Mukunndadeva

The dynasty established by Mukundadeva has been described as the Chalukya dynasty. It seems that he claimed his descent from the Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi, established by Pulakesin II of the famous Western Chalukya dynasty of Vadami.

The Chalukyas

It is usual for the ruling dynasties of Odisha to associate their origin with the famous ruling dynasties of India. Mukundadeva might have done the same after ascending the Gajapati throne. There is, however, no other independent evidence to show that he actually belonged to the Eastern Chalukya family. In his inscription on the Bhimesvara temple at Draksharama in the East Godavari district, he is described as the son of Saravaraju and grandson of Singaraju.

Mukundadeva(A.D. 1560-1568)

Mukundadeva is considered as the last Hindu king of Odisha. In Odishan traditions Mukundadeva is known as Telinga Mukundadeva. Ferishta mentions about a feudatory dynasty known as Bahuvalendras and as Harichandanas, ruling in the Sarvasidhi taluk of the Visakhapatnam district, Mukundadeva possibly belonged to this ruling family who were originally the feudatories of the Gajapati. Mukundadeva first came into prominence by defending the fort Kataka (Cuttack) when it was besieged by Raghubhanja Chhotaraya in the reign of Govinda Vidyadhara and since then his influence in the politics of Odisha increased.

His achievements

Mukundadeva’s inscription of Draksharama, referred to above, clearly indicates that he was in possession of the southern part of the Gajapati kingdom upto the river Godavari. It states that Mukundadeva defeated the king of Gauda and then having performed Tulapurusha (the ceremony of weighing against gold) and other ceremonies, he remitted taxes on marriages. This inscription provides the clear evidence that Mukundadeva’s kingdom extended upto Triveni in the north before 1567. A flight of steps constructed on the Ganges at Triveni (in the Hooghly district), which is still known as Mukunda-ghata, corroborates the above epigraphical evidence. Prof. R. D. Banerjee states that Mukundadeva also built a great embankment on which the road from Magra to Triveni has been laid and that there is still a considerable influence of the Oriyas at Triveni. Mukundadeva was thus a very able ruler who succeeded in preserving the prestige of the Gajapati empire to a great extent, even though he got the Gajapati throne through murder. The Odishan people still remember him with gratitude on account of the fact that he succeeded in restoring peace and prestige.

However, he became involved in the politics of Bengal, which ultimately cost him his life and throne. Very unwisely he gave shelter to Ibrahim Sur who was a great enemy of Sulaiman Karrani, the Sultan of Bengal, and thus incurred his displeasure. He further gave offence to the Sultan by exchanging embassies with the great Mughal emperor Akbar.In 1566 Akbar A.D. sent envoys to the court of Mukundadeva and Mukundadeva in exchange sent a Hindu ambassador named Paramananda Ray to the court of the Mughal emperor. In this diplomatic relations Akbar
gained upper hand as his ultimate aim was to annex Bengal to his empire. For this purpose he wanted the support of the neighbouring Hindu kingdom of Odisha. He was not, however, in favour of strengthening the position of Mukundadeva as was evident from the fact that he did not give any help to the king of Odisha when he was attacked by Sulaiman Karrani.

In A.D. 1568 when Sultan of Bengal invaded Odisha Akbar was engaged in the seige of Chitor and he did not extend any help to the Odishan king probably with the object that Odisha should become a part of Bengal, so that he would ultimately annex Bengal with Odisha. Placed in this predicament, Mukundadeva was attacked by Sulaiman Karrani in A.D. 1568 who sent an expedition under the comand of his son Bayazid assisted by Sikandar Uzbeg and Kalapahara. The Bengal army marched through Dhalbhum and Mayurbhanj and emerged in the coastal strip. Mukundadeva was not prepared for the invasion and he sent Raghubhanja Chhotaraya to resist the invaders. This Raghubhanja seems to have been the same person who had been cast intoprison by Govinda Vidyadhara for claiming the Gajapati throne. He seems to have been released from the prison by Mukundadeva and sent to oppose the invading army. But he could not succeed in the mission entrusted to him and the Bengal army irresistibly reached Kataka (Cuttack). Mukundadeva had no other alternative than to submit to the invaders, as Raghubhanja seems to have turned a traitor at this stage.

Different versions have been given in our sources about the Muslim invasion of 1568. In the Madalapanji it is stated that Odisha was invaded by two different armies of Bengal, one of which fought against Mukundadeva on the bank of the Ganges and the other proceeded under Bayazid and Kalapahara towards his capital at Kataka (Cuttack). Mukundadeva bravely fought with the Muslim army, but was ultimately forced to take refuge in the fort of Kotisami, which has been identified with Kotsimul on the western bank of the river Damodara in the Hooghly district of Bengal. The other army under Bayazid reached Kataka which was then under the command of Koni Samanta Simhara who fought bravely against the invaders, but was killed. At this time Ramachandra Bhanja, the commadant of Sarangagarh, declared himself to be the king of Odisha. Mukundadeva heard all these developments in Odisha and hastened to Kataka but due to the rebellion of Ramachandra Bhanja, he had to submit to the invader. Mukundadeva then proceeded to suppress the rebellion at Sarangagarh (near Baranga), but in the fight that followed Ramachandra killed him. Ramachandra in turn was killed by the invaders on the same day.

Another tradition is that Mukundadeva fought with the invading army at Gohiratikari (near Jajpur) and was killed in the battle. Another tradition speaks of two traitors, Sikhi and Manai, who were the generals of the king of Odisha. These traitors indicated a jungle path to Kalapahara who came to the rear of the Mukundadeva’s army and routed it. There are thus different stories about the death of Mukundadeva. It is, however, most probable that he was killed by the traitor Ramachandra Bhanja. In the Madalapanji this traitor has sometimes been described as Ramachandra Bhanja and sometimes as Ramachandradeva. The latter name seems to be more correct. He was a local chief who had been put in Charge of the important fort of Sarangagarh. After the fall of the important forts of Kataka and Sarangagarh the Muslim army occupied Odisha.

Our account of the Muslim conquest of Odisha will not be complete without a reference to the desecration of the Jagannatha temple at Puri by Kalapahara. It is stated in the Madalapanji that when the servants of the temple got the information of the fall of Kataka they took out theimages of Lord Jaqannatha and his associates from the temple and secreted them in an island in the Chilka lake, but Kalapahara got the scent of it. He proceeded thither and placed the images on an elephant and took them to Bengal where he burnt them on the bank of the Ganges. A Vaishnava devotee named Bishar Mahanti followed Kalapahara to the place where the images were burnt and managed to recover the Brahmas (probably jewels) inside the images, put them inside a mridanga (a kind of drum) and brought them back to Odisha.

It is stated in the same chronicle that Kalapahara destroyed the great temple of Jagannatha upto the Amalakasila and defaced the images. It is difficult to ascertain the truth of the statement since the temple is now covered with a thick coat of plaster which has hidden the evidences of destruction and disfigurement, but to us it seems that the temple was not pulled down or razed to the ground, though the images were damaged and disfigured as far as possible. There is no archaeological evidence to show that the temple was rebuilt at any time. The original temple as built by Chodaganga has come down to us, though the carvings on the outer faces of the temple have been damaged and disfigured. Kalapahara is also represented as the destroyer of several other Hindu monuments of Odisha. As a matter of fact, Kalapahara is a familiar name in Odisha and all damages of Hindu temples and images, irrespective of their age, are attributed to him. It may be true that Kalapahara actually destroyed a large number of Hindu monuments in Odisha, but it is not a fact that he went to every nook and corner of Odisha with a view to destroy them. There is a tradition in Bengal that Kalapahara was originally a Hindu Brahmin. Dulari, the daughter of the Bengal Sultan, fell in love with him and ultimately married him. Kalapahara had two Hindu wives and he intended to remain a Hindu even though he married a Muslim girl. He came to Puri to perform the ceremony of expiation in the temple of Jagannatha, but the Brahmins did not permit him to perform it. Kalapahara’s reaction was very great and therefore, he became a great fanatic. This tradition has however been challenged by scholars. The name Kalapahara was not peculiar only to the Hindus. A nephew of Bahalul Lodi bore this name. Mr. P. Mukherji observces that “the Muslim chronicles conclusively prove that Kalapahara was a full-blooded Afghan and not a Brahmin renegade.”

Thus, Mukundadeva ruled for only eight years and during this short time he showed great abilities. He again became the master of the Gajapati kingdom stretching from the Ganges in the north to the Godavari in the south. The people of Odisha still remember him as the creator of Brahmin Sasanas and the builder of several structures within the compound of the Jagannatha temple at PurL He was also a patron of art and literature. The foreign travellers like Saesare Fredericke and Tieffenthaler have nothing but high praise for him. All these evidences prove that the last Hindu king of Odisha was great both in war and peace.


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