After 468 AD, the Gupta empire started declining and collapsed by the middle of the 6th century AD. The Post-Gupta period (up to 750 A.D.) During the end of the fifth century A.D., the Gupta Empire started to crumble. Alongside this breakdown, the Imperial Guptas, Magadha, and its capital Patliputra likewise lost their significance. Accordingly, the Post-Gupta Period was extremely violent in nature.
India has seen many dynasties come and go. The Pushyabhuti Dynasty, also known as the Vardhana Empire, was a short-lived dynasty in northern India. It began around 500 CE and only lasted until 647 CE—a blink of an eye when considering the whole of history. The center of the kingdom was in the state of Haryana, as was its capital, Thaneshwar.
The exact origins of the Pushyabhuti dynasty are lost to time until some intrepid archaeologist or historian uncovers artifacts from the past that may shed more concrete light on the subject. From inscriptions on seals and copper plates by Harshavardhana, the last king of the Pushyabhuti dynasty, we know that the dynasty was founded by Pushyabhuti. He ruled between 505 and 530 CE, but very little is known about this ruler. However, little is known about his descendant, Harshavardhana.
- After the decline of the Gupta empire, many small kingdoms arose. One such kingdom was near Thaneshwara, ruled by the Vardhana dynasty whose founder was Prabhakar Vardhan (580 – 605 B.C.E.).
- The greatest ruler of this dynasty was Harshavardhana. He made Kannauj his capital.
- Grahvarman Maukhari, king and husband of Rajya Sri (sister of Harshavardhan) was murdered by Devgupta, ruler of Malwa in alliance with Gauda king Shashanka.
- Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang praised his rule and wrote Si–yu–ki.
- Harshavardhana had tried to cross the river Narmada but was defeated by the Chalukyan king, Pulakeshin II.
- He was a follower of Shiva and his administration was efficient.
- Harshavardhana wrote Ratnavali, Nagananda and Priyadashika.
- He patronised Banbhatta who wrote Harshacharita and Kadambari Saurbham.
- The successor of Harshavardhana was Arunasva.
- Being one of the largest Indian empires of the 7th Century CE, it covered the entire North and North-western India.
- In the east, his empire extended till Kamarupa and ran all the way down to the Narmada River.
- It is said that his empire was spread across the present day states of Orissa, Bengal, Punjab and the whole of Indo-Gangetic plain.
- The Vardhana Empire consisted of two distinctive types of territories: areas directly under Harsha’s rule such as Central Provinces, Gujarat, Bengal, Kalinga, Rajputana, and the states and kingdoms which had become feudatories under him including Jalandhar, Kashmir, Nepal, Sind, Kamarupa (modern-day Assam).
The struggle for domination among Palas, Pratiharas & Rashtrakutas was a tripartite struggle. There was a common struggle between these kingdoms over the control of Kannauj which would have enabled them to control the fertile upper Gangetic plains.
Administration and the Empire
- It is said that Harshavardhana’s empire reminded many of the great Gupta Empire, as his administration was similar to that of the administration of the Gupta Empire.
- There was no slavery in his empire and people were free to lead their life according to their wish.
- His empire also took good care of the poor by building rest houses that provided all the amenities required.
- In many texts, Harshavardhana has been described as a noble emperor who made sure all his subjects stayed happy.
- He did not impose heavy taxes on his people and the economy was somewhat self-sufficient.
- His capital Kannauj (in present day Uttar Pradesh) attracted many artists, poets, religious leaders and scholars who traveled from far and wide.
- He also maintained cordial relations with the Chinese. He even sent an Indian mission to China, establishing a diplomatic relationship between India and China. The famous Chinese monk and traveler Xuanzang spent eight years in his empire.
- During the course of his rule, Harshavardhana built a strong army.
- Historical records suggest that he had 100,000 strong cavalry, 50,000 infantry and 60,000 elephants during the peak of his reign.
- Further, during Harsha’s reign, there was paucity of coins in most parts of North India. This fact suggests that the economy was feudal in nature.
- Independent rulers, collectively known as ‘Mahasamantas,’ paid tribute to Harshavardhana and also helped him by supplying military reinforcements.
- This played an important role in the expansion of Harshavardhana’s empire.
Art and Education
- Harsha was a patron of both art and education. He himself was an author and wrote three Sanskrit plays, Nagananda, Ratnavali, Priyadarshika. One-fourth of his revenue went for patronizing scholars.
- Further, Hiuen Tsang gives a quite vivid description of the famous Nalanda University which was at its zenith during Harsha’s reign.
- Nalanda had around 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers.
- The curriculum included Vedas, Buddhism, philosophy, logic, urban planning, medicine, law, astronomy, etc.
- Also, a famous Indian writer and poet named Banabhatta served as the ‘Asthana Kavi’ (primary poet of the kingdom) in the court of Harshavardhana.
- Harsha was a worshiper of Shiva in the beginning but later became a Mahayana Buddhist.
- Yet, he was tolerant of other faiths.
- With a view to popularize and propagate the doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism, Harsha arranged at Kanyakubja a great assembly which was presided over by Hiuen Tsang, in 643 CE.
The Palas Dynasty
- They dominated Eastern India.
- Founded by Gopala in 750 AD and succeeded by Dharam Pala. The Pala rulers were defeated by the Pratiharas and Rashtrakutas in the North.
- They were patrons of Buddhism.
- Dharmapala revived Nalanda University by setting aside 200 villages for its expenses. He also founded Vikramashila University and built many Viharas for Buddhist monks.
- They had trade contacts and cultural links with South-East Asia. The Sailendra dynasty sent many ambassadors and asked permission to build a monastery near Nalanda.
- They dominated Western India and the Upper Gangetic valley.
- The real founder and major king was Bhoja with the title Adivaraha.
- Al-Masudi, a Baghdad traveller, visited India during the times of Pratiharas in 915-16 AD
- Rajashekar, a great Sanskrit poet, and dramatist lived at the court of Mahipala.
- The attacks by Rashtrakuta rulers, Indra III and Krishna III led to the faster dissolution of the empire.
The Rashtrakutas Dynasty
- They dominated Deccan and certain territories in North and South India. The kingdom was founded by Dantidurga with its capital at Malkhed.
- Amoghavarsha was a great king. He was credited with writing the first poetic book in Kannada. He also built the Capital city, Manyakhet.
- They were in constant contest with the Pallavas, the Cholas, and the Chalukyas in the South.
- Krishna I built the rock-cut temple of Shiva at Ellora.
- They had a tolerant religious policy that favored their foreign trade.
- Kotwal – responsibility to maintain law and order.
- Nad-Gavundas/Desa-gramakutas – hereditary revenue officers in Deccan.
Political Ideas and Organizations
The king was the center of administration and his position became hereditary.
Royal household = Antahpur
Administration in Palas and Pratiharas
- Bhukti – Province under Uparika
- Mandala or Visaya – District under Visayapati
- Group of Villages – Samanthas or Bhogapatis
- Pattala – Smaller unit
Administration in the Rashtrakutas
- Rashtra – Province under Rashtrapati
- Visaya – District
- Bhukti – Smaller unit
- Grama-Mahajana – Village elder
- Kotwal – Responsibility to maintain law and order
- Nad-Gavundas/Desa-Gramakutas – hereditary revenue officers in Deccan
The Chalukyas Dynasty
Chalukyas were the Karnataka rulers and their History can be classified into three eras:
- The early western era (6th – 8th century), the era which belonged to Chalukyas of Badami (Vatapi); The later western era (7th – 12th century), the era which belonged to Chalukyas of Kalyani; The eastern Chalukya era (7th – 12th century), the era which belonged to Chalukyas of Vengi.
- Pulakeshin I (543-566) was the first independent ruler of the Badami dynasty. The capital of his kingdom was Vatapi in Bijapur.
- Pulakeshin I was succeeded by Kirtivarma I (566-596). After his untimely death, his brother Mangalesha (597-610) was made the caretaker ruler as the son of Kirtivarma I, Prince Pulakesin II was a baby. Mangalesha made several failed attempts to kill the prince but was killed himself by the prince and his friends.
- Pulakeshin II (610-642) was the son of Pulakeshin I. Pulakeshin II was a contemporary of Harshavardhana. He defeated Harshavardhana on the banks of the Narmada (Aihole inscription of Ravikirti). His reign is remembered as the greatest period in the history of Karnataka. He was defeated by Pallava king Narsimhavarman I.
- The rise of the Eastern Chalukyan Era was started by Pulakeshin II brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana after conquering the Kosalas and the Kalingas.
- By 631, the Chalukya Empire was at its peak. Their kingdom extended to the land between the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Their fall began when Pulkeshin II was defeated and killed by the Pallavas under the able leadership of Narsimhavarman I. The Pallavas attacked their capital Badami & captured it.
- Under the leadership of Vikramaditya I (655-681) the Chalukyas rose to power once again. Vikramaditya I defeated his contemporaries Pandya, Pallava, Cholas, and Kerala rulers to establish his supremacy over the Chalukya Empire in the southern region.
- Vikramaditya I was succeeded by Vikramaditya II (733-745) who also defeated the Pallava king Nandivarman II to capture a major portion of the Pallava kingdom.
- The fall of the Chalukya Empire started with Vikramaditya II’s son, Kirtivarman II (745), who was defeated by the Rashtrakuta ruler, Dhantidurga, who went on to establish the Rashtrakuta dynasty.
- After the decline of the Satavahana dynasty, the Pallava dynasty, founded by Sivaskandavarman emerged in South India.
- Kanchi was the capital of the Pallava dynasty.
- Some of the leaders who are worth mentioning are Simhavarman I, Sivaskandavarman I, Veerakurcha, Shandavarma II, Kumaravishnu I, Simhavarma II, and Vishnugopa.
- The decline of the Pallavas started after Samudragupta defeated Vishugopa.
- The Pallavas kingdom was re-established by Simhavishnu, the son of Simhavarma II, who ended the Kalabhras‘ dominance in 575 AD and re-established his kingdom.
- Vikramaditya I was defeated by Parameswaravarman I in 670 and restricted the advance of the Chalukya king. Eventually, Parameswaravarman I was defeated by the combined armies of the Chalukyas, the Pandyas (lead by their ruler Arikesari Maravarman) and another prominent enemy of the Pallavas.
- Narasimhavarman II, a peace-loving ruler, succeeded Parameswaravarman I after he died in 695. The famous Kailashanatha temple at Kanchi is built by Narasimhavarman II. After the accidental death of his elder son in 722, Narasimhavarman II too died grieving.
- Parameswaravarman II the youngest son of Narasimhavarman II, came to power in 722 after the death of his father. The Pallava kingdom was in a state of disarray after the death of Parameswaravarman II in 730 as he had no heirs to the throne.
- After some brief infighting for the throne among the family, Nandivarman II came to power. Nandivarman then went on to marry the Rashtrakuta princess Reeta Devi and re-established the Pallava kingdom.
- Dantivarman (796-846) succeeded Nandivarman II who ruled for 54 long years. Rastrakuta king Dantidurga defeated Dantivarman and was succeeded by Nandivarman III in 846.
The Chola Empire
- The Chola empire, which arose in the 9th century, brought a large part of the Peninsula under their control. With a strong Navy, they conquered Sri Lanka, Maldives and had a strong foreign trade.
- The empire was founded by Vijayalaya, a feudatory of Pallavas, in 850 AD.
- Rajaraja (985-1014) and Rajendra I (1014-1044) were the greatest Chola kings. They followed a policy of annexation which included annexing Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pandyas and Cheras to control the prosperous trade with South-East Asian countries.
- Rajarajeshwara temple was built in 1010 at Tanjore.
- Rajendra I assumed the title Gangaikondachola (the Chola conqueror of Ganga) and instituted a new capital at the banks of Kaveri called “Gangaikondacholapuram”.
- Rajendra I also undertook a naval expedition against the Sri Vijaya Empire of Indo-China.
- The ruler of the Sailendra dynasty had built a Buddhist monastery at Nagapattinam.
- The strong navy of Chola led to the conversion of the Bay of Bengal into “Chola lake”.
- The Cholas encouraged Local Self-Government in the villages under their administration.