The Kadamba dynasty was an ancient Indian dynasty that ruled over parts of South India, particularly the present-day Karnataka region, from the 4th to the 6th centuries CE.
The decline of the Satavahana power in the Deccan was followed by the rule of many lesser dynasties like the Chutus, the Abhiras and the Ikshvakus during the third century A.D. the Karnataka area, however emerged out of this political confusion in the following century, when the Kadambas of Banavasi rose to prominence.
The Kadambas (345–540 CE) ruled northern Karnataka and the Konkan from Vaijayanti or Banavasi in present day Uttara Kannada district.
The kingdom was founded by Mayurasharma in c. 345. Their ancestors were said to have migrated from the foothills of the Himalayas.
The Talagunda inscription also establishes Mayurasharma as the kingdom’s founder.
Kadamba dynasty was the first indigenous dynasty to use Kannada at an administrative level.
The Kadambas were contemporaries of the Western Ganga Dynastyand together they formed the earliest native kingdoms to rule the land with autonomy.
Origin of Kadambas:
There are two theories to the origin of the Kadamba dynasty, a Kannadiga origin and the other a north Indian origin.
North Indian Origin of Kadambas was found only in the later records of their offshoot descendent dynasty and is considered legendary.
Family name is derived from the Kadamba tree is commonly known about this Dynasty in South India region.
The historians claim that this kingdom belonged to Brahmin caste through Talagunda inscription or were of tribal of origin called Kadambu.
It is claimed that the family of the Kadambas were of Kanarese descent.
The Naga descent of the Kadambas has been stated in early inscriptions of King Krishna Varma I, which also confirms the family was from Karnataka.
They showed the potential of developing into imperial proportions, an indication to which is provided by the titles and epithets assumed by its rulers and the maritalrelations they kept with other kingdoms and empires, such as the Vakatakas and Guptas of northern India. These marital relationships show indication of the sovereign nature of this kingdom.
Mayurasharma defeated the armies of the Pallavas of Kanchi possibly with the help of some native tribes and claimed sovereignty.
He was the successor of Mayurasharma was defeated by Vakataka Prithvisena.
But he managed to maintain his freedom.
His son Raghu who died fighting the Pallavas was succeeded by his brother Kakusthavarma who was the most powerful ruler of the kingdom.
The Kadamba power reached its peak during the rule of Kakusthavarma.
He maintained marital relations with even the imperial Guptas of the north, according to the Talagunda inscription.
One of his daughters was married to Kumara Gupta’s son Skanda Gupta. His other daughter was married to a Vakataka king Narendrasena.
The great poet Kalidasa had visited his court.
After Kakusthavarma only Ravivarma who came to the throne in 485 was able to build upon the kingdom.
His rule was marked by a series of clashes within the family, and also against the Pallavas and the Gangas.
He is also credited with a victory against the Vakatakas, which extended his Kingdom as far north as the river Narmada.
The kingdom consisted of most of Karnataka, Goa and southern areas of present day Maharashtra.
After his death, the kingdom went into decline due to family feuds.
From the mid-6th century the dynasty continued to rule as a vassal of larger Kannada empires, the Chalukya and the Rashtrakuta empires for over five hundred years during which time they branched into minor dynasties like the Kadambas of Goa, the Kadambas of Halasi, the Kadambas of Chandavar and the Kadambas of Hangal.
The title dharma-maharaja was adopted by the Vakataka, Pallava, Kadamba, and Western Ganga kings.
Dr. Mores has identified various cabinet and other positions in the kingdom from inscriptions.
The prime minister (Pradhana),
secretary of council (Tantrapala or Sabhakarya Sachiva),
scholarly elders (Vidyavriddhas),
private secretary (Rahasyadhikritha),
chief secretary (Sarvakaryakarta),
chief justice (Dharmadhyaksha) and
other officials (Bhojaka and Ayukta).
The army consisted of officers like
The kingdom was divided into Mandalas (provinces) or Desha.
Under a Mandala was Vishayas (districts).
A total of nine Vishaya have been identified.
Under a Vishaya were Mahagramas (Taluk) and Dashagramas (Hobli).
Mahagrama had more villages than Dashagramas.
The major source of knowledge on the economy and the things that shaped it is inscriptions and literature.
Mixed farming, a combination of grazing and agriculture, dominated by the affluent Gavunda peasantry (today’s Gowdas), seemed to be the way to go, since both the amount of grain produced and the number of cattle head defined prosperity.
Several accounts indicate the giving of both grazing and cultivable land in kolagas or khandugas to either people who battled livestock thieves or their relatives.
There have been nine Vishaya discovered. There had been Mahagramas (Taluk) and Dashagramas (Hobli) under a Vishaya .
Mahagrama had a greater number of villages than Dashagramas.
Tax on one-sixth of land output was required.
Perjunka (load tax),
Vaddaravula (royal family social security tax),
Bilkoda (sales tax),
Kirukula (land tax),
Pannaya (betel tax), and
other professional charges on traders were among the levies imposed.
The Talagunda, Gundanur, Chandravalli, Halasi and Halmidi’s Sanskrit and Kannada inscription are some of the important inscriptions that throw light on Kadamba dynasty.
They minted coins a large number of coins with Nagari, Kannada and Grantha legends.
The majority of these are of gold coins and some copper coins.
Most of the coins were produced by the punching method. The main design is punched at the centre of the coin. Often, this is punched so deeply that the coin assumes the shape of a concave saucer or cup.
The Kadamba coins are generally known as padmatankas (lotus coins) as the central symbol on the obverse of most of them is the lotus. The obverse of some Kadamba coins features the lion instead of the lotus.
Language and Inscriptions:
Prakrit had the status of an official language under the early Kadamba rulers. But by the time of Kakusthavarma, Sanskrit came to be increasingly adopted. Kannada too was assuming greater importance by the 5th century A.D. as evidenced by the Halmidi inscription.
It narrates in detail about how Mayurasarma proceeded to Kanchi, along with his guru, Virasarma to receive Vedic education at Kanchi but was unceremoniously driven out by Pallavas.
Smarting under this insult, the Kadamba chief set up his camp in a forest, and defeated the Pallavas, possibly with the help of the forest tribes. Eventually, the Pallavas avenged the defeat but recognized the Kadamba authority by formally investing Mayurasharman with the royal insignia.
It also states that Mayurasharma was a native of Talagunda, (in present day Shimoga district) and his family got its name from the Kadamba tree that grew near his home.
Halmidi inscription of 450 is an evidence that Kadambas were the first rulers to use Kannada as an additional official administrative language.
Three Kannada inscriptions from their early rule from Banavasi have been discovered, also several early Kadamba dynasty coins bearing the Kannada inscription Vira and Skandha was found.
A gold coin of King Bhagiratha (390-415 CE) bearing the old Kannada legend Sri and Bhagi exists.
Recent discovery of 5th century Kadamba copper coin in Banavasi with Kannada script inscription Srimanaragi on it proves the usage of Kannada at the administrative level further.
The recently discovered Gudnapur inscription states that Mauryasharma’s grandfather and preceptor was Virasarma.
Religion & Society:
The Kadamba dynasty was followers of Vedic Hinduism.
The founder of the kadamba kingdom, Mayurasharma was a Brahmin by birth but later his successors changed their surname to Varma to indicate their Kshatriya status.
Mayurasharman is said to have performed eighteen ashvamedhas and granted numerous villages to brahmanas. Kadamba kings Krishna Varma also performed Ashwamedha.
Ashvamedha sacrifices legitimatized their position, enhanced their prestige, and enormously increased the income of the priestly class.
The brahmanas therefore emerged as an important class at the expense of the peasantry, from whom they collected their dues directly. They also received as gifts a substantial proportion of the taxes collected by the king from his subjects.
A 6th century inscription of the Kadambas (who ruled over the Goa area) gave the Brahmana donee the right to engage labourers in order to clear a piece of forested area and bring it under cultivation. It also mentions the reclamation of a tract of coastal land, and its conversion to rice fields by damming up seawater.
A Kadamba queen named Divabbarasi is known to have ruled till her minor son attained majority. She too made land grants.
Inscription of Talagunda starts with an invocation of Lord Shiva, while the Halmidi and Banavasi inscriptions start with an invocation of Lord Vishnu.
Madhukesvara temple built by Kadambas is considered as their family deity.
Many records like the Kudalur, Sirsi records speak of grants made by them to scholarly Brahmins as well as made to Buddhist viharas.
The Kadambas also patronised Jainism.
Their inscriptions refer to various Jaina sects such as the Nirgranthas, Shvetapatas, Yapaniyas, and Kurchakas.
Several of the latter Kadamba kings adopted the Jainism, and built numerous Jain Basadis (temples) that are scattered around Banavasi, Belgaum, Mangalore and Goa.
The Halsi grant of king Kakutsthavarman begins with an invocation to Jinendra (lord of the jinas), and suggests the presence of a Jaina temple at this place.
Several grants in favour of Jaina establishments were also made by king Mrigeshavarman.
The Banavasi inscription of the same king, records the grant of land in favour of a Jaina shrine to provide for the following activities—sweeping the temple; anointing the image with ghee; for worship and repairs; and for decorating the image with flowers.
Another Banavasi grant of this king records a grant in favour of three beneficiaries—
a temple of Jinendra at Paramapushkala,
the sangha of the Shvetapata-mahashramanas and
Jinendra temple seems to have been the joint property of the Digambaras and Shvetambaras.
An inscription of the reign of Ravivarman mentions that part of the grant was to meet the expenses of the eight-day festival of the lord jina at Palashika, in which the king also participated.
Kadambas also made grants to the Jainas, though they favoured the brahmanas more.
Kadamba Kings and Queens supported the literature, arts and liberal grants to temples and educational institutions. Adikavi Pampa highly spoke of this kingdom in his writings.
Kings of the Kadamba dynasty were devotees of Kartikeya also.
The Kadamba style can be identified, but has a few things in common with the Chalukyan and the Pallava styles and some architectural tradition of the Satavahanas.
The most prominent feature of their architecture their Shikara called Kadamba Shikara.
The Shikara is pyramid shaped and rises in steps without any decoration with a Stupika or Kalasha at the top.
The architecture of Shikara is used several centuries later in the Doddagaddavalli Hoysala temple and the Mahakuta temples at Hampi.
Temples use perforated screen windows which is pointed out in architecture and sculpture which Kadambas contributed to the foundation of the later Chalukya-Hoysala style.
The Madhukeshwara temple (temple of Shiva) in Banavasi is built by Kadambas in 10th century. The stone cot is with wonderful carvings.
Doddagaddavalli Hoysala temple, the Mahakuta temples in Hampi, the Madhukeshwara (Lord Shiva) temple in Banavasi are noteworthy.
Decline of Kadamba dynasty
According to the Sangolli inscription,Ravivarma was replaced by his peaceful son Harivarma after his death in 519.
According to the Bannahalli plates, Harivarma was murdered about 530 when a resurrected Krishnavarma II (son of Simhavarma) of the Triparvata branch attacked Banavasi, unifying the two branches of the kingdom.
TheChalukyas, who were vassals of the Kadambas and ruled from Badami, seized the whole kingdom in 540.