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The Rashtrakuta Dynasty India

  • Rashtrakuta ruled large parts of the Indian subcontinent between the 6th and the 10th centuries. The Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta rose to power in South India in 753. At the same time the Prathihara dynasty of Malwa was gaining power in the northwestern India and the Pala Dynasty of Bengal was gaining power in the eastern India.
  • At their peak the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta ruled a huge empire stretching from Cape Comorin in the south to the Ganges River and Yamuna River doab in the north, a time of famous literary contributions, architectural achievements and political expansion. The early kings of this dynasty followed Hinduism but the later kings followed Jainism.
  • Jain scholars and mathematicians contributed important works in Sanskrit and Kannada. Amoghavarsha I wrote Kavirajamarga, a landmark literary work in the Kannada language. Architecture reached a landmark in the Dravidian style, the best example of which is in the Kailasanath Temple at Ellora. Other significant contributions are the Jain Narayana temple and the Kashivishvanatha temple in Karnataka as well as the sculptures of Elephanta Caves in Maharashtra, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

History

  • In the 8th to 10th century, the rulers made the Kannada language as important as Sanskrit. Rashtrakuta inscriptions used both Sanskrit and Kannada and the rulers encouraged literature in both languages.
  • The core of the Rashtrakuta Empire included Maharashtra, Karnataka and parts of Andhra Pradesh, a territory which the Rastrakutas ruled for more than 2 centuries. The feudatory King Dantidurga defeated Kirtivarman II of Badami in 753 and occupied the northern regions of the Chalukya Empire. After that he assisted his father-in-law, Pallava King Nandivarman to regain Kanchi from the Chalukyas and defeated the rulers of Srisailam, Kosala and Kalinga as well as the Gurjaras of Malwa.
  • Krishna I, Dantidurga's successor brought Karnataka and Konkan under his control. Dhruva Dharavarsha took control in 780 and he expanded his empire. He also brought Gangas of Talakad and the Eastern Chalukyas under his control. During his rule, the Rashtrakutas became a pan-India power. During the rule of Dhruva Dharavarsha's third son, Govinda III, there was a three way conflict between the Pratiharas, the Palas and the Rashtrakutas, for control over the Gangetic plains. The Cheras, the Pandyas and the Cholas all paid tributes to him.
  • Amoghavarsha I, the successor of Govinda III, made Manyakheta his capital which remained the Rashtrakutas' regal capital until the end of the empire. He came to the throne in 814 and suppressed revolts from feudatories and ministers in 821. He made peace with the Western Ganga dynasty by giving them his 2 daughters in marriage and after that crushed the invading Eastern Chalukyas. Amoghavarsha I maintained cordial relations with his neighbours, the Pallavas, the Eastern Chalukyas and the Gangas. He was the most famous of the Rashtrakuta Emperors.
  • During the reign of Krishna II, the empire faced a rebellion from the Eastern Chalukyas and its size reduced. Indra III defeated the Paramara and after that invaded the doab region of the Ganges and Jamuna rivers. He also defeated the dynasty's traditional foes, the Palas and the Pratiharas.
  • The Paramara King Siyaka Harsha attacked the Rastrakuta Empire which led to the downfall of the Empire. The final decline was abrupt as Tailapa II, a feudatory of the Rashtrakuta ruling declared himself independent. After the fall of the Rashtrakutas, their feudatories and related clans declared independence.
  • The rise of Rashtrakutas had a great impact on India. Their empire was the largest in contemporary India and one of the four great contemporary empires of the world.

Administration

  • The Rashtrakutas selected the crown prince based on heredity. The crown didn’t always pass on to the eldest son. Capabilities were given preference over age and chronology of birth. The Chief Minister was the most important position under the king. Under him was the foreign minister, the commander and a prime minister. All cabinet ministers were trained in political science and military operations.
  • The kingdom was divided into provinces. Amoghavarsha I's empire had 16 provinces. The lowest division was a village.
  • The Rashtrakuta army consisted of large groups of elephants, horsemen and infantry. A standing army was always prepared for war in a cantonment in the regal capital.

Economy

  • The Rashtrakuta economy was supported by booties from its conquests, its natural and agricultural products and its manufacturing revenues. Cotton was the main crop of Berar, Khandesh and Gujarat. Tagara, Paithan, Ujjain, Gujarat, and Minnagar were important centres of textile industry. White calicos were manufactured in Berar and Burhanpur and exported to Egypt, Arabia, Poland, Turkey and Persia. The Konkan region produced large quantities of rice, coconut and betel leaves while the lush forests of Mysore, produced ebony, teak, timber, and sandal. Perfumes and incense were exported from the ports of Saimur and Thana.
  • The copper mines of Dharwar, Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Narsingpur, Buldhana, Chanda, Bellary and Cudappah were an important source of income. Diamonds were mined in Golconda, Kurnool, Bellary and Cudappah. Devagiri and Manyakheta were important jewellery and diamond trading centres.
  • The western sea board of the subcontinent facilitated maritime trade of the Rashtrakuta Empire. At that time the port of Bharoch, was among the most important ports in the world. The empire's main exports were ivory, sesame oil, timber, teak, sandal, coconuts, betel nuts, perfumes, incense, indigo, mats, hides, muslins, cotton cloth and cotton yarn. Its major imports were gold and silver coins, antimony, flint glass, sweet clover, storax, topaz, lead, tin, Italian wines, dates, gold and pearls.
  • Craftsmen and artists operated as corporations. There were corporations of fruit sellers, basket and mat makers, artisans, oilmen and weavers. To protect goods in transit, these corporations had their own militia and they operated banks that lent money to businesses and traders.
  • Five main sources of government's income were: miscellaneous taxes and tributes from feudatories, income taxes, fines, occasional taxes and regular taxes. Income tax included treasures unearthed by prospectors, salt, mines, specific types of trees considered valuable to the economy, wasteland and taxes on crown land.
  • The tax levels were determined by the king based on circumstances and need in the kingdom while ensuring that an unjustified burden was not placed on the peasants. The tenant or land owner paid a number of taxes, including produce taxes and land taxes. Land taxes were varied, depending on kind of land, its produce and situation and varied from 8% to 16%. Usually 15% of all taxes received by the government were returned to the villages for maintenance.
  • Taxes were levied on artisans such as gardeners, brewers, stall owners, shopkeepers, oilmen, weavers, sheep herders and potters. Taxes on perishable items such as essentials like fuel, fruits, medicine, honey, meat, and fish were as high as 16%.


Religion

  • The Rashtrakutas were inclined towards Jainism because a number of the scholars who flourished in their courts were Jains. The Rashtrakutas built many famous Jain temples. Jainism was a principal religion for over 30% of the population and dominated the culture of the region.
  • However, the Rashtrakuta kings also patronized Hinduism. King Amoghavarsha I sacrificed a finger of his left hand at the Lakshmi temple to avoid a disaster in his kingdom. The renowned Kailasnatha temple at Ellora and other caves attributed to them demonstrate that the Hinduism was thriving. They constructed temples with ornamentation and icons which satisfied the needs of different faiths.
  • The Rashtrakuta rule was tolerant to different popular religions, Shaivism, Vaishnavaism and Jainism. Buddhism too was supported and was popular in places like Balligavi and Dambal. The downfall of Buddhism in South India started in the 8th century. As a result of trade between the Southern kingdoms and Arab lands, Islamic contact with South India started as early as the 7th century. By the 10th century Jama Masjids existed in the Rashtrakuta Empire. Muslim settlers married local women and were actively involved in manning shipping fleets and horse trading.