About the empire
Pallava dynasty, early 4th-century to late 9th-century line of rulers in Southern India whose members originated as indigenous subordinates of the Satavahanas in the Deccan, moved into Andhra, and then to Kanchi (Kanchipuram in modern Tamilnadu state, India), where they became rulers. Their genealogy and chronology are highly disputed. The first group of Pallavas was mentioned in Prakrit (a simple and popular form of Sanskrit) records, which tell of King Vishnugopa, who was defeated and then liberated by Samudra Gupta, the emperor of Magadha, about the middle of the 4th century CE. A later Pallava king, Simhavarman, is mentioned in the Sanskrit Lokavibhaga as reigning from 436 CE. Their rule was marked by commercial enterprise and a limited amount of colonization in Southeast Asia, but they inherited rather than initiated Tamil interference with Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The Pallavas supported Buddhism, Jainism and the Brahmanical faith and were patrons of music, painting and literature. Their greatest monuments are architectural, in particular the Shore Temple, the various other temples carved from granite monoliths and the Varaha cave at Mamallapuram, once a flourishing port. Mahendravarman’s reign involved constant battles with the Western Chalukya kingdom of Badami under Pulakeshin-II. Mahendravarman’s successor, Narasimhavarman-I, conquered some of the territory that was lost during numerous Pallava-Chalukya battles. Although he was able to recapture some of the Pallava land, the Pallavas were ineffective in withstanding military pressure from the Western Chalukya dynasty, who were eventually ousted by the Cholas. The Pallava dominions passed to the Chola kings about 880. The Pallava capital was Kanchipuram and their territories at the height of their powers extended from the northern part of Andhra Pradesh to River Kaveri in the South. During the 7th century, the Cholas were reduced to a marginal state by the authority of the Pallavas. Vatapi (Badami) was occupied by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman who defeated the Chalukyas and the Kalabhra uprising was crushed by the Pandyas, Chalukyas and the Pallavas jointly. The Kalabhras were protesting against the numerous land grants (Brahamadeya) to Brahmanas made by the Brahmanic rulers of the three dynasties.
Simhavishnu (575 – 590 CE) : Simhavishnu was the first ruler of this line. Simhavishnu defeated the Kalabhras and laid foundation for the establishment of the “Age of the Imperial Pallavas”. He also defeated the rulers of Chola, Pandya and Chera kingdoms. He was the master of the entire region between the Krishna and the Kaveri. He was a worshiper of Vishnu and had the title Avanishimha (lion of the earth). According to a literary tradition, great poet Bharavi visited his court.
Mahendravarman-I (590 – 630 CE) : Simhavishnu was succeeded by his son Mahendravarman-I. He was a versatile genius. He was not only a soldier and statesman, but also a religious reformer, an architect, a poet and a musician. Mattavilasa, Chitrakarapuli, Vichitrachitta, Gundabhara and Lalitankura were the titles assumed by him. The long drawn Pallava-Chalukya conflict began during this period. Mahendravarman-I was defeated by Pulakesin-II at a place called Pullalur near Kanchi. Pulakesin-II almost reached the Pallava capital, but Mahendravarman purchased peace by ceding their Northern provinces to the Pulakesin-II. Mahendravarman-I was a follower of Jainism but converted to Saivism under the influence of Tirunavukkarasu or Appar. He studied music under Rudracharya and composed exercises for the practice of students on a variety of Vina known as Parivadini. He has authored the Sanskrit work "Mastavilasa Prahasanam". He was a great builder of cave temples. The rock cut caves at Mandagapattu, Dalavanur and Tiruchirapalli were excavated during his time. The Jain paintings found in the rock cut caves at Sittannavasal located in the present Pudukkottai region are attributed to him. His title Chitrakarapuli reveals his talents in music.
Narasimhavarman-I (630 – 668 CE) : Narasimhavarman-I was the greatest of the Pallavas who raised the power and prestige of the dynasty to an amazing height. He had the title Mahamalla or Mamalla which means „great wrestler‟. The Pallava-Chalukya conflict that was started by his father was successfully continued by him. He wanted to take avenge the defeat of his father at the hands of Chalukyan ruler Pulakesin-II. He defeated Pulakesin-II, in three battles including that at Manimangalam near Kanchi in 642 CE. Pulakesin-II lost his life and hence Narasimhavarman assumed the title Vatapikonda (the conqueror of Vatapi). Another notable achievement of Narasimhanvarman-I was his novel expedition to Srilanka, to reinstate the Sinhalese princes Manavarman. During his reign Hiuen Tsang visited the Pallava capital Kanchi and noted that Buddhism and Jainism flourished in the city besides Hindusim. He also noted that it was the birth place of the celebrated Dharmapala, who became the abbot of the great Vihara of Nalanda. According to his account the people of Kanchi esteemed great learning and Ghatika of Kanchi served as a prominent centre of learning. Besides he was a great builder having constructed Mamallappuram and created the Monolithic Rathas (Rock-cut Rathas) during his reign.
Mahendravarman-II (668 – 670 CE) : Mahendravarman-II ruled for a very short period of two years, since he was killed by Chalukya king Vikramaditya I. He also captured Kanchi, the capital of Pallavas and ruled over it for a short period.
Paramesvaravarman-I (670 – 695 CE) : The Pallava, Chalukya conflict continued during the reign of Paramesvaravarman-I. After many reverses Paramesvaravarman I finally won a decisive victory over the Chalukyas and their ally, the Gangas. Paramesvaravarman I was called Ugradanda and „destroyer of the city of Ranarasika‟ in an inscription of his son, Ranarasika was a title of Vikramditya-I. Paramesavaravarman-I was a devotee of Siva and built Siva temple at Kuram near Kanchi.
Narasimhavarman-II (695 – 722 CE) : Paramesvaravarman-I was succeeded by his son Narasimhavarman-II. He had the title "Rajasimha". He enjoyed a peaceful reign and credited with the construction of large and beautiful temples like the Shore temple at Mamallapuram and the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi. He had the titles like Shankara Bhakta and Agamapriya. He was also a great patron of Art and letters. The famous Sanskrit scholar Dandin is said to have adorned his court. He sent embassies to China and the maritime trade flourished during his reign.
Paramesvaravarman-II (728-731 CE) : Narasimhavarman-II was succeeded by his son Paramesvaravarman-II. The Pallava kingdom again had to face defeat and humiliation during his reign. The Chalukya, Vikramaditya-II attacked Kanchipuram and the Pallava king had to buy peace at a heavy price. However, he was killed in a war with the Ganga king, an ally of the Chalukyas.
Nandivarman-II (731 – 795 CE) : Paramesvaravarman-II died without any heir to the throne. After the death of Paramesvaravarman-II the Simhavishnu line of Pallava kings came to an end. A mild war of succession was started in between the various branches of Pallavas. But the Samantas and the learned people of the Ghatika of Kanchi selected Nandivarman Pallavamalla, who belonged to a collateral branch of the Pallavas, as the king. There was a renewal of conflict between the Pallavas and Chalukyas. Vikramaditya II invaded the Pallava kingdom, defeated Nandivarman and captured Kanchi. The Chaluykan king, the Vikramaditya II, after scoring victory over the Pallava king, entered Kanchi – the city of Temples. He was wonderstruck by seeing the architectural grandeur of the Kailsanatha temple, the gem of the Dravidian style of Architecture. Nandivarman was a worshipper of Vishnu and a great patron of learning. During his reign, several old temples were renovated and new ones like the Vaikuntaperumal temple at Kanchi were constructed. The celebrated Vaishnava saint Tirumangai Alvar was his contemporary.
End of the Pallava Rule : Vikramaditya-II ‟s attack and the temporary occupation of Kanchi may be regarded as the beginning of the end of the Pallava supremacy over South India. The Pandyas, the western Gangas and the Rashtrakutas attacked the Pallava kingdom. Dantidurga, the founder of the Rashtrakuta Kingdom, defeated Nandivarman, but the latter offered his daughter Reva in marriage to former and saved temporarily the collapse of the Pallava Kingdom. The Pallava rule lasted till the end of the 9th Century CE. Dantivarman (795 – 846 CE), Nandivarman-III (846 – 869 CE), Nripatunga (869 – 899 CE) were the other rulers. Aparajitavarman (903 CE), was the last Pallava king. The Chola king Aditya I defeated the Aparjitavarman and seized the Kanchi region. With this, the Pallava domination over South India came to an end.
Extent of their empire & Patronage towards the Hindu religion
Pallava Dynasty was a pastoral tribe who ruled the southern parts of India for almost 500 years. Pallava dynasty conquered the region of Tondaimandalam that was located at Pallavapuri, The Pallava rulers established their kingdom on the ruins of the eastern part of the kingdom of the Satvahanas. They originally worked as officials under the Satvahana rulers, in the course of time they established themselves as local rulers. Very rapidly their kingdom spanned parts of southern Andhra Pradesh and northern Tamil Nadu. Pallavas established their capital at Kanchi (modern Kanchipuram near Chennai), which gradually became popular and famous for its temples and as the center of Vedic learning. Pallavas territory extended from Northern Odissi to Tanjore and Trichi in far south. They were great conquerors and left a huge impact in the field of art and architecture. The Pallava Dynasty fought many wars with the Chalukyas (to the northwest) and the Pandyas (to the south). Both of these states -Chalukyas and Pandyas tried their best to stop the Pallavas from rising, but failed. The Pallava Empire continued to live on until the 13th century A.D. Around the 14th century A.D, the Pallavas defeated the Ikshvakus and spread their territory as far as the River Krishna. Dancing was used as a form of worship, Siva is depicted in the dance called tandava. The principal hobbies of the prince and princesses of the Pallava Dynasty was painting. The walls of the cave temples gave a partial look into this art form and paint can be seen in traces of rich colors. The Pallava dynasty used vegetable colour so the available colors were few, but they included red, yellow, green and black. The Kailasanatha temple contains nearly fifty cells around the inner courtyard and each of them shows traces of painting. Music also had a prominent place in Pallava society and songs were not only used to praise deity, but even to praise rulers as well. The songs sang their praises and spoke of their individual genius and skill. Rise of Rashtrakutas had seen the decline of Pallavas. Vijayalaya the Chola king, completely vanquished Aparajitavarma the last Pallava king in 890 A.D. The cult of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva became important during the period of Pallava dynasty and Kanchipuram became an important pilgrim center for the Hindu devotees. Kanchipuram, the capital of the Pallavas, also became an important center of Tamil and Sanskrit studies. The temples became not the only places of worship, but they became important cultural and administrative centers where festivals were held and people also gathered in the temples to solve local problems, as the temples governed large areas of land and the people thereof.
Architecture style of the kings
The rulers of the Pallava kingdom were not only great warriors, but also were great patrons of art and architecture. The Pallava kings built a number of important temples in the 17th and 18th centuries A.D. The large rock-cut temples at Mahabalipuram are magnificent examples of the architectural prowess of the artisans of that time. Temple architecture reached its magnificent heights in ancient India when the Kailashnath temple at Ellora was built in the 8th century. The Pallava Dynasty was rich in various cultural aspects including dance, art and music. Evidence of dancing among the Pallavas has been found painted on the walls of temples, caves and depicted by sculptures. Different poses are depicted and there were individual dances as well as group dances for both men and women. Dancing is the form of entertainment frequently employed in the king's court, as well as temples.
Key temples built/enhanced during this reign
Narasimhavarman-II was the first king to build structural temples during the Pallava dynasty with new temple architecture known as Dravidian Architecture. He built a temple at Mahabalipuram known as Shore Temple. In this temple, there are two sanctum sanctorum, one for Vishnu and the other is for Shiva. It was built on seashore. The waves of the sea touch the temple and go back. It is the first temple in Dravidian style. Mahabalipuram is the birthplace of Dravidian style of Architecture. He built one more temple at Kanchi known as Kailasanathar Temple (also called Rajarajeshwara Temple). It is the best temple of Ancient period. The other temple he built was Airavatesvara Temple at Kanchi. In Kanchi, Nandivarman-II built Mukteswara Temple, Matangeshwar Temple (Both are Shiva temples) and Vaikunta Perumal Temple (Vishnu temple). He also built Parasurameswara (Mukhalingam) Temple at Gudimallam, Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. Here, we can find a Shiva Linga (country's first Shiva Linga, 2nd Century B.C). It is Ekamukhalinga in which Shiva is on one side of the Shiva Linga.
SHORE TEMPLE - Mahabalipuram, Tamilnadu, India
The Shore Temple is a structural temple, built with blocks of granite, dating from the 8th century A.D. was built during the reign of the Pallavan king Rajasimha/Narasimhavarman II and is considered the finest early example of medieval southern Indian temple architecture. Its style is characterized by a pyramidal kutina-type tower that consists of stepped stories topped by a cupola and finial, a form quite different from the northern Indian sikhara. Pallava kings primarily worshipped the god Shiva, they also supported the creation of temples dedicated to other Hindu gods and goddesses and to other religious traditions such as Jainism. The Pallava rulers were particularly inspired by the growing personal devotional movement known as bhakti.
KANCHI KAILASANADAR TEMPLE - Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu, India
Kanchi Kailasanadar Temple was built during 685-705 A.D. which is the first structural temple built in South India by Narasimhavarman-II (Rajasimha) and who is also known as Rajasimha Pallaveswaram. His son, Mahendravarman-III, completed the front facade and the gopuram (tower) in the Dravidian architectural style. This low-slung sandstone compound contains a large number of carvings, including many half-animal deities which were popular during the early Dravidian architectural period. The outstanding feature of sculptures is the profusion of depiction of the erect lions projecting out in several directions. There are two sculptures of Shiva here which are seen holding the Veena (musical string instrument) in the hand and there is a lot of difference between the Veena found in the said sculptures and the present day Veena.
NALANDA GEDIGE TEMPLE - Gedige Road, Matale, Sri Lanka
Nalanda Gedige is an ancient and mysterious edifice that has confounded researchers with its strange mix of Hindu and Buddhist architecture and was designed in the standard framework of a Hindu temple, with mandapams or halls used for events, an entrance passage which was originally roofed, a main central shrine, and an ambulatory round this holy center. Believed to be at least a thousand years old the structure; the structure was rediscovered in 1893. The richly decorated facade sections, laboriously reassembled in 1975, are predominantly in the South Indian style. Although they cannot be precisely dated, they are believed to have originated sometime between the 8 to 11th centuries.
MANDAGAPATTU CAVE TEMPLE - Vanniyapuram, Tamil Nadu, India
Mandagapattu Tirumurti Temple is hewn from rock by the Pallava ruler Mahendravarman-I in honor of the trinity Brahma-Shiva-Vishnu, the rock-cut cave temple is the oldest stone shrine discovered and dated in Tamil Nadu which is notable for the earliest known rock-cut Sanskrit inscription written in Grantha script. It is attributed to the Pallava king Mahendravarman-I (600–630 CE). This north-facing cave shrine has two pillars and two pilasters in its front façade, thus forming three bays. It is 22 feet in length, 24 feet in width, and 9 feet in height. Though the inscriptions do not state clearly whether this is first of its kind, however, the enthusiasm of the king and mention of brick, timber, metal and mortal specifically in the inscription suggests that this is probably the first attempt in this direction hence the creator was overwhelmed at the success and inscribed such words over the pillar.
SRI VAIKUNTA PERUMAL & EMBAR TEMPLE - Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu, India
Vaikuntha Perumal Temple has a Unique Architecture when compared to other Pallava architecture. This temple has 3 sanctums on three floors. Yes, you heard it right. Unlike a single sanctum in most temples, this one has three one on top of the other and has 3 Vishnu images in 3 different poses. You can approach this middle floor through the staircase that goes around the temple, the catch is this floor is opened only on Ekadashi or the 11th of every fortnight of the lunar calendar. Second floor used to have a Vishnu Murti (some say Krishna) in standing pose. The image has been stolen and no one knows where it is at the moment. The plinth of the main temple or sanctum sits below the level where you enter the temple. Or you can think of a moat separating the pillared corridor that runs around the temple and the platform on which the temple stands. The walls of corridors surrounding the sanctum are full of stories, what makes this temple special is the fact that panels on the left walls depict the stories of Vishnu, whose home this temple is. On the other hand, stories of the right wall depict the parallel stories from the life of King Nandivarman who is credited with building this temple. This juxtaposition of parallels between the stories of Vishnu and the King makes these sculptures interesting.
LOKESHWARA TEMPLE (VIRUPAKSHA TEMPLE) - Pattadakal, Karnataka, India
Virupaksha Temple was built circa 740 A.D. by Queen Lokamahadevi (Trilokyamahadevi) after her husband Vikramaditya-II with striking resemblance to that of the Kailasanathar Temple situated in Kanchi. The magnificently built Dravida shikhara with a well-preserved sukanasa ('nose,' arched projection) on the front is one of the hallmarks of the temple. The superstructure is three-storied and topped by a four-sided amalaka with a Kalash at its final. Sculptures of Harihara, Narasimha, Bhairava, Lakulisha adorn the Devakoshthas (niches) on sanctum walls and the temple interior is covered with friezes depicting stories of the abduction of Sita, Bhishma lying on a bed of arrows and Krishna lifting the Govardhan Mountain among other narratives from ancient texts.