India Tomorrow presents great Indian kingdoms whose mention has been deliberately omitted from the country’s history books.
All we have ever studied in our history books has been all about the glorified history of a few kingdoms like the Mughal Dynasty, Mysore Dynasty and the various Delhi Sultanates.
In this article, India Tomorrow briefly brings out the legacy of Indian kings and dynasties under whom India progressed and flourished as a cultural, spiritual and social nation.
THE PALLAVA DYNASTY
The Pallavas ruled the area of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka from 275 BCE to 882 BCE with Kanchipuram as their capital.
They are famous for their architectural work with rocks which produced marvels like the Mahabalipuram temple and creating the modern form of the ancient Brahmi script which influenced the genesis of almost all Southeast Asian scripts, particularly the scripts of Thailand, Indonesia, Burma and other Southeast Asia. The Pallavas contributed greatly to the development of the Brahmi script.
THE MARATHA EMPIRE
The Marathas were a Hindu warrior group who established an empire that existed from 1674 to 1818 in the present day Maharashtra that rose to prominence by establishing ‘Hindavi Swarajya’. To the Marathas goes the credit of ending Mughal rule in India.
They ruled almost the whole of India with the exception of Andhra and Tamil Nadu and a part of Kerala. They were known to be fierce warriors of medium stature who were devout Hindus and never ate meat. Pune and Thanjavur were their capitals.
Some of the famous rulers include Chhatrapati Shivaji, Baji Rao 1 and Rajaram Chhatrapati.
THE VIJAYANAGARA EMPIRE
The Vijayanagara Empire lasted for three centuries from 1336 to 1660 before losing it to the Deccan sultanates. This period is said to be the golden period for the Telugu and Kannada cultures as they have established many monuments across South India and enabled fine arts and literature to reach new heights in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit, while Carnatic music evolved into its current form. They ruled the whole south India with Vijayanagara as their capital city.
Srikrishna Devaraya was the famous king of Vijayanagara samrajya. He was a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara and the diamonds and gold we see on lord Balaji in Tirumala are mostly his donations. It was known that the Vijayanagara kingdom was equal to the rule of Lord Sri ram where people where happy and prosperous. He was called as “Kannada Rajya Rama Ramana” (Lord of the Kannada empire) and Andhra Bhoja.
THE KINGDOM OF COCHIN
The Cochin kingdom lasted for 7 centuries from the early 1200s to 1947, surviving every foreign invasion. They were excellent negotiators and tacticians. They formed relations with all their surrounding kingdoms and played their cards wisely. Their capital changed over time but they mainly ruled in the areas surrounding Cochin.
THE KAKATIYA DYNASTY
The Kakatiyas ruled from 1083 to 1323 with Orugallu (Warangal) as their capital extending to the whole of Andhra along with a part of Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The Kakatiya kings are said to be given low importance to the caste system as a social identifier, anyone, regardless of birth, could use the nayaka title to denote warrior status and the inscriptions suggest that people were not bound to an occupation by birth. This helped them flourish in war and arts alike. Agriculture was encouraged and many tribal people who previously had been nomadic settled as farmers and remained loyal to the Dynasty.
The Warangal Fort, Thousand Pillar temple and the famous Kakatiya Toranam stand as an epitome of the Kakatiya legacy.Rani Rudramadevi, the famous queen of the Kakatiya dynasty set the path for women to lead kingdoms in India as early as 12th century.
THE GAJAPATI KINGDOM
The Gajapatis were a medieval Hindu dynastythat ruled over Kalinga (the present day Odisha), large parts of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, and the eastern and central parts of Madhya Pradesh and the southern parts of Bihar from 1434-1541. They were claimed to be descended from the Surya Vansha (Sun Dyanasy) of the Mahabharata age.
“Gaja” means elephant and “Pati” means master. As such, Gajapati etymologically means a king with an army of elephants. Literature in Oriya flourished during this period and there was also a merging of Oriya, Telugu and Kannada cultures.
The Gajaptis ruled from Mukhalingam of Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh and later moved their capital to Cuttack. Religious leader Ramanujacharya had a great influence on the Raja Choda Ganga Deva, who renovated the Puri Jagannath Temple. Another king from the dynasty, Narasimha Deva built the Sun Temple at Konark, which are both archaeological wonders.
THE PANDYA DYNASTY
The Pandyan Dynasty was an ancient Tamil dynasty, one of the three Tamil dynasties, the other two being the Chola and the Chera.
No other dynasty in the world has ruled more duration than the Pandyas, if you refer ancient Mahabharata text you can see the name of Pandyan kings. They survived till the early British conquest.
The Pandyans were experts in water management, agriculture (mostly near river banks) and fisheries and they were eminent sailors and sea traders too. They controlled the pearl fisheries along the South Indian coast, between Sri Lanka and India, which produced some of the finest pearls in the known ancient world.
THE CHOLA DYNASTY
The Chola Dynasty was one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the history of southern India spanning between 300s BCE–1279 CE.
Together with the Chera and Pandya dynasties, the Cholas formed the three main Tamil dynasties of Iron Age India, who were collectively known as the Three Crowned Kings.
They mainly ruled the area between the Kaveri and Tungabhadra rivers. Their rule extended out of India when they successfully invaded the cities of Srivijaya in Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand.
THE SATVAHANA EMPIRE
The Satavahana Empire, also known as the Andhra kingdom, was an Indian dynasty based from Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh which is now back as Capital of Andhra Pradesh State. This dynasty extended to Junnar and Prathisthan in Maharashtra during the later years.
The territory of the empire covered much of India from 230 BCE onward. History suggests that it lasted about 450 years from 230 BCE to 22 CE.
The Satavahanas are credited for establishing peace in the country, resisting the onslaught of foreigners after the decline of the Mauryan Empire.
THE HOYSALA EMPIRE
The Hoysala Empire was a prominent Southern Indian Kannadiga empire that ruled most of the modern-day state of Karnataka between the 10th and the 14th centuries. The capital of the Hoysalas was initially located at Belur, but was later moved to Halebidu.
The empire is remembered today primarily for its temple architecture. Over a hundred surviving temples are scattered across Karnataka, including the well known Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura. The Hoysala rulers also patronised the fine arts, enabling literature to flourish in Kannada and Sanskrit.
THE MAGADHA EMPIRE
Magadha as a kingdom existed right from the Vedic period. As legend goes, the kingdom rose to prominence during the Mahabharata age. It was expanded into an empire by King Jarasandha with present-day Rajgir in Bihar as its capital.
Later, Jarasandha was slain by Bheema, the second Pandava, in a wrestling duel. In later periods, Pataliputra (Patna) was chosen as the new capital of this empire during the age of Gautam Buddha. In later years, the Magadhan kingdom transitioned into the celebrated Mauryan Empire that spanned almost the whole of India.
THE CHALUKYA EMPIRE
The Chalukya dynasty was an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries.
They had their capital in three cities, namely Badami and Kalyani in Karnataka and Vengi on the banks of the river Godavari. This marks the first time a southern India-based kingdom took control and consolidated the entire region between the Kaveri and the Narmada rivers.
The rise of this empire saw the birth of efficient administration, overseas trade and commerce and the development of new style of architecture called “Chalukyan architecture”. Kannada and Telugu literature flourished during their reign.
THE MAURYA EMPIRE
The Maurya dynasty was the superpower of the Iron Age India, which existed between 320 BC and 185 BC. It was founded by Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra and later extended its sway to Afghanistan.
During the rule of Ashoka the Great, the Maurya Empire managed to conquer the entire Indian subcontinent and rule it as one political entity. The Mauryans were the only power that defeated Greek-Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great. Jain and Buddhist cultures flourished during this empire.
The Rajputs are an ancient Hindu warrior clan that ruled a vast area of the subcontinent which includes western, central, northern India and current eastern Pakistan.
The Rajputs rose to prominence from the late 6th century CE and governed with Rajasthan as their base.
They are credited as one of the very few dynasties who could not be dislodged from their capital by successive Muslim sultanates.
THE NANDA DYNASTY
The Nanda dynasty originated from the region of Magadha in ancient India during the 4th century BC and lasted between 345–321 BCE. At its greatest extent, the empire ruled by the Nanda Dynasty extended from Bengal in the east, to Punjab in the west and as far south as the Vindhya mountains.
The rulers of this dynasty were famed for the great wealth which they accumulated. The Nanda Empire was later conquered by Chandragupta Maurya, who founded the Maurya Empire.
The Nandas are described as the first empire builders in the recorded history of India. They inherited the large kingdom of Magadha and expanded it to yet more distant frontiers. To achieve this objective they built a vast and oowerful army, consisting of 200,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, 2,000 war chariots and 3,000 war elephants.
The Gupta Empire, which existed at its zenith from approximately 320 to 550 CE, covered much of the Indian subcontinent. This period is called the Golden Age of India and was marked by extensive inventions and discoveries in science, technology, engineering, art, dialectics, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy that crystallized the elements of Hindu culture.
Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, and Chandragupta II were the most notable rulers of the Gupta dynasty. The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic and scientific fields.
The great sage Vatsayana, who lived in this kingdom, wrote the world-famous Kama Sutra. One of the greatest inventions ever “0” (zero) was invented by Aryabhata in the Gupta period as Shoonya. Imagine the world without it now!