In this article you will learn about the history of India from the Guptas to Gaurs.
The history of northern India after the decline of the Kushans becomes quite obscure and we know very little about the various events. However, it can be said with certainty that the entire territory of North India was divided into a large number of states— some monarchical and others non-monarchical.
One of these small states consisting of portion of North Bengal and South Bihar was ruled by Sri Gupta followed by Ghatotkacha. Both these used the title of Maharaja. But it was under Chandragupta, grandson of Sri Gupta that the state came into prominence.
Chandra Gupta assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja and issued gold coins. The rise of Chandragupta was facilitated by his marriage with the Lichhavi princess Kumar Devi. Though the exact extent of Chandragupta’s empire cannot be ascertained, some scholars hold on the strength of a passage in Purana that he ruled over Allahabad and Avadh regions.
Chandragupta I was succeeded by his son Samudragupta (335 A.D – 376 A.D ). We get valuable information about his reign from the Allahabad pillar inscription, a pillar which was originally erected by Asoka. This inscription contains details about the military exploits of Samudragupta. He is credited with having defeated and exterminated nine kings. Obviously he annexed their territories to his empire after defeating them.
He also subjugated the states located on the frontiers of his kingdom. These included the five kingdoms in Lower Bengal; Upper Assam, Nepal and the territories further west. He also humbled republican clans like Malavas, the Yaudheyas, the Arjunayanas, the Madras and the Abhiras in Punjab and Rajasthan.
These status paid homage and taxes to Samudragupta, although they continued to enjoy internal autonomy. Samudragupta also embarked upon the conquest of the south, and defeated almost twelve kings. But Samudragupta did not annex these states to his empire and contented himself by receiving homage and tribute from these states.
According to Dr. Radha Kumud Mookerjee, “His (Samudragupta’s) name which pervades the whole world, is due to his re-establishing many royal families whom he had overthrown and deprived of sovereignty.”
Samudragupta also maintained friendly relations with the foreign powers. He permitted the Ceylonese king Meghavarman to construct a monastery at Gaya. Apart from being a great conqueror and statesman Samudragupta was a versatile genius – a great musician, poet, scholar etc.
Till the beginning of the present century it was believed that Samudra Gupta was succeeded by his son Chandra Gupta II. But the discovery of the lost dramatic work Devi Chandra Guptam by Visakhadatta has given rise to a view that Samudra Gupta was succeeded by his elder son Rama Gupta.
Soon after his accession he was attacked by the Sakas and made peace with them by surrendering his queen Dhruvadevi to the Saka Chief.
This act of Rama Gupta infuriated his younger brother Chandragupta who went to the Saka chief disguised as queen Dhruvadevi and killed him. This incident must have raised Chandragupta in the estimation of his subjects as well as queen Dhruvadevi. There was an estrangement between Rama Gupta and Chandragupta.
Chandragupta was presumably afraid of the designs of his elder brother on his own life and pretended madness. Ultimately by some means, which are not known, Chandragupta succeeded in killing his brother. He not only seized the empire but also married the widow of his elder brother. This story is also corroborated by Bana’s Harshcharitra and the Rashtrakuta copper plates and Kavyamimamsa.
It may be noted that we do not get any reference in the official records of the Guptas to Rama Gupta.. Even the gold coins issued by the Gupta emperors do not bear the name of Rama Gupta. On these grounds certain scholars hold that Chandragupta immediately Succeeded Samudragupta and Ramagupta did not intervene between the two.
Chandra Gupta II, also known as Chandragupta Vikramaditya was also as great a conqueror as Samudragupta. He defeated the last of the Western Ksatrapas, Rudrasimha III, and annexed his territories.
On account of this achievement he is identified with the traditional Vikramaditya, who is said to have destroyed the Sakas. Chandragupta also led military expeditions to Bengal in the east and to the territories beyond the Sindhi river in the west.
Under his the Gupta empire extended up to the Himalayas in the north and the river Narbada in the south. In the east it extended up to Bengal while in the west it stretched as far as Gujarat Kathiawar. But probably the most outstanding feature of times was that the country enjoyed peace, prosperity and security. This is, also testified by the famous Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hien.
Chandra Gupta II died in 413 A.D. and was succeeded by his son Kumargupta who ruled up to 455 A.D. We do not possess any contemporary records about his reign. Therefore, whatever information we gather about his reign is drawn from the coins. He is also said to have performed the Asvamedha or horse sacrifice and was acknowledged as the Chakravarti king of India.
However, we do not possess any authentic record of his military accomplishments. One of the biggest achievements Kumargupta was that he maintained in tact the vast empire built by his predecessors.
Towards the close of his reign the “peace” of the kingdom was disturbed and he had to face attacks from two directions—the Huns and the Pushyamitra clan. Skandagupta, the crown prince met these challenges successfully and ultimately succeeded in defeating these two enemies.
According to Dr. Majumdar, “After Kumara’s death which apparently took place while the struggle with Pushyamitras was still undecided, there was a fratricidal war in which Skanda Gupta came off victorious after defeating his brothers including Pura Gupta, the rightful claimant, and rescued his mother just as Krishna rescued Devaki.”
Dr. Majumdar further observes that the omission of the name of the mother of Skanda Gupta in the geneology given in the Bihar and Bhitari stone pillar inscriptions indicates that she was not the chief queen and Skanda had no natural claim to the throne.
The biggest achievement of Skandagupta was that he successfully repulsed the repeated invasions of the Huns and ultimately died fighting against them. He died about 467 A D.
After Skandagupta the line of succession is very uncertain. Most probably Skandagupta was succeeded by Purugupta, a son of Kumaragupta by the chief queen. He ruled for some time and was succeeded by his son Budhagupta.
He ruled between 477 A.D. and 495 A.D. The other rulers of the Gupta dynasty included Kumaragupta II, Narasimhagupta, Kumaragupta III, Bhanu Gupta, Visnugupta. and Vainyagupta. These rulers were very weak and were unable to repel the invasions of the Huns.
Furthermore the internal dissensions also rendered them weak. As a result the magnificent fabric of the Gupta empire crumbled down to pieces and we do not find any traces of the Gupta rule after 550 A.D.
Political Condition of Northern India after the Guptas:
The political unity provided to the country by the Guptas came to an end due to the repeated Hun invasions and political dissensions. A number of petty kingdoms sprang up which were always involved in internecine struggle. This period has been described by the historians as the ‘dark period’ or an age of darknessand gloom.
Some of the important states which arose on the break-up of the Gupta empire were as follows:
1. Later – Guptas:
Magadha was ruled By a line of kings whose names ended with Guptas. They have been described by the historians as Later Guptas to distinguish them from the Imperial Guptas. This branch of Guptas was founded by Krishna Gupta. It came to an end after Harsha conquered Magadha.
2. Huns Empire:
By the middle of the sixth century the Huns had established their authority over a large part of north-western India, with Sialkot as the capital of their empire. Toramana and Mihirakula were the two outstanding Hun leaders who posed a serious threat to the Gupta empire and ultimately gave it a death blow.
Malwa originally formed a part of the Gupta empire- But when the Guptas became weak, Yashodharman asserted his independence and established the state of Malwa Yashodharman acquired an important position by inflicting a crushing defeat on the Hun chief Mihirakula.
According to the Mandasor inscription he brought under his sway territories which even the Guptas and the Huns could not subdue and made himself the master of India from the Brahmaputra to the western ocean and from the Himalayas to the Mahendragiri in Kalinga. But his success was temporary and the Guptas soon emerged from their temporary eclipse.
4. Vallabhi Kingdom:
In Gujarat the Maitraka clan established an independent state with its capital at Valabhi. It was probably one of the first states to assert its independence after the fall of the Gupta Empire. This kingdom was founded by Bhatika.
However there is controversy amongst the historians whether Bhatika was of Indian origin or a foreigner. While most of the scholars are of the opinion that Bhatika was an Indian, Dr. V.A. Smith is of the opinion that he was of Persian origin.
The first few Maitraka rulers were not fully independent because they styled themselves simply as Senapatis. However,it is not known as to whose suzerainty they acknowledged. This kingdom flourished for nearly three hundred years and was probably overthrown by the Arabs of Sindh.
5. Kingdom of Maukharis:
The kingdom of Maukharis, with its capital at Kanauj, also rose out of the ruins of the Gupta Empire. This kingdom was founded by Harivarman. The other, important rulers of Maukhari dynasty were Isanatfarman, Ishavarman, Sarvavarman, Avanthivarman and Grahavarman. It is indeed difficult to describe the limits of the Maukhari kingdom.
Most probably as the zenith of its power, the Maukhari kingdom extended upto Ahichehatra and the frontiers of the Thanesvara kingdom on the west and to Nalanda in the east. In the north its boundary touched the Tarai districts and on the south it probably did not go beyond the present boundaries of Uttar Pradesh.
The state of Thanesar, which played a dominant role in the political history in the subsequent years, lay between Sutlej and Yamuna. It is believed that Pushyabhuti, a worshipper of Lord Siva, was the founder of the kingdom of Thanesar. But the works of Harsha refer to only four of his successors i.e., Naravardhana, Rajywardhana, Adityavardhana and Prabhakaravardhana.
The first three rulers of the Thanesar kingdom enjoyed only the powers of an ordinary chief and were most probably either under the suzerainty of the Huns or the Guptas, or the Maukharis. It was only under Prabhakaravardhana that the kingdom gained both in territory and influence. He also assumed the title of Maharajadhiraj.
Prabhakaravardhana had two sons (Rajyavardhana and Harsha Vardhana) and one daughter (Rajyashri). Raiyashri was married to Grahavarman, the son of Avantiarman, the Maukhari ruler. After the death of Prabhakaravardhana, the throne was given to Harshavardhana, because his elder brother refused to accept the sovereignty and regal glory and decided to become a saint.
Suddenly at this time came the tragic news that Grahavarman, brother-in-law of Harsha and Rajyavardhan had been killed by the king of Malwa and Rajyasri had been thrown into a dungeon in Kanyakubja. Immediately Rajyavardhana marched against the king of Malwa leaving behind Harshavardhana to safeguard the kingdom against possible Hun invasion.
The king of Malwa pretended submission and offered to marry his daughter to Rajyavardhana, but subsequently killed him by foul play. As there was no heir to the kingdom of Maukharis, Harsha became the ruler of both the kingdoms.
Harsha ascended the throne in 606 A.D. at the age of sixteen and his reign lasted for forty one years. He brought the various ailing states under his control and provided political unity and equilibrium in the north and became the sovereign head of the north.
It may be noted that most of the wars waged by Harsha, as Prof. Radha Kumud Mookerjee has put it “were however not those of unmotivated aggression but wars of vengeance.” First of all he entered into an alliance with Bhaskaravarman, the king of Assam and attacked Sasanka to avenge the death of his brother.
Sasanka suffered a heavy defeat and ran away from Gauda. However, Harsha could not completely crush Sasanka and the latter continued to be a source of great trouble to Harsha. It was only after his death in 620 A.D. that Bhaskaravarman and Karsha divided the state of Sasanka amongst themselves.
While Harsha got Orissa and West Bengal, the Eastern Bengal was taken over by Bhaskaravarman. Between 631 and 641 A.D. Harsha defeated Dhruvasena II, the king of Vallabhi, who on making peace was restored to his kingdom. Harsha even gave his daughter in marriage to him. Harsha defeated.
Devagupta, the king of Malwa and annexed the northern part of Malwa to his kingdom. In 643 Harsha conquered Ganjam, situated on the western coast of India, after repeated attempts and established his authority over it. Thus Harsha’s empire in the north included Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and the territory up to Jalandhara in East Punjab.
After establishing his authority in northern India Harsha made preparations for the southern campaigns. However he was disappointed in this by Pulakesin II, the Chalukya king of Deccan. Harsha marched against him with large armies but was Unable to defeat him.
This is confirmed by the Aihole Inscription of Pulakesin II in which he is described as the defeater of ‘the glorious Sri Harsha’. This war took place most probably is 634 or 635 A.D. somewhere near the Narbada river.
With the death of Harsha in 647 the political unity of northern India suffered a great set back and the forces of disruption and disintegration became rampant in India. During the period between the seventh and the twelfth century a number of states rose and fell. Another outstanding feature of this period was that India had not to face any foreign attacks—with the exception of a mild invasion of the Arabs on Sind.
According to Sardar K-M. Pannikar due to the absence of foreign invasions, the Hindus became less patriotic and national unity suffered. It is only in the face of foreign invasions, the people remain alert and active. The Indians also became complacent and proud.
As Alberuni also records:
“The Hindus believed that there is no country but theirs, no science like, theirs. The people were guided by their selfish motives. Hindus had developed a concept that their country is safe by the Grace of God and no invader can molest their country. Such a feeling was enough to Aveaken the Indians. It was also due to this reason people bothered much about their personal gains at the cost of public interest.”
It shall be desirable to study about the history of some of important states.
The state of Sindh which roughly covered the areas of the lower Indus valley from Multan down to the sea remained independent even during the times of Harsha. The earliest dynasty to rule over Sindh was the Rai dynasty.
In all there were five kings of this dynasty who ruled for a period of 137 years. When Hiuen Tsang visited India Siharas Rai was the ruler of Sindh. The last Rai king was Sahasi. After his death, his Brahmin minister Chach married the widowed queen and ascended the throne.
Chach ruled for almost forty years and extended his empire up to Kashmir. He was succeeded by his brother Chandra and then by his son Dahar. It was during the reign of Dahar that v Sindh was invaded “by the Arabs. As a result of this invasion Dahar was killed and the kingdom was captured by Qasim. In 723 Qasim also captured Multan and thus brought the entire Sindh under his control.
After Qasim Junaid became the Governor of Sindh in 724. He followed a vigorous policy of expansion and overran Cutch, Kathiawar, northern Gujarat and southern Rajputana. His further advance was checked by the Pratiharas.
Bengal was under the control of the Nandas and the Mauryas. During the days of the Kushans it asserted its independence from outside control. It once again lost its freedom under the Guptas. After the decline of the Gupta empire the local rulers of Bengal, commonly referred to as the ‘Gauda’ kings of Bengal once again asserted their independence.
Sasanka was the most prominent of the Gauda kings. He ruled during the beginning of the seventh century A.D. He murdered Rajyavardhana of Thanesar by a treachery and occupied the Maukhari capital Kanauj for the time being.
After the accession of Harsha he withdrew to Bengal. He ruled upto 619 A.D. and his empire extended in the east as far as Assam and to the South over Kalinga. He also annexed Magadha. After his death his kingdom was annexed by Harsha.
The chaos which followed after the death of Harsha encouraged the people to establish a kingdom. The people felt that all their troubles were due to the absence of a strong central authority and these could be Set right only by the voluntary surrender of power to one popular leader.
They felt that the numerous chiefs exercising sovereignty in different parts of Bengal should submit to one powerful sovereignty and central authority. The people of Bengal accordingly selected Gopala as the sole rider of Bengal to whom all paid willing allegiance.
Gopala ruled for nearly forty-five years and established peace in the kingdom. He extended his kingdom by including Magadha (south Bihar) in his kingdom. Gopala and his successors came to be known as the ‘Pala’ kings.
Gopala was succeeded by Dharampala (770-810 A.D.). Soon after his succession he was involved in a tripartite struggle. Dharmapala wanted to extend his dominion towards the north and west. He “found a serious check in Vatsaraja, the Pratihara king, who too believed in expansionist policy.
A war took place between the two near Ganga Doab in which Dharampala was defeated. But before Vatsaraja could enjoy the fruits of victory he was attacked by the Rashtrakuta ruler Dhruva and Vatsaraja was forced to take refuge in the deserts of Rajputana.
Dhruva even marched against Dharampala and defeated him. But Dhruva could not consolidate his gains and had soon to return to Deccan. Dharampala made the best out of the worst conditions and launched victorious campaigns in the farthest limits of Northern India.
We do not possess full account of the military campaigns of Dharmapala. However the Bhagalpur copper plate inscription of Narayanapala, Dharampala acquired the sovereignty of Kanauj. Monghyr Copper Plate tells us that he advanced as far as Garhwal in the Himalayas. At Kanauj Dharmapala installed Chakrayudha by deposing Indrayudha.
However the supremacy of Dharampala in the north was challenged by Nagabhatta, the son and successor of the Pratihara king Vatsaraja. He attacked Kanauj and turned out Chakrayudha, who was ruling as a nominee of Dharampala. This was a clear challenge to Dharampala. A war took place between the two near Monghyr in which Nagabhatta defeated Dharampala.
But Nagabhatta like his father also suffered a defeat at the hands of the Rashtrakutta king and thus his scheme to establish an empire in the north was frustrated. Both Dharampala and Chakrayudha accepted the sovereignty of Govinda III.
However the acceptance of this sovereignty was not of any significance because Govinda III soon retreated to the south and Dharampala once again established his supremacy in the north. Thus at the time of his death Dharampala left a powerful and vast empire.
Devapala (815-850), who succeeded his father Dharampala was another powerful ruler of the Pala dynasty. He not only maintained the empire intact but also made efforts to extend his dominions. In this policy of expansion he was greatly assisted by his cousin Jayapala. He captured Utkala (Orissa or Kalinga) and Pragjotisha (Assam).
He also checked the advance of Mihira Bhoja, the Gurjara-Pratihara king, and humbled the pride of Hunas and Dravidians. According to the scholars the Dravidian king who was defeated by Devapala was most probably the Rashtrakutta king Amoghavarsha. However other scholars have not accepted this, view.
For example Ayyanger holds that the Dravida king defeated by Devapala was most probably his contemporary Pandya king Sri- Mara-Sri-Vallabha. Thus Devapala greatly extended his empire. The Monghyr copper plate tells us that the empire of Devapala extended from the Himalayas in the north to Ramashwara Setubandha in the south.
One might doubt Deva Pala’s victory in the extreme south, but it can be said for certain that his rule was not confined to Bihar and Bengal alone, but also extended to the east as well as the west. Dr. R. C. Majumdar says, “He certainly led his army as far as the Sindhu and claimed an imperial position in North India, a feat to which no other ruler of Bengal could lay claim during the next thousand years.”
Devapala was succeeded by Vigrahapala. However, he abdicated his throne within three or four years of assuming power and became an ascetic. After him his son Narayanapala ruled for over 50 years (858-912 A. D ). During his times the disintegration of the Pala empire started. He lost Magadha and North Bengal to Mahnendrapala I of Pratihara.
The vassal states of the Pala empire were also encouraged to overthrow their yoke of servitude. Harjara, the king of Assam not only asserted his independence but also made important conquests. Orissa too became independent.
However, later on when the war of succession took place after the death of Mahendrapala he recaptured Bihar and northern Bengal. This was also partly due to the interference of the Rashtrakuta king in the affairs of the north.
Narayanapala was succeeded by Rajyapala, Gopala II and Vierahapala II. These kings ruled for nearly 80 years but they were weak rulers and could not check the process of disintegration.
The new dynasties which succeeded the Prathiharas also attacked the Pala rulers and gave a death blow to the already crumbling empire. The last powerful ruler of the Pala dynasty was Mahipala, after whom the disintegration of the empire took place.
The kingdom of Kamarupa comprised of the areas covered by modern Bhutan, Nagaland, Assam and portions of north and east Bengal. Its ancient capital was Pragjyotishapura. We get the earliest references to the Kamarupa in Mahabharata war in which the Kamarupa rulers fought on the side of the Kaurvas.
The first historical reference to Kamarupa is made in the Allahabad Pillar Inscription of Samudragupta in which it is recorded that the ruler of Kamarupa, a frontier kingdom, paid tribute to the great Gupta ruler. In the Apshad Inscription of Mahasenagupta, a later Gupta ruler of Magadha, also a reference is made to the defeat of the Kamarupa ruler Susthivarman at the hands of Mahasenagupta.
Hiuen Tsang, who visited Kamarupa during the reign of Bhaskaravarman, tells us that he occupied a subordinate position to Harsha. He asserted his independence only after the death of Harsha. Thereafter he captured certain territories of Bihar and Orissa.
Very little is known about the successors of Bhaskaravarman. Most probably the dynasty was overthrown after him by an adventurer named Salasthambha, who set up a new ruling house which lasted till the beginning of the ninth century A. D.
During ancient times Kashmir consisted of the areas is to the upper valley of Jhelum and the areas watered by the tributaries of Jhelum. It was cut off from the rest of the country. During the times of Ashoka Kashmir formed a part of the Mauryan empire. He founded the city of Srinagar and built a number of stupas and monasteries in the area.
After Ashoka’s death it became an independent kingdom under Jalauka, one of the sons of Ashoka. Under the Kushans once again Kashmir became a part of the Kushana Empire. In the seventh century A.D Durlabh Vardhan freed the state and laid the foundation of a new dynasty called Karkota dynasty.
This dynasty ruled from seventh to ninth centuries. Durlabhavardhana waged successful wars against Simhapura (Ketas), Urasa (Hazara), Punch and Rajapura (Rajori) and thereby extended his empire. He developed friendly relations with Harsha and sent the precious tooth relic of Buddha. Durlabhavardhana was succeeded by his son Pratapaditya II, who ruled with moderation and Justice.
He was succeeded by his eldest son Chandrapada (712-20 AD). He was disposed off by his brother Tarapida, who ruled despotically for-four years (720-24 -A.D.). The next king Lalitaditya, the third son of Pratapaditya II was the most illustrious ruler of the Karkota dynasty.
He ruled from 724 to 760. He waged successful wars and greatly extended his empire. He defeated Yashovarman of Kanauj and conquered Magadha, Assam, Kalinga, Malva and Gujarat. He also fought against the Arabs of Sindh and Tibetans. As a result of these conquests Kashmir emerged as the greatest power of those days.
Another prominent king of the Karkota dynasty was Jayapida (779-810), grandson of Lalitaditya. He defeated and dethroned the king of Kanauj. He was succeeded by a number of weak kings and the dynasty continued to decline till it was finally overthrown by Avantivarman in 855 A D. The latter founded a new dynasty known as Utpala.
Avantivarman (855-83) did not embark on career of conquests. Instead he devoted his attention to the establishment of an efficient administration. He paid great attention to public works and was ably assisted in this work by Sura, or Surya, the Prime Minister. After the death of Avantivarman in 833 a war of succession ensued in which his son Sankaravarman emerged victorious.
He ruled from 885 to 902 A.D. and embarked on a career of conquests. He conquered Darvabhisara (a region lying between Jhelum and Chandrabhaga), captured Trigatha (Kangra) and defeated the Gurjara king Alankhana. He also seized certain territories from the Pratihara king ,Mahenderapala I.
As a result of these military adventures the treasury became depleted and he resorted to exhorbitant taxes and fees on religious ceremonies. As a result of these oppressive measures the life of the subjects became miserable. The subsequent rulers of Kashmir were also lustful and wicked. The Hindu rule in Kashmir continued until it was conquered by the Mohammadans in 1339 A.D.
The Rajput States:
After the death of Harsha a number of Rajput states rose in northern India which played an important role in the history of India during the next few centuries. It is desirable to know about these Rajput States in some details.
The Gurjara Pratiharas:
The Gurjara Pratiharas were originally of central Asiatic people who came to India towards the close of the fifth century. According to certain scholars they were the descendents from Lakshmana, who acted as the doorkeeper (or Pratihara) of his brother Rama.
One of the earliest settlements of the Gurjara-Pratihara kings was at Mandor (Jodhpur) in Central Rajasthan. They maintained their independence even during the days of Harsha. Later on a part of the clan moved towards southeast and established its power at Ujjain. There they established their sway over Eastern Rajputana as well as Malwa.
Nagabhata I (756 A.D.) was the first important Gurjara-Pratihara king. He is credited with having checked the advance of the Arabs from Sindh and saving northern India from the Muslims. Vatsaraja was another prominent ruler of this dynasty and he ruled between 775-800 A.D. He inflicted a defeat on Dharmapala the king of Bengal, but he suffered a defeat at the hands of the Rashtrakuta king.
His successor Nagabhata II (800-833) defeated Dharamapala of Bengal and captured Kanauj. This greatly enhanced the prestige of Nagabhata and the rulers of Andhra, Sindhu, Vidarbha and Kalinga sought his friendship.
Nagabhata also won victories against the Anartta (North Kathiawar), Malwa (Central India), Matsya (eastern Rajputana), Kirata (Himalayan region), Turuka (Arabs of Western India) and the Vatsa (Kosambi) countries. Nagabhata II was succeeded by his son Ramachandra, who ruled for a short while.
He suffered a defeat at the hands of Devapala of Bengal and Amoghavarsha of Rashtrakutas. His successor Mihira Hhoja (840-890) attacked Bengal and Deccan and won remarkable victories. He annexed the territories of the Pala kingdom and also Malwa.
He also captured the southern parts of Rajputana. His kingdom included certain districts of Punjab, most of Rajputana, extensive parts of United Provinces, and all of Gwalior. He also provided a very efficient administration to the country.
Mahendrapala I (890-908) the son and successor of Mihira Bhoja also continued the policy of conquests and conquered Magadha and major part of North Bengal. He was succeeded by his son Bhoja II, followed by his younger son Mahipala (910-40 A.D.).
It appears that after the death of Mahendrapala I, there was a struggle for succession in which Mahipala emerged victorious. However, under Muhipala the decline of the Gurjara-Pratihata kingdom set in. He was deprived of territories up to the Sone by the Palas of Bengal, while Indra III, the Rashtrakuta king attacked and plundered Kanauj.
Though he was successful in overcoming these early reverses but inwards the close of his reign he suffered new reverses. The subsequent rulers of the dynasty like Mahendrapala II, Devapala, Vijyapala could not save the empire from disintegration and it come to an end in the middle of the eleventh century A.D.
Gahadavalas of Kanauj:
Kanauj which was in the beginning ruled by Tamar dynasty, came under the Gahadavala dynasty in the eleventh century A.D. This dynasty also known as the Ratheors or Gaharwars, was founded by the Rajput hero Chandradova. He ruled from 1085 to 1100 A.D.
He extended his empire up to Allahabad and Banaras. The empire made further progress under his successor Mahendrapala. But the next ruler Gobind Chandra was probably the most important ruler of this dynasty. He ruled for forty-three years from 1112 to 1155 A.D.
During his reign the prestige of Kanauj reached its zenith. He captured Magadha from the Palas of Bengal, and eastern Malwa from the Chandelas. He also waged successful wars against the Kalachuris and others and drove back the Muslim invaders under Hajib Tughatigin. He was succeeded by Vijayachandra, who also gained a victory over the Muslim intruders under Khusru Malik.
Jaichand was the last important ruler of this dynasty. He was a contemporary of Prithviraj Chauhan of Ajmer, his cousin. Because of their mutual hostility the two could not join hands against the Muslim invaders. It is said that Jaichand himself invited Mohammad Ghori to invade Prithvi Raj.
When Mohammad Ghori attacked Ajmer in 1192 he remained a silent spectator. However only two years later in 1194 Mahammad Ghori attacked Jaichand and killed him in the battle-field. However, with the death of Jaichand the Gahadavala dynasty did not end because Mohammad Ghori permitted his son Harish Chandra to rule Kanauj on his behalf. After Harish Chandra no Hindu ruler occupied the throne of Kanauj.
The Chandelas of Bundelkhand:
Taking advantage of the weakness of the rulers of Kanauj the Chandelas set up an independent state in the territory between Narbada and the Ganga. Mahoba was the capital of their empire. As regards the origin of the Chandelas the historians hold divergent views.
According to some they were Chahdravansi Rajputs. But V.A. Smith holds that they were the descendents from the aboriginal stock of Gonds of Bhars. They rose to prominence in southern Bundelkhand in the ninth century under the leadership of Nanuka.
It was named Jijakabhukti after the name of Jeja or Jayashakti, one of the rulers. The first few rulers of the dynasty were subordinates of the Gurjara-Pratihara kings of Kanauj. The prestige of the dynasty rose high under Harshadeva, who supported Mahipala’s claim to the throne of Kanauj against his brother Bhoja II, and thereby earned his gratitude and friendship.
Yashovarman, the next ruler, asserted his independence of the Gurjara-Pratihara. He defeated their king Devapala and captured the fort of Kalanjara from him. He also defeated the Chedis, the Malavas and the Kosalas and annexed their territories.
Yashovarman ruled from 925 to 950 A.D. He succeeded by his son Dhanga (954-1002 A D.) He inflicted a crushing defeat on the Pratihara king of Kanauj and freed himself from the suzerainty of the Guijara-Pratiharas. He defeated the Chedi ruler and assisted the northern league of kings, which was formed by the kings of Punjab, Ajmer and Kanauj to fight against Mohammad Ghazni, Gandha, the next ruler proved very weak.
He did not offer any resistance to the Sultan Muhammad on both the occasions when he attacked (1019 and 1022). In 1022 he even surrendered the fort of Kalanjar.
The glory of the dynasty was once again revived by Kirtivarman (1054-1100) who defeated the Chedis. Another important ruler of this dynasty was Madana-varman. He defeated the king of Gujarat, the Chedis of Kalachuri and Paramars of Malwa.
Parimal was the last ruler of Bundelkhand. He was defeated by Prithviraj Chauhan in 1182 A.D., but succeeded in winning back his state. Qutab-ud-din Aibak forced him to accept his over-lordship. The tussle between the Chandelas and the Muslims continued for quite some time before the Muslim rule was established in a portion of Bundelkhand.
The Kalachuris of Chedi:
The Kalachuri dynasty of Chedi ruled over the region between the Narmada and the Godavari. The Kalachuri dynasty claimed its descent from Kartavirya-Arjuna, the Mahabharata hero. The dynasty came into prominence under Nakalla I.
He ruled in the second half of the ninth century A.D. He had a brilliant military career and defeated Bhoja I Pratihara, drove back the Arab invaders of Sindh, and plundered East and South Bengal. He also invaded North Konkan.
He strengthened his position by concluding a number of matrimonial alliances. He himself married a Chandela princess and gave his daughter in marriage to the Rashtrakuta king Krishna II. He also helped his on-in-law against the Eastern Chalukyas and the Pratiharas.
He was succeeded by his eldest son Samkaragana who ruled from 878 to K88 A.D. After this certain weak rulers followed. The next important ruler was Gangeyadeva (1015-1041 A.D.), who fought a number of battles. Initially he cooperated with Paramata Bhoja and Rajendra Chola against the Chalukya king Jayasimha, but had to suffer a defeat.
He made an effort to subdue the Chandelas of Bundelkhand, but failed. But he gained some success against the king of South Kosala and advanced as far as Benaras. He also led a successful expedition against Anga and assumed the title of Vikramaditya.
Lakshmi-karna (1431-1072 A.D), the son and successor of Gangeyadeva was the most notable ruler of this dynasty. For the major part of his reign he dominated the northern India. He defeated the Chandelas and- also crushed the Parmars.
Even the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Kuritalas and the Kalingas felt his influence. However, towards the close of his reign Lakshmi-karna suffered reverses at the hands of the combination of the Paramaras and the Chalukyas.
Kirtivarman, the Chandella king also inflicted a defeat on him. In the face of these reverses Lakshmi-karna abdicated the throne in favour of his son Yashakarna. But neither he nor his successor could check the steady decline of the empire and the dynasty was wiped off the Chandeals in 1212 A.D.
Parmaras of Malwa:
The Paramar dynasty ruled over Malwa with Dhara Nagri as its capital. This dynasty was founded by Upendra (also known as Krishna Raj). Before establishing themselves as independent power the Parmaras were the vassals of either the Pratiharas or the Rashtrakutas.
They had taken a pledge before the burning fire to protect the country from the invasion of the Turks, One of the first great kings of the Paramar dynasty was Munja who ruled from 974 to 995 A.D.
He defeated the Kalachuris of Tripura and the Guhilas of Medapata. He also defeated the Hunas living to the north-west of Malwa. He also attacked the Chahamanas of Naddula and annexed Mt. Abu and other territories. But he waged the severest struggle against Tailapa II, the Eastern Chalukya king.
Tailapa launched as many as six attacks against Munja but was defeated every time. Ultimately Munja decided to crush the power of Tailappa once for all and launched an attack deep into the Chalukya territory. However this proved disastrous. He was taken prisoner and put to death.
Sindhuraja, the younger brother and successor of Munja avenged the death of his brother and inflicted a defeat on the Eastern Chalukya king. He also defeated the Somavamsis of South Kosala, the Shilabaras of South Konkan, and the Huns of Hun mandala.
He also conquered Lata (South Gujarat) before, he died in about 1000 A. D. Bhoja (1000-1055) son of Sindhuraja was even more illustrious ruler. He fought against almost all the great rulers of his times. He won victories against Vikramaditya V, the Chalukya king of Kalyani, Gangeya, the Kalachuri king of Tripura, Turushkas, the Turkish invaders from the north-west, and the ruler of Gujarat.
He wanted to gain supremacy in the Deccan and formed a confederacy with Gangeyadeva and Rajendra Chola, to defeat the Chalukya king Jayasinlha II. However this confederacy was defeated by Jayasimha II. Bhoja also failed against the Chandelas of Jijakabhukti and Kachapaghatas of Gwalior.
Towards the close of his life his kingdom was attacked from two sides by Lakshmi-karna Kalachuri and Bhima I Chalukya. In the course of struggle he fell sick and died. With his death the glory of the Parmaras faded out. In the opening of the fourteenth century Malwa fell into the hands of the Muslim rulers.
The Chauhans of Delhi and Ajmer:
The Chauhans were another important clan of Rajputs. They played an important role in the politics of northern India between seventh to the twelfth centuries. The Chauhans were earlier feudatories of the Pratiharas and Guvaka, a feudatory of Nagabhatta II, assisted him in driving back the Arab intruders of Sindh. During the first half of the tenth century the Chauhans made themselves independent of the Pratiharas.
During the next few years Vigraharaja II extended the Chauhan kingdom by defeating the Chalukyas and the ruler of Lata. He conquered the territories up to the banks of Narmada. In the beginning of the twelfth century they founded the city of Ajayameru (Ajmer).
The Chauhans became an imperial power during the reign of Vigraharaja IV (1153-64 A. D.). His suzerainty was acknowledged by a number of chiefs in Southern Rajputana. He even captured Delhi from Tomaras.
The most famous ruler of this dynasty was Prithviraj III (1179-92 A. D.). At the time of his accession he was a minor and his mother acted as a regent. However, within two years he assumed the power in his own hands. After suppressing the revolt of his cousin Nagarjuna, he embarked on a career of conquests.
He gained important victories against the Chandelas of Jijakabhukti and defeated the great military leader Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori in 1191, who was forced to return to Ghor. But the very next year he came to India with a vast army to avenge his defeat.
Prithviraj appealed to the other Indian rulers to assist him against Ghori. Though a number of rulers assisted him and he offered a stubborn resistance to Ghori, he was finally defeated in 1192. This led to the establishment of the Muslim political power in India.
Political Condition of South India after Guptas:
After the fall of the Satvahans in the third century A. D. a number of petty kingdoms sprang up in the south. The most powerful amongst them was the Vakataka kingdom founded by Vindhyasakti towards the close of the third century A. D.
He ruled for nearly twenty years from 255 to 275 A. D. but his rule was restricted only to one or two districts. It was under his son Praversena that the Vakataka kingdom expanded and rose to prominence. His empire, extended over the country from Bundelkhand in the north to the old Hyderabad state in the south. He designated himself as Samrat and performed four Asvamedha sacrifices.
Praversena was succeeded by his grandson in 335 A. D. Rudrasena carried on the administration from 335 to 360 A. D. He was a contemporary of Samudragupta and accepted his over-lordship. Rudrasena was succeeded by Prithvisena, a contemporary of Vikaramaditya.
He maintained friendly relations with the Guptas and married his son Rudrasena II with the daughter of Vikramaditya. The greatest accomplishment of Prithvisena was the conquest of Kuntala (south Maharashtra).
The subsequent Vakataka rulers fully exploited the weakness the Gupta rulers and extended their empire. Some of the prominent Vakataka rulers included Narendrasena, Devasena, Harisena etc. The last named ruler is credited with extensive conquests in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
The reign of Harisena ended in 550 A. D. and after that we do not know anything about the Vakataka. Most probably the Vakataka kingdom declined after that.
At the same time when the Vakataka kingdom declined South India witnessed the rise of the kingdom of Chalukyas. This kingdom was founded by Pulakesin I around 535 A. D. with Vatapipura (modern Badami in the Bijapur district) as his capital.
There is controversy amongst scholars whether Chalukyas were of Indian origin or came from some foreign land. We get an account of the history of the western Chalukyan rulers from the inscription on the Jain temple at Aihole.
The rulers mentioned in this inscription include Jayasimha, Ranaraja, Pulakesin I, Kirtiverman Mangalesa and Pulakesin II. The dynasty was founded by Pulakesin I, the Great Lion, who performed asvemedha and other sacrifices.
Kirtivarman, son of Pulakesin I extended the kingdom by defeating the Mauryas of Konkan, the Kadambas of Banavasi and the Nalas of Bellary region. He is also reputed to have carried his victorious arms into Bengal and Bihar in the north and the Chola and Pandya countries in the south. Kirtivarman was followed by his brother Mangalesa who defeated the Kalachuri ruler Buddha raja and further extended the empire.
The most important ruler of the dynasty was Pulakesin II who proclaimed himself ruler in 609 A. D. after killing Mangalesa in the civil war. After consolidating his position he defeated the Alupas of south Kanara, the Kadambas of Banavasi and the Ganges of Mysore. He conquered northern Konkan and took the city of Puri.
He also captured the island of Elephanta near Bombay through a naval attack. The Latas, Gurjaras and Malavas in the north also submitted before him. Pulakesin II also defeated “the glorious Sri Harsha” on the banks of Narbada.
Thereafter Pulakesin II concentrated on conquests in the east and south. He reduced South Kosala, Kalinga and Pishtarpura to subjection and conquered Vengi. He launched an expedition against the powerful Pallava rulers and reached very near their capital Kanchi.
He invaded their kingdom for the second time but his expedition ended in failure. After this Narasimhavarman I, the Pallava ruler, stormed. Chalukyan kingdom, and stormed its capital Vatapi. Pulakesin II was defeated and killed. Thereafter the Chalukyan power was held in check for some time.
After a gap of about thirteen years Vikramaditya, the son of Pulakesin II, re-established the kingdom and proclaimed himself as the king in 655 A.D. He concluded an alliance with the Gangas of Mysore and the Pandya rulers and attacked the Pallava kingdom and defeated them. He even ravaged the capital Badami.
Vikramaditya died about 680 A.D. He was succeeded by Vinayaditya (681-96) and Vijayaditya (696-733), his son and grandson respectively. Vinayaditya is credited with a successful expedition to northern India. In this expedition Vijayaditya also played an important role.
Vijayaditya was followed by Vikramaditya II (733-47) who defeated the Pallava ruler Nandivarman II and occupied Kanchi. However he abandoned the place after engraving an inscription and making donations to its temples. The most outstanding event of his reign was the repulsion of the Arabs of Sindh, who overran northern Gujarat to invade the Deccan. The Chalukyas were finally overthrown in 753 A.D by the Rashtrakutas.
The Pallavas came to power in Deccan after the fall of the Andhra kingdom. There is lot of controversy amongst historians regarding the origin of the Pallavas. According to some they belonged to the Parthians who had settled down in Kanjivaram, while others hold that they belonged to the Chola-Naga family.
The first Pallava ruler was the son of a Naga princess. According to Prof. Jayaswal, the Pallavas were the descendants of the high-ranking Brahmans of Northern India. Thus we find that there is no unanimous opinion about the origin of the Pallavas and most probably they were the product of the intercourse between the Brahmans and the Dravidians.
The Pallavas ruled for two centuries between sixth and eighth centuries A.D. Their kingdom consisted of the states of Madras, Andhra, Arkot, Tanjore, Trichinopoly. Kanjivaram was their capital. Some of the copper plates written in Prakrit in the third century show that the Pallava dynasty was founded by Rappadeva.
Vishnugopa, an important king of this dynasty was a contemporary of Samudra Gupta. The other important kings of this dynasty were Vishnu Mahendravarman and Narsimhavarman. Narsimhavarman ruled from 576 to 600 A.D. and greatly extended the empire.
He waged decisive battles against the Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras. Under him the empire reached a new heights. Mahendravarman was also a great conqueror and annexed large areas from the Chalukya luler. The last known ruler of the Pallava dynasty was Aparajita Varman, who was defeated by the Cholas towards the end of the ninth century A.D- With this the imperial line came to an end.
The Rashtrakutas were at first the vassals of the Chalukyas. In the year 755 A.D. Danti Durga attacked and defeated Kirtivarman II, the Chalukyan king and proclaimed himself the sovereign ruler of the Deccan. However he died in 756 and was succeeded by his uncle (because he had no son) Krishna I.
Krishna foiled the attempt of Kirtivarman to recover his lost dominion. He also defeated the Ganges of Mysore and secured the submission of the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi.
The famous rock temple of Kailasa at Ellora was built during his reign which lasted till 773. The Rashtrakuta kingdom lasted till 973 when Karka II, the last ruler was overthrown by Taila (Talappa) III of the Chalukya dynasty (also known as the later Chalukyas of Kalyani). The important rulers of the Rashtrakuta dynasty were Govinda II, Dhruva, Govinda. Ill, Amoghavarsha, Krishna II, Indra III, Krishna III and Karka II.
The Chalukyas of Kalyani (Later Chalukyas).
The Chalukya empire of Kalyani was set up by Taila, a feudatory chief of Taradvadi in 973 A.D. He defeated and killed Panchaladeva, a feudatory of the Ganges of Mysore and annexed his kingdom. He also made many gains in the territory between Tungabhadra and Narmada.
He also defeated the Parmara ruler Manja of Malwa and killed him. Thus he soon made himself the master of the Deccan. The dynasty came to an end towards the close of the twelfth century A.D. The prominent rulers of this dynasty included Satyasraya, Jayasimha II, Somesvara I, Vikramaditya VI etc.
The Yadavas were feudatories of the Rashtrakuta and the Chalukyas for quite some time before they established their independent rule in the territory between Nasik and Devgiri. This dynasty was founded by Subahu.
Bhillum, Sihan and Ramchandra were some of the prominent Yadava kings. The Yadava empire continued till fourteenth century, although its power was greatly undermined by the frequent Muslim invasions.
Hoysala of Dwarasamudra:
The Hoysala dynasty was founded by Narpakama in the middle of the eleventh century. Before establishing an independent dynasty he served as a petty chieftain in Sasakapura. Like the Yadavas, the Hoysalas were also under the suzerainty of the Chalukyas before they declared their independence.
Vir Ballal II was the first ruler of this dynasty and ruled from 1172 to 1210 A.D. He was a great warrior and won victories over Chalukyas of Kalyani and the Yadavas of Devgiri. The Hoysala rule continued till Ballal III, the last ruler of the Hoysala dynasty was defeated by Malik Kafur, the able commander of Ala-ud-Din Khilji.
Pandyas of Madurai:
The kingdom of Pandyas was one of the oldest states of Southern India. It covered the southernmost territory of India including Madura, Tinnevelly and Travancore. We get references about Pandyas in the accounts of Megasthenes, the edicts of Ashoka, the Arthasastra, the Tamil literature, the writings of Pliny and several other sources.
Strabo tells us that Pandyas had commercial contacts with Rome in 20 B.C. A Pandya king is said to have sent an embassy to the court of the Roman king Augustus. One of the most outstanding Pandya king of the early times was Nendujeliyan, who won a significant victory at Talaiyalan-ganam against the confederacy of rulers which included the Cheras and Cholas.
The Pandyas rose to prominence in the last quarter of the sixth century under Kadungon. His successor Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman (670-710 A.D.) defeated the Pallava king Parmesvaravarman I in alliance with the Chalukya king Vikramaditya I, He extended his power over Kerala.
He was succeeded by Kochechadayan Ranadhira (710-30) who conquered . Coimbatore and Salem. Maravarman Rajasimha I (730-765), the next ruler, waged a war against the Pallava ruler Nandivarman II, but could not make any significant gains. However, he was successful in defeating the combined forces of the Ganges and the Chalukyas.
The empire was further extended under Jatila Parantaka alias Varaguna I (765- 815 A.D.). The other rulers of the Pandya dynasty were Srimara Srivallabha (815-862), Varagunavarman II, Sri Parantaka Viranara- yana (880-900 A.D.), and Rajasimha II, with whom the Pandya kingdom ended.
Chera or Kerala Dynasty:
The Chera (Kerala) kingdom was one of the three earliest kingdoms of the South. Its territory extended along the western coast comprising of modern Travancore, Cochin and part of Malabar. We do not possess sufficient information to construct a compact history of the dynasty.
However it is certain that they belonged to the Dravidian race and Tamil was their mother tongue. We get some references about them in the rock edicts of Asoka, the Sangam literature in Tamil etc.
Nedunjeral was one of the early Chera ruler who is said to have defeated a number of kings and established a powerful kingdom. He was killed in a conflict with the Chola ruler. After his younger brother Kuttuvan continued the policy of enlarging the empire.
Another important Chera king was Senguttuvan. We learn from the Greek records that Roman and Greek soldiers set up colonies in the Chera kingdom. The Cheras were defeated in the fourth century A. D. by the Pallavas. Later on they came under the Cholas (10th century A.D.).
Like the Pandyas and Cheras the Cholas were one of the earliest to establish a kingdom in South. Their kingdom consisted of the Kaveri delta and its neighbouring territories. We get references about the early Cholas in the edicts of Ashoka, accounts of early western writers as well as in the Tamil literature.
Amongst the early Chola kings mention is made of Karikala. He defeated a number of kings including the Pandya and Chera rulers. He set up the Chola empire which was popularly known as Chola Mandalam. It included Trichnopoly, Tanjore and certain districts of Mysore and Madras.
Till the middle of the ninth century A.D. the Cholas led a somewhat obscure political life. It was only under Vijavalaya that the dynasty rose to high eminence. Before founding the Imperial Chola dynasty Vijavalaya was a feudatory of the Pallavas. When the Pallavas were hard pressed by the Pandyas, he made himself the master of Thanjavur.
His son Aditya I (871-907 A D.) assisted the Pallavas to inflict a decisive defeat on the Pandyas and received certain new territories as reward for his services. Subsequently he invaded the Pallava kingdom with a view to free himself from their domination. He conquered Kongu country from the Pandya ruler. The Ganga kings also acknowledged his over-lordship.
Parantaka I, who succeeded Aditya I was also a brave conqueror. He defeated the Pandyas and occupied their kingdom. He also defeated the combined forces of the Pandya king and his ally the Ceylonese ruler. Under him the Chola kingdom extended from Pennar to Cape Camorin (excluding Kerala).
However, the Chola power suffered a setback when the Rashtrakuta king Krishna III defeated the Cholas and annexed a large part of their dominion. This also encouraged the powers like Pandyas and others to assert their independence. In course of time the Cholas regained the territories lost to the Rashtrakutas.
The next Chola ruler Rajaraja (985-1014 A.D.) made rapid conquests and expanded the Chola empire. He not only won victories over Kerala and Pandya kings but also sent a naval expedition to the island of Ceylon and captured the northern parts of the island. The other territories captured by him included the Ganga country, Kalinga and Maldives.
Rajendra I, who succeeded his father in 1014 A.D. also added certain territories to the Chola kingdom. But the most notable action of Rajendra I was the despatch of a large expedition to the valley of Ganga which earned for him the title of Gangaikonda.
He sent a naval expedition in 1025 A.D. to conquer the Silendra empire of Java, and achieved remarkable success. Thus as Dr. Majumdar has put it Rajendra “had the proud satisfaction of seeing his banner floating from the, bank of the Ganga to the island of Ceylon, and across the Bay of Bengal over Java, Sumatra and Malaya Peninsula.”
The other kings who ruled till middle of the twelfth century, when the Chola kingdom declined, included Rajadhiraja (1044-1052 A.D.), Rajendra II (1053- 1062), Virarajendra (1063-1070) and Kulottunga I (1070-1118).
Kakatiyas of Warangal:
The early chiefs of Kakatiya dynasty were feudatories of the Chalukyas. One of these feudatories named Prola II fought with the feudatories of the Chalaukyas. This enraged Chalukya Taila III and he invaded the territory of Kakatiyas.
But Taila was taken prisoner by Prola, who subsequently released him. Prola’s son Rudra I inflicted a final blow to Taila and declared independence around 1160 A.D. Rudra expanded his kingdom by wresting Kurnool district from the Cholas. Rudra was killed in a battle with the Yadava Jaitugi in 1196.
After him his brother Mahadeva ruled the empire till 1199. He was followed by his son Ganapati who conquered the Andhra country. He ruled for almost 62 years. As Ganpati had no soil his daughter Rudramala ruled for a period of thirty years. The last ruler of the Kakatiyas dynasty was Pratap Rudradeva. The empire was greatly weakened by the invasions of Malik Kafur and ultimately fell.