Mahendravarman I- A.D. 600-630

Simhavishnu was succeeded by his son Mahendravarman I. In the beginning of his life, Mahendravarman I was a follower of Jainism, Later, he embraced Saivism due to the influence of the Saivaite Saint Tirunavukkarasar, who is also known as Appar. This is testified by Periyapuranam.

This is confirmed by the inscriptions of Trichy Rockfort temple.  It is learnt from Mathavilasa Prakasanam, a treatise by Mahendravarman that religions such as Buddhisam, Kapalikas and Pasupatham wer followed during his reign. He destroyed the Samana Palli (Jain School) at Tirupathiripuliyur and expelled Samanas (Jains) from his country.

Mahendravarman revied Saivism (worshippers of Siva).  He introduced the innovation of cave temples carved out of rocks.  He was a master of arts in its various forms.  He beautified his country and fostered the culture of the Tamils.


The Paliava-Chaiukya conflict had begun during the period of Mahendravarman I. The Chalukyan king Pulakesin II marched against the Pallavas and defeated Mahendravarman, Subsequently, Mahendravarma I chased his enemy and defeated the Chalukyan army at Pullalur. He had also defeated the Western Ganga ruler Durvinitha.

The inscription of Aihole says that Pulikesi II attacked the Pallava king, captured Vengi and made his brother Vishnuvardan, the king of Vengi who had been already ruling with Nsik (Asalapuram) as his capital.

The same inscription says that when the forces of Pulikesi II invaded Kanji from the north, the king did not face the enemy and hid himself inside the fort of Kanji like a coward. But the Kasakdi plate of the Pallavas says that Mahendran destroyed his enemies at Pullalur.

It is the custom of kings to hide their defeats but to record and highlight their victories only.  Durvinedan, the Ganga King, refers to the war of Pullalur in his inscriptions.  It is understood so that Durvinedan joined Pullikesi II and fought against Mahendravarman.  Though Mahendran lost his northern part, he continued to rule as an emperor. His empire had spread form Venkata hills in in the north to the Cauvery in the south.  There were many feudatories under him.


Mahendravarman I had 26 titles. The titles Sathrumallan and Kalagapriyan show his military genius. His generosity was known from the title Gunabhara. Other titles such as Avanipajanan, Lalithanguran, Purushothaman, Sathyasanthan, Vichithra chithra, Narendran, Sethakari, Potharaiyan, Mahapidugu, Nayaparan, Vikraman, Mathavilasan, Anithyaragan, Sangeeranasathi, Alupthakaman and Nirabeshan are the some of them.

Art and Literature

Mahendravarman I had evinced much interest in art and architecture. He introduced a new technique in the temple architecture. He carved out temples from huge rocks without using bricks, wood and mortar. It is considered to be an innovation in the field of South Indian art and architecture. Therefore, he was called as Vichitrachitha. These temples are known as rock-cut temples or cave temples. His rock-cut temples are found in several places in South India including Mandagapattu, Mamandur, Mahendravadi, Vallam, Pallavaram, Thirukkazhukunram and Tiruchi.
We can find the Pallava paintings at Chittannavasai. The music inscription at Kudumiyanmalai reveals Mahendravarman’s skill in music. He was an expert in playing Veena known as Parivathini. Mahendravarman I was also a great scholar in the Sanskrit language. He wrote the satirical drama Mattavilasa Prahasanam in Sanskrit.

The cave temple at Mandagapattu was the first of its kind in rock architecture.  The inscriptions of Mandagapattu temple in South Arcot says that Mahendravarman, built an ‘everlasting temple for the everlasting God’ sans stone, wood, metal and lime.  He carved cave temples out of rocks for Thirumal at Mamandur, Mahendravadi, Singavaram and Namakkal.

He built cave temples for lord Siva at  Seeyamangalam, Pallavarma, Vaooam, Dalavanur, Thiruvathigai, Thirukazhukundram and Tiruchirappalli. A cave temple for trinity of the Hindu Gods at Mandagappattu and a temple for the Samanas (Jains) at Annavasal.  The cave temples at Vijayawada, Mogalrajapuram, Undavalli, Bairavakonda, Keezh Mavilangai and Melacheri are his creations only.

Mahendravarman built the Aadhivaragar temple at Mamallapuram.  On the northern side of the temple, in the Pallava Grantha letters “Sri Simhavishnu Bothathi Rajan” is inscribed.  At the bottom of the inscription the figure of Simhavishnu and those of his two wives are seen.

Just opposite, the figure of Mahendravarman and those of his wives are seen and also inscribed the name “Sri Mahendra Bothathi Rajan”. Mahendravarman who erected many cave temples, erected Dharmaraja Mandapam and Kodikal Mandapam at Mamallapuram, Since he built many temples, the got the title “Sethakari” i.e., builder of temples.

He created places like Mahendravadi in his name.  He created lakes at Mahendravadi, Mamadur and Dalavanur and developed agriculture.

Mahendravarman was interested in painting and sculpture. We could understand his ability in painting from his title ‘Sithrakara Puli’ i.e., a tiger of paintings.  The painting of the cave temple of Sithanna Vasal is of his period.

He invented thalam a musical instrument and the raga Sangeerana Sathi.  The inscription of Kudumiyanmalai explained the music of his time.

Mahendravarman wrote in Sanskrit Mathavilasa Prakasanam, a satire and a drama Bhagavatha Joogiyam.  He was hailed as Vichithra Sitthan as he patronized music, dance, sculpture, painting and drama.