The cultural contribution of the Somavamsis is significant in many ways. The Somavamsis accepted the Varnashrama dharma i.e., traditional division of the society into four Varr.as (Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra), and gave the highest status to the Brahmanas. By performing Vedic sacrifices and facilitating the migration of Brahrnanas from northern India through generous offer of land grants the Somavamsi rulers promoted the Brahminisation of the socio-religious life of Odisha as well as the assimilation of the north Indian Sanskritic culture into the Odishan culture.
Women enjoyed respectable status in the Somavamsi society. Some of the Somavamsi queens performed important works like the construction of temples. The Queen Kolavatidevi, the mother of Udyota Keshari constructed the Brahmeswar temple at Bhubaneswar. Nevertheless, the status of women appears to have degenerated during this period. The Devadasi practice (the practice of dedicating maidens to the temples) and prostitution were prevalent during this period. The last Somavamsi king, Karnadeva married a dancing girl, named Karpurasri who was born of a Mahari or Devadasi.
Religious life of the Somavamsi rulers
The Somavamsi rulers were devoted Saivites. They helped the growth and spread of Saivism by the construction of Siva temples and offer of liberal land grants to the Saiva temples, priests and ascetics. Consequently, a number of Saiva gurus, such as Sadasivacharya, rathamacharya and Acharya Gagana Siva came to Odisha from far and wide and enjoyed the patronage of the Somavamsi rulers. With the help of Janmejaya I Gagana Siva built the Someswar temple at Ranipur-Jharial. Yayati-I built the beautiful Saiva temple of Mukteswar. The construction of the gigantic Saiva temple of Lingaraj was started by Yayati-ll and completed by Udyotakeshari. Though ardent Saivites themselves, the Somavamsis continued the Bhaumakara tradition of religious toleration. They tolerated other sects such as Jainism, Vaishnavism and Saktism.The king Udyota Keshari carved Navamuni and Varabhuja caves for the Jaina ascetics.
Art and Architecture
The Somavamsis left their imperishable legacy in the field of art and architecture. The Odishan temple architecture which began in the Sailodbhava period reached the height of perfection towards the close of the Somavamsi period. The Odishan temple reached its complete form towards the close of the Somavamsi period. The architectural activities in the later period, though by no means scarce, were more concerned with elaboration than with any introduction of new features or forms indicating new directions of development. Out of the numerous temples, built by the Somavamsis four are most magnificent Lingaraj, Brahmeswar, Mukteswar and Rajarani (all in Bhubaneswar). Each of them is a masterpiece of Odishan architecture. The images of these temples are also the finest specimens of sculpture.
Promotion of Learning
There was a phenomenal development in the field of Sanskrit learning and literature during the Somavamsi period. The inscriptions of the period speak of the proficiency of the scholars in Vedas, Vedanga, Smtitis, Puranas, medical sciences, Astrologgy, Arthasastra, Grammar, Poetry, History, Political Science and Logic. The land grants to the learned Brahmanas facilitated the study of Sanskritic literature. A number of Sanskrit scholars such as Sadharana, Purushottam Bhatta, Bhavadeva, Acharya Subhachandradeva and Narayana Satakarni flourished during the Somavamsi period. Sadharana, the chief minister of Janmejava I was well-versed in Veda, Vedanga, Vidya, Siksa, Kalpa, Itihas, Smriti and Arthasastra. Purushottam Bhatta wrote a eulogy on King Udyota Keshari. Some of the Somavamsi kings themselves were scholars. The Somavamsi inscriptions use some typical Odia words such as Khamba, Punya and Machha. This period was undoubtedly a significant phase in the formation of Odia language.
- Administration of the Somavamsis
- The early history of the Somavamsis
- Dynastic history and achievements of the Somavamsi rulers