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The Tripartite Struggle: 8th to 10th Centuries

The Tripartite Struggle: 8th to 10th Centuries

  • Between 750 AD and 1000 AD, three empires dominated the political scene in India. These were the Palas who dominated eastern India till the middle of the 9th century; the Pratiharas who dominated the western part of India and the upper gangetic valley till the middle of the 10th century, and the Rashkrakuta empire, which dominated the Deccan and also controlled the territory in north and south India at various times.
  • They were involved in conflict among themselves, but provided stable conditions of life over large areas and gave patronage to arts and letters.
  • Of the three, the Rashtrakuta Empire lasted the longest, it was also the most powerful empire of the three and acted as a bridge between north and south India in economic as well as, cultural matters.

Palas:

Ruled in areas of Bihar and Bengal with capital at Mongyr (Munger).

Gopala:

  • The death of Sasanka of Gauda created anarchy and confusion in Bengal, whereupon the notable men of Bengal elected Gopala as king in 750 AD.
  • Gopala thus set up the Pala Kingdom. Gopala was an ardent Buddhist and set up the Odantapuri Vihar (modern Bihar Sharif).

Dharmapala:

  • Gopala was succeeded by his son Dharmpala. Dharmapala was defeated by the Rashtrakuta ruler Dhruva — Ill who also defeated the Pratihara ruler Vatasraja.
  • But, Dhruva returned to the Deccan whereupon Dharmapala occupied Kannauj but could not consolidate his control over it as Pratihara power revived under Nagabhata II who defeated Dharmapala near Mongyr.
  • Eastern U.P and Bihar became a bone of contention between the Palas and the Pratiharas, though Palas had control over Bengal and much of Bihar. Dharmapala patronized the Mahavihara of Vikramsila and Vihara at Sompura (Paharpur).

Devapala:

  • The son of Dharmapala succeeded him. He extended control over Prayagjotishpur (Assam) and also parts of Orissa and probably during his reign, some part of a Vihara at Nalanda was constructed by Balaputradev, a Sailendera ruler of Sumatra, Java and Malaya.
  • Arab traveller Sulaiman who visited India in the middle of the 9th century calls the Pala kingdom ‘RUHMA’ (Dharma) and says the Pala ruler was at war with his neighbours and that the troops of Pala rulers were more numerous than his adversaries.
  • Tibetan chronicles written down in the 17th century say that Pala rulers were great patrons of Buddhist learning and religion. Dharmpala revived the Nalanda University and it was endowed with 200 villages for meeting its expenses.    The Tripartite Struggle: 8th to 10th Centuries
  • Dharmpala also founded the Vikramsila University. The Palas also built many Viharas where Buddhist monks lived.
  • The Palas also maintained close cultural ties with Tibet as a result of which the noted Buddhist scholars, Santarakshita and Dipankara (Atisa) were invited to Tibet where they introduced a new form of Buddhism there. As a result, many Tibetan Buddhists flocked to the Universities of Nalanda and Vikramsila for study.
  • The Palas also had flourishing trade and cultural contacts with South-east Asia which contributed to the prosperity of the Pala Empire.

Pratiharas:

  • The Pratiharas are also called Gurjara — Pratiharas. They were settled at Bhinmal in Rajputana. The word Pratihara literally means the door-keeper.

Nagabhatta I:

  • He resisted the Arab invasions and acquired fame.

Vatsaraja:

  • Attempted to capture Malwa but was defeated by the Rashtrakuta ruler Dhruva III.

Nagabhatta II:

  • He was a great conqueror. He defeated Dharmapala and captured Kannauj but was defeated by the Rashtrakuta King Govind III.  The Tripartite Struggle: 8th to 10th Centuries
  • But Govind III returned to the Deccan and so Nagabhatta II again captured Kannauj. Nagabhatta II also came into conflict with Devapala.

Mihirbhoja (836 — 885AD):

  • Considered the greatest ruler of Pratiharas. Arab travelers tell us that the Pratiharas had the best cavalry in India. They acquired horses from central Asia and Arabia as an import item of trade. Bhoja used his horses well in military conquests.  The Tripartite Struggle: 8th to 10th Centuries
  • He tried to extend his sway in the east but was defeated by the Pala ruler Devapala. He then fought with the Rashtrakutas on the banks of the Narmada and acquired control over considerable parts of the Malwa and some parts of Gujarat.
  • He then turned his attention to the north and following the death of Devapala and the weakening of the Pala empire, Bhoja extended his empire in the east.
  • The achievements of Bhoja are known from his Gwalior inscription. Arab traveler Sulaiman said that Bhoja was one of the four greatest emperors of the world and an enemy of the Arabs. Bhoja was a devotee of Vishnu and adopted the title of ‘Adivaraha’ which has been found on his coins.

Mahendrapala I:

  • Bhoja was succeeded by his son Mahendrapala I. He extended the empire into Magadha and North Bengal. His inscriptions have also been found from east Punjab, Awadh and Kathiawar.
  • He fought a battle with the king of Kashmir but had to yield to him some of the territories in the Punjab won by Bhoja.

Mahipala:

  • Succeeded Mahendrapala I. He patronized the poet Rajashekhar who wrote Karpuramanjari, Kavyamimansa, Balaramayana and Bala and Bharatha.
  • In 915 AD the Rashtrakuta king Indra — III invaded Kannauj and gained control of Gujarat. In 963 AD, another Rashtrakuta King Krishna III invaded north India and defeated the Pratihara ruler.
  • Invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni in 1018 — 19 led to the submission of the Pratihara ruler Rajyapala before him, whereupon the Chandella ruler Vidyadhara defeated and killed Rajyapala as punishment for cowardice. Yashapala was perhaps the last Pratihara ruler.  The Tripartite Struggle: 8th to 10th Centuries
  • Arab writer Al-Masudi, a native of Baghdad, who visited Gujarat in 915 — 16 AD, testifies to the great power and prestige of the Pratihara rulers and the vastness of their empire.
  • Al-Masudi calls the Gurjara — Pratiharas kingdom al-Juzr (a corrupt form of Gurjara) and the king’Baura’, probably a mispronunciation of Adivaraha, the title used for Bhoja, although Bhoja had died by that time.
  • Al-Masudi says that time army of al-Juzr had four divisions each consisting of 7 lakh to 9 lakh men. Al-Masudi also says that the Pratiharas had the best cavalry of any king in India.

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