South Indian Kingdom

By the early 7th century, synchronising with the Harsha’s region in the north,the fat south had come under the control of the pallava kings of Kanchipuram.Pallava sovereignty included the domains of the Cholas and the Pandyas.The latter were then emerging as ruling dynasties in their respective river valley regions.Much of the central and eastern Deccan was under the Chalukyas of Badami(Batali),who were then pushed away by the Rashtrakutas.The Medieval period in India was marked by thee mergence of regional centres of power.There was no single imperial power like Mauryas or Guptas who exercised control over the greater part of India in this period.

The pallavas

The pallava kings ruled around the prosperous agraian settlement and important trade centre of India.Kanchipuram was well known to Chinese and Roman merchants.From the flourishing trade centre of Kanchipuram,the later pallavas extended their sovereignty over all the Tamil-speaking regions during the 7th and 8th centuries.The central part of their kingdom, however,was Thondaimandalam,a large political region comprising northern parts of Tamil Nadu and the adjoining Andhra districts.

Pallava Genealogy (prominent kings)

There were early pallava rulers who were feudatories of Satavahanas.Simhavishnu,son of Simhavarman I I (around 550AD(CE),created a strong pallava kingdom after destroying the Kalabhras.He defeated many kings in the south including the Cholas and the pandyas.His able son was Mahendravarman I .He was succeeded by his son Narasimha Arman I .The other prominent pallva rulers were Narasimha Arman I I or Rajasimha and Nandivarman II. The last pallava ruler was Aparajita.
Mahendravarman (c.600-630AD(CE)) contributed to the greatness of the pallava kingdom.Mahendravarman I was a follower of Jainism in the early part of his rule.He embraced saivism by the Saivite saint Appar (Tirunavukkarasar).He was a great parton of art and architecture.He is known for introducing a new style to Dravidian architecture ,which is referred to as ‘Mahendra style’ . Mahendravarman also wrote plays, including (c.620) Mattavilasaprahasana.(The Delight of the Drunkards )in sanskrit,which denigrates Buddhism.
Mahendravarman’s reign involved constant battles with the Western Chalukya kingdom of Badami under PulakesinI I . Pulakesin seems to have defeated Mahendravarman in one of the battles and taken over a large part of his territory in the north.His son Narasimavarma I avenged the defeat by capturing Batali,the capital of Chalukyas.He set Vatapi on fire, killing Pulakesin in the process.
Narasimavarma II(c.695-722),also known as Rajasimha,was a great military strategist.He exchanged ambassadors with China.His reign was comparatively free from any political disturbance.Therefore,he could concentrate on temple-building activities.During his reign,the famous kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram was built.

Pallava’s contribution to Architecture

Pallava period is known for architectural splendour.The shore Temple and various other temples carved from granite monoliths and the Varaha cave(7th century) at Mamallapuram,are illustrious examples of pallava architecture.In 1984 , Mamallapuram was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.Pallava architecture can be classified as

  1. Rock-cut temples – Mahendravarman style
  2. Monolithic Rathas and sculptural Mandapas – Mamallan style
  3. Structural Temples – Rajasimha style and Nandivarman style

Mahendra style

The best example of Mahendravarma style monuments are cave temples at Mamdagapattu,Mahendravadi,Mamandur,Dalavanur, Tiruchirapalli,Callam,Tirukazhukkundram and Siyamangalam.

Cave Temple Mamdagapattu

Mamalla style

The five Rathas,popularly called Panchapandavar rathas, signify five different style of temple architecture.Each ratha has been carved out of a single rock.So they are called monolithic.The popular Mandapas(pillars pavilions)they built are Mahishasuramardhini mandapam,Thirumoorthi mandapam and Varaha mandapam.

Panchapandavar Rathas

The most important among the Mamalla style of architecture is the open art gallery.Several miniature sculptures such as the figure of lice-picking monkey, elephants of huge size and the figure of the ascetic cat have been sculpted beautifully on the wall of a huge rock.The fall of the River Ganga from the head of Lord siva and the Arjuna’s penance are notable among them.The Great penance panel is considered to be the world’s largest open-air bas relief.

Rajasimha style

Narasimavarma II,also known as Rajasimha,constructed structural temples using stone blocks.The best example for the structural temple is kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram.This temple was built by using sand stones.Kailasanatha temple is called Rajasimheswaram.

Kanchi Kailasanatha Temple

Nandivarma style

The last stage of the pallava architecture is also represented by structural temples built by the later pallavas.The best example is Vaikunda perumal temple at Kanchipuram.

Society and culture

The Pallava supported Jainism, Buddhism and the Vedic faith.They were great patrons of music, painting and literature.Some of the Pallava kings patronised the Azhwars and Nayanmars.These exponents of Bhakti Cult Preached a new form of Vaishnavism and Saivism.Among the Saivites were Appar and Manikkavasakar.Among the Vaishnatives were Nammazhvar and Andal.The Bhakti movement aimed at preaching a popular faith,in which prayers in Tamil were preferred to those in sanskrit.Women were encouraged to participate in the religious congregations.The Tamil devotional cult was competitive with Buddhism and Jainism.Therefore the latter suffered a gradual decline in most parts of Tamil Country.

Pallava Art

The Pallava kings had also patronised fine arts.The music inscriptions in Kudumianmalai and Thirumayam temples show pallava’s interest in Music.The famous musician Rudracharya lived during Mahendravarma I .The sculptures of this period depict many images in dancing postures.

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