Chalukya Dynasty: Founder, Rulers, Chalukya Dynasty UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Chalukya Dynasty ruled a large area of central and southern India from the beginning of the sixth century to the twelfth century. Throughout this time, they led three separate but related dynasties. The “Badami Chalukyas,” the very first dynasty, ruled in Vatapi (also called modern Badami) starting in the mid-sixth century. The Badami Chalukyas rose to fame during Pulakeshin II, afterwards establishing their independence from the Kadamba kingdom in Banavasi.

Chalukya dynasty UPSC is a major topic in the History Syllabus. UPSC aspirants can learn the details of the Chalukya dynasty by downloading the comprehensive notes from the PDF link provided below.

Chalukya Dynasty

South Indian civilization and Karnataka’s history were shaped majorly by the Chalukya dynasty. The political scene in Southern India evolved from a tiny monarchy to a large empire with the rise of the Badami Chalukyas.

This monarchy based in South India seized control & unified the entire area between the Narmada and Kaveri rivers. The Chalukya Dynasty’s emergence saw the establishment of foreign trade in the region and a modern construction style called “Chalukyan design.”

Kannada literature gained exceptional patronage among Western Chalukya Jain or Veerashaiva dynasties. It had earlier enjoyed royal patronage in the Rashtrakuta court of the ninth century. On the other hand, the Eastern Chalukyas favoured Telugu poetry in the eleventh century.

Founder of Chalukya Dynasty

As the Gupta dynasty declined in the 6th century, major changes began to take place in the Deccan and Tamilaham areas south of the Vindhyas.

Pulakeshin I established the Chalukya dynasty in 543. Pulakeshin I made Vatapi (modern Badami, Bagalkot district, Karnataka) his capital. He and his descendants are known as “Chalukyas of Badami”. Throughout the Deccan, they ruled a vast empire that included almost all of Karnataka and most of Andhra Pradesh.

Chalukya Dynasty Kings

The Chalukya Dynasty is counted among some of the most powerful and influential dynasties in Southern and Central India. The time period of the Chalukya Dynasty is estimated to have been active between the sixth & twelfth centuries AD. The Chalukya Dynasty rule is considered a significant turning point in the history of South India and especially Karnataka.

Generally, the history of the Chalukya Dynasty is divided into three important periods: Chalukya of Kalyani or Western Chalukya, Chalukya of Vengi or the Eastern Chalukya and the Chalukya of Badami. Some of the famous kings of the Chalukya Dynasty have been listed below.

  • Pulakesin I: He was one of the most famous and important rulers of the Chalukya Dynasty. He was the founder of the empire and established Vatapi as the capital. He ruled from 543 AD to 566 AD. He is also known to have performed the Ashwamedha. He is also known by various other names such as Vallabha, Satyashraya and Dharmamaharaja.
  • Kirtivarman I: He was the son of Pulakesin I and ruled from 566 AD to 597 AD. He took control of northern Kerala and Konkan. He managed the kingdom after his father and brought together the Nalas, Kadambas, Alupas and Mauryas from the Konkan.
  • Mangalesha – He was the third ruler in line and his reign continued from 597 AD to 609 AD. Mangalesha was the brother of Kirtivarman I. He took various titles such as Ranavikrama, Paramabhagavata and Ururanaparakrama. He is said to have constructed the Lanjishvara or Maha-Vishnu-Griha cave temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. He won over the Gangas and the Kadambas.
  • Pulakeshin II: He is considered one of the greatest rulers of the Chalukya Dynasty. Pulakeshin II ruled from 609 AD – 642 AD. He extended the kingdom to the Deccan area. He was the first king who issued gold coins in South India. He was the one who killed King Mangalesha.
  • Vikramaditya I: The son of Pulakeshin II was called Vikramaditya I. His reign dates back to 655 AD-680 AD. He was responsible for maintaining order in the kingdom again and restoring peace.
  • Kirtivarman II: Vikramaditya I’s great-great-grandson was Kirtivarman II. He ruled from 746 AD – 753 AD. He was the last king of the Chalukya Dynasty. Dantidurga (Rashtrakuta king) defeated him in a battle.

History of Chalukya Dynasty

According to one theory, the Chalukyas are believed to be descended from a second-century ancestor Kandachaliki Remmanaka (a powerful leader), who was a feudatory of the Andhra Ikshvaku dynasty. Another theory puts forward that they were descendants of the Kadambas. The Chalukya dynasty captured the land previously that Kadambas ruled. Read the following points to know the history of the Chalukya dynasty in detail:

  • The Eastern Chalukyas’ later documentation introduces the north-origin idea which claims that one Ayodhya ruler moved to the south, conquered the Pallavas, and then married a Pallava king’s daughter. Their son Vijayaditya is believed to be the father of Pulakeshin I.
  • Nevertheless, Badami Chalukya engravings confirm Jayasimha as Pulakeshin I’s grandfather and Ranaraga as his father, according to historians K. V. Ramesh, Chopra, & Shastri.
  • According to Moraes and Kamath, connecting South India’s royal family origins to a Northern monarchy was common in the eleventh century. However, the Badami Chalukya records are silent on the Ayodhya origin.
  • Many historians have dismissed the north origin hypothesis, but epigraphist K. V. Ramesh opined that previous southern immigration is a possibility to be explored. According to him, the lack of any epigraphic reference to their line of descent to Ayodhya, and its later Kannadiga identity, might be ascribed to their previous immigration into current Karnataka, when they attained triumph as chieftains and rulers.
  • For this reason, their ancestor’s region of origin might have been immaterial to the Chalukya kings, who might have regarded themselves as Kannada-speaking natives.
  • According to Bilhana (a Kashmiri poet) of the 12 century, the Chalukyas were of the Shudra class, whereas other sources state they were Kshatriyas.
  • As per Jan Houben & Kamath (historians) and epigraphist D.C. Sircar, the Badami Chalukya inscriptions are in Kannada and Sanskrit.
  • According to historian N. L. Rao, the Chalukyas are referred to as Karnatas in these inscriptions and they use native Kannada titles such as Priyagallam and Noduttagelvom.
  • The Chalukyas of Badami were referred to as Karnatabala (“Power of Karnata”) in Rashtrakuta inscriptions. However, some historians think that the Chalukyas emerged from agricultural labourers.

Periods in Chalukya Dynasty History

For over 600 years, the Chalukyas ruled India’s Deccan plateau. Throughout this time, they reigned as three separate but closely related dynasties.

The “Chalukyas at Badami,” as well as their sibling kingdoms, the “Chalukyas of Kalyani” (also referred to as both the “Western Chalukyas” and “Later Chalukyas”) as well as the “Chalukyas the Vengi,” (known as Eastern Chalukyas) ruled between both the 6th as well as 8th century.

Badami Chalukyas

With the Gupta dynasty’s fall and its predecessors in North India in the sixth century, significant changes started to take place inside the Deccan & Tamilakam.

In 543, Pulakeshin I founded the Chalukyas of Badami. Pulakeshin I seized command of Vatapi (modern Badami in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka) and installed it as the royal capital of Chalukya. They reigned over a Deccan empire that included the entire Karnataka and a good part of Andhra.

His queens belonged to the Southern Canara’s Alupa Dynasty and the Talakad’s Western Ganga Dynasty.

Pulakeshin II expanded the Chalukya dynasty to the north-side limits of the Pallava realm, beating Harsha on Narmada’s bank and stopping his southward march. Finally, he overpowered the Vishnukundins of the southeast Deccan. In 642, the Pallava Narasimhavarman temporarily occupied Badami.

Chalukyas of Kalyani

After more than two hundred years of dormancy in which the Rashtrakutas ruled a significant portion of the Deccan, the Chalukya dynasty kings revived their fortune in 973.

The lineage of this empire’s rulers is still being debated. Based on contemporary literary and inscriptional evidence, and the discovery of frequent use of titles by Western Chalukyas that were used by the early Chalukyas, a theory proposes that the Western Chalukya kings did belong to the same family line as that of the prestigious Badami Chalukyas of the sixth century. In contrast, other Western Chalukya inscriptional evidence shows they belonged to a distinct line unconnected to the Badami Chalukyas.

Tailapa II, a Rashtrakuta feudatory ruling from Tardavadi (Bijapur region), defeated Karka II, and restored Chalukya rule on Western Deccan. Then he recovered most of the Chalukya empire.

The Western Chalukyas governed for nearly two hundred years. They were constantly at war with the Cholas and with their cousins, the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi. Vikramaditya VI is considered the most significant emperor of the lineage.

Starting with the commencement of his fifty-year reign, he eliminated the original Saka Era & established the Vikram Era.

The bulk of succeeding Chalukya inscriptions are dated in the new era. Vikramaditya VI was a competent and aggressive military leader. With guidance, the Western Chalukyas successfully ousted the Cholas from Vengi (coastal Andhra) and cemented their status as the preeminent power in the Deccan. The Western Chalukya era was significant in the development of Kannada and Sanskrit literature. The Western Chalukya dynasty died out by the 12th century with the rise of new powers like the Hoysalas, the Pandyas, the Kakatiyas, and the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri.

Vengi Chalukyas

In 616, Pulakeshin II defeated the remnants of the Vishnukundina kingdom in the eastern Deccan (coastal regions of the present Andhra Pradesh). He appointed his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana as Viceroy of the region in 621 AD. After Pulakeshin II’s death, the viceroyalty developed into an independent kingdom. Thus, the Vengi Chalukyas are originally of Kannada stock.

After the Badami Chalukya kingdom collapsed in the middle of the 8th century, regional disputes arose among the Rashtrakutas, the emerging rulers of the western Deccan, and the Eastern Chalukyas. The Eastern Chalukyas were forced to accept subjugation to the Rashtrakutas for the next 200 years.

In 973 AD, the Eastern Chalukya king Danarnava was killed in battle with the Telugu Choda King Bhima who then ruled over the region for about 27 years. During this time, Danarnava’s sons took refuge with the Cholas. Bhima invaded Tondaimandalam in the Chola territory which led to his death in battle. After this, Danarnava’s elder son Saktivarman I was coronated as Vengi’s ruler in 1000, but under the control of the Chola king Rajaraja Chola I. The Western Chalukyas sought to check the increasing Chola influence in the Vengi region but were not successful.

Originally, the Eastern Chalukyas encouraged Kannada literature and language, but regional factors weighed in and they prioritized the Telugu language over time. The Eastern Chalukyas played a huge part in the growth of Telugu literature.

Significance of Chalukya Dynasty

The Chalukya Dynasty was one of the prominent dynasties in India. Their rule was marked with many valuable contributions to various aspects. The Chalukya rulers contributed majorly to the art and architecture of India. Stambha Mandapa is one of the famous architectural works of the Chalukyas.

  • The Chalukyas also built a number of temples which included a variety of designs of North India and South India.
  • Their temple-building activities were largely concentrated in Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal and Mahakuta in Karnataka.
  • The Chalukyas also possessed an organized army.
  • Telugu & Kannada Literature also saw a period of popularity during the rule of the Chalukyas.

Sources of Chalukya Kingdom History

The most prominent sources of Chalukya history are the inscriptions made in Kannada and Sanskrit languages. Most of these have been cave inscriptions from the Chalukya Badami period. There have been inscriptions of King Mangalesha and Pulakeshin II along with various other temple inscriptions such as the Kanchi Kailasanatha inscriptions, all done in the Kannada language.

Apart from these inscriptions, some other sources of Chalukya Kingdom history have been the travel experiences of various foreign tourists who travelled across the country and gave their insights. Xuanzang, who was a Chinese traveller had paid a visit to King Pulakeshin II. He was highly influenced by the government & administration of the king and gave high praises.

Chalukya Dynasty – Architecture

The Badami Chalukya period was indeed a breakthrough moment in South Indian architecture. The Chalukya kings were called Umapati Varlabdh and they built numerous temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Their building style is referred to as “Karnata Dravida” or “Chalukyan architecture.” They spread the Vesara style, which was a fusion between the Nagara (North Indian) and the Dravida (South Indian) styles.

The building material they used was a reddish-golden sandstone found locally. These cave temples are essentially excavations, cut out of the living rock sites they occupy employing a method called ‘subtraction’.

Despite governing a huge realm, the Chalukyan artisans focused maximum of the temple-building activities in a small area of the Chalukyan hinterland – Pattadakal, Aihole, Badami, and Mahakuta, all in the current Karnataka state.

These Badami caves temples feature a simple façade yet an extraordinary finished interior comprising a cella, a pillared porch, and a collonaded hall (mandapa).

Although the exact age of these buildings has indeed been disputed, there is a broad consensus that they began about 600. Some prominent examples of Chalukyan architectural splendour are the Lad Khan Temple, the Meguti Jain Temple, the Papanatha Temple, the Virupaksha Temple, etc.

Religious Practices during the Badami Chalukya Period

Shaivism and Vaishnavism thrived during the Badami Chalukya era, albeit the former seems more popular. Famous temples were constructed in Pattadakal, Aihole, and Mahakuta, and priests (archakas) from north India were also brought in.

Vedic sacrifices, religious vows (vrata), and giving of gifts (dana) were all crucial. The Badami kings followed Vedic Hinduism. They also conducted the Ashvamedha (“horse sacrifice”) Yajna.

The worship of Lajja Gauri, a fertility goddess, was known. During this era of the Chalukya dynasty, Jainism was also a dominant religion. The kings were secular and promoted Jainism also.

Buddhism was on the decline after making headway into Southeast Asia. Hiuen-Tsiang’s writings confirm this.

Literature of Chalukyas

The Aihole inscription of Pulakeshin II (634) were composed in Sanskrit & Kannada script by his royal poet Ravi Kirti and has been deemed a classic poetry piece. Some verses by Vijayanaka, a poet who identifies herself as the “dark Sarasvati,” are preserved. It is probable that she was the wife of King Chandraditya (Pulakeshin II’s son).

Prominent Sanskrit writers of the Western Chalukya era included Vijnaneshwara, who became famous for composing Mitakshara, a textbook on Hindu laws, and King Someshvara III, a renowned scholar who compiled Manasollasa, a comprehensive encyclopedia of all sciences and arts.

There are references to Kannada literature dating back to the Badami Chalukyas, though little of it survived. Inscriptions refer to Kannada as the “natural language.” The earliest work in Kannada poetry is the Kappe Arabhatta record of about 700 tripadi (three lines) metres. Karnateshwara Katha, later quoted by Jayakirti, is thought to be the tribute to Pulakeshin II from this time frame.

Other likely Kannada writers for whom the works are no longer extant but whose titles are recognised from independent citations include Syamakundacharya (650) as well as Srivaradhadeva (also known as Trumubuluracharya, 650 or prior), who is assumed to have composed the Chudamani (“Crest Jewel”), an extended commentary on reasoning.

Chalukya Dynasty UPSC

The Chalukya dynasty ruled a large area of southern India and central India from the beginning of the sixth century to the twelfth century. Chalukya Dynasty UPSC is an important topic from the Medieval Indian History syllabus. Check a sample question based on the UPSC previous year question papers on the Chalukya dynasty.

Question: What was the capital of the Western Chalukyas?

  1. Kalyani
  2. Badami
  3. Vengi
  4. Vatapi

Answer: 4. Kalyani

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