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Bengal in the pAla and varmaNa period

Establishment of pAla rule

Tradition has it that when the little rulers of Bengal got tired of the lack of central authority in Bengal, and the consequent constant attacks from outside, they got together and elected gopAla (he may not have been the elected, but he managed to survive; ruled c. 750–775 AD) as their overlord in vaGga. Buddhist gopAladeva was grandson of daYitaviSNu and son of warrior vapYaTa and was a bengali from varendra, but did not descend from a ‘high’ family as considered in those days. In fact, the pAla kings are distinguished by lack of any claims to family greatness: all such claims (including that they were kSatriyas descended from the sun, moon, ocean, or the mythical mAndhAta; or born of a tree and a kSatriYa woman) came much after the rule of the pAlas; during dharmapAla's reign probably he is simply described as descendant of a soldier ‘rAjabhaTAdivaMshapatita’ (rAjabhaTa, however, is also the name of a khaD.ga king). Various mystical origins have later been attributed to gopAla, dharmapAla, or his son, and they have later been claimed to have been kSatriYa, dAsa, or kAYastha.

Administratively, little changed from the previous days: a new daNDa bhukti was established. The regional leaders with titles like rAja, rAjanyaka, rAjanaka, rANaka, sAmanta, and mahAsAmanta continued to rule under the pAlas, but by now the system started looking very feudal. The administration, with the posts becoming increasingly hereditary, was headed by a prime minister and a council which included mahAsAndhi-vigrahika (foreign minister?), dUta (head ambassador?), rAjasthAnIYa (deputy?), and aGgarakSa (head guard?), and often a prince. With trade declning as a major source of revenue, the land grants (as seen in, for example, the Ashrafpur grants) now took over an additional feudal feature: the grants now transferred all agrarian, pastoral, and water rights; and transferred rights not only to all kinds of produces and minerals, but also rights over forests, barren and flooded lands; as well as the right over markets and trade. The community consultations that were in place in earlier times were slowly turned into a mere formality, transfers of land from one holder to another was not unknown, and the boundaries of the grants were specified less precisely. The transfers were not only to brahmins and religious orders, but also, sometimes with time limits, to people in return for service, or between individuals in return for a contract for protection. The cultivators (who may have been prohibited from leaving their land voluntarily), as well as the rights to change them, now came with the land, as well as the right to punish the ten offenses of stealing, killng, pursuit of other men's wives, rude words, lying, slandering, incoherent conversation, coveting others' property, improper thought, and holding on to falsehoods. The various taxes on produce (e.g. bhAga, bhoga, kara, hiraNya, uparikara) were also probably collected internally by the viSaYa or village administrations: the bhukti had posts like SaSThAdhikRta (produce tax collector?), cauroddharaNika (police tax?), shaulkaka (trade tax?), dAshAparAdhika (collector of penalties?), and tarika (toll collector for river crossings?). Other administrators included the mahAkSapaTalika (accountant?) and jyeSThakAYastha (dealt with documents?), the kSetrapa (head of land use division?) and pramAtR (head of land measurements?), the mahAdaNDanAYaka or dharmAdhikAra (chief justice), the mahApratihAra, dANDika, dANDapAshika, and daNDashakti (police posts), the senApati or mahAsenApati (general) controlling foot soldiers, cavalry, soldiers riding elephants and camels, and the navy, and the various army posts like koTTapAla (fort guards) and prAntapAla (border guards). The armed forces included many foreigners described, for example, as gauD.a-mAlava-khasha-hUNa-kuliTa-karNATa-lATa in an edict.

First rise to prominence

gopAla married draddadevI and their son vikramashIla parameshvara paramabhaTTAraka mahArAjAdhirAja dharmapAla (ruled c. 775–810 AD) tried to expand the kingdom far beyond the borders of Bengal. He fought against the gurjara pratihAra king vatsa (ruled c. 775–800 AD in the west), but was defeated. Fortunately for him, the rAStrakUTa king dhruva (ruled c. 781–794 AD in the south) defeated both him and vatsa and went back, leaving dharmapAla to occupy the lands of bhoja, matsya, madra, kuru, yadu, yavana, avanti, gandhAra, and kIra. He defeated indrAYudha of kanauja and put cakrAYudha in his place. He may also have conquered nepAla and over that fought with mu-ti-vtsan-po of tibet. Thus he became uttarapathanAtha, but the conquered territories were not made part of the central rule: they retained some independence and accepted him as their overlord. After this, he was defeated by nAgabhaTa II, son of vatsa, but again, rAStrakUTa king govinda III defeated nAgabhaTa. dharmapAla accepted govinda's overlordship, and ruled in peace. He founded the vikramashIla vihAra, and another at somapura, maybe he founded the one at odantapurI as well. He is supposed to have founded about 50 religious colleges.

One of his wives named vallabhadevI is mentioned in much later texts as being without issue. Contemporary texts mention he married rannAdevI, daughter of paravala of rAStrakUtas, who however has not been identified (a rASTrakUTa king paraval in central India is known from 861 AD). His younger brother was vAkpAla, and he had a hindu brahmin prime minister called garga. His son tribhuvanapAla is named as heir apparent, and a younger son is named devaTa. It is not clear which son became parameshvara paramabhaTTAraka mahArAjAdhirAja devapAla (it is not clear if he is the same as hAravarSa, or his brother; ruled c. 810–847 AD). devapAla had darbhapANi and kedAramishra, son and greatgrandson of garga, as his prime ministers, jaYapAla, son of vAkpAla, as his general, and may have defeated hUNa (maybe in uttarApatha near the himAlaYas, or in mAlava), utkala (probably raNabhaJja, or another king of that dynasty, when they left the old capital khiJjalI and moved to gaJjAma district), prAgjYotiSa (gave in without a fight), drAviD.a (probably rAStrakUTa amoghavarSa; though it is not completely impossible that he may have had a fight with the pANDyas) and gurjara (possibly, bhojadeva I, son of rAmabhadra, son of nAgabhaTa, who conquered kanauj and kAlaJjara in 836 AD, was defeated by devapAla around 860 AD, lost to rASTrakUTa before 867 and lost his kingdom gurjaratrA in 869). As during his father, the aim was not to rule over all of India, but only over North India; and rule meant overlordship. The tibetan reference to overlordship of Bengal in this period is unclear. He contributed to the development of the vihAra at nAlanda (he gave five villages to support the maTha established by bAlaputradeva, a shailendra king of java, malay, and sumatra; brahmin indragupta's son vIradeva, an official at nAlanda, refers to support from him).

Decay of the first great period

The rules of shUrapAla I (may also have been called rasapAla; who was son of devapAla by his wife bhavadevI, daughter of durlabharAja; his prime minister was the above mentioned kedAra mishra; married mahAdevI mAheSobhaTTArikA; ruled c. 847–860) and vigrahapAla I (who was probably son of jaYapAla mentioned above; married lajjA devI of either kalacurI or haihaYa dynasty; ruled c. 860–861) saw the beginning of the decline of this empire, though an arabic text from 851 AD still says there were three main states in India (possibly rASTrakUTa, gurjara pratihAra, and pAla, though the last is called rumhi/ramha in the text for unknown reasons), and though magadha was a part of a far south calition consisting of kaliGga, cola, pallava and gaGga which was defeated by pANdya shrImAra shrIvallabha (ruled 851–862). vigrahapAla's son nArAYaNapAla ruled for a long time (his prime minister was guravamishra, son of kedAra mishra; ruled c. 861–917), but the empire was breaking up. rASTrakUTa amoghavarSa probably won against aGga-vaGga-magadha c. 860 AD; and Oriya king shulkirAja maharAjAdhirAja raNastambha won parts of rADh.a. pratihAra bhojadeva, kalachurI guNAmbodhideva, and guhiloT king guhila II between themselves conquered all the land west of magadha. DAhala (kalacurI?) king kokalladeva I (840–890) looted wealth from Bengala. mahendrapAla, son of bhoja, extended the pratihAra kingdom well into puNDra by 887 AD and held it atleast till 904 AD. nArAYanapAla managed to regain vaGga and bihAra. But, he may have accepted the overlordship of rASTrakUTa king kRSNa II. A king of velanANDu also claims to have defeated gauD.a, aGga, vaGga and kaliGga. Orissa under mAdhavavarmA shrInivAsa (c. 850 AD) of the shailodbhava dynasty and kAmarUpa under king harSa and his son vanamAla (varmA?) became very powerful.

Because of the defeat of the pratihAra mahIpAla by rASTrakUTa indra, during the rules of rAjyapAla (son of nArAYaNapAla; married bhAgyadevI, sister of rASTrakUTa tuGga, probably jagattuGga, son of kRSNa II; ruled c. 917–952) and his son gopAla II (c. 952–972), at least magadha was under them; but even this was lost to kalacurI (under yuvarAja I in first quarter of 10th cent and lakSmaNarAja during the second and third quarters) and candella (also called candratreYa/candera of bundelakhaNDa; under yashovarmA and his son dhaGga c. 954–1000) during the reign of vigrahapAla II (c. 952–972). In fact, it seems that even Bengal had split up into different states like gauD.a, aGga, rADh.a, vaGgAla etc.

Rise of Independent Kingdoms

In fact, North and East Bengal saw the rise of the kAmboja kings centered at priYaGgu, which is still unidentified. It is not clear where they came from. The confusing part is there is a parameshvara paramabhaTTAraka mahArAjAdhirAja naYapAladeva, brother of previous king nArAYaNapAla, son of kAmbojavaMshatilaka paramasaugata mahArAjAdhirAja parameshvara paramabhaTTAraka rAjyapAla and his wife bhAgyadevI. Because of the coincidence in name, it is conjectured by some that the pAla rAjyapAla's mother was a kAmboja princess, and these kAmboja rulers are just a branch of the pAla dynasty. On the other hand, they may be the kambojas from north west India from where the pAlas used to get their horses, the tibetans, or the koca tribe (the related tribe mleca may be the origin of the term mleccha). There is also a south Indian reference to a kAmboja king gifting a stone to rAjendra cola for the naTarAja temple. Other references to kambojas abound in the ancient literature, and this may have been just the expansion of an Indo-European tribe with both Persian and Indic affinity from their homeland in the Afganisthan-Turkistan (Some relate their name to Cambyses of the Achaemenian empire of early 6th cent BC) region along the foothills of the Himalayas towards Bengal, along the coast to Gujarat, to Ceylon, and maybe to Cambodia.

East and South Bengal saw the rise of harikela under paramasaugata paramaeshvara mahArAjAdhirAja kAntideva (son of dhanadatta by vindurati, grandson of bhadradata) in the first half of the 10th century centered at a place called vardhamAnapura. Whether he is related to the previous deva dynasty (which may have been mistimed) is not clear.

In the tripurA region, a king named lahaYacandra is seen in the second half of the 10th century. Around the dhAkA region, we find the candra dynasty: pUrNacandra, suvarNacandra, who turned buddhist, mahArAjAdhirAja trailokyacandra (contemporary of nArAYaNapAla above) whose wife was shrIkaJcana/kAJcikA and who conquered samataTa probably around the time that kAmbojas got into gauD.a, parameshvara paramabhaTTAraka mahArAjAdhirAja shrIcandradeva (conquered shrIhaTTa and kAmarUpa; it is possible that he defeated gauD.a and helped put gopAla II on the throne; defeated pRthvIpAla, govarma and kAamarUpa ratnapAla; married vasumatI; ruled c. 925–975), kalyANacandra (defeated mleccha, gauD.a, and kAmarUpa; ruled c. 975–1000 from vikramapura), laD.ahacandra (c. 1000–1015), govindacandra (contemporary to the mahIpAla described below; probably defeated by rAjendracola; ruled c. 1015–1045) (The last two are showing strong hindu tendencies; govindracandra may be the famous gopIcÃda of folklore), possibly followed by lalitacandra. They ruled from candradvIpa and over harikela, but shrIcandra moved it to vikramapura. In the shrIhaTTa region, we also find a shrIvIradharadeva. The candras were defeated many times: by rAjendracola, by kalacurI kokkalla, and by karNadeva. Whether the candras were related to the previous candras, or to the candras in ArAkAna (Ainandacandra in 730 AD names 24 of his ancestors) who were defeated by the pagAna king AnAurahthA (1044–1077) is not known. AnAurahthA's son canjithA had a daughter who fell in love with a prince of paTTikerA. Her son alaunGgsethu (1112–1167) married a princess of paTTikerA. His son narathu killed her and was killed by the people from paTTikerA.

Except for short periods, the kingdoms in Assam seem to have remained independent: After Bhaskarvarman, the salastambhas were followed by the pralambhas who were followed by the Palas of Kamrupa/Pragjyotisha. These people claimed to have descended from king Naraka, son of earth and the boar that was Vishnu. The mythology ends and reality probably begins after the millenia of interregnum described after Bhagadatta, son of Naraka. This ended when, as they claimed, people restored Brahmapala to the throne to follow Tyagasimha of the salastambha, who did not have a son. He was followed by his son Ratnapala in the late 10th or early 11th century. His son Purandarapala died young and his son Indrapala ruled c. 1060 AD. His son was Gopala, whose son Harshapala married Ratna. Their son Dharmapala probably ruled in the 12th century AD.

Rise and Fall of the second pAla period

vigrahapAla's son mahIpAla I (elder brother of shrImAn sthirapAla and vasantapAla; ruled c. 977–1027) recovered north and east bengal, tripurA region, agGa, and at least parts of west bengal, and may have won a battle against rASTrakUTas from karNATa. rAjendracola in 1021–1023 defeated oDDaviSaya and kosalai nAdu, dharmapAla in taNDabutti, raNashUra in takkaNalAD.am, govindracandra in vaGgAla, and mahIpAla in uttiralAD.am, but went back. In 1026, aGga was won over by kalacurI mahArAjAdhirAja puNyAvaloka somavaMshodbhava gauradhvaja shrImad gAGgeYadeva, and in 1034 when Ahamad niYalatigina attacked vArANasI, it was under gAGgeYadeva. But, mahIpAla did win back a large part of the empire, and renovated many hindu and buddhist temples and vihAra. He was a popular king and known in many bengali place names and proverbs. However, he did not join in the coalition in north India against the invading sultAna mAmuda who had already destroyed the sAhi and pratihAra dynasties, and looted many hindu temples in west India.

His son naYapAla (married uddAkA; ruled c. 1027–1043), who seems distinctly hindu in his behaviour, had to fight against kalacurI lakSmikarNa (1041–1070), originally lost and when he started winning, the intervention of atIsha dIpaGkara shrIjJAna lead to truce. But during his son vigrahapAla III (ruled c. 1043–1070) he came all the way to bIrabhuma; but was later defeated and vigrahapAla married his daughter yauvanashrI; after this lakSmikarNa was defeated by candella kIrtivarmaNa around 1060–4, had to fight with cAlukya and parAsara, and so posed no threat to Bengal. But, west bengal saw the rise of mahAmANDalika (i.e. he caled himself ‘supreme governor’, not king) ishvaraghoSa (son of dhavala ghoSa by sadbhAvA, grandson of bAla ghoSa, great grandson of dhUrta ghoSa) in DhekkarI, where during rAmapAla mahAsAmanta pratApasiMha ruled; and tripurA the rise of paTTikerA kingdom (who had marriage relations with anAhaurah=aniruddha dynasty of pagAna=brahmadesha; in 12th century, we know of raNavaGkamalla). In other parts of East Bengal, the end of 11th and in the 12th century, we find candras and, later, varmaNas. So, east bengal stayed out of reach of the pAlas.

During the reign of vigrahapAla III (c. 1043–1070), calukya king someshvara I (1042–68), someshvara II (1068–76) and someshvara I's son vikramAditya VI (1076–1127) came out to conquer (possibly more than once, earliest at least before 1053). sena dynasty in Bihar and Bengal, as well as the varmaNa in east bengal probably came from people staying back from these attacks. In the middle of the 11th century, Oriya king mahAshivagupta yayAti conquered gauD.a, rADh.a and vaGga. Since the time of jaYapAla, paritoSa and his son shUdraka in gaYA region were becoming powerful. By the time of shUdraka's son vishvarUpa or vishvAditya and his son yakSapAla they became almost independent. vigrahapAla's sons mahIpAla II (ruled c. 1070–1071), shUrapAla II (ruled c. 1071–1072) and rAmapAla (ruled c. 1072–1126) had to face revolt within family as well as the rise of the kaivarta rulers in varendra: divya/divoka/divvoka, who had to fight against the varmaNa jAtavarmA, followed by his brother rudoka, followed by rudoka's son bhIma. The nature of this latter revolt was probably that of spontaneous agrarian uprising, and it was suppressed quite successfully.

The third pAla period

Finally, with the help of a lot of grants to the rulers under him including bhImayasha of magadha and pIThI, vIraguNa of koTATavI (could be bhalkIkoTa in AushagrAma in barddhamAna if not in Orissa), jaYasiMha of daNDabhukti (southern medinipur), vikrama of devagrAma (could be the same as the one on Calcutta-Lalgola line 140 km from Calcutta), lakSmIshUra of aparamandAra (could be 30 miles south of bhAgalapur, south of the mandAra mountains or the region from vIrabhUmi to hugali, or bhiTargaD.a 7/9 miles from ArAmabAg in hugali), shUrapAla of kubjavaTi (14 miles north of naYA dumkA in sÃotAla pargaNA), rudrashekhara of tailakampa (current telkupI in manabhUma puruliYA; the main regions went under water when the dam at pAJceTa or pAJckoTa was built; the region is still called shikharabhUma), bhAskara madakalasiMha of ucchAla (could be uchalAna in barddhamAna or jaina_ujhiYAla in vIrabhUma), pratApasiMha of DhekkarI, narasiMhArjuna of kaYaGgalamaNDala (kAGgajola 20 miles from rAjamahala), caNDArjuna of saGkaTagrAma (could be sakoTa/saMkakoTa/saMkanAt of sAtagÃo or saGkaTa in rAYanA in varddhamAna), vijaYarAja of nidrAvalI who may have been the same as vijaYasena, dvorapavardhana of kaushAmbI (could be in rAjshAhI or baguD.A, or south of calcutta or kusumagrAma of kAlanA in varddhamAna), and soma of padubanbA (could be pAunAna in hugalI or pAbnA); and with the help of his maternal uncle rASTrakUTa mathana/mahaNa, mahaNa's sons mahAmANDalika kAhNaradeva and suvarNadeva and his nephew mahApratihAra shivarAja, rAmapAla managed to defeat the popular bhIma (and his friend hari who kept on fighting after bhIma was captured), and kill his entire family in front of him before killing him. He restablished the pAla kingdom over the varmaNas of vikramapura and over rADh.a and defeated aGga, kAmarUpa and Orissa which had been weakened by the attack of gaGgas, and established a new capital at rAmAvatI (could be Amaira neae mAladaha). Under him, jaYasiMha of daNDabhukti defeated utkala karNakesharI. rAmapAla also had to fight cola king anantavarmA coD.agaGga and kulottaGga (c. 1070–1118) when he tried to expand into utkala and kaliGga. In fact he might even have submitted to kulottaGga. rAmapAla also fought against nAnyadeva of sena dynasty from mithila (c. 1097), and was probably defeated. vijaYasena of vaGga might also have been defeated around the same time. rAmapAla also fought against madanapAla, son of govindacandra (whose wife was kumAradevI, daughter of daughter of mahaNa mentioned above) of the gAhaD.avAlas who were established by candradeva, but stories of his fighting tadjik soldiers sound unlikely.

Fall of pAlas and rise of varmaNa

rAmapAla was followed by his son kumArapAla (ruled c. 1126–1128) who was followed by his son gopAla III (ruled c. 1128–1143). After that kumArapAla's brother madanapAla ruled (c. 1143–1161). kumArapAla's general vaidyadeva declared himself independent in kAmarUpa after defeating timagyadeva who had revolted. While the pAla and the gaGga were fighting, and as the kalyANa-cAlukYas attacked, the senas in south bengal became independent under vijaYasena, even though he may not have won over madanapAla. At the same time the gAhaD.avAlas took patna region by 1124, and mudgagiri=munger by 1146. madanapAla also defeated govardhana, but nothing is known about him. The mAna kings (vallabhamAna, on his rudramAna, his son dharmamAna, his and brother vikramamAna) were probably under the pAlas. madanapAla is considered the last pAla king, though a king called parameshvara paramabhaTTAraka mahArAjAdhirAja gauD.eshvara govindacandra or govindapAla ruled centered in gaYA till about 1174 (and was probably defeated by vallAlasena. There were many local rulers after this time, thus, for example, we find names like samudrAditya.

Of course, local rulers with the pAla name continued in many parts of Bengal: with centers north of present Dacca, around gauD.a, in baguD.A and dinAjapura, near brahmaputra river, etc. Thus, we hear of kings like palapAla, yashopAla, indradyumna pAla who were probably merely local rulers. Similarly, this period probably saw the rise of almost independent local rulers like rANaka samudrAditya near muGgera who was son of rANaka nanda.

In the meantime, some time in the second or third quarter of the 11th century, the varmaNas of yAdava dynasty (i.e. mythologically descendants of brahmA -> atri -> candra -> budha -> purUravA -> AYu -> nahuSa -> yayAti -> yadu -> kRSNa, avatAra of hari, see the mythic genealogies page) came from siMhapura in kaliGga (this kingdom lasted from the 5th to the 12th century; there is a yAdava kingdom of siMhapura in punjab, and there is a siMhapura in rADh.a as well) and became rulers of east bengal. The first king of this dynasty is jAtavarmA (c. 1050–75), son of vajravarmA. He married vIrashrI, daughter of karNa ofthe kalacurI dynasty. kalacurI kings gAGgeyadeva and karNa no doubt helped him take advantage of the pAla weakness. jAtavarmA was followed by his son mahArAjAdhirAja harivarmA (circa 1074–75 to 1119 AD) with capital in vikramapura and bhaTTa bhavadeva bAlabalabhIbhujaGga (son of govarddhana and his vandyaghaTIYa brahmin wife; grandson of Adideva who was a mahAmantrI, mahApAtra, and sAndhivigrahika of the king of vaGga; originally from siddhala village; got hastinIbhaTTa from the king of gauD.a) as minister. He was followed by (possibly after a short reign of his son) his brother shyAmalavarmA (also written sAmalavarmA; who, according to kulajI tradition brought vedic brahmins to Bengal around 1079 AD; his wife's name maybe mAlavyadevI), whose son bhojavarmA was the last varmaNa king before the senas took over their territorry. The tilokasundarI of kaliGga that vijaYavAhu (1055–1110) of shrIlaGkA married may have been the sister of bhojavarmA.

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