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The Kannauj Triangle: Rashtrakutas, Palas and Gurjara

Badami Cave Temple

Kannauj Triangle is name given to tripartite struggle between three kingdoms i.e. Rashtrakutas of Deccan, Gurjar Pratiharas of Malwa and Palas of Bengal region. These dynasties fought for around 150 years for the control of Kannauj region.

Tripartite struggle for control of Kannauj

Chalukyas ruled Deccan before Rashtrakutas. Therefore, before learning about Rashtrakutas let us understand about Deccan rulers.

1. Rulers in Deccan

1.1 Chalukyas of Badami. [543 – 755 AD]

These were bramhin rulers who ruled for about 200 years, only to be replaced by Rashtrakuta dynasty..

Pulakesin I was founder.
He established a small kingdom with Badami/Vatapi being capital. He performed Asvamedha sacrifice.

1.2 Kiritvarman I

He carried out imperialistic outlook by defeating Kadambas of Banavasi.

1.3 Pulakesin II

He is known for defeating king Harshwardhan from north. This is written in Ravikirti inscription in Aihole (Prakrit language). According to this inscription, Pulakesin II also defeated Pallava ruler Mahendravarman I in his first expedition. But in 2nd expedition, Pulakesin II was defeated by Narsimhavarman I.
Hieun Tsang also visited during the reign of Pulakesin II.
Ravikirti, who composed Aihole inscription, lived at his court and was Jain.

1.4 Kirtivarman II,

Kirtivarman II was the last Chalukyan ruler and was defeated by Rashtrakuta king Dantidurga.

2. Contribution of Chalukyas.

Chalukya administrative was highly centralized unlike that of Pallavas and Cholas. Village autonomy was absent and they exercised paternalistic outlook over village administration.
Chalukyas patronized education and learning to high level. Promoted both Sanskrit and Prakrit literature.
A famous feudal lord of Chalukyas Gangaraja Durvinita wrote a famous book on grammar called SHABDAVATARA
Udayadeva also wrote a grammar book called JAINENDRA VYAKARANA
Somadeva Suri wrote the book NITI-VAKYA-AMRIT. A Book on morality.

Though Chalukyas were Bramhinical Hindus, they promoted other religions also. Jainism progressed under them.  Ravikirti himself was Jain.

3. Art and Architecture under Chalukyas.

Vesara‘ school of temple architecture flourished under them. And there were three main temple cities under them.

3.1 Aihole (city of temple) –

70 temples found in Aihole.
Lad khan temple (Flat roof temple),
Durga temple (integration of Buddhist Chaitya and Bramhin temple),
Hachimaligudi temple (similar to Durga temple but smaller),
Meguti temple (devoted to Jainism).

3.2 Badami / Vatapi Temples –

Melagitti temple – it has four rock cut halls, three of Hinduism and one of Jainism.

3.3 Pattadakal City

Papanath temple – built in northern style.
Virupaksa temple – southern style.
Sangameshwar temple – southern style.

They increased number of caves in Ajanta and Ellora caves are said to have started under them.

Badami Cave Temple
Pattadakal Group of Temples

4. Rashtrakuta Dynasty [755 AD -975 AD]

4.1 Important Rashtrakuta Rulers

Rashtrakutas were of  Kannada origin and their mother tongue was Kannada.

4.2 Dantidurga

He was founder.
He defeated Chalukyan king Kirtivarman II and captured Chalukyan kingdom.

4.3 Krishna I

Kailasha temple in Ellora was built under him. Monolithic temple.
He defeated Ganges and Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi.

4.4 Govind III

4.5 Amoghavarsha

Though not very successful politically, he is known for high cultural development. He was follower of Jainism.
He was the patron of scholar Jinasena, who had written ADIPURANA
He himself wrote famous KAVIRAJAMARGA in Kannada language.
He built the Rasthrakut capital Manyakheda/Manyakhet.

4.6 Krishna III

He was famous for his expeditions and be defeated Cholas.

4.7 Contribution of Rashtrakuta

Provincial and sub-provincial administration were quiet developed under Rashtrakutas. Provinces were known as Rashtra, to be headed by Rashtrapati. These were further divided into Vishyas, to be headed by Vishyapati. Collection of Villages was called Bhukti.
Role of women in administration was also prominent as evident from Chandrobalabbe, daughter of Amoghavarsha. She carried on administration in Raichur district.

4.8 Art and Architecture

Caves at Ellora and Elephanta developed under them.
Krishna I, built Kailasha temple in Ellora Cave no. 16 which is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Art of sculpture also progressed under Rashtrakutas. Images of Shiva in Elephanta caves in different forms like Nataraj, Maheshmurti, Trimurti etc.

4.9 Literature During this Period

Kannada literature flourished during this period. King Amoghavarsha wrote KAVIRAJAMARGA & PRASHNOTTAR MALIKA in Kannada language. Mahavir Acharya, who was famous mathematician wrote GANITSARSANGRAHA. Three renowned scholars called Pampa Ponna Ranna (all were Jain followers) lived under them. Pampa wrote VIKRAMASENAVIJAYA and Paunna wrote SHANTIPURANA.

4.10 Religion

Shaivism and Vaishnavism flourished during Rashtrakuta rulers. And temples were the core of religious activities.
Dantidurga carried out Hiranyagarbha sacrifice. Which was attended by all rulers. ( When ruler is not born Kshatriya, to legitimize his rule Hiranyagarbha is performed, this marks his conversion into Kshatriya clan).
Jainism still followed by & Buddhism saw decline.

5. Hoyasala Dynasty [1050 AD – 1300 AD]

These rulers ruled in Deccan after Rashtrakutas. Earlier their capital was at Belur (Karnataka) and later transferred to Halebidu.

More about Hoyasalas, we will learn in another post.

6. Palas of Bengal

The Kannauj Triangle.

6.1 Palas of Bengal

Pala rulers ruled in Bengal from 8th to 12th century.

6.2 Gopala

He was founder of Kingdom.  He was also the first ruler to be elected by people.
He built a monastery at Odantapura in present Bihar.

6.3 Dharmapala

He held maximum number of wars with Pratiharas and Rashtrakutas and expanded the kingdom to a very high level.
He was a pious Buddhist and founded Vikramashila university at Bihar.

6.4 Devapala

He is known for defeating Rashtrakuta ruler Amoghwarsha.
He also got many monastaries and temples built.


6.5 Contribution of Palas.

Odantapura monastery.
Vikramashila university.
Sompura monastery. (Now in Bangladesh)
Buddhist centres like Nalanda and Vikramshila flourished.
Pala art flourished under them.
A Buddhist, Bengali religious leader Atisa took Buddhism to Tibet, Sumatra during Pala rule.

7. Gurjara Pratiharas [700 – 1100 AD]

7.1 Gurjara Rulers

7.2 Harichandra

He was founder of Gurjara Pratihara dynasty

7.3 Nagabhatta

Althought Harishchandra was founder, Nagabhatta is considered as 1st important ruler.  He defeated Arab commander Junaid.

7.4 Nagabhatta II

He is known for rebuilding Somnath temple in Gujarat in 815 AD.

7.5 Mihir Bhoja

He had assumed the title Adivaraha.
Teli Mandir at Gwalior was built by him.

8. Impact of Tripartite Struggle.

The three kingdoms were fighting amongst each other to have a control over the resource rich region around Kannauj in Gangetic valley. Each wanted to take the benefit of lack of strong ruler at Kannauj at that time.
However, the struggle was mutually destructive for all of them. Nobody could emerge as a strong power. There was no stability and central rule in entire country. It led to political vacuum in north India and no attention to North West Frontier. Thus India became vulnerable to foreign invasion. Advantage of the situation was taken by Mahamud Ghazini and Mohammad Ghori. (More about them in Medieval history).

8.1 Erstwhile Hilly States in North.

Champaka (Chamba), HP, Ravi River.
Durgara (Jammu).
Trigarta (jalandhar), Punjab.
Kuluta (Kulu), HP.
Kumaon UK.
Garhwal UK.

8.2 Who were Rajputs?

Rajputs appear on scene in late ancient period of history. There are many debates around their origin. The major theories are:
1] Agnikula theory given in Prithviraj Raso of Chandbardai.
According to this, the sage Vashishtha carried out the sacrifice on mount Abu and from these fire altars, four heads of Rajput clans would emerge. They were Chauhans of Ajamer. Solankis of Gujarat, Pratihars of Bhinmal, Parmaras of Malwa.
2] Theory of foreign origin. Given by people like V.A. Smtih, Colonel Tod etc.
This theory says that Rajputs were descendents of foreigners like Indo-Greeks, Sakas, Kushanas, Hunas who had got Indianized over the period of time and the term Rajput was used for them.
3] Theory of Brahmin Origin. Given by people like C.V. Vaid and Gaurishankar
According to this theory, when India was facing serious crisis caused by foreign invasion, some of the Bramhanas left their traditional occupation and took work of Ksatriyas to defend the country. The Ghatoliya inscription also says that founder of Pratihara dynasty was a Bramhin.

Overall conclusion can be made that Rajputs were product of purification of foreigners as well as Brahma-Kshatriya tradition. Whoever developed traits like warring spirit, feudal character, castism and strong army came to be called Rajputs.

8.3 Characteristics of Rajputs Rulers

They were divided into various clans, it was a feudal polity. They treated war as sports and constantly fought among themselves. Forts and palaces were given huge importance. They maintained large horses. They followed Dharmashasra tradition. But they were highly discriminatory towards non-Rajputs.

8.4 Social Life of Rajputs.

The position of women was quiet questionable under Rajput rule. Female infanticide, Child marriage, dowry system, parda system and sati (johar). These customs were widely prevalent along with some superstitions.
Supremacy of Brahmanas also existed.

8.5 Art and Architecture

Temple architecture flourished during Rajput times. They are known for their paintings  ‘Rajput paintings’.
Huge forts and palaces also developed during their times. Dilwara temple at mount Abu, Khajuraho temple, Puri temple were developed during these times.
Jain scholars like Hemachandra Suri, Vastupala were patronized by them.
Many works in Prakrit language were composed under Rajput rule.

8.6 Who Founded Rashtrakuta Kingdom

Dantidurga was founder. He defeated Chalukyan king Kirtivarman II.

8.7 What is Kannauj Triangle

Kannauj Triangle is name given to tripartite struggle between three kingdoms i.e. Rashtrakutas of Deccan, Gurjar Pratiharas of Malwa and Palas of Bengal region. These dynasties fought for around 150 years for the control of Kannauj region.

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Thank you Rohan!