Artistic depiction of Pulakeshin II, the Chalukaya, receives envoys from Persia
|4th Chalukya King|
|Reign||c. 610 – c. 642 CE|
Badami Chalukya (543–753)
Pulakeshin II (IAST: Pulakeśin, 610–642 CE), also spelt Pulakesi II and Pulikeshi II, was the most famous ruler of the Chalukya dynasty. During his reign, the Chalukyas of Badami saw their kingdom extend over most of the Deccan.
Early life and accession
Ereya, who assumed the name Pulakeshin on his coronation, was born to the Chalukya king Kirtivarman I. When Kirtivarman I died in 597, Ereya was still a young boy and Kirtivarma's brother Mangalesha governed the young kingdom as regent until Ereya came of age. Mangalesha was a capable ruler and continued expanding the kingdom. However, when Ereya came of age, desire for power perhaps made Mangalesha deny prince Ereya his rightful place on the Chalukya throne, and he sought to perpetuate his own line by making his son heir-apparent.
Ereya took shelter in the Bana territory (Kolar), organised an army with the help of his associates and declared war on his uncle. According to the Peddavadagur inscription Mangalesha was defeated and killed in the ensuing battle at Elapattu Simbige (in Anantapur District, AP). Ereya ascended the Chalukya throne as Pulakeshin II and assumed the title Chalukya Parameshwara.
Pulakeshin had to face several obstacles soon after his coronation. The civil war had given fresh hope to feudatories and adventurers; some of them were emboldened to throw off their allegiance to the Chalukyas. The Aihole inscription of 634 found in an Aihole Jainlaya says, "the whole world was enveloped in the darkness that was enemies". Pulakeshin had to face the challenge of Appayika and Govinda, perhaps loyal adherents of the defeated Mangalesha. It is even possible that at least one of them, if not both, was Mangalesha's son. Pulakeshin confronted their army on the banks of the river Bhima. Appayika ran away from the battlefield, while Govinda surrendered. Pulakeshin built a pillar to celebrate his victory.
After consolidating his position, Pulakeshin II organized and enlarged his fighting forces. He then embarked upon a series of conquests to expand his dominions. The accounts of Pulakeshin's campaigns are provided in the Aihole inscription dated 634. It was composed by his court poet Ravikirti. The inscription is one of the finest pieces of poetry. Written in Sanskrit language and Hale Kannada script, it is the most important source of information regarding the rule of Pulakeshin II.
Xuanzang was a Chinese traveler who visited India in the 7th century. Xuanzang praised the Chalukya king Pulakeshin II as a "man of farsighted resource and astuteness who extends kindness to all". His subjects obey him with perfect submission. The people of the Chalukya kingdom left a strong impression on him. He stated:The people preferred death to disloyalty. "They were tall and sturdy in stature and proud and carefree by nature, grateful for kindness and revengeful for injustice." If they or their family were insulted they would call for a duel." Xuanzang vividly described the Chalukya army of Pulakeshin II, which had hundreds of well-trained and armed warriors as well as numerous elephants which were given alcohol before letting loose on the battlefield.
Although Pulakeshin II was a Hindu ruler Xuanzang mentioned that there were one hundred Buddhist monasteries in his kingdom.
Conquests in the West
He subjugated the Kadambas of Banavasi, the Gangas of Talakad and the Alupas of South Kanara. He defeated the Mauryas of the Konkan, and the port of Puri (modern Elephanta Island) was captured after a naval battle. It was followed by victory over the Latas, the Gurjaras and the Malawas, resulting in the annexation of the Gujarat area. These victories have been confirmed by historians Dr. R. C. Majumdar and Dr. Sircar.
The Ganga ruler Durvinita gave one of his daughters in marriage to Pulakeshin, and she became the mother of Vikramaditya I.
Pulakeshin then overran Kosala, ruled by the Panduvamsis. It was followed by victory over the Eastern Gangas of Kalinga and the capture of the fort of Pishtapura (Pithapuram—modern Paithan). He subjugated the Vishnukundins and captured the Kunala area in the Vengi region. He appointed his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana (also called Bittarasa) as viceroy of his Eastern territories (631). Vishnuvardhana eventually founded the dynasty of Eastern Chalukyas.
Moving further south, Pulakeshin II routed the Pallava king Mahendravarman I in the battle of Pullalur, only 25 km north of the Pallava capital. There a pitched battle was fought, and although Mahendravarman saved his capital, he lost the northern provinces to Pulakeshin. The Chalukya king was aided by Durvinita of the Gangas dynasty from the West and the Pandyan king Jayantavarman from the South. The Chalukya army laid siege to the Pallava capital at Kanchipuram, but could not capture the kingdom, so had to return home.
Battle with Harsha
When Pulakeshin II pushed forth up to the Narmada, he came face to face with Harshavardhana of Kanauj who already had the title Uttarapatheshvara (Lord of the North). In a decisive battle fought on the banks of the river Narmada, Harsha lost a major part of his elephant force and had to retreat. The Aihole inscription describes how the mighty Harsha lost his harsha (joy) when he suffered the ignominy of defeat. Pulakeshin entered into a treaty with Harsha, with the Narmada River designated as the border between the Chalukya Empire and that of Harshavardhana.
Xuanzang describes the event thus:
- "Shiladityaraja (i.e., Harsha), filled with confidence, himself marched at the head of his troops to contend with this prince (i.e., Pulakeshin); but he was unable to prevail upon or subjugate him".
It was indeed a great victory for the Chalukya monarch, who assumed the proud titles of Parameswara (Paramount Overlord), Satyashraya, Prithvivallabha. With this conquest, Pulakeshin's control extended over most of Southern India, including Maharashtra and parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. He received the title Dakshinapatheshvara (Lord of the South) at around the same time. These victories happened between 630 and 634. Since the Lohner plates of Pulakeshin II (630) do not speak of his northern victory. Pulakeshin II married a princess of the Alupas of South Canara.
The last days of Pulakeshin II witnessed several reversals to his earlier successes. Pulakeshin's ambition prompted him to undertake another expedition against the Pallavas in the hope of achieving more decisive results. However, war had depleted the treasury sufficiently enough to prevent Pulakeshin to mount an effective campaign.
The Pallavas had overcome their defeat and Narasimhavarman I had succeeded Mahendravarman I. Pulakeshin began his campaign by an attack on the Banas, vassals of the Pallavas. After overrunning them, Pulakeshin invaded the Pallava kingdom proper and once more threatened the Pallava Capital. However the Pallava forces under Narasimhavarman defeated the Chalukyas in several battles including one at Manimangalam, east of Kanchipuram. In these battles the Pallava army was assisted by his important commander Paranjothi (friend & commander of Narasimhavarman I and one of 63 Nayanars known as Siruthondar)and also the Sinhalese prince Manavarma who was there to request help from the Pallava king to support him to regain his country which he lost to King Attathathan ( Sri Lanka). Pulakeshin's expedition ended in failure. The Pallavas, encouraged by their success, invaded deep into Chalukya territory. The Pallava ruler captured and sacked Vatapi (Badami). Narasimhavarman assumed the title of Vatapikondaan (the conqueror of Vatapi). Vatapi remained in Pallava control for twelve years.
Pulakeshin's death and legacy
It is possible that Pulakeshin II lost his life in one of these encounters against the Pallavas and was possibly killed directly by Narasimhavarman I. The thirteen years that followed saw the eclipse of Chalukya power, while Badami remained in the hands of the Pallavas.
Pulakeshin exchanged ambassadors with the Shah of Persia Khosrau II. His reception of the Persian ambassador is depicted in one of the paintings in the Ajanta caves. The Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang, who visited India in the 7th century, wrote admiringly of Pulakeshin and his Empire.
Pulakeshin was the first ruler in South India to issue gold coinage. Broad and circular in shape, the punch-marked coins had various punches at the edge, and a central punch depicting a Varaha or Boar. The Boar was the royal emblem of the Chalukyas. Contemporary literature cites the gold coins of south India as Varahas.
Pulakeshin had five sons, Chandraditya, Adityavarma, Vikramaditya, Jayasimha and Ambera. They fought among themselves after his demise, trying to divide the kingdom into territories for each of themselves. Pulakeshin's third son Vikramaditya I became the Chalukya king in 642 and successfully re-uniteed the kingdom after defeating his brothers. He was eventually successful in driving the Pallavas out of Badami after their 13 years of occupation. A later King of this dynasty, Vikramaditya II would re-build the empire to the zenith of power enjoyed during the rule of Pulakeshin II.
- Singh, Upinder (2009). A history of ancient and early medieval India : from the Stone Age to the 12th century (3rd impr. ed.). New Delhi: Pearson Longman. pp. 553–555. ISBN 9788131716779.
- The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang by Sally Hovey Wriggins: p.146
- The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang by Sally Hovey Wriggins: p.146
- Dust in the Wind: Retracing Dharma Master Xuanzang's Western Pilgrimage: p.428
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pulakesi II.|
- Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1955). A History of South India, OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002).
- Dr. Suryanath U. Kamat (2001). Concise History of Karnataka, MCC, Bangalore (Reprinted 2002).
- South Indian Inscriptions
- History of Karnataka, Mr.Arthikaje