militias. They had been mentioned in inscriptions related to land transactions, irrigation maintenance, village tax collection and village council duties.[22]

The organization of corporate enterprises became common in the eleventh century.[23] Almost all arts and crafts organized into guilds, work performed on a corporate basis; records fail to mention individual artists, sculptors and craftsman. Only in the regions ruled by the Hoysala did individual sculptors etch their names below their creations.[24] Merchants organized themselves into powerful guilds that transcended political divisions, allowing their operations to be largely unaffected by wars and revolutions. Their only threat came from the possibility of theft from brigands when their ships and caravans traveled to distant lands. Powerful South Indian merchant guilds included the Manigramam, the Nagarattar, and the Anjuvannam. Local guilds went by the name nagaram, while the Nanadesis worked as traders from neighboring kingdoms who perhaps mixed business with pleasure. The self styled Ainnurruvar had been the wealthiest and most influential and celebrated of all South Indian merchant guilds, also known as the 500 Svamis of Ayyavolepura (Brahmins and Mahajanas of present day Aihole),[25] who conducted extensive land and sea trade and thereby contributed significantly to the total foreign trade of the empire. It fiercely protected its trade obligations (Vira Bananjudharma or law of the noble merchants) and its members often recorded their achievements in inscriptions called Prasasti. Five hundred such excavated Prasasti inscriptions, with their own flag and the bull as their emblem, record their pride in their business.

Rich traders contributed significantly to the king's treasury through paying import and export taxes. The edicts of the Aihole Svamis mention trade ties with foreign kingdoms such as Chera, Pandya, Maleya (Malayasia), Magadh, Kaushal, Saurashtra, Kurumba, Kambhoja (Cambodia), Lata (Gujarat), Parasa (Persia), and Nepal. Traveling both land and sea routes, those merchants traded mostly in precious stones, spices and perfumes, and other specialty items such as camphor. Business flourished in precious stones such as diamonds, lapis lazuli, onyx, topaz, carbuncles and emeralds. Commonly traded spices included cardamom, saffron, and cloves, while perfumes included the by-products of sandalwood, bdellium, musk, civet and rose. Those items could be purchased either in bulk or from street hawkers by local merchants in towns.[26] The Western Chalukyas controlled most of South India's west coast and by the 10th century they had established extensive trade ties with the Tang Empire of China, the empires of Southeast Asia and the Abbasid Caliphate in Bhagdad, and by the 12th century Chinese fleets frequented Indian ports. Exports to Song Dynasty China included textiles, spices, medicinal plants, jewels, ivory, rhino horn, ebony and camphor. The same products also reached ports in the west such as Dhofar and Aden. The final destinations for those trading with the west included Persia, Arabia and Egypt.[27] The thriving trade center of Siraf, a port on the eastern coast of the Persian Gulf, served an international clientèle of merchants including those from the Chalukya empire whom wealthy local merchants feasted during business visits. An indicator of the Indian merchants' importance in Siraf comes from records describing dining plates reserved for them.[28] In addition to that, Siraf received aloe wood, perfumes, sandalwood and condiments. Arabian horse shipments constituted the most expensive import to South India, that trade being monopolized by Arabs and local Brahmin merchants. Thirteenth century traveler Marco Polo recorded that the breeding of horses never succeeded in India due to differing climatic, soil, and grassland conditions.[27]



Basavanna Statue

The fall of the Rashtrakuta empire to the Western Chalukyas in the tenth century, coinciding with the defeat of the Western Ganga Dynasty by the Cholas in Gangavadi, constituted a setback to Jainism. The growth of Virashaivism in the Chalukya territory and Vaishnava Hinduism in the Hoysala region paralleled a general decreased interest in Jainism, although the succeeding kingdoms continued to be religiously tolerant. Two locations of Jain worship in the Hoysala territory continued to be patronaged, Shravanabelagola and Kambadahalli. The decline of Buddhism in South India had began in the 8th century with the spread of Adi Shankara's Advaita philosophy.[29] Dambal and Balligavi represented the only places of Buddhist worship that remained during the Western Chalukya rule. No mention of religious conflict exists in the writings and inscriptions of the time which suggest a smooth religious transition.

Although the origin of the Virashaiva faith has been debated, the movement grew through its association with Basavanna in the twelfth century.[30] Basavanna and other Virashaiva saints preached of a faith without a caste system. In his Vachanas (a form of poetry), Basavanna appealed to the masses in simple Kannada and wrote "work is worship" (Kayakave Kailasa). Also known as the Lingayats (worshipers of the Linga, the universal symbol of Shiva), those Virashaivas questioned many of the established norms of society such as the belief in rituals and the theory of rebirth and supported the remarriage of widows and the marriage of unwed older women.[31] That gave more social freedom to women although still prohibited from the priesthood. Ramanujacharya, the head of the Vaishnava monastery in Srirangam, traveled to the Hoysala territory and preached the way of devotion (bhakti marga). He later wrote Sribhashya, a commentary on Badarayana Brahmasutra, a critique on the Advaita philosophy of Adi Shankara. Ramanujacharya's stay in Melkote resulted in the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana converting to Vaishnavism, a faith that his successors also followed.

The impact of those religious developments on the culture, literature, and architecture in South India had been profound. Important works of metaphysics and poetry based on the teachings of those philosophers had been written over the next centuries. Akka Mahadevi, Allama Prabhu, and a host of Basavanna's followers, including Chenna Basava, Prabhudeva, Siddharama, and Kondaguli Kesiraja wrote hundreds of poems called Vachanas in praise of Lord Shiva.[32] The esteemed scholars in the Hoysala court, Harihara and Raghavanka, had been Virashaivas. That tradition continued into the Vijayanagar empire with such well known scholars as Singiraja, Mallanarya, Lakkana Dandesa and other prolific writers of Virashaiva literature. The Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu dynasties of the Vijayanagar empire had been followers of Vaishnavism and a Vaishnava temple with an image of Ramanujacharya exists today in the Vitthalapura area of Vijayanagara.[33] Scholars in the succeeding Mysore Kingdom wrote Vaishnavite works supporting the teachings of Ramanujacharya. King Vishnuvardhana built many temples after his conversion from Jainism to Vaishnavism including the famous Chennakesava Temple at Belur.[34]


Kirthimukha at Kedareshwara Temple in Balligavi, Shimoga district.

The rise of Veerashaivaism proved revolutionary and challenged the prevailing Hindu caste system which retained royal support. The social role of women largely depended on their economic status and level of education in that relatively liberal period. Women in the royal and affluent urban families found freedom more available. Records describe the participation of women in the fine arts, such as Chalukya queen Chandala Devi's and Kalachuri queen Sovala Devi's skill in dance and music. The compositions of thirty Vachana women poets included the work of the twelfth century Virashaiva mystic Akka Mahadevi whose devotion to the bhakti movement has become famous.[35] Contemporary records indicate some royal women worked in administrative and martial affairs such as princess Akkadevi (sister of King Jayasimha II), who fought and defeated rebellious feudals.[36] That stands in stark contrast to the literature of the time (like Vikramankadeva Charita of Bilhana) that portrayed women as retiring, overly romantic and unconcerned with affairs of the state.[37] Inscriptions emphasize public acceptance of widowhood indicating that Sati (a custom in which a dead man's widow used to immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre) occurred on a voluntary rather then enforced basis. The Jains practiced ritual deaths to achieve salvation by fasting to death (Sallekhana), while people of some other communities chose to jump on spikes (Shoolabrahma) or walking into fire on an eclipse.

In a conspicuous Hindu caste system, Brahmins enjoyed a privileged position as providers of knowledge and local justice. Those Brahmins normally worked in careers that revolved around religion and learning with the exception of a few who achieved success in martial affairs. Kings, nobles and wealthy aristocrats patronized learned Brahmins, persuading them to settle in specific towns and villages by making them grants of land and houses. Relocating Brahmin scholars had been considered in the interest of the kingdom as they represented persons detached from wealth and power and their knowledge proved a useful tool to educate and teach ethical conduct and discipline in local communities. Brahmins actively participated in solving local problems by functioning as neutral arbiters (Panchayat).[38]

Regarding eating habits, Brahmins, Jains, Buddhists and Shaivas practiced strict vegetarianism, while others partook of different kinds of meat popular among other communities. Marketplace vendors sold meat of domesticated animals such as goats, sheep, pigs and fowl as well as exotic meat including partridge, hare, wild fowl and boar.[39] People found indoor amusement by attending wrestling matches (Kusti) or watching animals fight such as cock fights and ram fights or by gambling. Horse racing represented a popular outdoor past time.[40] In addition to those leisurely activities, festivals and fairs occurred frequently and traveling troupes of acrobats, dancers, dramatists and musicians often provided entertainment.

Records mention schools and hospitals, built in the vicinity of temples. Marketplaces served as open air town halls where people gathered to discuss and ponder local issues. Choirs, which sang devotional hymns, had been maintained at temple expense. Young men had been trained to sing in choirs in schools attached to monasteries such as Hindu Matha, Jain Palli, and Buddhist Vihara. Those institutions provided advanced education in religion and ethics, offering well equipped libraries (Saraswati Bhandara). Learning had been imparted in the local language and in Sanskrit. Brahmapuri (or Ghatika or Agrahara) represented schools of higher learning. Teaching Sanskrit had been a near monopoly of Brahmins who received royal endowments for their cause. Inscriptions record that the number of subjects taught varied from four to eighteen.[41] The four most popular subjects with royal students were Economics (Vartta), Political Science (Dandaniti), Veda (trayi) and Philosophy (Anvikshiki), subjects mentioned as early as Kautilyas Arthasastra.


The Western Chalukya era represented a time of substantial literary activity in Kannada and Sanskrit. In a golden age of Kannada literature, Jain scholars wrote about the life of Tirthankaras and Virashaiva poets expressed their closeness to God through pithy poems called Vachanas. More than two hundred contemporary Vachanakaras (Vachana poets) including thirty women poets have been recorded.[42] Brahmin writers wrote epic early works, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata, Puranas, and Vedas. In the field of secular literature, they wrote on subjects such as romance, mathematics, medicine, lexicon, astrology, and encyclopedia for the first time.

Ranna, grammarian Nagavarma II, and Virashaiva saint Basavanna emerged as the most notable among Kannada scholars. King Tailapa II patronized Ranna and Satyasraya became one among the "three gems of Kannada literature".[43] He received the title "Emperor among poets" (Kavi Chakravathi) by King Tailapa II and has five major works to his credit. Of those, Saahasabheema Vijayam (or Gada yuddha) of 982 in Champu style took the form of a eulogy of his patron King Satyasraya whom he compares to Bhima in valor and achievements and narrates the duel between Bhima and Duryodhana using clubs on the eighteenth day of the Mahabharata war.[44] He wrote Ajitha purana in 993 describing the life of the second Tirthankara, Ajitanatha.[45]

Nagavarma II, poet laureate (Katakacharya) of King Jagadhekamalla II made contributions to Kannada literature in various subjects.[46] His works in poetry, prosody, grammar and vocabulary became standard authorities and their importance to the study of Kannada language has been well acknowledged. Kavyavalokana in poetics, Karnataka-Bhashabhushana on grammar and Vastukosa a lexicon (with Kannada equivalents for Sanskrit words) represent some of his comprehensive contributions.[47]

A unique and native form of poetic literature in Kannada called Vachanas developed during this time. Written by mystics, they expressed their devotion to God in simple poems that appealled to the masses. Basavanna, Akka Mahadevi,[48] Allama Prabhu became best known among them.[49]

In Sanskrit, a well known poem (Mahakavya) in eighteen cantos called Vikramankadeva Charitha by Kashmiri poet Bilhana recounts in epic style the life and achievements of his patron king Vikramaditya VI. The work narrates the episode of Vikramaditya VI's accession to the Chalukya throne after overthrowing his elder brother Somesvara II.[50]

King Somesvara III (1129) wrote Manasollasa or Abhilashitartha Chintamani, a Sanskrit work, intended for all sections of society. An example of an early encyclopedia in Sanskrit, the work covered many subjects including medicine, magic, veterinary science, valuing of precious stones and pearls, fortifications, painting, music, games, amusements etc.[51] While the book omits topics of a particular hierarchy of importance, it serves as a landmark in understanding the state of knowledge in those subjects at that time.[52]

A Sanskrit scholar Vijnaneshwara became famous in the field of legal literature for his Mitakshara, in the court of Vikramaditya VI. Perhaps the most acknowledged work in that field, Mitakshara took the form of a treatise on law (commentary on Yajnavalkya) based on earlier writings and has found acceptance in most parts of modern India. An Englishman Colebrooke later translated into English the section on inheritance giving it currency in the British Indian court system.[53] Some important literary works of the time related to music and musical instruments included Sangita Chudamani, Sangita Samayasara, and Sangitha Ratnakara.


Ornate pillars at Saraswati temple in Gadag city, Karnataka
Ornate door panels at Nagaresvara temple in Bankapura, Haveri district, Karnataka
Brahma Jainalaya at Lakkundi in Gadag district, Karnataka

The reign of Western Chalukya dynasty represents an important period in the development of deccan architecture. The architecture designed during this time served as a conceptual link between the Badami Chalukya Architecture of the eighth century and the Hoysala architecture popularized in the thirteenth century.[54] Art historians call the art of the Western Chalukyas the "Gadag style" after the number of ornate temples they built in the Tungabhadra River-Krishna River doab region of present day Gadag district in Karnataka.[55] The dynasty's temple building reached its maturity and culmination in the twelfth century with over a hundred temples built across the deccan, more then half of them in present day central Karnataka.[56] Apart from temples, the dynasty's architecture has become well known for the ornate stepped wells (Pushkarni) which served as ritual bathing places, many stand well preserved in Lakkundi. The Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara empire incorporated those stepped well designs in the coming centuries.

The Kasi Vishveshvara Temple at Lakkundi (Gadag district), the Dodda Basappa Temple at Dambal (Gadag district), Mallikarjuna Temple at Kuruvatii (Davangere district), Kalleshwara Temple at Bagali (Davangere district), Siddesvara Temple at Haveri (Haveri district), Amritesvara Temple at Annigeri (Dharwad district) and Mahadeva Temple at Itagi (Koppal district) represent the finest examples produced by the later Chalukya architects. The twelfth century Mahadeva Temple, with its well executed sculptures, offers an exquisite example of decorative detail. The intricate, finely crafted carvings on walls, pillars and towers speak volumes about Chalukya taste and culture. An inscription outside the temple calls it "Emperor of Temples" and relates that Mahadeva, a commander in the army of king Vikramaditya VI, built it.[57] The Kedareswara Temple (1060) at Balligavi presents an example of an early transitional Chalukya-Hoysala style. The Western Chalukyas built temples in Badami and Aihole during its second phase of temple building activity such as Mallikarjuna Temple and Yellamma Temple and Bhutanatha group of Temples.[58]

The Vimana of their temples (tower over the shrine) compromises between the plain stepped style of the early Chalukyas and the decorative finish of the Hoysalas. To the credit of the Western Chalukya architects, they developed of the lathe turned (tuned) pillars and use of Soapstone (Chloritic Schist) as basic building and sculptural material, a very popular idiom in later Hoysala temples. They popularized the use of decorative Kirthimukha (demon faces) in their sculptures. Many of the famous architects in the Hoysala kingdom had been Chalukya architects native to places such as Balligavi. The artistic wall decor and the general sculptural idiom had been dravidian architecture.[59] Sometimes called Karnata Dravida, the style represents one of the richest traditions in Indian architecture.


Old Kannada inscription dated 1112 C.E. at Mahadeva Temple in Itagi, Karnataka
Old Kannada inscription dated 1091 C.E. CE at Nagaresvara Temple in Bankapura, Karnataka

The Western (Kalyani) Chalukya predominantly used local language Kannada for inscriptions and administration, a trend that started with the Badami Chalukyas. Some historians claim ninety percent of their inscriptions have been written in Kannada, the remaining in Sanskrit.[60] More inscriptions in Kannada attribute to Vikramaditya VI than any other king prior to the twelfth century,[61] many of which have been deciphered and translated by historians of the Archaeological Survey of India. Inscriptions have been either carved in stone (Shilashasana) or etched on copper plates (Tamarashasana). That period saw the prolific growth of the regional language into a literary and poetic medium, a trend encouraged by earlier empires, the Kadambas, Chalukyas of Badami and Rashtrakutas. Further impetus for the use of the local language came from the devotional movement of the Virashaivas who expressed their closeness to their deity in the form of simple lyrics called Vachanas.[62] At an administrative level, the regional language had been used to record locations and rights related to land grants. When bilingual, the inscriptions beginning section stated the title, genealogy, origin myths of the king and benedictions generally used Sanskrit. Kannada had been used to state terms of the grants, including information on the land, its boundaries, the participation of local authorities, rights and obligations of the grantee, taxes and dues, and witnesses. That ensured the content would be clearly understood by the local people without any ambiguity.[63]

In addition to inscriptions, during that time emerged early chronicles called Vamshavalis, used to provide historical details of dynasties. Writings in Sanskrit included poetry, grammar, lexicon, manuals, rhetoric, commentaries on older works, prose fiction and drama. In Kannada many first time works on secular subjects such as Chandombudhi in prosody and Karnataka Kadambari in romance by Nagavarma I, Rannakanda in lexicons (993), Karnataka-Kalyanakaraka in medicine, Jatakatilaka in astrology (1049), Madanakatilaka in erotics, and Lokaparaka in encyclopaedia (1025) had been written.[64]

See also


  1. Shama Sastry and N. Lakshminarayana Rao, Kannada inscriptions. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  2. Sastri (1955), 162.
  3. Moraes (1931), 88-93.
  4. Sastri (1955), 162.
  5. Moares (1931), 93–94.
  6. Sastri (1955), 164.
  7. Cousens (1926), 10, 105.
  8. Sastri (1955), 166.
  9. Sastri (1955), 169.
  10. Sastri (1955), 170.
  11. Sastri (1955), 171.
  12. Sastri (1955), 172.
  13. Thapar (2003), 468–469.
  14. Sastri (1955), 315,
  15. Sastri (1955), 158.
  16. Sastri (1955), 192.
  17. S. Govindaraya Prabhu, Indian coins-Dynasties of South-Chalukyas.
  18. S. Govindaraya Prabhu, Indian coins-Dynasties of South-Alupas.
  19. Thapar (2002), 373.
  20. Thapar (2002), 378.
  21. Sastri (1955), 298.
  22. Thapar (2002), 379.
  23. Thapar (2002), 382.
  24. Sastri (1955), 299.
  25. Sastri (1955), 300.
  26. Sastri (1955), 301.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Thapar (2002), 383.
  28. Sastri (1955), 302.
  29. Thapar, (2003), 349–350, 397.
  30. Sastri (1955), 393.
  31. Thapar (2003), p. 399
  32. Narasimhacharya (1988), 20.
  33. Mack (2001), 35–36.
  34. K.L. Kamath, Hoysala Temples of Belur. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  35. Thapar (2003), 392.
  36. Sastri (1955), 286.
  37. Thapar (2003), 392.
  38. Sastri (1955), 289.
  39. Sastri (1955), 288.
  40. Sastri (1955), 289.
  41. Sastri (1955), 292.
  42. Sastri (1955), 361.
  43. Sastri (1955), 356.
  44. Narasimhacharya (1988), 12.
  45. Sastri (1955), 356.
  46. Narasimhacharya (1988), 64–65.
  47. Sastri (1955), 358.
  48. R.G. Mathapati, History of Karnataka-Who is Akka. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  49. Sastri (1955), 361.
  50. Thapar (2003), 394.
  51. Thapar, (2003), 393.
  52. Sastri (1955), 315.
  53. Sastri (1955), 324.
  54. Arthikaje, History of Karnataka—Chalukyas of Kalyani. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  55. Kannikeswaran, Temples of Karnataka, Kalyani Chalukyan temples. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  56. Foekema (1996), 14.
  57. Kishan Rao, Emperor of Temples crying for attention.
  58. Michael D. Gunther, Monuments of India—V. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  59. Takeo Kamiya, Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  60. Pollock (2006), 332.
  61. Jyotsna Kamat, Chalukyas of Kalyana. Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  62. Thapar (2003), 396.
  63. Thapar (2003), 393–95.
  64. Narasimhacharya (1988), 61–65.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Cousens, Henry. The Chālukyan Architecture of the Kanarese Districts. Calcutta: Govt. of India, Central Publication Branch, 1926. OCLC 37526233.
  • Foekema, Gerard. A Complete Guide to Hoysaḷa Temples. New Delhi: Abhinav Publ, 1996. ISBN 8170173450.
  • Fritz, John M., George Michell, and Clare Arni. New Light on Hampi: Recent Research at Vijayanagara. Mumbai: Marg Publications on behalf of the National Centre for the Performing Arts, 2001. ISBN 818502653X.
  • Houben, Jan E. M. Ideology and Status of Sanskrit: Contributions to the History of the Sanskrit Language. Brill's Indological library, v. 13. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1996. ISBN 9004106138.
  • Kāmat, Sūryanātha. A Concise History of Karnataka: From Pre-Historic Times to the Present. Bangalore: Archana Prakashana, 1980. OCLC 7796041.
  • Moraes, George Mark. The Kadamba Kula: A History of Ancient and Mediaeval Karnataka. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1990. ISBN 8120605950.
  • Narasimhacharya, R. History of Kannada Literature. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1988. ISBN 8120603036.
  • Nilakanta Sastri, Kallidaikurichi Aiyah. A History of South India From Prehistoric Times to the Fall of Vijayanagar. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999. ISBN 0195606868.
  • Pollock, Sheldon I. 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.
  • Rice, E.P. Kannada Literature. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1982. ISBN 8120600630.
  • Thapar, Romila. Penguin History of Early India: From the Origins to A.D.1300. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2003. ISBN 0143029894.

External Links

All links retrieved May 4, 2023.

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