12 February 2019

Indian History - Paula Dynasty in Medieval North India

The period of early medieval India starts after the collapse of Harshavardhana's empire. During that period there were many small clans and states in North India. They all were called Rajputs. They ruled for 500 years from 7th century.

Rajputs comprises of Chauhans, Pratiharas, Rashtrakutas, Pawars, Solankis, Chandelas and others. During the time of Rajputs, there was another powerful dynasty called Pala dynasty.

Pala Empire

PALA was the name added to the names of the kings as suffix. They came into emergence from the middle of the 8th century and ruled for many years. They came into power in Bengal and Bihar and ruled from 760 - 1142 AD.


During the early medieval period, there were many independent states and small kingdoms. This made them to fight against each other for power. Those fights were continuous that both the economy and society of the country weakened. This situation provides a good chance for foreigners to attack and take over the country. Law and order was missing in the country during that period.

During the early medieval period Bengal was divided into two parts. Eastern part was called Vanga and Western Part was called Gauda. Around 730 A.D. considering the political situation, Gopala became the king of Bengal. He was able to bring order in the region. He is the founder of Pala empire.

Dharmapala (son)
Devapala (son)

Mahipala I


Dharmapala was the son of Gopala. He ruled between 780 - 815 A.D. He was able to develop Bengal as a leading state in North India. He brought control over Bengal and Bihar. He was a follower of Buddhism. He encouraged learning a lot. And that is the reason why he founded Vikramashila university. Before it was a university, Vikramashila was a Buddhist Monastry.

Dharmapala occupied Gangetic Doab() and invaded Kanuj. Kanuj was an important city in North India. He removed the king and placed his men as his nominee to the throne. But, the nominees and successors of Palas were not so efficient. They couldn't protect the glory of Pala kingdom.

Doab is a term used in India and Pakistan. Do means two, ab means river. It means that the region lying between the junction of two rivers. Her, Gangetic doab means the part of the Indo-Gangetic plain. The two rivers are Ganges and Yamuna. And the region between the junction of these two rivers is called Gangetic Doab.

The Palas from Doab region was thrown out by Rashtrakutas, where as the nominees of Palas in Kanuj were removed by Pratiharas.


Devapala was the son of Dharmapala. He ruled between 815 - 855 A.D. He took over both Assam and Kalinga. He defeated many Rajput clans and took control over them in Bihar. He encouraged arts. He constructed temples like Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya.

Nalanda university became famous under Pala rule. Oddantapuri was another university founded by Palas. Vajrayana was a new form of Buddhism that was developed in Vikramashila university. It was spread to Tibet in 11th century.

Downfall of Pala empire

The Pala rulers after Devapala were not so efficient to handle the kingdom. After the death of Devapala, the Pala kingdom was destroyed. To the end of 12th century Muslim rulers occupied the Pala kingdom.

Mahipala I

The later Mahipala I is known as the founder of the second Pala kingdom. He ruled from 988 - 1033 A.D. He successfully recaptured the lost territories in northern and western Bengal.


The Pala dynasty had close trading relations with the countries of South-East Asia. They were in close contact with Shailendra Kings of Shrivijaya in Indonesia.

They introduced Feudal economy(). Trade was decreased. But agro economy flourished. Minerals were important in economic growth and development.

Feudalism was a political, military and social system in middle ages. It was based on the ownership of the land, resulting in the relationship between the lord and vassal. Lord is who donates the land. While, vassal is to whom the land is donated.

Pala kings were Monarchs. They followed Buddhism as well as Hinduism. Their army consisted of Infantry, Cavalry, Elephants and Chariots. There was a legend that, during the period of Dharmapala and Devapala they had a huge army of Nine Lakh soldiers. Their languages include Pali, Sanskrit and Prakrit.

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