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The Chalukyas

Pulakeshin was a monarch from the Chalukya dynasty in the western Deccan region of India. His descendants ruled over an empire that comprised the entire state of Karnataka and most of Andhra Pradesh. He overthrew the Kadambas to establish the Chalukya kingdom.

After him, Pulakesin II was one of the greatest Kings of the Chalukya Dynasty. He was considered to be the greatest of the Chalukya kings. It was during his period that the kingdom covered vast territories over most of South India, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Pulakesin II was the son of Kirtivarman I. His original name was Ereya. At the time of Kirtivarman’s death in 597 CE, Ereya was still a boy, so his uncle Mangalesa ruled the kingdom as a regent. However, when Ereya became old enough to ascend the throne, Mangalesa refused to give up the throne.

Ereya gathered together his supporters and challenged Mangalesa who was defeated and killed, and Pulakesin ascended the throne. His reign lasted from 610 to 642 CE.

Pulakesin had to spend some time quelling the rebellion within his own kingdom and taking on a few supporters of Mangalesa. But once all this was done, the Chalukya Kingdom settled down for a period of prosperity and expansion. He then strengthened his military forces and turned his attention to the task of expanding his kingdom.

Pulakesin II defeated the Kadambas, Gangas and Alupas, and thus brought Banavasi, Talakad and South Kanara firmly under his control. He then captured the Konkan area and the port of Puri. He later annexed Gujarat and married the daughter of the Ganga King Durvinita.

He defeated the rulers of Eastern Deccan and brought the area under his rule. He appointed his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana as the ruler of this portion of his territory. It was Vishnuvardhana who was the founder of the other branch of Chalukyas, the Eastern Chalukya Dynasty.

Pulakesi then turned his attention to the south. With the help of Durvinita and the Pandya king Jayantavarman, he laid siege to the Pallava capital Kanchi. The Pallavas lost the northern part of their kingdom to Pulakesi, but they saved their capital.

Pulakesin then decide to test his strength against the strongest empire at that time, the kingdom of Harshavardhana. In a battle fought near the Narmada River, Harshavardhana suffered a defeat at the hands of Pulakesin and had to retreat deep into his territory. The two kings then entered into a treaty which declared Harsha to be the ruler of all territories to the north of the Narmada river and Pulakesi was the sovereign of all territories to the south of the river.

In the latter part of his rule, Pulakesi had to suffer severe reversals. He tried once again to capture the Pallava territory. This time though, he had to face Narasimhavarman I, the son of Mahendravarman. The Pallava army under Narasimhavarman and his army commander Paranjoti defeated the Chalukyas and forced them to leave their territory.

Later, Narasimhavarman led the Pallava army to the Chalukya capital, and captured and sacked the city of Vatapi. Pulakesi is believed to have been killed during one the battles fought in the course of the Pallava siege of Vatapi.

The Chalukya dynasty reached its zenith at the height of Pulakesi’s reign. He sent emissaries to the court of the Shah of Persia, and received the Persian ambassador at his capital. The Chinese traveler Huan Tsang visited the Chalukya kingdom during his reign and recorded the prosperity of his kingdom.

Pulakesi II had five sons. After his death, his sons fought among themselves for the kingdom and it was his third son Vikramaditya who emerged victorious. Vikramaditya then set about trying to restore the Chalukya fortunes, and did succeed to a great extent.

Vikramaditya I ruled from 654 A. D. to 680 A. D. His, struggle with the Pallavas began much earlier than 654 A. D. and it did not come to a close before 678 A. D. The struggle between the Pallavas and the Chalukyas must have been running its course during the reigns of Chandraditya and Adityavarman, the two elder brothers of Vikramaditya. There is some reason for us to suppose that there was a disputed succession after the death of the infant son of Chandraditya. Adityavarman and Vikramaditya began to fight for the throne. In this struggle Vikramaditya was successful.

It was during this period that the sons of Pulakesin II must have stood in need of outside help to fight with the powerful enemy of their family.

Vikramaditya left behind a large number of inscriptions that provide an insight into the titles that he inherited and also new ones that he claimed for himself. There is also mention of his religious nature, although the inscriptions of his sons are the ones that provide a clear indication of his devotion God Shiva. There are 18 major epigraphs that provide information regarding the reign of Vikramaditya and indicate his many-sided personality.

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