Dantidurga means a person whose fort is his el- ephant-an apt name, considering that he is regarded as the founder of the Malkhed Rashtrakuta dynasty. According to the genealogical list, given in the Dasavatara cave at Ellora, Dantidurga is the fifth in order of descent:
Indra I (Prichchakaraja)
The Tivarkhed plate of Nannaraja Yuddhasura (the last of the four kings of that family) says that Indra II, father of Dantidurga, captured the Chalukya princess Bhavagana and married her by force in the battlefield of Khetaka (Khaira). This epigraph, issued from Achalapura (Elichpur in Berar), is not accepted by V.V. Mirashi, but Nilakanta Sastri regards this as a very good starting point (AD 725). He says that though the cause of the battle is not known, this is the only achievement known of the father of Dantidurga. Nothing else is known about his ancestors listed in the Dasavatara cave genealogy.
Dantidurga, also known as Dantivarman, Vairamegha (Kadaba plates), Prithvivallabha and Khadavalika, assumed the title Maharajadhiraj- Paramesvara-Parambhattaraka (Samangadh Plates, AD 754) after defeating the Chalukya, Kirtivarman II, of Badami. It appears from his other titles that he obtained them like Pulakesin II from his suzerain, the Chalukya Vikramaditya II, by repelling the Arab attack in the west (AD 733-34).
The Samangadh plate- of 754 states that his elephants tore up the banks of the rivers Mahanadi, Mahi and Reva, that his mother made a grant in each of the 4 lakh villages in his territory and that he defeated Vallabha (his suzerain Kirtivarman II) the conqueror of Kanchi, Kalinga, Kerala, Chola and Pandya in addition to Harsha and Vajvata of the north. To this, the undated and fragmentary Dasavatara cave inscription adds Kosala and Sri Sailadesa along with the Rajas of Malwa, Lata and Tanuka. The epigraph further says that his camp was in a Gurjara palace and that he gave many presents to the rajas and the poor at Ujjain.
Later inscriptions are variations on these themes. Thus one says that Dantidurga performed a Hiranyagarbha at Ujjain in which the Guijara ruler and others were Pratiharas (door-keepers), an oblique reference to the dynastic name of the Guijaras. Another says that Lakshmi of the Chalukyas came to him of her own accord abandoning them. None of these epigraphs give a chronological picture of Dantidurga’s exploits. It would appear that starting from the family base at Berar. Dantidurga’s last achievement was the assumption of imperial powers by removing the Chalukyas of Badami.
In the chaos following the Arab attack, Dantidurga continued to increase his influence and power as testified by the references to the kings of Malwa, Lata and Tanka as also to the Hiranyagarbha at Ujjain. Kosala and Kalinga came next, but no details are available. He then proceeded south and, defeating the Telugu- Chodas of Srisaila, went right upto Kanchi, capital of the Pallavas, the hereditary enemy of the Chalukyas. Thirumangai Alvar mentions Dantidurga’s attack on Kanchi and considering that Dantidurga’s daughter Reva got married to Pallavamalla Nandivarman, it would appear to be just a show of force. Reva became the chief queen of Nandi and her son succeeded his father on the Pallava throne.
Dantidurga’s strategy was to attack the outlying areas of the vast Chalukyan empire and to gradually reduce its strength. Once this attenuation of power was complete, it was easy to defeat Kirtivarman, who by any reckoning was no match for the astute Dantidurga.
Kirtivarman, however, continued to reign with reduced power may be upto the reign of Dantidurga’s successor Krishna I. The last known date of Kirti is 755-6, when he issued a grant (Vakkaleri plates) from his victorious campsite Bhandaragavittage on the north bank of the Bhima river. Dantidurga apparently extended his control over nearly half of the Chalukya territory, his successor claimed the
other half. Starting with four lakh villages, the Rashtrakuta territory later included seven and a half lakh villages.
Dantidurga did not live long after the date (754) of the Samangadh plates and there are different references to his end in later epigraphs. The Paithan Alas record merely mentions that Krishna, son of Kakka and uncle of Dantidurga, succeeded him on the throne when Dantidurga died. A verse in the Baroda plates (812-13) states that Krishnaraja started to rule for Gotrahitaya (the good of the clan) after uprooting the evil. Finally, the Karda plates state that Krishnaraja took over because Danti died childless. Considering that Dantidurga was (in a way) the founder of the empire, the “uprooted evil” obviously was someone else. According to Nilakanta Sastri, presumably a member of the family seized the throne for a while and was deposed by Krishna.
Krishna succeeded to the throne circa 756 and was called Subhatunga and Akalavarsha. His first task was to completely uproot the Chalukyas, which he did circa 757, the last known date of the Chalukya Kirtivarman II. Thereafter, Krishna defeated Rahappa, identified by Fleet as Kakka II of Lata, gaining the Palidhvaja banner and the title Rajadhiraja Paramesvara. In the south, Krishna invaded the Ganga territory (Telegaon plates, 768) and brought it under the Rashtrakuta overlordship. In the east, the ruler of Vengi (Vijayaditya) submitted to Krishna’s son, Yuvaraja Govinda, without a fight (Alas plates, 769- 70). Krishna’s empire thus contained Maharashtra, Hyderabad, major portions of Mysore and Madhya Pradesh besides Vengi, a feudatory.
The location of the capital city of Krishna is not certain. Some regard it to be Ellora (where he built the famous Kailasa temple) or a place nearby. Others refer to Manyakheta, cited in a verse of the Jaina literary work Kathakosa. The Wardha plates state that Krishna constructed many Siva temples resembling the Kailasa mountains and the Baroda grant (812-13) contains a glowing passage describing the Ellora Kailasa temple. Krishna is believed to have died between AD 772-775.
Krishna was followed by Govinda II, referred to as Yuvaraja in the Alas plates. He had the titles Prabhutavarsha, Vikramavaloka, and Prabhutunga as well as Vallabha. Subsequently, he became a collateral of the family and in later grants his name was omitted. The main line of succession continued through his younger brother Dhruva. In the Dhulia plates (779), Dhruva is referred to as the Viceroy of Govinda in Khandesh and Nasik. Averse in the Daulatabad Plates (793) compares Govinda to Hari and his valour to that of Hari’s acquisition of Parijata and uprooting of Govardhana. Scholars interpret this as an oblique reference to a fight with brother Dhruva.
This interpretation is supported in the next verse stating that brother Nirapama took over from Govinda as he was neglecting his royal duties. What really happened was something else. Govinda did not take his ouster quietly. He formed an alliance with Kanchi, Ganga, Vengi and Malwa (all traditional enemies of the Rashtrakutas) to recover his lost possessions. Dhruva tried to dissuade his brother from following such a course and when that failed he assumed the throne after defeating his brother.
Dhruva’s action against Govinda commenced circa 775, the date of Pimpari plates in which Dhruva assumed imperial tides. But success did not come to Dhruva easily, because in the Dhulia plates (779) he was addressing Govinda as his suzerain. Dhruva finally succeeded against Govinda circa 780 when he ascended the throne and assumed the titles Nirupama, Dharavarsha, Kali- and Sri-Vallabha.
Thereupon, he proceeded against the collaborators of Govinda, and the Paithan plates state categorically that subduing the kings of north, south and east, amassing a fortune in gold and jewels and capturing the Palidhvaja and other royal insignia, he became a supreme ruler, a veritable Indra on the earth. In his fight against Vengi, Dhruva was assisted by Arikesari I of Vemulavada, as stated in the literary work Pampabharata. Arikesari was a Chalukya and, after the war with Vengi, parts of Trikalinga (Telingana) became annexed to the Rashtrakuta empire which Arikesari and his successors ruled as feudatories. Vishnuvardhana IV, the ruler of Vengi, bought peace by marrying his daughter Silamahadevi to Dhruva, who became his chief queen. An epigraph from Nanjangud says that when the Ganga ruler Sivamara II was imprisoned by Dhruva, Siva’s younger brother Vijayaditya looked after the kingdom like Bharata during Rama’s exile. Dhruva, on his part, appointed his son Kambha as the viceroy of Gangavadi.
Dhruva’s attack on Vatsaraja came when the latter had already established supremacy over the Palas of Bengal. This, however, did not prevent Dhruva from crossing swords with the Gurjara- Pratihara ruler and forcing him to take refuge in the deserts of Rajasthan. Thereafter, Dhruva fought with Dharmapala in the Ganga-Yamuna doab and captured from him his parasols and other royal insignia. There are two undated records relating to Dhruva’s reign: the first is from Naregal concerning a Marakka Arara ruling Banavasi under Dhruva (Dhora), the second from the Lokamahadevi temple (modern Birupaksha temple) relating to gifts made by Badipoddi, a dancing girl.
Dhruva had many sons, among whom he wanted Govinda III to succeed him, bypassing the claims of other sons (Kambha Kharka and Indra). Dhruva was impressed with Govinda’s superior abilities and wanted to abdicate the throne in his favour. Records state that Govinda declined the offer and out of deference to his father’s wishes accepted the kanthika (necklace) of yuvaraja. Paithan and some other records state that Govinda got full royal powers in a formal coronation, but this action of Dhruva did not prevent a battle of succession after Dhruva’s death circa 793-94.
Jagatunga, Prabhutavarsha, Janaballavha, etc. were the titles Govinda III assumed on accession to the throne.