The Gupta dynasty in India — - which reigned in the Ganges basin and held sway over much of India — - died out in the mid 7th century. Northern India suffered a sharp decline after the seventh century. As a result, Hun invaders Islam came to a disunited India through the same passes that Indo-Aryans, Alexander, Kushans, and others had entered. Hindu princes of the Rajput sub-caste, ruling in the northwest, reached their peak of power from 700 to 1000, although their descendants retained much of their influence well into British days.

During the medieval period (8th–13th centuries) several independent kingdoms, notably the Palas of Bihar and Bengal, the Sen, the Ahoms of Assam, a later Chola empire at Tanjore, and a second Chalukya dynasty in the Deccan, waxed powerful. In NW India, beyond the reach of the medieval dynasties, the Rajputs had grown strong and were able to resist the rising forces of Islam. Islam was first brought to Sind, W India, in the 8th cent. by seafaring Arab traders; by the 10th cent. Muslim armies from the north were raiding India. From 999 to 1026, Mahmud of Ghazna several times breached Rajput defenses and plundered India. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]

Between the 5th and 13th century, a succession of invaders invaded and plundered the India. The Huna (Huns) were the first of these. They attacked India in several waves in 5th and the 6th century. They were a branch of the same tribe that marauded through Europe and challenged the Roman Empire. Based in an area around the Oxus River, the White Huns harassed the Persians and in turn were harassed by an alliance of Persians and Blue Turks

The Hun incursion was brief but had far-reaching impact, Buddhism was pushed into the Swat Valley of Pakistan. With the Gupta empire in disarray, India was lunged into a period of darkness. A number of tribes crossed the Hindu Kush and settled in India and Pakistan and added to South Asia’s cultural diversity. Among the Huns themselves, many converted to Hinduism and they were the ancestors of the great Rajput families of Rajasthan.

Huna (Hun) Invasions

In the A.D. mid 5th century, the Huns invaded Northwest India. In A.D. 460 they were repulsed by the Guptas. The Huns were fierce horsemen and skilled archers, They sacked Gandhara and cities in India. The Hun chief Mihirakula is remembered as a tyrant who used to watch five elephants pushed off a cliff for entertainment. The Gupta King Skandragupta (454-467) held back an invasion of the Huns who crossed the Hindu Kush around A.D. 466 and 467. The Huns returned again 20 years later and were able to establish a kingdom in Pakistan which they extended into central India.

Huna is a Sanskrit name. The Byzantines called them Hephthalite (White Huns). To attack again the Huna waited until 470 right after the death of Skandagupta, and entered the India from the Kabul valley after the conquest of Kushan. They attacked areas along the Ganges and razed cities and towns. The noble capital, Pataliputra, was reduced to a village. Buddhists were persecuted; their monasteries burned. Their conquest was accomplished with extreme ferocity and the Gupta leadership was wiped out. [Source: Glorious India]

For thirty years the northwestern India was ruled by Hun kings. We know some of the Hun kings ruling India from coins. The most famous ones were Toramana and Mihrakula. They ruled India in the first half of the 6th century. Unlike the previous invaders — Persians or Greeks — who had brought elements of civilization and culture, the Huns brought only devastation with them. Luckily the Huns were driven out in less than 75 years when several Indian armies fought together.

Early Horsemen Invaders of South Asia

Invasions of India was carried out by the Yavana (Indo-Greeks 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.), the Saka (Indo-Scythians, A.D. 2nd century), the Palava (Indo-Parthians, A.D. 3rd century ), and the Kushana (Yuezhi A.D. 3rd century), and the the Huna peoples (4th-7th centuries). [Source: Wikipedia]

Ancient Indian records prophecies, dated to 180 B.C., of Yavana attacks on Saket, Panchala, Mathura and Pataliputra, probably against the Shunga Empire, and possibly in defence of Buddhism: "After having conquered Saketa, the country of the Panchala and the Mathuras, the Yavanas, wicked and valiant, will reach Kusumadhvaja ("The town of the flower-standard", Pataliputra). The thick mud-fortifications at Pataliputra being reached, all the provinces will be in disorder, without doubt. Ultimately, a great battle will follow, with tree-like engines (siege engines)." Another passage reads. "The Yavanas will command, the Kings will disappear. (But ultimately) the Yavanas, intoxicated with fighting, will not stay in Madhadesa (the Middle Country); there will be undoubtedly a civil war among them, arising in their own country, there will be a terrible and ferocious war.

The invasion of northern regions of the Indian subcontinent by Scythian tribes from Central Asia, often referred to as the Saka invasion, played a significant part in the history of the Indian subcontinent as well as nearby countries. It was one chapter in a series of events triggered by the nomadic flight of Central Asians from conflict with tribes such as the Xiongnu in the 2nd century B.C., which had lasting effects on Bactria, Kabul, and the Indian subcontinent as well as far-off Rome in the west, and more nearby to the west in Parthia.

About 165-160 B.C. there were momentous movements of nomadic tribes in Central Asia. The Yuezhi were dislodged from their position in North-western China, and were forced to migrate westwards. In the course of their wandering they encountered the Sakas or Sse, who occupied the lands to the north of the Jaxartes (Syr Darya). The latter, having been pushed south, swooped down on Bactria and the Parthian kingdom in the period between 140 and 120 B.C. Weakened by foreign wars and internal dissensions, the Bactrian monarchy fell an easy prey to the invasion of these hordes. Then the Sakas pressed towards the south-west, and in the struggle, which followed with Parthia, Phraates II was killed in 128 B.C., and Artabanus I lost his life a few years later in 123 B.C. Mithridates II (123-88 B.C.), however, reasserted the Parthian power, which naturally diverted the Sakas eastwards.


The Huna are a complex of people regarded as a branch of the Huns. There were four major Huna states in Central and South Asia: 1) the Kidarites (A.D. 4th and 5th centuries), Hephthalites (5th to 8th centuries, militarily important during 450 to 560), Alchon (4th -6th centuries) and Nezak Huns (6th and 7th centuries) .

The Hiung-nu or the Hunas of Sanskrit literature and inscriptions first come into view about 165 B.C., when they defeated the Yueh-chi and compelled them to quit their lands in North-western China. In course of time the Hunas also moved west wards in search of ‘fresh fields and pastures new’. One branch proceeded towards the Oxus valley, and became known as the Ye-tha-i-li or Hephthalites (White Huns of Roman and Byzantine writers). The other section gradually reached Europe, where they earned undying notoriety for their savage cruelties. From the Oxus the Hunas turned towards the south about the second decade of the fifth century A.D. and, crossing Afghanistan and the northwestern passes, eventually entered India. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The Hunas attacked the western parts of the Gupta dominions prior to 458 A.D. but were hurled back by the military ability and prowess of Skandagupta. To use the actual expression of the Bhitari pillar inscription, he “by his two arms shook the earth, when he.... joined in close conflict with the Ilunas.” For the next few years the country was spared the horrors of their inroads. In A.D. 484, however, they defeated and killed king Firoz, and with the collapse of Persian resistance ominous clouds again began to gather on the Indian horizon.

Hun Invasions and the Decline of the Gupta Empire

Sometime around the year 450 the Huna, began to assert themselves in the Gupta empire's northwest. After decades of peace Gupta military prowess had diminished, and when the Huna launched a full-scale invasion around 480, the empire's resistance proved ineffective. The invaders swiftly conquered the tributary states in the northwest and soon pushed into the heart of Gupta-controlled territory. [Source: University of Washington]

Though the last strong Gupta king, Skanadagupta (r. c. 454–467), held off invasions by the Huns in the 5th century, subsequent invasion weakened the dynasty. The Hunas invaded the territory of the Gupta in the 450s soon after a Gupta engagement with the Pusyamitras. Hunas began to pour down into India through north-western passes like an irresistible torrent. At first, Skandagupta succeeded in stemming the tide of their advance into the interior in a sanguinary contest, but the repeated attacks eventually undermin’ed the stability of the Gupta dynasty. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

If the Hunas of the Bhitari pillar inscription are identified with the Mlecchas of the Junagadh rock inscription, Skandagupta must have defeated them before 457-58 A.D. the last date mentioned in the latter record. Saurastra seems to have been the weakest point of his empire, and he was hard put to it in ensuring its protection against the attacks of his enemies. We learn that he had to deliberate for “days and nights” in order to select the proper person to govern those regions. The choice, at last, fell on Parnadatta, whose appointment made the king “easy at heart.”


The Huna behind these attacks are believed to have been Kidarites, a dynasty that ruled Bactria and adjoining parts of Central Asia and South Asia in the A.D. 4th and 5th centuries. In 360–370 a Kidarite kingdom was established in Central Asian regions previously ruled by the Sasanian Empire, replacing the Kushano-Sasanians in Bactria. In 390-410, the Kidarites invaded northwestern India, where they replaced the remnants of the Kushan Empire in the area of Punjab. [Source: Wikipedia]

The Kidarites consolidated their power in Northern Afghanistan before conquering Peshawar and parts of northwest India including Gandhara probably sometime between 390 and 410 around the end of the rule of Gupta Emperor Chandragupta II or beginning of the rule of Kumaragupta I. It is probably the rise of the Hephthalites and the defeats against the Sasanians which pushed the Kidarites into northern India. The Kidarites issued gold coins on the model of Kushan coinage, inscribing their own names but still claiming the Kushan heritage by using the title "Kushan". It seems that Kushan Buddhism was rather unaffected by Kidarite rule, as the religion continued to prosper. The Chinese pilgrim Faxian visited the region around 400,and described a rich Buddhist culture.

The Kidarites may have confronted the Gupta Empire during the rule of Kumaragupta I (414–c. 455) as the latter recounts some conflicts, although very vaguely, in his Mandsaur inscription. The Bhitari pillar inscription of Skandagupta, inscribed by his son Skandagupta (c. 455 – c. 467 CE), recalls much more dramatically the near-annihilation of the Gupta Empire.The Kidarites are the only Hunas who could have attacked India at the time, as the Hephthalites were still trying to set foot in Bactria in the middle of the 5th century.

In the Bhitari inscription, Skandagupta clearly mentions conflagrations with the Hunas, even though some portions of the inscription have disappeared: "(Skandagupta), by whose two arms the earth was shaken, when he, the creator (of a disturbance like that) of a terrible whirlpool, joined in close conflict with the Hûnas... among enemies... arrows... proclaimed...just as if it were the roaring of (the river) Ganga, making itself noticed in (their) ears." (Bhitari pillar inscription of Skandagupta L.15)

Even after these encounters, the Kidarites seem to have retained the western part of the Gupta Empire, particularly central and western Punjab, until they were displaced by the invasion of the Alchon Huns at the end of the 5th century. While they still ruled in Gandhara, the Kidarites are known to have sent an embassy to China in 477.

Hephthalites (White Huns)

The Hephthalites (White Huns) were a people who lived in Central Asia and South Asia during the 5th to 8th centuries. Militarily important during 450 to 560, they were based in Bactria and expanded east to the Tarim Basin in present-day western China, west to Sogdia (Uzbekistan) and south through Afghanistan to Pakistan and parts of northern India. They were a tribal confederation and included both nomadic and settled urban communities. [Source: Wikipedia]

The stronghold of the Hephthalites was Tokharistan on the northern slopes of the Hindu Kush, in what is present-day northeastern Afghanistan. By 479, the Hephthalites had conquered Sogdia and driven the Kidarites westwards, and by 493 they had captured parts of present-day Dzungaria and the Tarim Basin in what is now Northwest China. They expanded into Pakistan as well.

The Huna had already established themselves in Afghanistan and the modern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan by the first half of the 5th century, and the Gupta emperor Skandagupta had repelled a Hūna invasion in 455 before the Hephthalite clan came along. India was invaded during the 5th century by a people known in the Indian Subcontinent as the Hunas – including the Alchon Huns and possibly an alliance broader than the Hephthalites and/or Xionites.

Hun Invasions and the Fall of the Gupta Empire

An invasion by Hunas destroyed much of the Gupta civilization by 550 and the empire finally collapsed completely in 647. Inability to exert control over a large area had as much to do with the collapse as the invasions.

Seeing weakness, the Hunas invaded India again – in greater number than their 450s invasions. Just before the year 500, they took control of the Punjab. After 515, they absorbed the Kashmir, and they advanced into the Ganges Valley, the heart of India, "raping, burning, massacring, blotting out entire cities and reducing fine buildings to rubble" according to Indian historians. Provinces and feudal territories declared their independence, and the whole of north India became divided among numerous independent kingdoms. And with this fragmentation India was again torn by numerous small wars between local rulers. By 520 the Gupta Empire was reduced to a small kingdom on the fringe of their once vast realm, and now it was they who were forced to pay tribute to their conquerors. By the mid-sixth century the Gupta dynasty dissolved entirely.

The leader of these renewed incursions was Toramana perhaps Toramana, known from the Rajatarangini, inscriptions, and coins. It is clear from their evidence that he wrested large slices of the western territories of the Guptas and established his authority as far as Central India. It is likely that the “very famous battle,” in which Bhanugupta’s general Goparaja lost his life according to an Eran inscription dated G.E. 191 — 510 A.D. was fought against the Huna conqueror himself. The loss of Malwa was a tremenous blow to the fortunes of the Guptas, whose direct sway did not now extend much beyond Magadha and Northern Bengal.

The irruption of the Huns, although at first checked by Skandagupta, appears to have brought to the surface the latent disruptive forces, which readily operate in India when the central power weakens, or its grip upon the remote provinces slackens. One of the earliest defections from the Gupta empire was Saurastra, where Senapati Bhattaraka founded a new dynasty at Viilabhi (Wala, near Bhavnagar) about the last decades of the fifth century A.D. Dhruvasena I, and Dharapatta, who ruled successively, assume the title of Maharaja only. But it is not clear whose suzerainty they acknowledged. Did they for some time nominally keep alive the tradition of Gupta paramountcy? Or, did they owe allegiance to the Hunas, who gradually overwhelmed the western and central parts of India? Step by step the power of the house grew until Dhuvasena II became a major power in the region.. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Alchon Huns

The Hunas who carried out these invasion are believed to have been Alchon Huns, a nomadic people who established states in Central Asia and South Asia during the A.D. 4th and 6th centuries. They were first mentioned as being located in Paropamisus, and later expanded south-east, into the Punjab and central India, as far as Eran and Kausambi. The Alchon invasion of the Indian subcontinent eradicated the Kidarite Huns who had preceded them by about a century, and contributed to the fall of the Gupta Empire.The Alchons have long been considered as a part or a sub-division of the Hephthalites, or as their eastern branch, but now tend to be considered as a separate entity.

In the First Hunnic War (496–515), the Alchon reached their maximum territorial extent, with King Toramana pushing deep into Indian territory, reaching Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in Central India.To the south, the Sanjeli inscriptions indicate that Toramana penetrated at least as far as northern Gujarat, A decisive battle occurred in Malwa, where a local Gupta ruler, probably a governor, named Bhanugupta was in charge. In the Bhanugupta Eran inscription, this local ruler reports that his army participated in a great battle in 510 at Eran, where it suffered severe casualties. Bhanugupta was probably defeated by Toramana at this battle, so that the western Gupta province of Malwa fell into the hands of the Hunas.

According to a 6th-century CE Buddhist work, the Manjusri-mula-kalpa, Bhanugupta lost Malwa to the "Shudra" Toramana, who continued his conquest to Magadha, forcing Narasimhagupta Baladitya to make a retreat to Bengal. Toramana "possessed of great prowess and armies" then conquered the city of Tirtha in the Gauda country (modern Bengal). Toramana is said to have crowned a new king in Benares, named Prakataditya, who is also presented as a son of Narasimha Gupta.

Having conquered the territory of Malwa from the Guptas, Toramana was mentioned in a famous inscription in Eran, confirming his rule on the region. Toramana was finally defeated by an Indian ruler of the Aulikara dynasty of Malwa, after nearly 20 years in India. According to the Rīsthal stone-slab inscription, discovered in 1983, King Prakashadharma defeated Toramana in 515. The First Hunnic War thus ended with a Hunnic defeat, and Hunnic troops apparently retreated to the area of Punjab.


Mihirakula (r. 515-540, also Mihiragula or Mahiragula), was one of the most important rulers of the Alchon Huns. He led a conquest that gained temporary control of Gandhara, Kashmir, northern and central India. A son of Toramana. Mihirakula ruled his empire from 502 to 530, from his capital of Sagala (modern-day Sialkot, Pakistan). According to Xuanzang, Mihirakula initially was interested in Buddhism, but after being insulted by Buddhist monks, he turned anti Buddhist.

Mihirakula is depicted as great tyrant in ancient sources, taking fiendish delight in acts of brutality. According to Xuanzang, he (Mo-hi-lo-ki-lo) persecuted the peaceful Buddhists and mercilessly destroyed and plundered their stupas and monasteries. He attacked king Baladitya of Magadha, but was defeated, taken prisoner, and subsequently released. Mihirakula then sought safety in Kashmir and received a very generous treatment at the hands of its ruler. The refugee, however, misused the kindness shown to him, and by his machinations soon seized the throne of his benefactor. Mihirakula could not long enjoy the fruits of his usurpation, and within a year his death took place, heralded by portents. It is difficult to disentangle fact from legend in Xuanzang’s testimony. We do not even know with certitude who Baladitya was. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The exact year of Mihirakula’s death is not known, but if he is identical with Gollas, “the lord of India”, mentioned by the Alexandrian monk, Cosmas Cosmas Indicopleustes, in 547 A.D. he may have continued to exercise authority over a limited territory by that date. After Mihirakula no great leader arose among the Huns to reassert their hegemony. But inscriptions and literary works amply prove that for many centuries afterwards they remained a potent factor in the political situation of Northern India until they were gradually absorbed into the Hindu social polity.

Pratihara Empire

Akhilesh Pillalamarri wrote in The National Interest: “The Pratihara Empire (650-1036 C.E.), also known as the Gurjara-Pratiharas is little known in the West and hardly better known in India. Yet it is one of the most consequential states in South Asian history and its size and duration exceeded many other empires listed here. The empire originated among military clans in western India after the fragmentation of the Gupta Empire. This period saw the rise of the Rajputs in the deserts of parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan, who were to play an important role in subsequent Indian history. The Rajputs were Kshatriyas (a caste of warriors and rulers) who dedicated themselves to warfare, martial prowess, and fortification with a zeal previously not found in India; in this sense, they resembled the feudal knights emerging in Europe around the same time. Rajputs were fiercely independent and always held their fiefs autonomously while also allying themselves to the Mughals and British at various times. [Source: Akhilesh Pillalamarri, The National Interest, May 8, 2015]

“Shortly after the rise of the Pratiharas, they defeated Arab invaders at the Battle of Rajasthan (738 C.E.), halting Muslim expansion into India for three hundred years. Later on, they set up a capital at Kannauj, near Delhi, and expanded into central India. In both western and central India, they set up a large number of fortifications, making these regions hard to conquer. More importantly, a more muscular form of Hinduism emerged in this period that provided the ideological basis for later resistance to Islam in a way that was not possible with Buddhism. Like most Indian empires, the Pratihara Empire eventually fragmented into multiple states and Mahmud of Ghazni, an invader from Afghanistan, who took away a lot of gold and demolished temples, sacked Kannauj in the early 11th century. The Pratiharas soon petered out.

Origin and Rise of Pratiharas

The Pratihara family, to which Nagabhata II belonged, appears to have been of foreign extraction. Indeed, the phrase “Gurjara-Pratiharanvayah”, i.e., “Pratihara clan of the Gurjaras”, occurring in line 4 of the Rajor (Alwar) inscription, indicates that they were a branch of the famous Gurjaras — one of those Central Asian tribes that poured into India through the north-western passes along with, or soon after, the Huns during the period of political unrest following the disruption of the Gupta Empire. That the Pratiharas belonged to the Gurjara stock is also confirmed by the Rastrakuta records, and the Arab writers, like Abu Zaid and Al Mas‘udi, who allude to their fights with the Juzr or Gurjaras of the North. Besides, it is important to re member that the Kanarese poet, Pampa, describes Mahlpala as “Ghurjararaja.” The inscriptions of the Pratiharas, on the other hand, trace their origin to Laksmana, who acted as the door-keeper (Pratihara) of his brother Rama. This claim is further supported by RajaSekhara, the dramatist, who calls his patron Mahendrapala “Raghukulatilaka” (ornament of Raghu’s race) or “Raghugramani” (leader of Raghu’s family). But we need not attach any special significance to these traditions or derivations, for such legendary connections are often ascribed in order to give the ruling families noble and well-known pedigrees. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The earliest known settlement of the Pratiharas was at Mandor (Jodhpur) in Central Rajputana, where ruled the family of Haricandra. Then a branch advanced southwards, and established its power at Ujjain. That it was a Gurjara seat is evidenced by the Sanjan plates of Amoghavarsa I, which refer to the Rastrakuta Dantidurga’s subjugation of its Gurjara chief. Moreover, the Jain Harivamsa expressly calls Vatsaraja king of Avanti. As he has been identified on all hands with the father of Nagabhata II, we may reasonably infer that prior to the northern conquest the Pratiharas of Kanauj were masters of Avanti.

The dynasty began well under Nagavaloka or Naga-bhata I, who repelled the “armies of the powerful Mleccha king,” i.e., the Arab raiders of the western borders of India, and carried his arms to Broach. The next two rulers were nonentities. The fourth, Vatsaraja, rose to great prominence by his achievements. He defeated the Bhandi clan, perhaps Bhajtis of Central Rajputana, over which his supremacy was recognised. He won a victory also against the Gauda monarch, Dharmapala, according to the Wani-Dindori 2 and Radhanpur grants. But eventually Vatsaraja was routed by Dhruva, and was compelled to take shelter “in the centre of (the deserts of) Mam” [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Pratihara Rulers

Nagabhata II (A.D. 805-33): Vatsaraja was succeeded by his son Nagabhata (II) about 805 In the beginning, the latter tried to retrieve the fallen fortunes of his family, but the stars were as unfavourable to him as to his predecessor, and he suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Govinda III. Nagabhata IFs preliminary attempts having thus proved abortive, he turned his attention towards Kanauj with the results noted above. The internal dissensions among the Rashtrakutas after the death of Govinda III early in 814 no doubt, made Nagabhata II immune from the southern danger, but Dharmapala of Bengal soon took the field against him for deposing his protdg£, Cakrayudha, and annexing the kingdom of Kanauj. The Pratihara monarch vanquished his adversary in a sanguinary contest at Mudgagiri (Monghyr), and grew so strong that even the kings of Andhra, Sindhu, Vidarbha and Kalinga sought his aid or alliance. The Gwalior inscription further represents Nagabhata II as having won victories against Anartta (Northern Kathiawad), Malava or Central India, the Matsyas (of eastern Rajputana), Kiratas (of the Himalayan regions), Turuskas (Arab settlers of Western India), and the Vatsas (of Kosambi). [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Mibira Bhoja (c. 836-85) At the very start of his career Mihira Bhoja attempted the consolidation of the Pratihara power, which had received a rude shock during the feeble government of his father, Ramabhadra. First, Mihira Bhoja reestablished the supremacy of his family in Bundelkhand soon after his accession, and renewed a grant, made by Nagabhata II, which had fallen into desuetude in the reign of Ramabhadra. Similarly, Mihira Bhoja revived another in 843 in Gurjaratra-bhumi (Marwar) originally sanctioned by Vatsaraja and confirmed by Nagabhata II, but which had fallen into abeyance probably during the time of Ramabhadra, and remained as such in the earlier years of Mihira Bhoja’s reign even. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

In the north, his suzerainty was certainly acknowledged up to the foot of the Himalayas, as is clear from the gift of some land to Kalacuri Gunambodhideva in the Gorakhpur district. Having thus made himself the dominant power in Madhyadeta, Mihira Bhoja turned to measure swords with the Palas of Bengal, who "Under the vigorous rule of king Devapala (circa 815-55) had once again launched upon their Imperial schemes. The latter was a foernan worthy of his steel, and it is alleged he “brought low the arrogance of the lord of the Gurjaras.” Undaunted by this effective check to his advance eastward, Bhoja next directed his energies towards the south from which side the Rastrakutas had so often emerged to despoil the smiling fields of Kanauj. He overran southern Rajputana and the tracts round Ujjayani up to the Narmada river. Then he tried his strength against the avowed enemies of his house, but was defeated some time before 867 by Dhruva II Dharavarsa of the Gujarat Rastrakuta branch. Subsequently, Mihira Bhoja even came into conflict with Krisna 11(875-911) of the main line; their wars were, however, inconclusive. There are alto grounds to believe that Mihira Bhoja’s arms had penetrated as far as Pehoa (Karnal district) 3 and even beyond it 4 in the west and Saurastra in the south-west. The Arab traveller, Sulaiman, writing in 851 pays a tribute to the efficiency of Bhoja’s administration and the strength of his forces, specially cavalry. He was “unfriendly to the Arabs” and was regarded as “the greatest foe of the Muhammadan faith.” The country was prosperous, safe from robbers, and rich in natural resources.

Mahendrapala I (c. 885-910): Mihira Bhoja’s successor was his son, Mahendrapala I or Nirbhayaraja, 7 who came to the throne about 885 Inscriptions prove that his most noteworthy achievement was the conquest of the greater part of Magadba and North Bengal just in the beginning of his reign. We further learn from two inscriptions found at Una (Junagadh State) that in the years 893 and 899 his authority was recognised so far away as Saurastra, where his feudatories, Balavarman and Avanivarman II Yoga, were ruling. But the glory of Mahendrapala ’s reign is partially dimmed by the diminution his kingdom suffered in the north-west, for a verse in the Rajataranginl informs us that the territories, seized by “Adhiraja” Bhoja, were afterwards restored to the Thakkiya family during the course of Sankaravarman’s expeditions abroad. Perhaps the pre-occupation of Mahendrapala I in the east enabled the Kashmiri monarch (883-902) to achieve his purpose. Whatever possessions the former might have thus lost in the Punjab, it is certain from a Pehoa inscription that the district of Karnal continued to remain under him, as it had been in the reign of his predecessor. Mahendrapala I was a liberal patron of polite letters. The greatest literary ornament of his court was Rajasekhara, who has left a number of works of varying merit, like die Karpiiramanjari, Bd la-R d may ana, Bdlabharatct, Kdvyamimdnsd, etc.

Mahipqla (c. 912-944) After the death of Mahendrapala I about 910 there were some disturbances in the kingdom. At first, his son Bhoja II came to the throne with the help of Kokalla Cedi, but he was soon displaced by his halfbrother, Mahlpala, who got the support of Harsadeva Candella. It appears that Mahipala was also known as Ksitipala, Vinayakapala, and Herambapala. At the very commencement of his career, he had to bear the brunt of the Rastrakuta aggressions, since we are told in the Cambay plates of Govinda IV that Indra III “completely devastated'’ the hostile city of Mahodaya (Kanauj). Accompanied by his feudatory, Narasimha Calukya, he plundered the land as far east as Prayaga. The Palas took advantage of this attack, which must have occurred about 916-17 and recovered some of their ancestral dominions up to the eastern banks of the river Sonc. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Thus, though there were some secessions in the outlying parts of the realm, Mahipala soon tided over his initial troubles and resumed his father’s schemes of conquest. For a magniloquent verse in the introduction to the Pracanda-Pa ndava shows that his influence was felt by the xMuralas (inhabitants of the Narmada regions), Mekhalas (of the Amarakantak hills), Kalingas, Keralas, Kulutas, Kuntalas, and the Ramathas (dwelling beyond Prithudaka). There are, however, indications that the closing years of Mahipala were again seriously disturbed owing to the northern invasions of Krisna III Rastrakuta. Ai Mas'udi, who visited the valley of the Indus in 915-16 and wrote an account of his travels in 943-44 bears eloquent testimony to the strength of the. forces of Baijtjra, evidently an Arabic corruption of the term Pratihara or Padihara. The Arab chronicler also refers to the Rastrakuta-Pratihara enmity that was the characteristic feature of this epoch.

Mahipdla’s Successors: (A.D. 944-1036?): Mahendrapala II, son and successor of Vinayakapala (Mahipala), appears to have maintained the Ptatihara authority intact, but the reign of Devapala, who ascended the throne shortly before 948 was marked by the rise of the Candellas. This was the signal for the decline and disruption of the empire, which continued during the time of Vijayapala until it became divided into several powers, viz., (a) the Calukyas of Anhilwada (b) the Candellas of Jejakabhukti (c) the Kacchapaghatas of Gwalior (d) the Cedis of Dahala the Paramaras of Malwa the Guhilas of southern Rajputana (g) the Cahamanas of Sakambhari. The greatness and prestige of the Pratihara family was thus already gone when Rajyapala succeeded to the throne about the last decade of the tenth century During his reign the Muslims of the North-west turned longing eyes towards the fertile plains of India.

Along with other contemporary Hindu rulers, Rajyapala took his share in the attempts of the Sahis of Udabhandapur (afterwards Bhatinda) to stem the' tide of their advance into the interior of the country. He first sent a contingent in 991 to help Jayapala against Sultan Sabuktigin, and another was despatched in 1008 when the former’s son and successor, Anandapala, was threatened by the aggressions of Mahmud. On both the occasions the confederate armies were defeated. At last, the turn of Rajyapala came in December 1018 but he fled across the Ganges to Bari, not being able to muster sufficient courage for a contest with Mahmud. This pusillanimous submission of the Pratihara monarch enraged the Candclla chief, Ganda, and he sent a force under the command of the crown-prince, Vidyadhatadeva, who killed Rajyapala and placed his son, Trilocanapala, on the throne. When Mahmud received advices of the event he marched towards Kanauj in the autumn of H. 410— 10x9 and utterly routed Trilocanapala in the engagement that followed. The latter, however, escaped death, and is known to have been alive in 1027 The last ruler of the line was perhaps YaSahpala, referred to in an inscription of the year 1036.

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated September 2020

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