(Last Updated on : 24/05/2012)
The Rashtrakuta reign from Manpur in the Malwa region of modern Madhya Pradesh
has been revealed in the inscriptions of the seventh century copperplate grant. The kings of Achalapur, the rulers of Kannauj
and Elichpur in Maharashtra
were the additional ruling Rashtrakuta clans cited in the inscriptions. The origin of the Rashtrakutas, their spoken language and the native home of the dynasty is yet an issue of debate.
Origin of Rashtrakuta Dynasty
The origin of Rashtrakuta dynasty has been a topic of debate among the historians. The connection of medieval Rashtrakutas who ruled in the sixth century to the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta who ruled between the eighth and tenth centuries has also been a subject of controversy. Several theories have been put forward to prove their origin. They do claim their descent from the Yadava family of the Epic age. Some scholars do say that they belong to a Kshatriya
race who gave their name to Maharashtra. An accepted view is that they were a clan of ancestry officials who had to control the provinces of the Rashtrakutas. It thereby became a family name. However it can be determined that they established their empire over the ruins of Chalukyas.
Administration of Rashtrakuta Dynasty
In the Rashtrakuta system of government the King was the supreme ruler. The inscriptions do prove that the succeeding ruler is chosen on hereditary basis. However abilities were also taken onto consideration while the new emperor taking the throne. Chief Minister`s rank was considered as the most important one under the King. This was followed by the commander, the foreign minister and a prime minister. All cabinet ministers had sound knowledge of politics and acquired military training too.
The kingdom was divided into provinces which were ruled by a Rashtrapathi. Under the provinces a district was supervised by a Vishayapathi. The ministers who were trustworthy ruled more than one province. Nadu was below the district looked after by the Nadugowda and the lowest division was a village overseen by a Gramapathi. The strong vassals supervised the internal administration with complete autonomy. Without seeking the approval of the king they could donate lands. They also assisted kings in his military expeditions.
The army had numerous horsemen, large infantry, and many elephants. A standing army was always ready for war in the capital of Manyakheta in a cantonment. Feudatory kings also maintained large armies to defend the empire in case of war. All the officials and chieftains also served as commanders and were transferable as per circumstances.
Economy of Rashtrakuta Dynasty
The wealth to run the empire came from military conquests and agricultural production. In southern Gujarat
, Khandesh and Berar, Minnagar, Ujjain
and Tagara cotton was the major crop grown. Warangal
and Pathankot manufactured muslin cloth. Cotton yarn and cloth was exported from Bharuch. Burhanpur and Berar produced white calicos and they were exported to Turkey, Arabia, Persia, Poland, and Cairo. The Konkan region produced betel leaves, coconut and rice. While the Mysore
forests produced sandalwood, timber wood, teakwood and ebony wood and ivory as it also possessed vast elephant herds. Thana and Saimur exported incense and perfumes.
The copper mines of Cudappah, Bellary, Bijapur
and other regions were an important source of income. Diamonds were also mined in these places. Manyakheta and Devagiri were important diamond and jewellery trading centers. The leather and tanning industries also boomed in and some regions of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The Rashtrakutas controlled the western sea board as it aided its sea trade. Among other items of export were coconuts, mats, incense, perfumes, indigo betel nuts, and sesame oil However major imports were gold, tin, pearls, Arabian dates, Italian wines, lead, topaz, sweet clover, gold and silver coins, and many more to be mentioned. Taxes were also levied on foreign vessels.
Guild concept was practiced rather than as individual business. There were guilds of oilmen, weavers, basket, artisans, mat makers and fruit sellers. Some guilds were superior to others and received special benefits from the king in regards to power and concessions. They had a force for their goods safety. Money lending to traders and businessman through banks was also in practice. The king decides tax levels based on need and circumstances of the kingdom while ensuring that no unnecessary burden is imposed on the peasants. Taxes were levied on artisans, on perishable items and on minerals.
Religion under Rashtrakuta Dynasty
The Rashtrakutas kings showed immense religious tolerance by supporting all common beliefs. It is difficult to ascertain the religion they followed. Some claim that they were inclined towards Jainism. They built well known Jain temples and monuments at Lokapura in Bagalkot
and Kambadahalli respectively. However, some Rashtrakuta kings were Hindus who were followers of Lord Shiva
and Lord Vishnu
. This can be proved as all their inscriptions begin with an invocation to Lord Shiva or Vishnu. The famous Kailashnatha temple at Ellora and other rock-cut caves show their inclination to Hinduism
. Jama Masjid did exist in the Rashtrakuta Empire by the 10th century. In brief it can be considered that the Rashtrakuta rulers were tolerant towards Jainism
Society under Rashtrakuta Dynasty
As many as seven or more castes existed during the rule of the Rashtrakutas. Brahmins
enjoyed a superior rank in Rashtrakuta society. Even the Jains enjoyed a special position.
Capital punishment was not awarded to Kshatriya sub-castes or Brahmins. Children of Kshatriya caste were admitted to Vedic schools along with Brahmins but the children of the Vaishya
and Shudra castes were not allowed. Inter caste marriages took place between Kshatriya girls and Brahmin boys. As per inscriptions joint families was customary. Women and daughters had property rights. Sati was also practiced. Widow remarriage was rare among upper castes and accepted among the lower castes. The recreational activities were attending animal fights of the same or different species, and hunting.
Literature under Rashtrakuta Dynasty
During the Rashtrakuta rule Kannada literature became popular. This period marked the end of the Prakrit and Sanskrit age. Court poets created literary works in Kannada and Sanskrit such as poetry, prose, rhetoric, Hindu epics and life history of Jain tirthankaras
. Well known scholars wrote on material subjects such as mathematics.
Kavirajamarga written by King Amoghavarsha I was the earliest available book in Kannada. A Jain writer named Pampa became famous for Adipurana which is the life history of the first Jain tirthankara Rishabhadeva. Sanskrit prose work was also written during this era as well. Trivikrama, a noted scholar in the court of King Indra III wrote classics like Nalachampu, Damayanti Katha and few others.
Architecture of Rashtrakuta Dynasty
The rock-cut cave temples at Ellora and Elephanta, located in present day Maharashtra reflect the contributions to art and architecture of the Rashtrakutas. They also renovated Buddhist caves and re-dedicated the rock-cut shrines. Amoghavarsha I dedicated five Jain cave temples at Ellora. The most spectacular work of the Rashtrakutas at Ellora is the monolithic Kailashnath Temple. This project was financed by King Krishna I after the Rashtrakuta rule had spread to the Deccan. The architectural style was Dravidian.
Other eminent sculptures at Elephanta include Ardhanarishvara and Maheshamurthy. Few other well-known rock-cut temples in the Maharashtra are the Dhumer Lena and Dashvatara cave temples in Ellora and the Jogeshvari temple near Mumbai
the Rashtrakutas have built the Kashivishvanatha temple and the Jain Narayana temple at Pattadakal.
Rashtrakuta rule has had a very good impact in all spheres which include art, economy, culture and architecture. In fact economy reached its peak during their rule. Their taste in architecture was splendid. Religious tolerance was one of the major characteristic of their rulers.