The Rashtrakuta Dynasty ruled parts of South India from the eighth to tenth centuries CE. Their kingdom at its peak included the entire modern state of Karnataka, as well as parts of the current Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. Their capital, Malkhed, was near Sholapur.
The Rashtrakuta Dynasty was involved in alliances and wars with both their northern and southern neighbouring kingdoms due to their geographical location. According to historical records, the Rashtrakuta Dynasty’s earlier rulers were Hindus, but later rulers were Jains. In this article, we will look at the Rashtrakutas (750-900 CE), which are an important part of the UPSC Syllabus Medieval History.
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Rashtrakuta Dynasty Origin
Historians have debated the Rashtrakuta Dynasty origins. The relationship between mediaeval Rashtrakutas who ruled in the sixth century and Manyakheta Rashtrakutas who ruled between the eighth and tenth centuries has also been contested. Several hypotheses have been advanced to explain how they came to be. They do claim to be descended from the Yadava family of the Epic period. Some scholars believe they are of the Kshatriya race, which gave Maharashtra its name.
According to popular belief, they were a clan of ancestry officials tasked with governing the provinces of Rashtrakutas. As a result, it became popular as a surname. However, it is clear that they built their empire on the ruins of the Chalukyas.
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Rashtrakuta Dynasty Important Ruler
Krishna I (756-774)
Dantidurga died without a male heir, and his uncle Krishna I (756 – 774 CE) took his place. When Krishna I defeated their former rulers, the Badami Chalukyas, in 757 CE, he effectively ended the rule of that dynasty. Invading and defeating the Gangas, subjugating the Konkans, and sending his own son to the Eastern Chalukya kingdom of Vengi and accepting their submission without a fight, he expanded his kingdom. Krishna I is also culturally significant in Indian history because he designed Ellora’s magnificent Kailasa Temple (a UNESCO World Heritage site now).
Govinda II (774-780)
Govinda II, Krishna I’s eldest son, succeeded him (r. c. 774-780 CE). Govinda II’s military exploits include following his father’s orders to the Eastern Chalukya kingdom and assisting a certain Ganga king in regaining the throne from his brother. It is unknown how he died, but his younger brother Dhruva Dharavarsha deposed him.
Dhruva Dharavarsha (780-793)
Dhruva Dharavarsha’s ascension (r. 780-793 CE) marks the beginning of the Rashtrakutas’ golden age. He began his military conquests by punishing all kings who were friendly to his elder brother, and then invaded imperial Kannauj and defeated its king.
Dhruva then defeated the Gurjara-Pratihara Kingdom of Central India and the Pala Kingdom of Eastern India, which was centred on modern-day Bengal, kicking off a three-way battle for control of India’s main heartland between the Gurjara-Pratihara Empire, the Rashtrakutas, and the Pala Dynasty. Among his other victories was the subjugation of the Vengi king, who could only achieve peace by marrying his own daughter to Dhruva Dharavarsha.
Govinda III (793-814)
Govinda III (r. 793-814 CE) succeeded his father Dhruva, and despite ascending to power through a family feud, he quickly proved to be the dynasty’s most powerful military ruler. During his time, Dhruva had successfully moved into North India, but he had not gained many lands.
Govinda III corrected this by expanding his kingdom from Kannauj to the Cape Comorin (now Kanyakumari) and from the east of India, from Banaras, Bengal, and so on, to the west of India, primarily to Gujarat territories. Along the way, he defeated numerous kings and rulers, including Gurjara-Pratihara king Nagabhata II, Pala Empire King Dharmapala, Pallava Dantivarman, Cholas, Pandya, and others.
Amoghavarsha I (814-878)
Amoghavarsha I, the son of Govinda III, was the greatest Rashtrakuta king. During his reign, Amoghavarsha I established a new capital at Manyakheta (now Malkhed in Karnataka State), and Broach became the best part of the kingdom. Amoghavarsha I was a big fan of education and literature.
Jinasena, a Jaina monk, converted Amoghavarsha to Jainism. Suleman, an Arab merchant, named Amoghavarsha I as one of the world’s four greatest kings, alongside the Caliph of Bagdad, the King of Constantinople, and the Emperor of China. For 64 years, Amoghavarsha ruled.
Krishna II (878-914)
Krishna II (reigned 878-914 CE) succeeded his famous father, Amoghavarsha I Nrupatunga, to the Rashtrakuta throne. Kannara was his Kannada name. His queen was Mahadevi, a Haihaya princess from Chedi. According to the chronology of inscriptions that mention Krishna II, he may have begun to rule during his father’s lifetime.
This claim is supported by the fact that in his final years, Amoghavarsha renounced state affairs to pursue religious pursuits. Despite a mixed record in terms of empire expansion, Krishna II’s reign saw significant advances in literature. During his reign, he cultivated a matrimonial alliance with Chedis in order to gain a military advantage.
Indra III (914-929)
Indraraja was the son of Jagattunga and Lakshmi, a princess of the Kalachuri dynasty. Instead of the kingdom’s capital, he was coronated in Kurundaka, a village near the confluence of the Krishna and Panchganga rivers. Indraraja III, according to a copper plate, destroyed Meru, which was ruled by Pratihara Mahipala. This could refer to Mahodaya, another name for Kanauj.
Trivikrama Bhatta, an author, published Damayanti Katha and Madalasa Champu during his reign. Indraraja III died and was succeeded by his elder son, Amoghavarsha II, who died less than a year later..
Krishna III (939-967)
The last great Rashtrakuta ruler expanded the empire to include the Northern Tamil country (Tondaimandalam) while levying tribute on the king of Ceylon. He was fighting against the Malwa Paramars and the Vengi Eastern Chalukyas.
He also defeated the Chola king Parantaka I and annexed the northern part of the Chola Empire around 949 CE. He then marched to Rameshwaram and erected a victory pillar as well as a temple.
Karakaraja ascended to the throne shortly after his uncle Khottiga was killed by an invading Malwa king in C.E 972. This demonstrates that the kingdom was plundered and destroyed to some extent rather than annexed. The Malwa invasion severely weakened the Rashtrakutas, and the Chalukya king Tailapa II took advantage of the opportunity to launch an attack in 973 C.E., completing Siyaka II of Malwa’s destruction.
An inscription by Vijjaya of the Kalachuri dynasty, the Rashtrakutas’ primary feudatory for two centuries, confirms that Tailapa killed Karakraja II during the Chalukya invasion.
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Rashtrakuta Dynasty Administration
In the Rashtrakuta system of government, the King was the supreme ruler. According to the inscriptions, the next ruler is chosen on a hereditary basis. However, the new emperor’s abilities were considered as he ascended to the throne. The kingdom was divided into provinces, each ruled by a ‘Rashtrapati.’
A ‘Vishayapati’ was in charge of a district under the provinces. The dependable ministers presided over more than one province. The district was led by a ‘Nadugowda,’ and the lowest division was led by a ‘Gramapati.’
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Rashtrakuta Dynasty Literature
Kannada literature rose to prominence during the reign of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty. During this time, the Prakrit and Sanskrit eras came to an end. Court poets created works in Kannada and Sanskrit. The first Kannada book available was ‘Kavirajamarga,’ written by King Amoghavarsha. Bilingual writers such as Asaga rose to prominence in King Amoghavarsha I’s court, and noted scholars such as Mahaviracharya wrote on pure mathematics.
Adipurana was written by Adikavi Pampa, a Jain writer who is widely regarded as one of Kannada’s most influential writers. Sri Ponna was another notable Jain writer in Kannada, patronised by King Krishna III and best known for Shantipurana, his biography of Shantinatha, the 16th Jain tirthankara. Sanskrit prose was also prolific during this time period.
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Rashtrakuta Dynasty Art and Architecture
The Rashtrakuta Dynasty’s contributions to art and architecture are reflected in the rock-cut cave temples of Ellora and Elephanta in modern-day Maharashtra. They also renovated Buddhist caves and re-dedicated rock-cut shrines. Amoghavarsha dedicated five Jain cave temples at Ellora. Rashtrakutas’ most spectacular work at Ellora is the monolithic Kailashnath Temple.
King Krishna I funded this project after Rashtrakuta rule spread to the Deccan. The architectural style was Dravidian. Other notable sculptures at Elephanta include Ardhanaarishwar and Maheshamurti. Other well-known rock-cut temples in Maharashtra include the Dhumer Lena and Dashvatara cave temples in Ellora, as well as the Jogeshvari temple near Mumbai. Rashtrakutas constructed the Kashivishvanatha and Jain Narayana temples in Pattadakal, Karnataka.
One of the world’s largest rock-cut temples is the Kailasa temple in Ellora Cave 16. The construction of the temple began during the reign of Rashtrakuta king Dantidurga (735-757 AD). The major construction of the temple was finished by King Dantidurga’s successor, Krishna I (757-773 AD), though work continued for more than a century under many successive kings.
Ellora, Maharashtra, is where it is located. Temple architecture reflects Pallava and Chalukya styles. Five separate shrines are located on the temple grounds, three of which are dedicated to the river goddesses Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati.
Elephanta Island is located in Mumbai Harbour, off the coast of Mumbai (Bombay), India, and is home to the Elephanta Caves. In 1987, the caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Portuguese gave the island its modern name, Elephanta from Gharapuri. The caves date from the ninth to thirteenth centuries and were built by the Silhara kings (810–1260).
Some of the site’s sculptures have been attributed to the imperial Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta, such as the Trimurti of Elephanta, which depicts Shiva with three faces, similar to the Rashtrakutas’ royal insignia of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh.
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Rashtrakuta Dynasty Society and Culture
The subjects of the Rashtrakuta Empire looked up to their emperor or king as the ultimate authority who was expected to look after them and maintain current social justice, order, and peace. However, for day-to-day matters, guilds or co-operatives would settle any disputes according to custom, and if the case could not be resolved, it was brought to the attention of a higher authority.
These guilds generally adhered to the rules and regulations of a particular group or caste, deviating only in exceptional circumstances. Based on profession, society was divided into castes. The ruling castes were bound by their own set of rules, regulations, and customs. They, too, followed ancient orthodoxy. However, because the Rashtrakuta rulers were religiously tolerant, society was generally accepting of people of different faiths.
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Rashtrakuta Dynasty Religion and Language
Kannada is one of the most important languages in modern India, and despite the fact that the language had been in use for a long time, it was the Rashtrakutas who popularised it and made it a tool of daily communication. They also supported Sanskrit, which was an elite language. Amoghavarsha I was responsible for seminal works in both languages, and his Kavirajamarga was a watershed moment in Kannada poetry.
In other Asian countries, his work in Sanskrit was widely praised and read. According to legend, Jainism was endorsed by Amoghavarsha I, and as a result, many Jain scholars flourished in his court, including the Jain mathematician Mahavirachariya. Kannada’s Adikabi Pampa and Sri Ponna flourished and are now regarded as iconic contributors to the language.
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Rashtrakuta Dynasty Decline
The Rashtrakutas’ decline began with the reign of Khottiga Amoghavarsha, who was defeated and killed by a Paramara dynasty ruler in 972 CE, with the capital Manyakheta plundered and destroyed, severely denting the dynasty’s prestige.
Indra IV, the kingdom’s last ruler, committed suicide in 982 CE by performing a Jaina ritual known as Sallekhana, which is a practise of fasting to death. The Rashtrakuta Dynasty came to an end, but their influence remained. Parts of their kingdom were annexed by the later Cholas and other dynasties, but their government system and several other cultural practises were adopted by subsequent empires.
Rashtrakuta Dynasty UPSC
The Rashtrakutas ruled over a vast empire and a glorious empire. Rashtrakuta contributed significantly to religion, art, and architecture. They not only conquered the entire south of India, but also advanced deep into the northern territories. Many of them were praised for being unbeatable conquerors and effective rulers. The reign of the Rashtrakuta dynasty in the Deccan was perhaps the most brilliant period in its history. Until the rise of the Marathas as an imperial power in the 18th century, no other Deccan ruling dynasties played such a dominant role in Indian history. Their campaigns against formidable foes were consistently crowned with spectacular success. Visit the official website of studyIQ UPSC online Coaching for more details about UPSC Exam Preparations.
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