Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 73


Shore Temple in Mamallapuram
Built by the Pallavas, 8th Century

Aug 16, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Pallavas

'7th Century Tamil Nadu saw the rise of the Pallavas under Mahendravarman I and his son Mamalla Narasimhavarman I. The Pallavas were not a recognised political power before the 2nd century, [93] but it has been widely accepted by scholars that they were originally executive officers under the Satavahana Empire.[94]

After the fall of the Satavahanas, the Pallavas began to get control over parts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil country. Later they developed marital ties with the Vishnukundina who ruled over the Deccan.

It was around 550 A.D. under King Simhavishnu that the Pallavas emerged into prominence. They subjugated the Cholas and reigned as far south as the Kaveri River. Pallavas ruled a large portion of South India, with Kanchipuram as their capital.

Dravidian architecture reached its peak during the Pallava rule. King Narasimhavarman II built the famous Shore Temple.

Many sources describe Bodhidharma, the founder of the Zen School of Buddhism in China, as being a prince of the Pallava dynasty.'[95] During the 13th and 14th Centuries the Kadava dynasty came into brief prominence, helping to bring about the demise of the Cholas. They claimed to be descendants of the Pallavas, and helped to extend the influence of the kingdom.

In much earlier segments of this Middle Kingdom series we covered the the Pahlavas, who entered northern India a very long time before the Pallavas of South India, described above. As previously mentioned, it's interesting to consider the historical connections bridging these two group, and the vast differences between them on the timeline of ancient India's history:

The Battle of Kurukshetra is generally dated back to approximately 5,000 years ago. That would be around the year 3000 B.C., or the 30th Century B.C. The Mahabharata details the participation of the Pallavas of north India in the great war at Kurukshetra.

The start of the Middle Kingdom period of ancient India is dated to the 3rd Century B.C., somewhere between the years of 300 and 201 B.C., and the Pahlavas are recorded as being one of the earliest groups of invaders who played a role in that era, following the Scythians, Greeks and Parthians. Clearly, the Pahlavas entered India long before the start of the Middle Kingdoms.

Now compare these dates to the historical records of the South Indian Pallava dynasty currently under discussion. The oldest epigraphic records of South Indian dynasties date from around the 3rd Century A.D. Among these early accounts are the records of the Pallava kings of the Prakrit charters, from the 3rd and 4th Centuries A.D. Their rule extended over the Tamil, Kanarese and Telugu territories.

There are later Pallava dynasty records in the Sanskrit charters, circa 5th through 7th Centuries A.D. The first Pallava ruler we find on record is King Simhavarman I, who ruled from 275 to 300 A.D. This puts his rule at approximately 500 years after the start of the Middle Kingdom period. So we can see how much earlier the Pallavas referred to in the Mahabharata entered Bharat.

Nor was the later Pallava influence restricted to South India. They dominated the south for about six hundred years, until the end of the 9th Century, but their presence was also felt in Andhra Pradesh, from where they had migrated to the south.


[93] K.A.N. Sastri, A History of South India pp 91–92
[94] Durga Prasad, History of the Andhras up to 1565 A. D., pp 68
[95] Kamil V. Zvelebil (1987). "The Sound of the One Hand", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 107, No. 1, p. 125-126.


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