Canberra, 25 June 2014

The extent of the power of the Rashtrakutas is demonstrated through the large spread of their kingdom and the number of off-shoot dynasties that they spawned. Taken together, the Rashtrakuta kingdoms covered almost the entire sub-continent at some time or the other, barring a few smaller kingdoms in the far-south and east. It is also noteworthy that until the collapse of the primary branch, the core Rashtrakuta kingdom based in the Deccan was impregnable and could be considered a sacrosanct region—devoid of even the slightest influence of any conflict and ruled by just and powerful rulers. Two of the secondary branches came into existence as the power of the primary branch stared to decline and they functioned more as feudatories of the Chalukya dynasty rather than as truly independent kingdoms in their own right. [Feudatory kings were not purely regents but exercised all the rights of independent kings. However, they accepted the overarching power of the overlord king, who in turn only demanded a minimal amount of obeisance—at times almost token—and did not normally intervene in the internal affairs of the feudatory kingdom.]

The Rashtrakutas of Lata (Gujarat)

The medieval province of Lata covered the southern and central parts of the state of Gujarat. A dynasty of Rashtrakutas ruled this region from around the middle of the 8th century for nearly 150 years. They originated from the primary Deccan branch of the Rashtrakutas and through most of their reign owed allegiance to the Deccan king. The first mention of this separate dynasty is found in a copper plate discovered in Surat and dated to 757, which states that after Dantidurga defeated the Chalukyas and made Karkaraja, a relative, the king of the province of Lata which was part of the conquered territory. There is a break in information after this event and the next mention of the Lata Rashtrakutas is of Karkaraja I of the Deccan branch defeating the king of Lata. There are no sources that provide any details regarding the reason for this attack by the primary branch. Further, since there is also no information regarding any successor to the defeated king being placed on the throne, it can be surmised that the Deccan Rashtrakutas annexed the kingdom and subsequently governed the region through a regent.

Although the Deccan take over cannot be conclusively confirmed, the next event of importance that is corroborated with some assurance also points to the appointment of a regent. Around 808, Govindaraja III conquered Gujarat when the regent rebelled against the Deccan dynasty and placed his younger brother Indraraja on the throne as king. The interim period when the province was ruled directly from Deccan is at best a few decades and even then the kings belonged to the same family. Therefore, the Rashtrakutas of Lata can be considered as one integral dynasty that suffered only a minor infraction in their rule, and not in their lineage. Indraraja had two sons who came to the throne successively.

The elder son Karkaraja (not to be confused with the earlier Karkaraja who was the first Rashtrakuta king of Lata, or the Karkaraja of the Deccan dynasty who in later years annexed Lata to his kingdom or the other kings of the Deccan Rashtrakutas bearing the same name) protected the king of Malwa from an attack by the king of Gujarat who had already defeated the kings of Gauda and Banga and annexed some of their territories. This is authenticated in a copper plate dated 812, which leads to the conclusion that Indraraja’s reign was very short, perhaps only a few years. There is also some shards of information that around 815, the Lata Karkaraja helped the Deccan dynasty’s Amoghavarsha retain the throne when a succession struggle erupted at the time of his ascending the throne. It is speculated that this rebellion could have occurred because Amoghavarsha was a relatively young prince at the time of his accession, although information available is scanty and cannot be considered absolutely trustworthy.

Govindaraja, the second son of Indraraja succeeded his brother to the throne. However, it is also possible that he wielded authority over the kingdom [in actuality only a large province in comparison to the Deccan kingdom] along with his brother in some sort of a power sharing arrangement or that there was an overlap in their rule. This situation could have developed if his elder brother had become ill and was unable to continue to perform the duties of the king, although he was still alive. The little known Shalukika clan is supposed to have been a minor feudatory of the Lata Rashtrakutas during Govindaraja’s reign. This confirms that the Rashtrakutas of Lata had already becomes an independent dynasty by the time the third king of the line had ascended the throne, although only about 20 years had passed since Indraraja, the first king had been placed on the throne by his brother. Govindaraja also granted a village in Broach for the upkeep of a Sun Temple where the god named Jayaditya was worshipped. Although this grant cannot be considered as any indication of the religious leanings of either the king or the dynasty, the fact that they were of the Suryavanshi lineage may have been a contributory factor for the largess.

The next king to ascend the throne was Dhruvaraja I the son of Karkaraja. For reasons that cannot be ascertained he rebelled against the Deccan branch still being ruled by the same Amoghavarsha that his father had assisted in retaining power. It was no surprise that Amoghavarsha, by then a powerful monarch in his own right, put down the rebellion and killed Dhruvaraja. Perhaps because of a lingering sense of gratitude towards Karkaraja, the ‘cousin’ who had assisted him in his hour of need, Amoghavarsha placed Akalavarsha the son of Dhruvaraja on the throne and returned to his kingdom. Not surprisingly the relations between the two kingdoms remained strained throughout the reign of Akalavarsha. In fact the relations did not improve as such thereafter, although a wary peace between the two kingdoms continued for the rest of the rule of the Rsahtrakutas of Lata. Akalavarsha had three sons, of whom the two elder ones succeeded him sequentially.

A copper plate believed to be that of Dhruvaraja II, the elder son of Akalavarsha states that he defeated the invasion of a combined army of the king of Gujarat or Gujaraja, probably Chaora Kshemaraja; the Vallabha; and Mihira, who could have been Pratihara Bhojadeva of Kanauj. It is possible the Vallbha referred in this plate could have been a member of the Deccan Rashtrakutas, in which case the combined army must have contained some element of the forces of the Deccan kingdom. However, it is highly unlikely that the great monarch himself would have taken to the field and suffered a defeat at the hands of a secondary branch, who had only recently been subdued and punished. The copper plate goes on to state that when attacked by this combined army, all relatives, friends and even a younger brother of Dhruvaraja abandoned him. There is speculation based on this statement that Dhruvaraja’s younger brother was not on good terms with him. However, this assumption is incorrect since Dantivarman the younger brother who succeeded Dhruvaraja was devoted to him. It is most likely that the brother who ran away was only an inconsequential step-brother. Dhruvaraja also gifted a district for the maintenance of a boarding house that a Brahman named Dhoddhi had built. With this largesse, the boarding house was able to feed 1000 Brahmans every day, even during times of scarcity and famine.

Dantivarman, the devoted younger brother who succeeded Dhruvaraja to the throne was known for his charitable support to Buddhist monasteries. It is clear that the kings of this secondary line continued to be of individualistic religious persuasions, leading to the conclusion that religion and the governance of the state were unmistakably separated and that the kingdom practised a benign concept of religious tolerance. Dantivarman’s son Krishnaraja who came to the throne after him defeated his enemies in a battle at Ujjain. After this incident, true to the antecedents of Indian historical narrative, information regarding the Lata branch of the Rashtrakutas peters off into a void. A copper plate that belongs to Krishnaraja II of the Deccan line mentions his annexation of the kingdom of Lata around 910. With this footnote in the history of the Deccan kingdom the Rashtrakutas of Lata cease to exist in the annals of history after a rule of a mere 100 years of a minor province in the Gujarat region.

The Early Rashtrakutas of Rajputana

There were two lines of Rashtrakutas in Rajputana, ruling the kingdoms of Hastikundi (Marwar) and Dhanop (Shahpur), although in a number of texts they have been clubbed together and have been referred to as the Hastikundi branch. Both the kingdoms trace their history back to the times before the large-scale migration of the Rashtrakutas to the south and the east took place. An inscription of 997 provides the genealogy of the line that is referred to as the Rathoras of Hastikundi and starts with Harivarman, the son of Vidagdharaja, who lived around 916. His son Mammata is dated to 939 and thereafter Dhavala is mentioned as the next successor. Dhavala was married to the sister of the king of Mewar, Mahalakshmi, and assisted his brother-in-law in repulsing an attack by the Paramara king Munja of Malwa. He seems to have regularly gone to the aid of friends and allies when they were attacked—defending the Chauhana chief from an unspecified attack; and fighting against Mularaja, the Chalukya king of Anhilwada. An inscription of 997 is confirmed as belonging to Dhavala who handed over the kingdom to his son around that time. He is also reported as having repaired the family Jain temple that confirms them as followers of Jainism. The Hastikundis fade from history after this brief interlude.

The Dhanop line has been ascertained as an off-shoot of the Deccan Rashtrakutas and only very limited information is available regarding them. An inscription of 1007 mentions a king named Bhallila of the Rathore dynasty and his son Dantivarman who are thought to have belonged to the Dhanop line. The lack of information regarding this branch indicates that they were never really an independent branch but only an inconsequential line of the Hastikundis, who were themselves only a minor break-away line of the primary Rashtrakutas.

The Rashtrakutas (Rattas) of Saundatti

From about 970, the Deccan Rashtrakutas—the primary and most powerful branch—started to decline. This provided the minor chieftains and governors of districts the impetus to break away and establish petty branches that survived as feudatories of the Chalukyas who had filled the vacuum left by the fall of the Rashtrakutas. One such branch established itself in Saundatti (Kuntal in Belgaum) in the Dharwar district. They were also referred to as Rattas, perhaps a throwback to the original name of the Rashtrakutas when they were still resident in the north-west frontier of the country. This branch has two distinct sets of kings who came to power one after the other. Although a direct connection between the two cannot be established, it is certain that historically both sets belonged to the same branch since the time gap between the end of one and the beginning of the other is minimal.

The First Line of the Rattas. The first name traceable in this line is that of Merada who is mentioned in an inscription dated to 875, which has been attributed to his son Prithvirama, and states that he belonged to the Ratta race. There is confusion because of the dating and it is possible that Prithvirama was a contemporary feudatory of the Deccan Rashtrakuta king Krishnaraja II. There is also evidence that he was a follower of Jainism. Prithvirama’s son Pittuga succeeded him and was followed by his son Shantivarman. [Pittuga seems to be a colloquial version of some other more ‘kingly’ name, although this cannot be confirmed.] An inscription dated to 980, not attributed to any king but most probably that of Shantivarman states that the Rattas had by then become the feudatory of the Chalukya king Tailapa II. The first line of Rattas vanishes into the morass of unwritten Indian history after this inscription. It is highly likely that they were subsumed by the next emerging line of Rattas.

The Second Line of Rattas

The initial information regarding the second line is from another inscription of 980 that confirms their status as a feudatory of Tailapa II, the Chalukyan monarch. It is very likely that an internecine competition within the Rattas eclipsed the lineage of Shantivarman, the last known king of the first line, and pushed them into oblivion. The inscription referred above is that of Kartavirya I, who proclaims himself to be the son of Nanna. Kartavirya had two sons, Dayima and Kanna (Kannakaira I), who ruled one after the other. Kanna was followed by his elder son Erega (Ereyammaeasa). [The colloquialisation of the names of the kings suggest the growing influence of the local language of common use in conducting the business of the royal court as opposed to the more formal Sanskrit that was in vogue earlier and must have been gradually losing its exalted status.]

An inscription of Erega dated 1040 states that the Rattas of Saundatti were the chief feudatory of the Chlaukya king Jayasimha II, also referred to as Jagadekamalla. Erega was decorated with five high titles, one of which was Ratta Narayana. He was also called Singana Garuda, presumably because of the golden image of a Garuda (celestial eagle) on his flag. Around 1048 Erega was succeeded by his younger brother Anka, who was also referred to as Ratta Ankideva. Sena (Kalasena I) the son of Erega came to the throne after Anka. [The traditional succession process of the Rashtrakutas seems to have been for brother to follow brother and then for the eldest of the next generation of princes to come to the throne, although this process does not seem to have been rigidly imposed. The question of ‘fitness’ to rule also seems to have been a consideration in a number of successions.]

The elder son of Sena, Kanna II (Kannakarai II) who succeeded him is recognised by a copper grant of 1082 that confirms the Saundatta Rashtrakutas as a feudatory of the Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI. By this time they were known only as the Rattas in all inscriptions and writings. Kanna II purchased a number of villages from Munja of the Sinda dynasty, then the ruling king of Bhogavati. An inscription of 1087 refers to Ratta Kanna II as Mahamandaleswara, or the lord of the chief feudatory, which confirms the Rattas’ feudatory status within the broader Chalukya domains. His younger brother Kartavirya II, also called Katta, seems to have ruled with an overlap with Kanna as indicated in some inscriptions. This anomaly could also have been caused by the younger brother being appointed to the governorship of some outlying areas with permission being granted to create his own inscriptions and copper grants.

Kalasena II, son of Katta, was a feudatory to the Chalukya king Jayakarna and ruled from 1102 to 1121. Although a number of inscriptions have been ascribed to him, their dates are muddled and only difficult corroboration with the more authentic Chalukya inscriptions provides a semblance of chronology to them. From his inscriptions it seems possible that he also wielded authority over the state simultaneously with his uncle and father. It is highly possible that the feudatory was divided into three separate administrative sections controlled by the two brothers and Katta while continuing to be considered a single entity as a kingdom. The fortune of the Rattas underwent a change for the better under Kattamma III (Kartavirya III), son of Kalasena. Inscriptions attributed to him proclaim him initially as Mahamandaleswara and later also as Chakravarti. It would seem that he remained a feudatory initially, but around 1165 with the power of the Chalukyas and Kalachuris declining, declared independence and struck out on his own.

Although Kattamma declared himself to be Chakaravarti around 1165-70, it is highly improbable that the Rattas became truly independent any time before 1187. Kattamma is mentioned in three distinct inscriptions—dated 1143 and 1162 found in Khanpur near Sholapur, and 1164 in Belgaum. The son and successor of Kattamma III, Lakshmideva I, was also called Lakshmidhara. He would have been the Ratta ruler around 1209, although this is contradictory to later inscriptions by his sons. The concept of two brothers, as well as fathers and sons ruling concurrently is difficult to understand at a time in Indian history when each individual king zealously guarded his power from even the slightest encroachment, especially from brothers or sons who were always considered competitors for the throne. The overlap of ruling dates makes for uncertainty of the exact dates of the reign of a particular king and persists throughout the history of the Rattas. The only plausible explanation for the overlapping dates is the division of the feudatory for ease of administration.

Kartavirya IV, the elder son of Lakshmidhara, ruled from 1200 to 1218 according to inscriptions, although even in this case there is an overlap with the dates of his father’s rule that have been authenticated with certainty. He proclaimed Mallikarjuna, his younger brother as the heir apparent, but was succeeded to the throne by his son from his second queen, Lakshmideva II. Obviously this did not happen without some amount of struggle and intrigue. Lakshmideva II lost some territory early in his reign—to whom and the reason is unclear. In the absence of any mention of a war, it could be surmised that this loss was because of his ceding territory to an ally in return for his help for Lakshmideva to come to the throne. The only inscription of Lakshmideva II is dated 1228 and there is no information regarding the Rattas that can be corroborated or authenticated after 1230. A copper plate of 1238 found in Haralahalli mentions the defeat of the Rattas by a feudatory of Singhana, the Yadava king of Deogiri. It is presumed that the Rattas were thereafter subsumed by the Yadavas, vanishing from the historical firmament of India.

As with innumerable dynasties that forested the Indian sub-continent over the centuries, the Rattas also succumbed to internecine succession struggles for power that weakened them. The Ratta kingdom was prominent as a feudatory of the Chalukyas for nearly three centuries, but went into terminal decline almost immediately on breaking out of the broad protection of the Chalukya confederation. This indicates that while the kings of the line were able to rule their kingdom within the confines and security of a more powerful and overarching empire, they did not have the vision, astuteness or the tenacity necessary to forge an independent path. Once again, this is a common story in the progress of Indian history, which is littered with the debris of failed dynasties that aspired to independent status and greatness. Time and again it is seen that the mere assumption of the title of Chakravarti—the lord of the lands in all directions—never conferred greatness automatically on an individual or the dynasty.

About Sanu Kainikara

Sainik School Kazhakuttam (Kerala), National Defence Academy 39/A, 108 Pilot's Course IAF, fighter pilot, QFI, FCL, psc, HACC, Voluntary Retirement as Wing Commander. Canberra-based Defence Analyst specialising in air power and national security. PhD in International Politics from University of Adelaide Executive Masters in Public Adminsitration (ANZSOG) Adjunct Professor, University of New South Wales, Distinguished Fellow Institute For Regional Security (IFRS) Distinguished Fellow Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

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