"Telephone Director" is the epithet used by a Chinese scholar to summarise the nature of the history of India. To any syperficial observer this striking epithet betrays weaknesses of India historical material, and in particular the meager date relating to dynasties like the western Chalykyas. But truly speaking the variegated nature of Indian history is more occasioned by the vastness of the country than anyting else. Besides, the essential harmony and the subtlecontinuity of Indian history are overlooked because of non-appreciation of its underlying currents.
The origin of Chalukyas (early/western/Badami/Vatapi) is controversial. Bilhana, the author of Vikramanka-deyagharita, the court poet of Vikramaditya VI, and the later Chalukya inscriptions, lay claim to Ayodhya as their ancestral home. Some regard them as related to the Gurjaras. What ever might be their origin, by the mid 6th century A.D., pulakesin I carved out a small area around Vatapi or Badami. He performed an asvamedha ceremony. His successor was kirtivarman who conquered both konkan and north Kerala. Many other conquests are attributed to him but the claim cannot be substantiated. His successor was Mangalesa who conquered the Kadambas and the Gangas. He was killed and succeeded by his nephew, Pulakesin. The Aihole inscription of Pulakesin Ii deals with the history of this dynasty.
The Chalukya power reached its zenith under Pulakesin II (609 to 642 A.D.). To begin with, he subjugated his rebellious feudatories and neighbours. He Captured the capital of the Kadambas; overawed the Ganges of Mysore; and subdued the Mauravas of North Konkan. The latas of Gujarat, the Malavas, and the Gurjars also submitted to him. King harsha ws defeated by him. Another victim was the Pallava king, Mahendra varman. The Cholas, the Keralas and the Pandyas submitted to him. He occupied Pistapura and installed his Brother, Kubja-Vishnuvardhana, as his representative. But in 642 A.D. the Pallava king, Narasimha Varman, stormed Vatapi and probably killed pulakesin II, this ws followed by a periof of confusion from 642 to 655 A.D.
Pulkesin II maintained friendly relations with Khusru II, the king of Persia. The reception given to the Persian Mission is depicted in one of the Ajanta cave paintings. Hieun-Tsand visited his kingdom. He describe it as rich and fertile. "The inhabitants were proud-spirited and war-like, grateful for favour and revengeful for wrongs, self-sacrificing towards suppliants in distress and sanguinary to death with any who trated them insultingly." About Pulkesin II, the traveler observes, "His plans and undertakings are widespread and his munificient actions are felf over a great distance.
After his death, the Chalukya dynasty was in an eclipse, His son Vikramadiya I (655 to 680 A.D.) plundered the Pallava capital, Kanchi. Vikramaditya's successors, Vinayaditya and Vijayditya, were powerful rulers. During the reign of Vikramaditya II the Pallavas were once more defeated. Probably, he drove back the Arab intrusion into southern Gujarat. His son, Kirti, Varman II, was defeated by the Rashtrakuta ruller, Dantidurga, in 753 A.D. and with him the history of the dynasty to an end.
Regarding their achievements, the first was their maritime power. It is said that Pulkasin, with a hundred ships, attacked and captured the capital ofa bostile state. The central government of Chalukyas exercised a paternalistic control over village administration. This is unlike the administrative practices of south India. The Chalukyas recieveda limited income from land. Added to this, the earnings from tradewere not considerable. Muc of what the State earned was spent on army. The standing army was supplemented and cavalry. Often, army officers were sued in civil administration. Whenver an emergency arose.
Regarding religion, the Chalukya kings were Hindu brahmins but they respected other faiths too. The Chinese traveler noticed more than one hunred Buddhist monasteries. Buddhism was on the decline although Hieun-Tsang opined that it was popular. Jainsim enjoyed royal patronage. Buddism gradually gave way to Jainism and Brahminis. Sacrifices were given great importance and many treaties were written on them. The king himself performed a number of sacrifices including Asvamedha and Vajpeya. Despite this stress on the orthodox form of Hindu religion, the Puranic version grew popular. It was this popularity that gave momentum to the bulding of temples in honour of Vishnu. Shiva and other gods.
Regarding architechture, the Chalukyas perfected the art of stone-building stone finally joined without maortar. Under the auspices of the Chalukyas, the Buddhists and the brahmins built cave temples. The cave frescoes began earlier but thefinest speciments of them belonged to the Chalukyaa are of the 5th and 6th centuries. The murals depict both religious and secular themes. In the first monastic hall of the Ajanta one mural depict the reception given toa Persian embassy by Pulakesin II. The temples of Chalukyas belong to the Deccan style. His tradition began earlier in the rock-cut temples of Elephanta. The aihole and Badami temples of the Chalukyas represent the Deccani style. This style reached its culmination in the Kailash temple of Ellora a Rashtrakuta achievement.
The cave temples of the Chalukyas were the counter-parts of Buddhists save temples as borne out bytheVishnu temple at Badami. Apart from this feature, the Chalukyan temples were stone-built-stone finely joined without morat like the temple of Shiva at Meguti. This temple has a prasasti on Pulakesin composed by Ravikriti. Out of all their temples, the best reserved is the Vishnu temple at Aihole. It bears an inscription of Vikramaditya II and is built on the lines of the Buddhists Cahitya-hall. One more temple is the favous Virupakasha temple at Pattadakal. This temple has a pillared mandapam or meeting place for people. The roof is supported by sixteen monolithic pillars with sculptured bracket capitals.
The Chalukyas erected a large number of temples at Aihole. This particular style was follwed in the close by towns and Badami and Pattadakal. Aihole had 70 temples, whereas, Pattadakal had 10 temples. In the latter are found the famous temples of Papanatha and Virupakasha. The walls of the temples are adorned with beautiful sculptures representing scenes of Ramayana.
After the eight century land grantswere made to these temples, a common feature of temple maintenance in South India. The evidence relating to this aspect is recorded on the walls of the temples. Also the Jaina followers erected some temples in Karnataka during the dyas of the Chalukays.
The Chalukya temples were an evolution of the gupta shirne. However, at the apex of their glory, the Chalukyan temples bear evidence to both the northern and Dravidian styles of architechture. The examples of this development are the rock-cut temples in Elephanta. The Kalidashnatha temple built during the days of Rashtrakutas is an example of transition from rock-cut to the free-standing style.
Sanksrit was thelanguage of the day. Vernaculars also came to be developed. An inscription of the seventh century mentions Kannada as the local language, and Sanskrit the language of the elite.
Thus, even though the delineation of the political history of the Chalukays is quite dull, their importance consists in their having continued the traditions of India. Thus, even though the history of India appears to be a Jig-saw puzzle, there is a pattern underlying it.