The clan that ruled from Elichpur was a feudatory of the Badami Chalukyas and during the rule of Dantidurga, it overthrew Chalukya Kirtivarman II and went on to build an impressive empire with the Gulbarga region in modern Karnataka as its base. This clan came to be known as the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta, rising to power in South India in 753. Period between the eight and the tenth centuries, saw a tripartite struggle for the resources of the rich Gangetic plains, each of these three empires annexing the seat of power at Kannauj for short periods of time. At their peak the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta ruled a vast empire stretching from the Ganga River and Yamuna River doab in the north to Cape Comorin in the south.
During their rule, Jain mathematicians and scholars contributed important works in Kannada and Sanskrit. Amoghavarsha I was the most famous king of this dynasty and wrote Kavirajamarga, a landmark literary work in the Kannada language. The finest examples of which are seen in the Kailasanath Temple at Ellora and the sculptures of Elephanta Caves in modern Maharashtra as well as in the Kashivishvanatha temple and the Jain Narayana temple at Pattadakal in modern Karnataka, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The origin of Rashtrakuta dynasty has been a controversial topic. These issues pertain to the origins of the earliest ancestors of the Rashtrakutas during the time of Emperor Ashoka in the second century BCE, and the connection between the several Rashtrakuta dynasties that ruled small kingdoms in northern and central India and the Deccan between the sixth and seventh centuries. The relationship of these medieval Rashtrakutas to the most famous later dynasty, the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta (present day Malkhed in the Gulbarga district, Karnataka state), who ruled between the eighth and tenth centuries has also been debated
The appearance of the terms Rathika, Ristika (Rashtrika) or Lathika in conjunction with the
terms Kambhoja and Gandhara in some Ashokan inscriptions of 2nd century BCE from Mansera and Shahbazgarhi in North Western Frontier Province (present day Pakisthan), Girnar (Saurashtra) and Dhavali (Kalinga) and the use of the epithet "Ratta" in many later inscriptions has prompted a claim that the earliest Rashtrakutas were descendants of the Arattas, natives of the Punjab region from the time of Mahabharata who later migrated south and set up kingdoms there, while another theory points more generally to north western regions of India. Based on this theory, the Arattas may have become natives of the Deccan having arrived there during the early centuries of the first millennium. But this is a far fetched theory having no proof.
Term Rishtika used together with Petenika in the Ashokan inscriptions implied they were hereditary ruling clans from modern Maharashtra region and the term "Ratta" implied Maharatta ruling families from modern Maharashtra region. But this has been rejected on the basis that from ancient books such as Dipavamsha and Mahavamsha in Pali language it is known the term Maharatta and not Rashtrika has been used to signify hereditary ruling clans from modern Maharashtra region and the terms Rashtrika and Petenika appear to be two different displaced ruling tribes.
Marathi or Telugu origin
The argument that the Rashtrakutas were either Marathi speaking Marathas or Telugu speaking Reddies in origin has been rejected. Reddy's in that time period had not come into martial prominence even in the Telugu speaking regions of Andhra, being largely an agrarian soceity of cultivators who only much later (in the 14th century - 15th century) came to control
regions in the Krishna - Rajamundry districts. The Rashtrakuta period did not produce any Marathi inscriptions or literature (with the exception of a 981 CE Shravanabelagola inscription which some historians argue was inscribed later). Hence Marathi as the language of the Rashtrakutas, it is claimed, is not an acceptable argument
The Rashtrakutas emerged before the term "Rajput" came to be used as a community. The emergence of Rajputs in Rajasthan and Gujarat coincides with the arrival of the Rashtrakutas and Chalukyas in the region. So it is just a coincidence
- Ruling clans called Rathis and Maharathis were in power in parts of present day Karnataka as well in the early centuries of the Christian era, which is known inscriptions from the region and further proven by the discovery of lead coins from the middle of 3rd century bearing Sadakana Kalalaya Maharathi in the heart of modern Karnataka region near Chitradurga. In the face of these facts it is claimed it can no longer be maintained that the Rathi and Maharathi families were confined only to present day Maharashtra. There is sufficient inscriptional evidence that several Maharathi families were related to Kannadiga families by marriage and they were naga worshippers, a form of worship very popular in the Mysore region.
- The epithet Ratta, it is a Kannada word from which the word Rashtrakuta has been derived. The use of the word Rattagudlu (meaning an office) has been found in inscriptions from present day Andhra Pradesh dated prior to the 8th century indicating it was a South Indian word. From the Deoli plates and Karhad records it is clear prince called Ratta and his son was called Rashtrakuta. Thus Rashtrakutas were of Kannada origin. It is also said the term Rashtra means "kingdom" and Kuta means "lofty" or Rashtra means state and Kuta means chieftain.
- Another epithet used in inscriptions of Amoghavarsha I was Lattalura Puravaradhiswara. It referes to their original home Lattalur, modern day Latur in Maharashtra state, bordering Karnataka. This area was predominantly Kannada speaking based on surviving vestiges of place names, inscriptions and cultural relics. So Latta is a Prakrit variation of Ratta and hence Rattana-ur became Lattana-ur and finally Lattalur.
- Connections between the medieval Rashtrakuta families to the imperial family of Manyakheta, It is clear that only the family members ruling from Elichpur (Berar or modern Amravati district, modern Maharashtra) had names that were very similar to the names of Kings of the Manyakheta dynasty. From the Tivarkhed and Multhai inscriptions it is clear that the kings of this family were Durgaraja, Govindaraja, Svamikaraja and Nannaraja. These names closely resemble the names of Manyakheta kings or their extended family, the name Govindaraja appearing multiple times among the Manyakheta line. These names also appear in the Gujarat line of Rashtrakutas whose family ties
with the Manyakheta family is well known.
- Princes and princesses of the Rashtrakuta family used pure Kannada names such as Kambarasa, Asagavve, Revakka and Abbalabbe as their personal names indicating that they were native Kannadigas. It has been pointed out that princesses of family lineage belonging to Gujarat signed their royal edicts in Kannada even in their Sanskrit inscriptions. Some examples of this are the Navsari and Baroda plates of Karka I and the Baroda plates of his son Dhruva II. It has been attested by a scholar that the Gujarat Rashtrakuta princes signed their inscriptions in the language of their native home and the race they belonged to. It is well known that the Gujarat line of Rashtrakutas were from the same family as the Manyakheta line. It is argued that if the Rashtrakutas were originally a Marathi speaking family, then the Gujarat Rashtrakutas would not have
signed their inscriptions in Kannada language and that too in far away Gujarat.
- While the linguistic leanings of the early Rashtrakutas has caused considerable debate, the history and language of the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta has been free of such confusion. It is clear from inscriptions, coinage and prolific literature that the court of these
Rashtrakutas was multi-lingual, used Sanskrit and Kannada as their administrative languages and encouraged literature in Sanskrit and Kannada. As such, from the Kavirajamarga of 9th century, it is known that Kannada was popular from Kaveri
river up to the Godavari river, an area covering large territory in modern Maharashtra.
- The Rashtrakuta inscriptions call them the vanquishers of the Karnatabala, a sobriquet used to refer to the near invincibility of the Chalukyas of Badami. This however it should not be construed to mean that the Rashtrakutas themselves were not Kannadigas. Their patronage and love of the Kannada language is apparent in that most of their inscriptions
within modern Karnataka are in Kannada, while their inscriptions outside of modern Karnataka tended to be in Sanskrit. An inscription in classical Kannada of King Krishna III has also been found as far away as Jabalpur in modern Madhya Pradesh which further supports the view of their affinity to the language kannada.