Old Kannada inscription (876 CE) of Rashtrakuta Emperor Amoghavarsha I at the Veerabhadra temple in Kumsi
6th Rashtrakuta Emperor
Reignc. 815 – c. 877 CE (62 years)
PredecessorGovinda III
SuccessorKrishna II
800 CE
Died878 CE (aged 77-78)
possibly Manyakheta, Rashtrakuta Empire (present-day Malkhed, India)
IssueKrishna II
Regnal name
FatherGovinda III
ReligionPrior: Not stated
Later: Digambara Jainism (disciple of Acharya Jinasena)

Amoghavarsha I (also known as Amoghavarsha Nrupatunga I) (r. 814 – 878 CE) was the greatest emperor of the Rashtrakuta dynasty, and one of the most notable monarchs of Early Medieval India. His reign of 64 years is one of the longest precisely dated monarchical reigns on record. Many Kannada and Sanskrit scholars prospered during his rule, including the great Indian mathematician Mahaviracharya who wrote Ganita-sara-samgraha, Jinasena, Virasena, Shakatayan and Sri Vijaya (a Kannada language theorist).[1]

Amoghavarsha I was an accomplished poet and scholar. He wrote (or co-authored) the Kavirajamarga, the earliest extant literary work in Kannada,[2] and Prashnottara Ratnamalika, a religious work in Sanskrit. During his rule he held titles such as Nrupathunga, Atishadhavala, Veeranarayana, Rattamarthanda and Srivallabha. He moved the Rashtrakuta regnal capital from Mayurkhandi in the present-day Bidar district to Manyakheta in the present-day Kalaburagi district in the modern Karnataka state. He is said to have built the imperial capital city to "match that of Lord Indra". The capital city was planned to include elaborately designed buildings for the royalty using the finest of workmanship.[3]

The Arab traveler Sulaiman described Amoghavarsha as one of the "four great kings of the world."[4] For his dharmic temperament, his interest in the fine arts and literature and his peace-loving nature, historian Panchamukhi has compared him to the emperor Ashoka and given him the honorific "Ashoka of the South".[5] Amoghavarsha seems to have entertained the highest admiration for the language, literature and culture of the Kannada people as testified to in the text Kavirajamarga.[6]

Early years

Amoghavarsha I (whose birth name was Sharva)[7][8] was born in 800 CE in Sribhavan on the banks of the river Narmada during the return journey of his father, Emperor Govinda III, from his successful campaigns in northern India. This information is available from the Manne inscription of 803 and the Sanjan plates of 871, both important sources of information about Amoghavarsha I.[7] The Sirur plates further clarify that Amoghavarsha I ascended to the throne in 815 at the age of 14 after the death of his father.[9] All his inscriptions thereafter refer to him as Amoghavarsha I.[10]

A revolt led by some of his relatives together with feudatories of the empire temporarily unseated Amoghavarsha I, who, with the help of his cousin (Karka) also called Patamalla, re-established himself as the emperor by 821. This information comes from the Surat records and the Baroda plates of 835.[11][12] The first to revolt was the Western Ganga feudatory led by King Shivamara II. In the series of battles that followed, Shivamara II was killed in 816. But Amoghavarsha I's commander and confidant, Bankesha, was defeated in Rajaramadu by the next Ganga king, Rachamalla.[13] Due to the resilience of the Western Gangas, Amoghavarsha I was forced to follow a conciliatory policy. He gave in marriage his daughter, Chandrabbalabbe, to the Western Ganga King Butuga I, and another daughter, Revakanimmadi, to prince Ereganga. More revolts occurred between 818 and 820, but by 821 Amoghavarsha I had overcome all resistance and stabilised the empire to rule.[13]

Emperor Amoghavarsha reigned from 815 to 877 CE.[14]

Wars in the south

Bilingual old Kannada-Sanskrit inscription (866 CE) written in old Kannada script, from Nilgund of Rashtrakuta Emperor Amoghavarsha I

Vijayaditya II of the Eastern Chalukya family overthrew Bhima Salki, the ruling Rashtrakuta feudatory at Vengi, took possession of the throne and continued his hostilities against the Rashtrakutas. He captured Sthambha (modern Kammamettu), a Rashtrakuta stronghold. From the Cambay and Sangli plates it is known that Amoghavarsha I overwhelmingly defeated the Vengi Chalukyas and drove them out of their strongholds in the battle of Vingavalli.[13] The Bagumra records mention a "Sea of Chalukyas" invading the Ratta kingdom which Amoghavarsha I successfully defended. After these victories he assumed the title Veeranarayana.[13]

Tranquility was restored temporarily by a marriage between Vijayaditya II's son, Vishnuvardhana V, and the Ratta princess Shilamahadevi, a sister of Karka of the Gujarat Rashtrakuta branch. However, Vishnuvardhana V attacked the northern Kalachuri feudatory of the Rashtrakutas in Tripuri, central India, and captured Elichpur near Nasik. Amoghavarsha I killed Vishnuvardhana V in 846 but continued a friendly relationship with the next Eastern Chalukya ruler Gunaga Vijayaditya III, and suppressed the recalcitrant Alupas of South Canara under prince Vimaladitya in 870. Likewise, Amoghavarsha I maintained friendly interactions with the Pallava who were busy keeping the Pandyas at bay.[15] The Pallavas had marital ties with the Rashtrakutas as well. Nandivarman II was married to a Ratta princess, Sankha, and their son was also called Nripathunga. This has prompted historians to suggest that the Pallava monarch must have married Nrupatunga Amoghavarsha I's daughter.[15]

Amoghavarsha's reign lasted until 877 CE after which he had voluntarily retired from his imperial throne.[9]

Religion, culture and literature

Jaina Narayana temple Pattadakal built by Rashtrakuta Amoghavarsha

Amoghavarsha I preferred to remain friendly with all his neighbours and feudatories and avoided taking an aggressive posture against them. It is still debated whether he abdicated his throne at times to fulfill religious pursuits.[16] He deeply cared for his subjects and once when a calamity threatened to harm them (according to the Sanjan plates), he offered his finger as a sacrifice to the goddess Mahalakshmi at Kolhapur. For this benevolent act the Sanjan inscription likens him to puranic heroes such as Bali, Shibi and Jimutavahana (hero of the play Nagananda).[17] It is written that the rulers of Vanga, Anga, Magadha, Malwa and Vengi worshipped him.[18]

Amoghavarsha I was a disciple of Acharya Jinasena.[19] Proof for this comes from the writing, Mahapurana (also known as Uttara Purana) by Gunabhadra in which the author states "blissful for the world is the existence of Jinasenacharya, by bowing to whom Amoghavarsha Nrupathunga considered himself to be purified". The same writing proves that Amoghavarsha I was a follower of the Digambara branch of Jainism.[19][20] Amoghavarsha I patronised Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. However, according to the scholar Reu, writings such as Mahapurana by Gunabhadra, Prashnottara Ratnamalika and Mahaviracharya's Ganita-sara-sangraha are evidence that Amoghavarsha Nrupathunga I had taken to Jainism.[21] According to the Arab traveller Sulaiman al-Tajir, Amoghavarsha I's empire was one among the four great contemporary empires of the world and because of his peaceful and loving nature, he has been compared to Emperor Ashoka.[5][22] The Jain Narayana temple of Pattadakal, (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)[23] a basadi at Konnur and the Neminatha Basadi at Manyakheta were built during his reign. His queen was Asagavve. Famous among scholars during his time were Mahaviracharya, Virasena,[24] Jinasena, Gunabhadra, Shakatayan, and Sri Vijaya.[1]


Amoghavarsha was a scholar in Kannada and Sanskrit literature.[9] His own writing Kavirajamarga is a landmark literary work in the Kannada language and became a guide book for future poets and scholars for centuries to come.[25][26][14] The Sanskrit writing Prashnottara Ratnamalika is said to have been written by Amoghavarsha I in his old age when he had distanced himself from the affairs of the state.[9] However others argue that it may have been written by Adi Shankara or by Vimalacharya.[27]

There is a mention of several Kannada authors in his works who preceded him. Those who wrote in prose were Vimala, Udaya, Nagarjuna, Jayabandhu and Durvinita, whereas those who wrote in poetry were Srivijaya, Kavisvara, Pandita, Chandra and Lokapala.[19]



  1. ^ a b Kamath (2001), p79
  2. ^ Sastri (1955), p. 355.
  3. ^ Sastri (1955), p. 146.
  4. ^ The Shaping of Modern Gujarat: Plurality, Hindutva, and Beyond; Acyuta Yājñika, Suchitra Sheth, Penguins Books, (2005), p.42, ISBN 978-0-14400-038-8
  5. ^ a b Panchamukhi in Kamath (2001), p80
  6. ^ M. V. Krishna Rao (1936), The Gangas of Talkad: A Monograph on the History of Mysore from the Fourth to the Close of the Eleventh Century, p.80
  7. ^ a b Kamath (2001), p77
  8. ^ It has been claimed that Sharva may be a title (Reu 1933, p66)
  9. ^ a b c d Narasimhacharya 1988, p. 1.
  10. ^ Reu 1997, p. 68.
  11. ^ Kamath (2001), p78
  12. ^ Reu 1997, p. 66.
  13. ^ a b c d From the Hiregundagal records (Kamath 2001, p78)
  14. ^ a b Ram Bhushan Prasad Singh 2008, p. 2.
  15. ^ a b Hultzsch in Kamath (2001), p79
  16. ^ He retired to his Jain monastery more than once during his long reign (Sastri 1955, p395)
  17. ^ From the Sanjan plates (Kamath 2001, p79)
  18. ^ From the Nilagunda records (Kamath 2001, p79)
  19. ^ a b c Narasimhacharya 1988, p. 2.
  20. ^ Reu 1997, p. 72.
  21. ^ Reu 1997, p. 35-36.
  22. ^ From the notes of 9th-century Arab traveller Suleiman (Kamath 2001, p80)
  23. ^ Vijapur, Raju S. "Reclaiming past glory". Deccan Herald. Spectrum. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 27 February 2007.
  24. ^ Natubhai Shah 2004, p. 51.
  25. ^ Narasimhacharya 1988, p. 12.
  26. ^ Narasimhacharya 1988, p. 17.
  27. ^ While the Tibetan version of the book and copies of the book written by Digambara Jains claim the author was indeed Amgohavarsha I, the manuscript copy of the writing preserved in the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras, states that Adi Shankara (Shankaracharya) was the author. According to Reu, some Svetambara Jains claim the author was Vimalacharya (Reu 1933, p36, p73)


Preceded byGovinda III Rashtrakuta Emperor 814–878 Succeeded byKrishna II