With the discovery of Hatigumpha inscription at Udaygiri in the capital city of Odisha, Bhubaneswar, the dark period of Odia history came into limelight. The inscription depicts the tale of valour and courage of Kalinga’s greatest monarch Kharavela, who stood as a remarkable figure in the contemporary India.
It was under Kharavela’s rule that Kalinga rose to its most prosperous period. Kalinga’s age-old arch rival Magadha tasted defeat at the feet of Kharavela.
According to the Hatigumpha inscription, Kharavela belonged to the mighty family of Mahameghvahana of the Chedi clan. The Chedis originally ruled the Madhyadesha or Magadha. With the passage of time, a branch of this royal linage came to Kalinga and marked its territory. And Kharavela is supposed to be the third member of the Kalingan Chedis.
Kharavela’s grandfather, Mahameghavahan is considered to be the founder of the Mahameghavahan kingdom. The Mahameghavahan dynasty established its presence in the Kalinga. According to the Manchpuri cave inscription, Maharaja-Kalingadhipati- Mahameghavahana- Kudepasiri has been described as Kharavela’s son.
Another inscription at Guntupalli in West Godavari district of A.P. refers to Mahameghavahana-Kalinga- Mahisakadhipati-Siri-Sada. “Cetarajavasavadhanena” is interpreted as the one who increases the glory of the Cedi dynasty. Another school of thought proposes that Chetaraja was the father of Kharavela and he was the third ruler Mahameghavahana dynasty also known as Kalingarajavamsa.
A Mastered and Proficient Childhood
At the tender age of 15, Kharavela turned into the Yuvaraja to take the weight of imperial duties. Since his childhood, he was proficient in writing (Lekha), coinage (Rupa), arithmetic (Ganana), law (Vyavahara) and procedure (Vidhi). Apart from this, he also mastered many art forms.
The term ‘Lekha’ doesn’t mean simply the common capability of writing, yet it implies the method of state correspondence essential for a ruler to learn. ‘Rupa’ was the study of cash or cash, Ganana, or Arithmetic was obviously, a subject of outright need, uniquely for administrators. Vyavahara, that is Law, incorporated the information on legal framework just as of the built-up ‘Law of the land’.
The training of Kharavela illuminates the regal education of ancient India. A future monarch was obliged to go in his initial life through a set of education, instruction and learning, vital for a royal career. After Kharavela completed 24 years of age he was delegated as the King of Kalinga.
Kharavela’s Achievements as an Undefeated King
The Hatigumpha inscription records the events of his 13 years’ reign.
- 1st year: Renovation of Kalinganagar
Kharavela involved himself in the renovation work by repairing the gates and buildings of his capital Kalinganagara, which had been destroyed by a furious cyclone just in the first year of his reign. Deep lake and to create beautiful gardens were constructed for his subjects that amounted a total of thirty-five lakhs of coins from the royal exchequer.
- 2nd year: Expedition against Satavahana king
Kharavela was the owner of a valiant army. He bravely undertook expedition against the powerful Satavahan king, Satakarni-I. Satakarni-I ruled over the northern part of modern Maharashtra, western part of modern Madhya Pradesh and Andhra region. Kharavela’s army advanced up to the Krishna river and took control of the city of Rishikanagara.
- 3rd year: Recreational ceremonies for the people
Kharavela provided entertainment to his subjects after the successful south expedition. Kalinganagari, the capital city was overwhelmed with joy and jubilation. Kharavela, who himself was proficient in all numerous artforms organised performances where dance and music, both vocal and instrumental, took place. In addition to this, he also arranged ceremonials and social gatherings.
- 4th year: Second expedition to the South
Kharavela ordered his army and marched towards the Deccan again, conquering the territories of the Rathikas and Bhojakas lying respectively in the south and north of Nasik region.
- 5th year: Extension of canal till Kalinganagari
In this year, Kharavela extended the canal from the Tansulia road up to Kalinganagari showing his benevolence nature. This canal was excavated hundred years before by king Nanda for irrigational purpose.
- 6th year: Remittance of taxes in his kingdom
Kharavela devoted himself to the welfare activities of his subjects by remitting taxes and benevolences both in urban and rural area. The Hatigumpha inscription describes that the royal treasury overflowed with wealth, hence Kharavela did not bother with the taxes.
Udaygiri Caves (courtesy Tripoto)
- 7th year: Birth of son
Kharavela attained fatherhood after his chief queen ‘the queen of Vajiraghara’ gave birth to their son.
- 8th year: Expedition to northern India
Kharavela undertook an expedition to the north. He attacked Rajagriha and destroyed Gorathagiri, situated on the Barbara hill of the Gaya district. His victory at Rajagriha created terror among the yavanas who occupied Mathura. After their success, they planned to attack Magadha.
- 9th year: Construction of Mahavijaya Prasadam
Kharavela built the Mahavijaya Prasadam, fondly called the Victory Palace by spending 38 lakhs of coins to celebrate his victory in the northern campaign. Known for his benovelence attitude, Kharavela distributed the wealth among the Brahmins and Arhats.
- 10th year: Camapign to the North India
Kharavela directed the army towards North India for conquest but the result of the conquest remains unknown as there is no description of the same in the Hatigumpha excavations.
- 11th year: Southern confederacy defeated
Kharavela defeated a confederacy of southern powers which consisted of Cholas, Pandyas, Satpuriyas, keralaputras and Tamraparnis. As a symbol of allegiance, he secured large number of jewels, pearls and precious stones.
- 12th year: Bruhaspati Mitra, the Sunga ruler defeated
Kharavela led campaign against Bruhaspati Mitra, the Sunga ruler of Magadha. By defeating Bruhaspati Mitra, as trophy of his victory, he secured the Kalinga Jina.
13th year: Shift to religious pursuits
In the last reign, Kharavela let go of his military activities and turned his attention towards religious pursuits. He built 117 caves at Kumari Parvata (Udayagiri) for Jaina monks, monks of other religion, sheers and Arhats, revived the art and architecture of ancient Kalinga.
The Follower of Mahavira
Kharavela’s reign holds great significance when the history of Odisha comes into picture. The caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri hills and the Hathigumpha inscriptions provide enough evidence to Kharavela’s connection with Jainism. Kharavela is regarded as one of the greatest followers of Mahavir.
The invocation formula on the Hatigumpha inscription Namo Arihantanam Namo Sarva-Sidhamam clearly testifies Kharavela followed Jainism.
Kharavela was the greatest king Kalinga saw after its ignominious defeat at the hands of Ashoka. He returned pride and prestige to the name of Kalinga that had been lost in the century before.
Sadly, his empire did not endure his passing. Only two of his descendants are recorded to have left any inscriptions. It is postulated that his empire crumbled apart within two generations. All that is left of his empire is a few ruins and a some caves filled with inscriptions.
Even then, he still proved that Kalinga was mighty and equal or even greater than other kingdoms of India.