The Reign of Pala, Pratihara and Rashtrakuta Rulers


We have studied about the Ancient Indian Kingdoms. Now, we are going into the Medieval India. The number of powerful empires arose in Northern India and the Deccan between 750 to 1000 CE. The most important Empire of the early medieval period was Pala, Pratihara, Rashtrakuta Empire.

The Pala rulers dominated the Eastern India. The Pratihara rulers ruled over the Western India and the Upper Gangetic Valley. The Rashtrakuta rulers were the feudatory of the Chalukyas. So, in 757 CE, they overthrew the Chalukyan Kingdom and established Rashtrakuta Empire. The Rashtrakuta rulers established their Empire in Deccan region. They were the connecting bridge between the Northern and Southern Empires.

Pala, Pratiharas and Rashtrakuta Empire
Pala, Pratiharas and Rashtrakuta Empire

The Pala, Pratihara and Rashtrakuta Rulers were fighting among themselves. They were actually fighting to have control over the region of Kannauj after the demise of Harsha. Though they were fighting among themselves still they provided the good conditions to their subjects.

Pala Empire

The founder of Pala Kingdom was Gopala. He was an elected king of the eastern India. Dharmapala (770-810 CE) succeeded Gopala. Dharmapala revived the Nalanda University. He also founded the Vikramshila University in Bihar. But the Dharmapala was not able to consolidate his control over Kannauj.

During the reign of Dharmapala, East Bihar and Uttar Pradesh remained a bone of contention between Pala and Pratiharas. But the Pratihara ruler Nagabhatta-II defeated Dharmapala near the Mongyr. Now, Devapala, son of Dharmapala succeeded to the throne. He ruled for 40 years. During his reign, the Pala Empire reached its peak.

The Arab merchant Sulaiman gave glimpses of the power of the Pala Empire during the reign of Devapala.

He told that Pala Kings were accompained by the 50,000 elephants. There were 10-15 thousands men in Devapala’s Army were employed in fulling and washing the clothes.

Buddhist Learning During the Pala Rulers

The Pala Rulers were great patrons of Buddhist Learning. As we have read Dharmapala revived the Nalanda Univesity and laid the foundation of Vikramshila University. Pala rulers also built many Buddhist Viharas. They also had a close relationship with Tibet.

Pala rulers also had close trade links with the South-East Asian States. This trade was profitable and added prosperity of Pala Empire. Pala rulers also had close terms with the Shailendra Dynasty of the Indonesian Island. The rulers of the Shailendra Dynasty were of the believer of Buddhism.

Pratihara Empire

We also call it as Gurjara-Pratiharas. They had their origin from the Gujarat or South-Western Rajasthan. Nagabhatta-I was the founder of the Pratihara Kingdom. They provided resistance to the Arab invasions from the north-western frontier of India. But in India, they were having a conflict with the Rashtrakutas and Pala rulers.

Though Nagabhatta-I was the founder of Pratihara Empire. But the great king of Pratihara dynasty was Bhoja. He built his empire magnificent and captured Kannauj. After this Kannauj remained the capital of Pratiharas. Though Bhoja tried to capture Eastern India. But the Devapala, the great Pala ruler stopped his campaign to east.

The King Bhoja was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. He also adopted the title of Adivarah. Mahendrapala-I, the son of Bhoja succeeded to the throne in 885 CE. Al Masudi the Arab traveller gave an account of Pratihara Kingdom. He said,

The Empire had 1,800,000 villages, cities and rural areas and about 2000Km in length and 2000Km in breadth. The King’s army had four divisions. The each consisting of 7,00,000 to 9,00,000 men. With the army of North he fights against the ruler of Multan and other Muslims who align themselve with the ruler of Multan. The Army in south fought against the Rashtrakuta rulers. And the army in east fought against the Palas. Though he had only 2000 elephants in his army. But he had the best cavalry of any king in the country.

Patronisation to Literature

The Pratihara Rulers were the great Patron of learning and literature. Sanskrit was the language used for literature. Rajshekhara was the famous Poet and Dramatist during their time. Mahipala, grandson of Bhoja gave patron to the Rajshekhara in his court.

Tripartite Struggle among Pala, Pratihara and Rashtrakuta Rulers
Tripartite Struggle among Pala, Pratihara and Rashtrakuta Rulers

Rashtrakuta Rulers

As we have read in the introduction part that Rashtrakutas were ruling over the region of Deccan. They were the connecting link between the North and South India. Rashtrakuta Empire was established by the Dantidurga, who was a feudatory of Chalukyas. He fixed his capital at Manyakhet (near Solapur, Maharashtra).

Rashtrakuta Rulers were the most powerful rulers in the medieval India. They built magnificent temples and the ruled for the longest time period. They had conflicts with Pratihara and Palas. But many time they defeated both of them.

The greatest Rashtrakuta rulers were Govinda-III (793-814 CE) and Amoghavarsha (814-878 CE). Govinda-III terrified the Cheras, Pandyas and Chola kings. Amoghavarsha ruled for 68 years and gave great emphasis on the literature and religion instead of war. He too was a great Kannada Poet.

Later Rashtrakuta Rulers

The next important Rashtrakuta Ruler was Indra-III. According to Al Masudi, the Arab traveller

The Rashtrakuta King Balhara of Vallabharaja was the greatest king of India and most of the Indian Ruleres accepted his sovereignty. He possessed large armies and innumerable elephants.

The last important Rashtrakuta ruler was the Krishna-III. He defeated the Chola King Parantaka-I. He annexed the northern part of Chola Empire. But in the 972 CE, Rashtrakuta Capital Manyakhet was sacked and burnt. So, this led to the demise of the splendid Rashtrakuta Empire.

Rashtrakuta Rulers were tolerant in nature as their all contemporary rulers. They had trade link with the Muslim traders. They also permitted them to preach Islam in their dominions.

The reign of Rashtrakuta is also remembered because of their contribution to the Art and Architecture of India.

In the next coming post, we will read about Chola Empire (from 9th to 12th Century).

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