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The powerful administration of Pallavas and Chalukyas

Updated on September 21, 2016

History of the Pallavas of Kanchipuram

Pallavas and the Chalukyas were the most important ruling dynasties in South India

The kingdom of the Pallavas and the Chalukyas

Pallava Dynasty

Pallavas dynasty was one of the famous dynasties of South India. The Pallava capital was at Kanchi, Tamila Nadu, and they ruled for nearly 300 years.

Between the early third century and late ninth century AD, the Pallava Dynasty ruled the nothern part of Tamil Nadu and the southern part of Andhra Pradesh of present – day India with their capital at Kanchipuram.

Narasimha Varma was the greatest of all Pallava kings. He had the title `Mahamalla’ (the grest wrestler). Brave and heroic as he was, King Narasimha Varma invaded Chalukya kingdom and vanquished Pulikeshi - II and annexed Badami. In memory of the victory, he assumed the little - `Vatapikonda’. He transformed Mamallapura (Mahabalipuram) harbour into a beautiful city.

The important rulers of this dynasty were Mahendravarman -I and Narasimhavarman -I, who led several successful expeditions. However, continuous military conflicts weakened the Pallavas, ultimately ending their rule by the Chola Dynasty in the ninth century.

Pallavas’ contribution to architecture

There are eight chariot – like – temples at Mahabalipuram. Each of them is carved out of a single rock.

There is an embossed stone artefact called `Gangavatharana’ (descent of Ganga). It represents the efforts of Bhagiratha to get Ganga to the earth from the hair – of Lord Shiva. It is a artefact of embossing on stone.

Pallavas built huge temples. One of them is the Shiva temple on the coast of Mahabalipuram. The other two such temples are Kailasnath temple at Kanchi and Vaikuntaperumal temple.

Badami Chalukyas

Chalukya Dynasty

The kingdom of the Chalukyas centered around the Raichur Doab, between the River Krishna and River Tungabhadra. Their capital was Vatapi (or Badami).

Chalukyas of Badami
Badami Chalukyas ruled over Karnataka for about two centuries in a grand manner. The capital city of of Badami Chalukyas was Vatapi (Badami) in Bagalkote district.

It was an important trading centre. It also developed as a religious center with a number of temples. The most famous ruler of the Chalukya Dynasty was Pulakeshin – II.

Pulakeshin II (608 – 642 AD)

Pulakeshin II was the greatest king among Badami Chalukyas. He was very brave and strong. He took out many expeditions to vanquish the rebels and to expand the kingdom.

Gangas and Kadambas surrendered to Pulakeshin II voluntarily. Pulakeshin defeated Harshavardhna in a battle held on the banks of the river Narmada. This is a great accomplishment. Kings of Kalinga and Kosal surrendered themselves without any fight.

Pulakeshin defeated Pallavas of Kanchi, crossed river Kaveri and defeated Cholas of Kerala and convinced the Pandyas to accept his authority in the south. Thus by establishing victory in all the directions, Pulakeshi returned to Badami. His kingdom extended from the east coast to the west.

Reputation of Pulakeshin crossed the borders of India and reached foreign countries also. Pulakeshin sent a delegation to Khusro of Persia with a present of an elephant and valuable objects. Khusro sent in return, friendly delegation to Pulakesin. Ajanta cave has a painting wherein Khusro and his wife are welcoming Pulakeshin’s ambassador.

A prashasti composed by his court poet Ravikirti gives good information about Pulakeshin II, which includes his genealogy (ancestors) and his rule. Pulakeshin II ruled for almost thirty – four years during which he led expeditions along both the west and the east coasts. His greatest achievement was his victory against Harshavardhana.

Pulakeshin II also raided the territories of the Pallavas and defeated the Pallava king, Mahendravaraman- I.

After the death of pulakeshin II, the Chalukyas became weak and gave way to new rulers belonging to the Rashtrakuta Dynasty.

Architecture of Chalukyas of Badami

Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal, Mahakoota and Nagarala have architectures of Badami Chalukya’s time. Aihole and Badami have caves and cave temples. The temple of Aihole have temples for Sun (Ladkhan), Meguthi, Karthikeya and Durga (goddesses), which are important. Aihole is called `Cradle of temple architecture’. Embossed architecture of Nataraja and Vishnu at Badami temples are noteworthy. Virupaksha temple at Pattadakallu is large and beautiful. Pattadakallu is one of the international heritage center.


The administrative system

Fa Xian and Xuan Zang wrote about the administrative system. They wrote that the empire was headed by the king. A council of ministers helped him in the administration.

For effective administration, the empire was divided into provinces. Each province was administered by a governor. These governors were usually princes.

Each province was further divided into districts. Each district was administrated by an Ayukta. Each district comprised many villages.

Though the basic unit of administration was village, some new developments in administration took place during this period. Kings adopted a number of new steps to win the support of men who had either economic and social power or political military strength.

Important administrative posts were made hereditary, which meant that sons succeeded fathers.

Sometimes one person held many offices.

Local administration was well - organized had its division. The important men at local administration were Nagarsheshthi, the chief banker or the merchant of the city; Sartavaha, the leader of merchant caravans; Prathama – kulika, the chief craftsman and the head of the Kayasthas or scribes.

The policies discussed above played a very important role in the development of powerful rulers. This is because as time passed, these powerful officers learned administration very efficiently. They knew how to run a kingdom and its business, command the local forces and slowly and gradually, they became strong enough to set up independent kingdoms.

Local assemblies

A number of assemblies are mentioned in the inscriptions of the Pallavas.

Sabha – It was an assembly of Brahmins and landowners. The function of the assembly was to look after different sections of local administration through subcommittees. The subcommittees of the Sabha looked after irrigation, temples and agricultural operations.

Ur – It was also a village assembly, but found in the areas where landowners were not brahmins.

Nagaram – This was a powerful organisation of merchants.

Rich and powerful landowners and merchants controlled these assemblies. So, it is obvious that administration and trade during this age were in the hands of the rich and influential people. All these local assemblies were the base of the administration and continued to function for centuries.


The main occupation of the people was agriculture. Most of the revenue came from the land. There were numerous revenue officers to collect the revenue. Taxes were also paid by merchants and craftsmen. The money collected is used to give grants and donations, to maintain and ensure good administration and also for the maintenance of an army.


A well – organized army was maintained by these kings. These armies consisted of cavalry and foot soldiers, elephants and chariots with good horses. Whenever the king required troops, military leaders provided them.. in return, these military leaders were given land grants. Whatever revenue they collected from the land was used to provide weapons and equipments for warfare and to maintain soldiers as well as horses. These strong military leaders were known as Samantas. Sometimes, when the king became weak or was incompetent, these Samantas asserted themselves independence.


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