The Puranas recongnise the greatness of the Vakatakas, known as Visdhya Sakti. For over a hundred years the Vakatakas, known as Vindhya Sakti. For over a hundred years the Vakatakas with their capital at Nandi Vardhan ensured peace and tranquility over central India and re-established the orthodox social system which had suffered considerable battering by the inroads of Kushans and Yavanas. In one of Prithivisena's inscriptions the dynasty is described as one whose economic and judicial administration had been perfected for a hundred years, a significant if vain glorious announcement of the greatness of the Vakatakas.
There are four views of the origin of Vakatakas. It is said that the Vakatakas were a northern dynasty since the Puranas maintain this view. But it is held by Jayaswal that they hailed from a place called vakataka. This view is no longer up held. The one evidence is that the Vakatakas never struck and coins in their own names, but utilized those of western Kshatrapas and later of Guptas. No early records of their have been found north of the Narbada. On the other hand there are several indications that they hailed from south. Their Sanskrit and Prakrit inscriptions are similar to those used in early pallav grants. The name Vakataka figures in an inscription of the 3rd century AD on a pillar at Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh.
One school holds the view that the Vakatakas were Brahmins by caste. Vakataka records mention of Vishnuvriddhaas the gotra of the Vakatakas. In the Basim copper plate a Vakataka prince is named Gautamiputra. Both these facts make us believe that the Vakatakas were Brahmins.
The formal establishment of Vakataka empire is placed at about 284 A.D. it is generally held that Vindhyasakti was one of the earliest kings of the dynasty. The Vakataka grants mention their gotra. It is also said that Vindhyasakti extended his king-dom and performed vedic sacrifices which were in abeyance during the rule of the later Satavahanas.
Vindhyasakti succeeded by his son Pravarasena I who was the real founder of the Vakataka empire. He extended his sway further to the north as for as to Narmada. He performed of the seven Soma Sacrifices including Vijapeya and also four Asvamedhas. Pravarasena I assumed imperial titile and his authority was well established all over Hindustan. Pravarasena is attributed a long reign of 60 years, but it is strange that he never struck any coin. There are no visible signs of their supremacy outside Vidharba. At the most south Kosala, which borders on Vidharba might have come under their in fluence. However in the south his kingdow may have extended till the Tungbhadra or a little beyond that.
According to the Puranas, Pravarasena I had four sons. All of them became Kings. It is quite likely that the extensive empire of Pravarasena I was divided among his four sons after his death.
Pravarasena's son Sarvasena established a branch of the dynasty at Bassin which in course of time extended its authority as far south as Karnataka. In fact the Vakatakas in middle India succeed to the empire of the Satavahanas and held their sway north and south of the Vindhyas, and fully earned their title of Vindhya Sakti.
Gautamiputra was the eldest son of Pravarasena. His son rudrasena I succeede Pravarasena I and ruled over the northern parts of Vidharba. Possibly he was the contemporary of the Gupta king, Samudragupta. The Gupta ruler himself never attacked the Vakataka ruler. It might have been that Samudragupta thought that it was wise not to attack a power which occupied a strategic position with respect to the powerful western Kshetrapas whom Samudragupta has not yet subjugated.
Rudrasena I was succeeded by his son Prithvisena I. This king seems to have pursued a peaceful policy which brought happiness and prosperity to his people. Probably he had a long reign which terminated about 400 AD. It was his son's alliance with the daughter of Chandragupta II that brought the Guptas and Vakatakas to gether. Prithvisena was succeeded by a son Rudrasena II, who was a devotee of Vishnu unlike his ancestors who worshipped shiva.
Rudrasena died after short reign leaving two sons who succeeded one after the other. The first son Divakar Sen'a rule was for a short period. He was succeeded by this brother Damodara Sena. More than a dozen grants of this prince have been found in different districts of Vidharbha. Probably he ruled for nearly 35 years ending with the year 455 AD.
Apart from this line, one more line of the Vakatakas was that of Narendar Sena, one of the sons of Pravarasena I. He seems to have followed an aggressive pllicy and made some conquests in the east the north. Probably he married a princess of the Rashtrakuta family. Possibly he had a short reign of about 10 years. Also by the close of his reign the territories were invaded by the Nala kings.
Prithvisena II, the son of Narendrasena, raised the prestige of the family. Tow stone inscriptions of his feudatory clearly prove the extension of the kingdom. He was also a worshipper of Vishnu. He may have been followed by one or two princes, but their names are not known to us. After the death of Prithvisena II, the kingdom was incorporated by one more branch of the Vakatakas called Vatsagluma branch.
Sarvasena was the founder of the Vatasagluma branch and he was the son of Pravarasena I. He was followed by a son Vidhyasena who is named as Vindhyasakti II in one of the inscriptions.
Vindhyasena was followed by his son Devasena. An inscription indicates that Vatasagluma was the capital of his branch of the Vakatakas.
Vindhyasena was succeeded by Devasena. He have a very righteous and capable minister named Hastibhoja. The kingdom was entrusted to his care.
Devasena was succeeded by a son Hari Sena in about 475 A.D. He was the great warrior but unfortunately much is not known about him. His conquests did not lead to permanent annexation of any territories. His minister Varahadeva caused the Ajanta cave 16 to be excavated and decorated with sculpture and picture galleries. In all likelihood the dynasty was overthrown by the Kalachuris in abouth 550 A.D.
The causes that ultimately led to the downfall of the Vakatakas are not clearly known. One of the works of Dandin throws some light. According to this the central power of the Vakataka empire became weak and the feudatories began to show signs of revolt luring the reign of Harisena's misguided successors who led a desolute life. This confusion led to the invasion of the Kadambas. Also the Vakatakas suffered a disastrous defeat and the Vakataka ruler was killed in the battle which was fought on the banks of the Wardha.
Talking of their importance the Bharasivas and the Vakatakas cannot be looked upon merely as bridge heads to the imperial Guptas. The glory of Samudragupta and his successors has obscured in a measure the great achievements of their predecessors who not only expelled the foreigners from Indian soil but re-established the imperial tradition which was threatened by Kushan intrusion. Even more it is these dynasties, more than the Guptas, that contributed to the re-establishement of Hinu society and Sanskrit culture over Hindustan as may be seen not merely from the numerous Asvamedhas performed by the kings of these dynasties but the very orthodoxy which they claim for the mselves. The growth of classical Sanskrit literature to its full greatness was also in this period for Harisena's great prasasti of Samudragupta on the Allahabad pillar bears clear evidence to the evolution and perfection of the Kavya style.
It would seem however from the inscription itself that the Vindhya and Maharashtra country the home domains of the Vakatakas, were not attacked or conquered by the Guptas. The continued existence of powerful Vakataka monarchs and their close alliance with the Guptas, under Samudragupta's successor, would seem to indicate that Samudragupta did not challenge the Vindhyan power but satisfied himself with an allience. Chandragupta II's marriage with a Vakataka princess and his own daughter Prabhavati's marriage with a Vakataka monarch are further indications of the fact that the uptas shared their imperial power with the Vindhyan State.
Chandragupta II married a Vakataka princes anmd thus allied himself with the historic imperial tradition. His daughter Prabhavati Gupta married Rudra Sena, the Vakataka king. A lady of remarkable ability she seems to have ruled the Vakataka empire as Regent for her son and in her inscriptions we see reflected the pride both of the Vakatakas and the Guptas. Chandragupta's firm alliance with this great power based on the Vindhyas enabled him to concentrate all his forces against invaders.
Despite the personal performance of the Vakatakas for Brahmanism, both Buddhism and Jainism flourished in their vst empire with liberal support of ministers and feudatories, Pravarasena performed the seven Vedic sacrifices including Asvamedha, which he performed four times. Serveral Vakataka inscriptions record grants lf land and even whole villages to pious and learned brahmins. Most of the Vakatakas kings were the followers of Shiva, whom they worshiped under the name of Maheshvara and Mahabhairava.
Some of the Vakataka kings were grant patrons of learning and were also authors of Prakrit kavyas. Sarvasena, the founder of the Vatsagulma line was the author ofa Prakrit Kavya harivijaya. This kavya has bee copiously cited by later Sanskrit poets. The capital, Vastugulma, became a great center of learning and culture.
Pravarasena - II of the elder branch of the family was also a reputed author of the Gatba Saptasati and of the famous kavyas Sethubandha composed in Maharashtra Prakrit. Dandin and bana praise the kavya Sethubandha. It is also suggested that Kalidas lived fro some time in the court of Pravarsena II and helped the king in the composition of his kavya. Probably, Kalidas composed his own lyric Meghaduta during this stya there.
In the field of architecture, a few shrines came into existence in Vidharaba at Tigowa and Nachna. The pillars in the Tigowa Shrine resemble the Indo-Persepolitan style. Status of the river goddess Ganga and Yamuna guard the entrance of the Sanctum
Regarding painting, it is stated that caves XVI, XVII and XIX belong to the Vakataka age. In the cave XVI we have a huge statue of the Dying Princes.