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Chapter 10. India After Harsha (Indian History Notes)



After the death of Harshavardhan, the unity fabricated by him in the north India, disintegrated. There opened several centres of power and resulted in the emergence of the multi-state system or as Prof. Ishwari Prasad says, “India was nations within the nation.” But soon, the political disturbance and chaos gave chance to the Arabs to invade India (712 A.D.). The series of foreign invasions ruined India and at the same time forced the small petty feudatories to become strong and face the situation.
Thus, the period is marked with important developments such as:
(i) Rise of important kingdoms in eastern, central, southern and northern India. However, these acted as a bridge between different regions because the cultural traditions of these kingdoms remained stable even though they often fought among themselves.
(ii) There remained continuity in the field of economy, social structure, ideas and beliefs. This was perhaps because the changes in these areas took place more gradually than the changes in political spheres. The close interaction among various regions resulted in the formation of definite forms of some common cultural trends which can be seen in the literature, education, art and architecture of the period.
In the northern part of India and Deccan, three dynasties came into existence. These were Gurjara-Partiharas, Palas and Rashtrakutas.
Introduction Rajput Society Literature Art and Architecture Paintings Gurjara Pratiharas Palas The Rajputs The Senas Growth of Regional Languages Muslim invasion of Sindh Origin Rajput Clans India After Harsha


The Gurjara-Pratiharas were the early Rajputs who started their rule from Gujarat and south western Rajasthan. Later they ruled from Kannauj. Nagabhata I was the first great ruler of the dynasty. He defeated the Muslim forces of Arab. Bhoja I (A.D. 836-885) was another prominent ruler of this dynasty.
He succeeded in restoring the territories of the kingdom which was lost for a short time to the Palas of Bengal. He was a devotee of Vishnu and adopted the title of Adivarahi, which has been incorporated as legend on some of his coins. During the reign of Mahendrapala I, son and successor of Bhoja I, the Pratihara emperor extended almost from the Himalayas in the north to the Vindhyas in the south and from Bengal in the east to Gujarat in the west.
The Pratiharas ruled over north India for more than three hundred years. The Arab travelers such as Sulaiman and Al Masudi, who visited India in the ninth and tenth centuries A.D., wrote about the power and prestige of the Pratihar rulers and the vastness of their empire.
The Pratiharas were patrons of arts, crafts, learning and literature. The great Sanskrit poet Rajashekhara adorned the court of Mahendrapala I. His famous work is Kavyamimansa.
The Pratiharas embellished Kanauj with fine buildings and temples.
The founder of Palas dynasty was Gopala I who was elected as the king by the people. He was able to consolidate his kingdom and established a powerful empire of Pala dynasty.
Dharmapala and Devapala were the most powerful rulers of this dynasty. They extended and consolidated the Pala Empire.
The Palas ruled over Bihar, Bengal and parts of Orissa and Assam with many ups and downs in their fortune for over four centuries.
The Pala rulers were great supporter of learning and religions.
Dharampala founded the famous Buddhist monastery at Vikramshila, which became second only to Nalanda in fame as a centre for higher learning. During Palas’ reign, the fame of Nalanda University spread all over the world.
During Davapala’s reign the king of Suvarnadvipa (South East Asia) Balaputradevea built a monastery in Nalanda and requested Devapala to endow the income of five villages for the maintenance of the monastery.
Tripartite Struggle
The most important event of post-Harsha-period was tripartite conflict among the Gurjara-Pratiharas, Rashtrkutus and Palas for the supremacy of the north. This conflict started during the reign of Vatsaraja-Pratihar. He ascended the throne in A.D.
778. In order to give practical shape to his imperialist designs, Vatsaraja with the help of his feudatory chiefs attacked Dharmpala, the Pala king of Bengal, and carried away his state umbrella.
While the conflict between Batsaraja and Dharmapala was going on to establish supremacy in the north, Dhruva, the Rashtrkuta king of south, launched an attack on Vatsaraja and inflicted a crushing defeat upon him. Dhruva next turned against Dharmapala and defeated him somewhere between the Ganges and the Yamuna. Thus, began the tripartite struggle between the Pratiharas, Palas and Rasthrakutas for the supremacy in northern India. The city of Kannauj, which was elevated to an important position by Harshavardhana, seems to have been the coveted prize won by each. Though Vatsaraja defeated Dharmapala and both suffered a defeat at the hands of Dhruva, the Rashtrakuta king, yet it so appears that the condition of Vatsaraja had worsened as Dharmapala continued enjoying his hold over Kannauj even after suffering a defeat from him, Dharmapala also convened an assembly at Kannauj which was attended by the rulers of various states.
Vatsaraja was succeeded by his son and successor, Nagabhatta, who too was ambitious and an imperialist. He made efforts to restore the lost prestige of his empire. His efforts were crowned with tremendous success. From the Gwalior plates, we learn that Nagabhatta defeated Dharmapala and advanced as far as Monghyr. Nagabhatta’s victory over Dharmapala proved temporary and short-lived. Once again the Rashtrakuta king, Govinda III, upset the schemes of the Pratihara king.
Nagabhatta was succeeded by Ramabhadra, who ruled for a very short period. He was a weak ruler and during his times, the country was frequently invaded. Ramabhadra was succeeded by his son, Bhoja. He was probably the greatest and most illustrious king of Pratihara dynasty. Bhoja restored the lost glory and prestige of Pratihar Empire. In order to regain the lost power, he had to wage war against the Palas. The Pala king at that time was Devapala. Bhoja led an expedition towards the south. The chief attraction in south was the tottering condition of Rashtrakuta dynasty. From Rashtrkuta inscriptions, we learn that here too Raja Bhoja suffered a defeat.
In spite of these resistances Bhoja did not lose heart. From an inscription we learn that he resolved to “conquer all the three worlds”, and so he renewed his aggressive career.
By that time Devapala, the powerful king of Pala dynasty had expired and his succesors were weak and peace-loving.
Moreover his contemporary Rashtrakuta king at this time was Amoghavarsha. Amoghavarsha came into conflict with the rulers of Pala dynasty in which he scored some success.
Bhoja also tried to take advantage of the weak position of the Pala kings and attacked Bengal. The Pala king Narayana Pala suffered a crushing defeat and Bhoja annexed the western parts of his empire. Bhoja also had to wage a protracted war against the Rashtrkutas who had already dealt a crushing defeat on him. Bhoja made Kannauj as the capital of Pratihar Empire.
Raja Bhoja was succeeded by Mahendrapala. He defeated Bengal, the home territory of his hereditary enemies, the Palas. He was succeeded by Mahipala. He invaded Rashtrakutas. Even during the reign of Mahipala’s successors, the Rashtrkuta invasions continued. After Devapal the glory of Palas came to an end and Devapala’s successors could not resist the Rashtrakuta and Pratihara inroads. The Sena dynasty succeeded the Palas in Bengal.
The Rajputs
The smaller states in northern India were ruled by people known as Rajputs. The period between A.D. 647 and A.D. 1192 i.e. 500 years is known as the Rajput period in the history of India. With the downfall of Pratihara Empire, a number of Rajput states came into existence in north India.
There are different theories regarding the origin of the Rajputs.
One theory suggests that the Rajputs are descendents of the ancient Kshtriyas belonging to either Sun family (Suryavansha) or Moon family (Chandravansha). There is a theory of the foreign origin also. But there were four clans which claimed that they had not descended from either of these two families but from the fire family (agni-kula). These four clans were the most important in the history of this period. They were the Pratiharas (or Pariharas) not to be confused with the main Pratiharas- the Chauhans, Solankis, and Pawars (or Paramars).
The four (“agni-kula”) clan established their power in Western India and over parts of Central India and Rajasthan.
The foreign origin of some of the Rajput clans is definitely proved by the epigraphic evidence. On the whole, the diversity of the cults and beliefs, manners and customs prevalent among the Rajputs seems to indicate diversity of origin.
Gahadvalsa, Parmars and Chauhans
The most powerful Rajputs were the Gahadvalas of Kannauj, the Paramaras of Malwa, and the Chauhans of Ajmer. There were other smaller dynasties in different parts of the country, like the Kalachuris in the area around modern Jabalpur, the Chandellas in Bundelkhand, the Chalukyas of Gujarat, and the Tomars of Delhi, etc. the Gahadvalas of Kannauj gradually squeezed the Palas out of Bihar, and made Banaras a second capital. Meanwhile, the Chauhans who had established themselves at Ajmer were gradually extending their empire towards Gujarat, as well as towards Delhi and the Punjab.
On the periphery of what had been the three major kingdoms, there had arisen a number of small states. These were Nepal, Kamarupa (Asaam), Kashmir, and Utkala (Orissa). Many of the hill states of the Punjab came into being at this time, including Champaka (Chamba), Durgara (Jammu) and Kuluta (Kulu). The obsession with local affairs and infighting among the states made them weak.
The Four Agnikula Rajput Clans
(i) The Parihara – also known as Pratihara based in southern Rajasthan.
(ii) The Chauhans – helped Pratihara against Arabs, based in eastern Rajasthan.
(iii) The Solankis – also called Chalukyas of Gujarat, based in Kathiwara.
(iv) The Pawars of Parmars – established their control in Malwa with their capital at Dhar near Indore.
The four clans dominated early Rajput activities.
Rajput Society
The Feudal order was strongly established among the Rajputs.
The Rajput rulers divided the Kingdoms among landed units called Jairs and distributed them among faithful nobles. The Rajputs were Hindus and were known as Kshatriyas, being a warrior class. They celebrated the major Hindu festivals and invoked Goddesses like Durga or Bhavani for strength and valour. Rajput women were respected in society but did not enjoy the same position as men.
Rajput Contribution to Literature
The period under the Rajputs also witnessed the blossoming of literature. Munja of the Paramar dynasty of Malwa was a great scholar and poet. Another king, King Bhoj was well-known for his wisdom and learning and assumed the title of Raviraja.
Important Literary Work

Subject area Name of the author Name of the work Remarks
Poetry1. Jaideva
2. Bharavi
3. Bharatrihari
4. Damodar Gupta
5. Magha
Gita Govinda
Ravana Vadha
Sishupala Vadha
Shri Harsha
• Jaideva was the court poet of Lakshmanasena
of Bengal.
Drama1. Raja Sekhara
2. Bhavabhuti
Bal Ramayana
Mahavir Charita
• Raja Sekhara was the court poet of Mahendrapal,
the Pratihara ruler.
• Bhavabhuti wrote in Prakrit Malati Madhav,
Uttara Ramcharita
1. Vadra Narain
2. Kalhana
3. Jayaniak
4. Hemchandra
Veni Sanhara
Prithviraj Vijay
Kumarpal Charita
• Veni Sanhar is full of heroic tales.
• Rajatarangini narrates the history of Kashmir
• Prithviraj Vijay and Kumarpal Charit are Great
sources of contemporary history.
Biography1. Bilhana
2. Chand Bardai
3. Ballala
Vikramadeva Charita
Prithviraj Raso
Bhoja Prabandhu
• It is the biography of a Chalukya King.
• It deals with the exploits of Prithviraj Chauhan.
• It shows light on the life of king Bhoja.
Stories1. SomadevaKathasarita Sagar
• Hitopadesha is a collection of short stories
based on Panchtantra.
and Science
1. Baghbhatta
2. Chakrapani Dutta
3. Bhaskaracharya
4. Saridhari
Siddhanta Siromani
Grammar1. Jayaditya
2. Bharatrihari
Commentary on Panini’s

Rajput Art and Architecture
The palaces of Jaipur and Udaipur and the forts of Chittor, Mandu, Jodhpur and Gwalior are fine examples of Rajput architecture. Dilwara temples at Mount Abu, the Vimala Vasahi and the Luna Vasahi were built by Soalankis of Gujarat.
Rajput Paintings
The Rajput paintings are classified into the Rajasthani School of Art and the Pahari School of Art. The Rajasthani School flourished in Mewar, Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bundi and specialized in depicting scenes from Krishna lila, Mayika Veda and Ritu Charita. The Pahari School was patronized by the rulers of Himalayan states especially in the regions of Basoli, Mandi, Jammu, Kangra, Garhwal. Sansar Chand, the ruler of Kangra encourages this school of paintings dealing with Radha and Krishna, Baramasa (12 months) and Ragas (Melodies). The best examples of Paharei school are the Nal Damayanti and Goghara, the Govardhan Dharan and the seize of Lanka.
The Senas
After the downfall of the Palas, the Senas under Samanta Sena formed an empire in Bengal. Vijay Sena, his grandson can be attributed to be the real founder of the empire as he united the whole of Bengal under his rule and ruled for about 70 years.
A Saivite, he also gave patronage to art. Deopara Prasesti was composed by Umapatidhar during his time. The Empire came into decline during the reign of Lakshmansena. The Sultanate ruler Muhammed Bakhtiyar Khilji’s attack led to its quick decay.
Apart from these, there were Ahoms in Assam, in Orissa Kesaries and Gangas from Bhubaneswar and Kalinganagar respecitively ruled.
Kashmir was ruled by three dynasties- the Karkota, Utpala and Loharas. Lalitaditya was the most famous ruler of Kashmir during this period.
These rulers were at regular fights with each other for supremacy which made them weak. The contact between these small kingdoms and outside world was very limited. Even contacts between these kingdoms were limted to war. So, they could neither defend themselves individually nor unite against the Muslim invasions.
Growth of Regional Languages
A remarkable feature of the period was the growth of regional languages. Prakrit, the language of the masses played an important role in the development of local languages, such as Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali and Oriya.
Muslim Invasion of Sindh
In A.D. 712 Al Hajjaj led an expedition against Sindh’s ruler Dahir, under his nephew and son-in-law, Muhammad-bin- Qasim. This expedition put Sindh under the Arabs for about 200 years.
The cause of this invasion was neither the wish for territorial expansion nor religious. The king of Ceylon had sent some gifts to the king of Turkey which were looted at Debal in Sindh by the pirates. The ruler of the Sindh, Dahir refused to compensate the loss by showing his ignorance to the incident.
But this could not satisfy the ego of the provincial governor of Basra, Al Hajjaj, who immediately sent an army expedition in 637. But, he was unsuccessful. Another military expedition met with the same fate.
The Arabs assault paved the way for further wrath of the attacker into India. It was against this background that Mahmud of Ghazni invaded the country in A.D. 1000 for her wealth.
He wanted to make Ghazni, a principality of Afghanistan, into a region wielding formidable power in the politics of Central Asia. In a short period of 25 years, he made 17 raids. He destroyed many temples, e.g. Somnath temples in Gujarat as they were depositories of vast quantities of wealth.
Second attack from north-west was made by Muhammed Ghori at the end of 12th century, for which India was not prepared.
His first invasion was against Multan in A.D1175, which was successful.
He attacked from Gomal pass in 1182, and conquered Sindh.
In 1182, he conquered Lahore and soon after, an attack was commenced on the Rajput kingdoms controlling the Ganges plain. Prithviraj Chauhan led the Rajputs against Muhammed Ghori at the first battle of Tarain in 1191 and the Rajputs became victorious. At the second battle in 1192 at the same place, Prithviraj was defeated and the kingdom of Delhi fell to Muhammed Ghori. Before his assassination in 1206, Turks had conquered the Ganga-Yamuna doab and its neighbouring areas, and Bihar and Bengal were also overrun. He started a new era in Indian history.
Points to Remember • Mahmud of Ghazni ascended the throne in A.D. 998 • He invaded India to plunder the big towns and rich temples.
• He annexed Punjab and Multan to his empire.
• The famous historian Alberuni came in and wrote the famous Tahrik-Hind.
• In 1175 A.D. another wave of attack came from Shahabuddin Muhammed Ghori.
• He belonged to the ruling family in Afghanistan.
• His aim of invasion of India was to lay the foundations of the Muslim Empire here.
• He was a contemporary of Prithviraj Chauhan, who had ascended the throne at the age of 14.
• Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated by Muhammed Ghori at the second battle of Tarain in A.D. 1192

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