Political history of medieval Karnataka

Political history of medieval Karnataka

The political history of medieval Karnataka spans the 4th to the 16th centuries, when the empires that evolved in the Karnataka region of India made a lasting impact on the subcontinent. Before this, alien empires held sway over the region, and the nucleus of power was outside modern Karnataka. The medieval era can be broadly divided into several periods. The earliest native kingdoms and imperialism; the successful domination of the Gangetic plains in northern India and rivalry with the empires of Tamilakam over the Vengi region; and the domination of the southern Deccan and consolidation against Muslim invasion. The origins of the rise of the Karnataka region as an independent power date back to the fourth-century birth of the Kadamba Dynasty of Banavasi, the earliest of the native rulers to conduct administration in the native language of Kannada in addition to the official Sanskrit. This is the historical starting point in studying the development of the region as an enduring geopolitical entity and of Kannada as an important regional language.

In the southern regions of Karnataka, the Western Gangas of Talakad were contemporaries of the Kadambas. The Kadambas and Gangas were followed by the imperial dynasties of the Badami Chalukyas, the Rashtrakuta Dynasty, the Western Chalukya Empire, the Hoysala Empire and the Vijayanagara Empire, all patronising the ancient Indic religions while showing tolerance to the new cultures arriving from the west of the subcontinent. The Muslim invasion of the Deccan resulted in the breaking away of the feudatory Sultanates in the 14th century. The rule of the Bahamani Sultanate of Bidar and the Bijapur Sultanate from the northern Deccan region caused a mingling of the ancient Hindu traditions with the nascent Islamic culture in the region. The hereditary ruling families and clans ably served the large empires and upheld the local culture and traditions. The fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565 brought about a slow disintegration of Kannada-speaking regions into minor kingdoms that struggled to maintain autonomy in an age dominated by foreigners until unification and independence in 1947.

Kadambas and Gangas

Prior to and during the early centuries of the first millennium, large areas of the Karnataka region was ruled by such imperial powers as the Mauryas of Maghada and later the Satavahanas, empires whose centres of power were in the Gangetic plains and Central India respectively. With the weakening of the Satavahanas, the Pallavas of Kanchi took control for a brief duration.Ramesh (1984), pp1–3] In the 4th century, the rise to power of the Kadamba Dynasty of Banavasi identified the Karnataka region as an independent political entity and Kannada as an administrative language from the middle of 5th century.From the Halmidi inscription (Ramesh 1984, pp10–11)] The Kadambas were natives of the Talagunda region (in modern Shivamogga district) as proven by inscriptions.The Kadambas were Kanarese speaking dravidians inducted into the Brahmin fold (Moraes 1931, p11)] Their local tribal origins is attested by the Talagunda inscription, R.N. Nandi in Adiga (2006), p93] Ramesh (1984), p3] Some inscriptions claim the Kadambas came from a Naga descent (snake worshippers) making them natives of Karnataka region, Moraes (1931), p10] Kamath (2001), p30] Mayurasharma, a brahmin native of Talagunda who was humiliated by a Pallava guard, rose in rage against the Pallava control of the Banavasi region and declared his independence in 345.From the Talagunda inscription (B.L. Rice in Kamath 2001, pp 30–31)] Ramesh (1984), 1984, p6] Moraes (1931), p10] After many wars, the Pallava king had to accept the sovereignty of the Kadambas and Mayurasharma, the founding king, coronated himself at Banavasi (in the present day Uttara Kannada district).Kamath (2001), p30] The fact that the Kadambas cultivated marital ties with the imperial Vakatakas and Gupta dynasties attests to their power.Moraes (1931), p26] Kakusthavarma, the most powerful ruler of the dynasty whom inscriptions describe as "ornament of the Kadamba family" and "Sun among the kings of wide spread flame", gave one daughter in marriage to Vakataka Narendrasena and another to Skandagupta, grandson of Chandragupta II of the Gupta dynasty.From the Talagunda inscription (Moraes 1931, pp26–27)] From the Balaghat inscription of Vakataka Prithvisena (Kamath 2001, p33)] Historians trace their rise to political power through the examination of the contemporaneous Sanskrit writing, "Aichitya Vichara Charcha" by Kshemendra, which quotes portions of a writing "Kunthalesvara Dautya" by the famous poet Kalidasa. Here Kalidasa describes his visit to the Kadamba kingdom as an ambassador where he was not offered a seat in the court of the Kadamba king and had to sit on the ground. Historians view this act as one of assertion by the Kadambas who considered themselves equal to the imperial Gupta dynasty.Moraes, Desai and Panchamukhi in Kamath (2001), p33] Family feuds and conflicts ended the Kadamba rule in the middle of 6th century when the last Kadamba ruler Krishna Varma II was subdued by Pulakesi I of the Chalukya feudatory, ending their sovereign rule. The Kadambas would continue to rule parts of Karnataka and Goa for many centuries to come but never again as an independent kingdom.Kamath (2001), p35] Some historians view the Kadambas as the originators of the Karnataka architectural tradition although there were elements in common with the structures built by the contemporaneous Pallavas of Kanchi.Moraes in Kamath (2001), p37] The oldest surviving Kadamba structure is one dating to late 5th century in Halsi in modern Belgaum district. The most prominent feature of their architectural style, one that remained popular centuries later and was used by the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagar kings, is the "Kadamba Shikara" (Kadamba tower) with a "Kalasa" (pot) on top.Kamath (2001), p38]

The Western Ganga Dynasty, contemporaries of the Kadambas, came to power from Kolar but in the late 4th century - early 5th century moved their capital to Talakad in modern Mysore district.Kamath (2001), p40] They ruled the region historically known as Gangavadi comprising most of the modern southern districts of Karnataka. Acting as a buffer state between the Kannada kingdoms of Karnataka region and the Tamil kingdoms of Tamilakam, the Western Ganga architectural innovations show mixed influences.The impact of the Pallava, early Chalukya and a distinct Jain influence added to their own innovations are the main features of their architectural idiom (Reddy, Sharma and Rao in Kamath 2001, p50)] Their sovereign rule ended around the same time as the Kadambas when they came under the Badami Chalukya control. The Western Gangas continued to rule as a feudatory till the beginning of the eleventh century when they were defeated by the Cholas of Tanjavur. Important figures among the Gangas were King Durvinita and Shivamara II, admired as able warriors and scholars,Narasimhacharya (1988), p2] and minister Chavundaraya who was a builder, a warrior and a writer in Kannada and Sanskrit.Narasimhacharya (1988), p18] Kamath (2001), p50] The most important architectural contributions of these Gangas are the monuments and basadis of Shravanabelagola, the monolith of Gomateshwara termed as the mightiest achievement in the field of sculpture in ancient Karnataka and the "Panchakuta" basadi ( five towers) at Kambadahalli.Kamath (2001), pp51–52] Their free standing pillars (called "Mahasthambhas" and "Brahmasthambhas") and Hero stones ("virgal") with sculptural detail are also considered a unique contribution.Fergusson in Kamath (2001), p52]

Badami Chalukyas

The Chalukya dynasty, natives of the Aihole and Badami region in Karnataka, were at first a feudatory of the Kadambas.N. Laxminarayana Rao and S. C. Nandinath in Kamath 2001, p57] Keay (2000), p168] Jayasimha and Ranaraga, ancestors of Pulakesi I, were administrative officers in the Badami province under the Kadambas (Fleet in Kanarese Dynasties, p343), (Moraes 1931, p51)] Thapar (2003), p328] Kamath (2001), p58,] They encouraged the use of Kannada in addition to the Sanskrit language in their administration.Considerable number of their records are in Kannada (Kamath 2001, p67)] 7th century Chalukya inscriptions call Kannada the natural language (Thapar 2003, p345)] In the middle of the 6th century the Chalukyas came into their own when Pulakesi I made the hill fortress in Badami his center of power. During the rule of Pulakesi II a south Indian empire sent expeditions to the north past the Tapti River and Narmada River for the first time and successfully defied Harshavardhana, the King of Northern India ("Uttarapatheswara"). The Aihole inscription of Pulakesi II, written in classical Sanskrit language and old Kannada script dated 634,In this composition, the poet deems himself an equal to Sanskrit scholars of lore like Bharavi and Kalidasa (Sastri 1955, p312] Kamath (2001), p59] proclaims his victories against the Kingdoms of Kadambas, Western Gangas, Alupas of South Canara, Mauryas of Puri, Kingdom of Kosala, Malwa, Lata and Gurjaras of southern Rajasthan. The inscription describes how King Harsha of Kannauj lost his "Harsha" (joyful disposition) on seeing a large number of his war elephants die in battle against Pulakesi II.Keay (2000), p169] Kamath (2001), pp59–60] Some of these kingdoms may have submitted out of fear of Harshavardhana of Kannauj (Majumdar in Kamat 2001, p59)] The rulers of Kosala were the Panduvamshis of South Kosala (Sircar in Kamath 2001, pp59)] These victories earned him the title "Dakshinapatha Prithviswamy" (lord of the south). Pulakesi II continued his conquests in the east where he conquered all kingdoms in his way and reached the Bay of Bengal in present day Orissa. A Chalukya viceroyalty was set up in Gujarat and Vengi (coastal Andhra) and princes from the Badami family were dispatched to rule them. Having subdued the Pallavas of Kanchipuram, he accepted tributes from the Pandyas of Madurai, Chola dynasty and Cheras of the Kerala region. Pulakesi II thus became the master of India, south of the Narmada River.Keay (2000), p170] Pulakesi II is widely regarded as one of the great kings in Indian history.Kamath (2001), pp58] Ramesh 1984, p76] Hiuen-Tsiang, a Chinese traveller visited the court of Pulakesi II at this time and Persian emperor Khosrau II exchanged ambassadors.From the notes of Arab traveller Tabari (Kamath 2001, p60)] However, the continuous wars with Pallavas took a turn for the worse in 642 when the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I avenged his father's defeat,

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