Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 51


BY: SUN STAFF - 20.4 2021

Sena Dynasty, Bihar c. 12th Century

A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Senas

'The Palas were followed by the Sena dynasty, who brought Bengal under one ruler during the 11th to 12th Century. Vijay Sen the second ruler of this dynasty defeated the last Pala emperor, Madanapala, and established his reign. At its peak, the empire covered much of the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent.

The rulers of the Sena empire traced their origin to the South Indian region of Karnataka, and the Western Chalukya empire. There is a record of a Western Chalukya invasion during the reign of Somesvara I led by his son Vikramaditya VI, who defeated the kings of Gauda and Kamarupa. This invasion of the Kannada ruler brought bodies of his countrymen from Karnataka into Bengal, which explains the origin of the Sena Dynasty.

The dynasty's founder was Hemanta Sen, who was part of the Pala Dynasty until it began to weaken. Hemanta Sen usurped power and styled himself king in 1095 A.D. His successor, Vijay Sen (who ruled from 1096 AD to 1159 AD) helped lay the foundations of the dynasty, and had an unusually long reign of over 60 years.

Ballal Sena conquered Gaur from the Pala, became the ruler of the Bengal Delta, and made Navadwip the capital. He married Ramadevi, a princess of the Western Chalukya Empire, which indicates that the Sena rulers maintained close social contact with south India. Ballal Sena also introduced the caste system into Bengal.

The fourth king of this dynasty, Lakshman Sen expanded the empire beyond Bengal to Bihar, Assam, northern Odisha and probably to Varanasi. Lakshman was later defeated by the Muslims and fled to eastern Bengal, where he ruled for a few more years. The Sena dynasty brought a revival of Hinduism and cultivated Sanskrit literature in India.

In 1203–1204 A.D., the Turkic general Bakhtiyar Khilji attacked Navadwip. Khilji defeated Lakshman Sen and captured northwest Bengal, although eastern Bengal remained under Sena control.