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Ramapala


Ramapala (c 1082-1124 AD) the last important king of the pala dynasty, whose achievements have been glorified by Sandhyakara Nandi in his famous poetical work, the ramacharitam. His main contribution to the Pala dynasty was the recovery of varendra (northern Bengal) from the hands of the Kaivartas, and thereby he gave a new lease of life to the rule of the Palas in Bengal.

Ramapala succeeded to the Pala throne after his elder brother Surapala, and found the empire confined to parts of Bihar and western Bengal. Varendra was under the occupation of the Kaivarta chief divya, who had wrested this part of the Pala territory during the reign of Mahipala II, eldest brother of Ramapala. Northern Bihar had passed to the Karnata dynasty of Mithila; Nanyadeva (c 1097-1150 AD) of that dynasty was a contemporary of Ramapala. The Varmans held sway over vanga with vikramapura as their capital. His hold over western Bengal and southern Bihar was also very feeble; the samantas paid scant allegiance to the Pala king.

Varendra was ruled successively by Divya, Rudoka and Bhima and during the rule of the last named Ramapala prepared for his attempt to recover the janakabhu of the Palas. Ramapala succeeded in bringing the samanta-chakra, which possessed strong cavalry, elephants and infantry, over to his side by presents of land and enormous wealth, after having visited the areas of the samantas. The alliance with the samantas gave Ramapala the strength with which he now dared to strike at Bhima's stronghold. It appears that the samantas owed very tenuous allegiance to Ramapala, who had to travel from door to door with a view to enlisting the support of the powerful chiefs. Ramapala acted with prudence as he realised the weakness of his power, and only after having won over the support of his vassal chiefs, did he strike against Bhima. The Ramacharitam provided a list of 14 samantas who joined hands with Ramapala. Ramapala succeeded in regaining Varendra from Divya and established peace and order there and founded a new city called Ramavati, which continued to be the capital of the Pala empire till the reign of Madanapala.

The reconquest of northern Bengal from the Kaivartas was a great achievement of Ramapala, Then he attempted to add more glory to his reign. The Varman king of the eastern country conciliated Ramapala for his own safety, by offering his own chariot and excellent elephants. He conquered kamarupa or a part of it and had some success in Orissa. He also had encounters with the Gahadavalas and held his own against the aggressive neighbours on the west. The Gahadavala power engulfed much of the Pala dominion after the death of Ramapala.

The Ramacharitam informs us that Ramapala, in his old age, entrusted the administration of the country to his son or sons and lived in peace for a long time. Ramapala must have come to the throne at an advanced age (he occupied the throne after two of his elder brothers and is reported to have shown signs of valour in the reign of his father Vigrahapala III) and he himself had a long reign of 42 years.

Ramapala had a successful reign, succeeded in recovering the lost dominion and left the empire in a far more stable condition than that in which he had found it. He won over the support of the recalcitrant feudatories and brought back the lost territories. He extended Pala influence into Kamarupa, held his own against the rising power of the Gahadavalas and got involved in the politics of Orissa. He gave the decadent Pala power a second lease of life. Once he was gone the forces of disintegration and dissension set in, which his successors could hardly cope with. [AM Chowdhury]