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Gurjara Pratihara Empire
Indian Kanauj triangle map.svg
     Extent of Pratihara, 780 C.E.
Official languages Sanskrit
Capital Kannauj
Government Monarchy
Preceding state Harsha
Succeeding states Rathors, Delhi Sultanate

The Gurjara Pratihara Empire (Hindi गुर्जर प्रतिहार Gurjara Pratihâra), also known as Gurjar Parihars[1], formed an Indian dynasty that ruled much of Northern India from the 6th to the 11th centuries. At its peak of prosperity and power (c. 836–910), it rivaled the Gupta Empire in the extent of its territory.[2]



According to a legend given in later manuscripts of Prithviraj Raso, the Gurjar Pratiharas were one of the Agnikula clans of Rajputs, deriving their origin from a sacrificial fire-pit (agnikunda) at Mount Abu. The myth is apparently absurd.[3]

Historians such as Hermann Kulke, Dietmar Rothermund stated that Kannauj was capital of imperial Gurjara Pratiharas.[4][5][6].

The Pratihara dynasty is referred to as Gurjara pratiharanvayah, i.e., Pratihara clan of the Gurjaras, in line 4 of the "Rajor inscription (Alwar)".[7][8][9] Vincent Smith believed that the Pratiharas were certainly of Gurjara (or Gujjar) origin, and stated that there is possibility of other Agnikula Rajput clans being of same origin.[10] Dr. K. Jamanadas also states that the Pratihara clan of Rajputs descended from the Gujjars, and this "raises a strong presumption that the other Rajput clans also are the descendants from the Gurjaras or the allied foreign immigrants".[11] D. B. Bhandarkar also believed that Pratiharas were a clan of Gujjars.[12] In his book The Glory that was Gujardesh (1943), Gurjar writer K. M. Munshi stated that the Pratiharas and some other Rajput clans were of Gujjar (or Gurjar) origin.

However, H. A. Rose and Denzil Ibbetson stated that there is no conclusive proof that the Agnikula Rajput clans are of Gurjara origin; they believed that there is possibility of the indigenous tribes adopting Gurjara names, when their founders were enfiefed by Gurjara rulers.[10] Dasrath sharma believed that Gurjara was applied for territory and conceded that although some sections of the Pratiharas (eg. the one to which Mathanadeva belonged) were Gujjars by caste, the imperial Pratiharas of Kannauj were not Gujjars.[13][14]

The author Rama Shankar Tripathi asserts that a close perusal of the Rajor inscription confirms the Gurjara origin of the Pratiharas. In line 12 of this inscription, occur words which have been translated as "together with all the neighbouring fields cultivated by the Gurjaras". Here, the cultivators themselves are clearly called Gurjaras.[15] The Rashtrakuta records, as well as the Arab writers like Abu Zaid and Al-Masudi (who allude their fights with the Juzr or Gurjara of the north) indicate the Gurjara origin of the Pratiharas.[15] The Kanarese poet Pampa expressly calls Mahipala Ghurjararaja. This ephithet could hardly be applied to him, if the term Ghurjararaja bore a geographical sense denoting what after all was only a small portion of Mahipala's vast territories.[15] Tripathi believes that all these evidences point to the Gurjara ancestry of the Pratiharas.


Gurjar pratihar rulers (650-1036)
Dadda I (650 - ?)
Dadda II
Dadda III (? - 750)
Nagabhata I (750 - 780)
Vatsraj (780 - 800)
Nagabhata II (800 - 833)
Rambhadra (833 - 835)
Mihir Bhoja the Great (835 - 890)
Mahenderpal 1 (890 - 910)
Bhoj II (910 - 913)
Mahipal 1 (913 - 944)
Mahenderpal II (944 - 948)
Devpal (948 - 954)
Vinaykpal (954 - 955)
Mahipal II (955 - 956)
Vijaypal II (956 - 960)
Rajapala (960 - 1018)
Trilochanpala (1018 - 1027)
Jasapala (Yashpal) (1024 - 1036)
Court Poet Rajshekhara

Harichandra is said to have laid the foundation of this dynasty in the 6th century. The Harichandra line of Pratihar Gurjar established the state of Marwar, based at Mandore near modern Jodhpur, which grew to dominate Rajasthan. The Pratihara kings of Marwar also built the temple-city of Osian.

Nagabhata I (730-756) extended his control east and south from Mandor, conquering Malwa as far as Gwalior and the port of Bharuch in Gujarat. He established his capital at Avanti in Malwa, and checked the expansion of the Arabs, who had established themselves in Sind. In this Battle of Rajasthan (738 CE) Nagabhata led a confedracy of Gurjars to defeat the Muslim Arabs who had till then been pressing on victorious through West Asia and Iran. Nagabhata I was followed by two weak successors, who were in turn succeeded by Vatsraja (775-805).

Varaha (the boar-headed Vishnu avatar), on a Pratihara coin. 850-900 CE. British Museum.

Vatsraj sought to capture Kannauj, which had been the capital of the seventh-century empire of Harsha. His ambitions brought the Pratiharas into conflict with the Pala dynasty of Bengal and the Rashtrakutas of the northern Deccan, with whom they would contest for primacy in northern India for the next two centuries. Vatsraja unsuccessfully challenged the Pala ruler Dharmapala (c. 775-810) for control of Kannauj. In about 786 the Rashtrakuta ruler Dhruva (c. 780-793) crossed the Narmada River into Malwa, and from there tried to capture Kannauj. Vatsraja was defeated by Dhruva around 800, and died in 805.

Vatsraj was succeeded by Nagabhata II (805-833). Nagabhata II was initially defeated by the Rashtrakuta king Govinda III (793-814), but later recovered Malwa from the Rashtrakutas, conquered Kannauj and the Ganges plain as far as Bihar from the Palas, and again checked the Muslims in the west. He rebuilt the great Shiva temple at Somnath in Gujarat, which had been demolished in an Arab raid from Sind. Kannauj became the center of the Gurjar Pratihara state, which covered much of northern India during the peak of their power, c. 836-910.

Rambhadra (833-c. 836) briefly succeeded Nagabhata II . Bhoja I or Mihir Bhoja (c. 836-886) suffered some initial defeats by the Pala king Devapala (810-850), but recovered to expand the Gurjar dominions west to the border of Sind, east to Magadha, and south to the Narmada. His son Mahenderpal 1 (890 - 910) expanded further eastwards in Magadha, Bengal, and Assam. Junaid, the successor of Qasim, finally subdued the Hindu resistance within Sindh. Taking advantage of the conditions in Western India, which at that time was covered with several small states, Junaid led a large army into the region in early 738 CE. Dividing this force into two he plundered several cities in southern Rajasthan, western Malwa, and Gujarat. The Arab chroniclers claim that he acquired immense wealth, slaughtered large numbers of infidels.

Bhoja II (910-912) was overthrown by Mahipal 1 (912-914). Several feudatories of the empire took advantage of the temporary weakness of the Gurjar Pratiharas to declare their independence, notably the Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandelas of Bundelkhand, and the Kalachuris of Mahakoshal. The Rashtrakuta king Indra III (c.914-928) briefly captured Kannauj in 916, and although the Pratiharas regained the city, their position continued to weaken in the 10th century, partly as a result of the drain of simultaneously fighting off Turkic attacks from the west and the Pala advances in the east. The Gurjar-Pratiharas lost control of Rajasthan to other Rajput clans, and the Chandelas captured the strategic fortress of Gwalior in central India, c. 950. By the end of the tenth century the Gurjar Pratihara domains had dwindled to a small kingdom centered on Kannauj. Mahmud of Ghazni sacked Kannauj in 1018, and the Pratihara king Rajapala fled. The Chandela ruler Gauda captured and killed Rajapala, placing Rajapala's son Trilochanpala on the throne as a proxy. Jasapala, the last Gurjar king of Kanauj, died in 1036.

The Pariharas of Mandore, Marwar lost control of the region in the 13th century to the Rathor clan of Rajputs. In 1395, Chundaji Rathore married a Parihar princess named Mohil. The Parihar Raja Dhara Singh established the state of Nagod in 1344, and his descendants ruled there until 1950. It can be understood from many Arabic sources that armies of the Muslim invaders greatly feared the might of the Gurjar Pratiharas.

The Persian traveler Ahmad ibn Rustah praised the Gujara-Pratihara ruler Mihir Bhoja I in his Kitāb al-A'lāk an-Nafīsa thus:[16]

In Hind there is a Malik (king) who is called Al-juzar (Gujar). Such is awdl (justice) in his kingdom, if the gold is dropped in the way, there is no danger of its being picked up and stolen away by any body. His empire is very vast. Arab traders go to him, he makes ahsan (favour) to them, purchases merchandise from them; the purchase and sale are carried in gold coin called tatri. When the Arabs request him to provide a body guard, he says, there is no thief in my empire. If there is any incident or loss to your goods, merchandise and money I stand surety. Come to me, I will pay the compensation.

Gurjara Pratihara art

Stone pillar representing Gurjar-Pratihara art.

The Gurjara-Pratihara kings were great builders.Mihir Bhoj, was the most outstanding rulers of the dynasty.Notable sculptures of this period, include Viswaroopa form of Vishnu and Marriage of Siva and Parvati from Kannauj. Beautifully carved panels are also seen on the walls of temples standing at Osian, Abhaneri and Kotah.The female figure named as Sursundari exhibited in Gwalior Museum is one of the most charming sculptures of the Gurjara-Pratihara art.[17]

Gurjar Pratihar rulers also built many Jain temples.[18]

Battle of Rajasthan

Stone pillar representing Gurjar-Pratihara art.
Chaturbhuja Temple,Gwalior built during reign of the Gurjara Pratihara dynasty

Junaid, the successor of Qasim, finally subdued the Hindu resistance within Sindh. Taking advantage of the conditions in Western India, which at that time was covered with several small states, Junaid led a large army into the region in early 738 CE. Dividing this force into two he plundered several cities in southern Rajasthan, western Malwa, and Gujarat. The Arab chroniclers claim that he acquired immense wealth, slaughtered large numbers of infidels, and returned.

Indian inscriptions confirm this invasion but record the Arab success only against the smaller states in Gujarat. They also record the defeat of the Arabs at two places. The southern army moving south into Gujarat was repulsed at Navsari by the Solankis and Rashtrakutas. The army that went east, after sacking several places, reached Avanti whose ruler Nagabhatta (Gurjar Pratihara) trounced the invaders and forced them to flee. After his victory Nagabhatta took advantage of the disturbed conditions to acquire control over the numerous small states up to the border of Sindh.

Junaid probably died from the wounds inflicted in the battle with the Gurjara Pratihara. His successor Tamin organized a fresh army and attempted to avenge Junaid’s defeat towards the close of the year 738 CE. But this time Nagabhatta, with his Chauhan and Guhilot feudatories, met the Muslim army before it could leave the borders of Sindh. The battle resulted in the complete rout of the Arabs who fled broken into Sindh with the Rajput clans close behind them.

In the words of the Arab chronicler, a place of refuge to which the Muslims might flee was not to be found. The Arabs crossed over to the other side of the River Indus, abandoning all their lands to the victorious Hindus. The local chieftains took advantage of these conditions to re-establish their independence. Subsequently the Arabs constructed the city of Mansurah on the other side of the wide and deep Indus, which was safe from attack. This became their new capital in Sindh. Thus began the reign of the Imperial Gurjar-Pratiharas and the Rajput period of Indian History.

In the Gwalior inscription it is recorded that Gurjar King Nagabhatta crushed the large army of the powerful Mlechcha king. This large army consisted of cavalry, infantry, siege artillery, and probably a force of camels. Since Tamin was a new governor he had a force of Syrian cavalry from Damascus, local Arab contingents, converted Hindus of Sindh, and foreign mercenaries like the Turks. All together the invading army may have had anywhere between 10-15,000 cavalry, 5000 infantry, and 2000 camels.

The Arab chronicler Sulaiman describes the army of the Imperial Pratiharas as it stood in 851 CE, The king of Gurjars maintains numerous forces and no other Indian prince has so fine a cavalry. He is unfriendly to the Arabs, still he acknowledges that the king of the Arabs is the greatest of kings. Among the princes of India there is no greater foe of the Islamic faith than he. He has got riches, and his camels and horses are numerous.[19]

But at the time of the Battle of Rajasthan the Gurjar Pratihars had only just risen to power. In fact Nagabhatta was their first prominent ruler. But the composition of his army, which was predominantly cavalry, is clear from the description. There are other anecdotal references to the Indian kings and commanders riding elephants to have a clear view of the battlefield. The infantry stood behind the elephants and the cavalry formed the wings and advanced guard.

At the time of the battle the Gurjar Pratihara may have had up to 5000 cavalry, while their Guhilot and Chauhan feudatories may have had 2000 horsemen each, added to which we may include infantry, camels, and elephants. So all told the Hindu and Muslim armies were evenly matched with the better cavalry in the former.

Later events

Following their victory the Gurjar Pratiharas (Parihar) spread their rule over North India. The Guhilots under their leader Bappa Rawal captured Chittor from the Mori Rajputs (who had been weakened by the Arab raid) and the Chauhans established a kingdom in North Rajasthan. Along with their Parihar overlords these clans formed a recognized clan hierarchy (miscalled feudalism), and a hereditary ownership of lands and forts, both of which are hallmarks of the Rajput clan-system. While the word Rajput is derived from the Sanskrit Rajaputra in the Vedic texts, the history of the Rajputs really begins with the clan confederacy that defeated the Arab invaders.

The Arabs in Sindh took a long time to recover from their defeat. In the early 9th Century the governor Bashar attempted an invasion of India but was defeated by Nagabhatta II and his subordinates, Govindraja Chauhan and Khommana II Guhilot. Even a naval expedition sent by the Caliphs was defeated by the Saindhava Rajputs of Kathiawar. After this the Arab chroniclers admit that the Caliph Mahdi, “gave up the project of conquering any part of India.”

The Arabs in Sindh lost all power and broke up into two warring states of Mansurah and Multan, both of which paid tribute to the Gurjar Pratiharas. The local resistance in Sindh, which had not yet died out and was inspired by the victories of their Rajput neighbors manifested itself when the foreign rulers were overthrown and Sindh came under its own half-converted Hindu dynasties like the Sumras and Sammas.

Legacy of the Empire

Pointing out the importance of the Gurjara Pratihara empire in the history of India. Dr. R.C. Majumdar has observed, "the Gurjara Pratihara Empire which continued in full glory for nearly a century, was the last great empire in Northern India before the Muslim conquest. This honour is accorded to the empire of Harsha by many historians of repute but without any real justification, for the Pratihara empire was probably larger, certainly not less in extent rivalled the Gupta Empire and brought political unity and its attendent blessings upon a large part of Northern India. But its chief credit lies in its succecessful resistance to the foreign invasions from the west, from the days of Junaid. This was frankly recognised by the Arab writers themselves.

Historians of India, since the days of Eliphinstone, has wondered at slow progress of Muslim invaders in India compared to their rapid advance in other parts of the world. Arguments of doubtful validity have often been put forward to explain this unique phenomenon. Now there can be little doubt that it was the power of the Gurjara Pratihara army that effectively barred the progress of the Muslims beyond the confines of Sindh, their first conquest for nearly three hundred years. In the light of later events this might be regarded as the "Chief contibution of the Gurjara Pratiharas to the history of India".[20]

See also

Middle kingdoms of India
Timeline: Northern Empires Southern Dynasties Northwestern Kingdoms

 6th century BCE
 5th century BCE
 4th century BCE

 3rd century BCE
 2nd century BCE

 1st century BCE
 1st century CE

 2nd century
 3rd century
 4th century
 5th century
 6th century
 7th century
 8th century
 9th century
10th century
11th century

(Persian rule)
(Greek conquests)

(Islamic conquests)

(Islamic Empire)


  1. ^ Panchānana Rāya (1939). A historical review of Hindu India: 300 B. C. to 1200 A. D.. I. M. H. Press. p. 125. 
  2. ^ TheFreeDictionary
  3. ^ Rama Shankar Tripathi (1989). History of Kanauj: To the Moslem Conquest. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 221. ISBN 812080404X, ISBN 9788120804043. 
  4. ^ Kulke, Hermann. A history of India (4, illustrated ed.). Routledge, 2004. pp. 432 pages. ISBN 0415329205, IBSN 9780415329200. "In 9th century the Gurjara Pratiharas kings, Bhoja (836-885) and Mahendrapala (885-910), proved to be more powerful than their contemporaries of the other two dynasties whom they defeated several times. Kannauj then emerged as the main focus of power in India." 
  5. ^ Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra. The History and Culture of the Indian People: The classical age. G. Allen & Unwin, original from-the University of Michigan. "Rajasekharan, the great poet and playwright at the Gurjara-pratihara court of Kannauj.." 
  6. ^ Chopra, Pran Nath (2003). A comprehensive history of ancient India. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. pp. 196. ISBN 8120725034, ISBN 9788120725034. "Al-Masudi who visited his (Gurjara Mahipala) court, also refers to the great power and resources of the Gurjara pratihara rules of Kannauj." 
  7. ^ Rama Shankar Tripathi (1999). History of ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 318. ISBN 8120800184, ISBN 9788120800182. 
  8. ^ University of Kerala, Dept. of History (1963). Journal of Indian history, Volume 41. Dept. of History, University of Kerala, Original from the University of California. pp. 765. "Gurjara-Prathiranvaya, of the Rajor inscription, which was incised more than a hundred years later than Bhoja's Gwalior prasasti, nearly fifty years later than the works of the poet Rajasekhara." 
  9. ^ Chopra, Pran Nath (2003). A comprehensive history of ancient India. Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd. pp. 196. ISBN 8120725034, ISBN 9788120725034. "Al-Masudi who visited his (Gurjara mahipala) court, also refers to the great power and resources of the Gurjara pratihara rules of Kannauj." 
  10. ^ a b Rose, Horace Arthur (1990). Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North West Frontier Province. Asian Educational Services. pp. 300. ISBN 8120605055. 
  11. ^ Jamanadas, K.. "Rajput Period Was Dark Age Of India". Decline And Fall Of Buddhism: A tragedy in Ancient India. New Delhi: Bluemoon Books. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  12. ^ Bhandarkar, Devadatta Ramakrishna (1989). Some Aspects of Ancient Indian Culture. Asian Educational Services. pp. 64. ISBN 8120604571. 
  13. ^ Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra (2002) [1976]. Readings in Political History of India, Ancient, Mediaeval, and Modern. B.R. Pub. Corp (on behalf of Indian Society for Prehistoric and Quaternary Studies), D.K. Publishers' Distributors. pp. 209. "But he(Mr. sharma) refused to believe that the Imperial Pratiharas of Kanauj were also Gujars in this sense." 
  14. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India, vol. 2. Digital South Asia Library. pp. 320. Retrieved 2007-05-31. "But whatever our theories regarding the infusion of Gujar blood among the Rajputs, there was certainly no Gurjara (Gujar) empire in Northern India" 
  15. ^ a b c Rama Shankar Tripathi (1989). History of Kanauj: To the Moslem Conquest. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 222. ISBN 812080404X, ISBN 9788120804043. 
  16. ^ Ibne Rustah. Kitsbul Alaq Al-Nafisa Part 4. p. 134. 
  17. ^ Jayantika Kala (1988). Epic scenes in Indian plastic art. Abhinav Publications. p. 5. ISBN 8170172284, ISBN 9788170172284. 
  18. ^ Jain Tirths. "Gurjar Pratihar". 
  19. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of Ancient India: Earliest Times to 1000 A. D.. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 207. ISBN 812690027X,ISBN 9788126900275. "The king of Gurjars maintain numerous faces and no other Indian prince has so fine a cavalry .He has" 
  20. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of Ancient India: Earliest Times to 1000 A. D.. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 207 to 208. ISBN 812690027X, ISBN 9788126900275. 


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