With the commencement of the 7th century, Harshavardhana (606-647 A.D.) ascended the throne of Thaneshwar and Kannauj on the death of his brother, Rajyavardhana. By 612 Harshavardhana consolidated his kingdom in northern India.
In 620 A.D. Harshavardhana invaded the Chalukya kingdom in the Deccan, which was then ruled by Pulakesin II. But the Chalukya resistance proved tough for Harshavardhana and he was defeated. Harshavardhana is well known for his religious toleration, able administration and diplomatic relations. He maintained diplomatic relations with China and sent envoys, who exchanged ideas of the Chinese rulers and developed their knowledge about each other.
The Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang, who visited India during his reign, has given a vivid description of the social, economic and religious conditions, under the rule of Harsha spoke highly of the king. Harsha's death, once again, left India without any central paramount power.
The Chalukyas of Badami
The Chalukyas were a great power in southern India between 6th and 8th century A.D. Pulakesin I, the first great ruler of this dynasty ascended the throne in 540 A.D. and having made many splendid victories, established a mighty empire. His sons Kirtivarman and Mangalesa further extended the kingdom by waging many successful wars against the neighbours including the Mauryans of the Konkans.
Pulakesin II, the son of Kirtivarman, was one of the greatest ruler of the Chalukya dynasty. He ruled for almost 34 years. In this long reign, he consolidated his authority in Maharashtra and conquered large parts of the Deccan. His greatest achievement was his victory in the defensive war against Harshavardhana.
However, Pulakesin was defeated and killed by the Pallav king Narasimhavarman in 642 A.D. His son Vikramaditya, who was also as great a ruler as his father, succeeded him. He renewed the struggle against his southern enemies. He recovered the former glory of the Chalukyas to a great extent. Even his great grandson, Vikramaditya II was also a great warrior. In 753 A.D.,
Vikramaditya and his son were overthrown by a chief named Dantidurga who laid the foundation of the next great empire of Karnataka and Maharashtra called Rashtrakutas.
The Pallavas of Kanchi
In the last quarter of the 6th century A.D. the Pallava king Sinhavishnu rose to power and conquered the area between the rivers Krishna and Cauveri. His son and successor Mahendravarman was a versatile genius, who unfortunately lost the northern parts of his dominion to the Chalukya king, Pulekesin II. But his son, Narsinhavarman I, crushed the power of Chalukyas.
The Pallava power reached its glorious heights during the reign of Narsinhavarman II, who is well known for his architectural achievements. He built many temples, and art and literature flourished in his times. Dandin, the great Sanskrit scholar, lived in his court.However, after his death, the Pallava Empire began to decline and in course of time they were reduced to a mere local tribal power. Ultimately, the Cholas defeated the Pallava king Aparajita and took over their kingdom towards the close of the 9th century A.D.
The ancient history of India has seen the rise and downfall of several dynasties, which have left their legacies still resounding in the golden book of Indian history. With the end of the 9th century A.D., the medieval history of India started with the rise of empires such as the Palas, the Senas, the Pratiharas and the Rashtrakutas, and so on.