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For the mathematician, see Gopala (mathematician). For the protectors of cows, see Gopal (Krishna).

Gopala (ruled 750 – 770 CE) was the founder of the Pala Dynasty of Bengal. The last morpheme of his name pala means "protector" and was used as an ending for the names of all the Pala monarchs. Pala does not suggest or indicate any ethnic or caste considerations of the Pala dynasty.


Democratic election of Gopala

Gopala was the first independent Buddhist king of Bengal and came to power in 750 CE in Gaur by democratic election as per evidence furnished by Taranatha.[1] After the death of famous Gauda ruler Sasanka, there ensued a century of anarchy and confusion in Bengal. Tired of ceaseless political chaos and anarchy (known as matsyanyaya), the various independent chieftains of Bengal, in 750 CE, selected a person named Gopala to put an end to this sorry state of affairs.[2] Gopala was already a leading military general and had made a mark as a great ruler. In the Khalimpur copper plate inscription (dated 32nd regnal year of Dharmapala) Gopala's father Vapyata is described as a noted military chief of his time and his grandfather Dayita Vishnu is described as a learned man of no military distinctions. Scholars state that Vapyata came into east from north-west Panjab [3], which if true, definitely means Gandhara/Kamboja region.

Life sketch of Gopala

Not much is known about the life or military career of king Gopla but at the time of his death, Gopala had bequeathed a legacy which facilitated the creation of a great dynasty of the future by his son Dharmapala of Bengal. He is believed to have consolidated his hold on the whole of Bengal. His reign-period is not precisely known but is believed to have spanned 750 CE through 770 CE. It was his son and successor Dharmapala (770-810 CE) who really made the Palas a pre-dominant power of Northern India.

Religious leanings

Taranatha, a Tibetan historian, attests that Gopala was a staunch Buddhist and had built famous Buddhist monastery at Otantapura.[4]

Ethnicity of Gopala

The ethnicity of Gopala or his progeny is not clearly stated in any of the numerous Pala records. According to Manjuśree Mūlakalpa, Gopala I was a Śudra[5][6]. But Gopala is also stated to have belonged to Kshatriya lineage. Khalimpur Plate of Dharmapala, son of Gopala I (the founder of the dynasty), states that Gopala was a son of a warrior (Khanditarat) Vapyata and grandson of a highly educated (Saryavidyavadat) Dayitavishnu[7] [8]. According to Taranath,[9] Gopala was born of a Kshatriya family (of low origin) near Pundravardhan (north Bengal) and was later selected a ruler of Bhangala (Vangala)[10].

Ramacharita of Sandhyakar Nandi, a court poet of later Palas, states that the Pala dynasty belonged to Samudrakula or Ocean lineage. It is not clear what this really means. Probably, this holds a clue that the ancestors of the Palas belonged to a shipping community of Kshatriya cum-trading group who conducted trade via sea with other nations. This may allude to their probable links with the northwest Kambojas who are also attested to have been both a Kshatriyas as well as traders class (varatta-shastropajivins).[11]

The Kamauli Grant of king Vaidyadeva of Kamarupa (modern Assam) connects the Palas to 'Surya lineage' (Mihirasya vamsa)[12][13]. This may again imply their probable connections with the ancient Kambojas who were indisputably of Mihirasya vamsa i.e. Sun/Fire worshipping Iranians.[14]. As stated above, Gopala's father Vapyata, is said to have come into east (probably as mercenary military adventurer), from north-west Panjab which, if true, also links the Palas with the Gandhara/Kamboja lineage.

Ramachrita further states that Varendri or North Bengal was the fatherland (Janakabhu) of the Palas.[15] Mention may be made here of the fact that there was a flourishing city named Gour in Iran (Firuzabad). Another fact that complicates history is that there was also a Kanauj (Kohnouj) here. As in the case of his son, Gopala's dominion may also have included the Yavana lands.

The Pala relations with Kambojas also appear probable from the fact that Pala king Devapala had brought Viradeva, a renowned scholar from Nagarahara, Jalalabad near Kabul (Kamboja) and appointed him to a very important and prestigious post of Abbot of Nalanda in south Bihar[16]. Probably, Devapala had brought Viradeva during his military expedition to Kamboja in north-west[17].

Preceded by
Gupta Empire
Pala Emperor
750 - 770 CE
Succeeded by

See also


  1. ^ History of Buddhism in India, Translation: A. Shiefner.
  2. ^ The Age of Imperial Kanauj, History and Culture of Indian People, 1964, p 45, Dr R. C. Majumdar, Dr A. D. Pusalkar.
  3. ^ The Place of Assam in the History and Civilization of India, 1970, p 20, Dr S. K. Chatterjee, Published by Dept. of Publication, University of Gauhati.
  4. ^ History of Buddhism in India, Translation by A Shiefner
  5. ^ The History and Culture of the Pālas of Bengal and Bihar, Cir. 750 A.D.-cir ..., 1939, p 37, Jhunu Bagchi - History.
  6. ^ See also: Indian Antiquary, Vol IV, 1875, pp 365-66; Corpus of Bengal Inscriptions, Mukerjee and Maity, p 11; Caste and Chronology of the Pala kings of Bengal, J. C. Ghosh, The Indian Historical Quarterly, IX, 1983, pp 487-90; The Caste of the Palas, The Indian Culture, Vol IV, 1939, pp 113-14, B Chatterji; Social Change in Modern India, 1995, p 9, M N Srinivas; Modern India: An Interpretive Antholog, 1971, p 115, Thomas R. Metcalf - History.
  7. ^ Epigraphia Indica, Vol IV, p 243ff; Gaudalekhamala, p 9, A. K. Maitreya.
  8. ^ Ancient India, 2003, p 648, Dr V. D. Mahajan
  9. ^ Op cit.
  10. ^ The Age of Imperial Kanauj, History and Culture of Indian People, 1964, p 45, Dr R. C. Majumdar, Dr A. D. Pusalkar; Indian Culture, 1934, p 113, Indian Research Institute - India; Paradise of Gods, 1966, p 174, Qamarud Din Ahmed - West Pakistan (Pakistan).
  11. ^ Kautaliya Arthashastra, 11.1.4; Brhat Samhita of Varahamihira, 5/35; Mahabharata 7.23.42.
  12. ^ Epigraphia Indica, XXIV, p 43, Dr N. G. Majumdar; Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, p 316, Dr J. L. Kamboj; For Samdurakula and Sun lineage, also cf History and Culture of Indian People, The Age of Imperial Kanauj, p 44, Dr Majumdar, Dr Pusalkar
  13. ^
  14. ^ The expression Mihirasya means connected with or relating to the Sun or Sun Worship (Sanskrit Mitra, Persian Mithira == > Mihira = Sun). According to Bhavishya Purana, the Mihira lineage originated from the union of Nishkubha, daughter of Rsi Rijihva and the Sun (Mihira) (Dr D. R. Bhandarkar, Dr Buddha Parkash). From this wedlock was born a sage called Zarashata, who apparently is Zoroaster of the Iranian traditions. Mihirasya Vamsa means Mihira Vamsa which is also found written as Mihirkula i.e., lineage of the Sun-worshippers. The Kamauli Grant thus holds a probable clue that the Palas may have come from the Sun-Worshipping lineage i.e., Iranian or Zoroastrian line of the Kambojas.
  15. ^ Ibid.
  16. ^ Cf: Advanced History of India, 1973, p 166, Dr R. C. Majumdar, Dr H. C. Raychaudhury, Dr. K. Datta; History and Culture of Benga1963, p 54,Atul Kumar Sur - Bengal (India); Brief History of Sanskrit Literature, Vedic and Classical, 1933, p 173, K. Bhattachariya.
  17. ^ Military History of India, 1980, p 88, H. C. Kar.


  • Majumdar R.C. and A.D. Pusalkar. History and Culture of Indian People, Vol. IV: The Age of Imperial Kanauj, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1964.
  • Ramacharita by Sandhyakar Nandi
  • Mahajan, V.D. (1960, Reprint 2007), Ancient India, S. Chand & Company, New Delhi, ISBN 81-219-0887-6.
  • Ancient Kamboja, People and the Country, 1981, Dr J. L. Kamboj
  • Epigraphia Indica, XVIII
  • Epigraphia Indica, II
  • Indian Antiquary, XV


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