Gopala I founded the great Pala dynasty of Bengal in ancient Indian subcontinent. He ruled for twenty years, from 750 CE to 770 CE and was the very first elected king in the history of South Asia. “Pala”- the last part of Gopala’s name is carried by all Pala kings. The Palas gave birth to a new era of ancient India and they reigned for four successful centuries.
750 CE: Gopala’s election to power:
According to Tarantha (a Tibetan Buddhist scholar and historian of 16th century), Gopala was the first democratically elected monarch of south Asia. His election was the result of political chaos, instability and anarchy (known as matsyanaya) after the death of the Gauda king Sasanka. Being the son of Vapyata and the grandson of Dayita Vishnu (the former a great warrior and the later a scholar), Gopala was an outstanding military general himself.
The 4th verse of Khalimpur copper plate mentions Gopala’s coming to authority along these lines: ‘Matsyanyayam-apohitum prakrtibhir-laksmyah karangrahitah Shri-Gopala iti ksitisha-shirasang chudamanis-tatsutah’ (His son was the crown jewel of the heads of emperors, the magnificent Gopala, whom the prakrtis made capture the hands of Laksmi, to put an end to matsyanyayam or political disorder).
Historians could not describe the actual meaning of the term prakriti in the above verse. This can refer to subjects and/ or principal officers, so determining the exact electors of Gopala is easier said than done. There is a possibility that Gopala, by dint of his military skills and chivalry, restored the harmony in Gauda and people as well as the authority heartily supported and welcomed him.
Life and Religious view of Gopala
There is not a large amount of evidence found about the early life of Gopala, but this powerful king triggered the legacy of an upcoming and promising dynasty. During his reign, Gopala conquered the northern and north-western part of Bengal.
Tarantha confirmed about Gopala’s believe in Buddhism, and that he also established the famous Buddhist monastery at Odantapuri.
Ancestry and caste of Gopala
Though the fourth verse of Khalimpuri copper plate inscribes about the parentage of Gopala, no reference has been found that directs to the caste of the first Pala emperor.
However, the Kamauli copper plate inscription of Vaidyadeva submits that the Palas were Kshatriyas of mihirasya vamsa. Tarantha and Ghanaram Chakrabarty (another great historian of 16th century) attest this claim. On the contrary, Manjusree Mulakalpa claims Gopala I to be a Sudra king.
By: Farhin Sohan Kabir