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Indian Subcontinent >> India >> Karnataka >> History of Karnataka

History of Karnataka

The people of Karnataka are Dravidians, the ethnic group that is thought to have originally settled the Indus Valley. Archaeological evidence shows that by 1200 BC people in this area were already using iron tools. The earliest rulers were not indigenous but in fact, essentially north Indian. The large empires of the Nandas, the Mauryas and the Satvahanas (ending 230 AD) included the region that is now called Karnataka. The earliest rulers from southern India were the Pallavas who had their base in present day Tamil Nadu. Subsequently, as these empires disintegrated and the pale of their influence waned, the region came to be ruled by competing local families, the Kadambas and the Gangas. Pallava domination ended around 345 AD with the founding of the Kadamba dynasty.

The Gangas and the Kadambas split the region between them and it was to be thus till the Chalukyas of Badami came to power. The Chalukya king Pulakeshin lay the foundations of one of the most important kingdoms of the Deccan; his son, Pulakesin II, proved a more than worthy successor. The Chalukya Empire came to encompass a substantial part of the Deccan, including, at its peak, parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. Continuous skirmishes with the Pallavas took their toll eventually, and in 753 AD, an ‘upstart’ feudal underling, Danthidurga overthrew the Chalukyan ruler. The new era was that of the Rashtrakutas. This was an era of expansion and even Kanauj had to bow to their dominance.

The Chalukyas of Kalyana, who were in turn succeeded by the powerful Hoysalas, followed the Rashtrakutas. The tradition of patronage for the arts and temple building established by the Chalukyas was continued by successive dynasties and many of Karnataka’s famous temples date from their time. The Hoysalas established the Chola Kingdom around 1190. A hundred and fifty years later, the south was enmeshed in a struggle against the Delhi Sultanate. Ballala III in 1343 died in this struggle. His commanders, Harihara and Bukka came to found one of the most famous, stable and prosperous southern kingdoms – the Vijayanagar Empire. The most eminent Vijaynagar ruler was Krishnadevaraya. A patron of the arts and a fearless warrior, it is his rule that is quoted as the brightest chapter of the Vijayanagar story.

The Vijayanagar kings did finally succumb to the Madurai Sultans in 1565 when their capital was sacked. As the grip of the Mughals loosened, Marathas in the west and the Sultans of Mysore came into their own. The Marathas took over parts of northern Karnataka and the Haider Ali and later, Tipu the southern parts. By 1763 most of the old Vijayanagar kingdom was under Tipu Sultan. With the defeat of Tipu at Srirangapatnam in 1799 and that of the Marathas in 1818, all of Karnataka passed into British India.

In 1956 Karnataka formally became a state of the Republic of India.

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