Chintaman Vinayak Vaidya.

History of mediæval Hindu India (being a history of India from 600 to 1200 A.D.) .. (Volume 1) online

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We come next to the bistroy of Orissa or Odra as it is
called in ancient Sanskit literature. We have a very
interesting history of Orissa from the pen of that gifted
author Sir William Hunter and we will follow him gener-
ally except in a few points. His research at the date of
his writing his history is remarkably thorough while his
manner of depicting scenes and events belongs to a higly
imxaginative writer. Sir William Hunter doubtless based
the ancient history of Orissa on the palm-leaf manuscripts
preserved in the temple of Jagannath, the most famous
temple of Orissa.

According to Hunter Orissa is the Prakrit form of the
word Odra-des'a which is very plausible. Orissa is a strip
of land bounded by the Sea on the east and the Vindhya
hills on the west. It extends length-wise from the-western
most mouth of the Ganges to a remarkable lake in the
south called the Chilka lake. This lake has been formed
owing to the low level of the land, the water from the sea
floing into it at tide-time. It is separated from the sea
by a narrow ridge of land formed by the deposit of silt from
the mountains brought down by the big rivers of Orissa the
chief of which is of course the Mahanadi. In this strip
of land owing to its fertility immigrations have come in from
time to time. The most ancient one was that of the Aryans
whose pioneers, the Brahmins, were conspicuous in founding
settlensnts even in Dandakaranya. These Aryan Brah-
mins soon imposed their religion and their language upon
the aboriginal people who were non-Aryans and Kaivartas
or fishermen by profession. Odra naturally became a
prosperous province but like Anga, Vanga and Kalinga it
continued to be a banned land for pure Aryans. The
Manusmriti mentions the Odras as mlechhas, and it was
not considered proper for good Aryans to go to this country.


After the Vedic Aryans, came the Buddhist. We know
that Asoka wh^n he conquered Kalinga further south
slaughtered many people and from that time by a revulsion
of feeling became inclined towards the religion of
non-slaughter. From his timei. e. about 250 B.C. Buddhism
reigned supreme in Ori^sa for several centuries. Sir
William Hunter re'ates on the authosity of the palm-lea ^
records that this Buddhist native rule was supplanted by a
king named Red-Arm (?;ffrifr^) who came about 323 A.D. and
his descendants ruled in Orissa till 474 A.D. (Hunter's
Orissa Vol. I p 206 )

Who were these invaders. The temple archives call
them Yavanas and Hunter has no doubt that they were so.
He has given a most detailed history of the ancient Yava-
nas or Bactrian Greeks who had kingdoms in the Panjab
and who invaded Ayodhya and Magadha under Menander
in the second century B.C. It is not improbable that some
of these Yavana adventurers sailed down the Ganges and
came by sea to Orissa in course of time. That there were
Yavana kingdoms in the central parts of India is proved
not only from inscriptions but from theruranas themselves
Of the Kailakila or Kainkila Yavanas mentioned in the-
Puranas we shall speak later on. Here it will suffice to
note that Yavana adventures, it is not strange, founded
a kingdom in Orissa in about 320A.D. and continued to
rule down to 474 A. D. These Yavanas were a maritime
people and it is supposed that under their guidance the
Hindus went to Java about this period. Whatever that
may be, these Yavanas appear to be Buddhists like the
Kailakila Yavanas of the Central Provinces. The fact is
that foreigners whether in past or present times are al-
ways partial to Buddhism; because Hinduism is exclusive
and there is no ready admission to foreigners in its fold
Sir W. Hunter attributes this tendency to the higher ethi-
cal excellence of Buddhism. But it seems that there was
nothing to choose between Hinduism and Buddhism of the
fifth century A.D. so far as higher doctrines were concerned
and superstition was as rempant in Buddhism as in


Hinduism at that time. But Buddhism was a proselytizing
religion while Hinduism was not and hence Yavanas and
Sakas and others turned Buddhists sooner than Hindus.
But it must be remembered that caste in the fifth century
A.D. was as strong among Buddhists as among the Hindus
in spite of the fact that Buddhiism started with the denial
of caste in the beginning. The sentiment of caste is bu-
ried deep down the Indian heart and we see caste at the
present day assert itself even among tne Christian converts
of the south. Under the influence of caste a new people
though admitted to Buddhism or even to Hinduism lived
as a separate caste bound by interdiction of marriage with
others among the hundred and one castes that already

To return to the Yavanas who conquered Orissa, they
were Buddhists and ruled the country according to the
chronicles till 474 A. D. These Yavanas or Greeks have
lefc Buddhistic monutments in caves and in images of
gods and men with Greek profiles unmistakably detectable
as stated by archaeolgists a fact which well fits in with the
view that these rulers were really Bactrian Greeks. This
(iynansty was overthrown by one Yayati Kesari according
to the palm-leaf records in 474 A.D. The kings of this
Kesari line were worshippers of Siva as elsewhere; though
of course they reverenced Vishnu also as the All-preserver
"For 150 years Buddhism and Siva worship struggled for
victory when the contest practically ceased. The reigning
monarch was a worshipper of the all-Destroyer with Bhu-
vanesvara the temple city of Siva as his capital. Year
after year the Buddhist hermits in their cave-dwellings
gazed across the five miles of fruit-bearing groves towards
the great tower of Siva slowly rising in the distance. Of the
TOOO shrines which clustered round it, not more than 500
or 600 survive. They exhibit every stage of Orissa art from
the rough conceptions of the sixth century through the
exquisite designs and the ungrudging artistic toil of the
12th, the exquisite friezes, scrolls, and carvings which
adorn these long deserted walls," (Hunters Orissa Vol. 1 pp.
233-234 )


The chronicles and SirW. Hunterplace the rise of the
Saivite dynasty of Kesari kings in 474 A. D. But they place
the success of Bhuvanesvara 150 years later i. e. in
about 624 A.D. It seems that this must be put a little later
still. As we have said before, Orissa was conquered by
Harsha and was held under him. When Hiuen Tsang
visited the land, Buddhism was still supreme there. Here-
cords "The people reverence the law. There are a hundred
monasteries and 50 temples. There were myriads of Bud-
dhists" (The fertility of the land also is noticed by the
Chinese traveller who remarks that the fruit here were
larger than elsewhere). It seems, therefore, that the Kesari
dynasty though established was not yet powerful and was
subordinate to Harsha. They must have asserted them-
selves and their religion, as elsewhere in India, after
Harsha's death.

The dates of the building of the Bhuvanesvara temple
given by the palm-leaf records also support this theory.
' The founder began the lofty fane about 500 A.D, Two
succeeding monarchs laboured on it and the fourth comple-
ted it in A. D. 657." Thus the completion of the temple of
Siva at Bhuvanesvara took place after Harsha's death.
A slab inscription further recounts that a pious princess
built another cloud-reaching temple with four beautiful
halls to Lord Siva. "The only event by which the palm-leaf
records relieve the monotonous list of kings of the ninth
century is the erection of a Siva temple in Puri, the city
which was destined, later on, to become the centre of the
rival worship of Vishnu. This Markandesvara temple in
Puri was built by Kundala Kesari in 811-829 A. D. (Puru-
shottama Chandrika p. 31 quoted by Hunter p. 237 ).

The Kesari kings were not only great builders of stu-
pendous temples to Siva-temples the adornments of which
are more decorous than those which in a sense disfigure
the later temples of Vishnu in Orissa; but they were also
great restorers of the Brahmin religion. They invited and
settled a colony of Brahmins from northern India in much
the same way as orthodox kings in Bengal and elsewhere


did later on. "The local legends and the palm-leaf vecords
alike relate that the founder of the long-haired orLion line
imported ten thousand Brahmins from Oudh and endowed
them with lands round Jaipur on the sacred Vaitarani
river. They professed the royal religion and were Saivites
to a man. They found already settled Brahmins who
were, however, once Buddhists. These latter were allowed
to retain the title of Brahmins but they were interdicted
all intercourse with the new settlers. They were of course
denied the Jus Connubi from the first and these nominal
Brahmins formed a distinct caste which by degrees
sank into the mass of the peasant population." "They are
still found in Orissa as good cultivators and are known as
Laukika Brahmins and still wear a dirty Brahmanical
thread over their half naked body" (Hunter's Orissa Vol. I
p. 239 ). This settlement of Northern Brahmins and the
consequent division of Orissa Brhmins into Laukika and
Vaidika is typical of the social evolution of the higher
classes throughout India with its sub-divisions of castes
which appear at first inexplicable but which show how
centuries of profession of the Buddhistic faith differentia-
ted Brahmins from Brahmins and Kshatriyas from Kshat-
riyas and led to the present strange prohibition of mar-
riage and even food between subdivisions of the same chief
caste or Varna.

Bhuvanesvara was the old capital of the Kesari line
raised within the shadow of Buddhistic remains. The
settlement at Jaipur was a new religious capital. Between
them lay the delta of the Mahanadi. The Jaipur colony
flourished. It was visited according to Cunningham by
Hiuen Tsang though this seems doubtful ; but in the six-
teenth century the great battle between the Mahomedans
and the Hindus was certainly fought under its walls and
the city was taken by the Mahomedans and was as usual de-
vastated. "Its ruins attest its ancient grandeur. Its dilapi-
dated temples and colossal images retain an inviolate
sanctity in the mind of devout Hindus. To the annalist it


possesses a higher interest as the greatest and best-
attested settlement of priests from the north planted by royal
authority to impose a new dynastic creed on the Indian
population." (p. 241 ditto.)

Some of these ruins and thrown down images are gra-
phically described by Sir W. Hunter and we will notice
them in brief. They are still well preserved for "even the
icono-clast fury of Islam and the vandalism of the English
public works department have failed to obliterate the
artistic magnificence of the Lion line. A well proportioned
column rises above the jungle and bears traces of the im-
potent fury of the Mussulman troops. The Afgans tried to
drag it down by chains and teams of elephants ; but the
barbarian conquerors of the sixteenth century found them-
selves unable to destroy the graceful Hindu creations of
the tenth. They, however, managed to pull down the sacred
Vulture ( TT^ ) which crowned its capital and the exquisite
shafc lifts its dishonoured head in witness against a
creed which sought the glory of God in the destruction of
the finest works of man" (ditto p. 267).

The most important and colossal statues were also pre-
served owing to their being thrown down on their faces.
They lay prone for more than two centuries when in
T866 they were raised and set up by a spirited English
magistrate; and have been placed on the river bank amid
most of the public buildings. "Three statues each of one
enormous block of chlorite towering even in their sitting
posture far above the heads of puny mortals represent the
queen of Heaven (Indrani) the Earth goddess who took
upon herself a mortal form to become the wife of the Boar
incarnation (Varahi) and thegoddess of Destruction ^Kali),

These colossal monoliths must have been dragged across
the river-intercepted delta from the mountains a hundred
miles off and their hard blue stone still bears witness to
the fine chiselling of the Hindu Art of 900 to 1000 A. D.
The queen of Heaven, a four-armed goddess, sits in calm
majesty with an admirably cut elephant as her footstool.
A muslin drapery falls in delicate curves to her feet and is


fastened by a girdle at the waist. Her hair towers up in
a cone of curls inter-woven with jewels with a single mas-
sive tress hanging down upon either shoulder. The Earth
goddess sits with her infant son on the knee and like the
other two consists of a colossal monolith eight feet high
hy four in breadth. She has four arms also and the little
finger of her left hand proves that Hindu ladies of that re-
mote period wore rings. She sits on a finely carved buffalo
the artistic lines of whose head and muzzle are striking.
A temple to her husband the Boar incarnation crowns
a time-worn flight of stairs leading up from the river.

"Themoststrikingjhowever, of the three monoliths is the
wife of the all-Destroyer — a colossal naked skeleton with
the skin hanging to the bones and the veins and muscles
standing out in ghastly fidelity. This appalling symbol
of human decay has her hair brushed back under a snake
fillet, with a death's head over the forehead and the disten-
ded hood of the cobra as ^canopy above. Her serpent tres-
ses fall down in twisted horror over her cheeks. An end-
less string of skulls winds round her neck, her breast, her
loins and her whole body. She sits upon a small figure of
her husband and the whole rests upon a lotus-leafed pedes-
tal." Figures of the seven mothers and anotber statue of
the goddess of destruction with the demons Sumbha and
Nisumbha thrown down at her feet adorn a beautiful gal-
lery carved on this very bank (H. O. Vol. 1 268-269). These
and other sculptures testify to the great skill of Hindu
workers during the Kesari rule in Orissa and bear wit-
ness to the great imagination of these sculptors and the
mechanical skill of ancient engineers who could transport
such big stones a hundred miles in those days before ths^
introduction of modern mechanical appliances.

But the skill of Orissa ancient engineers is stiil more
exhibited in the bridge which they have built over the
southern branch of the Mahanadi. " The earlier kings of
the Kesari line held their court sometimes at Bhuvanesvara
the city of temples to Siva and sometimes at Jaipur the
city of his priests on the holy river. But a warlike prince

THE KESaRI dynasty of ORISSA 325

■who reigned from 953 to 961 A. D. perceived the military
strengh of the tongue of land where the Mahanadi first
divides itself into several branches and founded Cuttack
which is still the capital of the province. He shut up the
river by means of a masonry embankment, several miles
long, which at present consists of enormous blocks of
hewn stone in some places 25 feet high. His successor
strengthened the new^ capital by an outlying fortress on
the southern bank of the river, while a century later the
reii^ning king built the massive bridge by which pilgrims
enter Puri at this day. The bridge consists of masses of
red stone called laterite ( which is soft when first quarried
but grows harder by exposure to the air ) and spans 290
feet of water-way by means of eighteen arches the cen-
tral one being 18 feet high by fourteen feet broad. " The
Hindu architects of that day did not know how to turn
an arch but they had a device of their own scarcely /ess
skilful, applied equally to the lofty towers of temples and
to 'he humblest gate-way. It is what may be called the
inverted stair" ; each stone lay projecting out from that
be'ow. Thus was the Mahanadi bridge built by skilful
engineers of the Hindus of the 10th and 11th century A. D.

Beyond their prosperity and their great temples and
buildings we have little to record of the politics of the
Kesari line of kings of Orissa. As the palm-leaf records
show, this dynasty began in about 500 A. D. but their real
power and independence began w^ith 657 A. D. the date of
the completion of the Bhuvanesvara temple to Siva after
Harsha's death. They were orthodox worshippers of Siva
and invited thousands of Saivite Brahmins of Oundh and
settled them at Jaipur where they are still to be found in
the enjoyment of lands given to them in fee by devout
kings more than a thousand years back. These kings
continued to rule down to 1132 A. D. according to the palm-
leaf records in their capital Cuttack (which was built about
1030 A. D.) when a revolution took place and the Kesari
line of kings came to an end. A religious revolution also
happened about this time and in a sense Buddhism


reared its head again in the form of Vaishnavism. Both
this religious change and political revolution belong to
the third portion of our period, and we finish this history
of Orissa here to return again to it in the third volume
of our history. ^

The Kesari line rule thus lasted from about 500 to-
1132 A. D. a period of about 600 years which is very long
indeed. But we have said that in outlying territories
such long-lived dynasties are not uncommon as for instance
in Assam. The palm-leaf records of Jagannath are, how-
ever, not wholly reliable and there are other records which
contradict them as shown by Sir William Hunter him-
self. According to the palm-leaf records the Kesari line
consisted of 44 kings from 500 A. D. to 1132 A. D. ( not an.
improbable period viz. 600 years for 44 kings) when it
gave place to the Ganga line of kings. But the other
records place a sun-worshipping line between the Kesari
line and the Ganga line. These other records according
to Hunter are not quite reliable ; but the fact cannot be
denied that there must have been a sun-worshipping line
of kings sometime before the introduction of the Vishnu
worship of Jagannath. For we have in Orissa the most
beautiful temple of the sun that exists in India or any-
where else and also a monolith pillar still standing which
is almost a wonder of the world. This history of the sun-
worshippers too we reserve to our second volume.

As there is very little political history to record, we
refrain from giving a list of the Kesari kings which Hun-
ter has assiduously collected and given in an appendix.
Orissa must have been more than once conquered during
this period by kings from the north, and we have an actual
mention in the Nepal inscription of Jayadeva that
Harshadeva of Assam did conquer Odra. Yet such con-
quests either from the north or the south were always tem-
porary and only nominal and the indepndence of the Ke-
sari line was not interfered with. These kings themselves
oared very little for external conquests though perhaps
Kongadu of Hiuen i. e. Ganjam in the south and
Tamraliptior Midnapurin the north may often have formed
part of the kingdom of Orissa, under the Kesari kings.



We now turn to the kingdoms of the east. This east-
ern portion of India naturally divides itself into three
parts, Behar with Magadha, western Bengal and Eastern
Bengal. The ancient names of eastern countries in India
were Anga, Vanga and Kalinga ; but Magadha and Odra
are also ancient names and all these were usually subject to
one and the same great power. When the name Gauda first
came into use for this part cannot well be determined. That
it was a new name we have not the smallest doubt. The
Mahabharata does not mention it nor even, it seems, Varaha-
mihira of the 5th century A D. Gauda or Guda is strange-
ly enough mentioned by him as the name of the country
round Thanesar,* but we had forgotten this fact so com-
pletely that it was a discovery indeed of Jackson. Gauda
according to our present notions is nothing but Bengal. We
must, however, recognise the fact that Gauda is a name
which originally belonged to the country to the north-west
of Delhi. The Brahmins of that part of the country still
call themselves Adigauda or the original Gaudas. It
seems probable that some time about the 5th or 6th century
A. D. many of these Brahmins, probably under the stress
of the Huns, migrated eastward and settled in Western
Bengal. The country thus came to be called Gauda. In
the inscriptions of the seventh and eighth centuries this
part is certainly called Gauda. Bana for instance (6i0
A. D.) in the Harsha Charita calls Sasanka king of Gauda
while Hiuen Tsang calls him king of Karnasuvarna.
Karna-Suvarna then was certainly Gauda in about 600
A.D. And Gupta kings probably a branch of thcGupta im-
perial line ruled here. Sasanka's rule continued for a long
time even after 606 A. D. i. e. after he had killed Rajya-

' Varahamihira mentions Guda among middle countries-while among eastern coun
tries he mentions Bhadra Gaudaka along with Paundra and others.


varadhana by treachery and it seems probable that Mar-
sha though he must have conquered Sasanka pardoned him
and married his daughter who had been offered to Rajya.
When Hiuen Tsang visited it, Sasanka was probably dead.
He describes the perople of Karnasuvarna (modern Murshi-
dabad) as fond of learning, with 50 monasteries and 100
Deva temples, showing that Buddhism was in a minority
in western Bengal even then.

The next mention we have of Gauda in ancient records
found so far is that of the Gupta family of Adityasena.
This must be another Gupta branch. According to our
view already detailed it was a branch Gupta line which
had come from Malwa, after Deva-gupta the enemy of
Grahavarman had been slain. Madhava Gupta, his half
brother, was a friend and follower of Harshaand during or
after Harsha's rule, his own Malava kingdom having been
seized and forfeited, he founded a kingdom in Magadha.
The Aphsad inscription describes Adityasena the donor as
a son of Madhava-gupla "a friend of Harsha" in 66 H. E. or
672 A. D, The inscription was drawn out by a Gauda
named Sukshma Siva. The literary excellence of the Gau-
das may be seen even at that time in this inscriotion an
excellence which continues down to this day. Magadha
and Gauda or western Bengal appear then to have been
under one ruler and the same thing appears from the Gau-
davaho which we next proceed to notice. In this poem,
as we have said before, Yasovarman of Kanauj is said to
have invaded Gauda and killed the Gauda king in battle.
The king is said to be Magadhadhipa also. Who was this
king? We have placed Yasovarman between 675 and 715 A. D.
following S. P. Pandit. From the Deo-Barnak inscription
of Jivita-gupta we get the following line from Madhava-
1 Madhava 2 Adityasena (672 A. D.) 3 Devagupta 4 Vishnu-
gupta and 5 Jivitagupta. The date of the latter is not given
and we have to surmise it. The king killed in the battle
with Yasovarman is said by some to be Jivitagupta himself
This battle was fought before Yasovarman was conquered
by Lalitaditya of Kashmir in about 700 A. D. Hence


according to our dates the king killed in Gauda must
have been Devagupta. Of course as there was no annexation
of kingdoms practically in those days his son succeeded.
And perhaps it may have been his son Vishnugupta who
was conquered by Lalitaditya and who in some year later
than 700 having again taken ud arms against the distant
Lalitaditya was again conquered and taken a prisoner to
Kashmir where, inspite of an oath to the contrary, he was
murdered as related in Kashmir history. He was succeed-
ed by Jivitagupta whose record, the Dev-Barnak inscrip-
tion, has been found. This line of the Guptas we have iden-
tified as the Mai wa branch for many reasons and two names
properly recur Devagupta and this name Jivitagupta. ( See
Gupta pedigree given in Book I). The date of Jivitagupta
approximately may be taken to be 732 A.D. taking 20 years
for each generation and Muktapida's reign Kalhana has
rightly assigned as lying between 699 and 735 A. D. (see
Kashmir pedigre Chap. I). We take it as very probable that
Jivitagupta was not the king murdered in Kashmir. From
the Dev-Barnak inscriptionof this king we find that Aditya-
sena was a worshipper of Vishnu (T^Twrr^) and his queen
was Konadevi (both facts appear from the Apsad inscription
also), that their son Devagupta was a worshipper of Siva
q^iT?TTt^ ) and his queen was Kamaladevi, that his son was
Vishnugupta also a worshipper of Siva and his wife was

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