Mularaja (r. 941 – 996 CE) was the founder of the Chaulukya dynasty of India. Also known as the Chalukyas of Gujarat or Solanki, this dynasty ruled parts of present-day Gujarat. Mularaja supplanted the last Chavda king, and founded an independent kingdom with his capital in Anahilapataka in 940-941 CE.
The Kumarapala-Bhupala-Charita of Jayasimha Suri provides a legendary genealogy of Mularaja. It states that the mythical progenitor of the Chaulukya dynasty was Chulukya, a great warrior. He established his capital at Madhupadma, and the dynasty came to be known as the Chaulukyas after him. His successors included several kings including Simha-Vikrama and Hari-Vikrama. After 85 descendants of Hari-Vikrama came Rama. Bhata or Sahajarama, the son of Rama, defeated the Shakas. Bhata's son Dadakka defeated the Gaja kings of Pipasa. Dadakka's kingdom occupied by Kanchikavyala, who was succeeded by the king Raji. Mularaja was the son of Raji and his queen Liladevi.
The Vadasma (Varunasarmaka) grant inscription of Mularaja's son Chamundaraja states that Mularaja was a descendant of one Vyalakanchi-Prabhu. This Vyalakanchi is probably same as the Kanchikavyala mentioned by Jayasimha Suri. Based on this, historian Asoke Majumdar believes that Suri's legendary account seems to be at least partially accurate: Rama and his successors appear to be historical figures. It is possible that they were small princes of a place called Madhupadma. V. V. Mirashi speculated that this place might have been situated on the banks of the river Madhuveni (present-day Mahuwar), which is a tributary of Betwa. Majumdar, on the other hand, identifies it with modern Mathura.
The 14th century chronicler Merutunga states that Mularaja was so named, because he was born under the auspices of the Mula nakshatra. According to this legend, Raji (or Raja), Bija and Dandaka (or Dadakka) were three brothers. Raji's knowledge of horse-riding greatly impressed Samanta-Simha, the Chapotkata (Chavda) king of Anahilapataka. He became a close friend of the king, and married Liladevi, the king's sister. Liladevi died while she was pregnant; her womb was cut open and the infant Mularaja was taken out.
Three other chroniclers — Arisimha, Udayaprabha and Krishnaji — also describe Mularaja as the son of sister of the last Chapotkata ruler.
In the mid-tenth century CE, Mularaja supplanted the last Chavada (Chapotkata) king of Gujarat and established the Chaulukya or Chaulukya dynasty.
According to Merutunga's legend, Mularaja gained reputation as a warrior. His uncle Samanta-Simha would often appoint him as the king when drunk, and depose him when he became sober. Mularaja, who was an ambitious man, was regularly disappointed in this way. One day, when a drunk Samanta-Simha appointed him as the king, Mularaja killed his uncle, and became the permanent king. However, Merutunga's legend doesn't seem to be chronologically consistent: it claims that Samanta-Simha ruled for 7 years. If Samanta-Simha's sister married Raji during his reign, as the legend states, Mularaja would have been less than 7 years old at the time of Samanta-Simha's death. This absurdity, coupled with other evidence, has prompted some scholars such as Georg Bühler to dismiss Merutunga's legend as unhistorical.
One of Mularaja's own inscriptions states that he conquered the region watered by Sarasvati river with the strength of his arms. The Vadnagar prashasti inscription of his descendant Kumarapala states that he took the Chapotkata princes captive. Bühler theorized that Mularaja was an outsider who captured Samanta-Simha's kingdom. However, Asoke Majumdar proposed that he was indeed a relative of the king, based on the following facts: The Vadnagar inscription as well as the writings of Hemachandra suggest that Mularaja reduced the tax burden on the citizens. The inscription also states that he shared the wealth of the Chapotkata kings with his relatives, Brahmins, bards, and servants. Majumdar argues that if Mularaja had captured the Chapotkata kingdom with an army, he would not have felt the need to resort to such appeasement. Therefore, Majumdar theorizes that Mularaja indeed murdered his uncle and then consolidated power with 'soft' measures such as reduced tax burden and sharing of wealth.
Hemachandra's writings state that Mularaja defeated Graharipu, the king of Saurashtra. However, no other Chaulukya-era accounts mention this victory. According to Hemachandra, one night, Mahadeva appeared in Mularaja's dream, and ordered him to vanquish Graharipu. In the morning, Mularaja consulted his ministers Jambaka and Jehula, as he was apprehensive of causing troubles to the pilgrims who visited Prabhasa in Saurashtra. Jehula told Mularaja that Graharipu was a tyrant who tortured pilgrims and indulged in vices such as eating flesh, drinking wine and hunting deer in sacred places. Jambaka described Graharipu as a very strong king, and declared that only Mularaja was capable of defeating him. Both the ministers urged Mularaja to attack Graharipu.
Mularaja launched a campaign against Graharipu on the day of Vijayadashami. Graharipu attempted a peaceful resolution through a messenger, who informed Mularaja that Graharipu had no enmity with him. However, Mularaja turned the messenger away, and continued his march. Graharipu then started his war preparations. His allies included Medas, his friend's son Laksha, and a king named Sindhuraja. After the war began, he was joined by a mlechchha chief (who according to the Hemachandra's commentator Abhayatilaka Gani, was a Turushka).
Mularaja was supported by the kings Gangamaha of Gangadvara, Mahirata, Revatimitra, and Shailaprastha. The Paramara king of Abu and Srimala also joined him. In addition, Mularaja was supported by the Bhillas and the Kauravas. After the battle began, several others including the king of Saptakashi and a number of Gujarati soldiers, joined him.
Mularaja overpowered Graharipu in a single combat, and had him tied up. Laksha asked him to release Graharipu, but Mularaja refused to comply, on the grounds that the captive was a beef-eater. This led to another single combat, in which Mularaja killed Laksha with a spear. The men of Saurashtra then made a submission before Mularaja, dressed as women. The king then released the prisoners and visited Prabhasa.
The fight between Mularaja and Laksha has also been mentioned by the 14th century writer Merutunga. According to this version, Laksha (or Lakha) was the ruler of Kachchha, and had repulsed Mularaja's attacks 11 times. However, in their 12th fight, Mularaja besieged his fort, and killed him. Laksha's mother cursed Mularaja's family to be afflicted with leprosy.
Laksha appears to be a historical character, as he has been mentioned in several other chronicles as well. The other kings listed by Hemachandra appear to be fictional names. Historian Asoke Majumdar theorizes that Mularaja attacked Graharipu on "some flimsy pretext", as Mahadeva's-order-in-a-dream was a popular device used by Sanskrit authors to justify the otherwise inexcusable actions of their heroes. Mularaja's descendants fought against the kings of Kachchha and Saurashtra, so it appears that he managed to subjugate these territories only partially.
The Jain authors present Mularaja as fully involved in Vedic and Brahmanical notions of kingship, while at the same time extensively supporting the Jains as a matter of royal policy. Although he was a Shaivaite, he built Mulavasatika (Mula's residence) temple for Digambaras and the Mulanatha-jinadeva (the Jina who is Mula's lord) temple for the Svetambaras.
Surathotsava of Someshvara, a thirteenth century Brahmana, describes Mularaja being consecrated as king through the performance of a Vedic Vajapeya sacrifice.