The Pala dynasty ruled all the different regions of Bengal and Bihar for about 400 years from the 8th century to the end of the 11th century, with about 20 leaders on the throne during its period.
TIME PERIOD – 750 – 1174 A.D.
LANGUAGES – Sanskrit, Prakrit, and Pali
Founder of the Pala Empire
Origin of the Pala Empire
Gopala founded the Pala dynasty in 750 A.D. The Pala Dynasty originated in the region of Bengal as an imperial power during the Late Classical period on the Indian subcontinent. The Pala dynasty was named after its ruling dynasty, whose rulers names ending with the suffix of Palau, which meant “protector”. They were followers of the Tantric and Mahayana schools of Buddhism. They were insightful diplomats and military conquerors. Their army was equipped with war elephant cavalry.
Rulers of the Pala Empire
- Reign: 750 – 770 A.D.
- First Pala king and founder of the dynasty.
- Son of Vapyata, a warrior.
- Was elected by a group of people.
- During his death, the Pala kingdom included Bengal and most of the regions of Bihar.
- He built the monastery at Odantapuri, Bihar.
- Considered the first Buddhist king of Bengal.
- Reign: 770 – 810 A.D.
- Son and successor of Gopala.
- Expanded the kingdom.
- Was a pious Buddhist.
- Founded the Vikramshila University at Bhagalpur, Bihar.
- He frequently had many wars with the Rashtrakutas and the Pratiharas.
- The Palas became one of the most powerful kingdoms in northern and eastern India during the rule of Dharmapala.
- Reign: 810 – 850 A.D.
- Son of Dharmapala and Rannadevi, a Rashtrakuta princess.
- Extended the kingdom to Assam, Odisha, and Kamarupa.
- He was a staunch Buddhist and built many monasteries and temples in Magadha.
- Defeated the Rashtrakuta ruler Amoghavarsha.
- Ascended the throne in 988 AD.
- Recovered northern and eastern Bengal.
- Also took Bihar.
- The last strong Pala king.
- The kingdom disintegrated during his son Kumarapala’s reign.
- Reign: 1144 – 1162 A.D.
- The last Pala king.
- After him, the Sena dynasty replaced the Palas.
Legacy of the Pala Empire
- The Hindu Sena Dynasty dethroned the Pala dynasty in the 12th century.
- In Bengal History, the rule of the Pala Dynasty was also called “GOLDEN ERA”.
- The Pala Rulers built the magnificent monasteries and temples: Odantapuri Monastery and Somapura Mahavihara (in Bangladesh).
- The Nalanda University and the Vikramshila University were also patronized by the Pala rulers which were the Buddhist center of learning and excellence. During this time, the Bengali language developed.
- Charyapada, The first Bengali literary work is attributed to this period. Charyapada was written in an Abahatta (the common ancestor of Bengali, Assamese, Odia, and Maithili).
- Balaputradeva, the Sailendra king of Java, sent an ambassador to Devapala. Buddhist poet Vajradatta who composed Lokesvara Shataka was in Devapala’s court.
- Many Buddhist teachers from the Pala kingdom traveled to Southeast Asia to spread the faith and love. Atisha reached Sumatra and Tibet.
- The Pala kings also patronized Sanskrit Scholars.
- During the time of the Palas, Gaudapada composed Agama Shastra.
The administration of the Pala dynasty was Monarchical and King or Monarch was the center of all power. Pala rulers adopted the many different imperial titles like Parameshwar, Paramvattaraka, and Maharajadhiraja. They appointed Prime Ministers and the Line of Garga served as the Prime Ministers of the Palas for 100 years.
The Pala Empire was divided into separate Provinces(Vuktis), Vuktis into Vishaya (Divisions), and Mandalas (Districts). The Administration of the Pala dynasty covered a wide area from the grass-root level to the imperial court.
Palas Army was fourfold and the army consisted of infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots. Vatsaraja Dharmapala had been mentioned as the owner of an unlimited number of horses, elephants, and chariots in the copper plates that were made during the pala empire. It is amazing to know that the Kings of Bengal still depended on Four-Horses Heavy Chariots as when the use of chariots had been backdated in India and other parts of the world. As being a riverine land and swarthy climate, the Bengal region was not good enough for the breeding of quality war-horses. The inscriptions on Pala Copper plates reveal that mercenary forces were recruited from Kamboja, Khasa, Huna, Malwa, Gujarat, and Karnataka.
The Kamboja cavalry was the main power of the Pala Empires’ armed forces. The Kamboja forces of the Pala Dynasty configured smaller confederates (Sanghas) among themselves and obedient followers of their commander. Mahasenapati (General) controlling foot soldiers, soldiers riding elephants and camels, navy, and the various army posts like Kottapala (Fort guards) and Prantapala (Border guards) were the different posts made by Pala Rulers for their Army. Palas had a huge army and the legend of Nine lac soldiers (Nava LakkhaShainya) was popular during the reigns of Dharmapala and Devapala.
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