by Jyotsna Kamat
First Online: April 13, 2005
Page Last Updated: January 01, 2015
The Rashtrakuta dynasty (752-985 A.C.E) which ruled from Karnataka is illustrious for several
reasons. They ruled the territory vaster than that of any other dynasty. Their
contribution in the field of art and architecture is superb. The encouragement,
several Rashtrakuta kings provided to education and literature is unique and
the religious tolerance exercised by them was exemplary.
The word Rashtra, in Sanskrit indicates region and ‘Kuta' means chieftain.
Rashtrikas were officers since very ancient times. It seems Rashtrakutas were
chieftains in Central India earlier to becoming a ruling dynasty. Their branches
were seen in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Rathod Rajputs claim descent from Rashtrakutas
as also Rattas of Soudatti (Karnataka). Dantidurga of this family (752-756 C.E)
was the first important king, who defeated the Chalukyas of Badami and became a
sovereign, though the progenitor of this dynasty was Durgaraja (570-590 C.E)
Span of Rashtrakuta Empire
Rahtrakutas-reign lasted for nearly two and a half centuries (752-973 C.E) and
fifteen kings ruled in between. Some of the kings were great soldiers and
conquerors. During the reign of Govinda III, Indra III and Krishna III, their power
and influence existed from the Himalayan region to Rameshwar. Govinda III, is
eulogized is one inscription as, having horses which drank the icy water of the
Himalayas and his war elephant tasted the sacred water of Ganga. His invincible
armies overran the territories from Cape Comorin to Kanouj and from Banaras to
His son Amoghavarsha Nripatunga, is a familiar name to students of Kannada
literature. Kaviraja marga, a book on poetics was ascribed to him. He ruled for
sixty years. Karnataka's crux land lay from Kaveri to Godavari during his time as
claimed in the book. By different Rashtrakuta kings, Kanouj was captured and
Gujara Pratiharas made to fly. Both were powerful dynasties before Krishna I and
Indra II made their appearance on the scene.
Krishna III made a clear political mark in the south by defeating the Chola
king, whose distinguished ancient line had many victories to their credit. In the
north Krishna III over ran Malava. A Kannada inscription found in the north
Jura near Jabalpur, lists his political conquests in a poetic language. Most of
the inscriptions found outside the region of Karnataka are in Sanskrit.
The Gangas, a line of ancient and predominant as also long ruling kings, became
feudatories of Rashtrakutas and actively helped them in many important
Rashtrakuta kings built several capitals as their political expansion grew.
However their regal capital capital was Malkhed in Gulbarga district, also known
as Manyakheta. The royal insignia of Rashtrakutas was bird Garuda, the vehicle of
Vishnu. Both Shiva and Vishnu are invoked in the beginning of their records.
K.L. Kamat/Kamat's Potpourri
Trimurti of Elephanta
Faces of Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswar embodied as one
Special mention may be made of the religious toleration of Rashtrakuta kings,
through this trait is common to all rulers of Karnataka. Buddhism was in a
descent state. But royal patronage to Buddhist scholar and Viharas was continued by
these rulers. Dantidurga and Dhruva II defeated the Maitrakas of Sourastra
(Gujarat), but made liberal grants to Buddhist Vihara and five hundred monks
residing in that region. Jain scholars and religious institutions received same
liberal donations. King Amogavarsha himself was a Jaina by faith, but a fervent
devotee of Mahalakshmi. In order to avert the severe calamity of an epidemic (small
pox?), this king sacrificed a finger to the goddess to please her.
Arabs on the westcoast received protection. Permission was accorded to these
Muslim merchants to build mosques and appointed Muslim magistrates. Suleiman, a
Muslim merchant who visited India in 9th century has written about the
generosity and tolerance of ‘Balhara' Kings (Prithvivallabha or Vallabha was the title
of Rashtrakuta kings). He considered Amogavarsha among the greatest emperors of
the contemporary world, viz with those of China, Baghdad and Constantinople.
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