Dharmpala, the Pala King and Vatsaraja, the Parithara King, struggled for supremacy over Kannauj. Vatsaraja emerged victorious but was later defeated by the Rashtrakuta King Dhurva-I. After the return of Dhruva-I to south, Dharmpala again captured Kannauj, but his occupation was short-lived.
For about two centuries, there had been continuous tripartite struggle of kingdoms for the control over Kannauj.
Significance of Kannauj
Kannauj was located on the Ganga trade route and was connected to the ‘silk route’. It made Kannauj strategically and commercially very important. It was also the erstwhile capital of Harshvardhana’s empire in north India.
Thus, the three Kingdoms fought war against each other to take advantage of the immense economic and strategic potentialities of Kannauj.
Causes for Tripartite Struggle
To get control over Gujarat and Malwa, the regions were very important for foreign trade due to their nearness to the coast.
To acquire supremacy over Kannauj, a symbol of prestige in Indian politics.
Desire to impress the pretty kingdoms with the sense of their might.
Lust for war booty, a prominent source for maintaining huge army.
Tripartite Struggle – Phase I
A tripartite struggle occurred between the Pala, Prathihara, and Rashtrakuta dynasties for control of Kanauj.
The first phase of the tripartite struggle began around 790 AD with a clash between Dharmapala and Vatsaraja.
The battle between Dharmapala and the Pratihara king Vatsaraja at Prayag resulted in the defeat of Dharmapala.
After some time Vatsaraja was defeated by Rashtrakuta king Dhruva.
Dharmapala took control of Kannauj after Vatsaraja’s fall, but he was again defeated by Dhruva.
Dhruva, on the other hand, was unable to consolidate his victory because he needed to return to the south to save his own kingdom.
Rashtrakutas were devastated by a succession struggle after Dhruva’s death in 793 CE.
By quickly withdrawing from Northern India, the Rashtrakutas not only decimated the Palas’ adversaries, the Pratiharas but also provided the Palas with a good opportunity to add to their might.
Dharmapala took advantage of the situation and recovered Kannauj, putting Chakrayudha on the throne.
Dharmapala, via a series of successful expeditions, established himself as the lord of virtually all of Northern India.
Tripartite Struggle – Phase II
Pratihara ruler Nagabhatta II, the successor of Vatsaraja, invaded Kanauj and expelled its ruler Chakrayudha and established control there.
As Chakrayudha was Dharmapala’s protege, a battle between Nagabhatta II and Dharmapala was inevitable.
Nagabhatta II defeated Dharmapala in a battle near Munger.
After Nagabhata II took possession of Kannauj, the battle for the city intensified.
His victory was short-lived, as he was soon overthrown by Govinda III (Rashtrakuta king), the successor of Dhruva.
Govinda III left for the Deccan soon after this victory.
By the end of the 9th century, the Rastrakutas’ power had begun to wane alongside that of the Palas.
The Pratiharas emerged victoriously and established themselves as the rulers of central India by the end of the tripartite struggle.
Consequence of Tripartite Struggle
This tripartite struggle for Kannauj continued for almost two hundred years and its result finally ended in favour of the Gurjara-Pratihara ruler Nagabhata II who made Kannauj the capital of the Gurjara-Pratihara kingdom. This kingdom ruled for nearly three centuries.
It eventually made all three dynasties weak in the long run, which resulted into the political disintegration of the country and benefited the Islamic invaders from Middleeast in setting up empire in India.