The Rashtrakutas – Rulers, Administration & Architecture

The Rashtrakutas

  • The term ‘rashtrakuta’ means designated officers-in-charge of territorial division called rashtra. They originally belonged to Lattatura or modern Latur of Maharashtra.
  • They were feudatories under the Chalukyas of Badami. The Rashtrakutas were descendants of the nobles who governed under the Andhras. They were follower of Jainism.
  •  An Arabic text, Silsilat al-Tawarikh (851), called the Rashtrakutas one of the four principal empires of the world.
  • The sources for Rashtrakuta history include medieval inscriptions, ancient literature in the Pali language, contemporaneous literature in Sanskrit and Kannada and the notes of the Arab travellers.
  • Dhantidurga (735-756) established this kingdom.


    • The Rashtrakutas considered themselves descendants of Satyaki.
    • Historians differ on the question of their origins.
    • It is evident from a few Chalukya kings’ inscriptions that they were vassals of the Chalukyas.
    • Rashtrakutas were of Kannada origin and their mother tongue was Kannada.


    • Dantivarman or Dantidurga (735 – 756) was the founder of the Rashtrakutas Empire of Manyakheta. His capital was situated in Gulbarga area of Karnataka.
    • Dantidurga occupied all territories between the Godavari and Vima.
    • He defeated the Chalukyas in 753AD and took the titles Rajadhiraja and Parameshvara. Further he defeated the kings Lata, Malwa, Tanka, Kalinga and Sheshas (Nagas) in focal India and performed numerous penances.
    • In spite of the fact that he vanquished the Chalukya Empire the Chalukya Emperor Kirtivarman II held control over his southern regions up to 757AD.

The Rashtrakutas Emperors

Rashtrakuta Emperors (753-982)
Dantidurga (735 – 756)
Krishna I (756 – 774)
Govinda II (774 – 780)
Dhruva Dharavarsha (780 – 793)
Govinda III (793 – 814)
Amoghavarsha (814 – 878)
Krishna II (878 – 914)
Indra III (914 -929)
Amoghavarsha II (929 – 930)
Govinda IV (930 – 936)
Amoghavarsha III (936 – 939)
Krishna III (939 – 967)
Khottiga Amoghavarsha (967 – 972)
Karka II (972 – 973)
Indra IV (973 – 982)

Krishna I (756 – 774)

      • Krishna I succeeded Dantidurga.
      • He conquered the territories that were still under the Chalukyas.
      • He effectively battled the Western Ganga Dynasty King Sripurusha (and obtained some domain in Gangavadi, present day Southern Karnataka) and the Shilaharas of South Konkan.
      • He also occupied Konkan.
      • Krishna I also defeated Vishnuvardhana of Vengi and the Ganga king of Mysore.
      • He was a great patron of art and architecture.
      • The Kailash Temple at Ellora was built by the Rashtrakuta King Krishna I. He was in charge of building 18 Shiva temples.

Govinda II (774 – 780)

      • Govinda II son of Krishna I succeeded. He left the administration to his younger brother named Dhruva Dharavarsha.

Dhruva (780 – 793)

      • One of most striking rulers of the Rashtrakuta Empire.
      • He defeated Gurjara-Pratihara King Vatsyaraja, the Pallavas of Kanchi and the Pala King Dharmapala of Bengal.

Govinda III (793 – 814)

      • Son of Dhruva, Govinda III succeeded the throne.
      • He was militarily the best emperor of the tradition with fruitful successes from Cape Comorin in the south to Kannauj in the north, from Banaras in the east to Broach (Bharuch) in the west.
      • He defeated the great Gurjara King Nagabhatta II.
      • Pala King Dharmapala and his protégé Charayudh sought the help of Govinda III.
      • His kingdom spread up to the Vindhyas and Malava in the north and the river Tungabhadra to the south.

Amoghavarsha I (814- 878 A.D.)

      • The greatest king of the Rashtrakuta dynasty was Amoghavarsha I son of Govinda III.
      • Amoghavarsha I set up a new capital at Manyakheta in the Gulbarga region (now Malkhed in Karnataka State) from Mayurkhandi in the Bidar and Broach became the best port of the kingdom during his reign.
      • Amoghavarsha I was an expert writer and researcher. He composed the Kavirajamarga, the most punctual surviving abstract work in Kannada, and Prashnottara Ratnamalika, a religious work in Sanskrit.
      • Amoghavarsha I was a great patron of education and literature.
      • Amoghavarsha was converted into Jainism by Jinasena, a Jaina monk.
      • Suleman, an Arab merchant, in his account called Amoghavarsha I as one of the four greatest kings of the world, the other three being the Caliph of Bagdad, the king of Constantinople and the emperor of China.
      • Amoghavarsha ruled for 63 years.

Krishna II (878 – 914)

      • Son of Amoghavarsha, succeeded the throne.
      • The rule of Krishna II saw huge advances in writing, in spite of the fact that in the issues of development of the domain, his rule was blended.

Indra III (914 -929)

      • Indra III was a powerful king.
      • He defeated and deposed Mahipala.

Krishna III (939 – 967)

      • The last powerful and efficient king of the Rashtrakutas.
      • He was a wise manager and adroit military campaigner. He pursued numerous wars to bring back the wonderfulness of the Rashtrakutas and assumed an essential part in revamping the Rashtrakuta realm.
      • He also succeeded in conquering Tanjore and Kanchi and in defeating the Tamil kings of Chola kingdom.

Karka (972 – 973)

      • The Rashtrakuta King Karka was defeated and deposed by Taila or Tailapa, the Chalukya king of Kalyani.

Administration of Rashtrakutas

Division of Kingdom
    • The kingdom was categorised into rashtras (provinces or regions), contolled by rashtrapatis.
    • Rashtras was divided into vishayas (districts), governed by vishayapatis.
    • Beneath the Vishaya was the Nadu took care of by the Nadugowda or Nadugavunda sometimes there were two such officials, one assuming the position through heredity and another appointed centrally.
    • Subdivision was bhukti consisting of 50 to 70 villages under the control of bhogapatis.
    • The most minimal division was a Grama or village administered by a Gramapathi or Prabhu Gavunda.
    • Village headmen carried on village administration.
    • Village assemblies played a significant role in the village administration.
  • The most important position under the king was the Chief Minister (Mahasandhivigrahi). Under him was the commander (Dandanayaka), the foreign minister (Mahakshapataladhikrita) and a prime minister (Mahamatya or Purnamathya), all of whom were usually associated with one of the feudatory kings and must have held a position in government equivalent to a premier.
  • The Rashtrakuta army consisted of large contingents of infantry, horsemen, and elephants.  Large armies were also maintained by the feudatory kings who were expected to contribute to the defence of the empire in case of war.
  • The Rashtrakutas issued coins (minted in an Akkashale) such as Suvarna, Drammas in silver and gold weighing 65 grains, Kalanju weighing 48 grains, Gadyanaka weighing 96 grains, Kasu weighing 15 grains, Manjati with 2.5 grains and Akkam of 1.25 grain.

Literature under Rashtrakutas

    • Rashtrakutas widely patronized the Sanskrit literature. Kannada became more prominent as a literary language during the Rashtrakuta rule with its script and literature showing remarkable growth, dignity and productivity.
    • During the period of the Rashtrakutas, the Kannada literature saw its beginning.
    • Trivikrama wrote Halayudha composed Kavirahasya during the reign of Krishna III.
    • Jinasena composed Parsvabhudaya, a biography of Parsva in verses.
    • Gunabhadra wrote the Adipurana, the life stories of various Jain saints.
    • Sakatayana wrote Amogavritti a grammar work.
    • Important mathematical theories and axioms were postulated by Mahaviracharya, a Great mathematician of this period, patronised by King Amoghavarsha I. His greatest contribution was Ganitasarasangraha, a writing in 9 chapters.
    • Kavirajamarga composed by Amogavarsha I was the first poetic work in the Kannada language.
    • The Jain writer Adikavi Pampa was the greatest of the Kannada poets became famous for Adipurana it is the life history of the first Jain tirthankara Rishabhadeva and Vikramarjuna Vijaya is his other notable work the author’s version of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, with Arjuna as the hero.
    • Santipurana was another great work wrote by Sri Ponna another famous Kannada poet. He earned the title Ubhaya Kavichakravathi (supreme poet in two languages) for his command over both Kannada and Sanskrit.

Art and Architecture of Rashtrakutas

    • The Rashtrakutas contributed much to the architectural heritage of the Deccan.
    • The Rashtrakuta contributions to art and architecture are reflected in the splendid rock-cut cave temples at Ellora and Elephanta
    • The most extensive and sumptuous of the Rashtrakuta works at Ellora is their creation of the monolithic Kailasanath Temple, a splendid achievement confirming the “Balhara” status as “one among the four principal Kings of the world”. The walls of the temple have marvellous sculptures from Hindu mythology including Ravana, Shiva and Parvathi while the ceilings have paintings.

Kailasanatha Temple

      • The Kailasanath Temple project was commissioned by King Krishna I after the Rashtrakuta rule had spread into South India from the Deccan. The architectural style used is Karnata Dravida.
      • The temple is carved out of a massive block of rock measuring 200 feet long, and 100 feet in breadth and height.
      • The central face of the plinth has imposing figures of elephants and lions which give an impression that the entire structure rests on their back
      • It has three-tiered sikhara or tower which resembles the sikhara of the Mamallapuram rathas
      • There is a pillared hall with 16 square pillars in the interior of the temple
      • A sculpture of the Goddess Durga is engraved as slaying the Buffalo demon.
      • In the interior of the temple there is a pillared hall which has sixteen square pillars.
      • The sculpture of the Goddess Durga is shown as slaying the Buffalo demon.
      • In another sculpture Ravana was making attempts to lift Mount Kailasa, the abode of Siva.


      • Originally called as Sripuri, Elephanta is an island near Bombay.
      • The Portuguese named it as Elephanta after seeing the huge figure of an elephant.
      • The sculptures in Ellora and Elephanta has close similarities
      • There are huge figures of dwara-palakas at the entrance to the sanctum.
      • Trimurthi is the most magnificent figure of this temple. The sculpture is six metres high and said to represent the three aspects of Shiva as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer.
      • Famous sculptures at Elephanta include Ardhanarishvara and Maheshamurthy.
    • Other well-known temples are the Parameshwara temple at Konnur, Brahmadeva temple at Savadi, the Settavva, Kontigudi II, Jadaragudi and Ambigeragudi temples at Aihole, Mallikarjuna temple at Ron, Andhakeshwara temple at Huli (Hooli), Someshwara temple at Sogal, Jain temples at Lokapura, Navalinga temple at Kuknur, Kumaraswamy temple at Sandur, numerous temples at Shirival in Gulbarga, and the Trikuteshwara temple at Gadag which was later expanded by Kalyani Chalukyas.

Religion of Rashtrakutas

    • The Rashtrakuta kings supported the popular religions of the day in the traditional spirit of religious tolerance. Some claim the Rashtrakutas were inclined towards Jainism since many of the scholars who flourished in their courts and wrote in Sanskrit, Kannada and a few in Apabhramsha and Prakrit were Jains.
    •  King Amoghavarsha I was a disciple of the Jain acharya Jinasena and wrote in his religious writing, Prashnottara Ratnamalika. The mathematician Mahaviracharya wrote in his Ganita Sarasangraha, “The subjects under Amoghavarsha are happy and the land yields plenty of grain. May the kingdom of King Nripatunga Amoghavarsha, follower of Jainism ever increase far and wide.”
    • However, the Rashtrakuta kings also patronized Hinduism’s followers of the Shaiva, Vaishnava and Shakta faiths. Almost all of their inscriptions begin with an invocation to god Vishnu or god Shiva.
    • The famous Kailasnatha temple at Ellora and other rock-cut caves attributed to them show that the Hinduism was flourishing. Their family deity was a goddess by name Latana who took the form of a falcon to save the kingdom.
    • Lord Dantidurga performed the Hiranyagarbha (stallion penance) and the Sanjan and Cambay plates of King Govinda IV notice Brahmins performing such ceremonies as Rajasuya, Vajapeya and Agnishtoma.
    • In short, the Rashtrakuta rule was tolerant to multiple popular religions, Jainism, Vaishnavaism and Shaivism. Buddhism too found support and was popular in places such as Dambal and Balligavi, although it had declined significantly by this time.
    • The decline of Buddhism in South India began in the 8th century with the spread of Adi Shankara’s Advaita philosophy.
    •  Jumma Masjids existed in the Rashtrakuta Empire by the 10th century and many Muslims lived and mosques flourished on the coasts, specifically in towns such as Kayalpattanam and Nagore.

Language of Rashtrakutas

    • With the ending of the Gupta Dynasty in northern India in the early 6th century, major changes began taking place in the Deccan south of the Vindyas. These changes were not only political but also linguistic and cultural.
    • The royal courts of peninsular India interfaced between the increasing use of the local Kannada language and the expanding Sanskritic culture.
    • Educational institutions and places of higher learning (ghatikas) taught in Sanskrit, the language of the learned Brahmins, while Kannada increasingly became the speech of personal expression

Society of Rashtrakutas

    • Chronicles mention more castes than the four commonly known castes in the Hindu social system, some as many as seven castes. Al-Biruni, the famed 10th century Persian Indologist mentions 16 castes including the 4 basic castes of Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudras.
    • The careers of Brahmins usually related to education, the judiciary, astrology, mathematics, poetry and philosophy or the occupation of hereditary administrative posts.
    • Admitting Kshatriyas to Vedic schools along with Brahmins was customary, but the children of the Vaishya and Shudra castes were not allowed.
    • Landownership by people of all castes is recorded in inscriptions. Women and daughters had rights over property and land as there are inscriptions recording the sale of land by women.
    • Inter-caste marriages in the higher castes were only between highly placed Kshatriya girls and Brahmin boys, but was relatively frequent among other castes. Inter-caste functions were rare and dining together between people of various castes was avoided.
    • Sati was practiced but the few examples noted in inscriptions were mostly in the royal families.

Other facts of Rashtrakutas

    • Vaishnavism and Saivism flourished during their period.
    • Active commerce witnessed between the Deccan and the Arabs.
    • They stimulated the Arab trade by maintaining a friendship with them.

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