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The Southern Kingdoms              [500 AD - 750 AD]


The major kingdoms of this period were the Chalukyas, the Pallavas and the Pandyas. The Chalukyas built their kingdom on the ruins of the Vakatakas, who in turn had built theirs on the remains of the Satavahanas. They established their capital at Vatapi (modern Badami). The eastern part of the Satavahana kingdom (in the deltas of the rivers Krishna and Godavari), had been conquered by the Ikshvakus in the third century AD. They were supplanted by the Pallavas, whose authority extended over both southern Andhra and northern Tamil Nadu. They set up their capital at Kanchi (modern Kanchipuram), which became a town of temples and Vedic learning under them. To the south of the Pallavas were the Pandyas of Madurai, who had established their control in the region by the sixth century.

The Pallavas, the Chalukyas and their other contemporaries (the Kadambas, the Gangas etc) were great champions of Vedic sacrifices. The worship of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva was getting popular. The brahmanas therefore emerged as an important class at the expense of the peasantry. From the seventh century onwards, the cult of bhakti began to dominate. Between 300 AD and 500 AD, land grants were made to the brahmanas by the kings. Villages were granted to the warriors for acts of bravery. Society was dominated by princes and priests, with the peasantry below them.

Life: Culture, Religion, Architecture and Ruins

The Pallava kings constructed a number of stone temples in the seventh and eighth centuries. The most famous are the ones at Mahabalipuram. Cave architecture reached excellence in the Kailashnath temple at Ellora in the eighth century. The Chalukyas erected numerous temples at Aihole from about 610 AD. The work was continued in Badami and Pattadakal. For example - Papanatha temple (c. 680 AD) and Virupaksha temple (c. 740 AD).

The impressive Jain temple of Dilwara at Mt. Abu, the Buddhist shrines at Ajanta and the Buddhist and Hindu temples at Ellora, even the rock cut temples on the island of Elephanta are assigned to the Chalukyas.

From the sixth century AD onwards, there started a sharp decline in trade, which led to the decay of towns. Trade with the Roman empire ended in the third century, and silk trade with Iran and the Byzantium stopped in the middle of the sixth century. In about the sixth-seventh centuries started the formation of cultural units which later came to be known as Karnataka, Maharasthra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu etc. Overall, there were striking developments in polity, society, economy, language, script and religion.