Sena dynasty

The Sena Empire was a Hindu dynasty during the early medieval period on the Indian subcontinent, that ruled from Bengal through the 11th and 12th centuries.[2] The empire at its peak covered much of the north-eastern region of the Indian subcontinent. They were Brahmakshatriya, that is Brahmin by caste and Kshatriya by profession.[3] The rulers of the Sena Dynasty traced their origin to the south Indian region of Karnataka.[4]

Sena Empire

CE 1070–CE 1230
CapitalGauda, Bikrampur, Nabadwip, Lakhnauti, Vijaynagar
Common languagesSanskrit
Hinduism (Vedic Hinduism, Shaivism, Tantra, and Vaishnavism)
• 1070–1095 AD
Samanta Sena
• 1095–1096 AD
Hemanta Sena
• 1096–1159 AD
Vijaya Sena
• 1159-1179 AD
Ballala Sena
• 1179-1204 AD
Lakshmana Sena
• 1204-1225 AD
Vishvarupa Sena
• 1225–1230 AD
Keshava Sena
Surya Sena[1]
Narayana Sena[1]
Laksmana Sena ।। [1]
Historical eraMiddle Kingdoms of India
• Established
CE 1070
• Disestablished
CE 1230
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Pala Empire
Deva dynasty
Delhi Sultanate

The dynasty's founder was Samanta Sena. After him came Hemanta Sena who usurped power and styled himself, king, in 1095 AD. His successor Vijaya Sena (ruled from 1096 AD to 1159 AD) helped lay the foundations of the dynasty, and had an unusually long reign of over 60 years. Ballala Sena conquered Gaur from the Pala, became the ruler of the Bengal Delta, and made Nabadwip the capital as well. Ballala Sena married Ramadevi a princess of the Western Chalukya Empire which indicates that the Sena rulers maintained close social contact with south India.[5] Lakshmana Sena succeeded Ballala Sena in 1179, ruled Bengal for approximately 20 years, and expanded the Sena Empire to Odisha, Bihar and probably to Varanasi. In 1203–1204 AD, the Turkic general Bakhtiyar Khalji attacked Nabadwip. Lakshman Sen defeated Khilji and resisted the Turkic invasion. Gauda remained under Sena control till Madhu Sena's rule.


A sculpture of the Hindu deity Vishnu from the Sena period.

The political space after the decline of the Pala power in Bengal was occupied by the Senas whose king Vijayasena succeeded in conquering a large part of Pala territory. The Senas were the supporters of orthodox Hinduism. The dynasty traces its origin to the South, to the Western Chalukya Empire of southern India.[6] There is a record of a Western Chalukya invasion during the reign of Someshvara I led by his son Vikramaditya VI who defeated the kings of Gauda and Kamarupa.[7][8] This invasion of the Kannada ruler brought bodies of his countrymen from Karnataka into Bengal which explains the origin of the Sena Dynasty.[6][7]

The founder of the Sena rule was Samantasena who described himself as a Brahmin-Kshatriya of Karnataka (Karnataka).[9][3] He himself stated that he fought the outlaws of Karnataka and later turned an ascetic.[citation needed] The inscriptions of the Sena kings mention them as Brahma-Kshatriyas, that is Brahmin by caste and Kshatriya by profession.[3] Also, sources have identified them with the Vaidya (as well as the Ambashtha caste or sub-caste, considered as a mixed caste, being born of Brahmin father and Vaishya mother,[10][11]) and they married with and were identified with the Bengali Vaidyas (commonly known as Baidyas in Bengal) in Vaidya Kula-panjikas (family-tree accounts).[12]

Art of the Senas, 11th century.

Taking advantage of the revolt of Samantachakra in Varendra during the reign of Mahipala II, Vijayasena, founder of the Sena dynasty, gradually consolidated his position in western Bengal and ultimately assumed an independent position during the reign of Madanapala.

The Sena kings claim in their own inscriptions that they are Brahmakshatriya. Their remote ancestor was one Virasena, whose name was supposed to have been mentioned in Puranas. The "Deopara Inscription" of the Senas also traces the Sena ancestry from Virasena. Since there are no authentic records available still, a keen controversy prevails among scholars regarding origin of the Senas.[citation needed]

Like the origin of the Senas, their early history or circumstances, which led them to concentrate in Bengal is also still unknown. It has been presumed by historians that the Senas came to Bengal on the eve of the invading army led by the Chalukya kings Vikramaditya VI and Someswara III. Some scholars have also suggested that when Rajendra Chola's army had invaded Bengal, the Senas had accompanied them. According to some other historians, a few Karnataka officials, who were subordinate to the Pala kings, had established their independent kingdom in the region of Radha, taking advantage of the weakness of the Pala powers. Those Karnataka chiefs might have arrived in Bengal in wake of the Chalukya invasion and had settled into a kingdom of their own. According to historians Samantasena was such a chief who had established his independent kingdom in the Radha region of Bengal.

Samantasena was a scion of the Sena family, who had distinguished himself through various warfares in South India. He had settled in Radha in Bengal, at an old age. He had also laid the foundation of the Sena family in Bengal. His son Hemantasena carved out an important kingdom in Radha, taking advantage of the decline of the Pala Empire. From their base in Radha, the Senas ultimately extended their powers over the whole of Bengal.[13]


Edilpur Copperplate

A copperplate was found in the Adilpur or Edilpur pargana of Faridpur District in 1838 A.D. and was acquired by the Asiatic Society of Bengal, but now the copperplate is missing from the collection. An account of the copperplate was published in the Dacca Review and Epigraphic Indica. The copperplate inscription is written in Sanskrit and in Ganda character, and dated 3rd jyaistha of 1136 samval, or 1079 A.D. In the Asiatic Society's proceeding for January 1838, an account of the copperplate states that three villages were given to a Brahman in the third year of Keshava Sena. The grant was given with the landlord rights, which include the power of punishing the Chandrabhandas or Sundarbans, a tribe that lived in the forest.[14] The land was granted in the village of Leliya in the Kumaratalaka mandala, which is situated in shatata-padamavati-visaya. The copperplate of Keshava Sena records that the king Vallala Sena carried away, from the enemies, the goddesses of fortune on palanquins (Shivaka), which elephant tusk staff supported; and also states that Vallala Sena's son, Lakshmana Sena (1179–1205), erected pillars of victory and sacrificial posts at Varanasi, Allahabad, and Adon Coast of the South Sea. The copperplate also describes the villages with smooth fields growing excellent paddy, the dancing and music in ancient Bengal, and ladies adorned with blooming flowers. The Edilpur copperplate of Keshava Sena records that the king made a grant in favour of Nitipathaka Isvaradeva Sarman for the inside of the subha-varsha.

The Deopara Prashasti is a stone inscription eulogising the Sena kings, particularly Vijaya Sena, composed by the court poet Umapati Dhara.


The Sena rulers consolidated the caste system in Bengal.[need quotation to verify] Although Bengal borrowed from the caste system of Mithila, caste was not so strong in Bengal as in Mithila.[15]


The Sena dynasty is famous for building Hindu temples and monasteries, which include the renowned Dhakeshwari Temple in what is now Dhaka, Bangladesh.

In Kashmir, the dynasty also likely built a temple knows as Sankara Gaureshwara.[16]


The Sena rulers were also great patrons of literature. During the Pala dynasty and the Sena dynasty, major growth in Bengali was witnessed. Some Bengali authors believe that Jayadeva, the famous Sanskrit poet and author of Gita Govinda, was one of the Pancharatnas (five gems) in the court of Lakshmana Sena. Dhoyin – himself an eminent court poet of Sena dynasty – mentions nine gems (ratna) in the court of Lakshmana Sena, among whom were:


After the Sena dynasty, the Deva dynasty ruled in eastern Bengal. The Deva dynasty was probably the last independent Hindu dynasty of Bengal.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Raj Kumar (2003). Essays on Medieval India. p. 340. ISBN 9788171416837.
  2. ^ For a map of their territory, see: Schwartzberg, Joseph E. (1978). A Historical atlas of South Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 147, map XIV.3 (f). ISBN 0226742210.
  3. ^ a b c Paniker, K. Ayyappa. Medieval Indian Literature: Surveys and selections. Sahitya Akademi. p. 22. ISBN 978-81-260-0365-5.
  4. ^ The History of the Bengali Language by Bijay Chandra Mazumdar p.50
  5. ^ Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib by Nitish K. Sengupta p.51
  6. ^ a b Ancient India by Ramesh Chandra Majumdar p.320
  7. ^ a b The Cambridge Shorter History of India p.10
  8. ^ B. P. Sinha (1977). Dynastic History of Magadha. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications. p. 214. ISBN 81-7017-059-1. The Cālukyas under prince Vikramāditya-VI some time before 1068 had invaded Bengal and defeated kings of Gauḍa and Kāmarūpa.
  9. ^ Das, Sitanshu. Indian Nationalism: Study in Evolution. Har-Anand Publications. p. 81.
  10. ^ Inden, Ronald (1976). Marriage and Rank in Bengali Culture: A History of Caste and Clan in Middle Period Bengal. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-520-02569-1.
  11. ^ Reddy (December 2006). Indian History. p. A234. ISBN 9780070635777.
  12. ^ D.C. Sircar (1971). Studies in the religious life of ancient and medieval India. p. 216. ISBN 9788120827905.
  13. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  14. ^ Hunter, William Wilson (1875), "A statistical account of Bengal, Volume 1", Google Books, Edinburgh: Murry and Gibbs, retrieved 3 October 2009
  15. ^ Momtazur Rahman Tarafdar, "Itihas O Aitihasik", Bangla Academy Dhaka, 1995
  16. ^ Mitra, Rajendralala (1865). "On the Sena Rajas of Bengal". Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Asiatic Society of Bengal. 34 part 1 (3): 141–142.
  17. ^ R. C. Majumdar, ed. (1943). The History of Bengal, vol I (Hindu Period). Lohanipur.


  • Early History of India 3rd and revised edition by Vincent A Smith

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Pala dynasty
Bengal dynasty Succeeded by
Deva dynasty