Vakataka Empire – Rulers of the Deccan, builders of Anjanta Caves – 250 CE – 500 CE

The Vakataka Empire was founded by Vindhyasakti around 250 CE.  Geographically the Vakataka Empire originated in the Deccan and their state was bounded by the southern edges of Malwa and Gujarat in the North, Tungabhadra River in the South, The great Arabian Sea in the West and the Chhattisgarh in the East. Historically they were the most important successors of the Satavahanas in the Deccan and contemporaries to the Guptas in the North India.

Vakataka Kingdom Map - Around 400 CE

Vakataka Kingdom Map – Around 400 CE

Vakataka Empire – Historical background

Vindhaysakti, the earliest known king in this dynasty (250 -270) is believed to have found this dynasty. His name is derived from the name of the goddess Vindhya after whom the mountains were named. He fought many battles and had a large army.  According to K.P. Jayaswal, the home place of the Vakatakas was a village named Bagat in the Jhansi district.

After Vidhyasakti, Pravarasena I (270-330) came into power. Though Vindhyasakti was the founder, he had no regal titles entitled to him. But Pravarasena called himself a Samrat (universal ruler). He fought with the Naga kings in the North East. During his kingship, the dynasty was extended to North India as well. He bought battle in the Narmada region too, with a king named Sisuka. He also invaded Dakshina Kosala, Kanlinga and Andhra.

Pravarasena’s son Gautamiputra succeeded him and then later by Rudrasena I. After Pravasena, the Vakataka family was divided into four branches.  Two branches are known but regarding the other two there are hardly any historical records. The known branches are the Pravarpura-Nandivardhana branch and the Vatsagulma branch.

Ruins of Shiva Temple at Mansar during Vakataka Empire

Ruins of Shiva Temple at Mansar during Vakataka Empire

Pravarapura-Nandivardhana branch of Vakataka Empire

The main bastions of this branch of the Vakataka dynasty were  Pravarapura (Paunar) in Wardha district and Mansar and Nandiyardhan ( Nagardhan) in Nagpur district. This branch is believed to have maintained matrimonial relationships with the Guptas. The rules in the Pravarapura-Nandivardhana can be listed as follows.

  • Rudrasena I (330 – 355)
    • Son of Gautamiputra. He ruled from Nandivardhana, near Ramtek hill, about 30 km from Nagpur.
  • Prithvisena I (355 – 380)
  • Rudrasena II (380- 385)
    • He married Prabhavatigupta, daughter of ChandraGupta.
  • Divakarasena (385- 400)
  • Prabhavatigupta (wife of Rudrasena II), Regent (385- 405)
    • After the death of her husband, she ruled as a regent on behalf of her two sons (Divakarasena and Damodarasena), and during this period practically the Vakataka realm was part of the Gupta empire.
  • Damodarasena (Pravarasena II) (400- 440)
    • He shifted the capital from Nandivardhana to Pravarapura,  and a new city was founded by him. He built a temple dedicated to Rama in his new capital.
  • Narendrasena (440- 460)
    • During his reign, Vakataka influence spread to some central Indian states
  • Prithvishena II (460- 480)
    • Last known king of the line after whose death  the kingdom was probably annexed by Harishena of the Vatsagulma branch.
Painting of Vajrapani at Ajanta Caves built by Harisen

Painting of Vajrapani at Ajanta Caves built by Harisen

Vatsagulma branch of Vakataka Empire

Founded   by Sarvasena, son of Pravarasena I. The capital of this branch was Vatsagulma, the present day Washim of Maharashtra.

  • Sarvasena (330 – 355)
    • Took the title of Dharmamaharaja, authored a book namely Harivijaya in Prakrit which is based on the story of bringing the parijat tree from heaven by Krishna
  • Vindhyasena (Vindhyashakti II) (355 – 400)
    •  Vindhyasena defeated the ruler of Kuntala, his southern neighbor.
  • Pravarasena II (400 – 415)
    • Known for his excellent, powerful and liberal rule
  • Unknown (415 – 450)
    • After the death of Pravarasena II, his son who was a minor ruled, about whom nothing is known.
  • Devasena (450 – 475)
  • Harishena (475- 500)
    • Great patron of Buddhist architecture, art and culture. The Ajanta caves are monuments of his great contributions.

Decline of Vakataka Dynasty

Nothing is known about the end of the dynasty. They were probably defeated by the Kalachuri of Mahismati.

Religion, Culture and Influences

  • The Vakatakas are noted for having been great patrons of arts, architecture and literature.
  • They led great amount of public work and their monuments are precious legacy.
  • The rock-cut Buddhist Viharas and Chaityas of Ajanta Caves were built under the patronage of Vakataka Emperor Harishena.

By: Abraham Mathew

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