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Mahapratihara – Chief Doorkeeper Or Guard In Ancient Hindu Kingdoms

Mahapratihara was the title given to the chief doorkeeper or guard in ancient Hindu kingdoms. The name occurs in Hindu inscriptions, law books, literary works, etc. However, it is not as frequently met with as the epithet pratihara (also spelled as pratiharin), which literally means ‘a doorkeeper.’ The prefix maha means ‘chief, great’.

Mahapratihara refers to a superior officer above all doorkeepers, the great chamberlain, who performed a very important job. Some epigraphs give the impression that mahapratihara was in charge of the defense of the royal palace or bed-chamber of the defense of the royal palace or bed-chamber or the head of the guards of the city gate.

Some of the Dharmashastras, however, describe him as a chamberlain or inviter of grants. The Mahabharata (Adi Parva 85.28-29), Vishnudharmottara Purana (II.24, 12) and Sukranitisara (I.121) also refer to the mahapratiharas.

The Basarh seals mention several high officials like uparika (governor), kumaramatya (cadet minister), Mahapratihara, etc. From other Gupta inscriptions it appears that mahapratihara was the head of the doorkeepers of the palace or the chamber of the king or the capital city, sometimes explained ‘the chief usher’, a function he continued to perform even during the Kalacuri-Cedi period. Rajatarangini of Kalhana mentions it as one of the designations incuded in panca mahasabda. King Lalitaditya of Kashmir also appointed mahapratihara and the office is explained as that of the high chamberlain (Mahapratihara-pida). Some inscriptions indicate that the mahapratihara at times also bore additional titles like that of – ‘Maharaja, Mahasamanta, Mahapilupati (chief of the elephant corps), etc.