The pre-historic culture of Karnataka, the hand-axe culture, compares favourable with the one that existed in Africa and is quite distinct from the pre-historic culture of North India. The early inhabitants of Karnataka knew the use of iron far earlier than the North, and iron weapons, dating back to 1200 B.C have found at Hallur in Dhaward district.
Early rulers of Karnataka
The early rulers of Karnataka were predominantly from North India. Parts of Karnataka were subject to the rule of the Nandas and the Mauryas.
The Shathavahanas (30 B.C to 230 A.D of paithan) ruled over extensive areas in Northern Karnataka. Karnataka fell into the hands of the Pallavas of Kanchi. Pallavas domination was ended by indigenous dynasties, the Kadambas of Banavasi and the Gangas of Kolar, who divided Karnataka between themselves.
The Kadamba Dynasty was founded by Mayurasharman in c. 345 A.D. Subjected to some kind of humiliation at the Pallava capital, this young brahmin gave up his hereditary priestly vacation and took to the life of a warrior and revolted aganist the Pallavas. The Pallavas were forced to recognise him as a sovereign when he crowned himself at Banavasi in Uttar Kannada Dt. One of his successors, Kakustha Varman (c. 435-55) was such a powerful ruler that even the Vakatakas and the guptas cultivated martial relationship with this family during his time. The great poet Kalidasa deems to have visited his court.
The Gangas started their rule from c. 350 from Kolara and later their capital was shifted to Talakadu (Mysore Dt.). Till the advent of the Badami Chalukyas, they were almost a sovereign power.
Later they continued to rule ove Gangavadi (which comprised major parts of South Karnataka) till the close of the 10th century as subordinates of the Badami Chalukyas and the Rastrakutas.
The Badami Chalukyas
It is the Chalukyas of Badami who brought the whole of Karnataka under a single rule. They are also remembered for their contributions in the feild of art. Their monuments are found at Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal. The first great prince of the dynasty was Pulikeshin I (c. 540-66 A.D) who built the ashwamedha (horse sacrifice) after subduing many rulers including the Kadambas.
His grandson, Pulikeshin II (609-42) built a vast empire which extended from Narmada in the north to the Cauveri in the south. In the east, he overthrew the Vishnukundins and appointed his younger brother Vishnuvardhana, the voceroy of Vengi.
The Chalukyan empire included not only the whole of karnataka and Maharashtra, but the greater part of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andra, and also parts of Orissa and Tamilnadu. Vikramaditya II (693-734) in the line defeated the Pallavas, entered the Pallava capital Kanchi victorious. The Chalukyan power was weakened in the long run by its wars with the Pallavas.
In 753, Danthidurga, the Rastrakuta feudatory of the Chalukyas, overthrew the Chalukya king Keerthivarman II, and his family inherited the fortunes of the Chalukyas.
The engraving of the celebrated monolithic Kailas temple at Ellora (now in Maharashtra) is attributed to Danthidurga’s uncle, Krishna I (756-74). Krishna’s son, Dhruva (780-93) crossed the Narmada, and after defeating celebrated princes like Vathsaraja (of the Gurjara Pratheehara family of central India) and Dharmapala of Bengal, extracted tribute from the ruler of Kanauji, ‘the seat of India’s paramountry’.
His son Givinda III (793-814) also repeated the feast when he defeated Nagabhata II, the Gujara Pratheehara and Dharmapala of Bengal and again extracted tribute from the King of Kanauj.The achievements of the Chalukyas of Badami and the Rastrakutas by defeating the rulers of Kanauj have made their erathe “Age of Imperial Karnataka”.
The Kalyana Chalukyas
The Chalukyas of Kalyana overthrew the Rastrakutas in 973, Someshwara I (10432068), succeeded in resisting the efforts of the Cholas to subdue Karnataka, and he built a new capital, Kalyana (mordern Basava Kaluyana in Bidar Dt.) The Chola king Rajadhiraja was killed by him at Koppar in 1054.
His son Vikramaditya VI (10762127) has been celebrated in history as the patron of the great jurist Vijnaneshwara, (work: mitakshara, standard work on Hindu law), and the emperor has been immortalised by poet Dilhana (haling from Kashmir) who chose this prince himself as the hero for his Sanskrit poem, Vikramankadeva Charitam.
Vikramaditya defeated the Paramaras of Centeral India thrice. In the South he captured Kanchi from the Cholas in 1085, and in the East, he conqured Vengi in 1093. His commander, Mahadeva built the Mahadeva temple at Itagi (Raichur Dt.) the finest Chalukyan monument.
Vikramaditya’s son Someshwara III (1127-39) was a great scholar. He has written Manasollasa, a Sanskrit encyclopedia and Vikrmankabhyudayam, a poem of which his father is the hero,
The Sevunas (or Yadavas) who were foundatories of the Rastrakutas and the chalukyas of Kalyana, became a sovereign power from the days of Bhillama V (1173-92) who founded the new capital Devagiri (modern Daulathabad in Maharastra).
Bhillama V captured Kalyana in 1186, and later clashed with Hoysala Ballala II at Sorarturu in 1190. Though he lost the battle.He built a vast kingdom, extending from the Narmada to the Krishna. His son Jaitugi (1192-99) not only defeated Parmara Subhata varma, but also killed the Kakatiya kings of Orangal, Rudra and Mahadeva.
Singhana II (11992247), the greatest of the Sevunas, extended the Sevuna kingdom upto the Tungabhadra. But the Servunas were defeated by the army of the Delhi Sultan in 1296, and again in 1307 and finally in 1318, and thus the kingdom was wiped out. The Sevunas have become in immortal in history by the writings of the mathematician Baskarasharya, of the great writer on music, Sharngadeva, and of the celebrated scholar Hemadri.
The Hoyasala continued the great traditions of their art-loving overlords the Kalyana Chalukyas, and their fine temples are found at Beluru, Helebidu and Somanathapura. Vishnuvardhana (11082141) freed Gangavadi from the Cholas (who had held it from 999), and in commemoration of his victory, built the celebrated Vijayanarayana (Chennakeshva) Temple at Belur.
His commander Katamalla built the famous Hoysaleshwara temple at Halebidu.
Though Vishnuvardhana did not succeed in his serious effort to overthrow the Chalukyan yoke, his grandson Balla II (11732220) not only became free, but even defeated Sevuna Bhillama V at Soraturu in 1190, after having defeated Chalukyas Someshwara IV in 1187. When the Cholas were attacted by the Pandyas in Tamilnadu, Balla II drove the Pandyas back and thus assumed the title “Establisher of the Chola Kingdom”.
Later, in the days of his son Narasimha II (1120-35), Hoysalas even secured a foothold in Tamilnadu and Kuppam, near Srirangam became a second capital of the Hoysalas.
Ballala III (12912343), the last Hoysala, had to struggle hard to hold his own against the invasion of the Delhi Sultan. He died fighting the Sultan of Madhurai. It was his commanders, Harihara and Bukka, who founded the Vijayanagra Kingdom, which later grew to be an empire.
Hoyasala age saw great kannada poets like Rudrabhatta, Janna, Harihara and Raghavanka. Hoysala temples at Beluru, Halebidu, Somanathapur, Arasikere, Amritapura etc., are wonderful works of art.
When the armies of the Delhi Sultanate destroyed the four great kingdom of the south (the Sevunas, Kakatiyas of Orangal, Hoysalas and of the Pandyas of Madhurai) it looked as if a political power following a religion quite alien to the South was going to dominate the peninsula.
Many princes including heroic Kumara Rama, a fudatory from Kamapila in Bellary dist. perished while resisting the onslaughts. When the Vijayanagara Kingdom was founded by the Sangama brothers, people wholeheartedly supported them. Tradition says that sage Vidyaranya had caused a shower of gold to finance the Sangama brothers.
Perphaps the sage succeeded in securing financial help from various quarters for the founders of Vijayanagara . Harisha founded the kingdom in about 1336, and he secured control over northern parts of Karnataka and Andhra iron coasts.
After the death of Ballala III (1343) and his son Virupaksha Ballala (in 1346), the whole of the Hoysala dominion came under his control. His brother Bukka (1356-77) succeeded in destroying the Madhurai Sultanate. It is this prince who sponsored the writing of the monumental commentary on the vedas: Vedarthaprakasha; the work was completed in the days of his son Harihara II (13772404)
Krishnadevaraya (15092529) was the greatest emperor during his time. He was also a great warrior, scholar and administrator. He secured Raichur Doab in 1512, and later marched victorious into the capitals of his enemies like Bidar (1512) Bijapur (1523) and in the East, Cuttack (1518), the capital of the Gajapatis. His rule saw the reign of peace and prosperity.
In the days of Aravidu Ramaraya (1542-65), Krishnadevaraya’s son-in-law, the four Shashi Sultans attacked the empire, and after killing Ramarya at Rallasathangadi (Rakkasagi-Tangadagi) in 1565, destroyed the capital Vijayanagara.
The Last Rulers
With the weakening of the Mughul power in the North, the Marathas came to have control over the northern districts of Karnataka. Haidar Ali, who used power from the Wodeyars of Mysore, merged the Keladi Kingdom in Mysore in 1763. Karnataka came under British rule after the overthrow of Tipu, Haidar’s son in 1799 and the Marathas in 1818 (when the Peshwa was defeated).
After having been subjected to a number of administrations during the British rule, Karnataka became a single state in 1956.