Chandra Dynasty, The

Chandra Dynasty, The ruled in south-eastern Bengal (vanga and samatata) for about a century and a half from the beginning of the 10th century AD. Discovery of quite a few copperplates of the rulers of this dynasty now affords the reconstruction of a connected history of this dynasty and the history of the south-eastern part of Bengal is now much more clear than about 50/60 years ago, when only the name of one of its rulers (Srichandra) was known. The epigraphic records now provide clear evidence of a continuous rule of this dynasty for five generations in Vanga and Samatata when the Palas were ruling in northern and western Bengal and Bihar. The separate political entity of the south-eastern part of Bengal under the Chandras is now firmly established in the history of ancient Bengal.

Purnachandra and Suvarnachandra, were landlords in Rohitagiri (possibly Lalmai region) as vassals of the Harikela rulers. It was Trailokyachandra (c 900-930 AD), son of Suvarnachandra, who was the first independent ruler of the dynasty. He established their sovereign rule in Samatata area with devaparvata as their centre of power and gradually spread it over chandradvipa and parts of Vanga, and assumed the title of maharajadhiraja. One of the verses of Ladahachandra's Mainamati plate records that under him Vanga was rising in prosperity. The ascendancy of Trailokyachandra in Samatata was in all probability contemporaneous with the rise of the Kambojas in western and northern Bengal within the Pala empire. It was during the rule of his son and successor, Srichandra (c 930-975 AD), the administrative centre of the Chandra kingdom was established at vikramapura in Vanga.

Srichandra was undoubtedly the most important king of the dynasty and his long reign of about 45 years witnessed the apogee of their success. He is credited to have spread his empire over the entire Vanga region and ventured out into the Kamarupa area in the north-east. His copperplate, found in Paschimbhag village in Moulvibazar district, records his exploits in Kamarupa as well as his attempts at settling a large number of Brahmins in the Sylhet area. He also matched his arms against the Gaudas (either the Kamboja Gaudapatis or the Palas) and he may have played a vital role in saving the tottering Pala power under Gopala II (In one verse of the Paschimbhag plate he is mentioned as Gopala sangropane mahotsavaguru). Lands granted by his six available copperplates and the information provided by the plates of his successors bear testimony to his rule over a vast territory in Vanga and Samatata area.

Only one copperplate of Srichandra's son and successor Kalyanachandra (c 975-1000 AD) has so far been discovered. The copperplates of Kalyanachandra's successors mention that he made his power felt in Gauda and Kamarupa. He may have given a final blow to the Kamboja power in northern and western Bengal and thereby paved the way for the revival of Pala power under mahipala i. His two successors were Ladahachandra (c 1000-1020 AD) and govindachandra (c 1020-1050 AD), son and grandson of Kalyanachandra respectively, who could maintain the glory of the dynasty and are praised for their liberal policies.

Govindachandra is the last known king of the dynasty. It was during his rule 'Vangaladesha', where the rainwater never stopped, (as mentioned in the Tirumulai inscription) suffered from a Chola invasion (between 1021-1024 AD). Govindachandra or his successor (not known) may have suffered under an attack by Kalachuri king Karna (some time before 1048-49 AD) and this was possibly responsible for the fall of the Chandras.

The Chandras were Buddhists and the Buddhist cultural activities at Mainamati and Lalmai area got new vigour during their rule. But it seems that the Chandra rulers followed a policy of religious toleration; Srichandra is found to have patronised Brahmanical religion in the Sylhet area and the last two Chandra rulers showed very strong Vaisnava leanings. [AM Chowdhury]

Bibliography AM Chowdhury, Dynastic History of Bengal, Dhaka, 1967.