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Raja Bhoja Parmara : Reminiscing the legacy

  • Team PresentMirror | Indology | Updated: Feb. 17, 2021, 1:51 p.m.

The auspicious date of Vasant Panchmi marked the the Jayanti of Raja Bhoja, the King who built Bhopal, who was part of the Parmar dynasty. His reign stretched from 1000 - 1055 AD. A valiant king who had to fight many battles with his rivals Chalukyas, is credited for expedition against Masud Salur, Mahmud of Ghazhnavi and rebuilding of the Somnath Temple


The Paramara rajputs are supposed to have arisen from the sacrificial pit on Arbuda parvata, which was the source of many kshatriyas, who were generated by the devas for the destruction of the Turushkas and Mlechchas, who were a pestilence on Aryavarta. A subsidiary branch of the Rashtrakutas, the Paramara Rajputs founded the notable city of Dhara in central India, which remained their capital until its ultimate conquest. It was here that their greatest king and a remarkable genius, Raja Bhoja came to power in the year 1000 AD and ruled for more than half a century. He was the son of Sindhuraja, who was notable conqueror, who defeated the Chalukyas, Hunas and Shilaharas of the Konkan region. Bhoja's path was similar to other great Hindu rulers of the time engaged in wasteful internecine struggles for supremacy.

In the Paramara inscriptions, Bhoja is mentioned as Bhoja-deva. In some north Indian languages such as Hindi, he is also known as "Bhoj" (because of schwa deletion). Ganaratna Mahodadhi (1140 CE), a work on grammar by Vardhamana, suggests that "Tribhuvan Narayana" or "Triloka Narayana" ("Lord of the three worlds") was also a title of Bhoja. This is corroborated by epigraphic evidence: the Shiva temple ascribed to Bhoja in the Chittor fort has an idol which was named "Bhojasvamindeva" as well as "Tribhuvan Narayanadeva".

Battle against Gazhnavids.

Mahmud was succeeded by his nephew Masud Salur, who seeking to emulate Mahmud, led a vast invasion of the Ghaznavid forces into the subcontinent. Despite the success of his invasions, Mahmud could not create an empire in India and Masud now sought to rectify this.

The young Sultan Masud Sular’s fame was already spread across the Ghaznavid Empire as an able soldier and general. In his ranks he boasted the famous light cavalry of the Central Asian Turkic tribes who were inspired with the zeal of their newly founded Muslim faith and eager to win victory and to finally establish their rule over Hindu dominated India or attain martyrdom and paradise as per the tenants of their faith.

He invaded India with an army of more than 100,000 men in May, 1031 AD. The army of the enemy was innumerable, like mountains on every side. This time, the army was not a raiding party like that of Mahmud Ghazni who came with intention of raiding, looting and retreating with the loot to Afghanistan. They were backed by the imperial army and came here with the intention of a permanent conquest in the land of Bharata.

King Anandpal Shahi tried to check this Gazni advance towards heartland of India . He was helped by King of Sialkot , Rai Arjun. But, this alliance was overwhelmed by superiority of numbers of Turkish army. After defeating Anandpal Shahi and Rai Arjun, Masud advanced towards Malwa and Gujarat. King Mahipal Tomar tried to check their advance here but was defeated too. After victories across North Indian plains, Masud Ghazni settled at Bahraich near Lucknow. He stayed here up to mid 1033.

Bhoja never had to fight with the Muslims in the defence of his own realm. According to the 16th century Muslim historian Firishta, Mahmud of Ghazni invaded the Hindu Kabul Shahi kingdom in 1008 CE. Its ruler Anandapala requested help from other Hindu kings. In response, the kings of Ajmer, Delhi, Gwalior, Kalinjar, Kannauj and Ujjain formed a confederacy with Anandapala. Mahmud defeated this coalition army. In the battle that followed the Hindus were ultimately defeated and 8000 of them were killed. According to Firishta, Bhoja also assisted Anandpala in his war against Mahmud.

Raja Bhoja and Battle of Bahraich

Raja Bhoja collected a coalition of Hindu warriors. Warriors from the disparate clans gathered under Raja Bhoja and on open plain near modern day Bharaich, the coalition of Hindu clans faced up against their Islamic adversaries each side confident of victory. 17 Kings of North India forged an alliance. This is the biggest confederation that have ever existed in India . They were Rai Raib, Rai Saib, Rai Arjun, Rai Bheekhan, Rai Kanak, Rai Kalyan, Rai Makaru, Rai Savaru, Rai Aran, Rai Birbal, Rai Jaypal, Rai Shreepal, Rai Harpal, Rai Hakru, Rai Prabhu, Rai Deo Narayan and Rai Narsinha.The head of this confederation was Raja Suhaildev.

The Hindu army by swift movements were able to cut of the supplies of the Ghaznavids and pen them into a closely contested siege. Very soon the vast multitude of Muslim soldiers were running short on supplies and reinforcements. The close investment led Sultan Masur that he was left with only one choice – to force a decision on the battlefield.

Therefore, on the blazing midsummer of the Indian plains, a vast horde of the Ghaznavi army marched out to meet its Hindu enemy. The battalions of Turks, many of them veterans from the campaigns of Mahmud Ghazanavi and brimming with the firmly held conviction that they marched in jihad against the enemies of their faith faced off against the aged Raja and his Rajputs. On 13th June, Morning, Rajput army of about 120,000 descended on Ghazni camp of Bahraich.

A desperate struggle ensued. The sweeping charges of the Turks were brought to bay by the Hindus. Trained from birth to excel in arms the Rajput warriors eagerly closed with their hated foe – before the gates of ancient Ayodhya they fought for ‘the ashes of their fathers and the temples of their Gods’. The battle contended through the morning into the afternoon, charge after charge, counter after counter with brief moments of retreat and consolidation, with neither side wiling to break. The battle cries of "Allah ho Akbar" contended with the ancient cry of "Har Har Mahadev", as the soldiers closed in and grappled their weapons, thousands fell dead on the same day.

The fighting continued unabated into the night with temporary pauses and the cool night air was rented with the shrieks of the dead and the dying. The ground piled high in gore became slippery and unstable. The close fighting in the dark lent to the horror of enemies pouring out of the unknown at any time.

The high spirits of the Turk soldiers motivated by dreams of jihad and paradise were matched against the raw courage and matchless skill of the individual Hindu warriors with their flowing hair kept under check, under steel caps and helmets fought whilst adopting the dread form of the God of Destruction, Shiva himself. Their utter contempt for their own lives and desire for freedom and dharma in the ancient land of the Rishis steadily began to wear down their enemies.

Masud's army was completely besieged and encircled. The battle continued for hours. In the end, each and every man in Masood's camp was killed. No POW's were taken, no mercy was shown on the Turkish army. The location of this battle to be precise was near Chittaura Jheel, a lake about 8 kms away from modern Bahraich on Bahraich-Gond Road .

Raja Bhoja then organized his armies to attack Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi who had invaded Somnath. Ghaznavi fearing the powerful army of Bhoja retreated via the desert of Sindh to avoid a clash (reported by Turkish author Gardizi as Indian Padshah Parmar Dev) with the Indian king and lost many of his men. Bhoja repulsed the Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud who led an army into India to conquer the northern India which his uncle, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, had failed to conquer. Then Bhoja realizing the threat, organized a confederation of Indian kings including the Kalachuri Lakshmi-Karna, the Chahamana and other Indian kings to fight the Salar Masud.

On the evening of 14 June 1033 AD, Sunday Salar Masud was beheaded by Raja Suhaildev. In the Battle of Bahraich the northern India confederacy fought a pitched battle for a month with the Ghaznavi army. The battle ended on 14th June with Victory of Raja Suhaildev and his Rajput alliance.

They then went on to conquer Hansi, Thaneshvar, Nagarkot and other cities taken by the Ghaznavids and marched against Lahore and besieged it.

However, much like how the "Hindu right" is fragmented and divided with vested interest in mind, the problem existed here too. the Indian kings had a disagreement over who would own the captured territories and their armies disbanded and dispersed in a huff. Just at the point Lahore was about to fall to them, the Hindu kings had a disagreement over who would own the liberated territories and their armies disbanded and dispersed in a huff. But they kept their hold over other places in the Punjab for quite some time. Bhoja however, did keep the Ghaznavids in check with help from his Sisodia feudatories. In one such battle, Raja Bhoja lost his life by getting hit with an arrow.

A man of art and architecture

Bhoja raja constructed several spectacular temples, one of the most dramatic of which is seen in the form of the great temple of shiva termed bhojeshvara at bhojapura, a some distance from the modern city of Bhopal. Another notable construction, which is a historical civil engineering masterpiece, is the Bhojtal (Upper Lake or bada talab) lake which was built by daming and channelizing the Betwa river.

He is also supposed to have paid great attention to the education of his people, so much so that even humble weavers in kingdom are supposed to have composed metrical sanskrit kavyas. In addition to patronizing the ancient schools in Ujjaini, he also built a large university in Bhojapura with an attached temple of sarasvatI in 1034 CE . This university was apparently attended by 1400 advanced students, and also housed a number of noted sanskrit writers and poets such as Uvata and Dhanapala. The university was later destroyed by Dilaawar Khan Ghori and Mahmud Khalji during their invasions of Malava. The SarasvatI idol from the temple was taken by the Britons to the museum in London.

It is also said that Bhoja also founded the city of Bhopal, but it could be possible that the city was founded by another king of the same name. The city of Bhopal however is said to have been constructed by Raja Bhoja, when in pinnacle of its glory. Bhoja, together with the Solanki king Bhimdev of Gujarat (Anhilwara), rebuilt the temple at Somnath between 1026 and 1042 after it was sacked by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1024. It's ironically the same king who allied and fought against Bhoja in his last battle. Nevertheless, one must always remember such icons of our glorious past.

A successful brain Tumour surgery

Early in his career, just before he came to power, bhoja was afflicted by a tumor in his brain which used to cause him intense head aches. Two learned brahmin brothers from the school of Ujjain, who were pre-eminent surgeons of the era, performed a surgery on his brain and relieved him of his tumor. The description of the surgery that survives suggests that they artificially induced a coma with a special preparation known as the sammohini and then opened his skull to remove the tumor. He was then brought back to consciousness with another drug.

Bhoja survived this surgery remarkably well and had an illustrious reign both as a military commander and encylopaedic scholar.

Books by Raja Bhoja, a man of literature

Raja bhoja also wrote 84 books during his life of which several survive and we shall summarize a few below to illustrate the remarkable breadth of his knowledge and originality:

Sarasvati kanthabharana: a treatise on Sanskrit grammar for poetic and rhetorical compositions. Some of the poetic examples provided by him in this work are still appreciated as the highest cream of Sanskrit poetry.

Rajamartanda (Patanjali Yoga Sutra bhashya): Major commentary on the yoga sutras of patanjali, wherein the raja clearly explains various forms of meditations such as savitarka, savichara, sananda and sasmita, which are critical for understanding the nature of cognition from the view point of yoga.

Samarangana-sutradhara: A treatise on civil engineering detailing construction of buildings, forts, temples, idols of deities and mechanical devices including a so called flying machine or glider. It is composed largely in the anushtubh meter and in about 83 chapters.

Tattva-prakasha: A remarkable siddhanta tantra work providing a synthesis of the entire ancient and voluminous literature of the siddhanta tantras of shiva. It was the basis of all subsequent developments of the siddhantic pashupata streams that followed.

Rasa-raja-mriganka: A treatise on chemistry, especially dealing with the extraction of metals from ores, and production of various drugs.

Jyotisha-raja-mriganka: A treatise on astronomy and construction of instruments for astronomical observations.

Yuktikalpataru: A technological manual describing the construction of ships for naval warfare and the making of glass amongst other things.

Dharmashastra ritti: A commentary on the Hindu legalistic literature.

Champu ramayana: A re-narration of the Ramayana in mixture of prose and poetry, which characterizes the champus. The description of Hanumat's qualities are particularly poetic.

Hence it’s said that when he was alive, the poets would say:

"adya dhara niradhara niralamba sarasvatI | panditah khanditah sarve bhojaraje divam gate ||"

Today dhara is unsupported, and the Goddess Sarasvati is without a prop. All the pundits are scattered with the ascent of king Bhoja to heaven.

A king who did good to the people was much more embedded in the collective memory of the Hindus than a king who conquered vast territories. raja bhoja definitely stood out in this regard as one of historical India's most remarkable intellectuals with an astonishing variety of interests and oceanic knowledge.

Raja bhoja is remembered much more than any of his contemporaries and is often compared with the illustrious vikramaditya of the golden Gupta era. His name is a household one amongst all brought up in the sanskritic culture.

References : 1. The history of parmaras by DC ganguly.
2. Indian resistance to early Muslim invaders up to 1206 ad by Dr Ram Gopal Misra.
The article uses inputs and research by Anhad Jakhmola and Shourya Jaiswal

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