TEXT FOR SPECIFIC MAP PLATES
IV.1. South Asia in the Age of the Gurjara-Pratihāras, Pālas, and Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as, c. A.D. 700–975
The nearly three centuries that separate the Arab conquest of Sind in A.D. 711–13 and the seizure of Ghaznī by Abū-l Qāsim Mahmūd in 997 have been viewed in two quite different ways by historians. An older view of these centuries saw the period as an extended prelude to the medieval period of Indian history, whose major defining characteristic was Muslim domi- nance. Thus perceived, these centuries are a time of decadence, or at least increasing disorder, setting the stage for the Muslim conquest of northern India. The great cultural achievements of the Gupta period are seen as yielding to vulgarized and in- voluted forms; the heritage of a single, unified state—that of the Imperial Guptas—is seen as yielding to a host of small and large kingdoms intent upon their own aggrandisement and in- capable of escaping Muslim domination. But according to another, more recent view, this era was one of vibrant creative- ness and activity not only within the subcontinent but beyond it in Southeast Asia. The symbol and center of this vigorous age was the Gangetic city of Kānyakubja, or Kanauj, deemed to be the heart of ancient Āryāvarta and thus an appropriate prize of imperial ambition. For one hundred and twenty-five years, C. A.D. 815–940, this capital of Har&stod;a and Yaśovarman was re- stored to grandeur by the Gurjara-Pratihāras; it glittered with learning, with religious fervor, and with humanistic Hinduism epitomized by the 9th-century dharmaśāstra writer Medhātithi, whose commentary on the Manu-sm&rtod;ti, the second oldest ex- tant, is perhaps the most valued text of its kind. Those who speak of this glorious "Age of Kanauj" do so with a mixture of admiration and wistfulness; admiration for its exuberance, its heroic kings, its spiritual vigor and generosity, and wistful- ness for its having spent itself and ultimately failed to resist the Muslim onslaught.
Both views contain important elements of truth; yet both may err in attempting to fix firm temporal boundaries and to make of these centuries a distinctive period. Elements of continuity that extend well beyond A.D. 1000 as well as those that precede A.D. 700 are very strong. In political terms, the large number of kingdoms of which we have evidence from the 8th to the 11th century give the appearance of a political system quite different from that of the Gupta Age only as the extent of im- perial unity under the Guptas is exaggerated. The kingdoms of the "Age of Kanauj" emerge from earlier states and yield, if not gracefully, then inevitably, to regional successors in most parts of the subcontinent. In religious terms, the decline of Buddhism and the rise of the Purā&ntod;ic Hindu religion of bhakti reach back to the early Gupta period. Sanskrit writers, whether composers of poetry or śāstras, continue to work out forms and issues first stated during the classical Gupta period, and Indian literatures based on Sanskrit, as well as on Tamil in South India, continue an unbroken development from the Gupta period and earlier. During this period, moreover, the first surviving literature in Kannada and Telugu was com- posed.
Yet there are elements of discontinuity seen in the develop- ment of institutions setting off the period from the Classical Age. One such example is the "quasi-feudal system" involving delegation of government to subordinate chiefs (sāmantas). Though certain aspects of this system appear in the Gupta period and even earlier, it became the basic political economic structure for India between the 8th century and the 12th cen- tury. The system developed on account of political instability, a multiplicity of political cores, mounting pressure on rural pro- duction to support ever-increasing royal courts and religious establishments, frequent warfare among rulers of diverse grades, and the territorial diffusion of communities and clans related to the ruling dynasties and their vassals. Many king- doms assumed significance in areas peripheral to earlier political cores.
What is striking about the period A.D. 700 to 975 is the appearance everywhere in the subcontinent of powerful and enduring regional kingdoms. The complexity of map (a) repre- sents this and indicates where important dynastic inscriptions of the major kingdoms were found. The many kingdoms of this period are evidence of the consolidation of cultural and eco- nomic gains and of the prevailing recognition of ritually con- secrated rulership, despite the non-K&stod;atriya and non-Hindu origin of some dynasties. Further, the increasing tendency to organize polities on the basis of the quasi-feudal system contri- buted both to the multiplicity of kingly foci and to their con- tinuity irrespective of dynastic vicissitudes. Inscriptions of the period began to include considerable historical material in their long introductory preambles (praśastis), including lengthy genealogies of the progenitors of the king and telling their achievements. Changes in theories of kingship and the inscrip- tional form of communication made full-fledged kingship ac- cessible to a great variety of chieftains in every part of the sub- continent. From this profusion of principalities a few emerged as formidable aspirants to "universal" kingship. The most prom- inent of these were the Gurjara-Pratihāras in northern India,
During the first half of the 8th century the leading powers of India were king Yaśovarman of Kānyakubja, the Kārko&ttod;as of Kāśmīra, the Cālukyas of Vātāpi, and the Pallavas of Kā&nmacr;cī. While the Arabs were conquering Sind from the Cacas. Yaśo- varman was expanding his power over the Ganga Plain. With Lalitāditya Muktapī&dtod;a of Kāśmīra he joined hands to resist Arab expeditions against their domains in the Punjab. By 733 Yaśovarman succeeded in establishing his mastery over the Ganga Plain. The expansionist policies of Lalitāditya and the rising power of Yaśovarman ultimately led to hostilities between them and to the temporary extension of Kārko&ttod;a overlordship as far east as Bengal and even into Assam (map (b)). While such radical changes were occurring in the North, the Arabs concentrated on expansion into western India. Overwhelming a number of small kingdoms, they penetrated south to Navasā- rikā (C. 735), where they were repelled by Cālukyan forces. They failed, however, to retain control of any territories in Rajasthan or Gujarat. Out of the political disorder created by the hostilities between Kānyakubja and Kāśmīra arose the short- lived Āyudha dynasty in the former region and the enduring Pāla dynasty of Bihar and Bengal; from the turmoil created by the Arabs emerged the Gurjara-Pratihāras in Avanti and the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as in Mahārā&stod;&ttod;ra.
Under the conditions of the time, the contiguity of the Gur- jara-Pratihāras and the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as inevitably led to hostility, causing the former power to seek to augment its resources by an imperialistic career and a determined expansionist drive into the rich Ganga Plain. That northerly thrust brought them into conflict with the ambitious Pālas and created conditions for intervention by the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as, who also aspired to pan-Indian hegemony. Each of the three powers succeeded for a time in achieving mastery of ancient Āryāvarta, the symbolic center of India, and the imperial city of Kānyakubja; but only the Gur- jara-Pratihāras were able to achieve a durable empire in north- ern India.
There are three distinct phases in the history of the Gurjara- Pratihāra Empire. The first began with the inauguration of Nāgabha&ttod;a (misspelled Nāgabha&ttod;&ttod;a on several maps in this atlas) at Ujjayinī, the center of one of a number of Gurjara principalities existing in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and ended with expansion of Gurjara-Pratihāra power into the Ganga-Yamuna Doab, culminating in the transfer of their capital to Kānyakubja shortly after 815. During this phase the Gurjara-Pratihāras brought an end to Arab inroads into Rajasthan and extended their own power to the frontiers of Sind. Their expansion into the Ganga Plain was effected in the face of challenges that threatened not only their imperial pretensions, but also their very survival. Vatsarāja and Nāgabha&ttod;a II faced both the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as and the Pālas, and while defeating the latter in the struggle for mastery over Kānyakubja were defeated by the former in their attempts to consolidate their power in Mālava and the Ganga Plain.
The second phase, the period of greatest expansion, began with the accession of Mihira Bhoja in c. 836 and ended with the reign of Mahendrapāla in 910. In this period the Arabs remained confined to Sind and Multan, the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as were forced into a defensive position in Mālava and southern Gujarat, a Gurjara presence was reestablished in the central Ganga Plain, and short-lived gains were made in the Punjab. The im- perial zenith was reached shortly after Mahendrapāla's conquest of the Pāla dominions around 883. Then the Gurjara-Pratihāra domains extended from the Eastern to the Western Sea and from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas, surpassing in extent the empire of Har&stod;a and rivaling it in glory.
The final phase, c. 910–1027, witnessed the disintegration of the empire and was marked by disputes over succession, major raids by neighboring powers, and the rise of erstwhile feudatories to independence. In c. 915–16. the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;a king Indra III actually stormed the imperial capital of Kānyakubja, and other raids into north-central India followed in 939 and 963. The glory of the empire was restored after Indra III's invasion, but only with the help of powerful feudatories. The impairment of its vitality may be seen in the assertive titles of many feudatories and their freedom to contract alliances with friends and feudatories of the traditional enemies of the state. In Bundelkhand. Mālava, Gujarat proper Saurā&stod;&ttod;ra, and Raja- sthan, feudatories began in the latter half of the 10th century to assume complete independence, a process that was speeded by the incursions of the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as and Mahmūd of Ghaznī's invasion of 1018. Though the Gurjara-Pratihāras ceased to rule in Kānyakubja sometime around 1027, they lingered on for a time as local chiefs in the Prayāga-Kauśambī region.
According to literary and inscriptional sources, Gopāla. founder of the Pāla dynasty, was elected king of Va&ndot;ga or Va&ndot;gāla in C. A.D. 756 to end the anarchy that followed the fall of the Later Guptas, the conquest of Yaśovarman, the expedi- tions of Lalitāditya, and the rapacity of the local chieftains. Gopāla consolidated his power and established order in much of Bengal. He probably had also annexed territories in the west as far as Magadha. Gopāla's son Dharmapāla extended his
Although we include in our depiction of the maximum ex- tent of the Pāla Empire (map (c)) not only the kingdom of Kānyakubja but also some others in the Punjab and elsewhere, it must be pointed out that the areas to the west of Varā&ntod;asī were never directly governed by the Pālas. Even the exagger- ated hegemony was short-lived, as the Gurjara-Pratihāra ruler Nāgabha&ttod;a II not only overthrew Cakrāyudha of Kānyakubja but defeated his overlord in the latter's capital, Mudgagiri, it- self. The chronology is controversial and further complications are created by the fact that the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;a Govinda III de- feated Nāgabha&ttod;a II in c. 800 and received the submission of Cakrāyudha and Dharmapāla during the course of his northern invasion. It is not certain whether Dharmapāla retained his position of overlordship of the kingdom of Kānyakubja or if it was regained at once by Nāgabha&ttod;a II. In our view the Pāla success was limited and short-lived; Nāgabha&ttod;a II had largely restored Gurjara-Pratihāra power by 812 and sometime later transferred his capital to Kānyakubja.
Dharmapāla's successor, Devapāla, also claims victories over a number of rulers, including the Gurjaras. His success in ex- panding Pāla power in Kāmarūpa and Utkala proved more significant than any other territorial achievement. Devapāla was able to hold his own against the aggressive Gurjara-Prati- hāra king Mihira Bhoja. The Pālas, however, eventually suc- cumbed to the sustained attacks of the Gurjara-Pratihāras and were eclipsed between 883 and 919. Although their king, Nārāya&ntod;apāla, was able to recover Magadha and parts of Gau&dtod;a, the revival of the Pālas as a major power of Eastern India was to await the accession of Mahipāla I (995–1043).
The Pālas played an important role in the progress of cul- ture, especially Buddhism: Gopāla richly endowed the Nā- landā monastery, and Dharmapāla supported the monasteries at Vikramaśilā and elsewhere, which also served as universities. The Pālas maintained close relations with Southeast Asia, es- pecially with the Śailendras of Sumatra and Java.
Among the powers of the age, the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as were the only one capable of extending their sway over large areas both to the north and to the south of the Vindhyas and of approach- ing, though fitfully, some sort of pan-Indian hegemony. In their exploits they excelled all previous rulers of the Deccan and the far South. In a way they were forerunners of the 18th- century Marathas, who followed a similar imperialist strategy and proved even more successful. Dantidurga, founder of the independent Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;a power, began his drive for supremacy in the Deccan about 735, while still a feudatory of the Vātāpi Cālukya emperor Vikramāditya II. By A.D. 753, having wrested control over Mahārā&stod;&ttod;ra from his Cālukyan overlord, Danti- durga assumed the usual imperial titles of the time: "Mahā- rājadhirāja," "Parameśvara," "Paramabha&ttod;&ttod;āraka." Some of his successors added to these august titles the title of "Valla- bharāja" (Balhar of the Arab writers), signifying that they were incarnations of Vi&stod;&ntod;u, associating themselves with the univer- sal God to correspond to their claim of universal sovereignty. Dantidurga's uncle, K&rtod;&stod;&ntod;a I, completed the overthrow of the Cālukyas of Vātāpi, annexed northern Kar&ntod;ā&ttod;aka, expanded eastward to the Ve&ndot;gi region of coastal Āndhra, reduced the Ga&ndot;gas of Mānyapura to feudatory status and annexed Ko&ndot;- ka&ntod;a. Thus, K&rtod;&stod;&ntod;a I established Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;a hegemony over the entire Deccan and certain areas of the far South. Relations with the Pallavas remained friendly, and it is noteworthy that the Kailāsanātha temple of Kāñcī inspired K&rtod;&stod;&ntod;a's magnificent temple of the same name at Ellora. Relations, however, be- came strained during the reign of Dhruva, who led a success- ful expedition against the Pallava realm but returned after receiving indemnity and presents.
After their southern successes, the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;as turned north- ward. Their objectives involved the defense of Lā&ttod;a, the occu- pation of Mālava, the destruction of the rising power of the Gurjara-Pratihāras, and the extension of their hegemony. In c. 786 the Rā&stod;&ttod;rakū&ttod;a king Dhruva led an expedition that oc- cupied Mālava and defeated the Gurjara-Pratihāra king Vatsa- rāja. The latter had recently subordinated the king of Kānya- kubja and successfully met the challenge of the Pāla king Dharmapāla to his overlordship in the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. Dhruva also defeated Dharmapāla, who, as we have seen, sought to exploit Vatsarāja's defeat by intervening in the poli- tics of Kānyakubja in hopes of establishing his own power there. Though victorious in war, Dhruva was unable to achieve lasting political gains. His successors continued to intervene intermittently in the struggle between the Gurjara-Pratihāras and the Pālas for mastery of northern India, as evidenced by the expeditions of Govinda III in c. 800, Indra II in c. 915–16,