Gurjara Pratihara was one of the three most powerful kingdoms of Indian History during 700 AD – 1100 AD (the other two being Pala Dynasty in the East and Rashtrakuta Dynasty in the Southern India). The kingdom ruled for around 400 years in northern India and held its imperial capital at Kannauj (which was also the capital of 6th Century king Harshavardhana).
Expansion of Pratihara Empire in Northern India
Pratihara were of Rajput clan and followed Hindusim. Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty was founded by King Harichandra, who was a samanta in Rashtrakuta Empire. He dominated the region of Marwar and Jodhpur in present day Rajasthan. The origin of Pratihara dynasty dates back to 650 AD, this was around the same time when Islam came into existence.
Ruler Harichandra was troubled by the fact that Muslim Arabs were expanding from the Middle east towards the East, towards India. In 730 AD Harichandra was died and Nagabhata I (730 AD – 756 AD) succeeded the throne. During his reign the famous ‘Battle of Rajasthan’ took place (738 AD) between Emir Junaid, Arabs who had established themselves in Sind and a triple alliance of Gurjara-Pratihara, Rashtrakuta and Rajput forces. Nagabhata I was successfully able to resist Arabs from entering India and confined them to Sind.
Another prominent ruler who came to power around 20 years after Nagabhata I was Vatsraja (775 AD – 805 AD). Vatsraja was contemporary to the great Pala ruler, Dharmapala. Vatsraja, in order to gain control over Magadha, fought two battles, one with the Pala ruler, Dharmapala in 786 AD and the another with the great Rashtrakuta ruler, Dhruva around 800 AD. Unfortunately, Vatsraja was defeated in both the battles and couldn’t possess Kannauj during his lifetime. He died in 805 AD.
Vatsraja was followed by three most important rulers of Gurjara Pratihara dynasty Nagabhata II (805 AD – 833 AD), Mihir Bhoja (Bhoja I) (836 AD – 890 AD) and Mahenderpal I (890 AD – 910 AD).
Nagabhata II was able to capture Kannauj. He checked the Muslim Attacks from Sindh and was instrumental in rebuilding the temple of Shiva in Gujarat. During Nagabhata II Pratihara kingdom extended from Punjab in the East to Awadha in the West. During Mihir Bhoja (Bhoja I) and Mahenderpal I, Pratihara kingdom further expanded eastwards capturing Magadha, Bengal and Assam.
Decline of Gurjara Pratihara Kingdom
Successors of Mahenderpal I were weak and were unable to control the huge empire. As a result during the reign of Bhoja II (910 AD-912 AD) the kingdom collapsed drastically and breaking into Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandelas of Bundelkhand, and the Kalachuris of Mahakoshal. The Rashtrakuta emperor Indra III captured Kannauj in 916 AD for a span of 8 years.
By the end of tenth century Pratihara rulers were confined to the city of Kannauj and there was no real force securing India from foreign Arab attacks. As a result, Mahmud of Ghazni sacked Kannauj 25 times in less than 20 years. The wealth of Kannauj was plundered to Arab and Kandahar. The last Pratihara rulers was Rajapala, who was captured by Chandela ruler Gauda and killed. His son Trilochanpala served for a few years as a dummy king.
Jasapala, the last Gurjar ruler of Kanauj, died in 1036, thus ending the era of Gurjara Pratihara Dynasty.