Mahipala

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This article is about the King Mahipala of Pala dynasty. For the Gurjara-Pratihara king, see Mahipala I.
Mahipala I
মহিপাল I
Pala Emperor, King of Bengal, Lord of Gauḍa and Lord of Vanga
Reign 988 – 1038 CE
Predecessor Vigrahapala II
Successor Nayapala
House House of Gopala
Born Pataliputra
Religion Buddhism

Mahipala I (c. 988 – 1038 CE) is considered the second founder of the Pala dynasty. Gopala I established the dynastic rule of the Palas in the middle of the 8th century CE. The Pala Dynasty ruled Bengal and Bihar for about four centuries from the middle of the 8th century CE. Mahipala succeeded in recovering the lost fortune of the dynasty and in checking the forces of disintegration for the time being, but could not totally remove them. But his success gave the dynastic rule of the Palas a second lease on life. During the reigns of Gopala II and Vigrahapala II, the two immediate predecessors of Mahipala, Bengal had to face repeated invasions of the Chandellas and the Kalachuris, the new powers that arose out of the ruins of the Pratihara empire in northern India. It was during his rule that Mahmud of Ghazni carried out a number of expeditions into north India and wreaked devastation. During Turkic invasions, there was a Buddhist displacement towards the east - and Pala empire offered them protection.[1]

Conquests[edit]

Mahipala reigned over his kingdom for 60 years, as his two Imadpur inscriptions are dated in his 48th year. Mahipala, on his accession, found the Pala empire confined to southern Bihar and in his early years. Due to the Candra's encroachment on the Kamboja Palas, he fought successfully to recover northern and western Bengal from them, including Radha and the ancestral homeland of the Pala dynasty. By 990 CE of his reign, he succeeded in spreading Pala authority into northern Bihar. He must be given the credit for re-establishing Pala authority over their original kingdom, except for southern Bengal, where the Candra dynasty held power.

The Belwa and Bangarh copperplates proclaim that Mahipala, by slaying all his enemies, obtained his paternal kingdom which had been snatched away through pride of prowess by people who had no claim to it. Mahipala's success in recovering the paternal kingdom was his most important achievement, since it gave a new lease of life to the Pala Empire.

Mahipala held authority over southern Bihar (Magadha) and towards the close of his reign over northern Bihar. Scholars also ascribe to him conquests beyond Bihar on the basis of his Sarnath inscription. The inscription, dated c. 1083 or 1026 CE, is of a purely religious nature and records the construction and rebuilding of religious edifices at the famous Buddhist site near Benares. However, based solely on this inscription Mahipala cannot be taken to have controlled Benares.

Campaign of Rajendra Chola[edit]

The Chola inscription (Tirumulai inscription), which records Rajendra Chola's invasion of Bengal some time in between 1021 and 1024 CE, throws further light on the condition of Bengal. The inscription records that after conquering Odisha the Chola general seized Dandabhukti after having destroyed Dharmapala (possibly belonging to the Kamboja line) and reached southern Radha where he met Ranashura. Then the army reached Vangaladesha, where the 'rains never ceased'. Although Mahipala was defeated by Rajendra Chola in battle, he continued to retain his kingdom upon the Chola king had return home.

Civic works[edit]

Mahipala was better known for his peaceful pursuits. A number of towns and large tanks still bear his name. Mahiganj in Rangpur district, Mahipur in Bogra district, Mahisantosa in Dinajpur[disambiguation needed] district and Mahipala in Murshidabad district; Mahipaladighi (tank) in Dinajpur and Mahipala's Sagardighi in Murshidabad - all these still bear testimony to his deeds and the high esteem in which the people held him. It is further reflected in the numerous ballads believed to exist in Bengal commemorating his name. Brindaban Das wrote in his Chaitanya Bhagavat (c. 1572 CE) that the people of Bengal in the early part of the 16th century were very fond of these songs of Mahipala. The popularity of these songs and the name of Mahipala are reflected in the common saying, Dhan bhante Mahipaler git (songs of Mahipala while husking rice), which is still prevalent in rural Bengal.

After early years of war, Mahipala may have devoted himself to peaceful pursuits and religious activities. His public works endeared him to the hearts of the people of Bengal. The excavations at Paharpur have revealed the revival of Pala power under Mahipala as manifest in the wholesale renovation of the main temple and in the monastic cells and in the numerous votive stupas at the shrine of Tara in the Satyapir Bhita.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Richard Robinson. The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction. 
Preceded by
Vigrahapala II
Pala Emperor
988–1038 CE
Succeeded by
Nayapala