Thursday, 8th March 2018
8 March 2018
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Pallava Dynasty

Pallava Dynasty

Origin of Pallavas

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There are no records about Pallavas in the vernacular legends. They were forgotten until a copper plate grant was found in 1840. There are several theories of origin around Pallavas. As per one theory, Pallavas were earlier feudatories of Satavahanas. Another theory says that they were offsprings of Chola and Naga rulers of Ilam (Sri Lanka). Another theory links them to Pahalavas (Indo-Parthians). This theory suggests that the Indo-Parthians were further shifted southwards from northern India and they settled in Tondaimandalam and evolved as Pallavas. They adopted the local religion Saivism and became Dravidians. This theory is supported on the basis of below arguments: Pahalavas were prominent in second century AD in northern parts of India and they had struggled with other outfits for survival. Many sculptures in Mahabalipuram a have remarkable affinity with Persian features. This includes the lion symbol and tall cylindrical headdresses wore by Iranians in those times. Further, the pillars resemble with Perseopolis and the roofs of Pancharathas and tower of Kainashnath temple in Kanchipuram shows affinity with the shrines of babylon.

History of Pallavas

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After the decline of the Satavhana dynasty, the Pallava dynasty, founded by Shivaskandavarman emerged in South India.

Kanchi was the capital of the Pallava dynasty.

Some of the leaders who are worth mentioning are Simhavarama I Sivaskkandavarma I, Veerakurcha, Shandavarma II, Kumaravishnu I, Simhavarma II, and Vishnugopa.

The decline of the Pallavas started after Samudragupta defeated Vishugopa.

The Pallavas kingdom was re-established by Simhavishnu, the son of Simhavarma II, who ended the Kalabhras‘ dominance in 575 AD and re-established his kingdom.

Vikramaditya I was defeated by Parameshwaravarma I in 670 and restricted the advance of the Chlukyan king. Eventually, Parameshwaravarma I was defeated by the combined armies of the Chalukyas, the Pandyas ( lead by their ruler Arikesari Maravarma) and another prominent enemy of the Pallavas.

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Narasimhavarma II, a peace living ruler,  succeeded Parameshwaravarma I after he died in 695. The famous Kailashanatha temple at Kanchi is built by Narasimhavarma II.  After the accidental death of his elder son‘s in 722, Narasimhavarma II too dies to grieve.

Parameshwaravarma II the youngest son of Narasimhavarma II, came to power in 722 after the death of his father. The Pallava kingdom was in a state of disarray after the death of Parameshwaravarma II in 730 as he had no heirs to the throne.

After some brief infighting for the throne among the family, Nandivarma II came to power. Nandivarma then went on to marry the Rashtrakuta princess Reeta Devi and re-established the Pallava kingdom.

Dantivarma (796-846) succeeded Nandivarma II who ruled for 54 long years. Rastrakuta king Dantidurga defeated Dantvarma and was succeeded by Nandivarma III in 846.

Administration of Pallavas

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Most of the Pallavas kings were great scholars who were given titles like Maharajadhiraja, Dharma-maharjadhiraja, and Agnistomavajpeya. For their assistance, the ministerial council was constituted. All the matters of the villages were looked after by the council or sabha. Informal gathering in the villages were known as urar and were used to assist village courts. Also, minor criminal cases were resolved at village-level courts. Towns and districts had judicial courts, with the king as the supreme authority of justice. All land was owned by the king. Villages with huge inter-caste population used to pay taxes to the king. In the Brahmadeya village, the entire land was either given to a single Brahmin or a group of Brahmins, who were exempted from paying royal taxes. Also, there was one unique category of land known as the sripatti or tank land. The village tank constructed by the villagers used to get maintenance funds from this land. There were two types of taxes – the one paid to the state, and the one collected in the villages and spent for the need in the village.


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All the Pallava rulers had an eye fixed for art and literature. They inspired and promoted the expansion of Tamil and Indo-Aryan languages throughout their times. The renowned poets of Dandin and Bharavi lived within the court of the Pallava rulers. Of the two, Dandin was an extremely proficient creator, WHO wrote one among the foremost distinctive works in Tamil that convey the message of Sanskrit literature once scan in the right direction and also the message of sacred writing once scan in the reverse direction.

Art and Architecture

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The development of temple architecture, particularly Dravida style, not only set the standard in the South Indian peninsula but also largely influenced the architecture of the Indian colonies in the Far East. The characteristic Pallava or Dravidian type of Sikhara is met with in the temples of Java, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

Mahendravarman I’s reign shows the influence of the cave style of architecture. Examples are the rock-out temples at Bhairavakonda and Anantesvara temple at Undavalli. Narasimhavarman I built the Rathas of Mahabalipuram which are seven in number, each of which is known out of a single rock- boulder.

In the reign of Rajasimha Narasimhavarman II the rock-cut technique was replaced by the structural temple of masonry and stone. The so-called Shore temple of Jalashayanaswami is built of dressed stone of excellent workmanship.

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Another remarkable monument of the reign of Rajasimha is the Kailashanatha temple at Kanchipuram built about 700 A. D. and consists of three separate parts, a sanctum with a pyramidal tower, a mandapa and a rectangular courtyard showing a series of subsid­iary shrines or cells. Nandivarman II built the Vaikuntaperumal temple at Kanchi and other smaller temples such as temples of Muktesvara and Matangesvara at Kanchi.

The Pallavas also contributed to the development of sculpture in South India. The best example is the ‘Descent of the Ganga’ or Arjuna’s Penance at Mahabalipuram.

Mahendra style: This is a cave-style architecture and can be seen in the Ekambaranatha (Kanchipuram) Temple of the Pallavas.

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Mamalla style: These are monolithic temples made from single stone. There are seven Pagodas situated near Mahabalipuram that display an outstanding quality of this Pallava art.

Rajasimha style: The Kailasha Temple of Kanchi displays this style. The temple has a pyramidal tower and its mandapam is made in a flat-roof style.

Aparajita style: This resembles with the Chola architecture style, being more elaborate. A few temples at Dalavanur display this style of architecture. Also, one can see beautiful figures of Pallava kings and queens.

Social and Cultural Changes

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Society was dominated by Princes and priests. The Princess claim the status of Brahmanas or Kshatriyas, though many of them were local clan chiefs promoted to the second varna through benefactions made to the priests. The priests were mainly brahmanas, though the Jain and Buddhist monks should also be placed in this category. In this phase, priests gained in influence and authority because of land grants. Below the Princess and priests became the peasantry, which was divided into numerous peasant castes.


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The Pallava rulers, particularly King Mahendravarman and King Narasimhavarman, propagated the faith of Hinduism to a good extent by building an oversized variety of rock-cut temples within the space of Mammalapuram additionally called Mahabalipuram. The renowned Shore Temple dedicated to the reclining sort of Hindu deity was engineered by the Pallava rulers.

List of Kings

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  • Simhavarman I 275 – 300 CE
  • Simhavarman II 436 – 460 CE
  • Skandavarman
  • Skandavarman IV 460 – 480 CE
  • Visnugopa 350 – 355 CE
  • Nandivarman I 480 – 510 CE
  • Kumara Vishnu I 350 – 370 CE
  • Kumara Vishnu II 510 – 530 CE
  • Skandavarman II 370 – 385 CE
  • Buddhavarman 530 – 540 CE
  • Viravarman 385 – 400 CE
  • Kumara Vishnu III 540 – 550 CE
  • Skandavarman III 400 – 436 CE
  • Simhavarman III 550 – 560 CE
  • Mahendravarman II 668 – 672 CE
  • Nandivarman II (Pallavamalla) 732 – 796 CE
  • Paramesvaravarman I 672 – 700 CE
  • Thandivarman 775 – 825 CE
  • Narasimhavarman II (Raja Simha) 700 – 728 CE
  • Nandivarman III 825 – 869 CE
  • Paramesvaravarman II 705 – 710 CE
  • Aparajitha Varman 882 – 901 CE

Pallavas Temples

Kailasanathar Temple, Kanchipuram

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Vaikuntha Perumal temple, Kanchipuram

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Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram

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The Decline of Pallava

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From his successors the decay of the Pallava authority began. Aggression from the Pandyas in the South and that of the Rashtrakutas in the North had eclipsed their glory. The Pallava king Nripatunaga made a last attempt to oust the enemies of the Pallava Empire with assistance from the feudatory powers like Cholas and Gangas. It was successful. The Pandyas were totally defeated. But that exhibited the internal weakness of the Pallavas and energized Aditya Chola a feudatory of the Pallavas to make a coup and seize the authority of Tondamandalam from the Pallavas. Thus the Pallava rule in Tondamandalam came to an end.



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