- The Vakaṭaka Empire was a royal Indian dynasty that originated from the Deccan in the mid-third century CE. Their state is believed to have extended from the southern edges of Malwa and Gujarat in the north to the Tungabhadra River in the south as well as from the Arabian Sea in the western to the edges of Chhattisgarh in the east.
- They were the most important successors of the Satavahanas in the Deccan and contemporaneous with the Guptas in northern India.
- The Vakaakas, like many coeval dynasties of the Deccan, claimed Buddhist origin. Little is known about Vindhyasakti (250–270 CE), the founder of the family. In the Cave XVI inscription of Ajanta he was described as the banner of the Vakataka family and a Dvija. It is stated in this inscription that he added to his power by fighting great battles and he had a large cavalry.
- The next ruler was Pravarasena I (270-330) was the first Vakataka ruler, who called himself a Samrat (universal ruler) and conducted wars with the Naga kings. He has become an emperor in his own right, perhaps the only emperor in the dynasty, with his kingdom embracing a good portion of North India and whole of Deccan.
- It is generally believed that the Vakataka ruling family was divided into four branches after Pravarsena I. Two branches are known: Pravarpura-Nandivardhana branch and the Vatsagulma branch.
- Rudrasena II (380-385) of Pravarpura-Nandivardhana branch is said to have married Prabhavatigupta, the daughter of the Gupta King Chandragupta II (375-415). Rudrasena II died fortuitously after a very short reign in 385 C.E., following which Prabhavatigupta (385 – 405) ruled as a regent on behalf of her two sons Divakarasena and Damodarasena (Pravarsena II) for 20 years. During this period the Vakataka realm was practically a part of the Gupta Empire. Many historians refer to this period as the Vakataka-Gupta age.
- Prabhavati Gupta’s inscription mentions about one “Deva Gupta” who is her father and the historians equated him with Chandra Gupta II. However, there is no other source to prove that Deva Gupta is really Chandra Gupta II.
- Pravarasena II composed the Setubandha in Maharashtri Prakrit. A few verses of the Gaha Sattasai (originally by Hala) are also attributed to him. He shifted the capital from Nandivardhana to Pravarapura, a new city of founded by him. He built a temple dedicated to Rama in his new capital.
- The highest number of so far discovered copper plate inscriptions of the Vakataka dynasty pertain to Pravarasena II. He is one of the most recorded ruler of ancient India.
- Pravarsena II was succeeded by Narendrasena (440-460), under whom the Vakataka influence spread to some central Indian states. Prithvisena II, the last known king of the line, succeeded his father Narendrasena in 460. After his death in 480, his kingdom was probably annexed by Harishena of the Vatsagulma branch of Vakataka.
- The Vakataka power was followed by that of the Chalukyas of Badami in Deccan.
- The Vatsagulma branch was founded by Sarvasena, the second son of Pravarasena I.
- Sarvasena (330 – 355) took the title of Dharmamaharaja. He is also known as the author of Harivijaya in Prakrit which is based on the story of bringing the parijat tree from heaven by Krishna. This work, praised by later writers is lost. He is also known as the author of many verses of the Prakrit Gaha Sattasai originally by Hala.
- Vindhysena (355 – 400) was also known as Vindhyashakti II. He is known from the well-known Washim plates which recorded the grant of a village situated in the northern marga of Nandikata (presently Nanded). The genealogical portion of the grant is written in Sanskrit and the formal portion in Prakrit. This is the first known land grant by any Vakataka ruler. He also took the title of Dharmamaharaja.
- Pravarasena II (400 – 415) was the next ruler. The Cave XVI inscription of Ajanta says that he became exalted by his excellent, powerful and liberal rule.
- Harishena (475 – 500) was a great patron of Buddhist architecture, art and culture. Ajanta is surviving example of his works. The rock cut architectural cell-XVI inscription of Ajanta states that he conquered Avanti (Malwa) in the north, Kosala (Chhattisgarh), Kalinga and Andhra in the east, Lata (Central and Southern Gujarat) and Trikuta (Nasik district) in the west and Kuntala (Southern Maharashtra) in the south.
- Varahadeva, a minister of Harishena and the son of Hastibhoja, excavated the rock-cut vihara of Cave XVI of Ajanta.Three of the Buddhist caves at Ajanta, two viharas – caves XVI and XVII and a chaitya – cave XIX were excavated and decorated with painting and sculptures during the reign of Harishena.
End of Vakataka:
- A/C to Dasakumaracarita of Dain, which was written probably around 125 years after the fall of the Vakataka dynasty, Harishena’s son, though intelligent and accomplished in all arts, neglected the study of the Dandaniti (Political Science) and gave himself up to the enjoyment of pleasures and indulged in all sorts of vices.
- Finding this a suitable opportunity, the ruler of Ashmaka instigated the ruler of Vanavasi (in the North Kanara district) to invade the Vakataka territory.
- The king called all his feudatories and decided to fight his enemy on the bank of the Varada (Wardha). While fighting with the forces of the enemy, he was treacherously attacked in the rear by some of his own feudatories and killed. The Vakataka dynasty ended with his death
- The Vakatakas are noted for having been patrons of the arts, architecture and literature. They led public works and their monuments are a visible legacy. The rock-cut Buddhist viharas and chaityas of Ajanta Caves was built under the patronage of Vakataka King Harishena of Vatsagulma branch.
Painting of Padmapani and Vajrapani in Ajanta: