The Ādi-Varāha of North – King Bhoja Pratihār

It is unfortunate that the legacy of a ruler of such great strength, achievements and contribution like Mihir Bhoja is being tossed back & forth for short-sighted political gains.

The Ādi-Varāha of North – King Bhoja Pratihār

Last days of Ancient India – or early Medieval India as some may want to call it – were like the fast rides on turbulent waves. The legendary tripartite struggle, the quest for Indian dominance, unbridled yet marvellous conflicts, rivers of sweet words and deep literature, stories of yore, and an enemy at the door waiting to decimate, to turn it all sour. Wherever we look, we find strong kings but one still stands apart as perhaps the greatest of them all. King Mihir Bhoja Pratihar – the torchbearer of Rajputs and the sword hand of Hinduism.

At his coronation in 836 CE, his family, clan, allied forces, feudatories and country, everything in tumult. The Arabs – who started with Qasim in Sindh, but were defeated repeatedly by Bhoja’s ancestors Nāgbhatta I[1] & Nāgbhatta II [2][3] and forced to fall back – were waiting with their long suppurating wounds for a slight chance to enter India. Battered by repeated attacks by Raśtrakūtas[4], first Dantidurga, then Dhruva followed by Govind III, the celebrated empire of Pratihār Rajputs was at an uncertain place. Pālas, their enemies on the East, was already flexing their strength under new ruler Devapāla and allies of other Rajput houses were showing feels of secession.

As his first act, he restored his authority over his homeland, raised the morale of the allied clans – which included Rajputs clans[5] of Guhilots, Chalukyas, Jodhpur-Pratihāras and, at times, Chahmanas – and turned them into a compact and invulnerable hierarchy.

“His success in doing so can be seen even 1000 year later as many of the Rajput rulers who surrendered power in the great integration of 1947 and 1948, were descendants of the same feudatories and generals of Mihir Bhoja” as the historians wrote[6].

Within years of Bhoja’s accession, Imrān Ibn-Mūsa, the Arab governor of Sindh, tried to extend his hold. But in their way stood the bulwark Bhoja, who being the true scion to his ancestor Nāgbhatta I’s legacy of crushing[7][8] ‘large armies of the powerful Mleccha king’[9] – countered the Arabs and made them flee out of Kutch between 833 & 842 CE. A few years later, Arabs lost the best part of the Sindh, having only two petty principalities with capitals Multān and al-Mansurah. Bhoja made Hindus who had converted to Islam to come back in the Hindu fold.

Balādhurī says that in the time of al-Hākim Ibn-Awānah,

“the people of al-Hind apostatised with the exception of the inhabitants of Qassah. A place of refuge to which the Moslems might flee was not to be found, so he built on the further side of the lake, where it borders on al-Hind, a city which he named al-Mahfūzah (the guarded), establishing it as a place of refuge for them where they should be secure and making it a capital.”

Rare were occasions when the Arabs – who, being the most powerful & overzealous force of those times, were eating everything in their way from Europe, Middle-east to Central Asia to Iran – were made to flee. Bhoja achieved this feat. Perhaps that’s the reason why he was revered even by his enemies and hence was called the greatest foe of the Mohammedan faith.

Sulaimān, who visited in 851 CE, refers to Bhoja in vivid terms in his Silsilat-ut-tawārikh.

“Among them is the king of Jurz. This king maintains numerous forces and no other Indian prince has so fine a cavalry. He is unfriendly to Arabs, still, he acknowledges that the king of Arabs is the greatest of kings. Among the princes of India, there is no greater foe of the Mohammedan faith than he. His territories form a tongue of the land (Saurāśtra?). He has great riches, and his camels and horses are numerous. Exchanges are carried on in his state with silver and gold in dust, and there are said to be mines (of these metals) in the country. There is no country in India more safe from robbers.”

Al-Masūdi, the Baghdādi visitor of early 10th century, refers to Bauüra (a corruption of title Varāha) as ‘the lord of the city of Kannauj’ and as ‘one of the Kings of Sindh’.

“He has large armies in the garrisons on the north and on the south, on the east and in the west; for, he is surrounded on all sides by warlike kings….Bauüra, who is the king of Kannauj, is an enemy of Balharā (Vallabha Rāja, the title of Rashtrakuta emperors), the king of India.”

He adds that Bhoja

“has four armies, according to the four quarters of the wind. Each of them numbers 7,00,000 to 9,00,000 men. The army of the north was against the prince of Multān, and with the Musalmans, his subjects, on the frontier. The army of the south fights against the Balharā, king of Mānkīr (Mānyakheta).”

He mentions that the kingdom of Bauura extended about 120 square parasangs in Sindh, each parasang being equal to eight miles.

Sindh was evidently rescued by Mihir Bhoja, for, according to Mas’ūdi, the Indus ran right through one of the cities within the kingdom of Pratihāras.

At one point Bhoja got defeated or failed in his adventures against Pāla Devapāla, Lāta’s Raśtrakūta Dhruva & Kalachuri Kokkalla. But he recovered in no time and defeated Pālas & Raśtrakūtas both, extending boundaries of his mighty empire. At the time of his death (885 CE) the banner of Ikshvāku Rajputs flew over an empire larger than those of the Guptas and Šri Harsha. It comprised of North India from the Himalayas to a little beyond the Narmada, from East Punjab and Sindh to Bengal. South was quiescent. The Pālas were no longer a power. The Arabs on the North-West frontier were kept at bay. Sindh had been wrested from them. Madhyadeśa was at the height of its power.

He had the reputation of a strong ruler, an able monarch and patron of Dharma, as it is clear from his title ‘Ādi-Varāha’, and defended not only his kingdom but also the whole of India from the powerful forces of Arab Muslim invaders. “He stood as a bulwark of defence against Muslim aggression and left this task as a sacred legacy to his successors” in the words of historians[10].

Perhaps it is this same reputation of him that makes him the bone of content & claims in modern times. His identity is obfuscated, sometimes knowingly, for political purposes despite a living descendant Rajput Pratihār family of him present in Nāgod[11]. Mihir Bhoja belonged to the Rajput Pratihāra clan which claimed Sūryavanshi Ikśvāku Raghukul ancestry from Śri Rāmchandra’s younger brother Lakśman Ji, as confirmed in Bhoja’s Gwalior inscription[12], Jodhpur Pratihāra Bāuk’s Jodhpur inscription[13] and Kakkuk’s Ghatiyāl inscription[14]. It is said that because Lakśman Ji did the job of door keeping, his descendants adopted the clan name Pratihāra (the doorkeeper). Court poet Rājśekhar also gave epithets of ‘Raghukultilak’ and ‘Raghugrāmani’ for Mahendrapāla and ‘Raghuvanshmuktāmani’ for Mahipāla, both being successors of Bhoja.

It is claimed by few historians that since many contemporaries of Pratihāras called them as ‘Gurjaras’, they might have belonged to a different clan known today as Gujjar. But as egregious as it is, this claim is also contradicted by almost all sources. Many, including G.H. Ojha, D. Sharma, Shanta Rani Sharma and Ramlakhan Singh, have pointed out that the term Gurjara was used in geographic connotations and was used for rulers ruling the said geography.

“Drawing attention to the evidence presented earlier and other substantial data from the Aihole inscription, Bāna, the Skanda Purāna and the Yaśastilaka Campū (959 CE), Dasharatha Sharma opined that the Pratihāras were called Gurjara because they belonged to the geographical tract Gurjara”

Shanta Rani Sharma writes[15]. This is also specifically confirmed in the term ‘Gurjara’ or ‘Gurjareshwar’ being attributed to kings of various clans. We find Chaulukya kings Bhimadeva I and his son Karna Trailokyamalla mentioned as Gurjara and Chaulukya Kumarpala as the lord of the Gurjara country[16]. The Dohad inscription[17] speaks of the Chaulukya king Jayasimha ruling over the Gurjara-mandala from Anahillapātaka. Similarly, the Somnāth Patan Praśasti[18] of 850 CE mentions the Chaulukya prince Kumarpāla who is called the king of Gujjarmandala.

Even the Gujarat Sultanate’s Muslim sultan Muzaffar Shāh II was called ‘Gurjareshwar’ in Jagannatharya Temple inscription[19]. The said inscription talks of Rāna Sāngā defeating ‘Gurjareshwar’ sultan (Mahmūńdkhānmatulam mlechhādhipam shambaram jitvā durjay-gurjareshwar-matah)[20]. Sravan Belagola epigraph[21] says Ganga Satyavakya Kongunivarman came to be known as ‘Gurjara-adhirāja’ by conquering the northern areas of Raśtrakuta king Krishna III[22]. Ramlakhan Singh pointed out that “Apart from Gurjara Kshatriya, there are mentions of Gurjara Brahmins and Gurjara Vaishyas in Skand-Puran and inscriptions.” “Krishnadev Yadav’s one inscription from 1250 CE mentions of Gurjara-Brahmins” he further wrote[23].

An inscription of Gallaka[24], who was a subordinate ruler to the Imperial Pratihāra Vatsarāja ruling in 795 CE, as recorded by the inscription, explicitly refers to Nāgabhata I as one who had acquired victory over the invincible Gurjaras and was famed in the world. Concluding with this Shanta Rani Sharma said: “it cannot be gainsaid that the new light shed by Gallaka’s inscription conclusively disproves the Gūjara identification of the Pratihāras.”

It is unfortunate that the legacy of a ruler of such great strength, achievements and contribution like Mihir Bhoja is being tossed back & forth for short-sighted political gains. From the days of Junaid to those of Mahmud of Ghazni, the Rajput Pratihāras “stood as the bulwark of India’s defence against the aggression of the Muslims.” As the celebrated historians say.

Mihir Bhoja was one such rare kind of king who deserves not oblivion but only cherishing of his legacy and history.



[1] History And Culture of Indian People Volume 4: Page number 19

[2] “Bhoja’s Gwalior Inscription” E.I. Vol 18 Page 108 Verse 11

[3] History And Culture of Indian People Volume 4: Page number 24 & 25

[4] A History of South India – K.A. Nilakanta Sastri: Page number 143, 144 & 145

[5] History And Culture of Indian People Volume 4: Page number 25 & 31

[6] History And Culture of Indian People Volume 4: Foreword



[9] “Bhoja’s Gwalior Inscription” E.I. Vol 18 Page number 107 Verse 4

[10] History And Culture of Indian People Volume 4: Page number 32

[11] Pratiharo Ka Itihas – Ramlakhan Singh: Page number 99 & 100

[12] E.I. Vol 18 Page 100 Verse 3

[13] E.I. Vol 18 Page number 99 – 114

[14] E.I. Vol 09 Page 277 – 281

[15] Exploding the Myth of the Gūjara Identity of the Imperial Pratihāras by Shanta Rani Sharma – Indian History Review Sage Publications

[16] E.I. Vol 09 Page 74

[17] E.I. Vol 11 Page 55

[18] V.O.J. Vol 03 Page 09

[19] E.I. Vol 24 Page 68


[21] E.I. Vol 5 Page 176 Line 8


[23] Pratiharo Ka Itihas – Ramlakhan Singh: Page number 6

[24] E.I. Vol 41 Page 49 – 57

About Author: Yogendra Singh

Yogendra Singh is a History and Geopolitics undergraduate student from Betul, Madhya Pradesh. He is a three-time state topper in the Science Olympiad and the Art of Lecturing.

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