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The Southern Kingdoms


For three hundred years after the mid-sixth century, the Chalukyas were engaged in a long struggle for supremacy with the Pallavas. The Pandyas sometimes joined this conflict as a poor third against the Pallavas. Pulakesin II (609 AD - 642 AD), the most famous Chalukya king, was the one who defeated Harsha on the banks of the river Narmada. He also defeated the Pallava ruler Mahendravarman in 610 AD. However, in 642 AD, the Pallava king Narsimhavarman attacked. Pulakesin II and captured his capital city, Vatapi.

In the early eighth century, the Zoroastrians fled to western India from Persia to avoid persecution by the Arabs. They were given asylum by the Chalukyas, who managed to hold the Arabs back. Their descendants are members of the Parsi community.

The Chalukyas held power till the mid-eighth century, when one of their vassals overthrew them and established the Rashtrakuta dynasty. The Chalukyas, however, persisted for 200 years until the tenth century, when the Rashtrakutas grew weak. The Chalukyas then regained supremacy, only for their empire to be partitioned by the third quarter of the twelfth century, among three of their own vassals. They were the Yadavas of Devagiri (northern Deccan), Kakatiyas of Warangal (Andhra) and Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra (Mysore).


The one exception to the picture of conflict amongst the southern powers was the amicable relationship between the Pallavas and the Cheras of the Malabar coast. The Pallavas survived the Chalukyas for a century. But, by the ninth century, they were no longer a major power. They succumbed to a combined attack from the Pandyas and the Cholas in the ninth century. For the next 300 years, the Pallavas remained as minor feudatories of the Cholas till they finally faded out.


The Pandyas in Madurai had established control by the sixth century. Their territory was the southern-most and the south-eastern portion of the Indian peninsula, and roughly included the modern-day districts of Tinnevelly and Ramnad in Tamil nadu. The Pandya country was prosperous and the kings profited from trade with the Roman empire. The brahmanas enjoyed considerable influence, and the Pandya kings performed Vedic sacrifices. By the early eleventh century, the Pandyas were subjugated by the strong Cholas.