Pratihara Dynasty: Rulers, Gurjara Pratiharas, Contribution

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Pratihara Dynasty was the dynasty of medieval Hindu India. It started when the Pratiharas arrived in India from Central Asia and settled in Rajasthan. Their ancestor Lakshmana is said to have worked as a doorkeeper for his brother Rama. Pratihara Dynasty is also known as the Gurjara-Pratiharas. The Pratihara Kingdom was founded by Harichandra in Southwestern Rajasthan, Jodhpur.

Pratihara Dynasty ruled western and northern India from the eighth to the eleventh centuries C.E. This article delves into the rise, rulers, religions, and administration of the Pratihara Dynasty, shedding light on their contributions to governance, art, architecture, and their interactions with neighboring kingdoms.


What is Pratihara Dynasty?

Pratihara means ‘doorkeeper’ in Sanskrit. They were the impactful rulers of western and northern India. The most well-known king of this dynasty was Bhoja or Mihira Bhoja (circa 836-885 CE ). Under Nagabhata I (730–760 CE), of the Pratihara Dynasty, who successfully defeated Arab invaders, the fortunes of this dynasty improved in the second quarter.

Pratihara Dynasty Notes

After his dominance over Arabs, he ruled Malwa, Rajputana, and Gujarat. The Pratihara Dynasty depicts rich art and culture. Khajuraho, the UNESCO World Heritage site in India, is famous for its rich style of temple architecture. Pratihara rulers established a strong and prosperous empire that contributed to political stability and cultural patronage in the subcontinent.

Distinctive Nature of the Pratihara Dynasty

Aside from inscriptions, the sculpture and monuments erected during the Pratihara Dynasty proved to be substantial evidence of their times and rule. Accounts of Arab merchants who visited India during this period include Suleiman (c. 9th century C.E.), who visited India in the 9th century C.E. and bore evidence of the uniqueness of the Pratihara Dynasty.

Pratihara Dynasty Rulers

The rulers of the Pratihara Dynasty played a crucial role in shaping the political landscape and cultural development of the region. Some of the famous rulers of this dynasty are as follows:

Nagabhata I (c. 730 – 760 CE)

Nagabhatta was a diplomatic and prominent ruler of the Pratihara Dynasty. His rule stretched from 730-756 C.E. He successfully captured Gujarat to Gwalior and snatched the position of the Arabs. Kakkuka and Devaraja, his nephews, succeeded him. He defeated the Arab army to resist the invasion of the Arabs. Nagabhata I was defeated by Dhruv, the Rashtrakuta King.

Vatsaraja (c. 780 – 800 CE)

Vatsaraja had its eyes fixed on Ujjain and extended his capital. He had several conquests in the North Indian territories of Kanauj, Central Rajputra, the Doab Region, and the Ganga Yamuna Valley. Nagabhata II succeeded him as the ruler of the Pratihara Dynasty.

Nagabhatta II (c. 800- 833 CE)

Nagabhatta II worked on changing the conquest policies and extension of the Pratihara Dynasty. Andhra, Saindhava, Vidarbha, and Kalinga were all defeated by him. He conquered the Matsayas to the North, the Vatsas to the east, and the Turuskka (Muslims) to the west.

Mihir Bhoja (c. 836- 885 CE)

Mihirbhoja restored the old glory of Nagabhatta. He is known for the renowned conquests and tactical military defense of the Pratihara Dynasty. He had established Kannauj as his capital. He was a Vishnu devotee, so he took on titles like Varaha and Prabhas in his honor. Mihirbhoja was in power for 49 years. His rule extended from Multan to West Bengal and Kashmir to Karnataka.

Mahendrapala (c. 885- 910 CE)

The Pratihara Dynasty extended significantly under Mahendrapala’s rule because of his significant contributions. He made Pratihara reach east to Bengal, north to the Himalayas, West to Sindh’s border, and south to Narmada. He got the title Maharajadhiraja of Aryavarta.

After losing the battle, he had to give up some part of his territory to the king of Kashmir. He was an admirer of art. His court had the presence of a renowned poet of Sanskrit, Rajashekhar. Prapanch Pandev, Vidhasalabhanjika, Bhrinjika, Balabharata, Kavya Mimansa, and Karrupuramanjari are some of his famous writings.

Mahipala I (c. 913 – 944 CE)

Mahipala I was responsible for the downfall of the Pratihara Dynasty. The city of Kannauj under his rule was destroyed by Indra III, the Rashtrakuta, after defeating him in a battle. Not only this, but Rashtrakuta took Gujarat’s control under him, because of which the kingdoms belonging to the Pratihara Dynasty were not given any access to the sea.

Rajyapala (c. 960- 1018 CE)

Another ruler who had to taste defeat by the Rashtrakuta king, Krishna III, was Rajyapala. At a similar point in time, Rajyapal and Kannauj were attacked by Mahmud Ghazi. Because of this, they had to fly off the battlefield. Later, Vindhyadhar Chandela killed Rajyapala.

Yashpala (c. 1024- 1036 CE)

The defeat of Yashpala marked the end of the Pratihara dynasty. He was the last ruler of the kingdom, who the Gandhavalas defeated. He conquered Kannauj in 1090 CE after defeating Yashpala. The successors of these rulers were unable to defend their kingdoms. They lost the empire to Ghaznavids in the 11 century CE. The successors were Chahamanas, Pawars, and Chalukyas.

Art and Architecture of Pratihara Dynasty

The Pratihara Dynasty were the worshippers of art and architecture. The Someshwara Temple is carved out into an octagonal arrangement of seven pillars. The earliest Mulaprasadas are known to reign in this temple. The Teli-ka-Mandir in Gwalior is dedicated to a Shakti cult.

It comprises an elevated rectangular Mulaprasada, a double oblong shikhara, and a closed portico. The early works at Osian have five-bay Mulaprasadas. All these Osian structures possess a porch and open hall. However, there was no ambulatory or vestibule. Most of them comprise five-shrine complexes (Pancha-katana).

Religion in Pratihara Dynasty

During this period, the influential religious groups of Hinduism were Vaishnava, Shaiva, Sakta, and Surya. The renovation of temples and statues was considered a sacred duty by the followers of these cults.

  • The donations from kings and other wealthy individuals supported the temples and helped in their smooth functioning.
  • Yajnas and charitable giving at religious sites were also prevalent. Durga, Chamunda, Bhagavati, and Kali were the most prominent of these goddesses.
  • The Pratiharas were mostly tolerant towards preaching other religions. However, there is evidence of some religious intolerance during their period.
  • The Pratihara Dynasty ruled for a century and kept their control with strength and dignity. They were strong defenders against the Palas. Rashtrakutas, however, couldn’t solidify their power for long, resulting in their decline.

Administration of Pratihara Dynasty

The dynasty is also known as the Gurjara Pratihara Dynasty because it was founded by the Gurjara people. The administration of the Pratiharas was largely centralized, with power concentrated in the hands of the king and his close advisors. The king was supported by a large bureaucracy that was responsible for collecting taxes, maintaining law and order, and administering justice.

The Pratihara  Dynasty administration was also characterized by a complex system of land grants and revenue collection. The land was often granted to powerful nobles and military leaders in return for their loyalty and military service, and revenue from the land was collected by the state.

Pratihara Dynasty UPSC

Pratihara Dynasty finds its mention in the Medieval History of India, hence holding immense importance in the UPSC History Syllabus. The Pratiharas, also known as the Gurjara-Pratiharas, were a medieval dynasty that ruled over a vast region of northern and central India from the 8th to the 11th centuries. Understanding the importance of the Pratihara Dynasty is crucial for aspirants as it encompasses various aspects such as political history, regional dynamics, and cultural patronage, and it would help them during their UPSC exam preparation.

Pratihara Dynasty MCQs

Question: The Pratihara Dynasty ruled over which part of India during its peak? a) Northern India b) Southern India c) Eastern India d) Western India

Answer: a) Northern India

Question: The Pratihara Dynasty is also known by which other name? a) Chola Dynasty b) Gupta Dynasty c) Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty d) Maurya Dynasty

Answer: c) Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty

Question: Which century marked the decline of the Pratihara Dynasty? a) 10th century b) 11th century c) 12th century d) 13th century

Answer: b) 11th century

UPSC Notes
Colonialism In India Code of Criminal Procedure 
Cyber Crime  Credit Rating Agencies In India
Press Council Of India Central Administrative Tribunal
FSSAI Skill India Mission 
Volcano  Railway Protection Force
National Commission For Scheduled Caste  PCPNDT Act
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