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The Northern Kingdoms              [648 AD - 1000 AD]


Three powerful kingdoms arose between 750 AD and 1000 AD out of the ruins of Harsha's empire. The Rashtrakutas of the Deccan, the Palas of Bengal and the Pratiharas, who controlled parts of Malwa and Rajasthan. All three were continuously engaged in a struggle over Kanauj. Each of them occupied Kanauj in turns, but finally the wars weakened them and led to their decline. The Rashtrakutas were replaced by the later Chalukyas, the Palas by the Sena dynasty and the Prathihara kingdom broke up into smaller kingdoms.


The Pala empire was probably founded in 750 AD. For about a hundred years, from the middle of the 8th to the middle of the 9th century, the Pala rulers dominated eastern India. The Nalanda university which had been famous all over the eastern world was revived. The Palas had close trade contacts and cultural links with South-East Asia. Early in the twelfth century, they were replaced by the Sena dynasty, which reversed the Palas' traditional support of Buddhism and encouraged Hindu orthodoxy.


Of the three empires, the Rashtrakuta's lasted the longest. Not only was it the most powerful of the time, but it also acted as a bridge between north and south India. Amoghavarsha (814 AD - 880 AD) is probably the best remembered of the Rashtrakuta kings. His long reign was distinguished for its royal patronage of Jainism and the flourishing of regional literature. By the end of the tenth century, the second line of the Chalukyas brought the Rashtrakuta kingdom within their control.


They are also called Gurjara-Pratiharas, probably because they originated from Gurjarata or south-western Rajasthan. The real founder of the Pratihara empire and the greatest ruler of the dynasty was Mihir Bhoja. He recovered Kanauj by about 836, and it remained the capital of the Pratiharas for almost a century. Between 915 AD and 918 AD, Kanauj was attacked by a Rashtrakuta king, who devastated the city leading to the weakening of the Pratihara empire. The empire broke up into a number of smaller kingdoms, some of which were ruled by Rajput princes. Five of the larger ones were the Chauhans of Rajasthan, Gahrwals of Kanauj, Solankis of Gujarat, Paramaras of Malwa and the Chandels of Bundelkhand.

Language, Culture and Architecture

Regional languages emerged fast. Early forms of Marathi and Gujarati were being spoken in western India and Bengali, Assamese and Oriya came up in eastern India. During this time, there arose such splendid temples as those at Khajuraho, Kanchipuram and Thanjavur. Of special note are the temples of Bhubaneshwar, Puri and Konark in Orissa. Miniature painting which flourished in Mughals began in this period.