Mihira Bhoja Pratihar: The Greatest Rajput Emperor

Chimaji Appa

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Hello everyone! I plan to write an informative post on one of my favorite kings of North India from my ancestral homeland (Gurjaradesa), Mihira Bhoja Pratihar. Mihira Bhoja Pratihar was one of the greatest rulers in the Classical Hindu Age and is highly underrated.

Reversal of Hardships and Reconquest of Kannauj:

Mihira Bhoja was born to Ramabhadra, the previous Pratihara king. During this time, India was locked in a 200 year struggle for the key territories in the wealthy Gangetic plains. Ramabhadra appears to have suffered hardships and defeat at the hands of the Palas and the Rashtrakutas; the Rashtrakutas were raiding Malwa, and the Palas seem to have reconquered Kanyakubja ( the city being fought over for) as well as other territories that were captured during Ramabhadra's predecessor, Nagabhata II. The Arabs remained a never ending threat in the west while the Rashtrakutas were ready to pounce on Kannauj at any moment.

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^^Map of the Political scene during the Tripartite Struggle^^


When Mihira Bhoja entered the throne, he found himself in a dire situation as explained above. Mihira Bhoja solidified his rule over his inherited territories (Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bundelkhand, Malwa) and successfully recaptured Kannauj from the then Pala King, Devapala. Mihira Bhoja may have even raided or held sway over Bihar as evidenced by a lack of Pratihara or Pala inscriptions, indicating a struggle for hold on this region. Gunambhodidheva, a general in the Pratihara army, was rewarded for his brave actions in this expedition. Guhila, a feudatory of Mihira Bhoja may have also taken part in this war, or in another expedition as will be seen below.



War with the Arabs:

Mihira Bhoja also got into frequent conflict with the Arab governors in Sindh and Multan. Harsa of Chatsu, the father of Guhila (whom were vassals of the Pratiharas), is said to have led a successful expedition up north where he "presented loyally to Bhoja horses of a breed, the Srivamsa, who could cross the seas of Sand". Historian Dashratha Sharma opines that the sandy track in this inscription could be a reference to a conflict with the Arabs in Sindh. We also know that Bhoja and the Arabs were always at war from Suleiman (Arab scholar), who describes Bhoja as the "greatest foe to the Arabs", and Al Masudi , who tells about how the Arab governors at Sindh and Multan would threaten to burn a famous sun temple down upon hearing the arrival of the Pratihara army. Thus, it seems that the Pratiharas may have vassalized or at least successfully fought with their Arab neighbors to the west. References to early Chahamana rulers defeating the Mlecchchas (in the Prithviraja Vijaya) also seems to lend support to this view.

War with the Rashtrakutas:

The Pratiharas and the Rashtrakutas were bitter rivals of each other. In most of their conflicts, the Rashtrakutas had always gotten the better of their Pratihara adversaries in the fight for Kannauj, with Dhruva Dhravarsha and Govinda III defeating Vatsraja and Nagabhata II (Bhojas ancestors) respectively. Upon entering the Pratihara throne, Bhoja was contemporary to Amoghavarsha Rashtrakuta , who was engaged in southern affairs. Pratihara and Rashtrakuta relations were calm until there was some war of succession between 2 Rashtrakuta rulers in Lata (Dhruva II and his younger brother). Bhoja did lead a cavalry raid into Gujarat which was succsesfully repelled by the former. Dhruva II may have been helped by the Rashtrakuta ruler Amoghavarsa.


The next Rashtrakuta-Pratihara conflict happened towards the end of Mihira Bhojas reign , where Krishna II of the Gujarat branch is said to have obtained fame by "defeating the enemy at Ujjaiyni (Ujjain) in a battle by witnessed by Vallabha (Krishna II of Manyakheta, the Imperial Branch)" (Bagumra plates). Bhojas generals appear to have been caught off guard by this raid, and hence suffered defeat. However, quick retaliation followed and we hear no more of this Gujarat branch after 888 AD. It has been suggested by scholars that Krishna II chose to directly merge the Lata Branch, but this seems to be contradicted by the Barton Museum inscription which states that a ruler "who was known all around everyone by Varaha caught Krisnaraja by means of forced marches". Thus, it seems that when the Pratihara army was fully mobilized, the 2 Krisnas beat a hasty retreat into their own domains. The army was led by the old Bhoja himself, who met the Rashtrakutas near the Narmada and scored a decisive victory over the 2 allies (the Lata Branch and the imperial Rashtrakuras.

We speculate that the Rashtrakuta branch in Lata (South Gujarat) was vanquished by Mihira Bhoja because:

1. We hear no more of this Gujarat line after 888 AD

2. The Cambay plates of Govinda IV mention that Krishna II freed Khekatamala (an area once held by the Lata Rashtrakutas) from some enemy. Krishna II probably liberated this area a few years after Bhojas death, where he made some grant.

Thus, we see from circumstantial and epigraphic evidence that the Lata Branch was ended by the Pratiharas, but later recaptured by Krishna II after Bhoja's death.
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^^Where the second conflict with the Rashtrakutas occurred^^

Theorictical Second War with Bengal?
It has opined by Dr Baij Nath Puri (well renowned historian of India from Oxford University) that there Mihira Bhoja carried out 2 invasions of Bengal. To support this, he cites that both Guhila and Harsaraja (whom were loyal Pratihara feudatories in Chatsu, Rajasthan) who claim to have scored several victories of Northern kings. Mihira Bhoja had to reconquer Kannauj from Devapala and probably even conquered Bihar (as evidenced by a lack of Pala inscriptions). The next invasion may have been carried out by Guhila, who is said to have "vanquished the Gaudas".

Extent of the Empire:
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Mihira Bhoja's military exploits created an empire that stretched from the Himalayan foothills to the Narmada river in Central India. From the borders of the Arabs of Sindh to Bihar (where 6 of his succsesor, Mahendrapala I's inscriptions were found). His military victories in Sindh, Multan, Lata, and Bengal arguably make him one of the best military leaders in the Late Classical Hindu Age, where he ruled an empire that was near the size of the Guptas. Kannauj, the new Pratihara capital, became a center of learning and Hinduism as well.

Personal Life:
Not much is known about Mihira Bhoja's personal life. His Gwalior Prashati inscription gives the lineage of all the Pratihara kings from Nagabhata to Ramabhadra (his father). Bhoja was a devotee of Vishnu and took on the title "Adi-Varaha" (Varaha is an avatar of Vishnu). All of his inscriptions begin with a salutation to Vishnu. Mihira Bhoja was succeeded by Mahendrapala I in the late 880s CE, who would go on to conquer North Bengal.



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^^Teli Ka Temple built during Bhoja's reign^^

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^^Gateway of the Temple^^


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^^More Sculptures near Gwalior from Bhoja's reign^^




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^^Dracchm coins of Mihira Bhoja (Indo-Sassanid Style)^^
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^^Statue of the Great King^^


Sources:
Rajasthan through the Ages by Dashratha Sharma
The History of the Gurjara Pratiharas by Baij Nath Puri
 

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