Pulakesi II is considered to be the greatest of the Chalukya kings. It was during his period that the kingdom covered vast territories over most of South India, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh
His Early Years
Pulakesi II was the son of Kirtivarman I. His original name was Ereya. At the time of Kirtivarman’s death in 597 CE, Ereya was still a boy, so his uncle Mangalesa ruled the kingdom as regent. However, when Ereya became old enough to ascend the throne, Mangalesa had become used to the power and privileges of being the ruler, and he refused to give up the throne.
Ereya had to take shelter in Bana territory which corresponds to the modern Kolar region. He soon gathered together his supporters and challenged Mangalesa. Mangalesa was defeated and killed, and Pulakesi ascended the throne. His reign lasted from 610 to 642 CE.
Pulakesi had to spend some time quelling rebellion within his own kingdom and taking on a few supporters of Mangalesa. He had to confront and defeat Mangalesa’s sons. But once all this was done, the Chalukya Kingdom settled down for a period of prosperity and expansion.
His Significant Achievements
Pulakesi then strengthened his military forces and turned his attention to the task of expanding his kingdom.
He defeated the Kadambas, Gangas and Alupas, and thus brought Banavasi, Talakad and South Kanara firmly under his control. He then captured the Konkan area and the port of Puri. He later annexed Gujarat and married the daughter of the Ganga King Durvinita.
He defeated the rulers of Eastern Deccan and brought the area under his rule. He appointed his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana as the ruler of this portion of his territory. It was Vishnuvardhana who was the founder of the other branch of Chalukyas, the Eastern Chalukya Dynasty.
Pulakesi then turned his attention to the south. At that time, the three major rulers in India were Harshavardhana in the North, Pulakesi II in Central India and the Deccan, and Mahendravarman of the Pallava Dynasty in the South.
Pulakesi, with the help of Durvinita and the Pandya king Jayantavarman, laid siege to the Pallava capital Kanchi. The Pallavas lost the northern part of their kingdom to Pulakesi, but they saved their capital.
Pulakesi then decide to test his strength against the strongest empire at that time, the vast territories of Harshavardhana. In a battle fought near the Narmada River, Harshavardhana suffered a defeat at the hands of Pulakesi and had to retreat deeper into his territory.
The two kings then entered into a treaty which declared Harsha to be the ruler of all territories to the North of the Narmada River and Pulakesi was the sovereign of all territories to the south of the river. Pulakesi II then assumed the title Dakshinapadeshwara i.e., Lord of the Southern Region.
His Later Days
In the latter part of his rule, Pulakesi had to suffer severe reversals. He tried once again to capture the Pallava territory. This time though, he had to face Narasimhavarman I, the son of Mahendravarman. The Pallava army under Narasimhavarman and his army commander Paranjoti defeated the Chalukyas and forced them to leave their territory.
Later, Narasimhavarman led the Pallava army to the Chalukya capital, and captured and sacked the city of Vatapi. Pulakesi is believed to have been killed during one the battles fought in the course of the Pallava siege of Vatapi.
The Chalukya dynasty reached its zenith at the height of Pulakesi’s reign. He sent emissaries to the court of the Shah of Persia, and received the Persian ambassador at his capital. The Chinese traveler Huan Tsang visited the Chalukya kingdom during his reign and recorded the prosperity of his kingdom.
Pulakesi II standardized the currency of his kingdom by issuing gold coins with the emblem of the Chalukyas, the Boar, embossed on them. In fact these currencies were so prominent at the time that gold coins were referred to in the South as Varahas (meaning boars).
Pulakesi II had five sons. After his death, his sons fought among themselves for the kingdom and it was his third son Vikramaditya who emerged victorious. Vikramaditya then set about trying to restore the Chalukya fortunes, and did succeed to a great extent.