In northern India, the post-Gupta age largely comprised of an age of various small kingdoms. However, among these small kingdoms, there were three big kingdoms (between A.D. 750 and 1,000), namely −
All these kingdoms recurrently fought with each other and tried to gain control over northern India; however, none of them succeeded for any length of time.
Struggle for Kanauj
Kanauj was the capital of Harsha and was an important city; hence, many of the campaigns in northern India were fought over the city of Kanauj.
Kanauj was geographically located in the northern plain; a strategic point from where it was easy to control the Ganga valley.
Three major kingdoms were involved in this struggle to control Kanauj; Modern Historians prefer to call them ‘tripartite (i.e. three parties) struggle for Kanauj.’ The three kingdoms were the Rashtrakutas, the Pratiharas, and the Palas.
The Rashtrakuta Kingdom
The Rashtrakutas’ kingdom was located in the northern Deccan i.e. the region around Nasik and its capital was at Malkhed (as shown in the image given below). Malkhed was not only a beautiful, but also a prosperous city.
Amoghavarsha (800 to 878 A.D.), was not only an ambitious, but also was a great emperor of Rashtrakuta kingdom.
The Pratihara Kingdom
The Pratiharas after their success with the Arabs, took their armies eastwards and by the end of the eighth century had captured Kanauj.
The Pala Kingdom
The Palas, who ruled for about four hundred years and their kingdom consisted of almost the whole of Bengal and much of Bihar, was also interested to control Kanauj.
The first king of the Pala dynasty was Gopala. He was elected as a king by the nobles after the death of the previous ruler (died without an heir). Therefore, Gopala was the founder of the Pala dynasty.
Dharmapala, son and successor of Gopal, though attempted to make the dynasty more powerful, but during the early phase of his reign, he was defeated by the Rashtrakuta king.
Dharmapala, later, reorganized his power partly by building a strong army and partly by making alliances with the neighboring kingdoms and prepared himself to attack Kanauj.
The Palas could not hold Kanauj for a long. The Pratiharas recovered their strength during the reign of king Bhoja. Bhoja ruled from about A D. 836 to 882 and was the most distinguished king of northern India.
Bhoja recaptured Kanauj for the Pratiharas. But later he was defeated by the powerful Rashtrakuta king, Dhruva.
Sulaiman, an Arab Merchant had written that the ‘Juzr‘ was a powerful king ruling over a rich kingdom.
Many historians believe that ‘Juzr’ probably the Arabic name given to Gujarat and the king mentioned by Sulaiman was probably Bhoja. Bhoja is also remembered for his interest in literature and for his patronage of Vaishnavism.
Some of his coins, introduced by Bhoja have a picture of the varaha (boar) – an incarnation of Vishnu. Further, he also took the title of ‘adivaraha.’
Within a hundred years of time, all three important kingdoms (discussed above) had declined. Later Chalukyas kingdom emerged in the same area where the Rashtrakutas had ruled.
The Pala kingdom was threatened by Chola armies and was later ruled by the Sena dynasty. The Pratihara kingdom had broken into a number of states, some of which were associated with the rise of the Rajputs.