Indian History Part 32 Chalukyas of Badami Section IV: PEACE AND PROSPERTITY

Canberra, 15 November 2014

Historians analysing the Chalukya dynasty, its rise and spread, tend to mention Pulakesin II as the conquering hero who laid the foundation for the empire. Considering that at the end of his reign he lost his kingdom and his life, this would perhaps be an exaggeration. It should be Vikramaditya who should be acclaimed for picking up the pieces after a monumental defeat and the sacking of Badami and for consolidating Chalukya power once again. He created the edifice from which his successors were able to climb even greater heights of achievement. It is indeed true that Vikramaditya had a glorious innings, and that many of his military exploits are unparalleled in Chalukya annals. However, the credit for the peace and prosperity for which the Chalukya rule is famous in history must be shared equally with his son Vinayaditya who came to the throne after the death of his illustrious father. Vinayaditya was an administrative genius and a military commander of repute who concentrated on providing stability to the population even in times of strife. He laid the foundation for long years of constancy and in reality, it was during his reign that Chalukya power and influence started to move inexorably towards its zenith.

Vinayaditya and His Celebrated Rule

Vinayaditya was his father’s favourite son and had been declared ‘yuva raja’, crown prince, during Vikramaditya’s rule itself. As the yuva raja he led a successful military expedition against the restive adversaries of the Chalukyas to the north of the kingdom. By the time of his ascension to the throne, he was well-versed in both military and administrative matters, having been trained and educated directly under his father’s tutelage. It has been determined, based on authentic data, that he was crowned between 2 June and 4 July 681. A number of Plates and the Lakshmeswar inscriptions corroborate this date; and it also corresponds to the 27-year rule of his father Vikramaditya that started in 654-55. The earliest known Plate that is attested as having been issued by Vinayaditya is dated 27 April 682 and records his gift of a village called Paniyal to a Brahmin in the second year of his reign. This Plate is referred to as the Paniyal Plate. [All Chalukya inscriptions and Plates were recorded using the Saka era dating process. However, the dates mentioned in this and other chapters in this series are in the Gregorian calendar, calculated from the Saka dates available.]

Information Availability. Starting with the Plate issued in the second year of his reign, Vinayaditya’s rule is catalogued by a number of inscriptions and Plates that follow, most of them relating to the grant of lands and other gifts. It can be noticed that the gift of lands are almost always for the building of temples and their subsequent maintenance. An interesting aspect of these Plates and inscriptions is that some of them mention that the grants were made at the insistence of ‘Mahadevi’ who was obviously the chief queen Vinayavati. [It is possible that the title Mahadevi was bestowed on the queen after her husband became king.] One of Vinayaditya’s Plates was recently unearthed in Patoda in Gurdaspur district of Punjab. It records the gift of village Sthudivala in Uttarada (north) Chemulya, modern day Chaul in Kolaba. This discovery only indicates the northward migratory movement of the descendants of the original beneficiary and is in no way indicative of any attempt by Vinayaditya to expand his kingdom north. Even so, when the available records are correctly aligned and the grants geographically fixed, they provide a clear indication of the vastness of the Empire that Vinayaditya ruled.

Military Exploits

Even though Vikramaditya had repeatedly defeated the Pallavas, their efforts at destabilising the Chalukya kingdom continued, leading initially to minor skirmishes and later to major battles. Either early in his reign or in the last stages of his tenure as the yuva raja, Vinayaditya faced the combined armies of the three Southern kingdoms—the Cheras, Cholas and the Pandyas—and defeated them. Two inscriptions testify to the victory of the Chalukya prince/king in this war. The first one acclaims Vinayaditya as having shattered the army of the ‘Trairajya Pallava’ mentioned as Kanchipati. This inscription is at times interpreted to mean that the Pallava king was assisted by the armies of the other Southern kingdoms in this particular battle. The second inscription states, ‘…Chola, Chera, Pandya kramagatarajyatraya…’ a phrase that was stressed repeatedly in subsequent Chalukya chronicles, and which can be roughly translated to mean, ‘…the triad of kings led by the Pallava king…’.

When both the inscription are considered in combination, the interpretation of only the armies of the Southern kingdoms being send to assist the Pallava king seems to be weak. The correct interpretation seems to be that the Southern or Tamil kingdoms had created a confederacy under the leadership of the Pallava king to oppose the Chalukyas. This victory over the Pallava king Paramesvaravarman, which effectively broke the confederacy created a lull in the overt hostility of the Pallavas that had become a resolute thorn in the side of the Chalukya rulers, which could not be ignored.

With the Pallavas subdued, Vinayaditya was able to concentrate on bringing the other neighbouring recalcitrant kingdoms into his orbit. By the ninth year of his reign, around 690, the Kerala, Haihaya, Vila, Malava, Chola, and Pandya rulers had acknowledged Chalukya suzerainty. The Alupas and the Gangas had in the meanwhile continued to be loyal and traditional feudatories. Vinayaditya now ruled over an Empire that was at peace for the first time in over a century. The Jejuri, Kolhapur, and Harihara Plates of this time proclaim and confirm the receipt of tributes and presents from the Pallava king as well as the other three Tamil kingdoms. Another Plate records that in 693, Vinayaditya granted land to a Brahmin on the request of the Kalingapati, the King of Kalinga, which confirms the continued feudatory status of Kalinga from Pualakesin II’s time. This period was the high point of Vinayaditya’s rule and gives a clear indication of the supreme status that the Chalukya Empire enjoyed.

The Kalabras

In the Chalukya chronicles there is a mention of the ‘Kalabras’ whose identity is unclear. From anecdotal evidence it can be ascertained that they were ruthless conquerors and some of the Chalukya records vaguely group them with the kings of South India. Although there are no further clues provided to determine their identity, the chronicles also mention that a Kali king named Kalabram took over the Pandya kingdom and ruled it for a time.

Several theories have been advanced regarding the identity of the Kalabras, none of them that can be proven, or as being more reliable than the other—that they were the line of Muttaraiyar of Kodumbalur; they were a break-away branch of the Karnatas; and that they were robber chieftains from further south. None of these theories have been proven or disproven and the exact identity of the Kalabras, who briefly came into limelight, remains a mystery.

There is some speculation that the northern feudatories, the Malavas, Latas, and the Gurjaras rebelled against the Chalukya suzerainty on Pulakesin’s death. However, it is evident that both Vikramaditya and Vinayaditya continued to exercise almost total political influence in all these feudatories and there is no reason to believe the hypothesis regarding their rebellion. It is highly likely that there may have been some insipient move towards testing the waters regarding the ability of the Chalukya kings to enforce their will. It is apparent that these overtures were quickly put down by the Chalukya monarchs through coercion and the limited use of force. Vinayaditya followed the principle of leaving all feudatories to be ruled by their own kings, being content with the nominal and/or actual tributes that were paid to the Chalukya overlordship, all the time cultivating the necessary good will to ensure collective security.

The only exception to this practice was in the case of the region of Lata, the territory south of the River Kim, which he placed under the governorship of Yuvaraja Sryasraya Siladitya, the son of Dharasraya Jayasimha. There is no explicable reason that can be discerned for this divergence from the norm and could well have been an act meant to reward the Jayasimha lineage for some assistance provided or brave deed conducted that needed to be publicly recognised. The identity of some of the vassal states named in the Chalukya archives are difficult to determine because of a lack of other details in the records. Their identities have been pieced together over a period of time through corroboration with other information. The Haihayas were considered to be the descendants of the Kalachuris who were defeated by Mangalesa, early in Chalukya history. Vinayaditya forged a matrimonial alliance with them by marrying two Haihaya princesses to his grandson Vikramaditya II.

The Kingdom of Strirajya

The Kolhapur Plate mentions tribute being brought to Vinayaditya by the Queen of Strirajya. Similar to other inscriptions and records there is insufficient detail available in the Plate to establish the exact identity of this kingdom. The conjuncture is that the kingdom was beyond the Valuka Samudra (the Gulf of Kutch) and probably corresponds to the current area covered by the Rann of Kutchch.

The Maritime Enterprise

According to Chalukya records, during the latter part of his reign Vinayaditya was able to exert considerable influence over the island dwellers in Simhala, Parasikas and Kameras. Simhala is present day Sri Lanka and the manner in which the Chalukya king could have influenced this island kingdom is based on speculation. It could either be that the rebel Simhala prince Manavarman, who was allied with the Pallava king Narasimhavarman and was resident in his court, changed allegiance to the Chalukyas on the defeat of the Pallavas; or that Vinayaditya assisted another and the opposing Simhala prince to come to the throne after defeating the Pallavas. Either way, the Chalukya influence and political supremacy over Simhala was established towards the end of Vinayaditya’s reign and is celebrated in the Sirasi Plate dated 3 April 697, the first years of his son Vijayaditya’s rule.

The Parasikas were Persians who had settled in the coastal areas in Sanjan near Bassein, an island near Bombay (Mumbai). They had emigrated from Khurasan in Persia in the last quarter of the 7th century and paid tribute to the Chalukyas, acknowledging them as the Supreme Rulers. The explanation regarding Kamera is more interesting. The records mention an island called Kamera, which can be clarified as the Kannada rendering of Khmer, which is part of Cambodia. It is difficult to believe that Vinayaditya conquered this place across the Bay of Bengal and the Malay Peninsula, especially considering the fact there is no mention of a viable navy in any of the chronicles. The most probable explanation is that there were Khmer traders who had temporarily settled in the East Coast of the sub-continent and paid taxes and tribute to the Chalukya king for the privilege. There was also a Chalukya embassy to China in 692, mentioned in Chinese writings as Chi-Lu-Khi-Pa-Lo which stands for ‘Chalukya Vallabha’ that travelled through the Khmer islands of Cambodia. The date of the embassy coincides with the Kolhapur Grant dated 693, in which the first mention of the ‘conquest’ of Khmer is mentioned. It is certain that the claim of ‘conquest’ was an exaggeration and also that some amount of tribute was received from the traders and temporary settlers.

It is interesting that Vinayaditya, despite not possessing any naval fleet of significance managed to influence island kingdoms and settlements and also to send an embassy all the way to China through a maritime route. These activities also indicate the relative peace during his rule and the conditions that existed for the king to pursue such diplomatic initiatives. The Chalukyas had reached the zenith of their powers.

The North Indian Expedition

Towards the last part of his rule, there is a mention of the defeat of a ruler of all the regions of ‘Uttarapada’ (North India) although no other details like the name or the kingdom or the king is provided. This episode, the defeat of an unnamed but paramount ruler of the North, is repeated a number of times in Chalukya chronicles, although there is no correlating evidence in the available North Indian records of the time. Therefore, this claim requires a more detailed examination.

During the reign of Vinayaditya, North India was in the grips of political disarray following the death Harshvardhana. The kingdom of Magadha had been defeated and ransacked after the first invasion of the Nepalese-Tibetan forces. At the same time, and in direct contrast, the Deccan and the South were peaceful under the overarching control of the powerful Chalukya dynasty. It is obvious that Vinayaditya was waiting for an opportune time to intervene in the North to enlarge his own kingdom and more importantly to enhance his prestige and status. This is given credence by the fact that Vinayaditya was rallying forces to the north of his kingdom during the second half of his rule evidenced by the large number of Plates issued form the northern reaches of the Empire.

The first indication of a northern expedition is given in the Nasik Plate of Dharasraya Jayasimha, uncle and also feudatory of Vinayaditya, which refers to the conquest of the region between the River Narmada, also referred to as Vajrata, and Mahi around 685. This expedition could not have been undertaken without the knowledge, support and approval of Vinayaditya. The enigma starts after this. The Chalukya records emphatically state that in 696, Vijayaditya the crown prince, while taking part or leading his father’s expedition to the north, defeated ‘Sakalotharapadanatha’, a title that can be fairly accurately translated to mean ‘the paramount sovereign of all of the North’. Although the Chalukya annals are eloquent in the description of this victory, they are equally silent regarding the name of the sovereign who was defeated. The writings go on to state that the crown prince brought back the ‘Ganga-Yamuna Palidhvaja’, meaning the flag and insignia of the kingdom of the Ganga-Yamuna region. If the dates are correct, then it is possible that the king who was defeated may have been Yasovarman of Kanauj. However, even here there is cause for debate since the exact dates of Yasovarman’s reign have yet not been determined. The doubt whether he was indeed the North Indian king who was defeated continues to cloud the veracity of this episode in Chalukya history.

In any case, the following sequence of events could be considered to be authentic. Taking advantage of the turmoil in North India Vinayaditya mounted an expedition to the north; a battle was fought in the Ganga-Yamuna doab; in all likelihood, the battle was indecisive and both sides therefore claim victory; and the Gaudavaho of Vakapati mentions a battle that Yasovarman fought against a South Indian monarch. The Chalukya records also fleetingly mention that Vijayaditya was taken prisoner by the North Indian king, but managed to escape. There are no doubts that the Chalukyas invaded the Ganga-Yamuna region, around the time that the Nepalese-Tibetan invasion was taking place or immediately afterwards since the timeframe coincides with Vinayaditya’s reign. It is also possible that the king involved could be a later Gupta king called Devagupta, but once again this cannot be confirmed.

On the return journey to the Deccan from his northern expedition, Vinayaditya died. By all accounts it seems that at this stage the crown prince Vijayaditya was still a prisoner in the north. However, he managed to escape in time to claim his patrimony, although he faced an uphill task in politically stabilising the kingdom. In the final analysis, Vinayaditya comes out as a distinguished warrior who conquered both the South and the North, was a benevolent and tolerant ruler, and a patron of art, literature and architecture. Considering these kingly attributes and the fact that there was no animosity between the people and their ruler, the political instability that followed his death is difficult to fathom. It could be ascribed to the apprehension and fear of uncertainty felt by the people because of the fact that the crown prince was a prisoner at the time of Vinayaditya’s death, far away from the capital.

Vijayaditya – The Plateauing of Power

Vijayaditya was the son of Vinayaditya through his favourite Queen Vinayavati and was involved in the administration of the Empire from the time of his grandfather Vikramaditya’s rule. It is certain that from a very young age he was assiduously trained in civil administration and also as a military commander—being groomed to inherit the throne when the time came. He was declared the heir-apparent around 691, at which time the Kurnool Grant refers to him as the crown prince. He came to the throne in July 696, which corresponds to the death of his father in the ‘North’. The story of his having been captured in the invasion of the North, and of his un-aided escape can be corroborated by the state of insecurity and uncertainty that prevailed in the Chalukya capital on the death of Vinayaditya in a faraway place and the absence of the crown prince. The insipient turmoil subsided on his return to the capital.

Vijayaditya ruled for 37 years, the longest reign of all Chalukya kings. He also left behind the maximum number of records detailing his reign, an indirect indication of the stability and prosperity that his rule entailed. He was successful in increasing the status of the royal house and considerably increased the political hegemony of the Chalukyas.

Major Records of Vijayaditya’s Reign

1st Year – 697 – The Kasar-Sirasi Plate that records the Chalukya conquest of the ‘North’ for the first time

3rd Year – 699 – Pillar in Badamai, which refers to the Queen Mother Vinayavati; and the installation of the Hindu Triad of Gods—Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesa—in Badami

8th Year – 703 – Plate issued on 8 September at Marivasati in Karnataka recording the gift of a village; also a Veeragal at Benkankonda although the war in which this was instituted and the name of the warrior is unclear

10th Year – 705 – Record of the grant of land on the behest of Kumkuma Devi, Vijayaditya’s sister married to the Alupa king Chitravahana who was a feudatory of the Chalukya king

11th Year – 706 – The Shiggaon Plate – issued on the visit of the King to Banavasi in the Alupa kingdom; records the gift of lands to a Jain monastery in Purigere, built by his sister

15th Year – 12 October 710 – The Satara Plate – records the gift of a village on the request of the crown prince Vikramaditya II from the victorious military camp at Karahata Kanagara, in modern day Karad in Satara district

18th Year – 13 May 713 – Alampur Inscription – in Mehabubnagar district in Andhra Pradesh mentioning that the teacher Isanacharya constructed an enclosure on the instructions of the king

23rd Year – 21 March 718 – The Bopagaon Plate – in Pune district, recording the grant of a village; Stone Inscription – in Kondupalli in Anantpur district that records the gift of land by Vikramaditya Bali Indra Banaraja of Balikula, then governing Turumara under Chalukya overlordship

29th Year – 724 – Lakshmeswara stone tablet located at Dharwar

34th Year – 8 February 729 – records the gift of a village for the upkeep of the Temple of Sankha Jinendra also at Lakshmeswara

35th Year – 730 – Uchala Stone Slab – states that Crown Prince Vikramaditya II led a successful expedition against the Pallavas to Kanchi and forced tribute from them, which was duly brought back to the king

36th Year – 26 April 731 – Plate records the gift of land, issued from the royal camp at Raktaputra; this is the last dated record of Vijayaditya

There are many undated Plates and stone inscriptions, some of which were issued jointly by the king and the crown prince, indicating the active participation of the heir-apparent in the day-to-day administration of the kingdom.

Undated Stone Inscriptions

There are three notable stone inscriptions in this category:

The Mahakuta Temple Inscription – refers to a gift by Vinaputi, a famous courtesan said to have been the favourite of Vijayaditya [At this period in history there was no social stigma associated with a man of means and stature having one or more mistresses and favouring courtesans. In fact a king and his nobles were expected to keep mistresses and also to be patrons of courtesans.]

The Kurtakotti Stone Slab – provides a statement that Lokamahadevi, the chief-consort of the crown prince Vikramaditya II was then (date unknown) ruling/governing Kuruttakunte and Mupanna districts/region

The Bannikop Inscription – celebrates the consecration of a temple to Lord Nandiswara (Siva) built by a noble called Pagana

The dynastic records make it a point to exemplify Vijayaditya’s prowess in battle and his expert handling of all kinds of arms from his childhood. Whether it was because of this great ability or a natural affinity towards war and conquest, Vijayaditya wasted no time in renewing the dynastic feud with the Pallavas. This was in sharp contrast to the relatively peaceful situation that had prevailed after the defeat of the combined Pallava and Southern confederation during his father’s reign. Obviously the relative peace in the South was also aided by Vinayaditya’s preoccupation with monitoring the deteriorating political climate in North India in an attempt to find an opportunity to improve Chalukya influence and stature in that region. Contrary to traditional belief, Vijayaditya’s reign was less peaceful than that of his father—the Chalukya king was at war more often than not. The Pallava clashes were minimal during the middle part of his reign and renewed with vigour during the later part. During the lull in the fighting, Vijayaditya tried to adopt a pacifying role in Southern politics for a brief period of time, attempting to play the mediator between smaller States that were in conflict situations. His success or otherwise in this role is uncertain.

In one of the conflicts with the Pallavas, Vijayaditya was ably assisted by the prince of the feudatory kingdom of the Gangas. It is recorded that after the victory, Vijayaditya conferred the territories of Ulchala and Pariyala on Durvinita Ereyappa, the Ganga prince, for his invaluable assistance in the campaign. The Pallavas were defeated a number of times—the Pattadakal inscription of Lokamahadevi stating that her husband, Vikramaditya II the crown prince, defeated the Pallavas thrice in a row, conquering Kanchi in all three attempts. It is obvious from a number of sources that Vijayaditya increased the political influence of the Chalukyas considerably during his long reign. He was aware of his greatly increased status and adopted the title ‘Samasthabhuvanasraya’, meaning ‘the refuge of the entire earth’.

The Chalukya Empire now ranged from Gujarat and Lata in the north-west to the territories of the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi in the east and from the north of Central India to the regions in the outskirts of Kanchi. Further, a large network of feudatories and other territories ruled by the scions of the Chalukya dynasty also formed part of the ‘larger’ Chalukya kingdom, making it a vast empire by any standards. The traditional and long-standing feudatories of the Chalukyas were the kingdoms of the Alupa, Ganga, Sendraka, the Telugu-Cholas of Renadu and the holdings of the Bana chiefs. Vijayaditya also created other temporary alliances by virtue of his great political influence and military strength.

Religious Orientation

Both Vinayaditya and Vijayaditya were tolerant and broad-minded rulers who patronised all religions that were practised in their kingdom. However, it is also clear from the records that they were partial to Hinduism and provided a great impetus to temple-building activities. Vijayaditya built the Siva Temple at Pattadakal and named it ‘Vijayesvra Temple’ after himself. [This temple was renamed Sangamaeswara by his grandson Kirtivarman II and still stands today.] This father-son duo was also responsible for installing the triumvirate of Hindu Gods in Badami. In the grant of lands both the kings were more even handed and contributed to the upkeep of Jain institutions as well as assisted Brahmins. Overall they were generous to a fault in their support to religious institutions, provided that such institutions were favourably recommended to them by their favourite courtesans, princes, or princesses.


Vijayaditya in particular was also a keen patron of art and music, instituting several grants to musicians of stature. The picture that emerges of the rule of these two illustrious kings is one of deep stability, peace, and prosperity even when the State was at war with other kingdoms. This is particularly noticeable during the reign of Vijayaditya. The Chalukya Empire could be thought to have reached the zenith of its power during these years, when the north of the sub-continent was in turmoil. This was achieved with both the father and son demonstrating skill in the battlefield and adroit diplomacy while also displaying extremely great prowess in creating political influence. Both the kings were renowned for their tactfulness in dealing with allies as well as their ruthlessness when dealing with adversaries to their kingdom. They made the Chalukya Empire into one that surpassed the influence of any other for almost a century through their own enterprise. The decline, which had to start, was not long in coming to the Chalukyas of Badami.

© [Sanu Kainikara] [2014]
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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 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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