Gurjara Pratihara Dynasty - Founder, Kings, Architecture, Decline


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Prelims: History of India and Indian National Movement

Mains: Indian Culture - Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

The early history of Gurjara Pratiharas is shrouded in mystery. Some historians believe that they came to India from the Central Asian region after the Gupta period and settled in Rajasthan.

  • Traditions: The bardic tradition of Rajasthan claims that the Gurjara Pratiharas were born out of a yajna done at Mount Abu. Others born out of this yajna were Chalukyas, Parmaras and Chahmanas.
    • For this reason, these four dynasties are also known as agnikulas (fire clans). 
    • It is further said that these four dynasties of Rajputs were created for the protection of the country from external aggressions.
  • Own claim: The Pratiharas claim that they were called Pratihara (literary means doorkeeper) because their ancestor Lakshmana served as a doorkeeper to his brother Rama.
  • Geographical name: The geographical name of Gujarat is derived from Gurjara.

What is the Political History of Gurjara-Pratiharas?

Some of the important rulers of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty and their significance:

Period: 730 - 1036 CECapital: Kannauj
Nagabhata I 730-756 AD
  • He was the real founder of the dynasty.
  • He defeated the Muslim forces from the Arab region.
Vatsaraja 775-800 AD
  • Expansion of the empire: He followed an aggressive imperial policy which brought him into conflicts with the Pala kings of Bengal. 
    • He defeated Pala king Dharmapala
Nagabhatta II (800-833 AD)
  • Expansion of the empire: He allied with several other states, particularly with Andhra, Vidharbha and Kalinga. 
    • He defeated Chakrayudha and captured Kanauj. 
    • He defeated Dharmapala and fought Rashtrakuta king, Govinda III. 
Bhoja I (836-885 AD)
  • Expansion of the empire: He succeeded in restoring the falling fortunes of his dynasty. 
    • He defeated Krishna II and captured the region of Malwa and Gujarat. 
    • The name of Bhoja is famous in many legends.
  • Faith: He was a devotee of Vishnu.
  • Title: He adopted the title of Adivaraha, which has been inscribed on some of his coins. 
    • He is also known by other names as 'Mihir' and 'Prabhasa' 
  • An assessment of Bhoja is given by the Arab historian Sulaiman.
Contribution to Architecture
Teli-ka-Mandir, Gwalior
  • Also known as Telika Temple, is a Hindu temple located within the Gwalior Fort in Madhya Pradesh. 
  • Faith: The temple is dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Matrikas
  • Architecture: It has a rectangular sanctum instead of the typical square one.
    • It integrates the architectural elements of the Nagara style and the Valabhi Prasada
    • The temple is based on Gurjara Pratihara-Gopagiri style North Indian architecture.
    • The temple is a classic example of a design based on "musical harmonics" in architecture.
Mahendrapala I (885-910 AD)
  • Expansion of the empire: He kept the vast empire intact and extended his boundaries. 
  • Title: He was also known as 'Mahendrayudha' and 'Nirbhayanarendra'
  • Literature: He was a liberal patron of learned men. 
    • His guru Rajashekhara, occupies a distinguished place in Indian literature.

Contribution of Gurjara-Pratiharas to Art and Architecture (Mahu-Gujjara style)

Mahavira Jain Temple, Osican, Rajasthan
  • The Mahavira Jain temple is built in Osian of Jodhpur District, Rajasthan.
  • The temple is an important pilgrimage of the Oswal Jain community.
  • This temple is the oldest surviving Jain temple in Western India.
Bateswar Hindu Temples, Madhya Pradesh
  • A group of nearly 200 sandstone Hindu temples and their ruins in north Madhya Pradesh.
  • Style: They were built in the early Gurjara-Pratihara style of North Indian temple architecture.
  • Faith: They are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Shakti - representing the three major traditions within Hinduism.
Baroli Temples, Rajasthan
  • Located in Baroli village in Rawatbhata City in the Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan.
  • Style: The complex of eight temples is situated within a walled enclosure.
    • They are built in the Gurjara Pratihara style of temple architecture dated to the tenth century CE.
  • Were destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb during his Rajasthan quest.
  • Mihira Bhoja issued several coins in which the images became famous.
  • Boar, an incarnation of Vishnu, and the solar symbol are depicted in the coins of Bhoja.

Contribution of Gurjara-Pratiharas to Literature

  • His works includes Karpuramanjari, Bala-Ramayana, Bala Bharata, Kavyamimansa, Bhuvana Kosha and Haravilasa.
  • He mentioned in his writings that Bhoja maintained numerous forces, and no other Indian king had such fine cavalry.
  • Additional contents of the book about Bhoja were:
    • He has got riches, and his camels and horses are numerous. 
    • Exchanges are carried on in his states with silver and gold
    • There is no other country in India more safe from robbers.

What was the Tripartite Struggle for Kannauj?

The metropolis of Kannauj had suffered a power vacuum following the death of Harsha without an heir, which resulted in the disintegration of the Empire of Harsha.

  • Yashovarman: This space was eventually filled by Yashovarman around a century later, but his position was dependent upon an alliance with Lalitaditya Muktapida. 
    • Tripartite struggle: When Muktapida undermined Yashovarman, a tri-partite struggle for control of the city developed involving the Pratiharas, the Palas of Bengal in the east and the Rashtrakutas, whose base lay at the south in the Deccan.
      • Victory of Pratiharas: Victory of King Vatsaraja of the Pratihara dynasty successfully challenged and defeated the Pala ruler Dharmapala and Dantidurga, the Rashtrakuta king, for control of Kannauj.
  • Attempt by Rashtrakutas: Around 786, the Rashtrakuta ruler Dhruva crossed the Narmada River into Malwa and tried to capture Kannauj from there. 
    • Victories over Vatsaraja: Vatsraja was defeated by the Dhruva Dharavarsha of the Rashtrakuta dynasty around 800 AD. 
  • Nagabhatta II: Vatsaraja was succeeded by Nagabhata II, who was initially defeated by the Rashtrakuta ruler Govinda III.
    • Reclaimed Kannauj: He later recovered Malwa from the Rashtrakutas, conquered Kannauj and the Indo-Gangetic Plain as far as Bihar from the Palas, and again checked the Muslims in the west. 
    • Kannauj as the centre of the Gurjara-Pratihara kingdom: Kannauj became the centre of the Gurjara-Pratihara state, which covered much of northern India during the peak of their power.

How did the Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty decline?

  • Feudatories: Several feudatories of the empire took advantage of the temporary weakness of the Gurjara-Pratiharas to declare their independence.
    • Various feudatories who carved independent states included the Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandelas of Bundelkhand, the Kalachuris of Mahakoshal, the Tomaras of Haryana, and the Chahamanas of Shakambhari. 
  • Attack by Rashtrakutas: Emperor Indra III of the Rashtrakuta dynasty briefly captured Kannauj in 916, and although the Pratiharas regained the city, their position continued to weaken. 
  • Attack by Chandelas: The Gurjara-Pratiharas lost control of Rajasthan to their feudatories, and the Chandelas captured the strategic fortress of Gwalior in central India around 950. 
  • Ghaznavid invasion: Mahmud of Ghazni captured Kannauj in 1018, and the Pratihara ruler Rajapala fled. The Imperial Pratihara dynasty broke into several small states after the Ghaznavid invasions. 
    • These branches fought each other for territory, and one of the branches ruled Mandore till the 14th century.
    • This Pratihara branch had marital ties with Rao Chunda of the Rathore clan and gave Mandore in dowry to Chunda.
Chahamanas (6-12th CAD)Shakambari (Sambar Lake town of Rajasthan)Saptadalaksha region of present RajasthanAlso Known as Chauhans of Ajmer
Chandelas ( 9-12th CAD)Jejaka BhuktiBundelkhand regionBelonged to Chandel clan of Rajputs
Guhilas (8-9th CAD)Nagahrada (Nagda) and Aghata (Ahar)Mewar regionAlso known as Guhilas of Mewar
Tomars( 14-16th CAD)DelhiParts of Delhi and HaryanaBelonged to Tomar clan of Rajputs

PYQs on Gurjara Pratihara Dynasty

Q) Consider the following events in the history of India: (Prelims, 2020)

  1. Rise of Pratiharas under King Bhoja
  2. Establishment of Pallava power under Mahendravarman-I
  3. Establishment of Chola power by Parantaka-I
  4. Pala dynasty founded by Gopala

What is the correct chronological order of the above events, starting from the earliest time?

(a) 2 – 1 – 4 - 3

(b) 3 – 1 – 4 - 2

(c) 2 – 4 – 1 - 3

(d) 3 – 4 – 1 – 2

FAQs on Gurjara Pratihara Dynasty

Q) What are the features of Mahu-Gujjara style of architecture?

The Mahu Gujjara architecture is characterised by its intricate carvings and ornamentation, particularly in temples and palaces, showcasing a blend of Hindu and Jain architectural elements. It typically features ornate pillars, intricate stone carvings, and elaborate doorways.

Q) What is Oswal Jain Community?

The Oswal Jain community is a significant subsect within the Jain religion, known for its prominence in business and commerce. They have a strong emphasis on ethical conduct and philanthropy within their community.