GK Chronicle GK Chronicle

Medieval History / Early Medieval Era

The Palas and the Sena Dynasty of Bengal

The Palas and the Sena dynasty of Bengal ruled the Bengal region for almost 500 years. The Palas and Senas of Bengal ruled from 8th century AD to 12th century AD. The Palas are the last known followers of Buddhism (both Mahayana and Vajrayana). They ruled the East Indian region mainly Bengal and Bihar. The Sena dynasty was founded by Samanta Sena. Under Vijaya Sena, the kingdom became independent.

Pala Dynasty

  • The founder of Pala dynasty was Gopala. According to one tradition, Gopala got elected by the people. The capital of Pala dynasty was initially located at Pataliputra and later moved to Monghyr.

  • Dharmapala -
    • Dharmapala revived Nalanda university and founded a number of Vajrayana Universities in Bihar like Vikramashila University, Somapura University, Odantapuri University, etc.

    • During his reign, two Vajrayana saints named Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita went to Tibet to introduce Vajrayana Buddhism.

  • Devapala - He shifted the capital from Pataliputra to Monghyr in Bihar. His Nalanda Copper Plate inscription (Land Grant) says that he donated 5 villages to a Buddhist Vihara built by Balaputradeva, who was a king of Indonesia.

  • During the reign of Mahipala, a South Indian king named Rajendra Chola I conquered North India and defeated Mahipala.

  • Last king Madanapala was defeated by the Sena king Vijaya Sena. By this time, Sena dynasty was ruling as subordinate kings to Pala kingdom.

Sena Dynasty

  • The founder of Sena dynasty, Samanta Sena, was a subordinate king to Pala kingdom. The capital of Sena dynasty was Nabadwip. The famous artist Sulapani was contemporary of the Sena king, Vijaya Sena.

  • Lakshmana Sena -

    • Lakshmana Sena was the last king of Sena dyansty. He had a great scholar of Vaishnava literature named Jayadeva, who wrote Gita Govindam in Sanskrit. It is a very sacred book of Vaishnavites. He had five Sanskrit scholars in his court called Pancharatnas.

    • Bakhtiyar Khilji, the military general of Ghurid dynasty, entered Bengal in 1203 AD and defeated Lakshmana Sena. Bihar and western parts of Bengal came under Muslim rule.

    • Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed all the Buddhist universities including Nalanda University. All the Buddhists, who stayed in the universities, were killed by Khilji. From this action, Buddhism was routed out from India.