From Harsha’s death to the twelfth century, the destiny of India was mostly in the hands of various Rajput dynasties which were in general constantly at war among themselves.
A struggle for supremacy was at work. There was no strong central authority. Earlier in the ancient period there was the strong Magadha empire which frightened the soldiers of Alexander’s army so much that they refused to move further and in fact forced Alexander to go back to Greece—their own country.
But at the time of Turkish invasions India lacked such a strong central authority.
The Rajput rulers usually remained busy in utilizing their energy in fighting among themselves:
There was little sense of national unity and the frontiers of India remained neglected. The consequences of such a political state of affairs proved very harmful and costly to India.
Important Rajput States:
The most important of the Rajput states in North India were the Chauhans of Ajmer and Delhi, the Gahadavallas or Rathors of Kanauj, the Chandellas of Bundelkhand, the Guhilas or Sisodiyas of Mewar, the Parmars of Malwa, the Tomars of Delhi, the Pratiharas or Gurjaras of Kanauj, and the Palas of Bengal. The Hindushahi kingdom and the kingdom of Kashmir were the two other important Hindu kingdoms of North India.
Two Muslim kingdoms were of Multan and Sindh.
The Rashtrakutas of Malkhid (Deccan), the Chalukya kingdom of Kalyani and the Chola kingdom of Tanjore were the important kingdoms of the South India.
Other Small Kingdoms:
Besides the kingdomsmentioned above, there were many small kingdoms like Thaneshwar, Kangra, Gwalior etc. in other parts of India.
The Chauhans of Delhi and Ajmer:
The Chauhans were the feudatories of the Pratiharas of Kanauj. Later on they declared their independence and established their kingdom first in Ajmer in the 11th century A.D. In the early part of the 12th century, they defeated the Parmars of Malwa and captured Ujjain. Thereafter they captured Delhi from the Tomars and shifted their capital to Delhi.
Prithviraj Chauhan was the most famous ruler of this dynasty. Several legends revolve around his personality. His military exploits have been immortalised in the epic poem ‘Prithviraj Raso’ composed by his court poet Chandbardai.
Prithviraj had strained relations with Jaichand, the ruler of Kanauj. A legend relates to the carrying away of Sanyokta, the daughter of Jai Chand, from her ‘Swyamvara’ function by Prithviraj. The bitter enmity between the two great Rajput rulers i.e. Prithviraj and Jaichand resulted in the destruction of both these kingdoms at the hands of Mohammad Ghori. In fact this rivalry led to the subordination of India to the foreign invaders in due course.
The Tomars of Delhi:
The Tomars founded the city of Delhi in 736 A.D. They were the feudatory chiefs of the Pratiharas but later on they established their own kingdom at Delhi. In 1043, Mahipala Tomar captured Thaneswar, Hansi and Nagarkot. In the middle of the 12th century they came under the suzerainty of the Chauhans who captured Delhi from them.
The Pratiharas of Kanauj:
According to legend Nagabhatta (725-40 A.D.) was the first famous Pratihara ruler who captured Kanauj after the death of King Harsha and he carried on a successful war against the Arab conquerors of Sindh and prevented them from extending their kingdom. The Pratihara rulers had several parts of India under their control. They had the best cavalry in India. Mahmud of Ghazni gave a severe blow to the Pratiharas of Kanauj ii 1019 A.D.
The Gauauavalas or Rathors of Kanauj:
After the fail of the Pratiharas there was a lot of confusion. Ultimately, the Gahadavalas established themselves on the throne of Kanauj from 1090 to 1194 A.D. Jai Chand was the last great ruler of this dynasty. Usually very unkind words are said about him by some historians on account of his role in the struggle between Mohammad Ghori, and Prithviraj. He was killed in a battle in 1194 with Mohammad Ghori. Earlier he had sided with Mohammad Ghori against Prithviraj.
The Chandellas of Bundelkhand:
Bundelkhand was a part of the Pratihara kingdom of Kanauj. It was established in the 9th century. Its capital was Mahoba and Kalinjar was its most important fort. The Chandellas buiit a number of beautiful temples at Khajuraho, the most famous temple being the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple (1050 A.D.)
The Guhilas or Sisodiyas of Mewar:
Bapa Rawal was the founder of the Sisodia dynasty with his capital at Chittor, Rana Ratan Singh of Mewar was defeated by Ala-ud-ddin Khalji in 1307. Queen Padmini performed ‘Johar’. Later on Rana Sanga and Maharana Pratap gave a tough fight to the Mughals.
The Parmars of Malwa:
Once they were the feudatory chiefs of the Pratiharas. Taking advantage of the weakness of the Pratihvaras, they established their kingdom in the 10th Century A.D. Dhara in Madhya Bharat was their capital. Raja Bhoj (1018-1069) was the most famous ruler of this dynasty. He was a great scholar and writer of several books. He founded the famous Sanskrit college at Dhara. He constructed a beautiful lake near Bhopal. The last ruler of this dynasty was killed by one of the generals of Ala-ud-din in 1305.
The Palas of Bengal:
The kingdom founded in the middle of the 8th century lasted for about four centuries. The dynasty had 17 rulers. The Pala kingdom during the zenith of its power in the 10th century included most parts of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Assam. The Pala reputation transcended the boundaries of India into Tibet and East Indies. The Palay heralded an era of cultural renaissance in Bengal.
The Vikramsila University founded in the 8th century became an international university:
The Palas revived Buddhism:
Trade with Southeast Asia greatly added to the prosperity of the Pala kingdom.
The Rashtrakutas of Malkhid (Deccan):
The Rashtrakutas remained in power for about three centuries i.e. 8th, 9th and 10th. During the middle of the 8th century, the Rashtrakutas were the master of Central and Southern Gujarat, the whole of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, most parts of Bihar and Karnataka. The rock-cut shrines of Ellora and Elephanta belong to this period. The Kailasha Temple at Ellora was unrivalled during the period.
The sculptured reliefs of Natraja at Elephanta are unique. The Trimurti or Maheshamurti representing god in Triple form corresponding to its three functions of Creation, the Preservation and Destruction of the universe has also unique sculptured reliefs.
The disintegration of India into small territories as a result of mutual conflicts gave a great blow to the political unity of India. Indian rulers failed to realise the gravity of the situation posed by the foreign invaders who had constantly set their eyes upon India. With the weakening of their powers, the defence of India was threatened. The result was it became easy for foreigners like Mahmud Ghazni to invade any part of India he wanted and looted its wealth.