The Palas and the Senas

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The Palas

Pala dynasty, ruling dynasty in Bihar and Bengal, India, from the 8th to the 12th century. Its founder, Gopala, was a local chieftain who rose to power in the mid-8th century during a period of anarchy. His successor, Dharmapala (reigned c. 770–810), greatly expanded the kingdom and for a while was in control of Kannauj. Pala power was maintained under Devapala (reigned c. 810–850), who carried out raids in the north, the Deccan, and the peninsula; but thereafter the dynasty declined in power, and Mahendrapala, the Gurjara-Pratihara emperor of Kannauj in the late 9th and early 10th centuries, penetrated as far as northern Bengal. Pala strength was restored by Mahipala I (reigned c. 988–1038), whose influence reached as far as Varanasi, but on his death the kingdom again weakened.

Ramapala (reigned c. 1077–1120), the last important Pala king, did much to strengthen the dynasty in Bengal and expanded its power in Assam and Orissa; he is the hero of a Sanskrit historical poem, the Ramacarita of Sandhyakara. On his death, however, the dynasty was virtually eclipsed by the rising power of the Senas, though Pala kings continued to rule in southern Bihar for 40 years. The main capital of the Palas appears to have been Mudgagiri (now Munger) in eastern Bihar.

The Palas were supporters of Buddhism, and it was through missionaries from their kingdom that Buddhism was finally established in Tibet. Under Pala patronage a distinctive school of art arose, of which many noteworthy sculptures in stone and metal survive.

The Senas

In the middle of the eleventh century two brothers, Samanta Sen and Hemanta Sen established a small kingdom at Kasipuri. The Senas were originally feu­datories of the Palas but when the Palas had become very weak after Ramapala Vijay Sen, grandson of Samanta Sen, dislodged the Palas from power and seized the throne of Bengal. From that time the Senas acquired an independent status and gradually began to increase their power and territory.

 Vijay Sen

Vijay Sen was the first independent and powerful king of the Sen Dynasty. How he defeated the local kings of Radha, the Varma dynasty of East Bengal and the Palas of North Bengal is not known.

He was, however, not content with defeating the Palas, he after having conquered major part of Bengal launched upon a career of conquest of North Bihar, Orissa and Assam.

 Lakshman Sen

Lakshman Sen succeeded his father Vallal Sen. He was about sixty years old at that time. His capital was at Nadia. He assumed the title of Ariraja Madan Shankar.

Lakshman Sen earned fame both as a conqueror and a patron of learning and was comparable to his father in this respect. The court poets Saran and Umapatidhar made reference to a great conqueror without naming him.

Jaydeva, the author of Geet Govinda, Dhoyi, author of Pabanaduta, poet Saran and philosopher Halayudh graced the court of Lakshman Sen.

Lakshman Sen completed the unfinished work of his father named Adbhut Sagar. Some of the slokas included in the Sanskrit book Sadukti Karnamrita were composed by Lakshman Sen.

Towards the end of the twelfth century Ikhtiyar-ud-din Mohammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji was entrusted by Qutbuddin Aibak to conquer Bengal and Bihar. Ikhtiyar-ud-din made a sudden attack on the Capital of Lakshman Sen, who being incapable of defending himself against the sudden attack, left Nadia for East Bengal where he and his successors ruled as independent kings for sometime.

It is said that when Lakshman Sen came to know of the conquest of Bihar by Ikhtiyar-ud-din, his minis­ters advised him to leave Nadia. He was surprised by Ikhtiyar- ud-din and finding a defence impossible in the circumstance, he left Nadia.

Lakshman Sen is called not only a powerful king but also a liberal and kind-hearted ruler.

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