Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 49


BY: SUN STAFF - 14.4 2021

"Temple at Jaggernauth"

A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Eastern Gangas

There are historical records which place the Ganga dynasty much earlier on the timeline than the current Middle Kingdom study's placement of the Eastern Ganga, although the they are one in the same kingdom. In his article on historical aspects of Orissa's famous saint poet, Jayadev, author Ajit K. Tripathy gives an interesting narrative on the early Ganga dynasty's influence in Orissa.

"The Ganga King ruled over Kalinga from the 6th Century to 11th Century A.D. At that time Kalinga was restricted by the river Rusikulya in the north and the Simhachal hills in the south. At the centre of Kalinga was the Mahendragiri range of hills. The Mathar Kings who ruled over Kalinga before the Gangas had Singhapur as their Capital. But after the fall of the Mathar dynasty, the Ganga kings established their Capital at Kalinga Nagar on the banks of the river Vamsadhara. Today it is located in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, known as Nagari Katak.

Very close to this is a place known as Mukhalingam in which the Madhukeswar Siva temple was constructed in the 10th century A.D. by Madhukamarnava Deva, a Ganga king. His son, Vajrahasta Deva, did quite a lot of development works for the temple and laid down all the rites and rituals for worship of the Deity there. From a copper plate issued by him it is known that he had brought a number of families adept in dance from Baidumba kingdom, which was the home of the maternal uncle of Vajrahasta Deva.

These families gradually increased in number and the King settled them in a village called Srikurumapatak, located at a distance of 19 km. from Kalinga Nagar on the sea coast. There is a Vishnu temple in Srikurumapatak enshrining Srikurma Avatar (the Tortoise incarnation of Visnu). The Vaishnavites who came from southern India taught Sanskrit literature, philosophy and religious texts to the students in this place. There was also a school for music and dance at Srikurumapatak for the dancing girls and boys. The temple dancers were called Sani.

The Ganga Kings ruled over Kalinga for about 400 years and then Chodaganga Deva was born to Maharaja Devendravarma Rajaraja Deva and queen Rajasundari, who was the daughter of the Chola King of Kanchi named Maharaja Kulatunga Rajendra Chola the Second. Rajasundari had two sons namely, Cholaganga Deva and Pamardy. When Rajrajara Deva died prematurely in 1077 A.D., Cholaganga Deva was only 5 year old and Paramardy, the second son, was only 3 year old.

Kalinga was thus without a ruler. The neighbouring states wanted to occupy Kalinga. In order to save the kingdom and the two kids from their enemies Rajasundari, the widowed queen, desperately sought the help of her brother Virachoda, who was ruling over the Bengi Kingdom. Virachoda accepted the request, came to Kalinga Nagar and organised the coronation of the child Cholaganga Deva. He got his own daughter Gundichodi, later known as Kasturikamodini, married to Cholaganga Deva and proclaimed that Kalinga was not without a ruler. Virachoda was a brave and intelligent king himself. He engaged teachers of high caliber for the education of his daughter and son-in-law. Cholaganga Deva later led a huge army and started a series of campaigns against the neighbouring enemy kingdoms.

Situated to the east of Kalinga was Utkal, which was ruled at that time by the Somavansi king Karnadeva. Cholaganga attacked Utkal, and with this battle for the conquest of Utkal, the Somavansa were eliminated. Cholaganga then defeated Chalukya, King of Bengi, and also defeated the Pala King of Bangal at Mandargada and Armyanagar, at present known as Arambag. He extended his Kingdom Kalinga from Godavari in the southwest to the Ganga in the northeast. In 1112 A.D. he shifted his capital from Kalinga Nagar to Varanasi Katak, which is at present known as Bidanasi. From a Deopara copper plate inscription it is known that Vijayasena prided himself on being a friend of Cholaganga.

Since it took some time to bring about peace and stability in the conquered territories of Utkal and Banga, Cholaganga, along with his family, stayed in Kalinga Nagar up to 1126 A.D. and then shifted to Varanasi Katak after restoration of peace and stability. In 1050 Sakabda (1128 A.D.) his first year of reign was declared to be counted as found from an inscription in Nrusingha temple near Mukti Mandap at Srimandir. Cholaganga assumed the title of Parama Maheswara, Parama Vaisnava and Parama Brahmanya. He was initially a Saiva and later on became Vaisnava. His Saiva Guru was a Sadhu in Madhukeswar temple and his Vaisnava Guru was from the Vishnu temple of Kurumapatak.

Cholaganga Deva organised the coronation of his eldest son, Sri Kamarnava Deva, at Sri Purusottama Temple of Puri and stayed in his palace at Puri for the rest of his life. This was in the year 1142 A.D. Cholaganga Deva started the construction of the present Jagannath Temple at Puri. At the coronation function temple dancers from Sri Kurumapatak were called to perform a dance at the Lord Jagannath Temple. This sect was known as the Sani sect. As found out from the temple inscriptions at Madhukeswar temple and Simanchal Temple, the Ganga Kings had encouraged this tradition of temple dancers in the kingdom of Kalinga, and then in the Kalinga empire.

As recorded in an inscription in the Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar, during the reign of Raghava Deva, the second son of Chodaganga Deva, all the land rights for a region called Baheda Khanda were purchased from Sadhu Pradhan Jayadeva of Kurmapataka and donated to Kirtivaswar (Lord Lingaraj) by Medam Devi, her father Komi Nayaka and her mother. The three of them had donated three Akhanda Dipas (arrangements for non-stop burning of oil-lamps) to the temple. They belonged to the Sani sect.

A similar inscription appears on Madhukeswar temple at Mukhalingam where Komi Nayak, father of Medam Devi and his wife Nagama Devi (Title of Gudisani meaning Temple Dancer) arranged for offering an akhanda deepa in the temple in 1113 A.D. There is yet another inscription in the said Madhukeswar temple in which they had offered akhanda deepa in 1128 A.D. The system of providing akhanda deepa and donating rights of land to the Deities appears to be common in the three events in 1113, 1128 and 1156 A.D."