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The Pala Dynasty India

  • A Buddhist imperial power in Classical India was called the Pala Dynasty because all rulers had names ending with the suffix -Pala.
  • The Palas progressed in a period of prosperity and stability in the Bihar-Bengal region. They followed the Vajrayana and Mahayana schools of Buddhism. They built several wonderful works of art and temples, including the Somapura Mahavihara, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The famous universities of Vikramashila and Nalanda flourished under their patronage. The cultural and commercial influence of the Palas reached far-flung areas, with intellectual contacts and trade networks spreading across the Himalayas to Southeast Asia.   
  • The first ruler from the dynasty, Gopala, was elected during the 750s by regional chieftains. The empire reached its zenith under his successors Devapala and Dharmapala. The period of ascendancy of the Pala Empire ended with the death of Devapala, as many independent kingdoms and dynasties emerged. The Pala rule was rejuvenated temporarily, by Mahipala I and Ramapala. Then, the Pala power declined and the Senas took over the throne.


  • North Bengal was the fatherland of the Palas. Gopala, the first Pala king was the son of a warrior, Vapyata.


  • The Bengal region was in a state of chaos following the fall of Shashanka's kingdom. There was constant struggle between petty tribal chiefs and there was no central authority to maintain rule of law. Might is right was the rule of law. Gopala was the first Pala king. He was democratically elected.
  • Gopala's ascension was an important political event because many independent chiefs accepted his political authority.


  • Gopala's son Dharmapala and his grandson Devapala greatly expanded his empire. Dharmapala’s expansion was halted by Nagabhata II, Vatsaraja's son who captured Kannauj and drove away Dharmapala’s nominee, Chakrayudha. After that Nagabhata II defeated Dharmapala. The Rashtrakuta king Govinda III then helped Dharmapala to gain control over North India.
  • Devapala succeeded his father Dharmapala. Devapala is considered as the most powerful Pala ruler. He captured Assam and Orissa without much resistance.

First period of decline

  • After the death of Devapala, the gradual disintegration of the Pala Empire began. Devapala's nephew, Vigrahapala, abandoned the throne after a brief rule, and became a monk. Narayanapala, Vigrahapala's son and successor was a weak ruler. During his reign, the Palas were defeated by Rashtrakuta king Amoghavarsha. Taking advantage of Pala decline, the King Harjara of Assam seized power and the Sailodbhavas took control of Orissa.
  • Rajyapala, Naryanapala's son ruled for more than 12 years, and built many lofty temples and public utilities. His son Gopala II lost Bengal and then ruled only Bihar. Vigrahapala II was the next king who fought against the Kalachuris and the Chandelas. Under his reign, the Pala Empire dismembered into smaller kingdoms like Vanga, Anga, Radha and Gauda.

Revival under Mahipala I

  • During the rule of Mahipala I, Rajendra Chola I of the Chola Empire frequently invaded Bengal to get Ganges and acquired booty. Rajendra Chola defeated Govindachandra, Ranasur and Dharmapal who were the rulers of Bengal. Mahipala gained control of north and south Bihar.

Second period of decline
  • The son of Mahipala I, Nayapala, defeated the Kalachuri king Karna. Buddhist scholar Atiśa mediated between the two to sign a peace treaty. During the rule of Vigrahapala III, Nayapala's son Karna again attacked Bengal but was defeated. The conflict ended peacefully and Vigrahapala III married Karna's daughter. Later Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI defeated Vigrahapala III.
  • The successor of Vigrahapala III, Mahipala II, brought a short-lived rule of military glory. Mahipala II jailed his brothers Surapala II and Ramapala on the doubt that they were conspiring against him. Soon afterwards, a chief named Divya killed him and captured the Varendra region. Ramapala defeated Divya's grandson Bhima, killed him and his family members.

Revival under Ramapala

  • Ramapala attempted to restore the Pala Empire. He constructed public utilities, promoted cultivation and reduced taxation. He brought Rar and Kamarupa under his control. Ramapala maintained cordial relations with the Chola king Kulottunga in order to get support against the common enemies: the Chalukyas and the Ganas.

Final decline
  • After his death, Ramapala was succeeded by his son Kumarapala. A rebellion broke out in Assam during Kumarapala's reign which was crushed. Gopala III, Kumarapala's son was killed by his uncle Mandapala. The Varmans in east Bengal declared independence during Madanapala's rule. Vijayasena took control of eastern and southern Bengal after defeating Madanapala. The Sena dynasty replaced the Pala dynasty.


  • Throughout its existence, the borders of the Pala Empire kept changing. Vast region in North India conquered by the Palas could not be retained for long due to constant hostility from the Rashtrakutas, the Gurjara-Pratiharas, and other kings.
  • Under Dharmapala's rule, the Pala Empire extended considerably. In addition to Bengal, he directly ruled Bihar. At times, the kingdom of Uttar Pradesh was ruled by a Pala dependency.