GK Chronicle GK Chronicle

Ancient History / Post-Guptan Era

History of Pallavas


    The history of Pallavas dates back from 550 AD to 897 AD. The founder of Pallava dynasty is Simhavishnu. Though earlier Pallava kings ruled from 3rd century AD, it was Simhavishnu who revived the dynasty. The capital of Pallavas was Kanchi.



    Rulers of Pallava Dynasty

    • Simhavishnu - The first king and Pallava dynasty founder was a Vaishnavite but all other later kings were Shaivites except a king named Nandivarman II.

    • Mahendravarman I - He was also known to be called Vichitrachitta, who was a great scholar in Sanskrit. He wrote a drama in Sanskrit named Mattavilasa Prahasana (A Farce of Drunken Sport). He also wrote one more play named Bhagavadajjuka.

    • Narasimhavarman I - He had two titles namely Vatapikonda (Conqueror of Vatapi) and Mahamalla / Mahabali, after this title, he built a new capital Mahabalipuram / Mamallapuram.

    • Narasimhavarman II - He was popularly called Rajasimha Pallava. He built number of Ghatikas (educational institutions as part of Hindu temples) in Kanchi.

    • Nandivarman II - He was a Vaishnavite. He performed Asvamedha Yaga.

    • Nandivarman III - According to one tradition, there was a Tamil scholar named Perundevanar, who was contemporary to this king. Perundevanar translated Mahabharata into the Tamil language.

    • Aparajithavarman - He was the last ruler of Pallava dynasty. One of the feudatory king named Aditya Chola I killed him at Tanjore and Pallava rule was replaced by Chola rule. Cholas ruled from Tanjore.

    Pallava Literature

    • The official language of Pallavas could either be Sanskrit or Prakrit as most of their inscriptions are written in these languages. Two great Sanskrit scholars were patronized by Pallavas.

      • Bharavi - He was in the court of Simhavishnu. He wrote a book named Kiratarjuniya.

      • Dandin - He was in the court of Narasimhavarman II. He wrote a book named Dasakumaracharita, which was being translated into many languages.

    • Two sacred texts (Vedas of Tamil) were written during this period.

      • Tevaram (Shaiva Literature) - They were the first seven books of the Tirumurai, which is the collection of twelve-volume Shaiva devotional poetry. They were composed by 63 Nayanars (Tamil Saiva poet saints).

      • Nalayira Divya Prabandham (Vaishnava Literature) - It is a collection of 4000 Tamil Vaishnava verses. They were composed by 12 Alvars (Tamil Vaishnava poet saints)


    Pallava Art and Architecture

    There were 4 kings who mainly contributed to the art and architecture of Pallava dynasty.

    • Mahendravarman I -

      • He built Shaiva cave temple (having Presco paintings) at Sittanavasal, Pudukkottai

      • He also built Ananthasayana (Vishnu) cave temple (4-storeyed cave temple) at Undavalli, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh and one more cave temple at Bhairavakona.

    • Narasimhavarman I -

      • He built many Pallava temples at Mahabalipuram (more than 12) of which the most important one is Monolithic Chariots, which are popularly known as Pandava Rathas or Pancha Rathas.

      • A beautiful sculpture at Mahabalipuram in which a Muni is in deep meditation and Shiva and Parvati watching him from Kailash. Ganga is flowing from Kailash to the Muni. Local people call him Arjuna. This sculpture is called Arjuna's Penance or Descent of the Ganges or Ganga Avatharana.

    • Narasimhavarman II -

      • He was the first king to build structural temples during Pallava dynasty with new temple architecture known as Dravidian Architecture.

      • He built a temple at Mahabalipuram known as Shore Temple. In this temple, there are two sanctum sanctorums, one for Vishnu and the other is for Shiva. It was built on seashore.

        The waves of the sea touch the temple and go back. It is the first temple in Dravidian style. Mahabalipuram is the birthplace of Dravidian style of Architecture.

      • He built one more temple at Kanchi known as Kailasanathar Temple (also called Rajasimheswara Temple). It is the best temple of Ancient period. The other temple he built was Airavatesvara Temple at Kanchi.

    • Nandivarman II -

      • In Kanchi, he built Mukteswara Temple, Matangeswara Temple (Both are Shaiva temples) and Vaikunta Perumal Temple (Vishnu temple).

      • He also built Parasurameswara (Mukhalingam) Temple at Gudimallam, Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. Here, we can find a Shiva Linga (country's first Shiva Linga, 2nd Century BC). It is Ekamukhalinga in which Shiva is on one side of the Shiva Linga.