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Raja Langula Narashimha Deva I: The Various Walks of His Life

Historians adoringly narrate the Eastern Ganga Dynasty as an outgrowth of South India’s Cholas; however, the Gangas had been present in Odisha for at least four centuries before they gained prominence. Confined in the South Odisha and Northern Andhra Kalinga Mandala, they quickly rose to power when the Somavanshi rulers declined in northern Odisha’s Utkala area.

Narasingha Deva I was born to Ananga Bhima Deva III and Queen Kastura Debi, another brilliant, militarily powerful King & queen of the Ganga dynasty. He was titled after one of Lord Vishnu’s avatars, one of the Hindu Trinities, who had to adopt an aggressive form to save an innocent life. He was raised in an environment when his father, in coalition with the Delhi Sultanate, was constantly facing attacks from Bengal’s Afghan -Turkish Muslim armies.

There is no question that Narasingha Deba I was raised under strict Hindu ethical education and military code when India itself was facing the brunt of the Muslim invasion and his empire was the next in line to face the imminent.

The Ganga Empire attained its pinnacle with the succession of Narasimhadeva I to the Ganga throne in 1238 A.D. His twenty-six years of majestic rule have experienced significant milestones in every field of Ganga government. His vigorous and destructive military strategy generated fear in the minds of the Bengal and Oudh Muslim rulers.

Sculpture showing Langula Narasimha Deva and his wife at Konark Temple
Sculpture showing Langula Narasimha Deva and his wife at Konark Temple (courtesy Wikimedia)

This brought the imperial Gangas to the height of wealth, prominence and splendour. He carried the title Gajapati for the first time , displaying a vast possession of elephants and this title was frequently borne by the later Ganga rulers and undoubtedly by the Suryavamsi kings.

The Sun temple at Konark was the splendid architectural development that took Narasimhadeva to the forefront. He was widely known as Langula Narasimhadeva by the Odia people. It is unbelievable the grandeur that King Langula Narasimha Deva of the Ganga Dynasty must have witnessed as he stepped into the newly-built jagamohana  at the Konark temple to give the first prayers on the birthday of Padma Kesara Deula (Sun god’s son). Narasimha Deva’s ambitious project, which came to life, was constructed over a decade with 1,200 of the finest artists from Odisha, Konark, or Arka Kshetra as it would have been called then.

Attacks on Bengal 

 Narasimha I had followed the coverage of hostile imperialism after his accession in 1238 CE. By that time, the governor of Bengal was Tughril Tughan Khan (1233-1246 CE).

After leveraging his position, Narasimha marched towards Bengal in 1234 CE with his grand navy supported by Paramadrideva, his brother-in-law.

The Odia military invaded some neighbouring area semi-impartial Hindu rajas east of the Ganges river and made a calculated transfer to northern Radha, Tughri Tughan Khan’s territory. At this juncture, Tughril Tughan gave all of the Muslims a clarion call for a jihad (holy battle) against the Hindus. The holy war was also joined by  Qazi Minhaj-us-Siraj.

Tabaqat-i-Nasiri Minhaj in his book, gives a vivid picture of the war. By 1244 CE. Tughril Tughan released a counter war on the Odai navy.  The Muslim navy, winning some initial achievement, forced Narasimhadeva ‘s forces to withdraw to their frontier citadel Katasin (Kantei in West Bengal’s Midnapur district), which was encircled by jungles and cane trees and provided strategic security for the Odia army.

Tughril-Tughan Khan retired to Lakhnauti in order to continue his life. He surrendered his rule over Radha  . Narasimhadeva I’s victory over the Muslim army was described in the inscription of the temple at Anantavasudeva.

The fact that Narasimha had lengthened his way up to Radha by beating Tughril-Tughan Khan was truly created.

Broken stone panel from Konark ruins depicting Narasingha Deva I
Broken stone panel from Konark ruins depicting Narasingha Deva I (courtesy Wikipedia)

After the conquest of Radha Narasimhadeva did not withdraw.  He wanted to expand his influence. At that point, Lakhnauti comprised two major divisions— Radha and Varendra, on each side of the Ganges.

Around the same time as Diwkot became Varendra ‘s headquarters Lakhnor became Radha ‘s headquarters. Narasimhadeva, having his sway over Radha, aimed his navy toward Varendra. The Odia army robbed Bengal ‘s Muslim territories and created confusion within the Muslims’ minds.

Anxiously, Tughril Tughan Khan pleaded to Delhi’s Sultan Alauddin Masud Saha to come to his salvation , he sent Oudh’s governor Quamuruddin Tamur Khan to support Tugha Khan. But after Bengal was conquered, Tamur had a clear difference of opinion with Tughril Tughan who was eventually driven away from Bengal, and Tamur Khan continued as his governor until his death in 1246 CE.

Balban, the sultan of Delhi Sultanate appointed Lkhtiyar-ud-Din Yuzbak on behalf of Lakhnauti ‘s governor. Once again Narasimhadeva held Bengal on his head.

Minhaj’s Tabaqat-i-Nasiri cites that from 1247 to 1256 CE four battles between Yuzbak and Narasimha had been waged, and once again the leader of this war from the aspect of the Odia army became Paramadrideva whom Minhaj mentions as Sabantar.

Yuzbak was achieving momentum in the first two fights. He asked for the best military resource from Delhi, and marched closer to Umurdan (present district of Amanda Mayurbhanj). But the valiant son-in-law of Anangabhimadeva III, and Narasimhadeva I’s brother-in – law,Paramadrideva, lost his life in this brilliant dispute. 

Yuzbak ‘s victory was verified by using the issue of the Lakhnauti mint’s silver coins in reminiscence of Umardan ‘s conquest. But after his death Lakhnauti came under Delhi Sultanate ‘s direct control, and Narasimhadeva marginalised Bengal, Midnapur, Howrah, and Hoogly to the Ganga empire.

Hostilities with the Kakatiyas

Narashimha no longer effectively conquered the Muslims but produced fear in the mind of Kakatiya ruler Ganapat. The writing in the temple at Lingaraj refers to a battle between Ganapati and Narasimha.

Ganapati became a very influential Kakatiya dynasty ruler who invaded the southern part of Kalinga and captured a few portions of it, as is assumed from the inscription of the Bhimeswara temple. Therefore, it can be concluded that there must have been a regular confrontation between the 2 kings and that Narasimhadeva would have imposed a crushing defeat on Ganapati.

His Achievements as a Builder

The recognition of Narasimhadeva as a builder has been unmatched. Within the discipline of artwork, design, and sculpture, the remarkable Sun temple at Konark bears witness to his enthusiasm for architecture. Despite the ruin of the main temple, the Jagamohana (Porch) remains a special and precious place.

The temple ‘s magnificent architecture, structure and sculpture attracts the attention of thousands and millions of holidaymakers all over the globe who go to Konark’s Sun Temple.

The absolutely gorgeous Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Temple at Simhachalam, that we see today in Vizag, has received enormous patronage from Narasimha who also probably restored it. He also built other monuments, such as the Dhenkanal Kapilash Temple, Ananta Vasudeva Temple etc., either directly or through members of his family.

He built a massive fort at Balasore, Raibania.

His Contribution to Faith, Art, and Literature

Not only did he turn into an exceptional military genius & builder, but he also became his time’s top-notch statesman. The sound administration became a marked managerial value.

He became a supporter of the intention of Hinduism. His inscription at the temple of Lingaraj is famous for the fact that he founded a monastery known as Sadasiva Matha within the Ekamra Kshetra (Bhubaneswar).

This monastery has transformed into a sanctuary for the Hindu refugees who migrated from Gauda and Radha after being persecuted by the mughal emperors.

The Purchaser of Sanskrit Literature

He thus became a prime buyer of Sanskrit literature. His court poet Vidyadhara wrote his well-known Alankara work Ekavali which describes Narasimhadeva I’s achievements.

Extract from Ekavali praising Narasimha Dev I
courtesy punyabhumi Odisha, blogspot

His courtroom was filled with exceptionally fine men of words as gleaned from the language and style of his duration ‘s numerous inscriptions. Narasimhadeva became famous for his openness of religion. If Konark’s Sun Temple makes an impact that he has transformed into a brilliant sun God devotee his Kapilasa inscription phrases him as Sri Durga Putra, Sri Purusottam Putra, and a devotee to God Mahesvara.

He practiced his father’s Ananga Bhima Deva III strategies. Narasimhadeva I held his fame-fitting extravagant sounding names. The Ekavaii crowned him with the name ‘Vanavani Vallabha’ the writing in the Lingaraja temple decorates him with the word ‘Vira-NaraKesari-Naradhipa’ and the writing in Kailash entitles him as ‘Gajapati.’ His glorious reign had come to an end in 1264 CE.

As a result Narasimhadeva-i was a king with many praiseworthy qualities. He was skilled in  government’s artwork, and often patronised men of words.  Because of his patriotism and wonderful dedication to the Sun temple at Konark, he became well known.

Conclusion

Emperor Langula Narasingha Deba I ruled one of ancient India’s last remaining powerful kingdoms while others crumbled under brutal expansion of Muslim powers in India. He was the first Hindu warrior king to start playing by the enemy’s rules and not to obey the conventional Hindu war code that had moral norms therein. This involved the tactics of guerrilla warfare, rather than going into combat and ransacking enemy military territories.

Konark temple lithography plate, James Fergusson,1847
A lithography plate from James Fergusson’s “Ancient Architecture in Hindoostan” (1847) showing part of the main tower still standing, Konark Temple (courtesy Wikipedia)

Because of his aggressive military strategy, the Muslims were taken aback by surprise, held at bay, unable for a long time to conquer Assam in the northeast, nor Odisha with parts of Central India. In India, the militarily knowledgeable schemer and general of a large Ganga army stalled the Muslim blind invasion.

Narasimha Deva should indeed be remembered for the rich cultural and architectural heritage which he left behind for us, as those great structures still standing today remind us of a golden age of Indian history.

References

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