Forgotten Warriors: How the Gurjara-Pratiharas Protected India from Arab Invaders


Certain stories remain veiled in the annals of history, overshadowed by more renowned storylines. One such lost story is the saga of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty, once formidable kings of northern India. Nonetheless, during a key moment in India's history, this exceptional dynasty performed a critical role in maintaining its borders and cultural identity. When the Umayyad Caliphate tried to expand its rule beyond the Arabian Peninsula in the early eighth century, it set its sights on the riches and trade routes of the Indian subcontinent. The Arab invaders set their sights on the wealthy provinces of Sindh and western India, but the tenacious Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty stood firm in their path.

In this blog, we will delve into the little-known histories of the Gurjara-Pratiharas to learn about the bravery, resilience, and strategic foresight that earned them the moniker "Forgotten Warriors." Join us on this historical trip as we uncover this dynasty's astounding exploits and their lasting legacy in preserving India from the constant assaults of the Umayyad Caliphate.

The Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty governed much of Northern India from the mid-eighth to the eleventh centuries. They governed first in Ujjain, then in Kannauj. The early roots of the Gurjara-Pratiharas are unknown. They belonged to the Gurjara clan, a population originating in present-day Rajasthan, Gujarat, and regions of western India. They moved and strengthened their influence in northern India over time.

                                                   Teli ka Mandir, gwalior Fort

The Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty rose to prominence during Nagabhata I's reign, which began approximately 730 CE. By destroying neighboring kingdoms, Nagabhata I launched the consolidation of power in the region and enlarged his realm. He is credited with establishing the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty's power in northern India.

The biggest clashes between the Gurjara-Pratiharas and the Arabs occurred during the reign of the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim, appointed by the Umayyad Caliphate to lead military campaigns in India.

The main reason for Arab invasions of northern India was to gain control of the rich trade routes that ran through the region. The Arab soldiers planned to take the prosperous towns of Sindh (modern-day Pakistan) and western India, recognized for their opulence and robust trade with the rest of the world.

The Arab soldiers headed by Muhammad bin Qasim attacked the province of Rajasthan in northern India, which was under the dominion of the Gurjara-Pratiharas (c. 725-726 CE). King Nagabhata I of Pratihara led his men in defiance of the invaders. A massive Arab expedition against Avanti (currently known as Ujjain) is defeated. According to his descendant Mihira Bhoja's Gwalior inscription, Nagabhata repelled a mlechchha invasion. These mlechchhas are linked to Arab Muslim conquerors. Al-Baladhuri, a 9th-century Muslim historian, mentions Arab assaults of Ujjain, which appears to be a reference to their fight with Nagabhata.

Nagabhata II (reign 795-833) was a Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty Indian Emperor. He succeeded his father, Vatsraja, to the throne of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty. At the Sindh border currently in Pakistan, he fought Arab forces led by Caliph Al-Amin in C. 800-810 CE, and several Arab outposts fell to Pratihara incursions.

In conclusion, as we come to the end of our voyage through the forgotten annals of history, we are struck by the courage and endurance demonstrated by the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty, the unsung heroes of India's fight against Arab invaders. Their story, however, muddled by time, is a monument to the Indian people's strong spirit and commitment to protecting their land and traditions.

The Gurjara-Pratiharas effectively foiled the ambitions of the Umayyad Caliphate, halting the tide of Arab assaults into the Indian subcontinent, thanks to their strategic brilliance and military skill. Their unwavering commitment to defending India's boundaries and preserving its rich cultural fabric gives a vivid image of the tenacity that has distinguished this ancient land throughout history.

Today, no one knows the names of King Nagabhata I and Nagabhata II; I only want to relay my message to the people of India about how their forefathers sacrificed their lives to preserve their culture. In our forthcoming blog, I will attempt to investigate some neglected Indian warriors.

                                          Bateshwar Hindu temples, Madhya Pradesh

Richards, J.F. (1974). "The Islamic Frontier in the East: Expansion into South Asia". Journal of South Asian Studies. 4 (1): 91–109. doi:10.1080/00856407408730690.



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