Avanijanashraya Pulakeshin – the Chalukya ruler who saved Bharat from turning Islamic

Pulakeshin of the Chalukya dynasty ruling at Navsarika (modern-day Navsari) was one among several Hindu rulers who successfully defeated marauding Islamic invaders. Yet, just like most other Hindu rulers, he seems to be missing not just from public memory but also from our history textbooks (not surprising, of course)!

The Navsari branch of Chalukyas were related to and vassals of the Chalukyas of Vatapi (Badami). They ruled over parts of modern-day Gujarat and Maharashtra, to be precise southern Gujarat (Lata), Nashik region, and northern Konkan. This region was brought under the Chalukyan rule by Vikramaditya I of the Vatapi Chalukya who then made his brother Dharashraya Jayasimha (Jayasimhavarman) the governor. Navsarika was the capital of this region.

Pulakeshin, son of Dharashraya Jayasimhavarman, became the ruler in 731 CE corresponding to the rule of Vatapi Chalukya Vikramaditya II. Pulakeshin, who later earned the title Avanijanashraya, defeated the invading Arab Ummayeds in a fierce battle at Navsari.

Information regarding this important battle came to light when the Navsari plate of Raja Pulakeshin was discovered. According to this plate, the battle with the Tajika army (Arab forces) is said to have taken place in the year 490 of the Kalachuri Era roughly corresponding to 739 CE Gregorian Era (737 or 738 CE as per certain estimates).

The Ummayeds hailing from Mecca, who ruled from 660-750 CE, were the second of the four major Caliphates after the Rashidun Caliphate. They were a force to reckon with in the Arab region and their empire stretched from what is today Spain to Iran in the middle east.

The Tajiks were eyeing Bharat for its wealth and intended to establish their empire here. As per the Navsari inscription, the marauding Arab forces had already subjugated the Saindhavas (Sindhu), Kachchhelas (Kutch), Saurashtra (Kaithiawad), Chavotakas, Mauryas, Gurjaras, and several others before embarking on an expedition to conquer the southern kingdoms.

The Islamic invaders were ruthless and wherever they set foot they left a trail of forcible mass conversions, beheadings, torture and rape of the conquered masses. It was under Caliph Umar II that the battle with Pulakeshin took place. The Arab armies, numbering around 10000 as per some accounts, had extended the Caliphate limits up to north Gujarat and present-day Madhya Pradesh having plundered and subjugated much of northern and north-western Bharat.

Pulakeshin stopped the victory march of the marauding Arab armies in a fierce battle close to his capital. In this battle Pulakeshin succeeded in uniting the Gurjaras, Chandelas and Kalachuris who joined forces along with Rashtrakuta Dantidurga (who subsequently established the Rashtrakuta empire replacing the Chalukyas). The famed elephant corps was also put to use in this battle.

Pulakeshin was faced with a victorious army at its peak strength but he was no lightweight either. He put in his entire might and in the fierce battle that ensued Pulakeshin not just emerged victorious but destroyed the Arab forces so much so that the Arabs lost all the regions they had conquered over the years.

The victory achieved by Avanijanashraya Pulakeshin pushed the Arabs back to Sindh as several Hindu kingdoms began asserting their independence and overthrew the authority of Umar II. Pulakeshin also joined the alliance of Gurjara Pratihara ruler Nagabhata I and Bappa Rawal to fend off the Arabs whose subsequent minor attempts were also thwarted by a united Hindu resistance.

Vatapi Chalukya Vikramaditya II recognized this heroic feat of his scion and vassal by conferring several titles on him. Some of the titles he received in addition to Avanijanashraya (protector of people) are Dakshinapathasadhara (solid pillar of the south), Challukikulalankara (jewel or ornament of the Chalukya dynasty), Prithvivallabha (beloved of the earth), Anivartakanivartayitri (one who repelled a force that was unrepellable).

Avanijanashraya Pulakeshin was subsequently bestowed the title of Paramabhattaraka which according to Shri Durga Prasad Dikshit is quite inexplicable because it indicates him attaining independence. However, it is possible that he was conferred the title was a glorification for his valorous achievement.

This victory by Avanijanashraya Pulakeshin of the Arabs at their zenith and hitherto considered unbeatable crushed the Arabs badly and inspired several Hindu rulers to thwart all the subsequent attempts by the Arabs to conquer Bharat.

However, Hindus owe a lot to Pulakeshin who stopped the Arabs in their tracks because had the Arabs been successful then it would have meant the extinction of Hindu rule and Islamization of Bharat.

References:

  1. The political history of the Chalukyas of Badami – Shri Durga Prasad Dikshit (source)
  2. End of the Ummayed campaigns (source)
  3. Navsari plate inscription – Maharashtra Gazetteer (source)

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About the Author

Maitri
A opinionated girl-next-door with an attitude. I'm certainly not afraid to call myself 'a proud Hindu' and am positively politically incorrect. A Bharatiya at heart who loves reading, music, sports and nature. Travelling and writing are my passions.