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The Solanki dynasty were an Agnivanshi clan. Gujarat was a major center of Indian Ocean trade, and their capital at Anhilwara (Patan) was one of the largest cities in India, with population estimated at 100,000 in the year 1000. In 1026, the Somnath temple in Gujarat was destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni. After 1243, the Solankis lost control of Gujarat to their feudatories, of whom the Vaghela chiefs of Dholka came to dominate Gujarat. In 1292 the Vaghelas became tributaries of the Yadava dynasty of Devagiri in the Deccan.
Early Gujrat (Gurjara Des) ruling clans
Dadda, the founder of Gurjara Pratihara dynasty, established rule at Nandipur (Nandol). Dadda III wrested Broach from the Maitraks whose citadel had started shaking. In fact, there were three powerful dynasties which were ruling different parts of Gujarat: the Rajputs had their sway over the north, the Chalukyas ruled the south and the Maitraks were saddled in Saurashtra. The vacuum created by the fall of the Maitraka dynasty was filled up by the Gurjara Pratiharas from the north and Rashtrakutas from the south.
As vassals of the Valabhis, or Chavdas held their sway over parts of north Gujarat. They assumed independent control after the fall of Valabhi. Vanraj Chavda, the most prominent of the eight Chavada kings, founded Chavda dynasty and the new capital at Anhilpur Patan. he reconquered his father's lost territories and founded the Chapa Dynasty which lasted a shade under a century.
Samantsinh Chavda, the last Chavada ruler, did not have any son and he adopted Mulraj Solanki, his nephew, who overthrew him in 942 AD and set up what came to be known as the Solanki dynasty. He started expanding his frontiers and established his complete and total hold over Saurashtra and Kachchh by defeating Grahripu of Junagadh in Saurashtra and Lakho Fulani of Kachchh. Mulraj Solanki's reign marked the start of the most glorious period in the history of Gujarat during which Gujarati culture flowered as manifested in art, architecture, language and script. It is described as the golden period in Gujarat chequered history. Mulraj himself adopted the title of Gurjaresh, (King of Gurjardesh) an aristocratic title of Gurjars.
The guardian family deity of the Solanki's was Somnath at Prabhas. Ironically, it was during the Solanki's rule that the scared shrine was sacked by Mahmud Ghazni who defiled and despoiled the fabulously rich shrine and put 50,000 Hindus to sword. The temple was destroyed with its Linga during the regime of Bhimdev I.
Siddhraj Jaisinh Solanki succeeded Karandev I and ruled for 47 years from 1094 A.D. Jain monk Hemchandracharya rose to prominence and had good relation with the king. Apart from Saurashtra and Kachchh, Sidhraj Jaysinh also conquered Malwa. One of the favourite legends with the Gujarat bards is woven around the siege of Junagadh by Sidhraj Jaysinh. The fort was ultimately captured by him along with Ranakdevi, the Queen of the ruler Ra'Khengar. However, in the true tradition of the Kshatriyas, Ranakdevi preferred to commit 'sati' rather than marry Sidharaj Jaysinh. Sidharaj was persuaded to allow Ranakdevi to commit 'Sati' by burning herself on a pyre at Wadhvan. A temple was built on the hallowed place where she became 'Sati'. The temple still stands in Wadhavan, Saurashtra, as a mute testimony to the woman who preferred death to marriage with the person who had humbled her husband. The temple is called Ranakdevi's temple.
Siddhraj's successor Kumarpal's reign lasted for 31 years from 1143 to 1174 AD. He too had good relationship with Hemchandracharya and he propagated Jainism during his rule in Gujarat. He rebuilt Somnath temple. During Kumarpal's reign, Gujarat's prosperity was at its peak.
Bal Mulraj successfully repelled the incursions of Mahmud of Ghor who had the ambition of repeating the act performed by Mahmud Ghazni.
After the fall of Solanki rule, Vaghelas who were in the service of the Solanki's established a rather short-lived (76 years) but powerful dynasty. The two rulers of this dynasty, Virdhaval and Vishaldev, were responsible for consolidating the stabilizing the prosperity of Gujarat after the fall of the Solankis. While Vishaldev built the famous temples of Dabhoi and founded Vishalnagar, the credit for building magnificent temples at Abu, Girnar and Shetrunjay goes to two distinguished Dewans (chief ministers) - Vastupal and Tejpal - of Virdhaval. After the sack of the Somnath by Mahmud Ghazni, Kinlock Forbes, a British historian, had this to say "Mahmood of Ghuznee had hardly accomplished his disastrous homeward retreat, leaving behind him Unhilwara despoiled and Somnath a heap of ruins, when the sound of the hammer and the chisel was heard upon Arasoor and Aboo, and the stately fanes began to arise at Koobharea and Delwara, in which an elaboration almost incredible and a finish worthy of the hand of a Cellini, seemed to express the founder's steadfast refusal to believe in mlechh invaders, or iconoclastic destroyers, as other than the horrid phantom of a disturbing dream."
Karandev of the Vaghela dynasty was the last Hindu ruler of Gujarat. He was defeated and overthrown by the superior forces of Allauddin Khilji from Delhi in 1297. With his defeat Gujarat not only became part of the Muslim empire but the Rajput hold over Gujarat lost for ever.
- Vincent A. Smith. 'White Hun' Coin of Vyaghramukha of the Chapa Dynasty of Bhinmal:Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 1999. Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. p. 926. JSTOR 25210490.
The chavadas seems to have been a branch of the Gurjara des ruling [Parmaras] who extended the power of the race in the south
- Chintaman Vinayak Vaidya (1979). History of mediaeval Hindu India, Volume 1. Cosmo Publications. p. 355.