Early Medieval Northern India


The period of early medieval time in northern India was mentioned as about 750 to 1000 CE. There were various significant regional kingdoms that ruled northern India in this period. The political history of this period was centralized mainly by three kingdoms, the Palas kingdom, the Rastrukatas kingdom and the Pratiharas kingdom. The history of the economy, trade and administration were significantly influenced by those three kingdoms.

How was the early medieval northern India?

The political systems of India began to change from the time about 750 CE. The centralised states of northern India began to give way to the political systems that were decentralised depending on the local issues. The political construction became feudal at the time of the period of Guptas.

Figure 1: Reigning dynasties in the early medieval northern India

The relationship between the kings and the subordinates of the kingdoms became a vassal and lord, like a relationship. This feudal system had particular obligations to the kings and these types of feudatories assume the functions of the criminal as well as judicial with a few possible allegiances. The independent principalities were carved out with this feudal system by several vassals. The three kingdoms named Palas kingdom, the Rastrukatas kingdom and the Pratiharas kingdom established their regions in the northern part of India.

Early Medieval Northern India (From c. 750 - 1000 CE)

There were a rivalry that increased between the three kingdoms in the northern part of India and the rivalry was for gaining control and establishing their own reign in the Gangetic area. Three kingdoms were the Palas, the Pratiharas and the Rastrukatas.

The Pratiharas

The Pratiharas or the Gurga-Pratiharas probably came from the Gurgaratra that was the southwestern part of Rajasthan. They were generally known as the pastoralists as well as the fighters. There were so many powerful rulers in this kingdom and they were

  • Nagabhata I − This ruler of the Pratihar kingdom defended the attacks of the Arabian armies successfully and also defeated them at the time of the Caliphate campaigns. This ruler ruled over the different parts of the northern part of India, Malwa, Gujarat and Rajputana. The king of the Rastrukata named Dhruva defeated Nagabhata I.

  • Vastaraja − A huge part of the Northern area of India was occupied by this ruler. Vastaraja made the capital of his kingdom at Kannuj. The different types of policies that he expanded at the time of his reign made two enemies: Dharmapala, who was the king of the Pala kingdom and Dhruva, who was the king of the Rastrakuta kingdom. Vastaraja defeated the king of Pala, Dharmapala and then Dhruv defeated Vastaraja in the struggle of tripartite.

  • Nagabhata II − The Pratiharas king, Nagabhata II defeated the Pala ruler, Dharmapala again and occupied the kingdom over the northern part of India. The king of the Rastrukata, Govind III defeated Nagabhata III in the struggle of the tripartite.

  • Bhoja I − One of the most popular and powerful kings of the Pratiharas who ruled for about 46 years. This ruler of the Pratihara was an eminent imitator of Vaishnavism and he was titled Adivarah’.

  • Mahendrapala − The empire of the Pratihara was extended by this ruler and expanded to western Sindh, northern Himalayas and southern Narmada.

  • Yashpala − The last king of the Pratihara kingdom was Yashpala.

The Palas

The Pala king, Gopala founded the dynasty of the Pala kingdom. The Pala kingdom expanded to different parts of Bengal as well as Bihar. The important rulers of this kingdom were

  • Gopala − Gopala is called the founder of the dynasty of Pala. Gopala defeated the Gupta rulers of Magadha and the dynasty of Khadga. He was the great imitator of Buddhism’.

  • Dharmapala − Dharmapala was the king who took the dynasty of the Pala to great heights. The several rulers of Punjab, and Rajputana accepted the supremacy of this ruler. The Vikramshila monastery was invented by this ruler of the Pala dynasty.

  • Devapala − This ruler extended the dynasty of the Pala to different parts of Orissa, Nepal and Assam. He was also a great imitator of Buddhism.

The Rashtrakutas

The dynasty of the Rashtrakutas rose when they defeated the rulers of the Pala dynasty and the rulers of the Pratihara dynasty. The famous rulers of this dynasty were

  • Dantidurga Dantidurga was called the patriarch of the dynasty of the Rashtrakutas . He defeated the Chalukyas and the Gurjaras.

  • Dhruva The dynasty of the Rashtrakutas was expanded by this king. He defeated the famous kings of various kingdoms, Nagabhata II and Dharmapala.

Life of Northern India during this period

The main part of the administration was the king himself at the time of this period. There were several ministers who assisted the kings. The cavalry and the infantry were in large numbers at the time of the reign of all those kingdoms. The territories were parted into parts, Rashtra, Bhukti, Pattala and many more. The trade of this period between the southern part of India and various countries of Asia increased massively at the time of this period.

Art and Architecture

The architecture of this period reached a different height. The Kailasanatha temple of Ellora and the Narayana temple of Pattadakal were examples of the excellent and finest architecture.


The three kingdoms reigned in the northern part of India at the time of the medieval period. The three dynasties of those kingdoms were ruled over various parts of the northern part. The administration, architecture and economy went to a new height. The political and economical structure of northern India brought a big change and that change was named feudalism.


Q1. What was the meaning of the term Pratiharas?

Lakshmana, the epic hero known as the doorkeeper to his big brother was the hero of the Pratiharas. The term Pratihara literally meant doorkeeper

Q2. Where was the capital of the king Bhoja I?

Bhoja I was the ruler of the Pratihara dynasty. The capital of this ruler was in Kannuj also named Mahodaya.

Q3. What were the significant cities of the Palas dynasty?

The Palas dynasty expanded their dynasty to various parts of Bengal and Bihar. The significant cities of this dynasty were Patliputara, Munger, Tamralipti and many more.