PALLAVAS AND CHALUKYAS
When Harshavardhana was ruling the north, the Pallavas were at the height of their power in the far south. The Pallavas were at first viceroys of the Satavahanas, about whom we have read. They later set up a kingdom of their own which lasted nearly 300 years. They had a very good university at Kanchipuram. Scholars from all over the country came to study Sanskrit at this famous place and Kanchi became the most important city of the south.
Mahabalipuram near Madras is a city of ancient temples. Huge animals have been carved out of single big piece of stone. Big rocks have been cut and shaped into beautiful shrines. All this is the work of the Pallavas. Yuan Chwang also visited Mahabalipuram. He was greatly impressed by the skill of the Pallava temple builders.
At this time, there was another power as great as the Pallavas. This was the Chalukya kingdom of the Godavari valley. The Chalukyas and the Pallavas were rivals for nearly 200 years, and both remained equally strong. Like the Pallavas, the Chalukyas had a very good navy and their merchant ships traded with many foreign countries. The people of Malaya and Indonesia treated the Chalukya sailors in a very friendly way.
As you know, Harsha once tried to conquer the south. Even he, with his riches and his great army, was defeated. Pulakesin, the king who made him return home, belonged to the great Chalukya dynasty.
SHANKARA THE GREAT TEACHER
About a hundred years after Harsha, a remarkable man was born in KeraIa. His name was Shankara. As a young boy, he was already a scholar of Sanskrit. He studied the Upanishads and other holy books of the Hindus with great interest. He used to think a great deal and ask himself many questions, such as, "What is the world?" "What is God?" "What am I?" He became a great thinker, or what grown-ups call a philosopher.
Shankara was full of energy. He set out from his home on foot to spread his teachings. Since there were no trains or cars to take him he had to walk most of the time. Wherever he went, he spoke to the people about his philosophy. When they did not agree with him, he argued with them and tried to make them understand exactly what he meant. He never got tired of debating. At last the whole country, from Kanya Kumari to the Himalayas, began to think and talk about what Shankara said. He wrote several great books on philosophy and also many devotional poems. Shankara's teaching helped the Hindu religion very much. Many Buddhists became Hindus. Slowly, no one could tell the difference between a Hindu and a Buddhist. Hinduism once again became the most important religion in India.
Shankara chose four places as centres for his teaching Badrinath in the north, Shringeri in the south, Dwaraka in the west and Puri in the east. These places are important because Shankara set up a math at each of them. There his pupils lived like sannyasis and studied his philosophy. They then went out and spread the teaching of Shankara in every corner of the country.
Acharya means 'teacher'. Shankara is famous today as Shankaracharya. He was one of the greatest teachers India ever had.
Shankaracharya died very young. He passed away in the Himalayas at Kedarnath when he was only thirty-two years old.
RAJPUTS AND CHOLAS
There are many, many stories about fearless Rajput warriors and their brave queens. For these men, nothing was worse than to run away from the battlefield to save their lives. For women, it was better to die than to be disgraced.
The Rajputs first became powerful about the time Shankaracharya lived, more than a thousand years ago. Once their kingdoms extended over almost the whole of northern India. There was a powerful family of Rajput kings called Pratiharas. The capital was at Kanauj, the old city from where Harshavardhana had once ruled his empire.
The kingdom of the Pratiharas stretched from Bihar in the east right up to the sea coast in Kathiawad. In the next chapter you will read about the Arab conquest of Sindh. It was because of the Pratiharas that the Arabs could advance no farther than they did.
There came a time when the Pratiharas lost their power in northern India. Their vast kingdom broke up and a number of small states took its place. The rulers of these states were also Rajput chiefs. Prithviraj, who is the hero in many stories, belonged to one such family called the Chauhans. It was the Chauhans who built the city of Ajmer. Another family were the Paramaras. The most famous of them was Raja Bhoj after whom the present city of Bhopal is named; it was first called Bhojpal. Raja Bhoj was learned, kind and just. Many stories are still told of his wisdom and goodness. The Chandella kings of Bundelkhand were yet another powerful ruling family. They were great builders. At a place called Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh there are many beautiful temples built by them.
Further south ruled the Cholas. One of their greatest kings was Rajaraja. He made his kingdom very large by leading his armies into many wars. He kept a powerful navy so that his kingdom could trade with other countries by sea. His navy once conquered Ceylon. There is a very famous Shiva temple at Tanjore, which Rajaraja built. On the walls are carved stories of the many victories he won. Rajaraja's son, Rajendra Chola, was also a famous king. He made his father's navy bigger and stronger, and sent it out across the seas to conquer parts of Burma, Malaya and Sumatra. He defeated the Pala kings of Bengal and called himself "the Chola who brought the Ganga south". He also built canals, lakes, and dams so that the farmers of his kingdom might always have water for their fields.
Chola workmen used to make beautiful images of their gods and of their kings and queens. These bronze statues are carefully kept in museums today. The most famous of them is the Dancing Shiva, or Nataraja, pictures of which you may have seen.
About the same time, a famous line of kings called the Palas ruled Bengal. They had ships, which sailed to Malaya and other countries across the seas. They built many beautiful temples and universities. After the Palas came the Sena kings. Of them Lakshmana Sena was the most famous. A very fine poet called Jayadeva lived at his court, Jayadeva wrote Gita Govinda, a beautiful poem about the love of Radha and Krishna. Songs from it are still sung all over the country.
You have read how India was divided into a large number of kingdoms. All these kingdoms were jealous of each other, and kept fighting amongst themselves. This took away all their energy. And when there was an attack on the country from outside, they were too weak to stand against it.