Pala Dynasty

Pala Dynasty (700s-1100s), rulers of Bengal and Bihār in what is now northeastern India and Bangladesh. Although the origins of the dynasty are unclear, legends report it was founded during a time of political turmoil. A ruler named Gopala may have been the first Pala king. His son Dharmapala (ruled about 770-810) warred against both Kanauj, northern India’s most important center of power, and the Rashtrakuta dynasty, based in Mahārāshtra in western India. Dharmapala controlled Kanauj for a short time, until the Rashtrakutas defeated him.

Devapala (ruled about 810-850) raised the kingdom to its greatest power and fortune, controlling parts of Orissa to the south, Assam to the north, and Bihār to the west. Under Devapala and other kings, trade and commercial contacts extended to Southeast Asia. Buddhism flourished in Bengal under state patronage, which supported a university at Nalanda, and the Bengali language emerged as a mature literary tool. State aid also contributed to a distinctive sculptural style, preserved in many images of Buddhist and Hindu gods, often using black plate as a medium. This style heavily influenced the art of Nepal and Tibet.

Devapala’s successors lost Orissa and Assam and thereafter remained subordinate to the Rashtrakutas. At the end of the 10th century new opponents rose in both the west and south, and the dynasty’s control receded to northern Bengal and parts of eastern Bihār. By the mid- to late 12th century, the Palas were replaced by the Sena dynasty.

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