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Foundation of Gurjar Empire in India (100-750 AD)
By Ashok Harsana, 27th October, 2006; Revised
Category: South and Southeast Asia
Formation of Gurjar Kingdoms in India
(100 AD-750 AD)
1. Gurjars of Ancient India
Map 1.1 Shows the location of various kingdoms under Ancient Bharata.
1.2 Sri Krishna, with some of the Kshatriyas who survived the Mahabharta war, abandoned Mathura and went towards the west to Dwarika. The ancient Kshatriya clans thronged around Lord Krishna, who united them into one class and named it as "Gurjar" (including old Gurjar warriors of his own army), and their Government came to be known as "Gurjartar", the first capital which was established at Dwarka in around 1420 BC. Sri Krishna ruled until his death in 1388 BC
So, it is very clear that the word "Gurjar" was not used for a caste at that time. It was used for a union of Kshatriyas under Shri Krishna.
1.3 Gurjar is a pure Sanskrit word which means “One, who vanish the enemy”
Pandit Vasudeva Prasad, a famous Sanskrit Pandit of Banaras, has proven through ancient Sanskrit literature that the word "Gurjar" OR "Gurjara" was spoken after the names of antique Kshatriyas. Another Sanskrit scholar, Radhakant, is of the opinion that the word "Gurjar" was for Kshatriyas. Scientific evidence also has proven that Gurjars belonged to Aryans.
2. Gurjars in the first century
2.1 Kushans and Nagars
In 1st century AD, they had established two reigns of two dynasties which were those of Nagars and Kushan. One ruled Patna, which included Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Central India. This was ruled by Nagar Dynasty of Gurjars. The King was Maharaja Subhau Nagar.
Their second kingdom was that of Peshawar, which spread up to the river Jamuna and Afghanistan. This kingdom was ruled by the dynasty of Kushan Gurjars, whose king was emperor Kanishka. One of the edicts revealed that Kushans had named the territory of Sutlej as Gujrat. During the reign of king Kanishka and Subhao Nagar, the Aryavarta was at its peak of glory. These kingdoms had spread their trade up to Europe.
2.2 Kushan kings
Chinese sources describe the Guishuang i.e. the "Kushans", as one of the five tribes of the Yuezhi or Gurjars. They were called foreigners, but it was later proven that they were indian natives, who earlier resided in tibbet or laddakh region.
The Gurjar reign of Emperor Kanishka spread to Central Asia, and, as a result, the Gurjars could be seen dwelling in Afghanistan, Russia and Iran even today. It is believed that the emperor Kanishka had established his capital somewhere in Kashmir. It would be wrong to say that the present territorial boundaries of Kashmir are correct, as it was far wider than it is today. The brave kings of those bygone days had subdued the countries like Kabul and Kandhar.
2.3 Some Famous Kushan Kings:
Bhima Kadphises name corrupted (45-78 AD)
Kanishka (103-127 AD)
Huveshka (127-155 AD)
Vasudeva (180-226 AD)
The most famous of these rulers was Emperor Kanishka, who ruled between 103 and 130 A.D. He was suffocated to death by Brahmin Priests due to his devotion to Buddhism.
Note: Earlier, there was confusion among historians that Kanishka Ruled in 78-111 AD.
All contemporary rulers (except Satvahanas) were either feudatories or blood related to Kushans
2.4 Feudatory Rulers of different places during the Rule of Kushans
Awans (Gurjar rulers of Awanti later known as Malva)
Bhattis (Yadav rulers of Sialkoat, later became Gurjar and then Rajput)
Licchavis (Kushan origin) from 185 AD
Western kshatrapas (Saka Tribes)
Yudheya or Johiyas (Gurjars)
Map 2.1 Map above shows the stretch of Kushan Kingdom during 1st century
Picture 2.1 ancient sketch of Kanishka
2.5 Decline of Kushans
The Great Kushan Empire started declining after the death of Vasudeva, in 226 AD, though the last king, Kipunada, “Name Corrupted” (350-375 AD) ruled up to 375 AD.
Many Factors were responsible for their fall
Ø The Feudatories claimed independence
Ø Continuous fights with Red Huns.
Ø Rise of Gupta Dynasty in 320 AD
Ø Conflicts with Indo-Sassanians.
Ø Continuous conflicts with Satvahanas. (Sacked by Sakas in 236 AD)
Sassanian king, Shapur II, fought and made a treaty with the Kushanas in 350 AD, but he was defeated by them twice in 367-368 AD. The Kidarites claimed independence after that and captured Afghanistan and nearby areas. The Yudheyas, bhattis and Nagars were also in continuous internal conflicts. Finally, in 375 AD, The Kushans Empire collapsed and retired.
2.6 New settlements of Kushans
Some of them moved to Himalayas: This branch of Kushans kept ruling a large part of Himachala. They were the forefathers of the forthcoming Naga Dynasty.
A branch of these Kushans went to Afghanistan and Persia: These Kushans were found ruling Persia in 4thand 5th centuries. Darius the Great was one of these Kushan or kushanshah Rulers. They were knows as Kidarites or Later Kushans.
While some of them went downwards, they finally settled in Gujarat and southern Rajsthan and occupied the territories of Western Kshatrapas (Sakas). They started ruling Southern Rajasthan and Gujarat, under several branches, as petty rulers. These branches were namely Chapotkats, Nagars, Yudheyas, Awanas etc. Perhaps Gurjars ruled as feudatories to Guptas until 455 AD. The Gupta Empire collapsed due to the hun attack under Tourman in 467 AD. These Gurjar Clans also fought against the Huns.
2.7 The final settlement in Gujarat & Rajasthan
The numerous Saka populations were residing at Gujarat and southern Rajasthan, under Kshatrapas, since 35 AD. The Kshatrapas collapsed in 405 AD. After that, the remaining Saka population was assimilated into Gurjars by the newly formed Gurjar groups (later Kushans).
2.8 The Great Sakas (Kshatrapas)
Kshatrapas (Hindi KshetraPal) is a Persian word which means “Defender of a province” or Feudatory Governor. They were originally feudatories under Kushans. Kushans were somehow related to these Saka tribes. Sakas claimed independence around 195 AD. They were very famous for their architecture and coinage. Though they were in continuous conflicts with Satvahanas, they finally managed to finish the Satvahanas dynasty by 236 AD.
Map 2.2 This map shows the stretch or Kshatrapas at their peak.
Kshatrapas were uprooted by Gupta Ruler Chandragupta-2 in 405 AD, who shifted the Gupta Capital to Ujjain from Patliputra. Chandragupta-2 attacked his own masters under the influence of Brahmins, who later erased these great Sakas from history as "insignificant king", "mlechhas", "shudra", "not generous to Brahmins” and “Degraded Kshatriyas”.
Note: The name of the very first king of this Saka dynasty was Aabhirka, The nomadic origin also implies that they might be related to Abhirs or Ahirs or Yadavas.
2. 9 Gupta Rulers
Srigupta I (270-290 AD), who was perhaps a petty ruler of Magadha (modern Bihar), established Gupta dynasty with Patliputra or Patna as its capital. He and his son, Ghatotkacha (290-305 AD), have left very little evidence of their rule and did not issue any coins of their own (although there have been reports of coins of Shrigupta which require further studies). Ghatotkacha was succeeded by his son, Chandragupta I (305-325 AD), who strengthened his kingdom by matrimonial alliance with the powerful family of Lichchavis (related to Kushans), who were rulers of Mithila. His marriage to Lichchhavi princess, Kumaradevi, brought enormous power, resources and prestige. He took advantage of the situation and occupied the whole fertile Gangetic valley. Chandragupta I eventually assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja (emperor) in a formal coronation, thereby establishing the Gupta Dynasty and Gupta Era. Their rule lasted up to 6th century.
Map 2.3 Map shows the sway of Guptas under Chandragupta-2 (Early 5th century)
2. 10 Guptas’ Origin
Though their origin or varna is not certain, they were, most probably, Aabhirs or Ahirs or Yadavas by origin. Shri Gupta rose to power suddenly after the fall of Satvahanas (236 AD), which shows that they were installed to the throne of Patna by Kshaptrapas.
The word Gupta is derived from “Goptri", meaning "military governor", as in the inscription of Skandagupta. It was not a surname or clan name, but a title. It clearly shows that, after defeating the Satvahanas, Guptas were placed as Feudatories by Sakas (Kshatrapas). The most common gold coins of the Guptas appear to be the direct descendants of the gold coins of the Sakas. The standing pose of the Gupta kings at the altar is almost identical to that of the Kshatrapa kings, as is their dress - long coats and trousers (uchkin, salwar/kameez).
2.11 End of Gupta Rule
Chndragupta-2 was the most prominent name among all Gupta rulers. He displaced the Sakas or Kshatrapas and took the title of “Vikramaditya” in around 405 AD.
SkandaGupta repelled the first hun attack under Chu-Han in 454-455 AD. The Guptas were vanished by a second Hun attack under Tourman Akhsunwar, in 467 AD. The last Gupta ruler, BudhaGupta, ruled until the end of the 6th century feudatories.
3. Gurjars in & after 5th Century
3.1 Chap Dynasty of Malva
One of the greatest Indian Kings “The Mighty Yashodharman Vikramaditya” was a Gurjar Ruler of Malva or Ujjain. His capital was at Mandsaur.
He was from the Chap clan of Gurjars. He ruled Malva as feudatory to Gupta Kings. This Chap dynasty later served as the feudatories to Maitriks of Vallabhi.
The Famous poet, Kalidasa, was in his court (and not in the court of Chandragupta-2.) Some scholars claim that the Vikramaditya of Kalidasa was the Yashodharman only.
The name "Gujardesa" was founded by Yashodharman in 480 AD (earlier it was Gujarat). He was Chap by his surname, as written at pillar inscription at Vasantgarh. According to the pillar inscriptions of Mandsaur and in Nalanda, he was mentioned as the founder of Gurjardesh. He took the title of Narpati Gurjar after defeating the Hun king MihirGul in 528 AD. King NarasimhaGupta “Baladitya” of Magadha helped him in defeating the Huns under MihirGul, who fled to Kashmir and began his rule there (where he died in 542 AD). In this decisive fight, all the Hun chiefs were slaughtered and the remaining army was assimilated into Gurjars.
It erased the Huna rule permanently from the Indian scenario.
Note: The Hun King Tourman (father of MihirGul) was defeated and, perhaps, killed by Bhanugupta of the Gupta Dynasty in 510 AD.
3.2 About Huns:
The white Huns attacked India between 454 and 510 AD. They were actually pushed into India by actual Huns or Turk Huns during this period. Some scholars believe that they were called and considered Huns by mistake. Their culture and physical descriptions was totally different from actual Huns. They might have been a group of Kushans who settled in Persia at the time of the fall of Kushan rule. When they were attacked by Kok-turks or genuine Huns, they had to enter India in order to save their lives, and, to save their identities, they had to fight the tribes ruling India at that time. They were in no way related to the genuine Huns. Their natural assimilation into the Indian population is key evidence that they were accepted as a lost Indian tribe by other Kshatriyas. They were never discussed after 6th CE. Today, also we find many people in Kshatriya tribes with Hun surname. But for the ease of topic, I will call them Huns, only in this article.
The first attack under Chu-Han in 455 AD was repelled by SkandaGupta and India was saved from Huns for a short period of 10 years. In 465 AD, fresh Hun armies attacked Guptas under Tour-han or Tourman-1. This time, the Guptas were totally vanished by Hunas and many flourishing cities under Gupta territories were completely demolished. They killed innocent people just for fun. The Gurjars kept fighting under Yasodharman. Tourman-2 was killed by Gupta ruler, Bhanugupta, in 510 AD. After him, his son, Mihirgul (means Sunflower), took over the throne and he was even more cruel than his father. He was also defeated by Yasodharman in 528 AD. The remaining Huns were assimilated into Kshatriya population. The Huns ruled as petty rulers until 567 AD. Nothing much is known about them after that.
Map 3.1 Map above shows Huns attack during 454-510 AD
Map 3.2 Map shows Empire of Huns in India
Famous Hun Rulers in India
3.3 Maitrik dynasty of VallabhiPura
It was founded by the 17th Ruler of western Kshatrapa Dynasty named Vijayasena
Maitrik Dynasty was established at VallabhiPura by Senapati Bhattarak in around 470CE.
Bhattarak was the army chieftain of Yashodharman. This Maitrik dynasty was the branch of Kushans only. Maitrikas made their capital at Vallabhi or VallabhiPura.
Bhattaraka was succeeded by his son, Dharapatta, both calling themselves Senapatis. Next Maitrik ruler, namely Guhasena, ruled until 524 AD.
King Nasirban of Persia (Full name was Naushervan-E-Adil) invaded Gujarat in 524 AD, Guhasena and died during war, his pregnant queen, Pushpavati, was on a pilgrimage to northern part (later known as Mewar).
Upon receiving the news, Pushpavati went into hiding in the wilderness of the idar district. There, she was said to have given birth to a son Guhil or Guhaditya (named after his father) who founded the Royal Guhilot family in 569 AD.
However, VallabhiPura was later recovered by Dharasena-II.
Dharasena-II was succeeded by his son Siladitya-I Dharmaditya. He ruled between 606 AD and 612 AD, and covered an extensive territory. His was the most powerful kingdom in Western India. Siladitya was succeeded by his son Dharasena-III who annexed Gujarat to his territory. A successor of hasty temper, Dhruvasena-II, the younger brother of Dharasena-III, ruled till 641 AD. Second somnath temple was built by next ruler Dharasena-IV in 649 AD.
There was a lot of trouble after the death of Dharasena-IV, but was only restored during the next ruler Siladitya-II. The successor of Siladitya-II was Siladitya-III.
Siladitya III (662-84AD) assumed an imperial title and conquered Gurjars of Rajsthan and Malwa.
His successors were Siladitya-IV, Siladitya-V and Siladitya-VI. It was during the reign of Siladitya-VI (766-767 AD) when the Ruling family of Vallabhi came to an end.
Siladitya-VI died and the city was burnt to ashes during the Arabian attack on Vallabhi (766 AD).
Map 3.1 Map shows the Gurjar Kingdom of Vallabhi and Rajasthan
3. 4 The rise and growth of the feudatories of Maitrikas
Pratihars (1st Branch, Ruled Nandol, 650 to 815 AD),
The rise of these feudatories was a serious menace to Vallabhi and was partially the cause for its end.
Although Dadda (Ruler of Nandol) was a friend and relative of Maitrikas, Dadda-III, for unknown reasons, became hostile to them and wrestled broach from Maitrikas.
3.5 After the fall of Vallabhi, Southern ‘Gurjardesa’ was ruled by various dynasties at the same time.
Chavdas - Vadhvan, Saurastra, Kutch
Parmars near Malva
While the northern portion (Today’s Rajasthan) was being ruled by
Ø Pratihars of Jodhpur (2nd Branch, Ruled Mandor 550-731 AD)
Ø Guhils of Mewar (Offshoots of Maitrika) (After 569 AD)
Ø Mauryas of Hadoti (eastern Mevar and parts), Origin of Hada Chauhans
Ø Chapas or Chapotkats or Chawdas of Bhinmal (Yasodharman’s succesors)
Ø Chahman’s of Sambhar or Shakambhari (Ruled Ajmer)
The Chalukyas were a dominant power in the Deccan during 6th to 8th century AD and, again, during 10th century AD. They regained their power and ruled till 12 century. The Chalukyas, who ruled from Badami, were the Western Chalukyas. The one who ruled from Kalyani are referred to as Later Western Chalukyas and the Chalukyas of Vengi are known to the historians as the Eastern Chalukyas. The legendary history of the Chalukyas makes their origin very controversial. But, the use of the word GurjarNath and Gurjeshwar, later chalukya rulers, made it very clear that they were Gurjars by origin. Earlier, they were feudatories to Maitrik Gurjars, but, later, claimed independence.
Map 3.3 Map shows the Chalukya’s Kingdom
With the modest beginning under Jayasimha and his son Ranaraga, Chalukyas ruled from about 535 to 566 AD. But, the real dynasty is known to be founded by the Maharaja Pulakesin-I. Pulakesi-I took up many titles, such as Satyasraya, and was a scholar too. Though no conquests are credited to him, he is stated to have ruled from Badami, the present day Bijapur.
Kritivirman - I
Pulakesin - I was succeeded by his son, Kritivirman - I. He constructed several temples and buildings in the town of Vatapi. The political influence of Chalukyas spread over a wider region, embracing southern parts of Maharastra, Mysore and Tamilnadu. He defeated the rulers of Vanga, Anga, Kalinga, Vattura, Magadha ....... He is also stated to have broken up the confederacy of Kadambas.
Mangalesa, the brother of Kritivirman-I, ascended the throne in 598 AD. The Kalachuris were conquered by Mangalesa and the entire central and northern maratha country was brought into the territory. The eventual civil between Mangalesa and his nephew, Pulakesi-II, cost Mangalesa his own life.
Pulakesi ascended the throne in 610 AD and ruled till 642 AD. The reign was not a bed of roses for him, as various parts of Chalukyas assumed independence. The internal rebellion and the frequent invasion by Appayika and Govinda were eventually subdued. He made Gangas of south Mysore to submit, Mauryas of Konkan were defeated too. These conquests brought him into contact with Harsha, and, in 637 AD, Harsha was defeated when Harsha invaded Kathiawad. He defeated Pallava king Mahendra Varman -I, crossed the Cauvery river, and made friends with the Cholas, Keralas and Pandyas. Because Pallavas were not totally crushed, they took revenge and attacked Pulakesi-II. Pulakesi-II appears to have been killed in the battle, and the Chalukya empire began to decline.
Vikramaditya - I
After the death of Pulakesi-II, Badami and some of the southern districts remained in the hand of Pallavas. Though Chalukyas throne remained vacant from 642 AD - 655 AD, Vikramaditya-I managed to ascend the throne in 655 AD. He recovered Badami and brought the whole kingdom under his control.
The next successor, Vinayaditya, ruled from 681 to 696 AD and carried on campaigns against Cholas, Pandyas, Pallavas, Aluvas. By defeating the Lord of the entire Uttarapatha, he acquired the banner Palidhvaja. His immediate successor, Vijayaditya, ruled for nearly fourty years (696 AD - 733 AD). His reign was stated to have been peaceful throughout.
Vikramaditya - II
Vikaramaditya-II was a son of Vijayaditya. He ruled from 734 AD - 745 AD. He defeated the Pallava king, thus, putting off the continuing hostilities. With this conquest, he took possession of musical instruments, banner, elephants, and rubies which belonged to the Pallavas. He destroyed the power of the Chola, Kerala, Pandya.
Kritivarman - II
The son of Vikramaditya-II, Kritivarman - II succeeded to reign for the next eleven years. He was the last and glorious ruler of Chalukyas. For the next fifty years, the Chalukya power was totally eclipsed by the Rashtrakutas. Dantidurga defeated Kritivarman-II to gain the control of Chalukyas once and for all. The subsequent attempt by Kritivarman-II to regain control was futile. The Rashtrakutas remained the supreme power for the next two centuries, until the same was destroyed by the later Western Chalukyas of Kalyani.
3.6 Reign of the Mighty Harshavardhana
The rule of Harshavardhana from (606-647AD), being the only consolidated rule after the Guptas, is described in details through various sources.
The predecessors of Harshavardhana were from Thaneshwar. Harshavardhana was the younger son of Prabhakara Vardhana, Raja of Thaneshwar. Prabhakaravardhana died in 605 AD. Prabhakaravardhana's daughter, Rajyasri, was married to the king Maukhari, King Grahavarman. Sasanka, the king of Gauda, with the help of the king of Malwa, defeated and killed Grahavarman of Kannauj and imprisoned Rajyasri. Rajyavardhan, who then ruled Kannauj, advanced against Sasanka to avenge his sister’s fate, but he was killed by Sasanka. Thus, the throne of Kannauj became vacant and Harshavardhana had to ascend the throne. Harshavardhana pursued a policy of conquest to consolidate his authority over North India. Punjab, Kannauj, parts of Bihar and Bengal formed a part of his kingdom as a result of his conquests. By 612, Harshavardhana consolidated his kingdom in northern India. The problems caused by the small independent kingdoms, who were engaged in conflicts among themselves, was overcome after the subjection of these petty states extending from the east to west. In 620AD, Harshavardhana invaded the Chalukya kingdom in the Deccan, which was then ruled by Pulakesin II, but the Chalukya resistance proved too tough for Harshavardhana and he was defeated. Thus, his kingdom in the south was up to the limit of the Narmada. His alliance with king Bhaskaravarman, the ruler of Kamrupa (Assam), also proved advantageous in establishing a strong rule.
Map 3.4 Map shows that Kingdom of Harshavardhana
Harshavardhana died in about 647 AD. After his death, there was disorder in Northern India. During the period from the death of Harshavardhana to the conquest of the Muslims Indian, history circles around numerous kingdoms in the north and south. The territories of Harsha was parceled among various rulers.
Narasinghavarman, the Pallava King of Kanchi, became the sovereign power in the peninsula. King Bhaskravarman of Assam annexed the territories formerly under Harshavardhana
3.5 Map shows the distribution of states among various Gurjar Kingdoms in 700 AD
3.7 Invasion of the Arabs
The first incursion by the new Muslim successor states of the Persian Empire took place around 664 AD, during the Umayyad Caliphate, led by Mohalib towards Multan in Southern Punjab in modern day Pakistan. Mohalib expeditions were not aimed at conquest, though they penetrated as far as the capital of the Maili and returned with wealth and prisoners of war.
The second attempt was made by Mohammed Bin Kasim, who, after the conquest of Sind (712 A.D.), swept over the whole of Rajasthan, Gujarat and advanced as far as Ujjain. The Gurjar kingdom of Jodhpur was overrun, but Nagbhata of Ujjain hurled back the invaders in collaboration with Pratihar ruler of Jodhpur, Gurjar Ruler Jayabhatta-4 and Avanijanashraya Pulakeshi (the Chalukya ruler of Lata).
Nagbhatta took the title of Gurjeshwara in 732 AD. This shows that Pratihars were the successors of Maitrikas. His victory of Nagbhata over the Arabs not only enabled him to dethrone Jodhpur as the supreme power, but laid the foundation of a new power named Gurjara - Pratiharas, who became the masters of Kanauj by about 815 A.D. The Pratiharas reached the Zenith of their power during 815 A.D. to 940 A.D. and were called "Gurjareshvaras" and "Raghukulbhu-Chakravarti"(Descendents of Lord Rama)..............................
To be Continued in next part........Rise, Growth & Decline of Imperial Gurjars, 700 AD to 1600 AD
Research by Ashok Harsana