Several major ruling dynasties emerged in different parts of the subcontinent between the seventh and twelfth centuries.
The major ruling dynasties in different parts of the subcontinent between the seventh and twelfth centuries
The Emergence of New Dynasties
By the 7th century, different regions of the subcontinent had big landlords and warrior chiefs, who were acknowledged as the subordinates or samantas by the existing kings.
- They had to bring gifts for their kings and overloads and had to be present at their courts and provide military support.
- However, as these samantas gained power and wealth they declared themselves as maha-samanta, maha-mandaleshvara (the great lord of a “circle” or region), and so on.
- At times, they even asserted their independence from their overlords. Given is the example of Rashtrakutas in the Deccan, who were subordinates to the Chalukyas of Karnataka.
Dantidurga: Founder of Rashtrakuta Empire
- In the mid 8th century, Dantidurga, a Rashtrakuta chief, overthrew his Chalukya overlord and performed a ritual called hiranya-garbha (literally, the golden womb) with the help of Brahmanas.
- This ritual was thought to lead to the “rebirth” of the sacrificer as a Kshatriya, even if he was not one by birth.
- In other cases, men from enterprising families used their military skills to carve out kingdoms like the Kadamba Mayurasharman and the GurjaraPratihara Harichandra.
- They were Brahmanas who gave up their traditional professions and took to arms, successfully establishing kingdoms in Karnataka and Rajasthan respectively.
Question for Chapter Notes - New Kings and Kingdoms
Try yourself:What is the literal meaning of hiranya-garbha?
- Literal meaning of hiranya-garbha is Golden womb. Hiraṇyagarbha is the source of the creation of the universe or the manifested cosmos in Vedic philosophy, as well as an avatar of Vishnu in the Bhagavata Purana.
- Below is the Pahari painting of Golden cosmic egg Hiranyagarbha
Administration in the Kingdoms
New kings took up high-sounding titles such as maharaja-adhiraja (great king, overlord of kings), tribhuvana-chakravartin (lord of the three worlds), and so on.
King was given big titles like Maharaja-Adhiraja.
- The kings shared power with their samantas, and with the association of peasants, traders and Brahmanas.
- Resources were obtained from the producers who were persuaded to surrender part of what they produced.
- These resources were used to finance the king’s establishment and construct temples and forts.
- Functionaries for collecting revenue were recruited from influential families.
- This was true about the army as well. In many cases, close relatives of the king held these positions.
Prashastis and Land Grants
Prashastis composed by learned Brahmanas, who occasionally helped in the administration, contain details that may not be literally true but will tell us how rulers wanted to depict themselves – as valiant, victorious warriors, for example.
- Kings often rewarded Brahmanas by grants of land, which were recorded on copper plates. These plates were given to those who received the land.
A set of copper plates recording a grant of land made by a ruler
- Unusual for the 12th century was a long Sanskrit poem containing the history of kings who ruled over Kashmir composed by an author named Kalhana who was often critical about rulers and their policies, unlike other writers.
- He used a variety of sources, including inscriptions, documents, eyewitness accounts, and earlier histories, to write his account.
Question for Chapter Notes - New Kings and Kingdoms
Try yourself:Prashastis tell us how rulers wanted to depict themselves as
Prashastis, often written by learned Brahmanas, were details of the functioning of a king. They may not be literally true. They tell us how rulers wanted to depict themselves as valiant, victorious warriors, etc. Brahmanas were rewarded by grants of land which were recorded on copper plates.
Warfare for Wealth
- For centuries Gurjara-Pratihara, Rashtrakuta, and Pala's dynasties fought for control over Kannauj.
- The long-drawn conflict is known as a tripartite struggle as three parties were involved in it.
- Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni raided the subcontinent almost every year and looted temples like Somnath, Gujarat, Mahmud entrusted a scholar named al-Biruni to write an account of the subcontinent.
Other kings engaged in warfare were Chauhan, who ruled over the region around Delhi and Ajmer.
- Chauhans were engaged in conflict with Chalukyas of Gujarat and the Gahadavalas of western UP.
- Prithviraj III was a popular Chauhan ruler who defeated Afghan ruler Ghori in 1191 but lost to him in 1192.
A Closer Look: The Cholas
Cholas were from a small family of Uraiyur. The successors of Vijayalaya conquered neighbouring regions and the kingdom grew in size and power.
- Rajaraja I was considered the most powerful Chola ruler and expanded control over most of these areas.
- His son Rajendra I, conquered Sri Lanka and the countries of Southeast Asia.
- Cholas were big temple builders. Two famous temples were in Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram.
A Chola Dynasty Bronze Sculpture
- Agriculture was well developed along with various methods of irrigation.
- Settlements of peasants called ur became prosperous with the spread of irrigation in agriculture. The village council and the Nadu performed several administrative functions.
- Association of traders known as nagarams also performed administrative functions in the town.
- Inscriptions also mention about sabha. The Sabha had separate committees to look after irrigation works, gardens, temples, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q.1. Which new dynasties emerged after the 7th century in the subcontinent?
Ans: Many new dynasties emerged after the 7th century like:
- Chahamanas or Chauhan
Q.2. Who collected the revenue?
- The functionaries for collecting revenue were generally recruited from influential families.
- Their positions were often hereditary.
- This was true about the army as well.
- In many cases, close relatives of the king held these positions.
Q.3. Who was Mahmud Ghazni? How did he expand his kingdom?
- One of the best known of such rulers is Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, Afghanistan.
- He ruled from 997 to 1030 A.D.
- He extended control over parts of Central Asia, Iran, and the north-western part of the subcontinent.
- He Raided the subcontinent almost every year—his targets were wealthy temples including Somnath, Gujarat.
- He used most of the wealth to create a splendid capital city at Ghazni.
- He was interested in finding out more about the people he conquered.
- He entrusted a scholar named al-Biruni to write an account of the subcontinent.
- This Arabic work, known as the Kitab al-Hind, remains an important source for historians.
- He consulted Sanskrit scholars to prepare this account.