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PULAKESI II (C.610-642 A.D.):
Pulakesi II ascended the throne in C.610 A. D., and he has been rightly regarded as the ablest monarch in the Chalukyan line. It was unfortunate that he had to wait so long to adorn the throne, which, by right, belonged to him. When his uncle, Mangalesa, planned to perpetuate his own line, Pulakesi (his precoronation name was Ereya) took shelter in the territory of the Bana feudatory, declared war against his uncle, whom he defeated and killed at Elapattu-Simbige.

It was no doubt an unpleasant task; but it had to be performed. The incident reveals certain aspects of Pulakesi's character: his toughness, ambition and valour. An empire-builder needs them in ample measure.

The throne inherited by Pulakesi II was no bed of roses. The civil war that preceded his coronation had given fresh hopes to the feudatories and adventurers, some of them must have been emboldened to throw off their allegiance to the Chalukyas. As the Aihole inscription says, "the whole world was envelope in the darkness that was enemies". Pulakesi had to face the challenge of the Chiefs, Appayika and Govinda.

According to Dr. K. V. Ramesh, the "the identity of these twin-challengers is by no means certain. They were, perhaps, loyal adherents of the vanquished Mangalesa. It is even possible that atleast one of them, if not both, was Mangalesa's son. "Pulakesi confronted their army on the banks of the river Bhima. Appayika ran away from the battlefield, while Govinda surrendered.

After consolidating his position, Pulakesi II must have organized and enlarged his fighting forces. Then he embarked upon a comprehensive scheme of conquests which would overthrow his enemies and expand his dominions. He subjugated the Kadambas of Banavasi, the Gangas of Talakad and the Alupas of South Kanara. He conquered the Maurya chiefs of Konkan, and the port of Puri (modern Elephanta Island) was captured after a marine fight. It was followed by victory over the Latas, the Gurjaras and the Malavas, resulting in the annexation of the Gujarat area.

When Pulakesi II pushed forth upto the Narmada, he came face to face with Harshavardhana of Kanauj, the great ruler of the whole of North India. What followed was the clash of the titans. In a decisive battle fought on the banks of the river Narmada, Harsha lost a major part of his elephant force and beat a retreat. The Aihole inscription describes how the mighty Harsha lost his harsha (joy) when he suffered the ignominy of defeat.

The Chinese traveller Hieun-tsang describes the event thus:
"Siladityaraja (i.e., Harsha), filled with confidence, himself marched at the head of his troops to contend with this prince (i.e., Pulakesi); but he was unable to prevail upon or subjugate him".

It was indeed a great victory for the Chalukya monarch, who assumed the proud title of Parameswara (Paramount overlord) and became the supreme lord of the three Maharashtrakas, that is three big territorial divisions comprising of 99,000 villages. The three divisions appear to be the regions of the present Maharashtra, Karnataka and the western coastal tract of Konkan.

The victorious Chalukya monarch then overran Kosala, ruled by the Panduvamsis. It was followed by a resounding victory over the Eastern Gangas of Kalinga and the capture of the fort of Pishtapura (Pithapuram). He subjugated the Vishnukundins and captured the Kunala area in the Vengi region. Moving further south, Pulakesi II routed the Pallava ruler Mahendravarman I in the battle of Pullalur. The Pallava King was forced to shut himself up in his capital, Kanchi. Before this, however, as Dr. D. C. Sircar points out, the Chalukya ruler befriended the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Keralas as they were all inimical to the Pallavas.

The Chalukya victory over Mahendravarman I was, according to Prof. Nilakanta Sastri, "the first move initiating what developed into one of the persistent lines of conflict in South Indian history". Dr. K. V. Ramesh, however, thinks that the Chalukya invasion of the Pallava country occurred in the early years of the rule of Narasimhavarman I.

The accounts of Pulakesi's campaigns are provided in his Aihole inscription dated 634 A. D. It was composed by his court poet Ravikirti. It is possible that Pulakesi did not conquer all the Kingdoms in one long expedition, he did so in several expeditions undertaken at different periods.

The last days of Pulakesi II witnessed the proverbial reversal of good fortune. He had to face the Pallava invasion under Narasimhavarman I who was in a retaliatory mood. Many battles were fought between the two armies near Manimangalam, Pariyala and Suramara, in which the Chalukyas were worsted. The Pallava ruler captured and sacked Vatapi "just as the pitcher -born Agastya destroyed the demon Vatapi".

He also assumed the title of Vatapikonda (the conqueror of Vatapi). It is possible that Pulakesi II lost his life in one of these encounters against the Pallavas. It left his Kingdom in a state of gloom, and the thirteen years that followed this calamity saw a sad eclipse of the Chalukya power, when Badami remained in the hands of the Pallavas. Perhaps Fate had so decreed that a touch of deep pathos and frustration should complete the picture of a ruler who had savoured success in so ample a measure.

to be continued...


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