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Chapter 09. The Gupta Empire (Indian History Notes)



By the end of third century A.D. the powerful empires established by the Kushanas in the north and Satvahanas in the Deccan had come to end. It was against this background that the Guptas emerged to dominate the history of India for the next four centuries.
Information about the Gupta period is available from both archaeological and literary sources. The most important archaeological source is in the Allahabad Pillar inscription. Temples, Paintings and Coins are some other archaeological sources. The main literary sources include the works of Kalidasa and these accounts of Fa-Hien and It-sing.
Chandragupta I (A.D. 320-335)
Chandragupta I, grand son of Sri Gupta and son of Ghototkacha was the most powerful ruler of the line. He increased power and prestige of the empire to a great extent by matrimonial alliance and conquests. He married Kumaradevi, the Lichhavi princess. His empire extended from Magadh, modern Bihar, Oudh, Prayag (Allahabad), Tirhent, in addition to Magatha he adopted the title if Maharajadhiraj.
Samudragutpa (A.D. 335-375)
Samudragupta, son of Chandragupta I ascended the throne in A.D. 335 He was the greatest ruler of Gupta dynasty. An inscription engraved on a pillar at Allahabad popularly called Allahabad Pillar inscription or the Prayag Prashasti is the main source of information on his reign. The Prashasti was composed by Samudragupta’s court poet Harisena which gives a detailed account of the conquests of Samudragupta. This account contains a long list of states king and tribes which were conquered and brought under various degrees of subjugations. Harisensa also described Samudragupta as the ‘Hero of a Hundred Battles’.
Chandragupta II (380-414 A.D.)
Samundragupta was succeeded by his son Chandragupta. He was also known as Vikramaditya. Chandragupta married his daughter Prabhavati with a Vakataka prince who belonged to the Brahmana caste and ruled in central India. The prince died and was succeeded by his young son, So, Prabhavati became the ritual ruler. Chandragupta exercised indirect control over the Vakataka Kingdom in central India. This offered a great advantage to him.
With his great influence in this area, Chandragupta II conquered western Malwa and Gujarat, which had been under the rule of the Saka Kshatrapas for about four centuries by that time.
The conquest gave Chandragupta the eastern sea coast, famous for trade and commerce. This contributed to the prosperity of Malwa, and its chief city Ujjain. Ujjain seems to have been made the second capital by Chandragupta II.
Kumaragupta I Maheraditya (415-455 A.D.)
Kumaragupta, son of Chandragupta I ascended the throne in 415. Nothing is known about his political career, but numismatic and epigraphic evidence indicate that the strength, unity, and prestige of the empire remained unshaken in his reign. Towards the end of his reign, the Gupta power was seriously menaced by the hostility of the Pushyamitra, a tribe of uncertain identity.
Skandagupta Vikramaditya (455-467 A.D.)
Skandagupta, the last powerful king of the Gupta dynasty came to the throne when the war with Pushyamitra was still going on. His victory saved the Gupta empire; but it was invaded by the Hunas. He succeeded in defeating the Hunas and in maintaining the integrity of his ancestral empire. Success in repelling the Hunas seems to have been celebrated by the assumption of the title Vikramaditya. The decline of the empire began soon after his death. The Hunas later became the rulers of Punjab and Kashmir.
Decline of the Gupta Empire
Though their rule lasted till the middle of the sixth century A.D. the imperial glory had ended a century earlier.
The reasons were:
(i) invasion by the Hunas, (ii) rise in feudalism, (iii) weak successors, (iv) financial difficulties, (v) decline of foreign trade, and
(vi) absence of large professional army to maintain vast empire.


From the inscriptions of the Gupta period we come to know that taxes were levied at that time were of eighteen types. Land revenue and so called Bhaga were the chief source of income.
It is known from the inscription of Pallavas and Vakatakas that taxes were enforced on buffalo milk, curd and also on fruits and flowers. The forests, meadows and salt mines, added to the income of the state.
During this period, the ship-building industry was at peak.
Tamralipti, a port in Bengal, was an important trade centre and from there trade was carried on with the eastern countries like China, Ceylon, Java and Sumatra. In Andhra, there were many ports on the banks of the rivers, Godavari and Krishna; Tondai was a famous port of Chola state. Kalyana, Chol, Broach and Cambay were the important ports of the South.


Opposite to the Mauryas, the Gupta kings adopted pompous title such as parameshavara, maharajadhiraja and paramabhattaraka which signify that they ruled over kings in their empire.
Kingship was hereditary, but royal power was limited by absence of a firm practice of primogeniture. The throne did not always go to the eldest son.
The Gupta bureaucracy was not as efficient as that of the Mauryas. The most important officers in the Gupta empire were the kumaramatyas. The Guptas organized a system of provincial and local administration. The empire was divided into divisions (bhuktis) and each bhukti was placed under the charge of an uparika. The bhuktis were divided into districts (vishayas), which were placed under the charge of vishyapati.
In eastern India, the vishyas were divided into vithis, which again were divided into villages. The village headman became more important in Gupta times.
Land taxes increased while those on trade and commerece decreased; land tax was between 1/4 to 1/6 of the produce.
Visthi (Forced labour) prevailed. Religious functionaries were granted land called Agrahara.
Important Officials at the Central Level
(i) Mahabaladhikrita – Commander-in-Chief
(ii) Mahadanayak – Chief justice
(iii) Mahapratihar – An official to maintain the royal palace.
(iv) Mahasandhivigrahak – An official for post-war conciliation Or Sandhivigrahak
(v) Dandapashika – Head of the police department
(vi) Bhandagaradhikreta – Head of the royal treasury
(vii) Mahapaksha-Patalik – Head of the account department (viii) Vinaysthitisansathapak – Head of the education department
(ix) Sarvadhyaksha – Inspector for the all central departments
(x) Mahashwapati – Controller of cavalry.
(xi) Mahamahipilapati – Controller and executor of elephantry.
(xii) Vinaypura – Official to present different guests at king’s court (xiii) Yuktapurusha – Office to keep account of war booty
(xiv) Khadyatpakika – Inspector of royal kitchen
(xv) Ranabhandagarika – Officer-in-charge of army stores
(xvi) Mahanarpati – Head of foot soldiers (infantry)


The Gupta period witnessed exceptional growth in the field of architecture, sculpture, painting and terra cotta. That is why the period is also known as the ‘Golden Age of Ancient India’.
In architectural types it gave entrance to a new age which is particularly noticed in the architectural style of the temples.
In fact, it initiated a creative and formative period for the foundation of a typical Indian temple architecture.
Apart from temple architecture rock-cut architecture also reached their zenith. The most remarkable of these are to be found in Ajanta, Ellora, Aurangabad (Hyderabad) and Bagh (Central India). Bragnabucak rock-cut shrines although lesser in number than those of the Buddhist, were not rare either.
Reference may be made in this connection to the Udaygiri series of shrines near Bhilsa in Bhopal state. The shrines are both rock-cut Brahmanical shrines and are also to be found at Badami in the Bijapur district. Jaina caves are to be found at Badami as also at Aihole.
The art of painting, including terra-cotta and clay modelling, considered a secular character during this period and became more popular than stone sculpture. The best specimens of painting of the period are to be found on the walls of the Ajanta caves, Bagh cave in Gwalior, Settannavasal temple at Puddukkottai and at Badami. Incidents of life of Buddha were the main theme of the Gupta painters. The Painting ‘Dying Princess’ in one Ajanta cave has earned the admiration of Burgress, Fergussion, Griffiths and many others. The Gupta art of painting has been praised by art critics for its brilliance of colour, richness of expression and delicacy of execution.
The artists of the Gupta age were also superb in casting metals and making of copper statues. The iron pillar at Delhi made at time of Samudragupta is a marvel of metallurgical skill of the Gupta period artists.


During the period of Gupta dynasty, Sanskrit literature greatly flourished. It would not be unfair to say that there was never such a literary outburst in India especially in the sphere of Sanskrit language.
Prose and poetry both were written during this period. The Allahabad Pillar Inscription shows that Harisena was a poet of great eminence. The manner in which, he has described the achievement of Samudragupta by Chandragupta signifies he was a poet of great calibre.
Important Literary works during the Gupata period
Raghuwansa, Ritusamhara, Meghaduta – Kalidasa Ravanabodha – Batsabhatti Kavyadarshana and Dasakumarcharita – Dandin Kiratarjuniyam – Bharavi Nitishataka – Bhartahari Dramas
Vikramovarshiya, Malvikagnimitra and – Kalidasa Abhijnanasakuntalam Mrichchakatika – Sudaraka Swapnavasavadatta, Charudatta and Pratignayaugandharayana – Bhasa Mudrarakshasa and Devichandraguptam – Visakhadatta Eulogy
Pryag-Prasasti – Harisena Philosophy
Sankhyakarika (base on Sankhya – Ishwar Krishna philosophy) Padartha Dharmasangraha (based on – Acharya Vaisheshika Philosophy) Prashastipada Vyasa Bhasya (based on Yoga philosophy) – Acharya Vyasa Nyaya Bhasya (on Nyaya philosophy) – Vatsyayana Religious Works
The two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, were given final shape during the period.
Amarakosha – Amarsimha Chandravyakarana – Chandragomin Kavyadarsha – Dandin Narrative Story
Panchatantra and Hitopadesha – Vishnu Sharma Smritis
Vaynavalkyasmriti,Parasharsmriti,Brihspatismriti, Naradasmriti and Katyayanasmriti Mathematics and Astronomy
Aryabhattiya, Dashjitikasutra and – Aryabhatta Aryashtashata – Varahmihira Brhatsamhita and Panchasidhantika – Brahmagupta Brahmasidhanata Miscellaneous Works
Nitisastra – Kamandaka Kamsutra – Vatsayana Kavyalankara – Bhamah Poetry, verse and drama of a very high class were composed and written in this age. The name of Kalidasa shines like a glittering star in the period. It is very difficult to say which of his work is the best but Shakuntalam is the most popular of his plays. Before the Shakuntalam, Kalidasa had already composed two plays, the Malavikagnimitra and the Vikramorvasiya. His two Mahakavyas, Raghuvamsa and Kamarasambhava and the lyrical poem Meghaduta are universally regarded as gems of Sanskrit poetry.
Philosophical literature was also written during this period. The Hindus, Buddhists and Jains all wrote on the principles of their respective religions. A commentary was written on Sankhya philosophy and also on Mimansa Sutra. In this perioed Vatsayana wrote a commentary on the philosophy of law, although his views were contradicted, later on, by Dingnaga Chandra, a great intellect, wrote a book called ‘Dashpadarthastra’.


In the field of mathematics, we come across during this period a work called Aryabhatiya written by Aryabhata, who belonged to Pataliputra. It seems that this mathematician was well versed in various kinds of calculations. A Gupta inscription of Allhabad suggests that the decimal system was known in India at the beginning of th e fifth century A.D. In the field of astronomy a book called Romaka Sidhanta was compiled. It was influenced by Greek ideas, as can be inferred from its name.
Aryabhatta was the first to use the decimal system. He formulated the rule for finding out the area of triangle which led to the origin of trigonometry and calculated the value of pie (π). He laid the foundation of algebra in his aryabhatiya.
The most famous work of this time was Suryasidhanta.
Brahmagupta in 7th century A.D. began to apply algebra to astronomical problems. The three major contributions in the field of mathematics are the notational system, the decimal system and the use of zero.
The Gupta craftsmen distinguished themselves by their work in iron and bronze. We know of several bronze images of the Buddha, which began to be produced on a considerable scale because of the knowledge of advanced metal technology.
In the case of iron objects the best example is the iron pillar found at Mehrauli in Delhi. Manufactured in the fourth century A.D. believed to be eracted by Kumaragupta, the pillar has not gathered any rust in the subsequent 15 centuries, which is a great tribute to the technological skill of the craftsmen. It was impossible to produce such a pillar in any iron foundry in the west until about a century ago. It is a pity that the later craftsmen could not develop this knowledge further.
In the field of astronomy, this period also witnessed excellent work. Aryabhatta and Varahmihir were prominent astronomers.
The former found out the caused of lunar and solar eclipses; calculated the circumference of earth; was first to reveal that the sun is stationary and the earth revolved round the sun.
Varahamihir’s well known works are Brihatsamhita and Panch Sidhhantika. Brahmagupta wrote the Brahma Sphutic Siddhata in verse and laid the foundation of the law of gravitation.
Sushruta and Charak were the two great physicians of this period. The Sushruta Samhita describes the methods of operating cataracts, stone diseases and various other ailments.
Charaka is considered to be the father of Indian Medicine.
Vrihad Vagabhatta, a well-knonw physician, guided by the work of Charaka, wrote Astanghridaya.


Northern India
By the end of fifth century the vast Gupta empire broke up into several independent states. It was due to the repeated invasions of the Hunas, the nomadic tribesman of central Asia and internal disruption of provincial governments, who established independent-states in different parts of the northern part of India. With the decline of the imperial Gupta, Magadha and its capital Pataliputra, which since the sixth century B.C. had been the centre of political activity in North India, lost their importance when Harsha united his ancestral kingdom of Thaneswar with the Maukhari kingdom of Kannauj and shifted his capital to Karnnuj. From now (A.D. 606) onwards till the Turkish conquests at the close of the twelfth century, Kanauj remained the centre of political activity in North India.
Hunas Invasion (A.D. 454)
There was a barbarous race which came to India from Central Asia. Hunas invaded India for the first time during the reign of Kumaragupta but their further progress was checked by the Gupta king who inflicted a crushing defeat upon them in about 460 A.D. After fourteen years of this invasion, Hunas defeated Firoz, king of Persia, and became the masters of Persia. This success boosted their power and by the end of fifth century A.D., they ruled over a vast empire. From this time onwards the invasions of Hunas over India became more frequent.
Harshavardhana (A.D. 606-647)
The break-up of the Gupta Empire was followed by a period of disorder. Small kingdoms fought against one-another. Finally, Harshavardhana conquered these kingdoms and established a powerful empire.
Source Materials
We come to know about Harsha and the developments during his reign from two main sources. One is Harshacharita, the biography of the king written in Sanskrit by his court poet Banabhatta. The book lists military and cultural achievements of Harsha. The other is the account of Hiuen Tsang, who visited India during Harsha’s reign. He spent eight years in the court of Harsha. He has written in detail about the developments during these years. Besides these sources, inscriptions and coins of this period also tell us about Harsha.
Kannauj – As Capital
Harshavardhan shifted his capital from Thanesvar to Kannauj which was situated on the bank of Ganga. He converted it into a magnificent, wealthy and well-fortified city, nearly four miles long and a mile broad, furnished with numerous lofty buildings, and adorned with many tanks and gardens.
Generally, he is regarded as the last powerful Hindu emperor of India, but he was neither a staunch Hindu nor the ruler of the whole country. His authority was limited to the north India except Kashmir. Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa were under his direct control, but his sphere of influence spread over a much wider area. Mostly, the feudatories seems to have accepted his suzerainty.
Administration Under Harsha
Harsha ruled his kingdom on the same lines as the Guptas did, except that his administration had become more feudal and decentralised. It is stated that Harsha had soldiers numbering over one lakh and 60,000 cavalry and 9,000 elephants. Harsha could mobilize that support of all his feudatories at the time of war. Evidently every feudatory contributed his quota of foot soldiers and horse, and thus made the army vast in numbers.
Land grants continued to be made to priests for special services rendered to the state. In addition, Harsha is credited with the grant of land to the officers by charters. These grants allowed more concessions to priests and officers than those by the earlier grants. Thus, the feudal practice of rewarding and paying officers with grants of land on a large scale seems to have begun under Harsha.
Harsha-A Patron of Arts
Harsha was a patron of arts and learning. He himself was a good writer. He wrote three plays in Sanskrit-Ratnavali, Priyadarshika and Nagananda. Scholars like Banabhatta, Subandhu and Dandian lived in his court. In his early years, Harsha was a worshipper of Shiva but later he became a Buddhist. He was tolerant of other religions. He organized a grand assembly at Kannauj. He also gave money to the University of Nalanda. This university prospered and became a famous centre of learning. Hiuen Tsang spent many years studying Buddhist text at this Nalanda University.
Harsha ruled for about forty-one years till his death in A.D.647. His death facilitated the growth of petty territories to become states. He also does not seem to have left any heir to the throne of Kanauj which was usurped after his death by his minister.
Southern India
The period during A.D. 300 to A.D. 750 witnesses the second historical phase in the regions south of the Vindhayas. By the beginning of the seventh century, the Pallavas of Kanchi, the Chalukyas of Badami and the Pandyas of Madurai appeared to be the three major states.
The Vakatakas (A.D. 225-510)
The Satvahanas were succeeded by the Vakatakas, a local power in northern Maharashtra and Vidarbha (Berar). The Vakatakas, who were Brahmanas themselves, are known from a large number of copper-plate and grants issued to the Brahmanas.
They were great champions of the Brahmanical religion and performed severel Vedic sacrifices. Their political history is of more importance to north India than to south India. Culturally, the Vakataka kingdom became a channel for transmitting brahmanical ideas and social institutions to the south.
The founder of this dynasty was Vidya Shakti but his son Pravarsena could be its real founder in western and central India. Chandragupta II realised the importance of this empire and formed alliance through marriage of his daughter into Vakataka family.
In 5th century A.D., Vakatakas extended their power in Malwa. Harisena was the last important monarch controlling all the central Deccan.
The Vakatakas contributed towards the arts and architecture.
Several caves of Ajanta are credited to the royal patronage of the Vakatakas.
They were uprooted by the growing power of Chalukyas of Badami, Pallavas of Kanchipuram and Pandyyas of Madurai.
The Vakatakas had been in power for about two centuries.
The Chalukyas (543-753 A.D.)
(a) Chalukyas of Badami
The most notable of the early medieval dynasties of the Deccan was that of the Chalukyas. Jayasimha was the first Chalukyan king. But Pulakeshin I is generally attributed to be the first Chalukyan king. He was succeeded by Maharaja Kirtivarman in 566 A.D. Pulakeshin II was the most prominent ruler of the dynasty who ruled from A.D. 608 and was a contemporary of Harshavardhan.
His fame was far extended even upto Persia, with whom he exchanged embassies. He was defeated and killed by the Pallava ruler Narsimvarman. 32 years later in 674, one of Pulakeshin’s son avenged his father’s death and captured Kanchi.
(b) Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi
Pulkeshin II’s brother, Kubja Vishnu Vardhan established a new dynasty with its capital at the ancient city of Vengi.
But soon its power was declined and in about 10th century they allied the Cholas but the Chola king did not maintain the alliance and annexed the kindom in A.D. 1076
(c) Western Chalukyas of Kalyani
The kingdom founded by Taila II in 973, after defeating Amoghavarsha IV, the last Rashtrakuta ruler. He extended his kingdom upto southern part of Pormera kingdom of Malwa. Vikramaditya II Tribhuvanmall (1076-1126) was the greatest ruler of this dynasty and he was regarded as the hero of Bilhana’s Vikramankadevacharita. He is the founder of the Vikarm Samvat Era. Jagadekamall II, was the last ruler after whose death his Kalachuri minister Vijjala usurped his throne.
Art and Architecture
Art made great progress under their patronage. The temple architecture was a blend of Dravida and Nagara styles.
They built about 70 temples at Aihole which is rightly regarded as the ‘cradle of Indian temple architecture’.
Other famous temples include the Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal, the Vishnu temple of Badami, the Shiva temple of Maguti and the Kasi Vishvesvara temple of Lakhundi. They gave patronage to Hinduism and Jainism. Their empire came to an end by A.D. 753 when their feudatory Rastrakutas defeated Kirtivarman.
On the decline of the Satvahana power in the eastern part of the peninsula there arose the Ikshavakus in the Krishna Guntur region. They seem to have been a local tribe who adopted the dignified name of the Ikshavakus in order to show the antiquity of their lineage. They are mostly recalled for monuments like Nagarjunakonda and Dharanikota. They were overthrown by the Pallavas.
Pallavas (600-757 A.D.)
During the 6th century to late 8th century, the Pallavas were the dominant power in the Deccan, who were the indigenous subordinates of the Satavahanas. They marched to Andhra and then to Kanchi where they established the mighty Pallava Empire.
Pallavas were religious tolerant and supported Buddhism, Jainism and the Brahminical faith and were patrons of music, paintings and literature. Their greatest monuments are at Mahabalipuram. The clash between the Pallavas and the Chalukyas continued for many centuries. The last Pallava ruler Aparajitavarma was defeated by the Cholas.
Struggle Between The Pallavas and the Chalukyas
The main cause of the struggle between Pallavas and Chalukyas was the supremacy. The Pandyas, who were in control of Madurai and Tinnevelly district of Tamil Nadu, joined this conflict as a poor third. Although both the Pallavas and the Chalukyas supported Brahmanism, performed Vedic sacrifices and made grants to the Brahmanas, the two quarreled with each-other for prestige and territorial resources. Both tried to establish supremacy over the land lying between the Krishna and the Tungabhadra.
The first important event in this long struggle took place in the reign of Pulakeshin-II (609-642), the most prominent Chalukya king. He overthrew the Kadamba capital at Banavasi and compelled the Ganges of Mysore to accept his suzerainty. He also defeated Harsha’s army on the Narmada and checked his march towards the Deccan. In his conflict with the Pallavas, he almost reached the Pallava capital, but the Pallavas purchased peace by ceding their northern-provinces to Pulakeshin II.
Pulakeshin’s second invasion of the Pallava territory ended in failure. The Pallava king Narasimhavarman (A.D. 630-668) occupied the Chalukya capital at Vatapi in about A.D. 642, when Pulakeshin II was probably killed in fight against the Pallavas. Narsimhavarman adopted the title of Vatapikonda or the conqueror of Vatapi. He is also said to have defeated the Cholas, the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Kalabhras.
By the end of the seventh century, the conflict was subsided but it was again resumed in the first half of the eighth century A.D. The Chalukya king Vikramaditya II (A.D. 733-745) is said to have overrun Kanchi three times. In 740 A.D., he completely overthrow the Pallavas. His victory ended the Pallava supremacy in the far south although the ruling house continued for more than a century afterwards. However, the Chalukyas could not enjoy the fruits of their victory over the Pallavas for long for their own hegemony was brought to an end in A.D. 757 by the Rashtrakutas.
Rashtrakutas (A.D. 753-973)
The term Rashtrakutas means officers-in-charge of territorial divisions called rashtr. The Rashtrakutas originally belonged to Lattalura, modern Latur of Maharashtra. They were of Kannada origin and Kannada was their mother tongue.
The founder of the Rashtrakuta was Dantidurga. He was contemporary of Chalukya king Pulkeshin II. Dantidurga was succeeded by his uncle Krishnaraja (768-772). He defeated the territories that were still under the Chalukyas and thereby completed conquest of the Chalukya territories. Chalukyaraj Vishnuvardhana IV of Vengi and the Ganga king of Mysore were overthrown by the Rashtrakuta King Krishnaraja. Krishanraja built the Kailash temple of Ellora which was superb example of the Rashtrakuta art and architecture. Krishnaraja’s eventful period came to an end within a very short time and he was succeeded by his son Govindraj who ruled for sometime as Govinda II. His worthlessness as a ruler and his lack of interest in administration led to his deposition by his brother Dhruva who ascended the throne himself. Dhruva was succeeded by Govinda III, his son and with almost equal vigour as of his father.
The Rashtrakutas kept on the best of terms with the Arabas of Sindh and enriched their subjects by encouraging commerce.
They encouraged Hinduism, and Dighambara Jainism.
Their capital was at Manyakheta.
Literature was encouraged. The king Amoghavarsha I himself authored a part of Kavirajamarga, the earliest known Kannada poem.
The powerful king of the Rashtrakuta dynasty was Amoghavarsha who succeeded in defeating the East-Chalukya kings. It was Amoghavarsha who had successfully checked the progress of the Gurjara King Bhoja I towards South India. He set up a new capital at Malkhed or Manyakheta and during his reign Broach became the best port of his kingdom.
Amoghavarsha ruled for 63 years and he was succeeded by his son Krishna II who in his turn was succeeded by Indra III. Indra III was a powerful king. He defeated and deposed Mahipala. The Rastrkuta King Amoghavarsha II, Govinda IV and Amoghavarsha III were weak and worthless kings.
The last powerful and efficient king of the Rastrakutas was Krishna III.
The founder of the Chola dynasty was Vijayala, a feudatory of the Pallavas. His dynasty rose to high eminence and lasted for more than two centuries. Vijayala rose to power near Uraiyar, the capital of the Cholas of the Sangam Age. An inscription at Tiruchirapalli district records a gift of land in accordance with the orders of the Parakesari Vijayala Chladeva. The titles of Parakesari and Rajakesari were alternately assumed by the Chola sovereigns from the time of Vijayala.
The ascendancy of Rajraja gave Cholas, the supreme power in India, Rajraja was the most famous and important among the Cholas. He very efficiently and successfully carried on the administration of his country from A.D. 985 to 1014 A successful conqueror, he had defeated the Cheras and the Pandyas. He had annexed Mysore and Travancore and had defeated the Chalukyas of Vengi. The inscriptions reveal that he had conquered the Simhaldip. His conquests established his authority in the Deccan.
Rajraja was succeeded by his son, Rajendra. He was also a brace warrior and a successful ruler. He ruled from A.D.
1015-1035. After his death, his son, Rajadhiraja, became the ruler. He was the last among the Cholas. In 1052, he was killed while fighting with the Chalukyas.
Chola Administration
The most striking feature of the administrative system of the Cholas was their autonomous village and town administration.
there was no significant difference between the central and provincial administration of the Cholas and that of any other dynasty of early medieval India. But, the administration of Cholas was more centralized than that of the Rashtrakutas or the Chalukyas.
Central Administration: The emperor or king was at the apex of the administration. He had an udankuttam, immediate attendants, a group of ministers representing all the chief departments of administration to advise him on the disposal of business, besides a chancery (olai). Worship at deceased rulers, and construction of temples as tributes to dead kings was a special feature of the Chola period.
There was an elaborate and complicated administrative machinery or bureaucracy for the Cholas, comprising officials of various grades. The officials tended to form a separate class in society, organized in two ranks, an upper perundanam and a lower sirudanam. Higher officers were known by the title of adigarigal, while officers of all ranks were usually referred to by the general titles of Karumigal and Panimakkal. They were usually remunerated by assignments of land (jivitas) suited to their position. Titles of honour and shares in booty taken in war formed other rewards of public service.
Provincial Adminstration: The empire was divided into principalities (under vassal chiefs ) and mandalams (provinces under viceroys who were mostly royal princes) with further division of the provinces into Valanadus (divisions), Nadus (districts) and Kurrams (villages).
Achievement of Cholas: The Chola empire during Rajaraja I included Tamil Nadu, Goorg, Srilanka and many islands including Laskswadeep and Maldives.
Rajendra Chola assumed the title of Gangaikonda, after consolidating his territories right upto river Ganga.
Chola art and Literature: The Cholas greatly encouraged sculpture, architercute and painting. The Cholas established new cities and constructed many palatial buildings. They beautifully erected temples served as the conference houses for the assemblies. The Shiva temple of Rajrajeshwar at Tanjore is a perfect example of Chola art which is 197 feet high and has thirteen storeys. The Brihadesvara temple at Thanjore is the finest specimen of Chola architecture.
Literature and culture too witnessed a great progress under the Cholas. Culture had reached the height of glory and peak of power. Sanskrit and Tamil languages developed to a great extent. The Chola kings greatly encouraged the scholarly and the literary minds.
Arab Influence
On the west coast, the initiative in the trade with the west was gradually passing into the hands of the Arabs. Indian Traders were becoming suppliers of goods rather than carriers and communication with the West became indirect, via the Arabs, and limited to trade alone. Maritime trade with South East Asia continued. There were now three major kingdoms. Kambuja (Cambodia), Champa (Annan) and Shrivijaya (the southern Malay Peninsula and Sumatra), with whom cultural contact increased. Pallava architectural styles and the Tamil script were extensively used amongst the local royalty.
Other Royal Families of the Deccan
The Cheras
In ancient time Kerala was known as Cheras. The kingdom extended to the districts of Malabar, Travancore, Cochin, etc.
The Cheras had trade relations with Rome in the first century A.D. the description of the Cheras of early times is found in the edicts of Ashoka, in which they have been called by the name of Kerala Putras. Enough historical material about the history of Keralas is not available. Some of the important rulers of this dynasty were Perunar, Adan II, and Senaguttavam, etc. who in their reigns fought many battles with other dynasties of the Deccan like the Cholas, the Pandyas, and the Hoyasalas, etc.
They remained dominant till the 13th century A.D.
The Hoyasalas
The kingdom of Hoyasalas situated between the kingdom of the Chalukyas on the North-West and that of the Cholas on south-east. They ruled over modern Mysore and Madras.
Their capital was Dwarasamudra. The credit of bringing this dynasty into eminence goes to Vishnu Vardhan. He improved political position of his kingdom by his victories. With the help of his commander-in-chief, Ganga Raja, he defeated the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas. He defeated the Gurjaras at Talkad. The Chennakesava temple built by Vishnuvardhan at Belur in A.D. 1117 and the Hoyasaleswar temple built in A.D. 1150 at Halesbid are examples of Hoyasala architecture.
The kingdom of the Hoyasalas made all the progress under Vir Balla II. He defeated the Chalukyas and the Yadavas too. The last king of this dynasty was Vir Balla III, who was defeated by Malik Kafur, the chief general of Alauddin Khilji in 1311. He deposed him from the throne and this, dynasty came to its end.
The Yadavas
The Yadavas were, at first, under the supremacy of the Chalukyas, became independent and began to gain power.
They ruled over the region that extended from Nasik to Devagiri. Thus, Khandesh territory was under their sway.
These people acknowledged being chandravansi (Moon race).
Their great rulers were Bhillama; Simhana Ramachandra, etc. Bhillama was the first important king of this dynasty. He reigned from 1187 to 1191. He conquered the Hoyasalas and made Devagiri his capital. The most prominent king of this dynasty was Simhana who defeated several dynasties, such as, the Hoyasalas, the Andhras, etc. He also defeated Arjun Varman, the ruler of Malwa. In addition to this, he invaded Gujarat several times and tried to defeat it. The last king of this dynasty was Ramachandra who ruled the whole of the region upto the river Narmada.
The Kakatiyas
The Kakatiyas were under the control of the Chalukya dynasty and after the downfall of Chalukyan they asserted their independent in the territories of Telingana and Warrangal, where they founded their own kingdom. Some of the powerful and important kings of this dynasty were Prolaraja, Ganpati Pratap Rudra Deo, etc. Prolaraja defeated the Chalukyas and fought many other battles. After him Ganpati was another important king of this dynasty. He defeated the Cholas, the Yadavas and several other rulers of various families. He reaped the full advantage of the disorder and disturbance in the political condition of those regions and extended his rule in all the four corners of his kingdom. The fact is that he was the most important king of the Kakatiya dynasty. In his reign, the Kakatiya rule was at the height of its power and progress.
After his reign, the decline and decay of this dynasty started and finally in the reign of Pratapa Rudra Deo, Malik Kafur invaded their kingdom in A.D 1309.
The Kadambas
This dynasty was established by Brahman Mayurasarma in north Karnataka with his capital at Banavasi after defeating Satvahana. Mayurasaraman was a champion of Vedic sacrifices and is believed to have performed 18 Ashvamedha sacrifices. The kingdom was annexed to the Chalukya kingdom by Pulkesin II.
Points to Remember
► Information about the Gupta empire are available from Allahabad pillar inscription, temples, paintings and coins.
► Prominent rulers of Gupta empire Chandragupta I (320- 335 AD), Samudragupta (335-375 AD), Chandragupta II (380-414 AD), Kumaragupta I, Maheraditya (415- 455 AD), Skandagupta Vikramaditya (455-467 AD).
► In Gupta period, eighteen types of taxes were levied.
Land tax was between 1/4 to 1/6 of the produce.
► Gupta period witnessed exceptional growth in field of architecture, sculpture, painting and terracotta.
This period is also known as “Golden Age of Ancient India”.
► In Gupta period, Sanskrit literature greatly flourished.
Kalidasa was prominent poet from this period.
Philosophical literature was also written during this period.
► This period marks notable advancement in field of Mathematics, Metallurgy, Astronomy and medicine.
Aryabhatta, Varahmihir are prominent names in this period.

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