Bhoja (reigned c. 1010–1055 CE) was an Indian king from the Paramara
dynasty. His kingdom was centered around the
Malwa region in central
India, where his capital Dhara was located.
Bhoja fought wars with
nearly all his neighbours in attempts to extend his kingdom, with
varying degrees of success. At its zenith, his kingdom extended from
Chittor in the north to upper
Konkan in the south, and from the
Sabarmati River in the west to
Vidisha in the east.
Bhoja is best known as a patron of arts, literature, and sciences. The
establishment of the Bhoj Shala, a centre for
Sanskrit studies, is
attributed to him. He was a polymath, and several books covering a
wide range of topics are attributed to him. He is also said to have
constructed a large number of
Shiva temples, although Bhojeshwar
Temple in Bhojpur (a city founded by him) is the only surviving temple
that can be ascribed to him with certainty.
Because of his patronage to scholars,
Bhoja became one of the most
celebrated kings in the Indian history. After his death, he came to be
featured in several legends as a righteous scholar-king. The body of
legends clustered around him is comparable to that of the fabled
1 Early life
1.1 Legend of persecution by Munja
2.1 Period of reign
2.2 Names and titles
3 Military career
5 Cultural contributions
5.1 Literary works
7 Personal life
Bhoja's father and predecessor was Sindhuraja. According to
Bhoja-Prabandha, his mother's name was Savitri. Bhoja's reputation
as a scholar-king suggests that he was well-educated as a child. The
Bhoja-Prabandha states that he was educated by his guardians as well
as other learned scholars.
According to Bhoja-Prabandha, early in his life,
Bhoja suffered from
intense headaches. Two
Brahmin surgeons from
Ujjain made him
unconscious using an anaesthetic powder called moha-churna, opened his
cranial bone, removed a tumor, and then made him regain his
consciousness by administering another powder called sanjivani.
Legend of persecution by Munja
According to Tilaka-Manjari, composed by Bhoja's contemporary
Dhanapala, Bhoja's feet had auspicious birthmarks indicating that he
was fit to be a king. His uncle Munja (and his father's
predecessor) loved him greatly, and appointed him as the king.
However, several later legendary accounts state that Munja was
initially jealous of Bhoja, and tried to prevent him from becoming a
king. For example, the 14th century Prabandha-Chintamani states that
during the reign of Munja, an astrologer prophesized Bhoja's long
reign. Munja, who wanted his own son to become the king, ordered
Bhoja was appointed as the king by the royal
ministers after Munja's death. According to a Gujarati legend
documented in Rasmala, Munja ordered Bhoja's murder, but later
appointed him as the crown prince.
Bhoja-Prabandha states that Munja ordered one Vatsaraja to kill Bhoja
at the Mahamaya temple in Bhuvaneshvari forest. On hearing Bhoja's
cultured manner of talking, Vatsaraja and his men abandoned the murder
plan. They faked Bhoja's death, and presented to Munja a fake head and
a verse from Bhoja. The verse described how great kings like Mandhata,
Yudhishthira died leaving behind all their property; it then
sarcastically added that Munja would be the only one whom the earthly
possessions would follow. The verse moved Munja to tears, and made him
realize his mistake. When he learned that
Bhoja was still alive, he
Bhoja to back to his court. To repent for his sin, he also
went on a pilgrimage to Dharmaranya, where he established a town
called Munjapuram. The sarcastic verse, purportedly written by
Bhoja to Munja, also appears as an anyonymous extract in
Sarngadhara-Paddhati (1363 CE).
These stories of Bhoja's persecution by Munja are essentially
mythical. This legend is not found in the works composed by the
contemporaries of Munja,
Sindhuraja and Bhoja. For example, the
Nava-Sahasanka-Charita makes no mention of this story. The legend
appears to be the poetic imagination of later composers.
Ain-i-Akbari also contains a variation of this account, but completely
distorts the legend, naming Munja as the one who was persecuted by
Bhoja. This account is also completely unreliable from a historical
point of view.
Some literary works suggest that
Bhoja succeeded his uncle Munja as
the Paramara king. These works include Tilaka-Manjari,
Prabandha-Chintamani, and Rasmala. However, several other works as
well as epigraphic evidence indicate that
Bhoja succeeded his father
Sindhuraja. Padmagupta, the court poet of
Sindhuraja and Bhoja, also
supports this fact. According to Bhoja-Prabandha, Munja left the
Paramara administration in hands of
Sindhuraja before departing on a
military expedition. Munja unexpectedly died in this campaign, and as
Sindhuraja succeeded him as the king. Sindhuraja's court
poet Padmagupta, in his Nava-Sahasanka-Charita, states that Munja
"placed the world in Sindhuraja's hands" before leaving for Ambika's
town. This indicates that he left the administration in Sindhuraja's
hands before leaving for his fatal expedition against Tailapa II.
Prashasti inscription seems to confirm this.
Period of reign
The Modasa copper plates (1010–11 CE) are the earliest historical
record of Bhoja's reign. The Chintamani-Sarnika (1055 CE) was
composed by Bhoja's court poet Dasabala. An inscription of Bhoja's
successor Jayasimha I is also dated 1055 CE. Thus, 1055 CE can be
taken as the last year of Bhoja's reign. Based on these evidences,
scholars such as Pratipal Bhatia assign Bhoja's reign to 1010–1055
However, some scholars assign the beginning of Bhoja's reign variously
between 1000 CE and 1010 CE, based on their interpretations of
inscriptions and legendary texts. For example, Merutunga's
Prabandha-Chintamani states that
Bhoja ruled for 55 years, 7 months
and 3 days Based on this, scholars such as D. C. Ganguly and K. C.
Jain assign Bhoja's reign to 1000–1055 CE. However, as K. M.
Munshi states, dates are "the weakest point in Merutunga's
Names and titles
In the Paramara inscriptions,
Bhoja is mentioned as Bhoja-deva. In
some modern north Indian languages such as Hindi, he is also known as
"Bhoj" (because of schwa deletion). Bhoja's inscriptions mention his
titles as Parama-bhattaraka,
Maharajadhiraja and Parameshvara.
Ganaratna Mahodadhi (1140 CE), a work on grammar by Vardhamana,
suggests that "Tribhuvan Narayana" or "Triloka Narayana" ("Lord of the
three worlds") was also a title of Bhoja. This is corroborated by
epigraphic evidence: the
Shiva temple ascribed to
Bhoja in the Chittor
fort has an idol which was named "Bhojasvamindeva" as well as
Main article: Military career of Bhoja
Bhoja's inscriptions have been found in present-day Gujarat, Madhya
Rajasthan states of India
Bhoja became famous as a benevolent king and a patron of arts
and culture, he was also renowned as a warrior. He inherited a
kingdom centered around the
Malwa region, and made several attempts to
expand it with varying results. The Udaipur
Prashasti inscription of
Bhoja's descendant claims that
Bhoja ruled the land from the Himalayas
in the North to Malabar in the south, which is an obvious
exaggeration. Historical evidence indicates that Bhoja's kingdom
extended from Chittor in the north to upper
Konkan in the south, and
Sabarmati River in the west to
Vidisha in the east.
Several legends mention conflicts between the ruler of
Malwa and the
Chaulukyas, during the reign of the Chaulukya kings Vallabha-raja and
Durlabha-raja. Vallabha is said to have died of smallpox during an
expedition against the Paramaras. This incident may have happened
during the early part of Bhoja's reign, or during the reign of his
father Sindhuraja. Vallabha's successor Durlabha is said to
have repulsed an attack by a confederacy that included the ruler of
Malwa, but modern historians doubt the authenticity of this
Bhoja's first military aggression appears to be his invasion of the
Lata region (in present-day Gujarat), around 1018 CE.
the Chalukyas of Lata, whose ruler Kirtiraja may have served as his
feudatory for a brief period. Bhoja's invasion of Lata brought
him close to the
Shilahara kingdom of northern Konkana, which was
located to the south of Lata.
Bhoja invaded and captured Konkana
sometime between 1018 and 1020 CE, during the reign of the Shilahara
king Arikesari. He celebrated this victory in a big way by making
generous donations to Brahmins. His 1020 CE inscription states that he
organized a Konkana-Grahana Vijaya Parva ("
Festival"). The Shilaharas probably continued to administer
Konkana as Bhoja's vassals. By the end of his reign,
lost this territory to the Chalukyas of Kalyani.
Sometime before 1019 CE,
Bhoja formed an alliance against the
Chalukyas of Kalyani
Chalukyas of Kalyani with
Rajendra Chola and
Gangeyadeva Kalachuri. At
this time, Jayasimha II was the Chalukya king. The triple alliance
engaged the Chalukyas at their northern and southern frontiers
simultaneously. The extent of Bhoja's success in this campaign is
not certain, as both Chalukya and Paramara panegyrics claimed
victory. D. C. Ganguly believes that
Bhoja achieved some early
victories against the Chalukyas, but was ultimately defeated. Others,
including D. B. Diskalkar and H. C. Ray, believe that
defeated by Jayasimha after some early successes, but ultimately
emerged victorious against the Chalukyas after 1028 CE. According to
Georg Bühler, the struggle probably ended with some advantage for
Bhoja, which might have been exaggerated into a great victory by the
Prashasti states that
Bhoja defeated a ruler named
Indraratha. Modern historians identify this king with Indranatha, the
Somavamshi king of Kalinga. This king was defeated by Rajendra Chola:
Bhoja may have played a secondary role in the Chola campaign as part
of an alliance.
The Ghaznavids, a Muslim dynasty of Turkic origin, invaded
north-western India in the 11th century, led by Mahmud of Ghazni. The
Prashasti claims that Bhoja's mercenaries defeated the
Turushkas (Turkic people). There are some legendary accounts of
Bhoja's military successes against the foreign invaders identified
with the Ghaznavids. However, there is no clear evidence to show that
Bhoja fought against the
Ghaznavids or any other Muslim army.
Bhoja might have contributed troops to the
Kabul Shahi ruler
Anandapala's fight against the Ghaznavids. He is believed to have
granted asylum to Anandapala's son Trilochanapala. Several
medieval Muslim historians state that Mahmud avoided a confrontation
with a powerful Hindu ruler named Param Dev after sacking the Somnath
Hindu temple. Modern historians identify Param Dev as Bhoja: the name
may be a corruption of Paramara-Deva or of Bhoja's title
Bhoja may have also been a part
of the Hindu alliance that expelled Mahmud's governors from Hansi,
Thanesar and other areas around 1043 CE.
Bhoja's attempt to expand his kingdom eastwards was foiled by the
Chandela king Vidyadhara. However,
Bhoja was able to extend his
influence among the
Chandela feudatories, possibly after Vidyadhara's
death. The Kachchhapaghatas of Dubkund, who were the northern
neighbours of the Paramaras, were originally
However, their ruler Abhimanyu accepted Bhoja's suzerainty. Bhoja
also launched a campaign against the Kachchhapaghatas of Gwalior,
possibly with the ultimate goal of capturing Kannauj, but his attacks
were repulsed by their ruler Kirtiraja.
According to the Udaipur
Bhoja defeated the
Gurjara king. The identity of this king is debated by the historians,
but he is generally identified as a weak
Gurjara-Pratihara ruler of
Bhoja did not retain control of
Kannauj for a long time, if
The 1046 CE Tilakawada copper plate inscription states that Bhoja's
general Suraditya stabilized his royal fortune by slaughtering one
Sahavahana in a battle. Some earlier historians identified
Sahavahana as a king of Chamba, but this identification is doubtful,
considering the distance between Chamba and Malwa, and the fact that
the ruler of Chamba was not powerful enough to destabilize Bhoja's
kingdom. Sahavahana might been a general of one of Bhoja's rivals,
possibly the Kalachuri king Karna.
Bhoja defeated and killed Viryarama, the Shakambhari Chahamana ruler.
Encouraged by this success, he also waged a war against the Chahamanas
of Naddula. But in this second camapaign, his army was forced to
retreat, and his general Sadha was killed.
During the last years of Bhoja's reign, sometime after 1042 CE,
Jayasimha's son and successor
Someshvara I invaded Malwa, and sacked
his capital Dhara. Multiple Chalukya inscriptions dated between
1058 and 1067 CE state that the Chalukyas plundered the important
Paramara cities, including Dhara,
Ujjayini and Mandapa. Bhoja
re-established his control over
Malwa soon after the departure of the
Chalukya army. Nevertheless, the defeat was a major setback for the
Paramaras, and pushed back the southern boundary of their kingdom from
Godavari to Narmada.
Bhoja and Kalachuri king Gangeya were part of an alliance
against the Chalukyas,
Bhoja defeated Gangeya. It is not certain when
they turned into enemies. According to one theory,
Gangeya before his Chalukya campaign, in which Gangeya must have
fought as a Paramara vassal. A contradictory theory is that the two
turned enemies after their Chalukya campaign, sometime between 1028 CE
and 1042 CE. The Udaipur
Prashasti also claims that Bhoja
defeated one Togglala, who might have been Gangeya's predecessor
During the last year of Bhoja's reign, or shortly after his death, the
Bhima I and the Kalachuri king Karna attacked his
kingdom. According to the 14th century author Merutunga,
once thought of subjugating Bhima, but Bhima's diplomat avoided a
Paramara invasion by instigating
Bhoja against the Chalukyas of
Kalyani instead. Sometime before 1031 CE, Bhima launched an
expedition against the Paramara branch at Abu, forcing its ruler
Dhandhuka to seek shelter with Bhoja. Hemachandra, who was
patronized by the Chaulukyas, states that Bhoja's general Kulachandra
once sacked the Chaulukya capital while Bhima was fighting a war at
Sindh frontier. Bhima later dispatched his soldiers to raid
Malwa several times. Merutunga's Prabandha-Chintamani states that once
two such soldiers attacked
Bhoja in the vicinity of his capital Dhara,
but the Paramara king escaped unhurt.
Merutunga also states that Karna once challenged
Bhoja to either a war
or a palace-building contest. Bhoja, who was an old man by this time,
chose the second option.
Bhoja lost this contest, but refused to
accept Karna's suzerainty. As a result, Karna, in alliance with Bhima,
invaded Malwa. According to Merutunga,
Bhoja died of a disease at the
same time the allied army attacked his kingdom. Several
literary works written under Chaulukya patronage suggest that Bhima
Bhoja was still alive. However, such claims are
not corroborated by historical evidence.
Bhojeshwar Temple in Bhojpur, Madhya Pradesh
Bhoja is best remembered for his intellect and patronage to cultural
activities. Noted poets and writers of his time sought his
sponsorship. The Kashmiri writer
Bilhana famously rued that that Bhoja
died before him, because of which he failed to seek the king's
patronage. Several later kings also emulated Bhoja. For example,
Krishnadevaraya of the
Vijayanagara Empire styled himself as
Bhoja ("the new Bhoja") and Sakala-Kala-
Bhoja of all
Bhoja was himself a polymath. Under his rule, Mālwa and its capital
Dhara became one of the chief intellectual centres of India. He is
said to have paid great attention to the education of his people, so
much so that even humble weavers in the kingdom are supposed to have
Bhoja is said to have founded the city of Bhojpur, a belief supported
by historical evidence. Besides the
Bhojeshwar Temple there, the
construction of three now-breached dams in that area is attributed to
him. The temple originally stood on the banks of a reservoir 18.5
long and 7.5 miles wide. This reservoir was formed through
construction of 3 earth-and-stone dams during Bhoja's reign. The first
dam, built on Betwa River, trapped the river waters in a depression
surrounded by hills. A second dam was constructed in a gap between the
hills, near present-day Mendua village. A third dam, located in
present-day Bhopal, diverted more water from the smaller Kaliasot
river into the Betwa dam reservoir. This man-made reservoir existed
until 15th century, when
Hoshang Shah emptied the lake by breaching
two of the dams.
Bhoja established the
Bhoj Shala which was a centre for Sanskrit
studies and a temple of
Sarasvatī in present-day Dhar. According to
Bhopal city was established by and named after him
("Bhojpal"), but it is possible that the city derives its name
from another king called Bhupala (or Bhupal).
Bhoja was renowned as a scholar-king, and several books are attributed
to him. Because these books cover an enormous range of topics, it is
not certain if he actually wrote all these books or if he only
commissioned these works, acting as a patron of their actual writers.
But it is known that he was an expert on poetry, and the treatise
Shringara-Prakasha was definitely authored by him.
According to Ajada, who wrote a commentary titled Padaka-prakasha on
Bhoja wrote 84 books. The surviving works
Bhoja include the following Sanskrit-language texts
IAST titles in bracket):
Bhujabala-bhima (Bhujabalabhīma), a work on astrology
Ramayana or Bhoja-
Champu (Campūrāmāyaṇa), a re-telling of
Ramayana in mixture of prose and poetry, which characterises the
champu genre. The first five kandas (chapters) are attributed to
Bhoja. The sixth and seventh chapters were completed by Lakshmana and
Charucharya (Cārucārya), a treatise on personal hygiene
Nama-Malika, a compiled treatise on lexicography
Raja-Martaṅda (Rājamārtanḍa) or Patanjali-Yogasutra-Bhashya, a
major commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali; includes an
explanation of various forms of meditations
Raja-Mriganka-Karana (Rājamrigankakaraṅa), a treatise on chemistry,
especially dealing with the extraction of metals from ores, and
production of various drugs.
Samarangana-Sutradhara (Samarāṇgaṇasūtradhāra), a treatise on
architecture and iconography. It details construction of buildings,
forts, temples, idols of deities and mechanical devices including a
so-called flying machine or glider.
Sarasvati-Kanthabharana (Sarasvatīkaṇṭhabharaṇa), a treatise on
Sanskrit grammar for poetic and rhetorical compositions. Most of it is
a compilation of works by other writers. Some of the poetic examples
provided by him in this work are still appreciated as the highest
Shalihotra (Śālihotra), a book on horses, their diseases and the
Shringara-Prakasha (Śṛṅgāraprakāśa), treatise on poetics and
Sringara-Manjari-Katha (Śṛṅgāramanjarīkathā), a poem composed
in akhyayika form
Tattva-Prakasha (Tattvaprākaśa), a treatise on
It provides a synthesis of the voluminous literature of the siddhanta
Vidvajjana-Vallabha, treatise on astronomy
Vyavahara-Manjari (Vyavahāramanjarī), a work on dharmaśāstra or
Yukti-Kalpataru, a work dealing with several topics including
statecraft, politics, city-building, jewel-testing, characteristics of
books, ship-building etc.
Prakrit language poems Kodanda-Kavya and Kurma-Sataka are also
attributed to Bhoja. The Kodanda-Kavya (Kodaṅḍakāvya) was
found inscribed on stone slab fragments at Mandu. The Kurma-Sataka
(Avanikūrmaśataka), which praises the
Kurma (tortoise) incarnation
of Vishnu, was found inscribed at the
Bhoj Shala in Dhar.
Sangitaraja, attributed to Kalasena or Kumbha, names
Bhoja as an
authority on music, which suggests that
Bhoja also compiled or wrote a
work on music.
Historical evidence suggests that
Bhoja was a devotee of Shiva. His
Shiva as "Jagadguru" ("World teacher"), and his
inscriptions begin with verses praising Shiva. The Udaipur
Prashasti inscription of the later Paramara rulers states that Bhoja
"covered the earth with temples" dedicated to the various aspects of
Shiva, including Kedareshvara, Rameshwara, Somanatha, Kala, and Rudra.
The Jain writer Merutunga, in his Prabandha-Chintamani, states that
Bhoja constructed 104 temples in his capital city of Dhara alone.
Bhojeshwar Temple in Bhojpur is the only surviving shrine
that can be attributed to
Bhoja with certainty. The Samidheshvara
or Tribhuvana Narayana
Shiva temple of Chittor is also believed to
have been constructed by Bhoja; it has an idol, which was originally
The Jain legends state that
Bhoja convereted to Jainism. According to
this account, his court poet Dhanapala convinced the king to give up
Vedic animal sacrifices. The poet also openly ridiculed Bhoja's
other religious beliefs, including his worship of Kamadeva-
cow. Gradually, Dhanapala convinced
Bhoja to become a Jain.
These accounts of Bhoja's conversion to
Jainism are irreconcilable
with historical evidence. In a Bhoja-Prabandlha legend, a Brahmin
named Govinda calls
Bhoja a Vaishnavite. It is possible that Bhoja
patronized other faiths despite being a Shaivite.
Bhoja married multiple women as part of matrimonial alliances with
other ruling dynasties. His chief queen was Liladevi or Lilavati. His
other queens included Padmavati (princess of Kuntala), Chandramukhi
(princess of Anga) and Kamala.
Inscriptional evidence suggests that he was succeeded by Jayasimha,
who was probably his son. Jayasimha's
Mandhata grant of 1055 CE
mentions his predecessors as Bhoja,
Sindhuraja and Vakpati.
However, this inscription does not specify the relationship between
Bhoja and Jayasimha, and it is the only epigraph that mentions a
Paramara king named Jayasimha. The Udaipur
Prashasti and Nagpur
Prashasti inscriptions of the later Paramara kings give a detailed
genealogy of the Paramara kings, but do not mention Jayasimha. These
two inscriptions name
Udayaditya as the next ruler after Bhoja.
Udayaditya is now known to be Bhoja's brother.
In terms of the number of legends centered around him,
comparable to the fabled Vikramaditya.
Sheldon Pollock describes
Bhoja as "the most celebrated poet-king and philosopher-king of his
time, and perhaps of any Indian time".
Bhoja came to be featured
in several legends as a righteous scholar-king, who was the ultimate
judge of literary qualities and generously rewarded good poets and
writers. Most of these legends were written three to five centuries
after his death.
Apart from epigraphic records, much of the information about Bhoja
comes from these legendary accounts, including Merutunga's
Prabandha-Chintamani (14th century), Rajavallabha's Bhoja-Charitra
(15th century), and Ballala's Bhoja-Prabandha (17th century). However,
many of the popular legends about
Bhoja do not have any historical
basis. For example, the Bhoja-Prabandha anachronistically
describes the ancient poet
Kalidasa as a contemporary of Bhoja.
In order to enhance their imperial claims, the Paramaras promoted
several legends associating
Bhoja with the ancient legendary kings.
For example, in
Simhasana Dvatrimsika (popularly known as Singhasan
Bhoja finds a throne of Vikramaditya, and each of the 32
divine figurines attached to the throne tell him a story about
Bhavishya Purana legend describes
Bhoja as a
Vikramaditya and Shalivahana. According to this legend,
the mleccha (foreign) influence had corrupted Indian culture by the
time of Bhoja's ascension.
Bhoja marched up to the banks of the Indus
river, and defeated several mleccha kings. The poet Kalidasa, who
accompanied him, magically turned into ashes a mleccha named Mahamada,
whose followers came to be known as Muslim (The character Mahamada is
Muhammad possibly combined with Mahmud of Ghazni). After
returning to his capital,
Sanskrit language among
the top three varnas and
Prakrit language among the Shudras. During
his 50-year reign,
Aryavarta (the land between the
Himalayas and the
Vindhyas) became a blessed land where the varna system was
established. On the other hand, caste mixture took place beyond the
Vindhyas (that is, in South India). Again, this is an imaginary
account not supported by any historical evidence.
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Paramaras of Malwa
Upendra (9th century)
Vairisimha I (9th century, possibly fictional)
Siyaka I (9th century, possibly fictional)
Vakpati I (9th-10th century)
Vairisimha (10th century)
Siyaka (c. 948-972)
Munja alias Vakpati II (c. 972-990s)
Sindhuraja (c. 990s-1010)
Bhoja (c. 1010-1055)
Jayasimha I (c. 1055-1070)
Udayaditya (c. 1070-1086)
Lakshmadeva (c. 1086-1094)
Naravarman (c. 1094-1130)
Yashovarman (c. 1133-1142)
Jayavarman I (c. 1142-1143)
Interregnum (c. 1144-1174)
Vindhyavarman (c. 1175-1194)
Subhatavarman (c. 1194-1209)
Arjunavarman I (c. 1210-1215)
Devapala (c. 1218-1239)
Jaitugideva (c. 1239-1255)
Jayavarman II (c. 1255-1274)
Arjunavarman II (13th century)
Bhoja II (13th century)
Mahalakadeva (died 1305)
ISNI: 0000 0000 8130 5623