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Vijay Sen (Bengali: বিজয় সেন) (c 1097-1160 AD) was the founder of the Sen dynasty of Bengal, which ruled for more than 100 years. It appears from his records that he inherited the position of a subordinate ruler in Rarh under the Palas. He was possibly the same as Vijayraj of Nidravali, one of the fourteen Samanta kings who helped Ramapala in his recovery of Varendra. Vijay Sen was the son of Hemanta Sen.
Establishing power in Rarh
Vijay Sen took full advantage of the weakness of the Pala rulers. He obtained an independent position in Rarh in recognition of his help to Ramapala. He defeated the Palas and captured the throne of Gauda afterwards. His queen Vilasdevi was a princess of the Sur dynasty. Sandhyakar Nandi in his epic poem Ramacharitam attests to the existence of the Sur family in the southern Rarh in the first quarter of the 11th century. The same source, however, records the name of Lakshmishura, the lord of the Apara-Mandara (identified with Mandaran in the Hughli district) in the list of vassal chiefs who helped Ramapala. Vijay Sen's matrimonial relation with the Sur family helped him in establishing his power in Rarh. He is also said to have entered into an alliance with the Orissan king, Anantavarman Chorganga. This alliance certainly enhanced his political prestige. He is described as Chorganga-Sakha (friend of Chorganga) in the Ballalcharita of Anandabhatta.
Conquest of Bengal
It is beyond any doubt that Vijay Sen established independent power in Bengal immediately after the demise of Ramapala. The Deopara prashasti records that he defeated Nanya, Vir, Raghav and Vardhan. He vanquished the kings of Kamarupa and Kalinga. He also compelled the king of Gauda to flee away from his kingdom. It is not very difficult to identify the rivals of Vijay Sen. Nanya can be identified with King Nanyadev (c 1097-1147 AD) of Mithila, another Karnat chief. Vir was perhaps Virgun, ruler of Kotatavi, a member of Rampala's samantachakra. Vardhan may be identified either with Dorpavardhan, ruler of Kausambi, or with Govardhan against whom Madanapala won a victory. Vijay Sen's fight against Vir and Vardhan were perhaps meant to bring under control two other feudatory chiefs who also might have aspired for power. Raghav was no other than the king of Kalinga. He can be identified with Raghav, son of Chorganga who ruled Orissa from c 1157-1170 AD. The encounter between Vijay Sen and Raghav probably took place towards the end of the former's reign. It is not unlikely that Vijay Sen had to wage war against Raghav, although he maintained a friendly relation with Anantavarman Chorganga. Vijay Sen's fight against Raghav was meant to frustrate the latter's aggressive designs. The reference in the Deopara prashasti to the fight between Vijay Sen and the king of Kamrupa does not necessarily mean that the former invaded the province, although that is not impossible altogether. The king of Kamrupa, defeated by Vijay Sen, was perhaps Vaidyadev, the minister of Kumarapala who declared independence, or his successor. It is not unlikely that Vaidyadev or his successor invaded the newly founded dominions of the Sens and was driven away by Vijay Sen.
Ousting Pala Empire
The lord of Gauda who was made to flee by Vijay Sen was Madanapala, the last known Pala king whose authority was, at that time, confined to north Bengal. It is learnt from the Pala epigraphic records that Madanapala's authority over north Bengal continued up to the 8th year of his reign, which falls in 1152-53 AD. Most probably Vijay Sen established his own supremacy in North and North Western Bengal by ousting the Palas sometime after 1152-53 AD. It is recorded in the Deopara prashasti that he erected the magnificent temple of Pradyumneshvar at the find-place of the inscription, about 7 miles to the west of Rajshahi town. It is to be remembered here that no Pala record has yet been discovered in Bengal after Madanapala's 8th year of reign.
Invasion of South
It is also recorded in the Deopara inscription that Vijay Sen's fleet advanced towards the west along the course of the Ganges. It seems that the Gahadvalas, who by this time had occupied parts of Bihar, were his target. However it is not clear from the inscription whether his naval expedition was successful.
Vijay Sen is said to have extended his hold over Vanga (southeastern Bengal) also. His Barrackpur copper plate was issued from Vikrampur, the capital of the Varmans who are found to have ruled in this area from the last quarter of the 11th century to the middle of the 12th century AD. So it seems probable that Vijay Sen ousted the Varmans from southeastern Bengal in the middle of the 12th century AD.
Thus by the middle of the 12th century AD Vijay Sen supplanted the Varmans, ousted the Palas and succeeded in establishing the rule of his own dynasty over the whole of Bengal. He seems to have consolidated his empire in Bengal by defeating other enemies. He had a very long reign of about 62 years. He was a Shaiva. He was liberal towards Brahmanas versed in the Vedas and the poor. He assumed the imperial titles of Paramaheshvara Parambhattarak Maharajadhiraj. He also took the proud title of Ariraj-Vrsabha-Shankara. It has been suggested on good grounds that Gaudorviskulprashasti (eulogy of the royal family of Gauda) and the Vijayprashasti (eulogy of Vijay) of the famous poet Shriharsa were inspired by the career of Vijay Sen.
|King of Sena Dynasty, Bengal