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Vaghela dynasty

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Capital  Dholka
Government  Monarchy
c. 1296-1304 CE  Karnadeva II
Religion  Hinduism, Jainism
c. 1244-1262 CE  Visaladeva
Vaghela dynasty

Languages  Apabhramsa, Old Gujarati, Prakrit

The Vaghela dynasty was a short-lived Indian dynasty that ruled Gujarat from their capital Dholka during the 13th century CE. The Vaghelas were the last Hindu monarchs to rule large parts of Gujarat, before the Muslim rulers. Medieval bardic literature includes them among the Rajput dynasties.


Early members of the Vaghela family served the Chaulukyas in the 12th century CE, and claimed to be a branch of that dynasty. In the 13th century, during the reign of the weak Chaulukya king Bhima II, the Vaghela general Lavanaprasada and his son Viradhavala became very powerful, although they continued to nominally acknowledge the Chaulukya suzerainty. In the mid-1240s, Viradhavala's son Visaladeva usurped the throne. His successors ruled Gujarat until Karna II was defeated by Alauddin Khilji of Delhi Sultanate in 1304 CE.


The Vaghelas usurped power from the Chaulukya dynasty. According to the 14th century chronicler Merutunga, the earliest known member of the Vaghela family – Dhavala – married the maternal aunt of the Chaulukya monarch Kumarapala. The Vaghela court poet Someshvara described the Vaghela family as a branch of the Chaulukya family.

The Vaghelas called themselves Chaulukyas, and claimed same mythological descent as the Chaulukyas. The Khambhat inscription of the first Vaghela monarch Visaladeva gives the following account of the myth: Once Brahma was thinking who will destroy the sons of Diti (that is, the Daityas or demons). Suddenly, a warrior sprang from Brahma's chuluka. This hero, named Chaulukya, gave rise to the Chaulukya lineage, in which Arnoraja Vaghela was born.

The dynasty's name "Vyaghrapalliya" and its shortened form "Vaghela" come from the name of a village called Vyaghrapalli (literally "tiger's lair").


Arnoraja, who was a son of Dhavala and Kumarapala's maternal aunt, was the first member of the Vaghela family to gain importance. He seems to have participated in a military campaign in Saurashtra while serving Kumarapala. The Muralidhar temple inscription, discovered in the Desan village of Bhiloda taluka, credits him with conquering Saurashtra. According to the medieval chronicler Udayaprabha Suri, Kumarapala granted the Bhimapalli village to Arnoraja for his services. It is possible that Arnoraja received the village for his role in the Saurashtra campaign of Kumarapala. He probably served as a sub-commander in this campaign, although the Vahgela records later magnified his role. According to historian A. K. Majumdar, the Bhimapalli village might have been same as the Vyaghrapalli village from which the dynasty's name is derived.

Arnoraja became prominent during the reign of Kumarapala's descendant Bhima II. Taking advantage of Bhima's young age, the provincial governors revolted against him. Arnoraja remained loyal to the king, and appears to have defeated the rebels, including the vassal rulers of Medapata and Chandravati. Bhima had other loyal officers such as Pratapamalla and Jagaddeva, but the Vaghela records give the entire credit for suppressing the revolt to Arnoraja.


Lavanaprasada (alias Lavanyaprasada) was the son of Arnoraja and Salakhanadevi. According to a legend mentioned by Merutunga, Lavanaprasada was born when Arnoraja was a samanta (feudal lord) in Kumarapala's service. When Kumarapala heard about the news of the child's birth in his court, he declared that Arnoraja's son will have a brilliant future. As a feudatory of Bhima, Lavanaprasada held the ranks of Maha-mandaleshvara and Ranaka. His fief was Dhavalkka (or Dholka). The later Dabhoi inscription describes him as the king of Gurjara country.


Viradhavala was the son of Lavanaprasada and Madanarajni. According to Merutunga's account, Madanarajni left Viradhavala and started living with Devaraja, who was the husband of her dead sister. Madanarajni took Viradhavala with him, but the boy returned to his father Lavanaprasada when he grew up and became ashamed of the situation.

During the reign of Bhima II, Lavanaprasada and Viradhavala repelled enemy invasions and saved the Chaulukya kingdom. Viradhavala probably died during the reign of Bhima, as his son Visaladeva had become the Mahamandaleshvara Ranaka by 1239 CE.


Visaladeva's succession was contested by a man named Virama. According to the colphon of a 1239 CE (1296 VS) manuscript, Virama held the title Mahamandeshvara Ranaka as a subordinate of Bhima II. The capital of his principality was located at Vidyutapura.

According to the medieval chronicler Rajashekhara Suri, Virama was the younger brother of Visaladeva. Rajashekhara's account of Virama goes like this: Once, a bania (merchant) made a costlier gift to a Vaishnava shrine than Virama did. This annoyed Virama, who tortured the bania. As a punishment, Viradhavala banished Virama to a place named Viramagrama. After Viradhavala's death, the minister Vastupala helped Visaladeva succeed his father. Virama tried to contest this succession, but was unsuccessful. He retired to Javalipura (modern Jalore), where he sought shelter from his father-in-law Udayasimha. However, Vastupala pressured Udayasimha to have Virama murdered.

Rajashekhara's account of the dynasty contains many inaccuracies in general. Historical evidence indicates that Virama was actually a brother (or half-brother of Viradhavala, and thus an uncle of Visaladeva. According to the Vaghela records, Visaladeva's brother was Pratapamalla. Historian A. K. Majumdar dismisses Rajashekhara's account of Virama's death. According to Majumdar's theory, Udayasimha challenged the Chaulukya suzerainty, and Virama fought with him as a loyal subordinate of Bhima II. Virama was probably killed in a battle with Udayasimha, and not on the orders of Vastupala, as claimed by Rajashekhara.

As sovereigns

During the reign of Bhima II, the Vaghelas became the de-facto rulers of the Chaulukya kingdom. Inscriptions at Girnar suggest that by 1231 CE (1288 VS), Lavanaprasada had assumed the title Maharajadhiraja ("king of great kings"), and his son Viradhavala had assumed the title Maharaja ("great king"). However, the Vaghelas continued to nominally acknowledge Bhima and his successor Tribhuvanapala as their overlords.

Viradhavala's son Visaladeva ascended the throne of Gujarat sometime around 1244 CE. How he usurped the power is uncertain: it is possible the last Chaulukya king Tribhuvanapala died heirless or was defeated by Visaladeva. Visaladeva invaded Malwa, which had been weakened because of invasions from the Delhi Sultanate. He met with little resistance in Malwa, and defeated the Paramara king Jaitugideva. Visaladeva also defeated a ruler of Mewar, possibly the Guhila king Tejasimha. He repulsed some invasions from south, by the Yadavas of Devagiri. However, later, he suffered setbacks against successive Yadava kings. Possibly as a move against the Yadavas, he forged a matrimonial alliance with the Hoysalas, who were the southern neighbours of the Yadavas.

Visaladeva's successor Arjunadeva ascended the throne around 1262 CE. Not much is known about the incidents of his reign, except that he suffered a defeat against the Yadavas. His elder son Rama succeeded him, and ruled for a few months. Subsequently, his younger son Sarangadeva ascended the throne.

Sarangadeva defeated the Paramaras and the Yadavas. According to Vaghela records, sometime in or before 1285 CE, he repulsed an invasion by the Turushkas (Turkic people). Modern historians variously identify these Turushkas as Mongol raiders or Balban's forces. Sarangadeva also sent an expedition against the Jethva chief Bhanu.

Around 1296 CE, Sarangadeva was succeeded by Rama's son Karna (also called Karna II to distinguish him from the Chaulukya king Karna). During 1298-1299 CE, the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji launched a campaign to conquer Gujarat, which would enable him to control the prosperous foreign trade. His brother and general Ulugh Khan defeated Karna near Ashapalli (identified with modern Ahmedabad). The Delhi army occupied the former Chaulukya capital Anahilapataka, and then plundered Khambhat and Surat. In June 1299, they raided Somnath, where they demolished the Shiva temple and carried the lingam to Delhi.


Karna seems to have regained power after his 1299 CE defeat against the Delhi Sultanate. However, he permanently lost power in 1304 CE.

According to Amir Khusrow's poem Ashiqa, Ulugh Khan captured Karna's wife Kawala di (Kamala-devi) during his first invasion of Gujarat. Kawala subsequently married Alauddin. She had a daughter named Dewal Di (Devala-devi) by Karna. Eight years after her marriage to Alauddin, she requested Alauddin to bring Dewal Di to Delhi. Karna agreed to send Dewal Di to Dehi. But Alauddin sent an army led by Ulugh Khan to Gujarat, forcing Karna to flee. Karna sought shelter from Sankh Deo, the king of Deogir (Devagiri). Sankh Deo demanded that Dewal Di be married to his brother, and Karna unwillngly accepted the proposal. But before he could send Dewal Di to Deogir, a Muslim contingent led by Panchami attacked his camp. Dewal Di was captured and taken to Delhi, where she married Alauddin's son Khizr Khan.

Isami, another 13th century Muslim historian, gives a different account of Karna's defeat. According to him, the second invasion was led by Malik Jhitam, who was accompanied by another officer called Panchmani. Karna was defeated, and fled to the Marhat (that is, Maharashtra or the Yadava kingdom of Devagiri). However, he was not welcomed there, and had to move to the Tilang (Telangana, or the Kakatiya kingdom). In Tilang, he sought shelter from Luddar Dev (that is, Rudradeva II). Karna's wives and daughters, including Deval, were captured. Alauddin placed Gujarat under the governance of Alap Khan.

Ziauddin Barani, in his Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi, claims that Karna's wives and daughters were captured during the first invasion of Gujarat. Karna himself fled to Deogir, where he sought shelter from Ram Deo (Ramadeva). The accounts of the later medieval historians such as Nizam ud-Din and `Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni is similar to that of Barani. But unlike Barani, these later historians mention the capture of Dewal by Ulugh Khan.

The 16th century historian Firishta combines information from all these earlier accounts, including Ashiqa. According to his chronicle, Karna's wives and daughters, including Kowla-devi (Kamala-devi), were captured during the first invasion of Gujarat. This first invasion was led by Aluf Khan and Nusrat Khan. Karna sought shelter with the Yadava king Ramachandra, and managed to regain power at a place called Baglana, which was located near the Vaghela-Yadava border. Ramachandra's son Shunkul Dev wanted to marry Karna's daughter Deval-devi (Devala-devi), but Karna rejected the proposal because the Yadavas were not Rajputs. In 1308 CE, Alauddin sent an expedition against the Yadava king. Kowla-devi requested him to bring her daughter Deval-devi to Delhi. As a result, Alauddin sent his general Malik Kafur to Gujarat. Karna warded off Malik Kafur's invasions for two months, and then reluctantly married his daughter to Shunkul Dev. He entrusted one Bhim Dev to escort Deval-devi to Shunkul Dev. By chance, Bhim Dev's troops were intercepted by a unit of Muslim soldiers, who had come to see the Ellora Caves in the Deccan region. The Muslims captured Deval-devi, and took her to Aluf Khan. Aluf Khan sent her to Delhi, where she was married to Khizr Khan.

According to the modern historians, the story mentioned in Amir Khusrow's Ashiqa is of little historical value. However, Khusrow's description of the second invasion seems to be based on historical facts.

The 14th century Jain chronicler Merutunga states that Karna was betrayed by his Nagara minister Madhava, who brought the Muslim invaders to Gujarat. According to the bardic tradition, Karna had abducted Madhava's wife, and had also killed another Nagara minister Keshava. This legend seems to be based on historical truth.


No concrete information is available about any descendant of Karna II. A 1498 CE inscription shows that a family of the Vaghela clan was ruling at a place called Dandahi, as subordinates of the Muslim ruler Mahmud Begada. The rulers of the Rewa State also claimed descent from the Vaghelas through one Bhimadeva.

Members of the dynasty

A list of the known members of the Vaghela family is given below: all individuals are the sons of their predecessors, unless otherwise stated. The pre-sovereign members of the family include:

  • Dhavala, married a sister of Kumarapala's mother
  • Arnoraja, married Salakhanadevi
  • Lavanaprasada, married Madanarajni
  • Viradhavala
  • Pratapamalla
  • Visaladeva
  • Virama
  • List of rulers

    The sovereign Vaghela rulers include:

  • Visala-deva (r. c. 1244-1262 CE)
  • Arjuna-deva (r. c. 1262-1275 CE), son of Pratapamalla
  • Rama (r. c. 1275 CE), son of Arjunadeva
  • Saranga-deva (r. c. 1275-1296 CE), son of Arjunadeva
  • Karna-deva (r. c. 1296-1304 CE), son of Rama; also called Karna II to distinguish him from Karna Chaulukya
  • Cultural contributions

    A number of temples were built during their reign by wealthy merchants, Vastupala and Tejapala who also served as ministers and generals, including one of Dilwara Temples at Mount Abu and Girnar Jain temples. In fact, Kirtikaumudi, the biography of Vastupala, written by Someshvara (1179-1262), a royal priest, is also an important source of the history of the dynasty.


    Vaghela dynasty Wikipedia