Narasimhavarman I (Tamil: முதலாம் நரசிம்மவர்மன்.) was a Tamil king of the Pallava dynasty who ruled South India from 630–668 CE. He shared his father Mahendravarman I's love of art and completed the work started by Mahendravarman in Mahabalipuram.
He avenged his father's defeat at the hands of the Chalukya king, Pulakesin II in the year 642 CE. Narasimhavarman was also known as Mamallan (great wrestler) and Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) was named after him. It was during his reign that the Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang visited Kanchipuram.
Narasimhavarman I was succeeded by his son Mahendravarman II in the year 668 CE.
Narasimhavarman I is claimed to be one of the nine Indian kings who never lost on the battlefield to their enemies, the others being Ajatashatru, Chandragupta Maurya, Karikala Chola, cheran senguttuvan of the Sangam age, Samudragupta, Rajaraja Chola I, his great warrior son Rajendra Chola and Rana Kumbha of Mewar.
War with the Chalukyas
Pulakesi II, a deccan king, had previously raided various northern Pallava provinces and forts. However, he was unable to capture the Pallava capital of Kanchipuram. This led to a long conflict between the Chalukyas and the Pallavas.
Pulakesi II again attempted to seize the Pallava capital and undertook another expedition several years later. However, the Pallava reign had moved on to Narasimhavarman I by then. Narasimhavarman defeated the Chalukyas in several battles, including one at Manimangalam 20 miles to the east of Kanchipuram. The king states that he could see the back of his dreaded enemy as he tore apart his army.Encouraged by this victory, Narasimhavarman led his army along with his general Paranjothi and invaded Vatapi, successfully defeating and killing the Chalukya king Pulakesi II in 642 CE. The city was never capital again.
He returned victorious to Kanchipuram, and was given the title Vatapikondan (one who conquered Vatapi).
His general Paranjothi (a Vikrama Kesari, also known as paradurgamarddana) was known very well for his devotion to Lord Siva and as one of the 63 Nayanmar saints, is said to have indeed personally destroyed the city of Vatapi under the command of Narasimhavarman I. Sekkizhaar's work 12th tirumurai credits this siruttondar of having destroyed the evil kali as manifested by the deccan enemy of pallavas. He is also known as 'Siruthonttar', a dutiful warrior and a practicing medic who had "mastered several treatises in medicine". This vikramakesari had at the insistence of Lord Sivan sacrificed his child without any qualms. There was a confusion as to whether the Ganesha at a temple in Chengattankudy could have been a result of this invasion but this seems not to be true because the temple and association of Lord Ganesha with the same are well described in sthalapuranam or the literature discussing the importance of the place. The Ganesha seems to be installed several thousands of years ago in a previous epoch.Many grants refer to this event as: "kilisayoneriva vimattita vathapi" or the one who destroyed Vatapi, the same way Sage Agastya had killed a demon by that name long ago.(**)
One other reason why the Chola and other rulers like Pallavas never extended recognition to this regime in deccan and consistently described the same as the one of age of kali or completely degenerate one is that the region comprising the kingdom like for example Konkan (Goa to Mumbai), Kollapuram (Kolhapur), etc find mention in tamil sangam epics as being geographic part of tamil south. Even some medieval inscriptions of say 1250.C.E., 1257.C.E, etc refer to this part of land as Konkana desam and Eranadu(Mangalore to Goa). This being the case the newcomers who founded the kingdom in the region would certainly have lacked both eligibility as well as rights to do so and as we see manipulated its identity. Since the vedas do not support the establishment of illegal and unethical setups, the rulers and citizens there did not have the rights to perform mandatory vedic sacrifices like somayaagam, atiratram raajasuyam, aswamedham etc, which are a necessity for any kingdom. Naturally the incomers had to accept deceitful Jain/Buddhist faith and take the lands.
Influence on Sri Lankan politics
The Sinhalese prince Manavarma lived at the court of Narasimhavarman and had helped him crush his enemy Pulakesin II. In return, Narasimhavarman supplied Manavarma twice with an army to invade Sri Lanka. The second attack was successful. Manavarma occupied Sri Lanka, over which he is supposed to have ruled from A. D. 691 to 726. The Kasakudi copper plates refer to Narasimhavarman's conquest of Sri Lanka. The Mahavamsa also confirms these facts.
Narasimhavarman in Literature
Kalki Krishnamurthy's work, Sivagamiyin Sabadham, is based on Narasimhavarman's early years and his fights with the Chalukyas. Kalki Krishnamurthy's Parthiban kanavu is based on the later years of Narasimhavarman's rule.
- Keay, John, India: A History, p170
- KAN Sastri, A History of South India, p136
- Keay, John, India: A History, p172
- Keay, John (2001). India: A History. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3797-0.
- Sastri, K A N (2008). A History of South India (4th ed.). New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.
(**) Ancient India, R.C.Majumdar, Ancient India, K.A.Nilakanta Sastri