Dharmapala was the King of Pala Empire in Bengal. His father, Gopala, was the founder of Pala Empire.
Soon after his ascendency, Dharmapala had to face two formidable enemies, the Gurjara-Pratiharas of the West and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan.
Rashtrakuta king Dhruba defeated Dharmapala but, instead of enjoying the fruit of his victory, he returned to the Deccan. Kannauj was left open to Dharmapala. He installed his own protege Chakrayudha replacing Indrayudha, the Pratihara nominee. He then extended his frontier up to the Punjab. He held an imperial Durbar there. This was attended by the several kings who “bowed down” to him and accepted his suzerainty.
King Dharmapala had to face a second encounter. The Pratiharas again came under the leadership of Nagabhata II, son of Vatsaraja , who deposed Chakrayudha and occupied the throne of Kanauj. He also defeated Dharmapala in the Battle of Monghyr (or Munger). But this time also, another Rashtrakuta king, Govinda III, came as savior of Dharmapala. He defeated Nagabhatta II. Dharmapala and Chakrayudha offered submission to him. But for reasons unknown, Govinda III went back to the Deccan, leaving Kannauj open. Dharmapala had no difficulty to re-establish his hold over Kannauj .
Dharmapala was a follower of Buddhism. He founded the famous Vikramsila Mahavihara which in course of time developed into a centre of Buddhist learning next to Nalanda, Somapuri and Odantapuri Mahavihara.