The Suryavamsi Gajapatis

The Ganga dynasty was followed by the establishment of the rule of another glorious dynasty known as the Suryavamsi Gajapatis. The political chaos which had been prevailing in Odisha from the middle of the fourteenth century A.D. due to the weakness and ineffectiveness of the later Gangas was ended by the emergence of a powerful military leader, named Kapilendradeva who overthrew the Gangas and founded a new dynasty, called Suryavamsi (solar dynasty). For personal glorification, the rulers of this dynasty claimed their descent from the mythical solar dynasty to which Lord Ramachandra belonged. As they possessed large elephantry in their army, they were popularly known as Gajapatis, i.e. the lords of the elephants.

The Suryavamsi rulers traced their origin to the Sun God. The title ‘Gajapati’ or ‘Lord of elephants’ was invariably born by the rulers of this dynasty. Earlier some Eastern Ganga rulers also bore ‘Gajapati’ title but they were not famous as Gajapati rulers. Perhaps the royalty of the rulers of this dynasty owed a lot to the possession of a large number of elephants. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Odisha reached the zenith of its glory under the Suryavamsi kings. The Suryavamsi Gajapati kings were not only noted for their aggressive imperialism but their rule for a century and also for the renaissance in Odia literature.


Sources

The history of Suryavamsi Gajapatis of Odisha is based on various available sources. The sources can be divided into two groups (1) Literary sources , and (2) Inscriptions.

Literary sources : Sanskrit literary works like the Parasurama Vijaya, Abhinava Venisamharam, Sarasvati vilasam, Jagannatha vallabha, Prabodha Chandrodaya etc, Odia works like the Mad,ala Panji, Sarala Mahabharata, Chaitanya Bhagavata, Jagannatha Cheritemrite etc. Bengali literary works like the Chaitanya Charitamrita, Chaitanya Mangala etc. Telugu works like Manucharitam, Krishnarasa Vijayamu etc, Persian works like the Tarikh-i-Ferishta, Tabaqat-i-Akbari, Akbarnamah, Burhan-i-Ma’asir etc. form the literary sources of the Suryavamsi Gajapatis.

Inscriptions: Similarly some inscriptions like the Velagalani copper plate inscription, Lingaraj temple inscription, Puri Jagannath temple inscription, inscriptions found from Simhachalam, Sri Sailam, Srikurmam and further Velicherla copper plates, Kondavidu inscription etc. comprise the inscriptional sources for the Suryavamsi rule in Odisha.


1. Kapilendradeva (1435-1467 A.D.)
2. Purusottamadeva (1467 – 1497 A.D.)
3. Purusottama-Padmavati Episode
4. Prataprudradeva (1497 -1540 A.D.)
5. Krishnadevaraya’s invasion of Odisha
6. Suryavamsi Administration of Medieval Odisha


The rule of Suryavamsi Gajapatis started with the rule of Kapilendradeva. He was a great military genious. After centuries of military inactivity, he brought Odisha into the chess board of Indian politics. He took the pompous title like ‘Gajapati Gaudesvara Navakoti Karnata Kalavargesvara’. Besides that he himself was a man of literature and a great patron of poets. On the other hand, Purusottamadeva was a great diplomat . During his reign, the boundary of Odisha did not expand. As an administrator, Purusottama was a liberal man. His reign was peaceful which created circumstances for the growth of Odia literature. However, during the rule of Prataprudradeva, the imperial greatness of Odisha, built by Kapilendradeva and maintained by Purusottamadeva was lost. Due to the appearance of Sri Chaitanya and the Panchasakhas, the people of Odisha lost their military tactics which opened the path for the decline of Gajapati dynasty.