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Laksmanasena


Laksmanasena (c 1178-1206 AD) the third king of the sena dynasty, who ruled for about 28 years. Laksmanasena succeeded his father vallalasena. The history of his reign can be reconstructed from the epigraphs of his time so far discovered.

It is evident from the records of his reign that before he came to power he defeated the king of gauda and Varanasi (Kashi) and made expeditions against kamarupa and Kalinga. It is quite probable that the above victories were achieved by Laksmanasena in his youth and possibly during the reign of his grand father, vijayasena, who was engaged in warfare against the kings of Gauda, Kalinga, Kamarupa and also most probably against the King of Kasi of the Gahadaval dynasty. It appears from the epigraphs of Laksmanasena that he was the first king among the Senas to assume the title of Gaudeshvara. This title is, however, absent in the plates of both Vijayasena and Vallalasena. From this fact, it has been argued that it was Laksmanasena who finally subdued Gauda and assumed for himself the title of Gaudesvara. But this argument is very weak because there can hardly be any doubt regarding the establishment of the Sena rule over the whole of Bengal during the reign of Vijayasena. The Sena records do not refer to any incident in the intervening period that necessitated the reconquest of Gauda by Laksmanasena. Moreover the occupation of northern Bengal by the Senas during the reigns of Vijayasena and Vallalasena has been proved beyond any doubt.

It is recorded in the copper plates of his sons that Laksmanasena built monuments indicating his victory in Puri, Benaras and Allahabad. However it is very difficult to conclude from the high sounding praise in the records of the sons of Laksmanasena that his monuments refer to the expansion of the Sena power over those areas during his reign. His court poets umapatidhara and Sharana described the expeditions of an anonymous king who conquered pragjyotisa, Gauda, Kalinga, Kashi and Magadha and Cedi and Mlechchharaja. Probably this eulogy can be attributed to Laksmanasena, for all these except Cedi and Mlechchhas. It is evident from an inscription (Akaltara inscription) that Vallabharaja, a feudatory of the Kalachuri (Cedi) king of Ratnapura defeated the king of Gauda. On the other hand, Laksmanasena claimed victory over him. Although the conflict between the two is more or less certain, the result is not.

There is no doubt that Laksmanasena came to the throne at a fairly old age. His reign was famous for remarkable literary activity. He himself wrote many Sanskrit poems, some of which are preserved in the anthology saduktikarnamrita, and completed the Adbhutasagara, which was started by his father. His court was an assembly of several renowned poets like Jayadeva, the author of the gitagovindam; Sarana; Dhoyi, the composer of the Pavanaduta and probably also Govardhana. His friend Shridharadasa, son of Vatudasa compiled the Saduktikarnamrta, an anthology of Sanskrit verses, during his reign. His chief minister and chief judge was Halayudha Mishra, who wrote the Brahmanasarvasva. Umapatidhara, the author of the deopara prashasti is referred to have been a minister and one of the several court poets of Laksmanasena.

It is known that Laksamanasena was a staunch Vaisnava, while his father and grandfather are known to have been devout Shaiva. He took the title of Paramavaisnava or Paramanarasingha. Nothing definite is known regarding his change of faith. Laksmanasena was famous for his exceptional qualities and proverbial generosity. Indeed his generosity even attracted the attention of Minhaj-us-Siraj, the author of the tabaqat-i-nasiri, who designated him as a 'great Rae' of Bengal and compared him with Sultan Qutbuddin. He, however, became too weak to run the administration of his kingdom towards the close of his reign. During this time there were signs of disruption and disintegration within his kingdom. Contemporary epigraphic records refer to the emergence of a number of independent chiefs in different parts of the Sena kingdom, which paved the way for its decline.

However, the final blow to the Sena kingdom came from Muhammad bakhtiyar khalji, the Turkish invader. Indeed when the whole of northern India gradually came under the sway of the Muslims it was quite natural that they would try their arms eastward.

Bakhtyar Khalji first stormed Bihar and then invaded Nadia (in 1205 AD) and compelled Laksmanasena to flee to eastern Bengal. The Turkish invader gradually captured western and northern Bengal and laid the foundation of Muslim rule in Bengal. At that time Laksmanasena was an octogenarian. Hence it is likely that the old king could hardly offer any serious resistance to the invasion. Bakhtyar marched against Bengal with a band of well-trained horsemen. He was at first treated in Nadia as a horse-dealer. The old Sena king, who was then at his dinner, was completely taken by surprise. When Bakhtiyar captured Nadia, Laksmanasena withdrew to southeastern Bengal, where his sons continued the rule of the Senas for some time. His presence in southeastern Bengal is proved by his Bhowal plate, issued in his 27th year to grant land in an area not far away from Dhaka. He died some time in 1206 AD.

At Laksmanasena's accession the Senas had the paramountcy over the whole of Bengal, and their greatness found expression in the numerous literary works that were produced during his reign. And towards the end of his reign the Sena power declined and the rule of his successors was limited to parts of southeastern Bengal, where emerged other local rulers. [Chitta Ranjan Misra]