(Last Updated on : 02/02/2009)
Pulakeshin I established the Chalukya dynasty. Chalukya Dynasty continued to be the supreme power of the Deccan for about two centuries. He installed his capital in Badami and the legacy of the powerful Chalukyas was carried out by the successors of Pulakeshin I. However the greatest king of the Chalukya dynasty was Pulakeshin II though his reign was marked by his defeat in the hands of the Pallavas of the south. Pulakeshin II's early life was beset with trails and difficulties and he could ascend the Chalukya throne not by an easy inheritance. His title to the throne was disputed by his uncle. According to the historians Pulakeshin II had to overcome the civil war before he ascended the throne in 610 AD. Pulakeshin was a vigilant youth who fought against his uncle for the throne. The civil war, originated owing to the incident of the inheritance of the Chalukya throne had unleashed the forces of anarchy within the kingdom and the Chalukya power was threatened by the foreign invasion. Some of the provincial feudatories revolted against the central authority taking advantage of the civil war.
In these circumstances Pulakeshin II ascended the throne by wading through the blood of his kinsmen in the civil war. After ascending the throne, Pulakeshin II first of all consolidated his power by suppressing the forces of discord and disintegration, which are about to disturb the very foundation of the powerful Chalukya Empire. However the reign of Pulakeshin II was marked by enormous campaigns and warfare. The "Aihole Inscription" of Pulakeshin II delineates a comprehensive picture of the conquests of Pulakeshin II and his wars of annexations. "The Haidarabad Grant" also records his victorious campaign over the hostile kings.
Pulakeshin II was a powerful warrior and also a strong and stout annexationist. To satiate his dream of imperial supremacy of the Chalukyas, Pulakeshin followed the policy of aggression against his neighbors. In the south Pulakeshin II defeated the Kadambas of the Baranasi and the Ganges of Mysore and Alupa or Malabar. The Ganga king probably gave his daughter in marriage to Pulakeshin II in order to solidify a friendship with the valiant ruler Pulakeshin II. These victories led to a considerable extension of his dominion in South India. He also overwhelmed the Mauryas of Konkan and captured their capital city Puri, which was identified with the island of Elephanta. Further north the kings of Lata or Gujrat, Malwa and Gurjara were compelled to submit to him. The Aihole inscription records his sway over these provinces. Pulakeshin II after his conquest of the major areas of south and west set out to annex those kingdoms into the Chalukya territory and appointed viceroys in those provinces under his own supremacy.
The conquest of Gujrat by Pulakeshin II was a turning point of his career as a mighty conqueror. It paved the way for his gigantic struggle with Harsha, the lord paramount of northern India. Dr. R.C. Majumdar has suggested that the kingdoms of Lata, Gurjara and Malwa sought Pulakeshin's protection against the threat of invasion by Harsha. Probably Pulakeshin granted his protection towards them and they in turn allied with Pulakeshin against his campaign against Harsha. Harsha adopted the aggressive policy against the Chalukya king Pulakeshin in order to be the lord of entire India. But Harsha was made to repulse from the banks of Narmada. As a result of the Battle Harsha's expansion to the western India was checked completely. Moreover the entire South India remained under the control of Pulakeshin II. Pulakeshin adopted the high sounding title "Paramesvara" after his victory against Harshavardhana, the Pushyabhuti king of North and he himself became the lord paramount of entire southern India. Being encouraged with his victorious campaign against Harsha, Pulakeshin II directed his victorious arms towards Eastern Deccan and defeated the kings of Kosala and Kalinga and annexed those kingdoms in his own territory.
After a series of conquest Pulakeshin II turned towards south and marched along the Eastern coast. He invaded the kingdoms of Pithapuram in the Godavari district and the territories of Kunala and Ellore. The newly acquired kingdom in eastern Deccan and those of south India were placed under the governorship of Kubja Vishnuvardhana, the youngest brother of Pulakeshin II. Vishnuvardhana was destined to find the famous line of Eastern Chalukya with his capital at Vengi in the Andhra country. The eastern Chalukyas were ultimately become independent of the parent branch at Vatapi and ruled for about 5 centuries.
Pulakeshin II then marched against the Pallava kingdom and then penetrated in the far south. He started the protracted struggle with the Pallavas. In the initial phase of the Chalukya Pallava war, Mahendravarmana I , the Pallava king was defeated by Pulakeshin II and his capital at Kanchi was threatened. Pulakeshin II crossed the river Kaveri and made alliance with Cholas, Pandyas and Kerelas against the Pallavas. The Pallava power was temporarily crippled as a result of the Chalukya victory. Pulakeshin II returned to his capital Vatapi after the execution of his policy of Digvijay.
Pulakeshin's invasion of the Pallava kingdom is considered by the historians merely a phase in the long struggle between the two dominant powers on the two sides of the river Tungabhadra, which characterized the history of ancient India for a protracted period of time. His initial success against the Pallava king Mahendravarmana was a short lived one. Narasimhavarmana I, the son of the Pallava king Mahendravarmana I, attacked and crushed Vatapi, the Chalukya capital. It was presumed by the historians that Narasimhavarmana might have killed Pulakeshin II in order to avenge Pulakeshin's attack on the Pallava capital Kanchi in the time of his father. The success of Narasimhavarmana I against the Chalukya king Pulakeshin II, is also supported by the Pallava records and the "Mahavamsa. Narasimha assumed the title of "Vatapi Konda" to commemorate his victory against the Chalukya king Pulakeshin II. The tragic defeat of Pulakeshin II in the hands of the Pallava king Narasimhavarmana I drew curtain to the victorious career of the Chalukya king Pulakeshin II.
Pulakeshin II was not only the greatest among the House of the Western Chalukyas but also is remembered as one of the famous king in the history of ancient India. Not only a great conqueror, Pulakeshin II, was a farsighted statesman. He subdued the civil war and the provincial revolt against the central authority and thereby consolidated the authority of the Chalukya House by checking the forces of the anarchy and chaos. Pulakeshin II, a great and able administrator till date remembered in the history of India as the paramount lord of south India.