How many of you have heard the name Lalitaditya?? Most people would not know whether the person was/is a politician, businessman or any public figure! The answer is ‘he’ was one of the greatest King and warrior of India.
India has seen hundreds of Kings who were known for their exceptional bravery and courage, but most of these Kings did not find a place in the history books of our country due to political interference post-independence. The generations missed out the opportunity to know about these great men and women who ruled our country for centuries protecting every border from foreign invasion and preserving the rich culture and heritage.
Lalitaditya was born in the year of 699 AD as the third son of Durlabhak-Pratapaditya of Kashmir. He was from the Nagvanshi Karkota Kayastha Dynasty of Kashmir. karkota Kayastha families were mainly serving in the army of the kings of Kashmir since decades. They were known for their remarkable courage in the battlefield. The Kings of Kashmir had given them the title Sakhasena for their immense contribution. In the year 624 AD, a commander called Durlabh Vardhana belonging to the karkota dynasty married the Kashmir King’s daughter and then founded the karkota vansha dynasty.
The father of Lalitaditya, Durlabhak-Pratapaditya was the grandson of Durlabh-Vardhana. Lalitaditya’s birth name was Muktapida and his older brothers were Chandrapida and Tarapida. After the death of Pratapaditya, his eldest son Chandrapida became the King of Kashmir at a very young age. Chandrapida was brave and courageous who served his kingdom with great valor. He was said to be very generous and humble person and was loved by his people. But after ruling for 7 years Chandrapida suddenly died and the reason for his death is still unknown. After his death, his second brother Tarapida took over the Kingdom. However he was not as brave as his brother, his administrative skills were very poor which invited mis-governance in his kingdom. After ruling for a brief period of one and half years, Tarapida died of a stroke.
After the death of both elder brothers, Muktapida took over the Kingdom of Kashmir in the year 719 AD at the age of just 20 years. It was the same time, when the western invasion had begun in India and the Arabs had already occupied the province of swat, Multan, Peshawar and the Kingdom of Sindh. The Arab king Mohammad Bin Qasim, the Arab ruler was already threatening to occupy Kashmir and central India.
Lalitaditya was one of the most brave Kings India ever saw. He had to first tackle few conventional enemies before he stopped the Arabs. He fought the daradas, kabhojas and bhuttas of Ladakh who was under the Tibetan rule. It is said that Lalitaditya himself lead the army into the war defeating all Kings and established control over the regions of Ladakh.
Junad who was appointed as Governor of Sindh in AD 730 wanted to conquer whole of India. But however, the task wasn’t easy since he had to face the Lalitaditya in Kashmir. Yashovarman, the king of Kannuj was also in support of Lalitaditya, the Yashovarman Kingdom consisted of UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, parts of Bengal and Jharkhand. Lalitaditya had Kashmir, Haryana, and North Punjab under his control. The alliance between Lalitaditya and Yashovarman defeated the Arabs from entering Kashmir. It is said that Lalitaditya was so angered about the Arabs treatment of Hindus in the Afghan region, so when he defeated them he had ordered them to shave off half of their heads as a symbol of their submission.
Lalitaditya was very keen of teaching a lesson to the Arabs, so he conquered Dardistan (northern Pakistan, and Kashmir in India and parts of north-eastern Afghanistan)
Turkestan and Transoxiana (portion of Central Asia corresponding approximately with modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajakistan, southern Kyrgyzstan and southwest Kazakhstan.) He later invaded the Turkestan via Kabul. Mumin who was the ruler of Bukhara fought with Lalitaditya four times, but not once he was able to stop him and with fear for life he surrendered to Lalitaditya and agreed to pay taxes as a mark of respect.
The battle Lalitaditya fought has been described by Kashmiri historian Kalhana in the classic history of Kashmir, the `Rajataringini’ in which he says ”The king, who carried his prowess, abandoned his (war-like) fury (only) when the (opposing) kings discretely folded their palms at his victorious onset. At the sound of his drums (beaten) in attack, the dwellings of his enemies were diverted by the (frightened) inhabitants and thus resembled women dropping in fright the burden of their wombs.”
In the early 8th century, Kashmir faced problems from both Arabs and Tibetan empire. At the same time, a fight broke out between Lalitaditya and Yashovarman due to land issue and both raged into war in which Yashovarman was defeated badly by Lalitaditya. Yashovarman’s kingdom Kannuj was occupied by Lalitaditya 733 AD. He later extended his Kingdom to Gauda and Vanga (Both of Bengal region). However, the Tibet army grew very strong and Lalitaaditya wanted more support to attack the Tibetans.
Lalitaditya made a master plan and approached the Tang Dynasty for support. The Tang dynasty was on its zenith of power in the beginning of 7th century but had lost many territories in central China to the Tibetan Empire in the 8th century. Being a smart diplomat, Lalitaditya convinced the Chinese to support them against the Arabs and Tibetans in 736 AD. The Chinese provided advanced infantry armour, heavily armoured Sassanid-Chinese cavalry to Lalitaditya and the duo were able to defeat the mighty Tibetans and conquer Kucha and Turfan along with Assam and Bangladesh which were under the Tibetan control.
After the great win, Lalitaditya expressed his desire to conquer the entire world for which he prepared a massive army with advanced weapons and armours. Lalitaditya acquired most of the places in the west and south of India starting from Rastrakutas in Maharastra, Pallavas and Kalinga in the southern part. He also extends his kingdom to central China after defeating the Chinese. After which he was compared with Alexander the great.
Under Lalitaditya, the Kingdom extended from Tibet in the east to Iran in the west and Turkestan in the north. He transformed Kashmir into the most powerful military center in India and central Asia. The Kashmir Kingdom gained enormous wealth and Lalitaditya utilized the wealth to build massive infrastructure in Kashmir, construction of temples were taken up and Kashmir saw extensive development under Lalitaditya. The famous Martand Sun Temple in Anantnag, Kashmir was constructed during this period.
Lalitaditya was a very liberal King, though he was a strong follower of Hindu tradition, he respected all religion. He is said to be very compassionate ruler who responded to people’s voice. He was an able administrator and a very smart ruler. He always believed that “If they should keep more wealth, they would become in a single year very formidable and strong enough to neglect the commands of the king.” He always advised his people to be extra cautions while selecting cavalry and the infantry. He had even ordered that no two people from the same place were to be put together.
In the year 1760 AD, the Lalithaditya era came to an end by his sudden death. There are two version of his death mystery, one is that he perished while he was in a military camp near Aryanaka (Eastern Iran) due to heavy snowfall and avalanche. The other version is that his army was perished in a Sinkiang in 756-57 AD, after which Lalitaditya was taken by a shock, unable to bear the loss it is said he immolated himself along with his generals.
Lalitaditya was regarded as the mightiest warrior in the history of India who not only stopped the Arabs from entering India but also conquered parts of Iran and extended his Kingdom up to Tibet and China. His efforts to protect Kashmir and India is something which the country can never forget.
But it is sad that the story of this greatest King remains dead and finds no place in history books of schools and colleges.
Aishwarya S **