Kadamba dynasty (kadamba) is one of the most ancient and long serving royal dynasties of Karnataka. Apart from the Banavasi Kadambas who were the first to use that name, different branches have ruled from variant places such as Goa, Hanagal, Karadikallu, Bankapura and Nurambada. However, the Kadmabas of Banavasi who ruled approximately during the interval between 345 A.D. and 525 A.D. is perhaps the most important and ancient.
The mythological explanation that links the dynasty to Shiva and Parvathi may be dismissed easily as it is a figments of imagination. Banavasi is now a small town in the North Canara district of coastal Karnataka. Kadambas are given the distinction of being the first indigenous dynasty from Karnataka with Kannada having the prime place in administration. It is documented that they belonged to ‘mAnavya gOtra’ and they were ‘hArIti putra’s.
There are amorphous speculations that the Kadambas were descendants of some North Indian king. However it has not found favour with important historians. The caste of these kings is also disputed. Some say that they were Brahmins who became militant and took up arms due to some insult meted out to Mayurasharma a member of their clan. (The tALagunda inscription narrates how Mayurasharma proceeded to Kanchi in 345 along with his guru and grandfather Veerasarma to prosecute his Vedic studies at a Ghatika (school). There, owing to some misunderstanding between him and a Pallava guard or at an Ashvasanstha (a place of horse sacrifice), a quarrel arose in which Mayurasharma was humiliated. In high rage, the Brahmana discontinued his studies, left Kanchi, swearing vengeance on the impudent Pallavas, and took to arms. He collected a faithful group of followers and routed the Pallava armies near Srisailam region.) Others contend that they were from some tribal group called ‘kadamabu’ who worshipped Kadamba tree which is endemic to that region. It is said that ‘kadambu’s are mentioned in the ancient Sangam literature of Tamil and that they were totemic worshippers of Lord Subrahmanya.
Sangam literature documents the fact that Kadmabas were marine pirates and that they were defeated by the Chera and Chola kings. It is argued that the dynasty might have linked itself to the Brahmin community more as a matter of prestige. Almost all the information that we have about the early history of Kadambas is gleaned from inscriptions particularly the famous pillar inscription that was found in Talagunda. (450 A.D.)
Kadamba dynasty was liberated from its feudatory affiliation to Pallavas and became an independent kingdom during the regime of Mayuravarma. ‘guDnApura inscription’ and ‘tALagunda inscription’ throw light on these occurrences. One finds exaggerated remarks that he conquered many subsidiary kingdoms including a few in North India.