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The Pallavas

  • After the decline of the Sangam Age in the Tamil country, the Kalabhra rule lasted for about 250 years.

  • Thereafter, the Pallavas established their kingdom in Tondaimandalam with its capital at Kanchipuram. (Tondaimandalam- region comprising the southern part of Andhrapradesh and northern part of Tamilnadu)

  • The first Pallava kings ruled during the beginning of the 4th century AD. By the 7th century AD, there were three kingdoms in southern India vying for supremacy namely the Chalukyas of Badami, the Pandyas of Madurai and the Pallavas of Kanchipuram.

  • Pallava rule continued till Tondaimandalam was captured and annexed by the Imperial Cholas in the beginning of the tenth century A.D.

Important Rulers


Simhavishnu (575 AD – 600 AD)

  • Real founder of Pallava dynasty.

  • He defeated Kalabhras and Cholas to extend territory till Kaveri.

Mahendravarman (600 AD – 630 AD)

  • Succeeded Simhavishnu who was his father.

  • He was a poet and composed 'Vichitrachita' and 'Mathavilasa Prahasana'.

  • He introduced rock-cut temple architecture.

  • Conflict between Pallavas and Chalukyas began during his time.

  • Had on-going rivalry and battles with Pulakesin II of Chalukya dynasty. Pulakeshin II marched against them & captured northern part of Pallava kingdom.

  • Mahendravarman died in battle with the Chalukyas.

Narasimhavarman I (630 AD – 668 AD)

  • Son and successor of Mahendravarman.

  • Considered the greatest of the Pallavas.

  • He is also called Mahamalla/Mamalla which means ‘great wrestler’.

  • He founded the city of Mamallapuram or Mahabalipuram which is named after him. He constructed 'monolithic rathas'(temples formed by a single rock)

  • Defeated and killed Pulakesin II in 642 AD in the Battle of Manimangalam near Kanchi. He took control of Vatapi, the Chalukya capital and assumed the title ‘Vatapikonda’.

  • He also defeated the Cholas, the Cheras and the Pandyas, thus becoining supreme power in south India.

  • He sent two naval expeditions to Ceylon and helped his ally, a Ceylonese prince, to capture the throne of Ceylon.

  • Hiuen Tsang visited the Pallava kingdom during his reign in about 640 AD and he describes the people living in his kingdom as happy.

  • He also says there was an abundance of agricultural products.

  • Great Nayanmar saints like Appar, Sambandar and Siruthondar lived during his reign.

Narsimhavarman II (695 AD-722 AD)

  • Also known as Rajasimha.

  • Shore temple at Mamallapuram and Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram were constructed during his time.

  • He sent embassies to China. Maritime trade flourished during his reign.

Nandivarman II (731 AD-796 AD)

  • The Chalukya king, Vikramaditya II invaded and captured the Pallava capital during his reign, but Vikramaditya II showed consideration and restraint in treating the vanquished, the only instance of restraint in the whole of the suicidal Chalukya-Pallava conflict, and withdrew from Kanchi without destroying it.

  • Nandivarman soon strengthened himself and defeated the Chalukya ally, the Gangas. But he had to meet defeat at the hands of the Pandyas. And after this defeat, he concentrated on domestic matters.

  • During his reign, several old temples were renovated and new ones like the Vaikuntaperumal temple at Kanchi were constructed.

Later Rulers

  • The later rulers were weak.

  • During their time, Pallva kingdom was defeated by the Chalukyas many times.

  • The last ruler of the Pallava dynasty was Aparajitavarman who was killed in battle with the Cholas.

  • After that, the Pallava kingdom was annexed by the Imperial Cholas.

Pallava Administration

  • The king was at the centre of administration in which he was assisted by able ministers.

  • The king maintained a well-trained army.

  • Sate was divided into kottams (administrated by officers of king).

  • Land grants to temples were called Devadhana. To Brahamanas the land grants were called Brahmadeya. No tax was charged for these land grants.

  • Irrigation was a responsibility of the State. Construction of many irrigation tanks took place.

  • The land tax was the primary source of government revenue.

  • Traders and artisans such as carpenters, goldsmiths, washer-men, oil-pressers and weavers paid taxes to the government.

  • The Village assemblies called, Sabhas maintained the village land records , local affairs and temple management.

Pallava Society

  • The caste system became rigid. Brahmins were given a high place. They were given land-grants by the kings and nobles. They were also given the responsibility of looking after the temples.

  • As a reaction against the Brahmanic supremacy, the Bhakti Movement emerged in south India.

  • The Saiva 'Nayanmars' and Vaishnava 'Alwars' led the Bhakti Movement.

  • Nayanmars composed 'Devaram' and Alwars composed 'Nalayira divyaprabandam'.

  • The period saw rise of Saivism and Vaishnavism, while Buddhism and Jainism declined.

Education and Learning

  • The Pallavas were great patrons of learning and their capital Kanchi was an ancient centre of learning.

  • The 'Ghatika' at Kanchi was popular and it attracted students from all parts of India and abroad.

    • The founder of the Kadamba dynasty, Mayurasarman studied Vedas at Kanchi.

    • Dharmapala, who later became the Head of the Nalanada University, belonged to Kanchi.

    • Bharavi, the great Sanskrit scholar lived in the time of Simhavishnu.

    • Dandin, another Sanskrit writer adorned the court of Narasimhavarman II.

  • Mahendravaraman composed the Sanskrit play 'Mattavilasaprahasanam'.

  • Tamil literature had also developed and the Nayanmars and Alwars composed religious hymns in Tamil.

  • The 'Devaram' composed by Nayanmars and the 'Nalayira divyaprabandam' composed by Alwars represent the religious literature of the Pallava period.

  • Perundevanar was patronized by Nandivarman II and he translated the Mahabharata as 'Bharathavenba' in Tamil.

Pallava Temple Architechture

  • They began Dravidian style of temple architecture.

  • Pallava temples were constructed in four different phases:

    1. Mahendravarman Style

    2. Mamalla Style

    3. Rajasimha Style

    4. Aparajita Style

Mahendravarman Style

  • Introduced by Mahendravarman

  • These are rock-cut temples.

  • Eg: rock-cut temples at mandagappattu, Mahendravadi, etc.





Mamalla Style

  • Introduced by Narasimhavarman I.

  • These are monolithic-rathas.

  • Monolithic rathas- temples made on a single rock.

  • Eg: Panchapandava rathas at Mahabalipuram.






Rajasimha Style

  • Introduced by Narasimhavarman II.

  • These were structural temples built of soft sand rocks.

  • Eg: Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram, Shore temple at Mamallapuram





Aparajita Style


  • These were the erected by the later rulers.

  • These were structural temples.

  • They were not as massive as Rajasimha-style temples.

  • Eg: Mukteeshswarar temple, Matagenswara temple at kanchipuram.






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