All About Rashtrakutas Dynasty

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All About Rashtrakutas Dynasty-Image




GS-I: Art & Culture

GS-I: Ancient History

1 min read

Prelims: History of India and Indian National Movement

Mains: Indian Culture - Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

How did the Rashtrakuta Dynasty emerge?

The Rashtrakutas, who were bidding their time to capture Kannauj from Pratiharas, succeeded in their motive and continued to rule until the 10th century CE. 

  • Descendance: They claimed descent from the Rastikas or Rathikas, an important clan living in the Kannada-speaking region and mentioned in the edicts of Ashoka.
  • Region: The heart of the Rashtrakuta empire included nearly the entire present-day Karnataka, Maharashtra and parts of Andhra Pradesh.
Rashtrakutas Dynasty

What is the political history of the Rashtrakuta dynasty?

Some of the important kings of the Rashtrakuta dynasty and their significance:


Rashtrakutas - Kings - Significance
Period: 753 -982 CE.Capital: Manyakheta (Malkhed)
Dantidurga (735-756 AD)
  • Founder of the Rashtrakuta dynasty. 
  • Overthrew the Chalukyas and established the Rashtrakuta Kingdom.
Krishna I (756-774 AD)
  • Expansion of the empire: Successfully expanded the kingdom's territory.
    • Defeated the Pallavas and established Rashtrakuta dominance over parts of present-day Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Contribution to architecture: 

Kailasanatha Temple (Ellora)

  • The art of sculpting started during his reign.
  • Largest rock-cut Hindu structure at Ellora.
    • Represents the climax of the rock-cut phase of Indian Architecture.
    • It is similar to the Lokesvara temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka.
    • The best specimens of sculpture inside the temple are:
      • The sculptured panels of Dasavatara Bhirava, 
      • Ravana shaking the Mount Kailasa, 
      • Dancing Shiva and Vishnu, and 
      • Lakshmi listening to music.
Dhruva (780-793)
  • Expansion of the empire: Defeated both the Pratihara king Vatsaraja and the Pala king Dharmapala. 
    • After his successful campaigns in the north, he added the emblem of Ganga and Yamuna to his imperial insignia.
Govinda III (793-814 AD)
  • Expansion of the empire: Fought successfully against the Pala king Dharmapala and Chakrayudha, the ruler of Kanauj. 
    • Shattered the confederacy of the Ganga, Chera, Pandya and Pallava rulers in the south.
Amoghavarsha I (814-878 AD)
  • Faith: He is better known for his literary and religious inclinations. 
    • He was more drawn to Jainism's tenets. 

Contribution to Literature: He was a great patron of literature.

  • He wrote Kavirajamarga, which is the earliest Kannada work on poetics.
  • He also wrote Prasnottaramalika, a Sanskrit work.

Contribution to architecture: He built the capital city, Manyakheta so as to excel the city of Indra.

  • There are five Jain cave temples at Ellora ascribed to his period.
Indra III (914-929)
  • Expansion of the empire: He defeated the Pratihara king Mahipala I and plundered his capital Kanauj. 
    • Arab traveller AI-Masudi called him the greatest king of India.
Krishna III (939-967)
  • Expansion of the empire: He was engaged in a struggle against the Paramaras of Malwa and eastern Chalukya of Vengi. 
    • He also launched a campaign against the Chola ruler of Tanjore, and his armies reached Rameshwaram, where he built a pillar and a temple.

Contribution to Literature: He patronaged poets Pampa and Ponna

  • Together, Pampa, Ponna, and Ranna earned the title ratnatraya (the three gems).



Contributions of the Rashtrakutas to Art and Architecture

Dashavatara Temple (Ellora, Maharashtra)

  • The Hindu temple housed in Cave 15 has an open court with a free-standing monolithic mandapa in the middle and a two-storeyed excavated temple at the rear. 
  • Large sculptural panels between the wall columns on the upper floor illustrate the ten avatars of Vishnu
  • The finest relief of this cave is the one depicting the death of Hiranyakashipu, where Vishnu in man-lion (Narasimha) form, emerges from a pillar to lay a fatal hand upon his shoulder.

Elephanta Caves (Elephanta Island, Maharashtra)

  • Elephanta is an island near Bombay. It was originally called Sripuri
    • The Portuguese, after seeing the large figure of an elephant, named it Elephanta.
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The main shrine at Elephanta is artistically superior to the shrines at Ellora.
  • The sculptures such as Nataraja and Sadashiva excel even of the Ellora sculptures in beauty and craftsmanship. 
  • Ardhanarishvara and Maheshamurti are other famous sculptures. 
  • The latter, a three-faced bust of Lord Shiva, is 25 feet tall and considered one of the finest pieces of sculpture in India.
  • The paintings are still seen in the porch of the temple of Kailasa and on the ceilings of the Mahesamurti shrine at Ellora.





Contribution to Literature
  • The Jain writer Adikavi Pampa became famous for Adipurana.
  • It is written in champu style, it is the life history of the first Jain Tirthankara Rishabhadeva.
  • Vikramarjuna Vijaya is another composition of Pampa.
  • He is widely regarded as one of the most influential Kannada writers.
Sri Ponna
  • Shanti Purana was written by Sri Ponna, a Jain writer.
    • It is an account of the life of Shantinatha, the 16th Jain Tirthankara.


What was the administrative organisation of Rashtrakutas?

The Rashtrakuta Empire followed a decentralised scheme of administration. The administration of Rashtrakutas is discussed below:

Central administration:

  • Succession: Inscriptions and other literary records indicate the Rashtrakutas selected the crown prince based on heredity
    • The crown did not always pass on to the eldest son. For example, Govinda III was the third son of King Dhruva Dharavarsha. 
  • Important officers: The most important position under the king was the Chief Minister (Mahasandhivigrahi), whose position came with five insignia commensurate with his position. 
    • They are a flag, a conch, a fan, a white umbrella, a large drum and five musical instruments called Panchamahashabdas
    • Other important officers: Under Chief Minister 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 feudatories.
  • Role of women in administration: There were cases where women supervised significant areas, as when Revakanimaddi, daughter of Amoghavarsha I, administered Edathore Vishaya.


Provincial administration:

  • Rashtra: The kingdom was divided into Mandala or Rashtras (provinces). A Rashtra was ruled by a Rashtrapathi who, on occasion, was the emperor himself. During the reign of Amoghavarsha I, he had sixteen Rashtras. 
  • Vishayas: Under a Rashtra was a Vishaya (district) overseen by a Vishayapathi. Trusted ministers sometimes ruled more than a Rashtra. 
    • For example, Bankesha, a commander of Amoghavarsha I headed five rashtras; Banavasi, Belvola, Puligere, Kunduru and Kundarge.
  • Nadu: Below the Vishaya was the Nadu looked after by the Nadugowda or Nadugavunda. 
  • Grama: The lowest division was a Grama or village administered by a Gramapathi or Prabhu Gavunda.


Military administration:

  • Composition of Army: The Rashtrakuta army consisted of large contingents of infantry, horsemen, and elephants. A standing army was always ready for war in a cantonment (Sthirabhuta Kataka) in the regal capital of Manyakheta.
  •  Feudatory armies: Large armies were also maintained by the feudatory kings, who were expected to contribute to the defence of the empire in case of war.


What were the socio-religious conditions during the Rashtrakutas?

The society and religion of the Rashtrakuta kingdom were similar to the conditions of the 10th-century social and religious conditions of India.



  • Divisions: Al-Biruni, the famed 10th-century Persian Indologist mentions sixteen castes, including the four basic castes of Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudras. 
    • Lower castes: The Antyajas caste provided many menial services to the wealthy. Brahmins enjoyed the highest status in Rashtrakuta society; only those Kshatriyas in the Sat-Kshatriya sub-caste (noble Kshatriyas) were higher in status.
    • Brahmins: The careers of Brahmins usually related to education, the judiciary, astrology, mathematics, poetry and philosophy or the occupation of hereditary administrative posts. 
      • Also, Brahmins increasingly practised non-Brahmanical professions (agriculture, trade in betel nuts and martial posts. 
  • Occupation: People in the professions of sailing, hunting, weaving, cobbling, basket making and fishing belonged to specific castes or subcastes. 
  • Family system: Joint families were the norm, but legal separations between brothers and even father and son have been recorded in inscriptions. 
  • Position of women: Women and daughters had rights over property and land, as there are inscriptions recording the sale of land by women.
  • Entertainment: Dancing was a popular entertainment, and inscriptions speak of royal women being charmed by dancers, both male and female, in the king's palace. 
    • Other recreational activities included attending animal fights of the same or different species. 
  • Other developments: Astronomy and Astrology were well developed as subjects of study, and there were many superstitious beliefs, such as catching a snake alive proved a woman's chastity. 



  • Major religions: Jainism was patronised by later rulers such as Amoghavarsha I, Indra IV, Krishna II and Indra III. Buddhism declined, and its only important centre was at Kanheri. The Brahmanical religion was also popular.
  • Popular Gods: The worship of Shiva and Vishnu was popular during the Rashtrakuta reign. The seals have pictures of Garudavahana of Vishnu or Shiva seated in yogic posture. 
  • Rituals: Dantidurga performed the Hiranyagarbha ritual at Ujjayini. There are references to Tula-danas gift or offer of gold equal to one’s own weight to temple deities.


How did the Rashtrakuta dynasty decline?

  • Attack by Paramaras: In 972 A.D., during the rule of Khottiga Amoghavarsha, the Paramara King Siyaka Harsha attacked the empire and plundered Manyakheta, the capital of the Rashtrakutas. 
    • This seriously undermined the reputation of the Rashtrakuta Empire and consequently led to its downfall.
  • Immediate cause: The final decline was sudden as Tailapa II, a feudatory of the Rashtrakuta ruling from Tardavadi province in the modern Bijapur district, declared himself independent.
  • Feudatories declaring independence: With the fall of the Rashtrakutas, their feudatories and related clans in Deccan and northern India declared independence. 
  • Annexation by Western Chalukyas: The Western Chalukyas annexed Manyakheta and made it their capital until 1015 and built an impressive empire in the Rashtrakuta heartland during the 11th century. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q) What is the Champu style of writing?

Champu style of writing refers to a literary tradition in literature where verses are composed by alternating between Sanskrit and regional languages like Hindi or Tamil. It combines the beauty of both languages, creating a unique and expressive writing style.


Q) Which caves of Ellora are attributed to Rashtrakutas?

The Rashtrakuta rulers are attributed to Cave 15, Cave 16, and Cave 21 at the Ellora Caves. These caves showcase remarkable rock-cut architecture and intricate sculptures that reflect the artistic and cultural achievements of the Rashtrakuta dynasty.