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Pallavas Dynasty | History of Pallavas Dynasty | Time Period, foundation, rulers, and Capital| Notes

 Table of Contents: 

  • About Pallava Dynasty
  • Rulers of the Pallava dynasty
  • The Decline of the Pallava Dynasty
  • Art and architecture of the Pallava dynasty
  • Important Temples Built by Pallava
  • Literature work of the Pallava Dynasty

About Pallavas Dynasty:

The Pallava dynasty was an ancient South Indian dynasty that ruled over the region of Tondaimandalam (present-day Tamil Nadu) from the 3rd century CE to the 9th century CE. The Pallavas were known for their patronage of art, architecture, and literature, and they made significant contributions to the cultural and architectural landscape of South India.

The origins of Pallvas are not clear. Some believe that the Pallavas were Parthian people, a tribe from Iran, whereas some believe that they are an indigenous dynasty within the southern region.

The origins of the Pallava dynasty are somewhat obscure, but it is believed that they emerged as a local chieftaincy in the Tondaimandalam region around the 3rd century CE. The earliest known Pallava ruler was Simhavarman I, who is mentioned in a 3rd-century inscription. However, the dynasty's real founder is Vishnugopa, who ascended the throne in the late 6th century.

Under the early Pallava rulers, the dynasty faced threats from neighboring kingdoms, such as the Kalabhras and the Cholas. However, the Pallavas gradually expanded their territory and established their capital at Kanchipuram, which became a center of political, religious, and cultural significance.

The Pallava dynasty reached its zenith during the reigns of Narasimhavarman I (also known as Mamalla) and his son Mahendravarman I. Narasimhavarman I was a powerful warrior king and led successful military campaigns against the Cholas and the Chalukyas. He is also credited with constructing the famous Shore Temple at Mamallapuram (also known as Mahabalipuram), which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Mahendravarman I was a great patron of art and literature and was a renowned poet himself. He promoted the growth of the Tamil language and literature and is credited with writing the earliest known surviving Tamil poem called the "Mattavilasa Prahasana." Mahendravarman I also built several cave temples and rock-cut monolithic structures, which became characteristic of Pallava architecture.

Pallava Dynasty

Rulers of the Pallavas dynasty:

  • Simhavarman I
  • Vishnugopa
  • Mahendravarman I
  • Narasimhavarman I (Mamalla)
  • Rajasimha (Narasimhavarman II)
  • Nandivarman II
  • Dantivarman
  • Aparajita

Simhavarman I: 

He is considered one of the earliest known Pallava rulers and is mentioned in a 3rd-century CE inscription. He was Buddhist. 


He is often regarded as the real founder of the Pallava dynasty and ascended the throne in the late 6th century.

Mahendravarman I: 

He was a great patron of art, literature, and architecture. Mahendravarman I ruled from the late 6th century to the early 7th century and made significant contributions to Pallava architecture.

He died in battle with the Chalukyas.

Narasimhavarman I (Mamalla): 

He was one of the most powerful and renowned Pallava kings. 

He defeated Chaulkyas king and captured Vatapi ( Badami). He assumed the title "Vatapikomda".

Narasimhavarman I ruled during the late 7th and early 8th centuries and was known for his military successes against the Cholas and the Chalukyas. He built the famous Shore Temple at Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram).

Rajasimha (Narasimhavarman II): 

He was the son of Narasimhavarman I and succeeded his father to the throne. Rajasimha ruled in the 8th century and continued his father's legacy of architectural patronage.

Nandivarman II: 

He was a Pallava king who ruled during the late 8th century. Nandivarman II is known for his successful military campaigns against the Chalukyas.


He was a ruler of the Pallava dynasty who ruled in the 9th century. Dantivarman faced challenges from the Rashtrakutas and the Cholas.


He was the last known ruler of the Pallava dynasty. Aparajita faced a defeat at the hands of the Chalukya king Vikramaditya II, leading to the decline and eventual end of the Pallava dynasty.

The Decline of the Pallavas Dynasty:

The Pallava dynasty faced a decline in the 8th century due to the rise of the Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas. The Chalukya king Vikramaditya II invaded the Pallava territory and defeated the last Pallava ruler, Aparajita, in the late 9th century. With this defeat, the Pallava dynasty came to an end, and their territories were absorbed by the Cholas.

Despite their decline, the Pallavas left a lasting impact on South Indian culture and architecture. Their style of temple architecture, characterized by intricately carved stone sculptures and monolithic rock-cut temples, influenced later dynasties, including the Cholas and the Vijayanagara Empire.

Art and architecture of the Pallavas dynasty

The Pallava dynasty made significant contributions to art and architecture, leaving behind a rich cultural and architectural legacy in South India. Their architectural style was characterized by intricate carvings, structural innovation, and rock-cut temples. Here are some key aspects of the art and architecture of the Pallavas:

Rock-cut Architecture: 

The Pallavas excelled in creating rock-cut temples, also known as monolithic or cave temples. These temples were carved out of single rocks, showcasing the mastery of Pallava craftsmen. Examples include the famous Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) complex, which includes monolithic structures like the Shore Temple, the Five Rathas (chariots), and the Varaha Cave Temple.

Structural Temples: 

The Pallavas also constructed structural temples using bricks and stones. These temples displayed intricate sculptures and architectural features. The Kailasanathar Temple in Kanchipuram is a notable example, featuring a pyramidal structure with ornate carvings.

Mandapas and Gopurams: 

Pallava architecture incorporated mandapas (pillared halls) and gopurams (ornate entrance gateways). Mandapas served as gathering spaces for religious ceremonies, while gopurams functioned as elaborate entrances to temple complexes. The Kanchipuram Ekambareswarar Temple and the Thiruvannamalai Arunachaleswarar Temple are known for their grand gopurams.

Intricate Sculptures: 

Sculptures played a significant role in Pallava art. The sculptures depicted deities, mythological figures, and various aspects of daily life. The sculptures were characterized by intricate details, delicate ornamentation, and lifelike expressions. The Arjuna's Penance Relief at Mahabalipuram is a famous example, showcasing a vast array of sculpted figures.

Dravidian Architectural Influence: 

The Pallava architectural style laid the foundation for the Dravidian architectural tradition, which later influenced the construction of grand temples in South India. Elements such as vimanas (towering structures), Kalasas, and pillared halls became integral parts of Dravidian temple architecture.

Rathas (Chariots): 

The Five Rathas in Mahabalipuram are monolithic structures carved to resemble chariots dedicated to different deities. Each ratha represents a different architectural style, including the Dharmaraja Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, and Draupadi Ratha.

Sculptured Caves: 

Along with rock-cut temples, the Pallavas also created sculptured caves. The Tiger Cave in Mahabalipuram is a notable example, featuring elaborate carvings of tigers.

Important Temples Built by Pallavas:

The Pallavas were known for their magnificent temple architecture, and they constructed several notable temples during their rule. 

The following are some of the prominent temples built by the Pallavas:

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram: 

The Shore Temple is one of the most famous and iconic temples built by the Pallavas. It is located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal in Mahabalipuram (also known as Mamallapuram). The temple complex consists of three shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. The intricate carvings and the architectural beauty of the Shore Temple make it a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Kailasanathar Temple, Kanchipuram: 

The Kailasanathar Temple in Kanchipuram is one of the earliest structural temples built by the Pallavas. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is renowned for its exquisite architecture. The temple features a pyramidal vimana (tower) and intricate carvings depicting various mythological stories.

Vaikuntha Perumal Temple, Kanchipuram: 

This temple, also located in Kanchipuram, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is one of the grandest Pallava temples and showcases the Dravidian architectural style. The temple complex consists of three enclosures, each containing beautifully carved pillars and sculptures.

Thirukadalmallai, Mahabalipuram: 

Thirukadalmallai, also known as Sthalasayana Perumal Temple, is a Vishnu temple in Mahabalipuram. It is one of the 108 Divya Desams, the sacred temples revered in Vaishnavism. The temple is known for its stunning sculptures and connection to the legendary story of Lord Vishnu reclining on the serpent Adisesha in the cosmic ocean.

Varaha Cave Temple, Mahabalipuram: 

The Varaha Cave Temple is a rock-cut temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It features a monolithic mandapa (hall) supported by carved pillars. The temple's main attraction is a colossal sculpture of Lord Varaha, the boar incarnation of Lord Vishnu, rescuing the earth goddess, Bhudevi.

Pancha Rathas, Mahabalipuram: 

The Pancha Rathas, also known as the Five Rathas, are monolithic temples carved out of single rocks. Each ratha (chariot) represents a different architectural style and is associated with a character from the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. The Rathas are named after the Pandava brothers and Draupadi.

Religion During Pallava Dynasty:


The Pallavas were strong patrons of Hinduism and played a crucial role in the development of the Bhakti (devotional) movement. They supported the growth of Saivism (devotion to Lord Shiva) and built several famous Shiva temples, including the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram and the Kailasanatha Temple at Kanchipuram. Shaivism flourished under their patronage, and they were responsible for the establishment of several Shaivite Matha (monastic establishments).


While the Pallavas were primarily associated with Hinduism, they also showed tolerance towards Buddhism. Some Pallava kings, like Mahendravarman I, were known for their patronage of Buddhism. However, over time, Hinduism gained prominence, and Buddhism gradually declined in the region.


Jainism also found followers and support among the Pallavas. Some of the Pallava kings, such as Mahendravarman I and Simhavishnu, were known to have built Jain temples and monasteries. However, Jainism, like Buddhism, faced a decline in popularity during the Pallava era.

Literature work of the Pallavas Dynasty:

The Pallava dynasty patronized and contributed to the growth of literature in the Tamil and Sanskrit languages. 

The following are some prominent examples of literature associated with the Pallavas:


The author of Kiratarjuniyam is Bharavi. The text is written in the Sanskrit language. It describes the fight between Lord Shiva and Arjuna. 


The author of Dashakumaracharita is Dandin. It was written in Sanskrit, and it describes the adventure of ten young men ( princes).

Mattavilasa Prahasana: 

This is a famous Sanskrit play attributed to King Mahendravarman I, who ruled during the 6th-7th centuries. It is a humorous drama that depicts the escapades of a drunkard and his companions. The play showcases the king's literary talents and provides insights into the society and culture of that time.


Silappatikaram text is not directly associated with the Pallavas, however, this is an epic Tamil poem believed to have been composed during the Pallava era. It was written by Ilango Adigal and tells the story of Kovalan and Kannagi, highlighting themes of love, betrayal, and justice. The poem provides valuable insights into the socio-cultural and economic conditions of ancient Tamil society.


Manimekalai is an epic Tamil poem believed to have been composed during the Pallava era, Manimekalai was written by Sattanar. It is considered a companion piece to Silappatikaram and is part of a larger work known as the "Five Great Epics" of Tamil literature. Manimekalai narrates the story of a young woman named Manimekalai and explores themes of Buddhism, morality, and spiritual enlightenment.

Periya Puranam: 

Periya Puranam is a Tamil devotional work, also known as "The Great Epic of the Holy Lives," written by Sekkizhar during the 12th century. While it was composed later than the Pallava period, it provides biographical accounts of the lives of the 63 Nayanars, the saintly devotees of Lord Shiva. The text extensively mentions the Pallava kings and their contributions to Shaivism.

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