Kalachuri dynasty

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Kalachuri Empire

Extent of Kalachuri Empire.
Official Languages Northern Kingdom: Sanskrit
Southern Kingdom: Kannada
Capitals Northern Kingdom: Tripuri
Southern Kingdom: Basavakalyana
Government Monarchy
Religions Hinduism
Preceding State Western Chalukyas
Succeeding State Seuna
Asia in 1200 AD, showing the Yadava Dynasty and its neighbors.

The Kalachuri Empire (Sanskrit and Kannada: ಕಲಚೂರಿ) was the name used by two kingdoms who had a succession of dynasties from the 10th-12th centuries, one ruling over areas in Central India (west Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan) and were called Chedi or Haihaya (Heyheya) (northern branch-Kalchuri Rajput Clan)[1] and the other the southern Kalachuri who ruled over parts of Karnataka. They are supposed to be offshoot of Abhira of Traikutakas dynasty.[2] The earliest known Kalachuri family (AD 550–620) ruled over northern Maharashtra, Malwa and western Deccan. Their capital Mahismati was situated in the Narmada River valley. There were three prominent members; Krishnaraja, Shankaragana and Buddharaja who distributed coins and epigraphs around the area.[3] By religious affiliation they were usually followers of Hinduism, specifically of the Pasupata sect.[4]

At their peak, the Southern Kalachuris (Kannada: ದಕ್ಷಿಣ ಕಲಚೂರಿ) (1130–1184) ruled parts of the Deccan extending over regions of present day North Karnataka and parts of Maharashtra. This dynasty rose to power in the Deccan between 1156 and 1181 AD. They traced their origins to Krishna who was the conqueror of Kalinjar and Dahala in Madhya Pradesh. It is said that Bijjala, a viceroy of the dynasty, established the authority over Karnataka after wresting power from the Chalukya king Taila III. Bijjala was succeeded by his sons Someshwara and Sangama but after 1181 AD, the Chalukyas gradually retrieved the territory. Their rule was short and turbulent and yet very important from a socio-religious point of view; a new sect known as the Lingayat or Virashaiva sect was founded during these times.[3] A unique and purely native form of Kannada literature-poetry called the Vachanas was also born during this time. The writers of Vachanas were called Vachanakaras (poets). Many other important works like Virupaksha Pandita's Chennabasavapurana, Dharani Pandita's Bijjalarayacharite and Chandrasagara Varni's Bijjalarayapurana were also written.

The Northern Kalachuris ruled in central India with their base at the ancient city of Tripuri (Tewar) near Jabalpur; it originated in the 8th century, expanded significantly in the 11th century, and declined in the 12th–13th centuries.

Origin of Kalachuris[edit]

Natives of Central India[edit]

Royal emblem of Kalachurya

Historians such as Dr. P.B. Desai are emphatic about the central Indian origin of the Kalachuris. Before the arrival of Badami Chalukya power, they had carved out an extensive empire covering areas of Gujarat, Malwa, Konkan and parts of Maharashtra. However after their crippling defeat at the hands of Chalukya Magalesa, they remained in obscurity for a prolonged period of time. A 1174 CE. records says the dynasty was founded by one Soma who grew beard and moustache, to save himself from the wrath of Parashurama, and thereafter the family came to be known as "Kalachuris", Kalli meaning a long moustache and churi meaning a sharp knife. Historian have also pointed out that several Kalachuri kings were related to Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas by matrimonial alliances and ruled from places like Tripuri, Gorakhpur, Ratnapur, Rajpur. They migrated to the south and made Magaliveda or Mangalavedhe (Mangalavada) their capital. They called themselves Kalanjarapuravaradhisvara, which indicates their central Indian origin. Their emblem was Suvarna Vrishabha or the golden bull. They must have started as modest feudatories of the Chalukyas of Kalyani.


According to legends, Kalli meaning long moustache and Churi meanoing Sharp knife is the source of their dynastic name. They were also referred to as Katachuris (shape of a sharp knife), Kalanjarapuravaradhisvara (Lord of Kalanjara) and Haihaya (Heheya). Mount Kalanjara is in north central India, east of the Indus Valley floodplain.

This name Haihaya is supposed to be derived from haya (a horse). Other theories are,

  • A prince of the Lunar Dynasty of Kshatriyas, and great-grandson of Yadu.
  • A race or tribe of people to whom a Scythian origin has been ascribed. The Vishnu Purana represents them as descendants of Haihaya of the Yadu race, but they are generally associated with borderers and outlying tribes.
  • In the Vayu and other Puranas, five great divisions of the tribe are named as Talajanghas,

Vitihotras, Avantis, Tundikeras, Jatas, or rather Sujatas.

  • They conquered Bahu or Bahuka, a descendant of King Harish Chandra, and were in their turn conquered, along with many other barbarian tribes, by King Sagara, son of Bahu. According to the Mahabharata, they were descended from Saryati, a son of Manu. They made incursions into the Doab, and they took the city of Kasi (Benares), which had been fortified against them by King Divo Dasa; but the grandson of this king Pratardana by name, destroyed the Haihayas, and re-established the kingdom of Kasi. Kaartaveerya-arjuna, of a thousand arms, was king of the Haihayas, and he was defeated and had his arms cut off by Parasurama.
  • The Vindhya Mountains would seem to have been the home of these tribes; and according to Colonel Tod, a tribe of Haihayas still exists “near the very top of the valley of Sohagpur, in Bhagelkhand, aware of their ancient lineage, and though few in number, still celebrated for their valor.”

Early Kalachuris[edit]

Silver coin, known as a rupaka, of Krishnaraja Kalachuri (reigned c. 550-575 CE).

The earliest historical information we have on the Kalachuris refers to a dynasty that ruled in the 6th and 7th centuries a large area that included Malwa, northern Maharashtra, southern Gujarat and southern Rajasthan, with their capital perhaps at Mahishmati.[5] These Early Kalachuris were the builders of the famous cave temples on Elephanta Island in Mumbai harbor and also of several caves at the well-known site of Ellora, including the famous Rameshwara cave (Cave 21). Both Elephanta and Ellora are World Heritage Sites.

Three kings of this dynasty are known: Krishnaraja (c. 550-575), his son Sankaragana (c. 575-600) and his grandson Buddharaja (c. 600-625). Krishnaraja is known from his coins and from being mentioned in the copper plate grants of his son and grandson. Sankaragana and Buddharaja are known from their copper plate grants.[6] Later Kalachuri dynasties in the north and south were presumably descendants of this early Kalachuri dynasty.

Northern Dynasty[edit]

First dynasty[edit]

The ancient temples of Kalachuri period at Amarkantak, built by Maharaja Karnadeva (1042-1072 AD)

Some historians identify several Kalachuri ruling families in Tripuri, Gorakhpur, Ratnapur, Rajpur (eastern Gujarat) regions of central India. They established their kingdom in Madhya Pradesh with their capital at Tripuri near Jabalpur. Kokalla I was the founder of the dynasty. The Chedis had to face the rulers of Kannauj and Malwa, the Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas. They also had to defend their territory against the Palas and rulers of Kalinga. One of the most important rulers of Kalachuri dynasty was Gangeya Deva. He tried to make the Chedis the paramount power of Northern India. He was succeeded by his son Karan Deva.

Second dynasty[edit]

After the decline of the Gurjara-Pratiharas, Laksm Karna (1041–1072) of Kalachuri dynasty of Tripuri, who came to power, brought under his control almost the entire region covered by the present district of Gorakhpur. But his son and successor Yash Karna (1073–1120), was unable to check the process of disintegration. The Kahla inscription indicates that Sodha Deva, a feudatory of another branch of Kalachuri dynasty, had proclaimed his independence in a portion of Gorakhpur district. During the same period the Kalachuri rule was supplanted by that of the Gahadvalas of Kannauj over this region. According to epigraphic evidence the kingdom of Govind Chandra (1114–1154) of the Gahadvala dynasty extended to Bihar including the area now comprising Gorakhpur. Two inscriptions ascribed to Govind Chandra have also been found one each at Magdiha (Gagha) and Dhuriapar in Bansgaon Tehsil mentioning the genealogy of the Gahadvalas and the charity given by him for the prosperity of his family. A number of mounds of bricks, ruins and masonry wells found at these places go to establish their antiquity.

The defeat of Jaya Chandra (1170–1194) grandson of Govind Chandra, at the hands of Shihab-uddin Ghuri in 1194, paralyzed the Gahadvala power and brought to an end their dominance over the district. As a result a number of small principalities held by Sarnet, Donwar, Kaushik Rajputs and Bhars came into existence in different parts of the district.

Southern Dynasty, Immigrants in Karnataka[edit]


This dynasty which overthrew the Kalyani Chalukyas in the early part of the 12th century, had a relatively short but stormy rule.[7] According to a record pertaining to the year 1174, the founder of the family was Soma, who was a disciple of Ashwathama (the heroic character of the Mahabharata). According to legends, he grew a beard and a moustache to conceal his visage, in a bid to escape the wrath of the fiery Parashurama (another famous character of the Mahabharata). Thereafter his family and kinsmen came to be known as Kalachuris. However, the later records of the dynasty claim that they descended from Brahma, the Creator of the universe.

The Southern Clan[edit]

Hero stone with 1160 A.D. Old Kannada inscription from the rule of Kalachuri King Bijjala in the Kedareshvara temple at Balligavi, Shimoga district, Karnataka state
Old Kannada inscription of Rayamuri Sovideva dated 1172 A.D. at the Jain temple in Lakkundi, Gadag district, Karnataka state
Sangamanatha temple at Kudalasangama, North Karnataka

The early Kalachuris of the south were Jains and encouraged Jainism in their kingdom. The first notable chief of the Kalachuri family of Karnataka was Uchita. While there were several kings who followed him ruling as feudatories of the Kalyani Chalukyas, it was Jogama who became an influential vassal of Vikramaditya VI, being related to the great Chalukya king by matrimony.

Decline Of Kalachuris[edit]

Even though the earliest of the Kaluchuri dynasties declined with the rise of the Badami Chalukyas during the 7th century, the Kaluchuris lingered around until a much later date.[3] The Southern Kaluchuri kingdom went into decline after the assassination of Bijjalla. The rulers who followed were weak and incompetent, with the exception of Sovideva, who managed to maintain control over the kingdom. Western Chalukyas ended the Kalachuri Dynasty. Many Kalachuri families migrated to Kanara districts of Karnataka. The Kalachuris are the principal characters in the Andhra epic The battle of Palnadu

The Kalachuri Clan (feudatory of Kalyani Chalukyas)[edit]

  • Uchita
  • Asaga
  • Kannam
  • Kiriyasaga
  • Bijjala I
  • Kannama
  • Jogama
  • Permadi
  • Bijjala II (1130–1167): proclaimed independence in 1162.
  • Sovideva (1168–1176)
  • Mallugi --> overthrown by brother Sankama
  • Sankama (1176–1180)
  • Ahavamalla (1180–1183)
  • Singhana (1183–1184)

Kannada Inscriptions and Coinage[edit]

Hampi was ruled not only by Vijayanagara empire, but earlier ruled by Kadambas, Badami Chalukyas Hoysalas, Kalachuris and Yadavas. As per the 1163 AD inscription which records a religious offering (mahadana) in the presence of Hampi Lord Virupaksha by Bijjala the Kalachuri King.[8]


The Southern Kalachuri kings minted coins with Kannada inscriptions on them.

  • Gajasaradula type: They were mostly gold or copper. Some of the common ones were the seated goddess type along with the name of the issuer which is generally prefixed with Srimat and suffixed with Deva.[9]

Virashaiva Movement and Emergence of Basavanna[edit]

Kudalasangama in Bagalkot district, where Basavanna's samadhi is located
Basaveshwara Statue in Bangalore

Main article: Panchacharyas

The Veerashaiva movement evolved in an attempt to simplyfy religion and create social order. The study of Calukya inscriptions indicates that rather than founding a new sect he in fact revived an existing one. Tradition claims that the sect was started by five saints and great Prophets namely, Renuka, Daruka, Ekorama, Panditaradhya and Vishwaradhya. Basavanna, the prime minister of king Bijjala who gave it momentum and inspirational direction.

Basaveshwara was born in 1105 in the town of Ingaleshwar, in Bagevadi in present day Bijapur district in Karnataka state. Some believe he was a Jain follower and later received enlightenment from a Brahmin[citation needed] and the son of Madiraja and Madamba. He is generally believed to have founded the veera saiva sect as set the required foundation for Veer Saiva Set to become popular. He travelled to Kalyani, a town in Bidar District of the state of Karnataka, India, during the rule of King Vijjala (1157-1167 AD). From an early age, Basavanna disliked religious rituals and tried to distance himself from it. He refused to undergo the brahminical thread ceremony.[10] He left Basavana Bagevadi and went to Kudalasangama, a nearby town to study spirituality under Isanya Guru. He found employment in the treasury of king Bijjala and his efforts and hard work did not go unnoticed. He married the daughter of minister Baladeva. He often gathered around him large number of devotees of lord Shiva.[10]

His maternal uncle Baladeva was a minister in the court of King Vijjala. There are multiple theories attributed to the appointment of Basava as a minister in the court of Vijjala. There are multiple theories attributed to the appointment of Basava as a minister in the court of Vijjala:[10]

  • When his uncle Baladeva fell sick and was bedridden, the latter's responsibilities was transferred to Basavanna.
  • Another theory suggests that Basavanna successfully deciphered an inscription that disclosed the location of a treasure. This pleased King Vijjala who appointed Basava as a minister.

According to Basavapurana, when Basavanna assumed power, he began distributing gifts to all the devotees of Lord Shiva. The other people felt left out and began instigating King who later cruelly punished two devotees of Siva. Much to the discontent of the orthodox Brahmins of Kalyani, Basavanna preached his casteless beliefs even in the regal capital, Kalyani.[10]

The Anubhava Mantapa,[11] an academy of mysticism, a great centre of religious discussions, was founded at Kalyani. It was from here the Basavanna taught his teachings to a growing number of devotees of lord Shiva. During this time, he conducted a marriage between a lower caste man and a Brahmin girl, something the orthodoxy in Kalyani could not accept. They complained to King Bijjala II about this and wanted the parties involved punished. The king had Haralayya and Madhuvayya, the fathers of the groom and the bride executed. This atrocity of the ruler stunned the followers of Basavanna, and soon it became a signal for a widespread anger and discontent. In order not to kindle a raging fire among his followers, Basavanna moved back to Kudalasangama.

In the capital however, chaos reigned. King Bijjala was assassinated by Jagadeva, a cousin of Basavanna.[10] This led to widespread resentment against the Virashaiva community which seemed to have suffered a setback, though only temporarily. The movement that had been inspired by Basavanna would regain its regal patronage during the days of the Vijayanagar Empire.

Vachana sahitya, Virashaiva Saints and Vachana poets[edit]

A unique feature of the Virashaiva movement was the large number of woman saints and poetesses it produced. Basavanna believed in equality of both sexes. The contribution of Basavanna to Kannada language and literature is immense and enduring. He couched his teachings in simple, terse, verse forms of rare felicity known as Vachanas. They were frank, vigorous and incisive. Dr. Mugali regards the Vachanas as "Spiritual lyrics" and "springs of beauty flown from the peak of devotion". Basavanna is considered as one of the great saints of Karnataka, who rose above caste, creed, religion and sex. His vigorous yet simple teachings endeared to him people of "lower castes" and "lower creed". It is for this reason that Dr. Arthur Miles called him Martin Luther of Karnataka[citation needed].

Some well known and saints and vachanakaras were

Research Notes[edit]

Historians have also pointed out that several Kalachuri kings were related to Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas by matrimonial alliances and had ruled from places like Tripuri, Gorakhpur, Ratnapur, Rajpur. They migrated to the south and made Magaliveda or Mangalwedha (Mangalavada) their capital. They called themselves Kalanjarapuravaradhisvara, which indicates their central Indian origin. Their emblem was Suvarna Vrishabha or the golden bull. They started out as modest feudatories of the Kalyani Chalukyas.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kalachuri Dynasty". Retrieved 2009-03-31. 
  2. ^ Tripurī, history and culture By M. C. Choubey, Page no. 177
  3. ^ a b c Students' Britannica India By Dale Hoiberg, Indu Ramchandani.
  4. ^ P. 325 Three Mountains and Seven Rivers: Prof. Musashi Tachikawa's Felicitation Volume edited by Musashi Tachikawa, Shōun Hino, Toshihiro Wada
  5. ^ "Kalachuris of Mahismati". CoinIndia. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  6. ^ "Inscriptions of the Early Kalachuris". Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  7. ^ "Chalukyas of Kalyana (973- 1198 CE)". Retrieved 2009-03-31. 
  8. ^ "The cosmic site of Vijayanagara". ABHA NARAIN LAMBAH. Retrieved 2009-04-01. 
  9. ^ The Coinage of Northern India By P. C. Roy
  10. ^ a b c d e A History of Indian Philosophy By Surendranath Dasgupta
  11. ^ "Basaveshvara and his Socio - Religious Movement". Retrieved 2009-04-01. 


  • Dr. Suryanath U. Kamath (2001). A Concise History of Karnataka from pre-historic times to the present, Jupiter books, MCC, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002)

External links[edit]