There have been a lot of Kings and Emperors who were skilled at warfare, annexed and ruled over a huge landmass. But there are very few who are remembered for reasons other than their military conquests. One of them was King Bhoja, of the Paramara Dynasty who lived in Medieval India in the 11th Century AD (He ruled between 1000 and 1050 AD).
Of course, Bhoja was a good military commander too. He had a vast kingdom in the Central/ Western India. He had a strong alliance with the powerful King of South – Rajendra Chola and had even helped the Shahi Kings to resist the attacks of Mohammad of Ghazni. That, the formidable King of Arabia had to take a devious route via Kutch and Sind for his return after the historic plunder of Somnath to avoid a clash with Bhoja in 1025 provides the political strength and importance that Bhoja had gained in Western India at that time.
But, not all kings who ruled over a large landmass are remembered! In addition to being a King, he was a great scholar, great poet, great critic, great builder, great virtuoso, great experimenter, great thinker and great giver! It seems, even the weavers of his land were fluent in Sanskrit (which was the dominant language of the time) and he stressed much on education. The copper grant plates given by him are found even today. The remnants of the Bhojeswara temple, near Bhopal speaks of the magnificence of the structures built under his regime. In fact, a dam that he constructed in Bhojpura (In Betwa river) is considered as a unique feat of hydraulic engineering of that time.
In the words of a renowned historian Vincent Arthur Smith, “He (King Bhoja) reigned gloriously for more than forty years. Although his fights with neighboring powers, including one of the Muhammadan armies of the Mohammad of Ghazni are forgotten, his fame as an enlightened patron of learning and a skilled author remains undimmed”
So, what has he written about? Almost everything!! The royal titles, books and temples created by him were estimated to be around 84, a figure that he perhaps liked. His works covered diverse fields of knowledge like poetry, grammar, lexicography, philosophy, Dharmasastra, astronomy, astrology, applied sciences, medicine, architecture, engineering, etc. Its quite possible that he did not write all those books (each of them was like an encyclopedia) but organized the luminaries of his kingdom to collect materials in each subject and compile them in to books, and there were extensive references in his books to earlier works and even quotes from them.
Literary criticism was one of his favorite topics, and he wrote two exhaustive books on that subject – Srirangaprakasa and Sarasvatikanthabharana. Perhaps his unique contribution to Indian poetics is his contention that ‘Sriranga’ is the one and only rasa. ‘Sriranga’ denotes highest and the zenithal phase of bliss and according to him, it is the highest aesthetic principle. Prior to Bhoja, Bharata had categorized 49 Bhavas (qualities/ emotions) and Bhoja wanted to establish that all those Bhavas were below the state of ‘Sriranga’. There were even two biographies written on him – Bhojacharitra (History of Bhoja) and Bhojaprabandha (Life story of Bhoja). But it would suffice to say that he himself was a patron of great literary works and also encouraged other luminaries and helped organize literature in various volumes in various topics and categories – a work that was never done prior to him.
Source: ‘Cultural Leaders of India – Aestheticians’ – Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.