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Devapala


Devapala the third ruler of the pala dynasty, under whom the period of ascendancy of the dynasty continued unabated. Son and successor of dharmapala, Devapala had a long reign (c 821 - 861 AD) and his as well as his successors' copperplates are full of praise of his success in the expansion of the empire as also in other fields of governance. Weak successors on the Pratihara throne after Nagabhatta II and the inaction of Amoghavarsa, the Rastrukuta king, afforded him the opportunity to hold on to the empire he inherited from his father. It is likely that he succeeded to a vast empire and also the legacy of the tripartite struggle that started during the reign of his father. It is definitely to his credit that he could withstand the onslaughts from his rivals.

It is recorded in one of the copperplates of his time that he ruled 'the earth, free from rivals, up to the mountain celebrated for Ganga's descent, as far as the bridge which proclaims the fame of Ravana's foe, as far as the ocean which is Varuna's home, and as far as the other ocean which is Laksmi's birthplace'. This conventional description of an all-Indian empire may not be true to the word, but it reflects the idea that Devapala ruled over a vast empire. He is recorded to have fought successful battles against the Utkalas, Hunas, Dravida and Gurjara rulers and the ruler of pragjyotisa. It is likely that he had to carry on the struggle against the Gurjara Pratiharas, who repeatedly made attempts to establish their supremacy over madhyadexa of north India. Devapala held his own against the Pratiharas, who were possibly successful in their objective towards the end of his reign. His wars against the Utkalas, the Dravidas and Pragjyotisa may be taken to be his attempts at expansion in different directions. It is not possible to ascertain the amount of his success. Devapala proved to be a worthy successor of Dharmapala and like him made attempts to increase the influence of Bengal in the adjacent areas. Tibetan sources hint at some invasions of Tibetan kings towards Bengal in early 9th century AD.

Devapala, a devout Buddhist, was a great patron of the religion and the famous Buddhist seat of learning at Nalanda. He is known to have granted five villages to be endowed to the monastery built at Nalanda by Balaputradeva, the Shailendra king of Java and Sumatra. This shows Devapala's friendly relationship with the rulers of Buddhist kingdoms of South East Asia and the position of Nalanda in the then Buddhist world. Devapala was also the patron of Viradeva, whom he appointed to preside over the Nalanda monasteries. [AM Chowdhury]