After the break up of the Gupta empire North India was again divided into a number of independent states, chief among them being the States ruled by Maitrakas of Vallabhi, the Maukharis of Kannauj, the Gurjaras of Rajputana, the Gaudas of Bengal and the later Guptas of Malwa and Magadha and the Pushyabhutis of Thaneswar though, of course, Yasodharma also established a powerful kingdom for himself in Malwa for some time.
Nothing is known about the antecedents of Yasodharma. Probably, he was a petty noble in Malwa. We, however, know about his exploits from two inscriptions at Mandsor. In them, he has been described as a great ruler of north India. During the period of later weak Gupta rulers, the invasions of the Hunas from towards the north-west and frequent attacks of the Vakatakas from towards the South created anarchy in Malwa.
Yasodharma faced that anarchy, brought order in Malwa and declared himself its ruler in 530 A.D. He, then, fought many battles and extended the territories of his kingdom beyond the frontiers of Malwa. He fought against the Gupta ruler Baladitya and also the Vakataka rulers and succeeded against them. However, his greatest success was against the Hunas.
The Hunas under their ruler, Mihirkula were attacking the interior territories of India successively and the Gupta rulers had failed to check their onslaughts. Yasodharma faced them, defeated Mihirkula in a straight battle and forced him to retreat. It enhanced his prestige in north India. However, Yasodharma died in 543 A.D. or a little earlier and his kingdom was captured by the later Guptas.
The success of Yasodharma against Mihirkula, certainly, helped in saving India from the onlaughts of the Hunas but he participated in the decline of the Gupta empire as well. His success in Malwa inspired the Maukharis and the later Guptas to become independent and that, certainly, helped in the disintegration of the Gupta empire.
The later Guptas probably started their rule from Malwa and extended their territories up to Magadha. Their is no evidence to prove that they were descendants of the Imperial Guptas. Rather, it seems that they were feudatory to them and asserted their independence after their fall. The dynasty produced many capable rulers and its empire, at one time, extended to the river Brahmputra.
However, the dynasty entered into political rivalry with the Maukharis of Kannauj from the period of the rule of Kumara Gupta (540-560 A.D.) which, ultimately, ended in its defeat and its ruler Mahasena Gupta was forced to retire to Malwa. There the attacks of the Kalachuris and the Chalukyas further weakened them and, finally, its rulers were left as feudatory chiefs of the Vardhana rulers of Thaneswar.
The Maukhari family was divided into several branches, the most important of them being that of Kannauj. The family started its rule from modern Uttar Pradesh. Its first ruler Hari Varman married his son to the sister of the later Gupta ruler Harsha Gupta.
Isana Varman and his son Sarva Varman proved themselves as the greatest rulers of this dynasty who extended their empire not only in Uttar Pradesh and Magadha but also towards Bundelkhand, South East Punjab and in part of Bengal.
The rulers of Thaneswar were also under their overlordship and Prabhakara Vardhana of Thaneswar married his daughter Rajyasri to one of their rulers, Graha Varman. Graha Varman was killed by Deva Gupta, one of the later Gupta rulers.
Afterwards, Harsha Vardhana of Thaneswar annexed the territories of the Maukharis. The Maukharis dynasty played an important part in Indian history. Its rulers Isana Varman and Sarva Varman both successfully fought against the Hunas and saved Eastern India from their aggression.
The Maitrakas established themselves as independent rulers in Saurashtra. Their capital was Vallabhi. The dynasty ruled successfully for nearly 300 years and, thus, proved most durable among those states which rose out of the ruins of the Gupta empire. Towards the close of the seventh century, Vallabhi grew up as a great centre of learning and trade. The kingdom was probably overthrown by the Arabs of Sindh in the third quarter of the eighth century.
The Guijara kingdom in Rajputana rose to prominence about the middle of the sixth century A.D. The first Gurjara state was that of modern Jodhpur and was established by Harichandra who was a Brahamana. Harichandra and his three successors, probably, ruled between 550-640 A.D. However, the rule of this family continued for nearly another two hundred years.
The origin of the Gurjaras is a subject of controversy. Many scholars hold the view that the Gurjaras were a foreign people. But there are no conclusive evidences to prove it. Therefore, it is assumed that the Gurjaras were local people.
The Gaudas rose to prominence in Bengal. Their greatest king was Sasanka who fought against the rulers of Thaneswar and Kannauj. Sasanka entered into an alliance with Deva Gupta of Malwa and was responsible for the capture of Rajyasri and murder of Rajya Vardhana, daughter and son respectively of Prabhakara Vardhana of Thaneswar. However, very little is known about the history of the Gaudas before and after Sasanka.
However, the Pushyabhuti or Vardhana dynasty of Thaneswar played a far more distinguished part in Indian history than any other dynasty which rose to power after the fall of the Imperial Guptas. The rulers of Thaneswar were feudatory chiefs of the Maukharis but ultimately succeeded in asserting their independence. According to Harsha Charita of Banabhatta, the first independent ruler of this dynasty was Pushpabhuti.
The third ruler Aditya Vardhan married the sister of Mahasena Gupta, one of the later Gupta rulers. His son and successor was Prabhakara Vardhan who assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja. Prabhakar Vardhana extended his kingdom towards the West and the South.
He married his daughter Rajyasri to the Maukhari ruler Graha Varman and fought against Deva Gupta, the ruler of Malwa who had defeated and forced the sons of Mahasena Gupta to seek shelter in Thaneswar.
He died in 606 A.D. while both of his sons, Rajya Vardhana and Harsha Vardhana were away from the capital to fight against the Hunas. His elder son, Rajya Vardhana succeeded to his throne but could not rule for long. By this time the Gauda ruler Sasanka had grown powerful in Bengal and was desirous of conquering Kannauj. Sasanka entered into an alliance with Deva Gupta, ruler of Malwa who was the enemy of the ruler of Thaneswar.
Deva Gupta attacked Kannauj and Sasanka helped him just after the death of Prabhakara Vardhana, killed Graha Varman and made Rajyasri, wife of Graha Varman and sister of Rajya Vardhana, the then ruler of Thaneswar, a captive. Rajya Vardhana immediately proceeded to Kannuaj to avenge the defeat and death of Graha Varman, defeated Deva Gupta and occupied Kannauj.
He then proceeded further to punish Sasanka but was killed by him. It is not clear how Rajya Vardhana was killed but the description of both Banabhatta and Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang testify that Sasanka killed Rajya Vardhana by treachery. His younger brother, Harsha Vardhana, then succeeded to the throne of Thaneswar in 606 A.D.