Vishnukundina dynasty

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Vishnukundina dynasty

CapitalNalgonda, Eluru, Amaravati
Common languagesSanskrit
Historical eraClassical India
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Vakataka dynasty
Eastern Chalukyas
Pallava Dynasty

The Vishnukundina dynasty (IAST: Viṣṇukundina) was an Indian imperial power controlling the Deccan, Odisha and parts of South India during the 5th and 6th centuries, carving land out from the Vakataka Empire. It played an important role in the history of the Deccan during the 5th and 6th centuries.

The area north of the Godavari, Kalinga, became independent. The area south of the Krishna River fell to the Pallavas. The Vishnukundin reign came to an end with the conquest of the eastern Deccan by the Chalukya, Pulakeshin II. Pulakeshin appointed his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana as Viceroy to rule over the conquered lands. Eventually Vishnuvardhana declared his independence and started the Eastern Chalukya dynasty.


"Vishnukundina" is a Sanskritised name for Vinukonda.[1] The early rulers of the dynasty migrated to the west in search of employment and under the Vakatakas they might have attained feudatory status.

During the reign of Madhava Varma, they became independent and conquered coastal Andhra from the Salankayanas and established their capital at Denduluru[2] near Eluru, West Godavari district.


The Vishnukundin reign might be fixed between the end of the Salankayana and the rise of the Eastern Chalukyan power in 624. Some historians mention Vishnukundins reign was from 420 to 624, while some other historian say their reign was from early 5th century to the 7th century.

Govinda Varma I[edit]

Govinda Varma I took the imperial title of Maharaja and his son Madhav Varma I was the founder of the power based on grants from Sriparvata (Nagarjunakonda) and Indrapalagutta.[3]

Madhav Varma I[edit]

The reign of Madhav Varma (c. 420 – c. 455). He was the founder of the Vishnukundina power.

Madhav Varma II[edit]

By the middle of the 5th century, the dynasty began its imperial expansion under its most efficient ruler Madhav Varma II who ruled for nearly half a century. The reign of Madhav Varma (c. 440 – c. 460) was a golden age in the history of the Vishnukundins. It was during this period, the small Vishnukundin dynasty rose to imperial heights. A princess of the then powerful ruling family of the Deccan the Vakatakas was given in marriage to Madhav Varma's son, Vikramendra Varma.

This alliance gave them great power and made it easy for them to extend their influence to the east coast and vanquishing the petty chieftains lingering on in that area. Madhav Varma II led his arms against Ananda Gotrikas who were ruling over Guntur, Tenali and Ongole, probably enjoying subordinate position under the Pallavas of Kanchipuram.

After occupying these areas from the Ananda Gotrikas, Madhav Varma II made Amarapura (modern Amaravati) his capital. Keeping in view the constant threat from the Pallavas, he created an out-post to check their activities and appointed his son, Deva Varma and after his death the grandson Madhav Varma III as its Viceroy.

Madhav Varma II next turned his attention against the Vengi kingdom which was under the Salankayanas. The Vengi region was annexed. The Godavari tract became part of the Vishnukundin territory. After these conquests the capital might have been shifted to Bezwada (Vijayawada), a more central location than Amarapura. These extensive conquests entitle him to the title of the lord of Dakshinapatha (southern country). After these various conquests Madhav Varma performed many Asvamedha, Rajasuya and other Vedic sacrifices.

Successors of Madhav Varma II[edit]

The fortunes of the Vishnukundins were at a low point during the reign of next ruler Vikramendra Varma I (508–528). The next two and half decades also experienced the constant strife and dynastic struggles during the reign of Indra Bhattaraka Varma (528–555). Though Indra Bhattaraka could not withstand the hostile Kalinga subordinate, Indra Varma and lost his life in battle. The Vishnukundins lost their Kalinga possessions north of the Godavari.

Vikramendra Varma II[edit]

With the accession of Vikramendra Varma II (555–569), the fortunes of the Vishnukundin family were restored. To have an immediate access to the Kalinga region, he shifted his capital from Bezwada to Lenduluru (modem Denduluru in the West Godavari district). He repulsed the attack of the Pallava ruler Simhavarman. He was successful enough to restore the fortunes of the Vishnukundins in the Kalinga region. His son Govinda Varma II enjoyed a comparatively short period of rule (569–573).

Janssraya Madhav Varma IV[edit]

The Vishnukundin empire set about again to imperial expansion and cultural prosperity under its able ruler Janssraya Madhav Varma IV (573-621). This prudent king spent his early years of rule in consolidating his position in Vengi. The later part of his reign is marked by wars and annexations. In his 37th regnal year, he suppressed the revolt of his subordinate chief the Durjaya Prithvi Maharaja in Guddadivishya (modern Ramachandrapuram in the East Godavari district).

Madhav Varma IV had to face the Chalukyan onslaught in his last years of rule. By about 616, Pulakeshin II and his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana conquered Vengi from the Vishnukundins and the Pithapuram area from their subordinate Durjayas. In 621 in his 48th regnal year, Madhava crossed the Godavari probably to oust the Chalukyas from his territories. However he lost his life on the battlefield. His son Manchana Bhattaraka also might have been expelled by the Chalukyas. Thus the Vishnukundin rule was brought to a close by 624.

Vishnukundin country[edit]

They had three important cities, near Eluru, Amaravati and Puranisangam.


For administrative convenience, the empire was divided into a number of Rashtras and Vishayas. Inscriptions refer to Palki Rashtra, Karma rashtra, Guddadi Vishaya, etc.

Madhav Varma III appointed members of the royal family as Viceroys for various areas of the kingdom.

The king was the highest court of appeal in the administrator of justice. The Vishnukundin rulers established various kinds of punishments for various crimes. They were known for their impartial judgment and high sense of justice.


Their army consisted of traditional fourfold divisions:

  • Elephants
  • Chariots
  • Cavalry
  • Infantry

The Hastikosa was the officer-in charge of elephant forces and the Virakosa was the officer-in-charge of land forces. These officers issued even grants on behalf of the kings.


There may have been well-organised administrative machinery for collection of land revenue.[citation needed] Agrahara villages enjoyed tax exemptions. Sixteen types of coins of the Vishnukundin rulers have been found by archaeologists.


All the records of the Vishnukundins and the kings prior to the Madhav Varma II seem to be patrons of Hinduism.

From the time of accession of Madhav Varma II, an aggressive self-assertion of the Vedic Brahmanism occurred. Elaborate Vedic ceremonies like Rajasuya, Purushamedha, Sarvamedha and Aswamedha were undertaken. The celebration of all these sacrifices represents the traditional spirit of the brahmanical revival. Some of the rulers referred to themselves as 'Parama Mahesvaras'. The inscriptions refer to their family deity Sri Parvata Swami.

The names of rulers like Madhav Varma and Govinda Varma show their Vaishnavite leanings. Thus both the Hindu sects of Saivism and Vaishnavism might have received equal patronage from them.


The Vishnukundins were also great patrons of learning. They established colleges for vedic learning. Learned Brahmins were encouraged by gifts of lands and colleges were established for the propagation of Vedic studies. Indra Bhattaraka established many schools for imparting education on Vedic literature. Performance of several elaborate Vedic ceremonies by Madhav Varma is evidence of the faith of the rulers in Brahmanism and popularity of Vedic learning with the people during this period.

Some of the Vishnukundin kings were credited with authorship of several books. Vikramendra Varma I was described as Mahakavi – great poet in a record. Further, an incomplete work on Sanskrit poetics called 'Janasraya Chando Vichiti', was attributed to Madhav Varma IV who bore the title of 'Janasraya'. Sanskrit enjoyed royal patronage.

Art and Architecture[edit]

Being great devotees of Siva, the Vishnukundins seem to have been responsible for construction of a number of cave temples dedicated to Siva. The cave structures at Bezwada (Vijayawada), Mogalrajapuram, Undavalli caves and Bhairavakonda were dated to this period. Though some of these cave temples were attributed to the Pallava Mahendra Varman I, the emblems found on the caves and the areas being under the rule of the Vishnukundins during this period clearly show that these were contributions of the Vishnukundins. The big four-storeyed cave at Undavalli and the 8 cave temples in Bhairavakonda in Nellore district show however clear resemblances with the architecture of Pallava Mahendra Varman's period.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vasumati, E. "Telugu Literature in the Qutub Shahi Period". Abul Kalam Azad Oriental Research Institute – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Madras, Andhra Historical Research Society, Rajahmundry; Society, Andhra Historical Research (14 January 2018). "Journal of the Andhra Historical Society". Andhra Historical Research Society. – via Google Books.
  3. ^ "Indian History". Allied Publishers – via Google Books.


  • Durga Prasad, History of the Andhras up to 1565 A. D., P. G. PUBLISHERS, GUNTUR (1988)
  • South Indian Inscriptions [1]
  • Nilakanta Sastri, K.A. (1955). A History of South India, OUP, New Delhi (Reprinted 2002).

External links[edit]

Timeline and
cultural period
Northwestern India
(Punjab-Sapta Sindhu)
Indo-Gangetic Plain Central India Southern India
Upper Gangetic Plain
(Ganga-Yamuna doab)
Middle Gangetic Plain Lower Gangetic Plain
Culture Late Vedic Period Late Vedic Period
(Srauta culture)[a]
Painted Grey Ware culture
Late Vedic Period
(Shramanic culture)[b]
Northern Black Polished Ware
 6th century BC Gandhara Kuru-Panchala Magadha Adivasi (tribes)
Culture Persian-Greek influences "Second Urbanisation"
Rise of Shramana movements
Jainism - Buddhism - Ājīvika - Yoga
 5th century BC (Persian conquests) Shaishunaga dynasty Adivasi (tribes)
 4th century BC (Greek conquests) Nanda empire
Culture Spread of Buddhism Pre-history Sangam period
(300 BC – 200 AD)
 3rd century BC Maurya Empire Early Cholas
Early Pandyan Kingdom
Satavahana dynasty
46 other small kingdoms in Ancient Thamizhagam
Culture Preclassical Hinduism[c] - "Hindu Synthesis"[d] (ca. 200 BC - 300 AD)[e][f]
Epics - Puranas - Ramayana - Mahabharata - Bhagavad Gita - Brahma Sutras - Smarta Tradition
Mahayana Buddhism
Sangam period
(300 BC – 200 AD)
 2nd century BC Indo-Greek Kingdom Shunga Empire
Maha-Meghavahana Dynasty
Early Cholas
Early Pandyan Kingdom
Satavahana dynasty
46 other small kingdoms in Ancient Thamizhagam
 1st century BC
 1st century AD


Kuninda Kingdom
 2nd century Kushan Empire
 3rd century Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom Kushan Empire Western Satraps Kamarupa kingdom Kalabhra dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom (Under Kalabhras)
Culture "Golden Age of Hinduism"(ca. AD 320-650)[g]
Co-existence of Hinduism and Buddhism
 4th century Kidarites Gupta Empire
Varman dynasty
Kalabhra dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom (Under Kalabhras)
Kadamba Dynasty
Western Ganga Dynasty
 5th century Hephthalite Empire Alchon Huns Kalabhra dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom (Under Kalabhras)
 6th century Nezak Huns
Kabul Shahi
Maitraka Adivasi (tribes) Badami Chalukyas
Kalabhra dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom (Under Kalabhras)
Culture Late-Classical Hinduism (ca. AD 650-1100)[h]
Advaita Vedanta - Tantra
Decline of Buddhism in India
 7th century Indo-Sassanids Vakataka dynasty
Empire of Harsha
Mlechchha dynasty Adivasi (tribes) Pandyan Kingdom (Under Kalabhras)
Pandyan Kingdom(Revival)
 8th century Kabul Shahi Pala Empire Pandyan Kingdom
 9th century Gurjara-Pratihara Rashtrakuta dynasty
Pandyan Kingdom
Medieval Cholas
Pandyan Kingdom (Under Cholas)
Chera Perumals of Makkotai
10th century Ghaznavids Pala dynasty
Kamboja-Pala dynasty
Kalyani Chalukyas
Medieval Cholas
Pandyan Kingdom (Under Cholas)
Chera Perumals of Makkotai
References and sources for table


  1. ^ Samuel
  2. ^ Samuel
  3. ^ Michaels (2004) p.39
  4. ^ Hiltebeitel (2002)
  5. ^ Michaels (2004) p.39
  6. ^ Hiltebeitel (2002)
  7. ^ Michaels (2004) p.40
  8. ^ Michaels (2004) p.41