Ramacarita (“The Deeds of Ramapala“):  In Search of Feudatories

Introduction: Ramapala (c. 1077-1120) was the last great king of the Pala dynasty of Bengal and Bihar. He is known to us primarily from the Ramacarita (“The Deeds of Rama[pala]”), one of the important royal Sanskit panegyrics of early medieval India. Its author, Sandhyakara Nandi, was the son of Ramapala’s war minister and therefore well informed about Ramapala’s struggle to regain Varendri, his ancestral homeland. It had been lost to Divya, a state officer, “who took to fraudulent practices as a vow”, with the tacit consent and even open support of other feudatory chiefs and little kings of the kingdom. Sandhyakara Nandi’s decription of Ramapala’s desperate struggle to regain “by presents of land and enormous wealth” the support of formerly loyal feudatories (samanta) and vassals in his war with Divya, is very unusual or even unique in the context of these royal eulogies, but a situation certainly not unknown to other kings, too.

(see also AHOI, ch. 3, section The Pala Dynasty of East India)

Quoted from Ramacarita by Sandhyakara Nandi, edited [and translated] by Mahopadhyaya Haraprasad Sastri, Calcutta 1910, verse 38-50.   

38. His (Rāmapāla’s) beautiful father-land (Varendrī), decorated with houses as well as lines of furrows, was occupied by his enemy named Divya (Divokka), an (officer) sharing royal fortune, who rose to a high position, (but) who took to fraudulent practice as a vow.
39. It is certain that the very (land), Varendrī by name, becoming frightened, became the object of protection of Bhīma, the son of his (Divya’s) younger brother (Rudoka), who knew how to deal a blow on a vulnerable point (of his enemy), and who was competent to work out any scheme (of action).
40. Then that Rāmapāla, who possessed a pair of powerless arms, (but) by means of which the enemies were absolutely doomed to extinction, considered his own strength to be futile, although he had his relatives near (him) and was in the company of his sons.
41. Moreover, this (Rāmapāla) at that time did not possibly think even a little of the lordship of earth, having been deprived of his beloved land (Varendrī) and consumed by the fire of his heavy sorrow.
42. At the appearance of danger, (Rāmapāla) having carefully discussed all pros and cons with his ministers and sons, in accordance with the injunctions of vinaya (discipline), made a firm resolve and took recourse to enterprise or promptitude (of action).
43. By him (Rāmapāla), being intent on attaining his desired object, the land belonging to numerous kings and inhabited by different, great and fierce forest-chiefs was travelled over with difficulty.
44. He (Rāmapāla), with long arms, accepted with approbation the compact circle of sāmantas (vassals or feudal chiefs), which was a source of the supply of his retinue, the policy of which was kept secret, and which having entered into alliance with him offered him help.
45. By that king (Rāmapāla) that (body of sāmantas),who attained great strength by possession of cavalry, elephants and infantry, was gained over (i.e. made favourable) by presents of land and enormous wealth.
46–47. Then the great river Gaṅgā, with its large and impassable waves, was soon crossed over by Śivarāja in the height of his glory, with speed, (riding) on an elephant, being intent on doing good, by command of his lord (Rāmapāla),— (this officer) being known for his valour by possession of excellent cavalry, who had an army, who was resplendent as the Sun (lit. the hot-rayed one), of whom Mahendra was afraid because of his prowess in battle, and who resembled a lion-cub (in strength).
48. That land (Varendrī), where Bhīma’s work of protection was all upset, which stood miserable because of the viṣayas (distrietś) and villages falling in confusion (regarding their ownership) and which was in a frightened condition,—was, in course of a (thorough) search, split up by that (Śivarāja) by the power of his sword.
49. That (land, Varendrī) having been quickly devastated (by him) as directed (by Rāmapāla), along with the arrays of (Bhīma’s) guards, the defence of (Rāmāpala’s) enemy (Bhīma) was thoroughly smashed. Which city, may it be asked, could be inhabited (there) at ease?
50. Thus having fulfilled the command and returned, he (Śivarāja), so famous and experienced, whose hands could not be resisted (by any one), announced before his own lord (Rāmapāla) that his father-land standing in that circumstance had been occupied (by himself).


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