Saturday, January 12, 2013

Great Pallavas of Kanchi

Pallava dynasty was one of the most powerful and famous kingdoms of South India. the rulers of this dynasty are known to be the creators of one of most exquisite pieces of temple architecture in India. During the rule of the Pallavas, Hinduism was in a state of flourish and they are responsible for introducing Aryan institutions in South India to a great measure.

Today the seaside village of Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu is witness to some of brilliant works of architecture by the Pallavas who ruled from A.D. 300-900 in the region south of Krishna-Tungbhadra rivers. Kanchi (modern Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu) was the capital of their Kingdom.

Early Pallavas
Nothing much can be said with certainty about the early history of the Pallavas.  We learn that in about the middle of the 4th century AD a Pallava king named Vishnugopa was captured and then set free by the great Gupta ruler Samudragupta. Siva-Skandavarman was another famous Pallava ruler who is said to have performed the Aswamedha (Horse-sacrifice). He assumed the pontifical title of “righteous king of great kings”. According to the Jaina text Lokavibhaga, a Pallava king named Simhavarman IV ascended the throne in A.D. 436.

Later Pallavas
 It was, however, in the 6th century AD that Pallavas rose into prominence. It was from the reign of Simhavishnu Avanisimha, who ascended the throne in about AD 575, that the history of Pallava dynasty emerged into clarity and becomes more definite.  Simhavishnu is considered to be the real founder of the Pallava power. He was a fierce militarist and is credited with having defeated his southern adversaries including Ceylon. After his death his son Mahedravikramavarman, famously known as Mahendravarman I, ascended the throne. A man of versatile genius, he is known for his play Mattavilasa Prahasana.   

Mahendravarman I was succeeded by his son Narasimhavarman I who defeated Chalukya king Pulakesin II who was earlier having an upper hand in his battles with the Pallavas. The battle between the Pallavas and the Chalukyas became frequent with the passage of time.

Nandivarman II Pallavamalla (reigned 735-797) was one of the last great kings of the Pallava dynasty. He was chosen by an assembly of nobles and ministers to ascend the throne as the previous Pallava monarch Paramesvaravarman II died issueless. He is credited with the construction of the Mukteshwar Temple and Baikunth Perumal temple at Kanchi. He was a contemporary of great saint scholar Tirumala Alavar.

After Nandivarman II the Pallava rulers had to face the repeated invasions of the Pandyas, the Gangas and the Rashtrakutas. The fortunes of the kingdom were now on a declining mode. At the end of the 9th century (c AD 893) the Chola ruler Aditya I, who was a feudatory of the Pallava rulers, defeated and killed Aprajita, the last Pallava ruler. Thus came the end of the Pallavas who were supplanted by the Cholas of Thanjavur (Tanjore). 

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