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The Kalachuris and the emergence of Basaveshwara
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The Kalachuris, who overthrew and took the place of the Chalukyas of Kalyana in the early part of the twelfth century, had a relatively short but stormy rule. The period threw up two striking personalities: An energetic, if somewhat wicked, adventurer who flouted the authority of his Chalukya master and achieved the Kalachuri independence - Bijjala. Another figure of eminence was Basaveshvara who marshaled a virile, revolutionary movement of religious and social reform, which goes by the name of Virasaiva Movement.

Origin and the Early History of the Family:
The inscriptions claim legendary origin to the family of the Kalachuris. According to a record of 1174 A. D. The founder of the family was one Soma, who was a disciple of Ashwathama. On the instructions of his preceptor, he grew beard and moustache, to save himself from the wrath of Parashurama, and thereafter the family came to be known as "Kalachuris", Kalli meaning a long moustache and churi meaning a sharp knife. However, the later records of the dynasty claim that they descended from Brahma, the Creator, who was followed by Atri and Soma (moon), and that in this illustrious lineage came such celebrities like Yadu, Haihaya and Kartavirya Arjuna. Sometimes they called themselves as belonging to the Haihaya (Chedi) family.

Dr. P. B. Desai is emphatic in his opinion that the Kalachuris did not originally belong to Karnataka and that they were immigrants from northern region, possibly from central India. They were known as Katachuris, and they had carved out an extensive empire that covered the regions of Malwa, Gujarat, Konkan and Maharashtra. However, its powerful ruler, Buddharaja, sustained a crippling defeat at hands of the Chalukya King Magalesa, which threw the Katachuri power into the limbo of obscurity.

Historians also have been able to identify several Kalachuri ruling families at Tripuri, Gorakhpur, Ratnapur, Rajpur and so on. The Kalachuris were also related to the early Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas by matrimonial alliances. It is also argued that they migrated to the south and made Magaliveda or Mangalavedhe (Mangalavada) their headquarters. They called themselves Kalanjarapuravaradhisvara, which indicates their central Indian origin. Their emblem was Suvarna Vrishabha or the golden bull. They must have started as modest feudatories of the Chalukyas of Kalyana.

The first notable chief of the Kalachuri family of Karnataka was Uchita, who is said to have been followed by Asaga, Kannam and Kiriyasaga. However under Bijjala I and his son Kannama, the Kalachuri family must have earned considerable political fame. But Kannama's son Jogama became an influential feudatory of the Chalukya Vikramaditya VI, who was matrimonially connected with the Kalachuri Chief. This trend continued during the reign of Jogama's son and successor, Permadi. Though he was only a Mahamandalesvara or a feudatory Chief, his influence in the disintegrating set-up of the Chalukya rule must have been immense.

Bijjala II (C. 1130-1167 A. D.):
Bijjala II succeeded his father, Permadi, as the Mahamandalesvara and ruled over Karhada 4,000 and Tardavadi 1,000 during the reign of Chalukya ruler, Vikramaditya VI. Bijjala was confident of his strength and had realised that under Vikramaditya's successors the Chalukya Empire was showing all the signs of weakness, which spoke of its mortality. That indeed provided him enough justification to seek independence. The Balligave inscription speaks of his attitude when it says, "Sovereignty deserves to be enjoyed by one who is a true warrior". The Chikkalagi inscription refers to Bijjala as "Mahabhujabalachakravarti".

Thus by the time Taila III ascended the Chalukya throne, the powerful Kalachuri Chief had begun to pose as a sovereign ruler. His pretensions seemed justified when the Kakatiya ruler Prola II attacked the Chalukya capital and exposed its hollowness. By 1162 A. D. Bijjala seemed to have in fact usurped the Chalukya throne by driving Taila III out of his capital. He proudly assumed the typical Chalukyan titles like Sriprithvivallabha and Parameshvara. His Harihara record says, "Just as Agastya, sprung from a jar of water, sucked the vast ocean, King Bijjala, born in the family of feudatory chiefs, subjugated the whole earth by dint of his prowess".

The hapless Taila was put to death, along with other members of the Chalukya family. So, with his hands reeking with the blood of his overlord, Bijjala like another Macbeth seized the Chalukyan crown. He then shifted his capital from Mangaliveda (Mangalavada) to the royal city of Kalyana.

Bijjala's independent rule was short; it lasted from about 1162 A. D. to 1167 A. D. During these years he fought successfully against the Hoysala King Narasimha I and the Pandya Chief of Uchchangi. He also defeated the Seunas and the Cholas, and subdued the turbulent Chiefs of Andhra and Kalinga. In administration, Bijjala is said to have introduced certain innovations. According to Dr. P. B. Desai, the secretaries of the heads of the administrative divisions were given greater importance and were, in fact, asked to keep watch over their superior officers. This was designed to curb the provincial intransigence. Bijjala reposed great trust in Kasapayya Nayaka, who rose to position of influence in the Kalachuri Kingdom. The great Virasaiva saint Basaveshvara was Bijjala's Chief treasurer.

Scholars like B. L. Rice had believed that Bijjala was a Jaina. This erroneous view was based on the evidence of later literary works like Chennabasavapurana of Virupaksha Pandita, Bijjalarayacharite of Dharani Pandita and the Bijjalarayapurana of Chandrasagara Varni. But epigraphical and many literary sources clearly indicate that Bijjala was a Saiva by persuasion. In fact the period saw a Saiva revival with which were associated the famous names of Ekantada Ramayya, Goggideva and Viruparasa. The Kalachuri ruler was evidently a Sava, but of the orthodox school, and he could not stomach the revolutionary ideas and practices of Basaveshvara. This explains Bijjala's opposition to the Virasaiva movement.

Bijjala abdicated in 1167 A. D. in favour of his second son Sovideva. But that did not prevent the eruption of trouble, which shook the Kalachuri Kingdom and took Bijjala as a victim. Some scholars have argued that the trouble was political in nature, and that evil officers like Kasapayya Nayaka engineered the conspiracy. But Dr. P. B. Desai is of the opinion that Bijjala's hostilities against the Virasaiva movement provoked violent reaction, which took the form of an open rebellion. Though Basaveshvara did not sanction violence, his followers unleashed it, and Bijjala appears to have been murdered in 1168 A. D.

Bijjala's successor, Sovideva had to confront Challenges to his powers from many sides, but the held his own, and ruled upto 1176 A. D. he was succeeded by his younger brother Mallugi, but was almost immediately overthrown by his another brother Sankama who ruled till 1180 A. D. His successors were Ahavamalla (1180-83 A. D.) and Singhana (1183-84 A. D). During this period the Kalachuri Kingdom became weak and yielded its sovereign independence to the Chalukyas, whose power, in turn, flickered for a while before going out. The Kalachuri usurpation and rule, then, was dramatic, convulsive and short-lived.


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