Vakataka dynasty, Indian ruling house originating in the central Deccan in the mid-3rd century CE, the empire of which is believed to have extended from Malwa and Gujarat in the north to the Tungabhadra in the south and from the Arabian Sea in the west to the Bay of Bengal in the east. The Vakatakas, like many of the contemporary dynasties of the Deccan, claimed Brahmanical origin. Little is known, however, about Vindhyashakti (c. 250–270 CE), the founder of the family. Territorial expansion began in the reign of his son Pravarasena I, who came to the throne about 270 and reached the Narmada River in the north by annexing the kingdom of Purika.
Pravarasena’s kingdom was partitioned after his death. The main line continued with Rudrasena I (c. 330), his son Prithvisena I (c. 350), and Prithvisena’s son Rudrasena II (c. 400). In the period of Prithvisena the Vakatakas came into contact with the powerful Gupta family of North India, which was making a bid to expand in the west at the expense of the Western Kshatrapas. Because of its territorial position, the Vakataka family was recognized as a useful ally; Prabhavati Gupta, the daughter of Chandra Gupta II, was married to Rudrasena II. In this period, Gupta impact was significant in Vakataka polity and culture. Rudrasena’s death was followed by the lengthy regency of Prabhavati Gupta during the minority of her sons Divakarasena and Damodarasena. After the Guptas became involved in a war against the Hunas, the Vakataka dynasty was free to expand in central India, and in the period of Narendrasena (c. 450–470), son of Pravarasena II, Vakataka influence spread to such central Indian states as Kosala, Mekala, and Malava. This power, however, ultimately brought the Vakatakas into conflict with the Nalas and caused a setback to the family. Its power was temporarily revived in the reign of Prithvisena II, the last known king of the line, who acceded to the throne about 470.
Apart from this senior line was the Vatsagulma (Basim, in Akola district) line, which branched off after Pravarasena I and occupied the area between the Indhyadri Range and the Godavari River. The Vakatakas are noted for having encouraged arts and letters.
Polity under vakatakas
The Vakatakas as they styled in their inscriptions and known to modem historians or Vindhyakas as they are called in the Puranas geographically played a very important role in the political history of the Deccan and Central India in particular and that of India as a whole in general. The original centre of the Vakataka power layed in the Vindhyan region of Madhya Pradesh to the north of Narmada as is evident from a study of Puranic evidence.’ From where they moved southward to Vidarbha and other regions of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Kamataka and exercised considerable influence over wide areas of the Deccan.
Like their Gupta contemporaries, Vakataka polity had an important place for allies and feudatories. But one element that characterized their polity was strict control or authority. There is evidence showing that Vakataka rulers exercised rigid control over their feudatories and administration. In these pages all these facts are dealt with in detail, along with a brief description of early history of the Vakatakas.
The Puranas provide several indications to the fact that Vakataka originated in the Vindhyan region. Firstly, Vindhyasakti, the name of the founder of the family, signified one whose strength lay in the Vindhyas. Secondly, the Puranas describe the family of Vindhyasakti as Vindhyaka or ‘belonging to the Vindhyan region’, immediately after referring to the reign of the four sons of Pravira i.e Pravarasena I, the son of Vindhyasakti. The use of the term Vindhyaka for the Vakatakas closely resembles the mention of the Satavahanas as Andharas or Andhrajatiyas in the Puranas. Just as the dynasty of the Satavahanas is called as such in the inscriptions and as Andhra or Andhrajatiya in the Puranas, the Vakatakas are called as such in the inscriptions and as Vindhyakas in the Puranas. Like Satavahana, Vakataka was evidently the family or dynastic name, while Vindhyaka referred to the area where they had their original habitat and continued to rule for some initial generations.
The location of the early capital of the Vakatakas seems to have been in the town of Kanchanaka. It is clearly referred to in the Puranas as the centre of authority of Pravira or Pravarasena I. Their dynastic sections inform us that he ruled from the city of Kanchanaka for six decades, Vindhyasakti-sutas ch=api Praviro nama viryavan bhokshyate cha samah shashtim purim kanchanakam cha vai.
According to Ajay Mitra Shastri both the ka-s in Kanchanaka, initial and concluding, got dropped in course of time and the remainder, nchana, got transformed into Nachna which was equated by K.P. Jayaswal long back with the modem village of Nachna or Nachna-kitalai in the Panna district of the Bundelkhand division of Madhya Pradesh. His suggestion has been fully endorsed by Ajay Mitra Shastri for it seems to satisfy all the conditions of identification. It is situated in the Vindhyan region and known to have been an antiquarian site. A number of early monuments including a couple of early Vakataka lithic records and an early Gupta-Vakataka temple standing here a quite well known/ These facts fit well with the view that the Vindhyan tract including a major portion of the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh formed part of Vakataka dominion during the days of Pravarasena I. However, it seems that later on when the gravity of Vakataka power shifted southward due to Gupta pressure or occupation of their original cradle land by Samudragupta, the Vakatakas found themselves compelled to shift their capital somewhere in the Vidarbha region. According to Ajay Mitra Shastri, the first such capital must have been Padmapura followed by Nandivardhana and Pravarapura.
Puranic account indicates a division of Pravarasena I empire amongst his four sons. It can not be determined certainly because the Puranas only state that four sons of Pravira (Pravarasena I) would become (became) kings/^ without giving further details. However, epigraphical records of the family testify to the division of Pravarasena I’s empire at least in to two parts: The first and foremost under the descendants of his son Gautamiputra ruling at first from Nandivardhana and later fi”om Pravarapura. Both are located in the Nagpur and Wardha districts of Maharashtra and second under his another son Sarvasena and his successors which had Vatsagulma as its capital identified with Washim in the Akola district of Maharashtra.’^ These two branches are generally called Nandivardhana-Pravarapura branch or main branch and Vatsagulma branch respectively.