Bengal under Palas

Exact Match
  Indus Valley
  Mauryan Era
  Post Mauryan
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North India | Bengal | Kashmir | Other States | Rajputs | Ghazni | After Ghazni | Prithviraj | Tarain 

Little is known of the early Palas until the reign of Gopala in the eighth century. Gopala attained renown from the fact that he was not the hereditary king but was elected. Gopala was chosen king to avoid a state of anarchy in the land. Gopala established the Pala dynasty but it was his son Dharmapala who made it a force to reckon with, in north Indian politics. Despite the fact that he began with a defeat at the hands of the Rashtrakutas but by the end of his reign Pala power was dominant in eastern India. Towards the end of the eighth century Dharmapala led a successful campaign against Kannauj, resulting in the removal of the reigning king, a protégé of the Pratiharas. This enraged the Rashtrakutas and the Pratiharas, but Dharmapala stood his ground. Friendly relations with Tibet ensured the safety of his northern borders.

Relations between the Palas and the countries of south-east Asia were close. The ties between the Buddhists of India and south-east Asia were strengthened at this time and were to be of considerable consequence in later centuries when the Buddhists, harried by the Turks and Afghans, fled and sought refuge in the monasteries of south-cast Asia.

Meanwhile the Pratiharas had consolidated their position and the initiative was now with them. The first step was obviously the capture of Kannauj, which had been taken by the Rashtrakutas from the Palas. The Arab menace in the west was firmly tackled by king Bhoja, probably the most renowned of the Pratiharas. But his efforts to hold back the Arabs to the west and the Palas in the east made it impossible for him to invade the Deccan as was his intention.

The Rashtrakutas waited for their opportunity and in 916 they struck for the last time, but struck effectively by attacking Kannauj, and in so doing ended all cohesion in the north. The rivalry between the Pratiharas and the Rashtrakutas was self-destroying. The Arab traveller, al Masudi, visited Kannauj in the early tenth century and wrote that "the king of Kannauj was the natural enemy of the king of the Deccan : that he kept a large army and was surrounded by smaller kings always ready to go to war." A hundred years later the Pratiharas were no longer a force in the north Indian politics. Kannauj also fell from grace, a Turkish army sacked Kannauj in 1018 A.D. and this virtually ended Pratihara rule. In the western Deccan, the Rashtrakutas were replaced by the Later Chalukyas.

The decline of the Pratiharas in the tenth century gave the Palas an opportunity to re-establish them in north-Indian affairs. Turkish raids into north-western India in the early eleventh century kept the local kings occupied and soon the Palas were close to Benaras. This expansion was, however, checked by the advance of the Chola king Rajendra, whose successful northern campaign was a threat to the independence of Bengal. The western campaign of the Palas was immediately abandoned and the king, Mahipala, made a hasty retreat to defend Bengal against the Chola armies. The Paila dynasty declined soon after the death of Mahipala and gave way to the Sena line.

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