The Mighty Pallava Empire

Courtesy: https://twitter.com/clioschronicles/status/1540945381722562560?s=21&t=6vSwoxsgKjFIa_eQrRxgHw

The history of Tamil Nadu saw the rise & fall of many empires. One among them is the Pallavas who ruled the south, with Kanchipuram as their capital from 275 CE to 897 CE. A dynasty that has left its marks still on the whole face of Mahabalipuram.

Derives its name from the Sanskrit word “Pallava” which means “a tender leaf or new shoot” and like a germinating plant it spread its branches all across ancient Indian history.

The Pallavas have a very controversial origin story. Some historians think that they of Naga origin & came to settle in Tondaimandalam region near Madras, while some others say that they are a descendant of a Chola prince & Naga princess of Manipallavam, which is near Sri Lanka as mentioned in the Manimekalai Epic. Another guess is that they worked as officials under Satavahana rulers and later they established their reign. The origin of this dynasty has been debated by scholars for a long time.

Unlike the story of the genesis of this empire, the story of their reign is quite clear from all the granthas that have been discovered over time.

The various paintings, sculptures & plates that have been devoted to their history & culture have enlightened us through their art & languages of Tamil and Prakrit. The story is quite fascinating and starts with Vishnugopa II getting defeated by Samudragupta.

It is his son, Simhavishnu who is the known founder of the Pallava dynasty and who was also quite an efficient and strong ruler. He was also known to recapture Kanchi, their once-lost capital from the Cholas.

After the death of Simhavishnu, started the reign of Mahendravarman I,

the Pallava ruler who first signed his name in history with the construction of famous cave temples at Mahabalipuram. He was a great patron of art, culture & architecture. He started a new form of Dravidian architecture which has been called the “Mahendra style”.

The famous architectural monuments like Varaha Cave Temple, The Mahabalipuram Lighthouse, Kokarneshwarar temple etc were all constructed during his reign. He also commissioned so many Siva temples in and around his kingdom. From his time, the capital of Pallavas was Kanchipuram.

However, like any other vast & prosperous empire, this one was also not out of the clutches of enmity and war. The Pandyas and Chalukyas were a constant threat and Mahendravarman died in the battle with Chalukya Pulakesi II and his son, Narasimhavarman I ascended the throne.

A young Narasimhavarman was filled with the blood of revenge as he took over his father’s kingdom. He worked diligently toward that goal & finally defeated Pulakesi and took over the Chalukya capital of Vatapi, taking the title of “Vatapikonda”. He was also known for vanquishing the Cholas, Cheras, and Pandyas out of the kingdom. The king was not only known for his valiant qualities on the battlefield. He continued the patronage of art and architecture from his father’s time and built the Kailasnatha temple in Kanchi & Shore temple in Mahabalipuram.

The great Sanskrit writer Dandin was his court poet & great saints like Appar, Tirugnanasambandar, Siruthondar lived during his reign. When Hiuen Tsang visited his kingdom, he found the people happy. The crops were in abundance & the king never lost a war.

Narasimhavarman was undoubtedly the best ruler of Pallava dynasty. He was given the biruda of Mahamalla, meaning “great warrior” which is why Mahabalipuram is also called Mamallapuram. The multi-faceted ruler had a strong involvement in Sri Lankan politics as well.

Despite the political brawl over land with so many strong opponents, the Pallava kingdom extended from the northern part of Andhra Pradesh in the north to Trichy in the south.

Art, paintings, and scriptures were of great importance during this dynasty as was architecture.

The languages were mostly Tamil, Sanskrit, and Prakrit and they also developed their own Pallava script which later on became the grantha.

The great empire met its downfall when the Cholas and Chalukyas started invading the kingdom to avenge their past.

The dynasty declined when King Vijayachola finally defeated Aparajitavarman in 890 CE. The stories of the Pallava Dynasty can still be witnessed in the sculptures, temples and beautiful architecture of Mahabalipuram to this day..

Information Sources: britannica{dot}com, indianmirror{dot}com and mintageworld{dot}com

Images are used for the representation purpose only.

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