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The Middle Ages

5th - 15th century





For centuries the north of India had experienced periodic Arab invasions and settlement. The arrival of Turkic Muslim invaders from central Asia after 1000 had a more lasting impact, not least through settlement. The Hindu kingdoms of north India were subjugated and by 1206 Delhi and the Ganges valley too. Only the South remained unaffected. Although the destruction of Hindu temples indicates persecution, a pattern of co-existence quickly emerged. Ultimately Indian culture proved adept at assimilating the new influences. The Muslim sultans were successful as military rulers but were displaced by the Moguls after 1500.


The Hindu Empires in India

While northern India fell under the rule of the Muslim sultans, Hindu princes held onto power in most of central and southern India. The Vijayanagar Empire was the last significant Hindu state.


Distinctly Hindu or Dravidian dynasties reigned in central and southern India after 550.

One of these was the 2, 3 Calukya dynasty that ruled in Bidjapur between 543 and 757 and subjugated a significant part of southern India between 609 and 642.

A second 5 Calukya dynasty ruled between 975 and 1189.

2 Shiva, "king of the dance", with 18
arms, sculpture from the western
Calukya dynasty, sixth century

3 Vishnu, sculpture from
the Calukyan period

5 Female dancer, sculpture,
late western Calukya dynasty, twelfth сentury


They became involved in power struggles with the most important southern Indian dynasty, the 1, 6 Pallava of Kanchi, who had spread out in the seventh century into Deccan and the southern tip of India.

They were supplanted by the dynasty of the Colas (888-1267), who enlarged their east coast kingdom northward. Under Rajarajal (the Great), they rose to become the leading power in South India around 1000. They were also a naval power, their fleet sailing in 1001 to Ceylon and in 1014 occupying the Maldives.
The Hindu rulers of central India, including the Pala kings of Bengal (750-1199) or the Kanauj kings (840-1197), were eventually defeated by the advancing Muslim armies.

1 The Rajasimhesvara temple in Mahabalipuram,
south India, built ca. 690-715 under the Pallava dynasty

6 Buddha Maitreya, gold-plated bronze sculpture,
seventh-ninth century


Chalukya dynasty

Chalukya dynasty, Chalukya also spelled Calukya, either of two ancient Indian dynasties. The Western Chalukyas ruled as emperors in the Deccan (i.e., peninsular India) from 543 to 757 ce and again from about 975 to about 1189. The Eastern Chalukyas ruled in Vengi (in eastern Andhra Pradesh state) from about 624 to about 1070.

Pulakeshin I, a petty chieftain of Pattadakal in the Bijapur district whose reign began in 543, took and fortified the hill fort of Vatapi (modern Badami) and seized control of the territory between the Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers and the Western Ghats. After military successes farther north, his son Kirtivarman I (reigned 566–597) secured the valuable Konkan coast. The family then turned its attention to the fertile coastal regions to the northwest and east of the peninsula. Pulakeshin II (reigned c. 610–642) acquired parts of Gujarat and Malwa and defied the north Indian ruler Harsa of Kannauj; the boundary between them was fixed on the Narmada River. About 624, Pulakeshin II took the kingdom of Vengi from the Vishnukundins and gave it to his brother Kubja Vishnuvardhana, the first Eastern Chalukya ruler.

In 641–647 the Pallavas ravaged the Deccan and captured Vatapi, but the Chalukya family recovered by 655 and extended its power in Gujarat. By 660 they had acquired land in Nellore district. Vikramaditya I (reigned 655–680) took Kanchipuram (ancient Kanci), at that time of the Pallava dynasty, about 670. Another Chalukya ruler, Vikramaditya II (reigned 733–746), again captured, but spared, the city, in 742. His successor, Kirtivarman II, was replaced by the Rashtrakuta dynasty in 757.

When the last Rashtrakuta fell, about 975, Taila founded the second Western Chalukya dynasty, named for the more central capital, Kalyani. His great achievement was to subdue the Paramara dynasty of Malwa.

The Chola king Rajaraja I invaded the south Deccan about 993, and repeated Chola invasions of the plateau occurred until about 1021. After many vicissitudes the Chalukya dynasty was supplanted by the Kalacuri family under Bijjala, who usurped the throne about 1156 and reigned until 1167. The Chalukya dynasty was restored in the person of Someshvara IV, who, however, lost the empire in 1189 to the Yadavas (or Sevunas) of Devagiri, the Hoysalas of Dorasamudra, and the Kakatiyas of Warangal—the rulers of the Telugu-speaking parts of the Deccan.

The descendants of Kubja Vishnuvardhana had to constantly fight for the riches of Vengi and were pawns in the struggle between the Chalukya Deccan emperors and the Chola kings. The Cholas eventually adopted the Chalukya family, and the two countries were united under Kulottunga I (Rajendra II), whose reign began in 1070.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

The last great Hindu kingdom, 7 Vijayanagar (City of Victory), was founded in 1336.

Its capital, 4, 8 Hampi, was originally built on the site of a temple.

It subsequently grew to become the preeminent kingdom in southern India. The flourishing city, with its magnificent temples and palaces, became a center of Indian literature and science. The kings of Vijayanagar regarded the Tungabadhra and Kistna rivers as the southern boundary of Islam and in 1380 compiled a col-lec-tion of all the Brahman teachings, the Sarvadarshana Sangraha. While they successfully held off the invaders for some time, the last ruler, Ramaraja, fell in 1565 at Talikota in battle against the Muslim sultan Ahmadnagar. Thereafter, only a small Hindu kingdom survived in Madurai. This was in turn annexed in 1684 by the Grand Mogul Aurangzeb.

7 Vijayanagar-style ceiling fresco,
in the Virabhadra temple in Lepakshi,
16th с

4 Vithala Temple in Hampi,
capital of the Vijayanagar kings,
16th century

8 Narashima, the fourth incarnation
of Vishnu, sculpture in Hampi




The Sultans of Delhi

In the wake of the Ghaznavids and Ghurids, military dynasties of Turkish origin increased the spread of Islam in India. They came to an end with the Lodi rulers, who were defeated by the Moguls.


Ever since the first Muslim armies had advanced into Pakistan and India around 700, India had been coveted by Islamic rulers. Mahmud of Ghazna's campaigns of conquest after 1001 put great pressure on the Hindus, whose polytheism the strict Muslims vehemently rejected.

The Ghaznavids dominated the north of India at the beginning of the 12th century, but in 1187 they were displaced by the powerful Afghan 9 Ghurids in Lahore, who had already subjugated Multan in 1175.

In 1193 Sultan Muizz ad-Din occupied Delhi and expanded his realm to Gujarat in the south and Bengal in the east.

The driving force behind these conquests was the Turkish general Qutb-ud-Din 10, 11 Aybak, who had ended the rule of the Buddhist princes in 1194 with the capture of Bihar, and pushed the Hindus to the south.

He felt strong enough in 1206 to depose the Ghurid sultan and founded the "Slave King" sultanate of Delhi. His successor, Iltutmish (ruled 1211-1236) conquered Sind and made Delhi an independent Islamic kingdom. In 1290, the House of Aybak was overthrown by the Khalji dynasty, which was also Turkish. They fended off the Mongols, conquered all of Deccan (central India), and advanced to Madurai in southern India. The sultanate divided the country into fiefs that were distributed to the Muslim nobility, each of whom was required to provide and maintain troop contingents in case of war. The Khaljis were later followed by the military dynasties of the Tughluqs (1320-1414) and Sayyids (1414-1451), under whom the state administration was Islamized. After 1388, many regions became increasingly independent from the government in Delhi and formed their own sultanates, including Bengal, Deccan, Gujarat, Jaunpur, and Malwa. In 1398-1399, Tamerlane invaded India and temporarily occupied Delhi.

After this shattering defeat, effective central authority re-emerged only under the Afghan Lodi dynasty which ruled from 1451 to 1526. Sikandar Lodi again extended the kingdom from the Indus to Bengal in the east. The last Lodi ruler, Ibrahim, fell in battle in 1526 at Panipat against the Mogul leader Babur, who had been summoned by Ibrahim's own emirs to depose him. Babur was then able to take possession of Agra.

9 Adhaidinkajonpara mosque in Ajmer. The original
Jaina school was converted into a mosque after its
capture by the Ghurids in 1198

10 The Qutb Minar, "tower of victory," built
under Qutb ad-Din Aybak from 1199 on.
In front and to the left is the mosque
Quwwat al-lslam, the oldest Muslim
building in Delhi.

11 Detail from outer wall of the Qutb Minar



After Delhi became the capital of Islamic rule in India in 1193, various "slave kings" erected enormous buildings,
often using the remains of destroyed Hindu temples.

In the sameyear Delhi was captured, work began on the construction
of the great Quwwat-ul-Islam ("Power of Islam") mosque.

In 1236 the magnificent sepulchre of Sultan Jitutmish was integrated into it.
Qutb-ud-Din Aybak began construction of the Qutb Minar ( "Tower of Victory") in 1192.

Detail from the Qutb Minar, near Delhi


The Fourteen Auspicious Dreams of the Jina's Mother


Krishna Battles the Armies of the Demon Naraka
(Ancient stories of Lord Vishnu)