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Indian History after Guptas (Early Medieval 600 – 1200 CE)
Table of Contents
The term ‘early medieval’ denotes the intermediate transition period between the ‘ancient’ and the ‘medieval’.
The Early Medieval Period in India is marked by
- Political Fragmentation
- Formation and Proliferation of various states at the regional level
This period in south India especially, is viewed more as a period of segmentary statehood,wherein the role of the king was diminished and he acted more as a ritual head, neither having any firm revenue infrastructure nor a standing army.
For simpler understanding, the period from 600-1200 CE can be roughly classified into primarily two phases, different for north and south India, respectively.
The Period from 600-750 CE
- North India was dominated by the Pushyabhutis of Thaneswar and the Maukharis of Kannauj.
- South India was dominated by the Pallavas of Kanchi, the Chalukyas of Badami and the Pandyas of Madurai.
- The period from c. 750-1200 CE in north India can be further divided into two phases.
Phase I from 750-1000 CE
- Gurjara Pratiharas in northern India
- Palas in eastern India
- Rashtrakutas in Deccan
Phase II from 1000-1200 CE
This phase also best known as Age of Conflict
All over the country, there was the breakdown of the tripartite powers into many smaller kingdoms.
In northern India, the Pratihara empire’s disintegration brought to the forefront various Rajput states under the control of different Rajput dynasties such as the Chahamanas (Chauhans), Chandellas, Paramaras of Malwa, and so on.
These states eventually fought and resisted the Turkish attacks from northwest India led by Mahmud Ghazni
and Mohammad Ghori in the 11 and 12″ centuries, but had to yield ultimately as they failed to stand united against the invaders.
The period from c. 850-1200 CE in south India saw the supremacy of the Cholas.
A overview of Early Medieval India 600-1200 CE
This period is marked by
- Political Fragmentation
- Indian Feudalism(Samantas, runak, rauta mahasamanta, mandaleshvara)
- Revenue (which may have been hereditary)
It also assume other minor administrative functions
|Political||Decentralized power system|
Rise of regional kingdoms
|Economy||Agriculture based economy|
Trade: Both long distance and local
|Culture||Emergence of local language and Bhakti movement left an indelible mark in Indian cultural|
What developed when the Gupta Empire fell apart?
The fall of the Gupta Empire by 550 CE resulted in the rise and growth of numerous regional dynasties in the whole sub-continent.
With the coming of Kumaragupta III (530-540) on the throne of Magadha, the weakness of the imperial Gupta had become a known fact to all.
Taking advantage of the situation some feudatories of the Guptas raised their heads to grab the political powerin north India to establish their own independent kingdoms.
The given map of India in the 6th century AD depicts the political dispensations in the post-Gupta period.
Northern India’s successor states of Gupta
Between the collapse of the Guptas and the emergence of Harsha, north India was ruled by four great kingdoms.
- Guptas of Magadha
- Maukharis of Kannauj
- Maitrakas of Valabhi (Saurashtra)
- Pushyabhutis of Thaneswar
These four kingdoms competed with each other to succeed to the past glory of the Guptas. Other powers were.
- Malwa under Yashodharman
- Gaudas of Bengal
- Kamarupa Kingdom of Assam
Later Guptas of Magadha
After the decline of the Gupta Empire, the Later Guptas succeeded them as the rulers of Magadha.
Krishnagupta was the founder of the Later Gupta dynasty.
The Later Gupta Dynasty ruled the Magadha region in eastern India between the 6th and 7th centuries.
The Later Guptas succeeded the imperial Guptas as the rulers of Magadha, but there is no evidence connecting the two dynasties; these appear to be two distinct families.
They were probably feudatory to imperial Guptas and asserted their independence after their fall.
Most of the information of the Later Guptas is derived from the-
(A)Aphsad Inscription of Adityasena located in Gaya.
(B)Deo-Barnark inscription of Jivitagupta II, located in the Bhojpur district of Bihar.
The Later Guptas are so-called because the names of their rulers ended with the suffix “Gupta”, which they might have adopted to portray themselves as the legitimate successors of the imperial Guptas.
But some of the kings of this Gupta family were very powerful and ruled up to as far as the Brahmaputra River.
Maitrakas of Vallabhi
Towards the middle of the 5th century A.D., the Gupta empire started to decline.
Senapati Bhatarka, the Maitrak general of the Guptas, took advantage of the situation in 470 AD and laid thefoundation of his kingdom of Vallabhi, which came to be known as the Maitrak kingdom.
He shifted his capital from Girinagar to Vallabhipur, near Bhavnagar, on Saurashtra’s east coast.
Maitrak of Vallabhi became very powerful and their writ prevailed over large parts of Gujarat and even overadjoining Malwa.The Eran Stone Pillar Inscription of Bhanugupta mentions a “very big and famous battle” between the Guptas and the Maitrakas.
The Maitrakas were tributary chiefs of the Guptas, who established an independent kingdom in western India.They developed Vallabhi as their capital and it became an important center of learning.
Being on the Arabian Sea, it was also a port town having flourishing trade and commerce.
Dhruvasena I (Medieval and Post Gupta)
He was the third son of Bhattarka.
He reigned during c. 519 – c. 549 CE.He formed a matrimonial alliance with Harisena, the Vakataka king of Avanti. He married Queen Chandralekha. During his reign Yashodharman of Malwa defeated Harisena of the Vakataka dynasty, as well as the Huna king Mihirakula (in 528 CE).
Dhruvasena I probably had to acknowledge the overlord-ship of Yashodharman.Dhruvasena I called himself ‘Paramabhágavata’, the great Vaishnava.He was liberal in religious beliefs.
This is evident as in the 535 CE, he had made a grant for the arrangement for a Buddhist monastery at Valabhi built by his Buddhist niece Duḍḍá.He also made several grants to Brahmanas of Vadnagar.
The Jain council at Vallabhi was probably held during his rule which was arranged by his wife Chandralekha.
Vallabhi University – The government has decided to revive this ancient center of Great Learning
Vallabhi University was established in the 6th century and flourished for 600 years till the 12th century.
It was built in Saurashtra region of modern-day Gujarat. It was an important center of Buddhist learning and championed the cause of Hinayana Buddhism between 600 CE and 1200 CE.
This University was very famous for the quality education it gave to its students. And all the graduates from this esteemed university were holding higher executive posts.
Chinese travelers named Itsing and Hiuen Tsang who visited Valabhi University during the 7th century
describe this university as a great center for learning. Cause of Destruction: In a war, the king of Vallabhi was defeated due to all ill politics and in that war, all the buildings, monuments, towns etc. were destroyed.
Dhruvasena II (Medieval and Post Gupta)
- He was the most important ruler of the Maitrakas.
- He was also known as Baladitya, the “rising son”.
- He reigned from c. 627-641 CE. He was well-versed in grammar and the science of polity.
- He was a contemporary of Harshavardhana and was married to his daughter.
- Hsuan Tsang tells us that Dhruvasena II attended Harsha’s assembly at Prayaga (Allahabad).
- The Maitrakas continued to rule until the middle of the 8th century when Arab attacks weakened their power.
They issued coins (drachms) in the style of Western Kshatrapas.
Though one can’t see any artistic talents of their own, the excellent minting techniques could be observed in the Maitraka kingdom.The obverse of their coinage carried a stylised bust presenting military characteristics on the face of the ruler, and the reverse carried their name and the title in Brahmi legend.
Religion under Maitrakas of Vallabhi
The Maitrakas were followers of Shiva except for Dhruvasena I who was Vaishnava and Dharapatta who was a sun-worshiper.
They all used the title of ‘parama-maheshwara’ before the names of the king except those two. It is evident
from the use of symbols like Nandi, the Bull and Trishula, the trident in their coins and inscriptions.
Maitraka is derived from Mithra, the Sun or solar deity. There was the presence of Vaishnavism and Goddess
worship under their rule.
Maitrakas continued to rule until the middle of the eighth century when Arab attacks weakened their power.
There were a large number of Buddhist Viharas in the Maitraka kingdom.
Jains held their important Vallabhi council here. The third Jain council was held at Vallabhi during the reign
of Dhruvasena I (519-549 CE).
The Maitrakas were tolerant to all religions and made donations and grants to all of them without partiality.
They were one of the feudatories that became independent in the post-Gupta period. They assumed the title of Samanta.
This knowledge about the Maukharis comes from the seals and inscriptions discovered in the modern districts.
of Farrukhabad, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur and Barabanki of Uttar Pradesh, Patna district of Bihar, Nimar district of Madhya Pradesh and from the literary work like Banabhatta’s Harshacharita.Maukharis made Kannauj a center of political and administrative activities.They gradually replaced Pataliputra as a political center of north India.
Relationship between Pushyabhutis and Maukharis
Harshavardhana’s sister Rajyashri was married to Grihavarman.
Shashanka, the ruler of Bengal (Gaud), and Dev Gupta (Malwa ruler), the Later Gupta ruler jointly attacked
Grihavarman and killed him.After the successful expedition of Harsha Vardhana, the kingdom of Kanauj was then merged with that of the Pushyabhutis and Harsha shifted his capital from Thaneswar (Kurukshetra) to Kannauj.
Important Maukhari Rulers
Hari Varhmana Maukhari (mid-6th century CE)
- He was the progenitor of the Kanauj Maukharis.
- He adopted a simple title – Maharaja, indicative of his feudatory position.
- He was a contemporary of Krishnagupta, the founder of the Later Gupta dynasty.
- He succeeded his father and assumed the title of Maharaja.
Ishanavarmana (c. 554 CE)
- He was considered the real founder of the Maukhari Dynasty.
- He adopted the title ‘Maharajadhiraja’ (mentioned in Asirgarh Copper Plate Inscription of Madhya Pradesh).
- His kingdom had stretched to Andhra Pradesh (Probably Visnukundin family), Orissa and Gauda.
- He fought against the Hunas, resulting in the defeat of the Hunas possibly fought as feudatories of Baladitya of the Imperial Gupta family.
- Harsha’s inscription claims that Ishanavarmana had also defeated the Sulikas (probably Chalukyas).
- He faced opposition from the later Guptas and prolonged struggle with the later Guptas and had to suffer crushing defeat at the hands of Kumaragupta.
- His seals and coins indicate that he was a learned person, a just ruler, a brave warrior and a patron of education.
Sarvavarmana (c. 560-585 CE)
- He was probably the son of Ishanavarmana.
- He succeeded after his father’s death.
- He maintained his hold on Magadha and kept the later Guptas under subordination.
- Asirgadh Inscription in Nimar district of Madhya Pradesh narrates his victory over Damodargupta, and describes Nimar as a ‘Maukhari outpost in the Deccan.
Avanti Varmana (c. 585-600 CE)
- Nalanda Seal mentions that Sarvavarmana was succeeded by his son Avantivarmana
- He assumed the title Maharajadhiraja.
- He extended the boundary of the kingdom by transferring the capital to Kannauj.
- It was under him that the Maukhari empire reached its peak
Grahavarmana (around c. 600 CE)
- He succeeded Avantivarmana and was married to Rajyashri, the daughter of Prabhakar Vardhana of the Pushyabhuti family of Thaneswar.
- Grahavarmana was killed by Deva Gupta of Malwa of the later Gupta lineage.
- Later Harsha Vardhana merged the Maukhari kingdom with the Pushyabhuti kingdom.
- Gradually the Maukhari family disappeared into obscurity.
The rise of Pushyabhutis of Thanesar
Conditions after Guptas
The Gupta Empire gave stability to northern India until the middle of the sixth century CE. However, the fall of the Gupta Empire led in the division of northern India into various kingdoms.
Since the 5th century CE, Kashmir, Punjab, and north-west India have been dominated by the white Hunas, while north and western India has been ruled by various feudatories of the Guptas since the middle of the 6th century CE.The Pushyabhutis, who had their capital in Thanesar, near Kurukshetra, Haryana, were an influential royal dynasty that rose to prominence following the collapse of the Guptas.
Pushyabhutis were originally Gupta feudators.
Sources of Information of Pushyabhutis
Harshacharita, Harsha’s court poet Banabhatta’s account of Harsha, The travelogues of the Chinese pilgrim Hsuan Tsang, and Si-Yu-Ki.Little is known about the dynasty’s first three monarchs.
The dynasty rose to prominence with the accession of Prabhakar Vardhana, who defeated the Hunas and strengthened his position in Punjab and Haryana.
|Pushyabhuti Rulers||Naravardhana: 500-525 CE|
Rajyavardana I: 525-555 CE
Adityavardhana: 555-580 CE
Prabhakara-vardhana: 580-605 CE
Rajya-vardhana: 605-606 CE
Harsha-vardhana: 606-647 CE
Pushyabhutis of Thanesar
The Pushyabhutis, who had their capital in Thanesar, were an influential royal dynasty that rose to prominence following the collapse of the Guptas (Thanesvara in Kurukshetra).
With the accession of Prabhakarvardhana (580-605 CE), the dynasty gained influence: he was able to overcome the Hunas and was a superb general with numerous military triumphs.
He was the fourth king and the true founder of the Pushyabhuti dynasty.He increases his standing in the Punjab and Haryana areasHe extended his dominion all the way to Malwa and Gujarat.By marrying his daughter Rajyashri to the Maukhari monarch Grahavarman, he forged an important marital connection with his neighbours to the east, the Maukharis of Kanyakubja or Kannauj.He was the dynasty’s first king, holding the title Parama-bhattaraka Maharajadhiraja.Following his death, his eldest son Rajyavardhana ascended to the throne, but he was assassinated by Shashanka, the king of Bengal and Bihar.