The “achievements” of Nagabhata


We have various sources of history to know about what happened in the past. Some are written history called literary sources like books, religious scriptures. Some are archeological sources.

Archaeological Sources of History

Archaeological sources of history are of the following types −

Coins − Minted containing engravings of the ruler of the time. The kind of metal used gave an idea about the economic condition of the state during that time.

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Monuments & Relics − Built to commemorate achievements like victory of another ruler. Important directives for the people of the state were also put up on these.

Inscriptions − Mostly commissioned by rulers to talk about life and times of the contemporary society. A particular kind of inscription is called ‘Prashashti’.

Did You Know?

Quite a few Prashashtis are found in ancient India.

Some of them are −

  • Nashik Prashashti- 2nd Century CE-Satavahana Dynasty
  • Allahabad Prashashti-4th Century CE- Praises about Gupta ruler Samudragupta

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Prashashti of Nagabhatta

Gwalior Prashashti is one such inscription that talks about the exploits of a Gurjara-Prathihara king, Nagabhatta. Prashashtis in ancient India are written in different languages- Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit.

The Gwalior Prashashti was written in Sanskrit. It talks about the Prathihara ruler, Nagabhatta who is believed to have founded the dynasty during the 600 CE. The Prashashti describes his ruler ship and sings praises of the king.

Early Life and Rule

The successor of Nagabhatta, Mihira Bhoja commissioned to build the Gwalior Prashashti and this acts as a major source of information about the first ruler of the Gurjara-Prathihara dynasty. The exact date of his accession to the throne cannot be ascertained for sure. But it is believed that he assumed power in around 730 CE.

Ruler of Avanti

He established a strong empire in the northern and central part of modern day India. Avanti was a seat of power during his kingship and Ujjain (modern day Malwa in central India) was his capital. All the administrative activities were managed from this capital town.

Other Sources Mentioning Nagabhatta

It is believed that during his time, the Gurjara Prathihara kingdom extended into larger parts of Gurjara (modern day Gujarat and Rajasthan). A literary source which also indicates that Nagabhatta was the ruler of Avanti and Ujjain is the Jain religious text, Harivamsa. The text mentions that one of Nagabhatta’s successors, Vatsaraja was the great ruler and king of Avanti. It also details about other parts of the country that Vatsaraja used to rule. All of those descriptions roughly measure up to the same locations of Ujjain, Avanti and its neighboring areas.

Thus, it can be said with little doubt that Nagabhatta was the ruler of Avanti. Other archeological sources from a later period- like the copper plate inscriptions of the Rashtrakuta ruler, Amoghvarsha (850 CE,approx.) also talks about the exploits of the Gurjara Prathihara kingdom whose rulers ruled the portions of Ujjain and Avanti. Nagabhatta supposedly defeated the rulers of Vanga (Bengal), Kalinga (arts of Odisha).


The Indian subcontinent has a long standing reputation of being invaded by foreign powers from ancient period. These foreign invasions were mostly aimed at obtaining land and wealth in India and also establish their rulership on a foreign land.

According to the Gwalior Prashashti, Nagabhatts’s kingship also witnessed something similar. Arab invasions occurred via Sindh from the north-western part of the country. But Nagabhatta through his sound military strategy and administrative prowess managed to successfully fend off the Arabs.

Closer home, the ruler’s time as the Gurjara-Prathihara king also saw invasions from neighbouring kingdoms, especially from the Rashtrakutas of Deccan. Some sources also mention the defeat of Nagabhatta at the hands of Rashtrakuta king, Dantidurga.

Did You Know?

  • 7th Century CE, the time when a lot of powerful regional dynasties rose in India was an important historical epoch as it marked the rise and spread of Islam all over the world, including India.
  • This is also the time that witnessed foreign invasions, especially of the Arabs that ultimately paved the way for the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate after a few centuries.

Did You Know?

  • There were a number of different ruling dynasties holding reign over different parts of the Indian subcontinent during 7th Century CE.
  • Some of them are:
  • Cholas of South India
  • Palas of Bengal
  • Rashtrakutas of Deccan
  • Chauhans of West India
  • Gurjara- Pratiharas of Central India

Interesting Facts

Indian Subcontinent − This is the term used to describe the undivided part of India before its independence in 1947 and comprises modern day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan.

Harivamsa − It is a Jain religious text of 8th century CE and talks about early Jain monks, called Tirthanks. This book acts as an important source of ancient Indian history.

Avanti − Right after people started settling down during the 6th Century BCE and during the time of the Mahajanapadas, Avanti was an important seat of political and economic power.

Mihira Bhoja − The most famous Gurjara Prathihara king was Mihira Bhoja or Bhoja 1. He commissioned the Gwalior Pillar inscriptions that chronicles about the time and rule of Nagabhatta 1, the founder of the Gurjara Prathihara dynasty.


Q1. What are Prashashtis?

Ans. Prashashtis are inscriptions written by court poets of rulers in ancient India and are found in several parts of the Indian subcontinent. They act as eulogies, detailing praise worthy achievements of the patron ruler. These were composed over brick, stones, pillars, wood etc. and put up in public places for the common people to see. These act as important sources of history and reveal a lot about the life and time of people in ancient India.

Few Examples of popular Prashasthis are −

  • Allahabad Prashasti
  • Nashik Prashasti
  • Gwalior Prashasti

Q2. Who was the first ruler of the Gurjara Prathihara dynasty? How do we know about the time period?

Ans. Nagabhatta 1 was the founder and first ruler of the Gurjara-Prathihara dynasty that ruled central, western and northern parts of India during the 8th Century CE. Written literary sources of history from that period are limited and hard to find. But archeological sources such as Prashashtis are important sources of history for that period. One such Prashashti is the Gwalior Prashashti, composed during the reign of Gurjara-Prathihara king, Mihira Bhoja.

Q3. Name any contemporary dynasty of the Gurjara-Prathihara dynasty?

Ans. A number of new dynasties came into being during 7th century CE in India.

Some of them are as follows −

  • Cholas of South India
  • Palas of Bengal
  • Rashtrakutas of Deccan
  • Chauhans of West India

Updated on: 13-Oct-2022

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