Sena Dynasty – Notes

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By: Stupid
Indian History

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The Sena Dynasty was a medieval Indian dynasty that ruled primarily in the Bengal region from the late 11th to the 12th century. Here are some concise notes on the Sena Dynasty that you can use for your UPSC

Sena Dynasty Notes:

The Sena Dynasty was a medieval Indian dynasty that ruled parts of northern India, primarily the Bengal region, from the 11th to the 12th century. The dynasty is sometimes referred to as the Sena Empire or the Sena Kingdom.

In the late 11th century AD, the Sena dynasty arose on the ruins of the Pala rule. Samanta Sen, the founder of the Sen dynasty, took the title ‘Brahma Kshatriya‘.

Samanta Sena
Hemanta Sena
1070 to 1096 AD
Vijaya Sena1095 to 1158 AD
Ballala Sena1158 to 1179 AD
Lakshmana Sena1179 to 1206 AD
Vishvarupa Sena1206 to 1225 AD
Keshava Sena1225 to 1230 AD

Origin: The Senas originated in the south Indian province of Karnataka (according to the Deopara inscription). This inscription mentioned that Samanta Sen was one of the founders of this dynasty in the South. Hemanta Sen, Samantha’s successor and the first member of the family to receive royal titles in family records, overthrew the Palas and declared himself king around 1095 CE.

Founding: Traditionally considered that the Sena Dynasty was founded by Hemanta Sen, who is believed to have established his rule in the Bengal region in the late 11th century. The exact date of its founder and establishment is a subject of debate among historians.

Capital: The dynasty’s capital was initially at Vikrampura (now Munshiganj in Bangladesh) and later shifted to Navadvipa (modern-day Nabadwip in West Bengal, India).

Map of the Senas
Image Source: Wikipedia

Vijaya Sena (1095 – 1158 AD)

  • After the death of Hemanta Sen, his son Vijaya Sen (1098-1160 AD) ascended the throne.
  • He probably established himself as independent from the King Samanta Sen.
  • He helped Rampal during the Kaivarta Revolt.
  • Vijaya Sen overthrew Madanpal and increased his territory by driving the Palas out of North and North-West Bengal by taking advantage of the weakness of the last Pala kings.
  • Vijaya Sen defeated the Varma king and brought East and South Bengal Sen under his control.
  • According to the Deopara Prastha written by Umapatidhara, he defeated the kings of Gauda, Kamarupa, Kalinga, Magadha, Mithila etc.
  • He had two capitals – the first one at Vijayapur in West Bengal and the second other at Vikrampur in East Bengal now Bangladesh.
  • During his period the famous poet Sri Harsha wrote ‘Vijay Prasthi’.
  • He took titles like Parameshwara, Param Bhattarak, Maharajadhiraja etc.

Ballal Sena (1158 – 1179 AD)

  • After the death of Vijay Sen, his son Ballal Sen ascended the throne. in 1158 AD.
  • He wrote two books called ‘Danasagar‘ (a treatise on Smriti literature) and ‘Adbhutasagar (a treatise on astrology).
  • He introduced the Kaulinya practice in the Brahminical society to maintain the purity of the blood of the elite. As a result caste and class discrimination increased.
  • Anand Bhatta wrote the book ‘Ballalcharita‘ about him under the instructions of Buddhimant Khan, the ruler of Nabadwip.
  • During his reign, the city of Gauda was built near Maldah and Gauda was named ‘Lakshanavati‘ after his son Lakshmana Sen.
  • By merging Mithila and Magadha within the Sena kingdom, he not only strengthened the Sena power during his reign but also preserved the fatherland.
  • Rama Devi, a Chalukya princess, was his wife. Ballal Sen chose the title “Ariraj Nishshanka Shankar” in addition to other titles.
  • After handing over the kingdom to his son Laxman Sen in his old age, he took his wife along with him and spent his last life resorting to Banaprastha on the banks of the Ganges near Triveni.

Lakshmana Sena (1179 – 1206 AD)

  • Lakshmana Sena, the last emperor of the Sena dynasty, conquered Gauda, Kamrup Kashi and Kalinga.
  • He bears the titles of ‘Gaudeshwar‘, ‘Ari-Raj-Mardan-Sankara‘ and ‘Param Vaishnava‘.
  • During his reign, five famous poets and scholars graced the Sen royal court collectively known as the ‘Pancharatna‘. They are – Jayadeva, Dhoi, Umapatidhar, Saran and Govardhan.
  • Lakshmana Sen defeated the Garhwal dynasty king of Kanauj and occupied Gaya.
  • Laxman Sen himself was a scholar and an intellectual. He completed his father’s unfinished book ‘Adbhutasagar’.

Downfall: From the book ‘Tabaqat-i-Nasiri’ written by Minhaj Us-Siraj, it is known that during the reign of Lakshmana Sen, the Turkish hero Ikhtiyar Uddin Mohammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji, a follower of Mohammad Ghori, invaded Bengal and as a result, the Sen dynasty came to an end.

Discovered copperplates

  1. Vijay Sen’s Deopara Prasthi (Rajshahi)
  2. Vijay Sen’s Barrackpore copperplates
  3. Ballal Sen’s Naihati copperplates
  4. Ballal Sen’s sculpture of Sonoka (Bhagalpur, Bihar, India)
  5. Laxman Sen’s Tarpan Dighi Copperplate (Dinajpur)
  6. The Govindapur copperplate of Lakshman Sen
  7. Lakshmana Sen’s Anuliya copperplates
  8. Keshav Sen’s Idilpur Copperplate reign
  9. Keshav Sen’s Madanpur copperplate reign
  10. Vishwarup Sen’s Calcutta Sahitya Parishad Tamrashasan
  11. Madhav Sen’s Almora Koteshwar Temple Inscription (Uttarakhand modern Uttar Pradesh)

Sena Literature:

Gita Govinda:

  • The “Gita Govinda,” composed by Jayadeva during the reign of Ballala Sena, is a prominent work in Sena Literature. It is considered one of the finest examples of classical Sanskrit poetry.
  • Jayadeva was One of the most renowned poets associated with the Sena Dynasty.
  • It consists of 12 chapters, each containing songs and verses that celebrate the love and divine union of Lord Krishna and Radha. The work is known for its lyrical beauty and intricate poetic composition.

Sena Administration

Monarchical System: The Sena Dynasty was a monarchical system of government, meaning that the king held central authority and wielded significant power over his realm.

Hierarchy: The administration was organized hierarchically. The king held the highest position, followed by a council of ministers and officials who assisted in governing the kingdom. Bhuktipati, Mandalpati, and Vishayapati are common royal officers. Evidence suggests that the Sena kings granted land concessions to their Rajmahishi or Queen. Through official grants, land was also given to the Purohita and Mahapurohita families. This demonstrates how highly regarded and significant the Purohitas and Mahapurohitas were.

Justice System: The king was the ultimate arbiter of justice, and there were royal courts where disputes were settled. Legal codes and principles were often influenced by traditional Hindu laws and customs, and decisions were made based on these principles.

Local Administration: The kingdom was divided into smaller administrative units, such as districts or provinces, each of which was governed by local officials appointed by the king. Mahamudradhkrita and Mahasarbadhkrita had been chosen by the Bengali Senas. The name Mahadharmadhyakshya was also used for the highest judge.

The military: The military officers also took new names under the Senas of Bengal. Mahapilupati, Mahaganastha, and Mahabyutpati may be cited in this context.

FAQs on Sena Dynasty

UPSC Sample Question: Who founded the Sena Dynasty, and what was its period of rule in India? Discuss the major contributions of the Sena Dynasty to Indian history and culture.

UPSC Sample Question: What is Sena Literature, and why is it important in the context of Indian literature? Provide examples of notable literary works associated with the Sena Dynasty.