Thursday, 3 October 2013

The dynasty that made Kannadigas proud

They were counted among the four major Kingdoms of the world and Arab travelers lavished praise on the Kingdom. They had for two centuries and more the most powerful army in India and they ruled over large parts of  southern, central and north India.
What makes their achievement all the more significant for Kannadigas is that they were essentially a Kannada Empire.
Their Kings were Kannidagas and Kannada was the mother tongue. Several seminal Kannada works came to be written during the period.
This dynasty was known for its patronage to art and architecture apart from literature between the sixth and the tenth centuries. At its peak, the dynasty controlled more than 17 lakh square kilometers in India, including almost the whole of the Deccan.
The capital of the dynasty was such a magnificent structure that it was said to rival Krishna’s Dwaraka. Sadly, the capital was destroyed and today only a few ruins dot the almost dry and barren landscape.
The few remaining temples that the Kings of this dynasty built are so stupendous that they all have become world heritage monuments. They are in Karnataka and Maharashtra and they attract hordes of tourists.
Unfortunately, their downfall was as sudden as their rise. Centuries later, the Vijayanagars would again hold aloft the Kannada flag but their empire was not the size of this first Kannada Empire that straddled large parts of India.
The earliest known inscription of this dynasty is dated to the seventh century. A copper plate grant of that time mentions that this dynasty-which is known as the Rastrakutas-reigned from Manpur in the Malwa region of modern Madhya Pradesh to entire Karnataka, Maharashtra and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Other ruling Rashtrakuta clans from the same period mentioned in inscriptions were the kings of Achalapur, which is modern Elichpur in Maharashtra, and the rulers of Kannauj. Though several controversies exist regarding the origin of the early Rashtrakutas, their native home and their language was Karnataka and Kannada.
History tell us that the clan that ruled from Elichpur was a feudatory of the Badami Chalukyas and it was during the rule of  Dantidurga, it overthrew Chalukya Kirtivarman the second and went on to build an all India Empire with Bidar and Gulbarga regions its base.
This is how the Kingdom came to be known as the Rastrakutas of Manyakteha, which today is known as Malkhed. The Rastraukta first came to prominence in 753 and they were engaged in bitter rivalry with the  Palas of Bengal and the Prathiharas of Malwa. All the three held on to Kannauj for some time and their wars against each other weakened them.
Three Arab visitors came to India during the Rastrakuta overlordship and  the Arabic text, Silsilatuttavarikh (851),  labels the as  one of the four principal empires of the world.
At their peak, the Rastrakutas of Manyakheta ruled a vast empire stretching from the Ganga  and Yamuna in the north to Cape Comorin in the south. The early Rastrakuta kings were Hindus, while the later embraced Jainism.
One of the most famous rulers, Amoghavarsha, the first, wrote Kavirajamarga,  one of the first literary work in Kannada. The Rasrakutas built the Kailashnath temple in Ellore, the Elephanta caves near Mumbai and the Kashivishvanatha temple and the Jain Narayana temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka. All of them are world heritage sites.
The earliest ancestors of the Rastrakutas go back in history to the times of Emperor Ashoka  in the 2nd century BC.
However, the connection between the several Rashtrakuta dynasties that ruled in northern and central India and the Deccan between the 6th and 7th centuries is yet to be established.
Sulaiman (851), Al Masudi (944) and Ibn Khurdadba (912), all Arab travelers, lavished praise on the Rastrakutas and it was Sulaiman who called them one among the four great contemporary empires of the world.
According to Al Masudi and Ibn Khordidbih, “most of the kings of Hindustan turned their faces towards the Rastrakuta king while they were praying, and they prostrated themselves before his ambassadors. The Rastrakuta king was the King of kings who possessed the mightiest of armies and whose domains extended from Konkan to Sind.”
Since the Rastrakutas successfully captured Kannauj, levied tribute on its rulers and also ruled over large parts of Central and north India, their two century era could also be called the “Age of Imperial Karnataka”.
They disappeared as a central figure in Indian polity sometime in 982. Their capitals, Manyakheta in Gulbarga district and Mayurkhindi in Bidar district are today in ruins. The Rastrakutas are almost forgotten today and few are even aware in Karnataka-the land of Kannadigas-that they were perhaps the first to take the Kannada flag right upto the Himalayas.    

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