Devapala (Pala dynasty)

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Indian Kanauj triangle map.svg
Pala empire with neighbours
Pala Emperor
Tenure9th century
SpouseMahata Devi, daughter of Durlabharaja I of Chahamana dynasty
Shurapala I

Devapala (Bangla: দেবপাল)(9th century) was the most powerful ruler of the Pala Empire of Bengal region in the Indian Subcontinent. He was the third king in the line, and had succeeded his father Dharamapala. Devapala expanded the frontiers of the empire by conquering the present-day Assam and Orissa.[1] The Pala inscriptions also credit him with several other victories, but these claims are thought to be exaggerated.


Devapala was the third king in the line, and had succeeded his father Dharamapala.[2] His mother was Rannadevi, a Rashtrakuta princess.[3]: 178  Earlier historians considered Devapala as a nephew of Dharmapala, based on the Bhagalpur copper plate of Narayanapala, which mentions Devapala as Jayapala's purvajabhrata (interpreted as "elder brother"). Jayapala is mentioned as the son of Dharmapala's brother Vakpala in multiple Pala inscriptions. However, the discovery of the Munger (Monghyr) copper inscription changed this view. This particular inscription clearly describes Devapala as the son of Dharmapala.[4]

Based on the different interpretations of the various epigraphs and historical records, the different historians estimate Devapala's reign as follows:[5]: 32–37 

Historian Estimate of reign
RC Majumdar (1971) 810-c. 850
AM Chowdhury (1967) 821-861
BP Sinha (1977) 820-860
DC Sircar (1975–76) 812-850

Expansion of the Pala Empire[edit]

Devapala launched military campaigns under his cousin and his general Jayapala, who was the son of Dharmapala's younger brother Vakpala.[6] These expeditions resulted in the invasion of Pragjyotisha (present-day Assam) where the king submitted without giving a fight and Utkala (present-day Odisha) whose ruler fled from his capital city.[7]

The highly exaggerated[8] Badal Pillar inscription of a later Pala king Narayanapala states that Devpala's empire extended up to the Vindhyas, the Himalayas, and the two oceans (presumably the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal). It also claims that Devpala exterminated the Utkalas (present-day Orissa), conquered the Pragjyotisha (Assam), shattered the pride of the Hunas, humbled the lords of Gurjara and the Dravidas.[9][10] These claims are exaggerated, but cannot be dismissed entirely: the neighbouring kingdoms of Rashtrakutas and the Gurjara-Pratiharas were weak at the time, and may have been subdued by Devapala.[3][11]

The "Gurjaras" in the inscription refers to the Gurjara-Pratiharas led by Mihira Bhoja. The Hunas probably refers to a principality in North-West India.[12] "Dravida" is generally believed to be a reference to the Rashtrakutas (led by Amoghavarsha), but RC Majumdar believes that it may refer to the Pandyan king Sri Mara Sri Vallabha. However, there is no definitive record of any expedition of Devapala to the extreme south. In any case, his victory in the south could only have been a temporary one, and his dominion lay mainly in the north.[13]

While an ancient country with the name Kamboja was located in what is now Afghanistan, there is no evidence that Devapala's empire extended that far.[3] Kamboja, in this inscription, could refer to the Kamboja tribe that had entered North India (see Kamboja Pala dynasty). The Munger copper plate (Monghyr Charter) indicates that the Palas recruited their war horses from the Kambojas, and there might have been a Kamboja cavalry in the Pala armed forces.[14] Viradeva, a scholar appointed by him as the abbot of Nalanda, is believed to be a native of Nagarahara (identified with modern-day Jalalabad).[13] This has led some scholars to speculate if Devapala indeed launched a military expedition to the present-day Afghanistan, during which he met Viradeva.[15] But some historians believe that Devapala defeated the Arab rulers of the north west.[citation needed]

Religious leanings[edit]

Devapala was a staunch sponsor of Buddhism, and approved the construction of many temples and monasteries in Magadha.[16] He maintained the famous Buddhist monastery at Uddandapura (Odantapuri). Buton Rinchen Drub credits his father Dharmapala for building the monastery, although other Tibetan accounts such as that of Taranatha, state that it was magically built and then entrusted to Devapala.[5]: 45 

Balaputradeva, the Sailendra king of Java, sent an ambassador to him, asking for a grant of five villages for the construction of a monastery at Nalanda. The request was granted by Devapala.[13] He also patronized the Vikramashila University and the Nalanda University.

Buddhist scholar Vajradatta (the author of Lokesvarashataka), was the court poet of Devapala.[13][1]


Devapala ruled for about 40 years. His oldest son probably was the Crown Prince(Yuvaraja) Rajyapala. However, he probably died before his father. Earlier, the historians believed his successor to be Shurapala I and/or Vigrahapala I.[5]: 32–37  In the 2000s, a copper-plate grant was discovered at Jagjivanpur: this plate mentions that a hitherto unknown Pala king, Mahendrapala, had issued the grant in 854 CE.[17] Mahendrapala was the son of Devapala and brother of Shurapala I. Both Mahendrapala and Shurapala I were born to Queen Mahata.[18]

Preceded by Pala Emperor
9th century
Succeeded by

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dahiya, Poonam Dalal (2017). Ancient and Medieval India. McGraw-Hill Education. p. 413. ISBN 978-93-5260-673-3.
  2. ^ History and Culture of Indian People, The Age of Imperial Kanauj, 1964, p. 50, Dr R. C. Majumdar, Dr A. D. Pusalkar
  3. ^ a b c Bindeshwari Prasad Sinha (1977). Dynastic History of Magadha. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications. p. 185. ISBN 978-81-7017-059-4. [p. 178] Dharmapāla's wife was Raṇṇādevī daughter of Parabala, the ornament of the Rāshṭrakūṭa race. Devapāla was their son.
  4. ^ Dilip Kumar Ganguly (1994). Ancient India, History and Archaeology. Abhinav Publications. pp. 27–28. ISBN 978-81-7017-304-5.
  5. ^ a b c Susan L. Huntington (1984). The "Påala-Sena" Schools of Sculpture. Brill. ISBN 90-04-06856-2.
  6. ^ Badal Pillar Inscription, verse 13, Epigraphia Indica II, p 160; Bhagalpur Charter of Narayanapala, year 17, verse 6, The Indian Antiquary, XV p 304.
  7. ^ Bhagalpur Charter of Narayanapala, year 17, verse 6, Indian Antiquary, XV p 304.
  8. ^ Nitish K. Sengupta (2011). Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib. Penguin Books India. pp. 43–45. ISBN 978-0-14-341678-4.
  9. ^ History and Culture of Indian People, The Age of Imperial Kanauj, 1964, p. 50, 55, 56, Dr R. C. Majumdar, Dr A. D. Pusalkar.
  10. ^ Badal Pillar Inscription, verse 5, Epigraphia Indica, II p 160.
  11. ^ Sailendra Nath Sen (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. p. 20. ISBN 978-93-80607-34-4.
  12. ^ Ronald M. Davidson (2004) [First published 2002]. Indian Esoteric Buddhism: Social History of the Tantric Movement. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 53–55. ISBN 978-81-208-1991-7.
  13. ^ a b c d Sailendra Nath Sen (1999) [First published 1988]. Ancient Indian History and Civilization (2nd ed.). New Age International. pp. 280–. ISBN 978-81-224-1198-0.
  14. ^ Dynastic History of Northern India, I. p 311; H. C. Ray (December 1939). "New Light on the History of Bengal". Indian Historical Quarterly. XV (4): 511.; History of Ancient Bengal, 1971, pp 127, 182-83 : "The Palas employed mercenary forces and certainly recruited horses from Kamboja (Ins B.8 V 13).
  15. ^ H. C. Kar. (1980). Military History of India. Calcutta: Firma KLM. p. 88. OCLC 558393347.
  16. ^ V. D. Mahajan (1970) [First published 1960]. Ancient India. p. 570. OCLC 1000593117.
  17. ^ Bengal museum to reconstruct excavated Buddhist site
  18. ^ Dimensions of Human Cultures in Central India: Professor S.K. Tiwari Felicitation Volume. Sarup & Sons. 2001. p. 239. ISBN 978-81-7625-186-0.