Chapter 8 | Post-Gupta Period I (600AD – 750AD)

Area of interest: North India, Deccan India & South India

The political situation became complex with the passing away of the Guptas and the demise of the Vakataka rulers. Vassals of the Guptas became independent in the North.
In the Deccan and far South too multiplicity of powers was witnessed.


Political Background

Harshavardhana (590 AD to 648 AD)

The fall of the Gupta rulers paved the way for domination of the Later Guptas, Maukharis and Pushyabhutis in the North. Harsha, though a Pushyabhuti ruler of Thaneswar ruled from Kanauj, which was originally the seat of Maukharis, with whom he contracted a marriage alliance. Harsha is celebrated as last ‘Hindu’ ruler in the North post the Gupta era.

Literature and Language

KadambariBanabhattaRomantic Sanskrit NovelRomantic attachment between Chandrapeeda and Kadambari 
HarshacharitaBanabhattaHarsha’s biography in SanskritAn account of Harsha’s ancestry and his early lifeHarsha
PriyadarshikaHarshaSanskrit play Harsha
NaganandaHarshaSanskrit play Harsha
RatnavaliHarshaSanskrit playAbout a princess Ratnavali and a great King Udayan. One of the first references of Holi found in the textHarsha
MahaviracharitaBhavabhutiSanskrit playBased on the early life of RamaYashovarman of Kannauj
MalatimadhavaBhavabhutiSanskrit playThe love story between Malati and MadhavaYashovarman of Kannauj


All religions were patronized under Harshavardhana’s reign. He was a Shaivite, but later Hiuen Tsang converted him to Mahayana Buddhism.

Hiuen Tsang who visited Harshavardhana’s empire noted Buddhism was declining in India while Brahmanism was on rise.

Art and Architecture

The art and architectural contributions of Harsha’s period are very few and mostly followed the Guptas. Harshavardhana’s realm is associated with the construction of numerous stupas and monasteries. Harsha patronized Nalanda University with his liberal endowments.

The brick temple of Lakshmana at Sirpur with its rich architecture is assigned to the period of Harsha.

Lakshamana temple, Sirpur

Related image
  • The Lakshamana temple is located in the village Sirpur of Chattisgarh.
  • It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu


Political Background

The late sixth century is marked by rise of Badami Chalukyas around the North Eastern part of Karnataka. The empire was founded by Pulakesin I. Pulakesin II (610 – 642 AD ) is considered the greatest ruler of the house.

Literature and Language

Aihole PrasastiRavi KirtiPulakesin II’s eulogyMentions defeat of Harshavardhana by Pulekesin II when Harsha tried expanding towards the DeccanPulakesin II
VikramankadevacharitamBilhana An epic in honor of Vikramaditya VIWestern Chalukyan ruler, Vikramaditya VI


Chalukyans were both Vaishanavas and Shaivites but had a greater inclination towards Vaishnavism and Jainism. Nonetheless, they patronized all religions.


A. Caves

Cave temple architecture was also famous under the Chalukyas. Their cave temples are found in Ajanta, Ellora and Nasik.

B. Temples

Chalukyan temples are found in 3 places – Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal.

BadamiBadami cave temples are a complex of 6 temples – 4 Hindu, 1 Jain & 1 possibly Buddhist.
Image result for vishnu paintings badami

Cave 3 – Vishnu image

AiholeLadkhan temple, Durga temple and Ravana Phadi Temple

Durga temple

  • It is an apsidal temple of 550 AD. The apsidal shape is similar to the shape of a Buddhist chaitya.
  • Temple has an open pillared verandah serving as pradakshinapatha instead of a dark ambulatory path.
  • Temple shows improvements in shikhara development as compared to the Gupta period.

Ravana Phadi Temple

Image result for ravana phadi cave
  • Ravana Phadi is a rock-cut cave with distinct sculptures made during the Chalukyan era.
  • Among numerous sculptures is the Goddess Durga is portrayed in the carving. She appears to be slaying Mahishasura (panel above).

Pattadakal – This temple complex has 10 temples – 4 Dravida style, 4 in Nagara style, 1 Vesara style & 1 Jain Sanctuary. The Papanath temple is the Nagara style temple.

Virupaksha Temple

File:Virupaksha temple at Pattadakal.jpg
  • Largest and grandest temple in Pattadakal
  • Built in 8th Century by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband’s (Vikramaditya II’s ) victory over Pallava ruler.


Political Background

The Pallavas were feudatories of the Satavahanas. After the fall of the Satavahanas in the 3rd century AD, they became independent. They ruled in the Tondaimandalam area with Kachipuram as their capital. The 7th Century marked the rise of great rulers like Mahendravarman, Narasimhavarman I and Rajasimha. The Pallava rule reached its zenith under these rulers.

Literature and Language

Mattavilasa PrahasanaMahendravarman ISanskritMeans the ‘delight of the drunkards’. Sanskrit farse on Buddhist and Kapalika ascetics
DevaramNayanarsTamilSaiva literature
NalayradivyaprabandamAlvarsTamilVaishnava literature


The Tamil society witnessed a great change during the Pallava period.

A. Hinduism

The Brahmins occupied a high place in society. Brahmanism and Brahmins were patronized by the rulers. The Pallava period witnessed the rise of Saivism and Vaishnavism.

Bhakti Cult

The Saiva Nayanmars and the Vaishnava Alwars contributed to the growth of Saivism and Vaishnavism. Apar and Sambandar were Shaivite bhakti saints who contributed immensely to the growth of Shaivism.

B. Buddhism and Jainism

Increased patronage of Hinduism and revival by the Bhakti movement led to the decline of Buddhism and Jainism.


A. Temples

This era is significant for temple building activities as the Dravidian style of temple architecture began. The Pallavas introduced the art of excavating temples out of rocks. We see a gradual evolution starting from the cave temples to monolithic rathas which culminated in structural temples. The development of temple architecture under the Pallavas can be seen in 4 stages.

Stage I – Mahendra phase

This stage sees the development of Pallava rock-cut temples under Mahendravarman I. They were built in many places. The most important among them are Pallavaram, Mamandur, Mahendravadi, Vallam and Thalavanur.

Pallavaram Caves

Stage II – Mamallapuram phase

The second stage of Pallava architecture is represented by the monolithic rathas and mandapas found at Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram). The name ‘Mammalapuram’ is derived from Narshimahavarman’s name ‘Mamalla’ which means the ‘great wrestler’.

There are 5 Rathas – Dharmaraj Ratha, Bhim Ratha, Arjuna Ratha, Draupadi Ratha, Nakul Sahdev. These rathas, popularly called as the Panchapanadava rathas, signify 5 different styles of temple architecture. Dharmaraja Rath is the largest and it’s considered a precursor for the Dravidian style.

Rathas of Mahabalipuram

  • The South saw the emergence of Dravida style of architecture. Earliest Dravida style is visible at Mahabalipuram where during the Pallava period were constructed different rock cut structures called rathas.
  • Main shrine has a square ground plan
  • The superstructure above the shrine instead of having a shikhara, has horizontal platforms each placed one above the other with the size receding upwards. This is called a vimana.
  • Constructed under the patronage of Mahendravarman I and Narsimhavarman I.

The mandapas contain beautiful sculptures on its walls. The most popular of these mandapas are Varaha Madapam, Mahishasuramardhini Mandapa, Tirumurthi Mandapam and the Panchpandava Caves.

Panchpandava Caves

Stage III – Rajasimha phase

This stage witnesses the evolution of structural temples in South India. These temples were built by using the soft sand rocks. The Kailasanatha temple at Kanchi and the Shore temple at Mamallapuram remain the finest examples of the early structural temples of the Pallavas.

Shore Temple

Related image
  • The Shore temple is located in Mamallapuram.
  • Its name is credited to its presence at the shore of Bay of Bengal.
  • Built by Rajasimha.
  • Made up of granite
  • A Shaiva temple but also has a Vaishnava shrine

Kailasanatha Temple

Image result for kailasanatha temple kanchipuram
  • This temple is the oldest structure in Kanchipuram.
  • Located in Tamil Nadu, it is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
  • Dravidian style temple.
  • Built by Rajasimha.

Stage IV – Nandivarman phase

The last stage of the Pallava art is also represented by structural temples built by the later Pallavas. The Vaikundaperumal temple and Muktheeswara temple at Kanchipuram belong to this stage of architecture.

Vaikunda Perumal Temple

Image result for vaikundaperumal temple
  • Dedicated to Lord Vishnu
  • Dravidian style


The Pallavas also contributed to the development of sculpture. Apart from the sculptures found in temples, an ‘Open Art Gallery’ at Mamallpuram remains an important monument.

The Descent of the Ganga or Arjun’s penance remains the most important sculpture.

Descent of Ganga/ Arjun’s penance

  • Made of a monolithic rock
  • Found in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
  • Identified as Bhagiratha’s bringing Ganga down from the matted locks of Shiva
  • It is also identified as Arjun’s penance
  • Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Sittannavasal Jain paintings belonged to the period of Pallavas.

References and image credits:

  5. NCERTs
  6. NIOS
  7. CCRT site
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4 years ago

Helpful information about Post Gupta Period. Thanks for share, concept cleared.
Post Gupta Period full information


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