7 History

New Kings and Kingdoms

Learning Goal:

  • Emergrence of new kings
  • Hiranyagarbha ritual
  • Administration
  • Collection of resources

During the seventh century, there were many big landlords or warrior chiefs in the subcontinent, who were often acknowledged by the kings as their subordinates or samantas. The samantas were expected to do the following for the kings or the overlords:

  • Bring gifts for them
  • Attend their courts
  • Provide them with military support

Emergence of New Kings

As the power and wealth of the samantas increased, they declared themselves to be mahasamanta or maha-mandaleshwara (meaning the great lord of the ‘circle’ or the region). In some cases, they even asserted their independence over the overlords. One such instance was that of Rashtrakutas in the Deccan.


They were initially subordinate to the Chalukyas of Karnataka. Dantidurga, a Rashtrakuta chief overthrew his Chalukya overlord in the mid-eighth century. He performed a ritual called hiranya-garbha which literally means the golden womb. In this context, the ritual meant ‘rebirth’ i.e. rebirth of the sacrificer as a Kshatriya (even if he was not one by birth) after performing the ritual with the help of Brahamanas.

In some cases, men from enterprising families carved out kingdoms using their military skills. For example the following were Brahamanas who gave up their traditional professions and successfully established kingdoms:

Kadamba MayurasharmanKarnataka
Gurjara-Pratihara HarichandraRajasthan

Administration in the kingdoms

Many of the new kings used titles which made them feel very powerful and influential. Some such titles were:

  • Maharaja-adhiraja meaning great king, overlord of kings
  • Tribhuvana-chakravartin meaning lord of the three worlds

They often shared their power, in spite of such high-sounding titles. They shared their power with samantas and with associations of peasants, Brahmanas and traders.

Obtention of resources

  • The resources were obtained from producers who were often persuaded or compelled to surrender their produce partially. These producers included peasants, cattle- keepers and artisans. Sometimes their produce was claimed as ‘rent’ due to a lord who asserted that he was the owner of the land.
  • Revenue was also collected from traders

Uses of the resources

The resources were put to the following uses:

  • Financing the king’s establishment
  • Building temples and forts
  • Fighting wars which were expected to lead to more wealth by way of plunder and access to land and trade routes.
Appointment of functionaries

The people who were recruited for collection of revenue were often from influential families and the positions were often hereditary. Even in the army; people were recruited in the manner mentioned above. In many cases, these positions were held by close relatives of the king.


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