The early history of Gurjara Pratiharas is not known.
Sources of Gurjara Pratiharas’ History
Historians believe that after the Gupta period, Gurjara Pratiharas came to India from the central Asian region and settled in Rajasthan. Gradually, they gained political importance.
The bardic tradition of Rajasthan claims that the Gurjara Pratiharas, Chalukyas, Parmaras, and Chahmanas were born out of a yajna done at Mount Abu. Therefore, these four dynasties are also known as agnikulas(fire-clans).
The four dynasties of Rajputs were created for the protection of the country from external aggressions.
The literary meaning of Pratihara is ‘door keeper.’ It is believed that their ancestor Lakshmana served as a door keeper to his brother Rama. Therefore, they were called as Pratihara.
The geographical name of Gujarat is supposed to be derived from Gurjara.
Rulers of Gurjara Pratiharas
The Gwalior inscription mentioned the early history of the family. The inscription was founded by King Bhoja in the 7th century. He was the most famous king of the Gurjara Pratiharas dynasty.
Nagabhatta-I was the real founder of the fame of family. He defeated the Muslim forces from the Arabs.
During A.D. 775-800, Vatsaraja followed an aggressive imperial policy. He defeated Pala king Dharmapala of Bengal.
The Rashtrakuta king Dhruva defeated Vatsaraja and took away the political benefit of the defeat of Pala king.
Dharmapala took advantage of the defeat of Vatsaraja and installed his own nominee Chakrayudba on the throne of Kanauj.
Vatsaraja’s son, Nagabhatta II (A.D.815) made an alliance with Andhra, Vidharbha, and Kalinga. He made extensive preparation to fight against his rivals.
Nagabhatta II first defeated Chakrayudha and captured Kanauj. Then he defeated Dharmapala and fought with Govinda-III, the Rashtrakuta king.
Nagabhatta also defeated Sultan Vega who was the son of the governor of Sind under the Caliph-l Mamun.
Nagabhatta-II was succeeded by his son Ramabhadra.
Ramabhadra was succeeded by his son Bhoja-I about A.D. 836.
Bhoja-I restored the falling prosperities and reputation of his dynasty.
A golden opportunity to the king Bhoja-I was provided by the death of Devapala of Bengal and Rashtrakuta’s invasion of Bengal thereafter.
The Rashtrakuta king, Krishna II was involved in the struggle with the Eastern Chalukyas.
Bhoja-I defeated Krishna-II and captured the region of Malwa and Gujarat.
After victory over two great rivals, Bhoja-I founded his sovereignty over the Punjab, Avadh, and other territories of north India and consolidated his empire.
Bhoja-I was a devotee of Vishnu, and adopted the title of ‘Adivaraha.’ It has been inscribed in some of his coins. He is also known by other names as ‘Mihir‘, ‘Prabhasa,’ etc.
Bhoja-I was succeeded by his son Mahendrapala-I about A.D. 885.
Mahendrapala-I also extended the boundaries of his empire. During his reign, the Pratihara Empire stretched almost from the Himalayas in the north to the Vindhyas in the south and from Bengal in the east to Gujarat in the west.
Mahendrapala-I was also known as ‘Mahendrayudha’, and ‘Nirbhayanarendra.’ He was a liberal patron of learned men.
Rajashehara was learned man of his court. He had written Karpuramanjari, Bala-Ramayana, Bala Bharata, Kavyamimansa, Bhuvana Kosha, and Haravilasa.
The Pratiharas dynasty dominated north India for over two hundred years from the 8th century to the 10th century A.D.
Arab scholar, Al-Masudi, visited India in A.D. 915-916.
Al-Masudi mentioned about the great powers and prestige of the Pratihara rulers and the vastness of their empire.
Al-Masudi says that empire of AI-Juzr (Gurjara) had 1,800,000 villages, the cities and rural areas were about 2,000 km in length and 2,000 km in breadth.
The Rashtrakuta king, Indra-II again attacked Kanauj between A.D. 915 and A.D. 918 and completely destroyed it. This weakened the Pratihara Empire.
Krishna-III was other Rashtrakuta ruler invaded north India in about A.D. 963. He defeated the Pratihara rulers. This led to decline of Pratihara Empire.
The Pratiharas were patrons of learning and literature.
Rajashekhar (Sanskrit poet) lived at the court of Mahendrapala-I.
The Pratihara kings were followers of Hinduism.
They build with many fine buildings and temples at Kanauj.
The epigraphic records show that the building of temples and the educational institutions attached with them, formed community projects, in which the entire village community participated.
Many Indian scholars went to the court of the Caliph at Baghdad along with embassies. However, the names of the Indian kings are not known who sent these embassies.
This interaction between India and Arab led to the spread of Indian culture, literature, and science, especially mathematics, algebra, and medicine to the Arab world from where these were further transmitted to Europe.
Although the Pratiharas were well known for their aggression to the Arab rulers of Sindh.
Despite all this, the movement of scholars and trade between India and west Asia remained uninterrupted.