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Medieval History

For a period that has come to be so strongly associated with the Islamic influence and rule in India, Medieval Indian history went for almost three whole centuries under the so-called indigenous rulers, that included the Chalukyas, the Pallavas, the Pandyas, the Rashtrakutas, the Muslims rulers and finally the Mughal Empire. The most important dynasty to emerge in the middle of the 9th century was that of the Cholas.


The Palas

Between 8th and 10th centuries A.D., a number of powerful empires dominated the eastern and northern parts of India. The Pala king Dharmpala, son of Gopala reigned from the late 8th century A.D. to early 9th century A.D. Nalanda University and Vikramashila University were founded by Dharmpala.


The Senas

After the decline of the Palas, the Sena dynasty established its rule in Bengal. The founder of the dynasty was Samantasena. The greatest ruler of the dynasty was Vijaysena. He conquered the whole of Bengal and was succeeded by his son Ballalasena. He reigned peacefully but kept his dominions intact. He was a great scholar and wrote four works including one on astronomy. The last ruler of this dynasty was Lakshamanasena under whose reign the Muslims invaded Bengal, and the empire fell.


The Pratihara

The greatest ruler of the Pratihara dynasty was Mihir Bhoja. He recovered Kanauj (Kanyakubja) by 836, and it remained the capital of the Pratiharas for almost a century. He built the city Bhojpal (Bhopal). Raja Bhoja and other valiant Gujara kings faced and defeated many attacks of the Arabs from west.

Between 915-918 A.D, Kanauj was attacked by a Rashtrakuta king, who devastated the city leading to the weakening of the Pratihara Empire. In 1018, Kannauj then ruled by Rajyapala Pratihara was sacked by Mahmud of Ghazni. The empire broke into independent Rajput states.


The Rashtrakutas

This dynasty, which ruled from Karnataka, is illustrious for several reasons. They ruled the territory vaster than that of any other dynasty. They were great patrons of art and literature. The encouragement that several Rashtrakuta kings provided to education and literature is unique, and the religious tolerance exercised by them was exemplary.


The Chola Empire of the South

It emerged in the middle of the 9th century A.D., covered a large part of Indian peninsula, as well as parts of Sri Lanka and the Maldives Islands.

The first important ruler to emerge from the dynasty was Rajaraja Chola I and his son and successor Rajendra Chola. Rajaraja carried forward the annexation policy of his father. He led armed expedition to distant lands of Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.

The successors of Rajendra I, Rajadhiraj and Rajendra II were brave rulers who fought fiercely against the later Chalukya kings, but could not check the decline of Chola Empire. The later Chola kings were weak and incompetent rulers. The Chola Empire thus lingered on for another century and a half, and finally came to an end with the invasion of Malik Kafur in the early 14th century A.D.


The Rise of Islam in South-Asia

The initial entry of Islam into South Asia came in the first century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The Umayyad caliph in Damascus sent an expedition to Baluchistan and Sindh in 711 led by Muhammad bin Qasim. He captured Sindh and Multan. Three hundred years after his death Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, the ferocious leader, led a series of raids against Rajput kingdoms and rich Hindu temples, and established a base in Punjab for future incursions. In 1024, the Sultan set out on his last famous expedition to the southern coast of Kathiawar along the Arabian Sea, where he sacked the city of Somnath and its renowned Hindu temple.

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Timur's Invasion

It was during the reign of the last king of the Tughlaq dynasty that the mighty king Timur or Tamerlane invaded India in 1398 A.D. He crossed Indus and captured Multan, and just walked over to Delhi without much resistance.

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Vijayanagar Empire

When Muhammad Tughlaq was losing his power in Deccan, the two Hindu princes, Harihar and Bukka founded an independent kingdom in the region between the river Krishna and Tungabhadra in 1336. They soon established their sway over the entire territory between the rivers Krishna in the north and Cauveri in the south. The rising powers of the Vijayanagar empire brought it into clash with many powers and they frequently fought wars with the Bahmani kingdom.

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Bhakti Movement

An important landmark in the cultural history of medieval India was the silent revolution in society brought about by a galaxy of socio-religious reformers, a revolution known as the Bhakti Movement. This movement was responsible for many rites and rituals associated with the worship of God by Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of Indian subcontinent. For example, Kirtan at a Hindu Temple, Qawaali at a Dargah (by Muslims), and singing of Gurbani at a Gurdwara are all derived from the Bhakti movement of medieval India (800-1700). The leader of this Hindu revivalist movement was Shankaracharya, a great thinker and a distinguished philosopher. And this movement was propounded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Namadeva, Tukaram, Jayadeva. The movement's major achievement was its abolition of idol worship.

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The Mughal Empire

In India, the Mughal Empire was one of the greatest empires ever. The Mughal Empire ruled hundreds of millions of people. India became united under one rule, and had very prosperous cultural and political years during the Mughal rule. There were many Muslim and Hindu kingdoms split all throughout India until the founders of the Mughal Empire came. There were some men such as Babar, grandson to the Great Asian conqueror Tamerlane and the conqueror Genghis Khan from the northern region of Ganges, river valley, who decided to take over Khyber, and eventually, all of India.

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Rise of the Sikh Power

Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Guru Nanak was born on April 15, 1469 in the Western Punjab village of Talwandi. Even as a child, he was given to deep thinking with no interest in worldly life. At the age of thirty, he got enlightenment. Thereafter, he travelled almost the whole of the country and went over to Mecca and Baghdad, preaching his message. On his death he was followed by nine other Gurus in succession.

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