The legendary story of Pulakeshin-II
When the Chalukya emperor Kirtivarman died in the 6th century CE, his son Ereya was still very young to be named as the king. So his brother Mangalesha became the regent and took up the throne till Ereya would come of age to assume the throne. But Mangalesha refused to give up his position once Ereya came of age and instead appointed his own son as the Yuvaraja. Ereya was denied his right to become the king. He left Badami or Vatapi which was the capital of the Chalukya Empire and went to Kolar to forge an alliance with the Banas and other tribes.
Ereya and his forces met with Mangalesha’s forces at Elapattu Simbige (present day Anantpur). A fiece battle was fought between the two. Ereya was able to defeat his uncle who was also killed on the battlefield. He proceeded to Pattadakal where the crown awaited him. Pattadakal as the name suggests was the place where the Chalukya kings used to be crowned. The coronation used to be held over here. Patta in Kannada means position and in this case, the position being referred is that of the king.
Ereya was crowned as the Chalukya emperor and he ascended the throne as PULAKESHIN-II or as Pulikeshi-II or as Immadi Pulikeshi. He had to deal with several challenges in order to establish his rule which was under threat from several Chalukya feudatories. Govinda and Appayika were two of his chief rivals and possible loyalists of Mangalesha as per the Aihole inscription of 634. Pulakeshin met the two on the banks of Bhima and defeated them. He built a huge pillar in Aihole to commemorate the occasion which is now famous as the Aihole inscription.
This was the beginning of a glorious reign in which the Chalukyas defeated everyone in the Deccan and the rest of Southern India. Pulakeshin defeated the Kadambas, the Gangas, the Alupas, the Vishnukundins, the Latas, the Gurjaras, the Malawas, and most notably, the Pallavas who were the perennial foes of the empire. Pulakeshin’s victories earned him great fame and the Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang who visited his court was greatly impressed by the regal city of Badami.
Hiuen Tsang has described Pulakeshin as a
man of farsighted resource and astuteness who extends kindness to all.
But Pulakeshin’s most famous moment came when he met Harshavardhana of Kannauj or Kanyakubja as it was known back then in the battlefield on the banks of the Narmada. Harsha had been invincible till then and had never lost a battle. Pulakeshin’s Northern expansion attracted Harsha’s attention. Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Chalukyas emerged victorious. Harsha was defeated and a treaty was signed between the two.
Pulakeshin assumed the title of Parameshwara, Satyashraya, Prithvivallabha, Dakshinapatheshwara after this famous victory. Harsha went back to his capital after this incident. The treaty signed between the two meant that the Narmada became the boundary between Harsha’s empire and the Chalukya empire.
This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object
can aptly describe the encounter between Harsha & Pulakeshin. An aging Pulakeshin again invaded the Pallavas in the hope of replenishing the depleting Chalukya treasury. This time however, the Pallavas who were led by Narasimhavarman were able to reverse their earlier defeats and emerge victorious. Encouraged by this victory, Narasimhavarman went all the way to Badami and met Pulakeshin in the Chalukyan capital city.
A fierce battle was fought in which the younger Narasimhavarman won and the older Pulakeshin died which ended a glorious period in history. It needed a Narasimhavarman, an equally great emperor to defeat the great Pulakeshin-II whose rule was a golden era in Indian history. Narasimhavarman occupied the city of Badami (Vatapi) and became known as Vatapikondan. Pallavas remained in control of Vatapi for 13 yrs.
Pallava general Paranjothi obtained a large booty from this victory over the Chalukyas which also included an idol of Lord Ganesha. This Ganesha idol later became the subject of the famous song in Carnatic music Vatapi Ganapatim Bhaje written by Muthuswami Dikshitar.
Pulakeshin’s son Vikramaditya-I was able to drive the Pallavas out of Badami and restore the lost glory of the Chalukyas. Pulakeshin-II must rank as one of India’s greatest ever kings, on par with likes of Shivaji, Krishnadevaraya, Chandragupta Maurya, and so on. Pulakeshin-II or Pulikeshi-II or Immadi Pulikeshi was the Chalukya emperor who ruled from 610 CE to 642 CE. He was the greatest ruler in the illustrious Chalukya dynasty and one of the greatest ever kings in Indian history.