Pala Dynasty (Pala Empire)
Background: After Sasanka for more than a century Bengal suffered from internal anarchy and external aggression creating lawlessness and confusion. In order to restore peace and good government powerful chieftains of Bengal placed Gopala, a popular chief, on the throne of Bengal (about 750 A.D.).
Founder: Gopala-I was the founder of the famous Pala dynasty.
Dharmapala: Gopala-I was succeeded by his son Dharmapala (770-810 A.D.) He was a powerful ruler and he raised the Palas to the position of an imperial power. From his time Bengal participated in the tripartite struggle for the mastery over Kanauj and north India. He occupied Kanauj and placed Chakrayudha, one of his proteges, on the throne of Kanauj. But after a short while he was defeated at first by Vatsaraj, the Pratihara king, and then by the Rashtrakuta king Govinda III. These defeats caused the decline of fortune of the Pala Empire for a short time. Vatsaraj also suffered defeat in the hands of the Rashtrakuta king. After the Rashtrakuta forces returned Dharmapala restored his position. He conquered a vast territory including Kangra valley, east Punjab, Jaipur, Malwa and probably Berar also.
Dharmapala was not only a successful ruler, but he was a great patron of learning and Buddhism as well. He built the Vikramsila monastery which later became a great centre of learning.
Devapala (810-850 A.D.): Dharmapala was succeeded by his son Devapala who was the most powerful ruler of Pala dynasty. His inscriptions reveal that he conquered Kamrup, Utkal and Kalinga. He also gained victory against the Hunas and Dravidians. An epigraphic passage says that his arms reached the Kamboja territory in the north and the Vindhya hills in the south. In any way there is no doubt that Devapala ruled over a vast kingdom. His fame extended even beyond the ocean. Maharaja Balaputradeva, Sailendra king of Suvarnadvipa, requested Devapala to grant five villages for the maintenance of a monastery at Nalanda which the Sailendra king patronized. Devapala obliged him by giving five villages. King Devapala was a great patron of Buddhism and took a very keen interest in the affairs of Nalanda monastery.
Mahipala I (980-1030 A.D.): After the death of Devapala the Pala empire remained weak for some time. But it regained its power and prestige to a great extent during the reign of Mahipala I. He regained control over a large portion of Bengal and Bihar. He suffered a temporary setback when the powerful Chola monarch Rajendra Chola attacked the Pala Empire. After his return, Mahipala restored his position and conquered Mithila and Benaras. He was a patron of learning and culture. He built and reconstructed many temples and stupas in different areas.
The last important ruler of Pala Empire was Rampala. He defeated the Kaivarta ruler Bhima and re-established Pala rule over almost the whole of Bengal. He defeated the rulers of Kamrup and Utkal also. The Pala Empire collapsed within a short time after his death.