Lalithaditya Muktapida

by SAHF Team

According to Rahul Pandita’s memoir (“Our Moon has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits”), one of the two golden phases in Kashmir’s history was during the reign of impressive military leader and ruler Lalitaditya Muktapida, who also built the Sun Temple at Martand, Kashmir.

Durlabhvardhana was the founder of the Karkota empire who ruled over Kashmir from 625 to 885 CE. He was an officer in the Gongadiya kingdom and married the daughter Ananglekha whose father Baladitya ruled over the Gangadiya dynasty. Lalitaditya was born to their son Durlabakha, the youngest of three sons.

Largely compared to Alexander the Great, Lalitaditya Muktapida ruled for about four decades in the early eighth century AD from about 724/5 – c. 760 CE. Described as a universal ruler and monarch, Lalitaditya ruled over the Karkota empire, backed by impressive years of consolidating power through military conquest. Under his reign, art, architecture and culture flourished in Kashmir.

Many historians believed he wished for world conquest, as he invaded and conquered regions ranging from Tibet and Iran to South India and the Sindh, overtaking the Arabs as well as the Turks. In the early origins of Kashmir, twelfth-century Kashmiri Pandit Scholar Kalhana authored Rajatarangini (or the River of Kings). It is important to note this book is a great reference point for the pre-Islamic history of Kashmir. According to Kalhana’s account, the most significant military exploit of Lalitaditya was the defeat of Yashovarman (ruler of the Pushyabhuti Dynasty in Kannauj) and the acquisition of his extensive kingdom. Kalhana credits Lalitaditya with other military accomplishments as well. Many of his foreign expeditions are marked by legendary detail, Kalhana suggesting he was able to bring water to sand with a touch of his sword. After defeating Yashovarman, Lalitaditya proceeded east to the great ocean and reached the country of Kalinga. He received elephants from the king of Gauda and conquered some unspecified islands and the “seven Konkanas” later on, moving as far as Dwarka in Gujarat, continuing his conquest of other countries.

It should also be noted that Lalitaditya was a prominent builder. One of his greatest achievements is the creation of the Sun Temple at Martand in South Kashmir, the oldest known sun temple to date that stands even today after being ravaged by invaders under Sikander Shah Miri’s rule. It continues to be considered a cherished archaeological site. He built canals and also built his capital near the sacred shrine of Khir-Bhawani, naming it Parihaspora (city of pleasure). His stories of successful conquest, talent for art and architecture, and influence in future Kashmiri Hindu craft continue to be told today making him one of the memorable and most significant rulers in Kashmiri history.

Sources:

  • “Our Moon has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits” – Rahul Pandita
  • Rajatarangini – Kalhana
  • Untold History EP16 – Lalitaditya Muktapida – The Man who kept the Turks and Arabian invaders at bay – The Frustrated Indian
  • Yasovarman of Kanauj – SM Mishra
  • The Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Ancient Kashmir and its Influences by John Siudmak
  • Emperor Lalitaditya: One Among India’s Greatest Soldier-Statesmen by Tej Kumar Tikoo

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