Founded by Gopala, the Pala Dynasty ruled Bihar
and Bengal from the 8th to the 13th century. The empire is called ‘Pala’ because the names of rulers of this dynasty ended in 'pala' (literally meaning 'protector'). Gopala was an elected king of Bengal, and ascended the throne after the death of Shashanka, who had been the king of Bengal. His reign was from A D 750 to 770, and he brought the whole of Bengal under his domination.
Dharmapala (A D 770–810 ), the son of Gopala, made this empire a supreme power in north India. He defeated many other kings to keep his supremacy. He was a good administrator too. Devpala was the descendant of Dharmapala and ruled for about 40 years. Bengal rose to eminence in north Indian politics during his reign. Devpala's high diplomatic skills helped him to maintain his authority. He fought with Pratiharas, and extended his frontier up to the Himalayan region in the north, and the Vindhyas in the south. The immediate successors of Devpala were weak, and the kingdom disintegrated after him. It was Mahipala I, known as the founder of the second Pala kingdom and ruled from A D 988 to 1033, who restored the lost glory to the kingdom. Mahipala I succeeded in recapturing the lost territories in northern and western Bengal and restored Pala dynastic rule to a firmer footing. He became highly popular by his public welfare activities.
The Palas patronized Buddhism at a time when it was in decline in the rest of India. The dynasty ruled for about four hundred years, and achievements of Bengal during this long period are totally attributed to the Palas. Widespread empire, organised administrative system, ruling policy focusing on public welfare, excellence in the field of arts and cultivation of knowledge and literature - all these contributed to the glory of the Pala rule.
The Pala rulers had the capacity to protect North India from the attack of Pratiharas and Rastrakutas. They had close trading relations with the countries of south-east Asia.
The Pala rulers were very much interested in Buddhist art, literature and learning. Bengali art, literature and paintings flourished during the period of this dynasty.