In age of Rashtrakutas

every village had its own army subdivision . This can also explain why Turks rule could never penetrate rural centres in the nation

army villages



Stuff from the book – “The Imperial Age of Kannauj” written by Shri KM Munshi

In this thread I will post stuff from the book – “The Imperial Age of Kannauj” written by Shri KM Munshi.
It deals with the period of roughly 700-1000 CE and the tripartite struggle for supremacy btw Rashtrakutas, Pratiharas & Palas and the emergence of Kannauj as a power centre
It was an age of great achievement for Hindus. The all conquering Arabs were beaten back and Nepal was taken back from Tibetans. Rashtrakutas were based in the South, Pratiharas in North West and Palas in Bengal.
A little background. Area btw Haridwar and Unnao was called Aryavarta in post Vedic times, later on the name was used for entire Bharata and Madhyadesha was used for the original area(current state of UP).
When the North was overrun by the Hunas…
…during the last phase of Gupta empire around mid 500s, a liberator named Isanavarman from Kannuaj drove out the Hunas and thus the city came into prominence
Forward to 712 the Arabs had conquered Sindh and in 725 under gov Junaid invaded the mainland overruning Saurashtra and reached Ujjain. At this time a hero by the name Naghabhata emerged and rallied the various Kshatriya clans of Raj, Guj, MP….
…faced the invading Arabs and inflicted a crushing defeat on them and thereby laying the foundation of the Gurjara-Pratihara empire. Gurjara refers to area of South Raj and Gujarat
The Rashtrakuta was founded by Dantidurga around 750, he was a fuedatory of the Chalukyan Empire and overthrew it.
Prior to that he helped the Chalukyan king Vikramaditya II defeat an Arab invasion alongside the Gujarat fuedatory Pulakesin…
…in the Battle of Navsari in 738 ending Arab designs of conquering Gujarat. Dantidurga set up his capital in the city of Manyakheta near modern day Sholapur.
He then expanded northwards defeating the Pratiharas near Ujjain.
The Pala empire too is established around 750 when the eminent men in Bengal elected Gopala(hence the name Palas) as their king to end the anarchy prevelant in those parts.
All three wanted to control Kannauj and the nearby Ganga valley.
Nagabhata was succeeded by Vatsaraja, Gopala by Dharamapala and Dantidurga by Dhruva.
Vatsaraja made the first move and marched on Kannauj. The ruler of Kannauj, Indrayudha accepted his suzerainty…
Dharampala decided to march on Kannauj from his base in Bengal.
Vatsraja gathered his foces and met Dharampala somewhere in the Gangetic doab.
Vatsraja won a convincing victory and captured Dharampala’s imperial standards.
At the same time Dhruva had gathered his forces…
along the banks of Narmada and was waiting for the right time to strike.
After the Pala-Pratihar battle mentiond above he crossed the Narmada and met Vatsraja’s army near Jhansi.
The Pratihara army was completely routed and Vatsraja had to take refugee in the deserts of Rajputana
Dhruva then turned towards the remaining Pala army in the Doab. He gained a quick victory and Dharampala retreated into Bengal. The damage suffered by the Pratiharas was much more severe than the Palas.
Dhruva was far away from his base and was old thus couldn’t press further…
..into Kannauj. Armed with glory and rich booty he returned back into Deccan.
Dharampala had gotten away with a good part of his army intact. With the Pratiharas badly damaged this left the North on a platter for Dharampala.
He marched on Kannauj and defeated Indrayudha…
..installed his own puppet king Chakrayudha on the throne of Kannauj.
Dharamapala held his court in Kannauj in a victory celebration where many northern chieftains came and paid tribute to him accepting his overlordship. Thus Dharampala became lord of the North for a brief period
Nagabhata I was succeeded by his son Nagabhta II, an able and energetic ruler who revived the Pratihara empire. He secured his western flank by defeating the Arabs and then secured the southern flank against the Rashtrakutas whose new king Govinda III, son of Dhruva was facing… internal rebellion by his brother.
Nagabhata then marched on Kannauj and captured it from Chakrayudha, the Pala puppet.
Dharampala gathered his army and met Nagabhata. The Pratiharas won a decisive victory and Dharampala retreated back.
But history was to repeat itself.
Govinda had consolidated his power by now and decided to follow his father’s footsteps.
He crossed the Narmada and met Nagabhata’s army in Bundelkhand.
Rashtrakutas won again and Nagabhata retreated back into Rajputana.
Dharampala and Chakrayudha submitted to Govinda(they proba..
.bly invited Govinda to attack Nagabhata). Satisfied with the win Govinda went back to Deccan and Dharampala once again extended his sway over large parts of North India.
Dharampala was followed by his son Devapala who ruled from 810-850. He was a worthy successor and extended Pala control over Assam. Although he suffered some early reverses against Nagabhata and his grandson Bhoja he managed to maintain Pala supremacy over North India
Meanwhile in Deccan Amoghavarsha succeeded his father Govinda and ruled from 814-878. He was a 12-13 year old boy and initially faced many rebellions both down South in Vengi and in Gujarat. It took him a few years to consolidate his power. Taking advantage of the situation…
..Palas and Pratiharas consolidated their position against the Rashtrakutas and took over some frontier territories.
Amoghvarsha didn’t have imperialist ambitions towards the North unlike his ancestors and didn’t invade the Ganga valley
Mihira Bhoja ascended the Pratihara throne following his father Ramabhadra(who was a weak ruler).
He ruled from 836-882 was a remarkable king and took his empire to new heights.
It was during his time that Kannauj became the permanent capital of Pratiharas.
Initially he…
..consolidated his power in Rajputana.
He tried to advance against Palas but was defeated by Devapala. To the south he was defeated by the Gujarat branch of Rashtrakutas. He thus bided his time and gathered his strength. Devapala’s death in 850 gave him the right opportunity…
..he moved against the Palas and defeated them convincingly moving his territory right upto Bihar.
To the south he defeated Krishna II, Amoghvarsha’s successor along the banks of Narmada and extended his rule over Malwa and Gujarat. He thus ruled over most of North India.
Arab traveller Suleiman in 851 wrote of Bhoja and his empire – ” No Indian king has a finer cavalry. He is unfriendly to Arabs and is the biggest foe of the Mohammedans”.
Bhoja repelled many muslim/arab attacks and secured our western border.
Bhoja was succeeded by his son Mahendrapala who ruled from 883-907. He maintained the territories of his father.
The Pala empire disintegrated after Devapala’s death in 850. His succesors were unmartial and were defeated by Pratihara and Rashtrakutas. Palas became a local force..
..and their territories taken over by their rivals.
Mahipala acsended the Pratihara throne around 908.
Al Masudi, a native of Bhagdad visited and attests to the great power and resources of the king of Kannauj and the general peace and prosperity.
It was not to last however.
Indra III came to Rashtrakuta throne in 915. He had the same expansionist design as of his ancestors Dhruva and Govinda.
He crossed the Narmada and then the Yamuna around 918 and destroyed the city of Kannuaj. Mahipala ran for his life.
Indra went back to Deccan and Mahipala…
…managed to recover most of his empire to his credit. But the Pratiharas were obviously weakened by this devastating raid
The descendants of Mahipala continued to rule but there was a steady decline in Pratihara control over their dominions. Further blow was given by Krishna III the Rashtrakuta ruler who led another raid on the North in 963.
The Pratihara empire soon disintegrated and 3 powers emerged from it – the Chauhans of Rajasthan, Solankis of Gujarat and Paramars of Malwa.
Descendants of Krishna III were weak and unpopular. The Paramar king Siyaka crossed the Narmada and sacked the capital city of Rashtrakuts, Malkhed.
This greatly weakened their power and prestige and Rashtrakutas were soon deposed by a fuedatory who claimed descent form Chalukyas
Thus ended the age of the three empires.
In history books in school we read that Harsha was the last great North Indian king.
In my view however this title should go to Mihira Bhoja who ruled over an area probably larger than Harsha.
The Pratihara was the last great North Indian empire of the ancient times.
Even Dharampala and Devapala were great Northern kings.
This period is often overlooked in our books which jump from Harsha to Ghazni. But then we know our textbooks are a pile of crap.
The chief contribution of Pratiharas was their successfull defence against invasions from the West. From days of Junaid in 725 till Ghazni in 1020 they acted as a bulwark against Mohammedan invasions.
Review of Rashtrakuta Empire

Demolishing the no “Hindu” myth

A brief rebuttal to ugly liberal cum dravidianist propaganda/myth that there was no such term as Hindu (And hence no religion as Hinduism) before british invented it in 19th century

One extremely well perpetrated myth by the liberals and Dravidnists is that there was no existence of word “Hindu” anywhere in Indian literature to identify themselves as distinct religions before British coined that word for the Hindus in 19th century

Since there was no such term as Hindu before 19th century, Liberals argue that before 19th century Hindus never perceive themselves as a part of single pan Indian religion & Hinduism is infact not the most ancient but the most modern & artificial religion of the world!

Jihadi Evangelical nexus of dravidianists further argue that since there was no Hinduism before 19th century, Tamils were never Hindus & if anything Islam &Xtianity came to the Tamil lands before Hinduism making them more legitimate religions for Tamilians than Hinduism

In reality however if one examine the medieval Indian literature & inscriptions, there are numerous mentions of word Hindu used in a sense of person belonging to the particular faith of Hinduism. Let me point out few

Speaking of Dravidian lands itself, interestingly one of the most well known reference to the word Hindu comes from the Vijayangara. For eg in this 14th century inscription Bukka raya, one of the earliest emperor of Vijayanagar identifies himself as “Hindu Raya Suratrana”

vijaynagar hindu

This tradition started by Harihara and Bukka raya was carried forward by all the mighty emperors of Vijayanagar including Krishnadeva Raya who proudly proclaimed themselves as “Hindu Raya Suratrana”.

It is hard to say the exact meaning of the title. Liberals further claim that word Hindu here was used in political sense & not in religious sense. In other words, word “Hindu” in those inscription simply means Indian and not someone belonging to Hindu faith.

But even if we take their argument into account it makes it abundantly clear that Vijayanagar emperors were clearly trying to distinguish themselves as Indians in contrast to the neighbouring Muslim rulers whom they perceived as foreigner/ non Indians ruling India.

Another important reference comes from the Gaudiya Vaishnava literature of Bengal where word “Hindu” appears frequently, many a times with clear aim to distinguish it from Muslim. Here’s the sample of some words that appear in medieval Gaudiya Vaishnava literature.

gaudiya vaishnava

One of the most important verse mentioning the word Hindu in pre British era is from Chaitanya Charitamrita where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu while refuting the Muslim Qazi states that no Hindu indulges in cow killing because it is clearly prohibited by Vedas.

no hindu

This verse by Chaitanya makes three things very much clear 1) There was Hindu identity long before the 19th century. 2) Vedas were accepted as prime authority by all Hindus. 3) Govadh was (& is) strictly prohibited for Hindus.

Reason why Gaudiya Vaishnavites had to consciously invoke their Hindu identity was that they were living in a time dominated by bigoted jihadi rulers which clearly becomes apparent from same scriptures.

“Bathing in the Ganga is prohibited” says Jayananda in his Chaitanya Mangala while describing pitiful situation of Hindus in 15th CE


It is but irony that Bhadralok from the same Bengal today would make mockery of someone if he/she asserts the same thing as Chaitanya proudly proclaimed couple of hundred years ago!

But Bengali Hindus weren’t the only one. Around the same time period in 15th century in neighbouring Mithila KAvi kovil Vidyapati had the same compulsion to show how Hindus are completely different from Muslims while complaining about their atrocities.

how we are diff

Another reference comes from MArathi Bhakta Kavi Eknath (1553 – 1599) who penned down the work called Hindu Turk Samvad (Dialogue between Hindu and Muslim). Turk/Turushka was how Hindus referred to Muslims at that time). An excerpt from the book.



Some Info on the Economic History of India

Before we get into the details, let’s get a macro-view of the Indian economy over the past 2000 years, as per Angus Maddison – a mainstream British economist.

Here’s a chart that sums up Maddison’s PPP-adjusted PCI estimates for India in 1990 international $–A%20Millennial.pdf

history indian economy

Here’s an examination of Maddison’s chart in more concrete terms using precise numbers, in a table (which I have updated till 2017). It is one little excel table that is more provocative than most tables on India –

maddison table 1

So we know that Maddison’s view corresponds to the “Mainstream” view we outlined at the start- India was not much richer than a subsistence economy from 1AD right up to 1973. Its share of world GDP was merely a reflection of its population share.

But Maddison is not stating this about India per se. His view that right up to the Industrial Revolution, GDP shares merely reflected the Population share, is held across all geographies. It is in line with the orthodox Malthusian perspective. Let’s examine more…

Here’s Maddison on the Per-capita GDPs across many parts of the world in 1AD and 1000AD. It is a problematic chart – as we will discuss soon

maddison table 2
What is remarkable about the above chart is that Maddison doesn’t explicitly discuss (atleast in the paper) on why he places India or the current “US” at $450 in 1AD There appears to be an implicit Malthusian assumption But these numbers contradict our historical understanding
We all know that back in the year 1AD – North America was a wilderness, and a hunter gatherer society India was a society with large empires, considerable urbanization, copious literature, among other things Western Europe : Was a part of the massive Roman Empire!
Yet as per Maddison, Western Europe, India and China (three very advanced societies in many ways) were only marginally richer than the hunter gatherers in North America! It seems incredible, yet nobody has challenged Maddison sufficiently on this yet.
Will a society close to subsistence have the surpluses necessary to produce – Mahabharata Ramayana Manu Smriti Arthashastra Aeneid Homeric epics  and numerous other Latin / Greek works? Question worth asking…
Back in 200CE, the Population of the city of Rome was estimated to be 1MM inhabitants. The population of Pataliputra at the height of the Gupta period circa 400CE is also estimated to be several hundred thousands… These were very very large cities
Yet Maddison regards India, China and Western Europe to be not much richer than the hunter-gatherers of America 2000 years ago! This suggests a somewhat slavish adherence to the Malthusian maxim, that appears to be in defiance of historical records and memory
While Maddison may have good reasons for his numbers, they do need to be challenged more by economists, and it probably doesn’t deserve to become the mainstream unchallenged orthodoxy that it has become in our times
So we have discussed how the mainstream Maddison view is clearly at odds with the understanding of the past that many Indians have. Now let’s turn to more recent history…or to be more specific the past 500 years. Here Maddison has infact been challenged by other historians
Let’s compare the estimates of Braoadberry, Bishnupriya and Custodis (2014) with those of Maddison. Their paper can be accessed here –
Here’s the comparison. As you can see the narratives of the two papers are vastly different. This is a major challenge to the Maddisonian narrative on medieval / modern Indian history (published in 2014)
comparison table
As per Broadberry / Bishnupriya, there was quite a significant decline in Per-capita GDP between 1600 and 1800. And this was the period of Mughal zenith! So clearly the numbers here don’t speak too well for Mughal India.
1600 PCI : $682 (this was when Akbar ruled over North India, but not the South) 1700 PCI : $622 (clearly a decline….a period when Mughal empire covered all of India) 1800 PCI : $569 (after a century of anarchy and Mughal decline, but still preceding pan Indian British rule)
So clearly the decline of the Indian economy started long before the establishment of British Raj, and coincides with the heyday of the Mughal Empire. In fact it is striking that PCI in India in 1600 (at the start of the decline) at $682 was higher than the PCI in 1950 of $619!
Also when we discuss India as a whole – the regional variation is something to be borne in mind. Circa 1800 while Indian PCI is estiamated to be close to $500, the PCI of Mysore was estimated to be well in excess of $1500 and close to $2000 (by Sashi Sivaramakrishna)
So what this means is – Mysore at the beginning of 19th century was almost on par with UK and Netherlands whose PCI was circa $1800, in contrast to India as a whole that languished at $500
There has also been another view from economic historians like Parthasarathi Prasannan, that the Indian per-capita GDP is most likely underestimated by both Maddison and Broadberry / Bishnupriya.. Let’s discuss some numbers from Parthasarathi
Here’s a comparison of Britain, South India and Bengal (two commercially advanced regions of India) circa 1750
food grains a week
The source for Parthasarathi’s numbers comes from this book linked to below (for those interested) – Why Europe Grew Rich and Asia Did Not
This is a huge riposte to both Maddison and Broadberry! As it suggests that wages in two very large parts of India (the South and East) were on par if not higher than the wages in Britain at the middle of the 18th century
Parthasarathi’s numbers are at odds with Maddison’s estimates that British PCI in 1800 were at $1707 and hence over 3 times the Indian PCI of $533.
Parthasarathi’s views are backed by the research of another historian – Sashi Sivaramakrishna who has studied the travel writings of Francis Buchanan in South India circa 1800, and estimated that Mysore incomes in that period were 5 times the subsistence level – i,e close to $2K
So while this research is specific to a part of India, it does suggest that even if Maddison and Broadberry may be right about the general squalor of late Mughal India, there does appear to be considerable regional variation Mysore was probably on par with Britain circa 1800
But what’s undeniable however is that all data points to a decline starting 1600 and continuing unabated till 1870s… And we must be careful to note that the first part of this long period of decline actually corresponds to Mughal heyday and precedes the Empire’s decline!
But the Indian economy did arrest this decline and it started growing again. That happened circa 1870. That’s when growth resumed after 3 long centuries.. So let’s study the period post 1870
So here’s the table. We are on firmer ground here, as there is less contention on PCI estimates post 1800. As you can see growth resumes circa 1870. But then this is also the period of the Industrial Revolution, when the gap between the West and the rest massively widened –
gdp table
The numbers above are partly drawn from Maddison and partly from the Worldbank site linked below –
Clearly what we see is that while growth did resume circa 1870 – it was much too slow relative to the West, In fact the gap between India and the West was way bigger circa 1998 and even marginally bigger in 2017 than in 1870 – the heyday of the British Raj.
In fact the gap between US and Indian per-capita incomes was much wider in 1998 than in 1950! And it is almost twice as wide in 2017 as it was in 1870!
THis helps us understand why there is so much rage against the era of Nehru-Gandhi rule from 1950 till 1990. Sure, the “Nehruvian” growth rates were higher than growth rates at any point in Indian history Yet they were awful relative to the growth rates in the rest of the world
So while India did start growing post 1870, we have only regressed in a relative sense, because we have been totally out of step with the pace being set in much of the developed world.
Now why was this the case. It has a lot to do with the economic policies pursued, and the arbitrary restrictions placed on economic activity. But here again we need to make the distinction between the Nehruvian era and the Indira Gandhi era – two distinct periods
The Nehruvian period is best described as “License Raj” – a planned economy set-up where companies needed as many as 80 licenses often to produce something. While the activity remained in private hands to a significant extent, those hands were chained and hobbled by the state.
The term License Raj was actually coined by the great statesmen C Rajagopalachari in his magazine. In the late 50s, he wrote this
“I want the corruptions of the Permit/Licence Raj to go. I want the officials appointed to administer laws and policies to be free from pressures of the bosses of the ruling party..I want real equal opportunities for all & no private monopolies created by the Permit/Licence Raj”
But this was different nevertheless from the Indira Gandhi era, when state control went beyond the granting of licenses. Instead the state got into running business. A period when large parts of the economy, including the banks were nationalized, arbitrarily.
So let’s study how the three major sectors of the economy have fared in the 70 years since independence across 3 eras… Nehruvian period Indira’s period Post Indira period
Here is a sectoral view of the growth rates –
sectoral growth
What is important to note here is the massive decline in the growth rates of the Industrial sector during Indira’s long reign – a much lower CAGR for the sector than what was achieved in the Nehruvian years.
Now why do we harp on the Industrial sector? This is because the Indira era growth rates look slightly better than the Nehruvian period due to the impressive performance of the Agricultural sector – which had everything to do with a black swan event – The “Green revolution”
So the overall growth rates can be misleading. It is the industrial sector’s growth which tells you how bad the Indira years were.
Also there was a big recession during 1965-66 (Lal Bahadur’s premiership) in the immediate aftermath of the Indo-Pak war, which makes the Indira years look a little better relative to the 50s-early 60s than they would otherwise be
The growth rates have been relatively impressive post 1980s, but yet high growth rates in excess of 6-7% have been achieved only in a few select years, and not consistently for 20-30 years as was the case with China Even the process of economic reform has been in fits and starts
The first major round of reforms was in 1991 under Narasimha Rao when India did away with much of the old License Raj, reduced tariffs on many goods, liberalized trade, and also allowed FDI in many sectors.
The second round was during the early 2000s under Atal Vajpayee, when the focus was more on reducing state control of businesses – Disinvestment and privatization were high on the agenda in these years.
But since then the reform process has stalled for the most part under UPA rule, with lukewarm efforts by the Modi govt that succeeded it.
The growth rates of India are much more impressive than in the 50s-70s, but the fact remains that they seldom cross 8%. Growth has averaged between 5 to 7% for most of the past 30 years
As we look ahead into the rest of the 21st century, we are humbled by the thought that India today is still poorer relative to the rest of the world in 2017 than it was in 1820 In fact the gap vis-a-vis US is wider today than it was in 1913! Let’s conclude on that sobering note