Kannada Nadu: History

The state of Karnataka has an extraordinary and ancient history.

To ascertain the history of any region, Inscriptions, monuments, coins, files, and literary works will help us a lot. There was a time to understand it through only fossils, where we did not get these types of documents. Those were Pre-history or pre-historic periods.

In Karnataka too, People lived in the pre-historic period. Excavations at different places have revealed the life of the people at that period. Many pre-historic habitats had been found in Karnataka as evidence of human existence in the ancient Stone Age, the New Stone Age, the Great Stone Age and the Iron Age. Many scholars had discovered pre-historic human habitats, where the people lived and indulged in hunting and cattle raring activities in the plains of Krishna, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha, Bhima, Tungabhadra and Cauvery river basin and at the foot hill regions. In the Great Stone Age era, the people were familiar with  Iron weapons and they used to bury the dead bodies and preserve the bones in a place. These places were known as Temples of  Pandavas (Pandavara Gudi). These were Megaliths.

The Mauryans

Inscriptions of Ashoka’s period were found in Raichur, Bellary, Chitradurga, and Gulbarga districts. Ashoka's inscriptions, popularly known as Dharma scripts, were in Brahmi script and Prakruta language. The inscription found areas, considered to be the boundaries of the Mauryan Empire. By the time of the 3rd century BC, it was understood that Karnataka was the frontier of the Maurya Kingdom.  An inscription indicated that even before Asoka, his grandfather, Chandragupta, had come to Shravanabelagola along with a sage called  Bhadrabahu lived there for a while and was buried there itself. Ashoka also sent Buddhists propagandists to Vanavasika (Banavasi) of Karnataka.


After the Mauryas, from the 3rd century BC to 3rd century AD, The Satavahana ruled many parts of Karnataka. At that period, Sannati was one of the major Buddhist sites. The coins during Gouthamiputra Shatakarni times were found in Banavasi. The coins belonging to the period of Vasishtiputra Pulamavi, Son of Gowtamiputra Shatakarni were also found in Chandravalli near Chitradurga. The branches of Shatavahanas viz., Shatakarnis and Chutu also ruled the state of Karnataka.


The Kadamba kingdom was the first Kannada dynasty to rule the northern part of Karnataka after the Satavahanas. Mayuravarma was the first ruler of that Empire. Banavasi was the capital of Kadambas. Hence,  popular as Banavai Kadambas. Talagunda was the major town at their times. The Mayuravarma, who was studying at Kanchi University motivated himself to be an independent empire when he had conflicts with the Pallava rulers. Further, the Mayura Varma defeated the Brhuhadaranyas and Pallavas and became an independent ruler with the recognition from Pallavas. One inscription recorded that the Kadamba Mayuravarma (325 to 345 AD) had rejuvenated a lake near Chandravalli, Chitradurga.  After Mayura Varma, Kangavarma, Bhagiratha and Raghu ruled one by one till 405 AD. The kingdom of Kadamba expanded during the period of Kakusthavarma who was a brother of Raghu (405 - 430 AD).  Kakustha Varma established a marital relationship with Pallavas, Gangas of South and Guptas of North India. The Halmidi the oldest known (Found) Kannada language inscription belonged to the period of Kakustha Varma.  After the Kakusasthavarma who built a lake at Talagunda, the kingdom of Kadamba was bifurcated into two parts and one was ruled by his son Krishna Varma -I from Triparvata and his other son Shanthivarma ruled the remaining parts from Banavasi. The Mrigesha Varma son of Shanti Varma, expanded his kingdom by fighting against the Pallavas and the Gangas.  During his tenure, the Halsey (Belgaum district) became the 2nd capital of his kingdom. The Ravi Varma, the son of Mrigesha Varma, built the Kamajinayala in Goodnapur. Another branch of the Kadamba dynasty which ruled from Triparvata, rejoined the original branch during the 2nd Krishna Varma period.  They ruled Karnataka’s Belagavi, North Canara, Shimoga, Chitradurga and Bellary from 325 AD to 540 AD. The Kadambas built many temples, basadis and lakes. The credit of laying the political and cultural foundation for Karnataka Empire goes to Kadambas.


The Gangas were contemporary to Kadambas. The Konguni Varma, the first ruler of the Ganga dynasty ruled the Southern parts of Karnataka. First, from Kuvalalpura (Kolar) and then from Talakadu. After Kogunivarma the Madhava- I,  Harivarma, Madhava -II, Vishnugopa, Madhava-III and Avinita ruled from 350 to 469 AD respectively. The  Madhava -III was married to the daughter of Kakustha Varma of Kadamba. His son Avinita ruled the Ganga kingdom for a period of 60 years and extended the kingdom.  Durvineeta the son of Avinita is one of the noted rulers of the Ganga dynasty. Durvineeta who conquered the kingdoms Punnata and Bana states, was a poet too. He had written a critic for the 15th chapter of Bharavi’s (who had come to his court) Kiratarjuniya. Durvineeta also translated Gunadya’s Vadda Kate to Sanskrit. After Durvineeta, Mushkara, Sri Vikrama, Bhoo Vikrama ruled the Ganga Kingdom From 539 to 679 AD,  In 679 AD Shivamara-1 came to the throne. He defeated the  Pallavas who came to invade the kingdom. After Shivamara, his grandson Sri Purusha (725-788 AD) continuously waged war with the Pallavas and the Rashtrakutas. He also waged many wars with the Nolambas and the Pandyas. After Sri Purusha, his son Shivamara- II,  lost many battles against  Rashtrakuta - Ganga and spent most of his life in the  Prison of Rashtrakutas. At this juncture,  Rashtrakuta Stambha (Kambayya) became the Governor of Gangavadi. When the children of Dhruva clashed for the throne, Shivamara was released from the prison for political reasons but again arrested. He was finally released in his old age and wrote “Gajastaka’ and ‘Setubandha’. After Shivamara –II, the Ganga rulers continue to rule under the Rashtrakutas as subordinates. RajaMalla-I, Neetimarga, Ereganga,  Butuga, Rachamalla-II, Ereyappa,  Butuga -II, Marasimha-II, Rachamalla – IV etc., Ganga rulers ruled the Kingdom. In their period, conflict with Nolambas and Cholas were high. The Cholas enhanced attacks on Gangas. Gangas continue to be the faithful tetrarch of the Rashtrakutas till their last days. In the regime of Marasimha - II, his court minister Chavundaraya built a magnificent monolithic statue of Gommata at  Sravanabelagola. From 350 AD to 999 AD Gangas ruled the Southern parts of Karnataka by the name of Gangavadi 96000 for a period of about 650 years. They gained prominence in the history of Karnataka.

Badami Chalukyas

The Badami Chalukyas who united all Kannadigas ruled up to Narmada river (their capital was Badami), their forbear was Jayasimha. Pulakeshi –I was the famous king of this dynasty. He built the Badami Fort, which was evident in the Badami Bandegallu(solid rock) inscription.  After Pulakeshi –I Keertivarma and Mungalisha ruled and expanded the kingdom. In the regime of Pulakeshi – II Karnataka expanded up to Narmada South shore. The Pulakeshi -II defeated Harsha Vardhan, the king of Khanooj who was famous as Uttara Patheswara (emperor of North)  and was glorified. In the reign of Pulakeshi-II Ambassadors were appointed both in Karnataka and Persia. In his regime, China traveler Xuanzang visited Karnataka. Pulakeshi who defeated Pallavas in the first attempt was defeated by Pallava Narasimha Varma in the second attempt in 642AD. 13 years later, Vikramaditya-I son of Pulakeshi –II  again concord the  Chalukya empire. In 670 AD he drove the Pallavas up to Kanchi. When Pallava Narasimha Varma captured Badami, spoilt the town and fort. Further, Vikramaditya, Vikramaditya –II, Keertivarma-II ruled the empire. But when Vikramaditya –II won Kanchi, he gave donations to Rajasimheswara temple instead of spoiling the town. In his period, his two queens constructed the temples of Lord Shiva at Pattadakallu. In the regime of Keertivarma – II Badami Chalukyas' reign came to an end.


The tetrarchs of Badami Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas made Lattalur (Lathur of Usmanabad district) as their capital and started ruling from 733 AD. After  Keertivarma –II of Badami Chalukyas.  Later, their capital was changed to Manyakheta (Malakedh of Gulbarga district). In the reign of Krishna- I of Rashtrakutas, the construction work of Ellora Kailasa temple started. In his reign, the Gangavadi also came to the clichés of Rashtrakuts. Later Dhruva and Govinda fought for the throne and finally, Dhruva became the king and he expanded the Rashtrakuta kingdom across the river Narmada. After Dhruva, the Govinda – III Amoghavarsha Nrupatunga, Krishna – II, Indra –III, Amoghavarsha-II, Krishna –III and other kings ruled the Rashtrakuta kingdom.  Among them, Amoghavarsha Nurupatunga was famous because of ‘Kavirajamarga’ which was written in his period. The Rashtrakutas, who had won the first war against Gangas, later developed a good relationship with them and received much assistance from them, while fighting with Cholas. Krishna- I, Nrupatunga and Krishna-III  were the pro-people rulers of the Rashtrakuta clan. During their reign, Karnataka extended up to Madhya Pradesh.


After Gangas, Hoysalas were powerful in South Karnataka. They were the first tetrarch of Kalyana Chalukyas. After Nrupakama, Vinayaditya, Ereyanga and Ballala-I. The Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana tried to be an independent ruler but he did not succeed. Vishnuvardhana defeated Chengalvas, Alvakhedas, Ucchangi Pandyas, Devagiri Sevunas, Hanagal Kadambas and became powerful but, he could not become independent, by fully defeating Chalukyas. But his grandson Veeraballala –II in 1190 AD achieved independence by defeating Kalyana Chalukyas. The enmity of Chola and Hoysala also came to an end in this period. Someswara the grandson of Veeraballala –II  had shared the kingdom to both of his sons. Then Ramanatha made Kannur as his capital and ruled.  At that time, the attacks of Muslims were increasing. The Mallik kafar the army Commander of Alla ud din of Kilgi, the clan of Delhi, attacked the Hoysala capital, Dwarasamudra several times. In one such attack, Ballal –IV  the son of Ballal –III was captivated. Ballala -III who had dreamt to unite all Southern kings to prevent the rising of the  Muslim invasions had given administrative responsibilities to the powerful leaders at the borders of the Hoysala Empire. The Hoysala dynasty collapsed at the period of Ballala  IV. The Hoysala built many temples and contributed to Karnataka’s architecture and sculpture in a unique way. We can see Belur, Halebeedu and other excellent temples. 

Rulers of Vijayanagara

In 13th century India was shattered by Muslim attacks. In the South too, the Kakateeyas, Hoysalas, Seunas, Kampilis, Maduri rulers were attacked by Muslims. All the kings of the south united to face them. In 1336 AD. The Harihara of Sangama clan started ruling Vijayanagara. Similarly at the same time, in Gulbarga, the Bahamani Sultans reign also started.  The Harihara who was ruling with the help of his brothers expanded his empire. Later his younger brother Bukkaraya also expanded the kingdom. Maduri sultan was defeated. Harihara-II the grandson of Bukkaraya suppressed the riots of Cholas and Pandyas and also defeated Srilankan Kings. After Harihara –II, Devaraya came to the throne in the fight of power. With the help of some Hindu kings, Bahamani Sulthan, Firoz Shah fought against Devaraya. Devaraya won the battle and expanded the Vijayanagara Kingdom up to the East coast of Andhra Pradesh. Devaraya established the trade contacts with Persia and Arabia and brought horses from there.  He also built a dam across the Tungabhadra.

 Devaraya-II who was famous as Prowda Devaraya, the Vijayanagara empire was very popular.  The war took place twice. But no logical outcome. The capital of Bahamani Sultans was shifted from Gulbarga to Bidar. The Devaraya -II collected taxes and gifts from many rulers and honored all religions.  In his period, the Persia’s Abdul Razak visited the Vijayanagar empire.

Last Updated: 07-05-2020 02:51 PM Updated By: Admin