Anantavarman Chodagangadeva was a prominent king of the Ganga dynasty. The initial phase of his reign was critical because of his infancy. But as the king grew up to adulthood, he proved his ability as a ruler and ruling over Odisha for a long period of seventy years. In fact, he founded the Gangas dynasty in the Odishan soil, which ruled till 1435 A D.
Conquests and empire building
In order to establish a strong empire, Anantavarman Chodagangadeva followed the policy of conquest and empire building.
1. War with the Cholas
In the early years of his succession to power, Chodagangadeva had to face Chola threat. It was happened perhaps due to the marriage of Chodagangadeva with Chodadevi, the daughter of Virachoda, a son of Kulottungachoda. This was perhaps against the will of Kulottunga and thus, his son Virachoda was ousted from governorship of Vengi. This led Virachoda to take shelter at the court of Chodagangadeva, and so, the latter had to bear the brunt of Kulottungachoda’s aggression. This war took place around 1093-94 AD. Chodagangadeva lost the southern part of Kalinga which was occupied by the Cholas. However, Chodagangadeva never lost his heart. With increasing power and potentiality, he defied the payment of tribute to the Cholas as has been reflected by the Kalingattuparani composed by Jayamagondam, the court poet of Kulottunga. As a result the Cholas marched to Kalinga and fought with Chodagangadeva who defeated them and occupied Vengi. This led the expansion of the Ganga dynasty upto Vengi in the Western direction.
2. Subjugation of Utkala
The weakness of the Somavamsis of Utkala brought the attention of Chodagandadeva to subjugate it under his suzerainty. The Corni copper plate grant of Chodagangadeva mentions that Chodagangadeva waged war against the kings of Utkala and Vengi simultaneously. He first defeated the king of Utkala whose name appears as Karnadeva in the Ramacharita of Sandhyakaranandi. It is a fact that Karnadeva or Karnakesari, the last ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty was defeated by Chodagangadeva. After that, the Ganga empire extended upto Utkala in the eastern direction. After the annexation of Utkala, Chodagandadeva had annexed Vengi as is suggested by the above mentioned copper plate grant. The year of occupation of Odisha by Chodagangadeva might have taken place around 1110 A. D.
3. Relation with the Palas of Bengal
Getting success over Utkal and Vengi, Chodagandadeva next looked towards Bengal Taking advantage of the death of Ramapala, Chodagangadeva attacked Bengal beyond Dandakabhukti. He defeated the weak and feeble ruler of Dandakabhukti and brought under his control its capital city Aramya. However, Vaidyadeva, the able minister of Kumarapala had offered a stubbern resistance to the Odishan emperor as is revealed from the copper plate of the former. The achievement of Chodagangadeva in relation to Bengal is known from the Nagari plate. In the task of the conquest of Bengal, Chodagangadeva was most probably assisted by Samantasena, the Sena King of Radha (South-West Bengal), the enemy of the Palas and the founder of the Sena dynasty in Bengal. He was appointed by Chodagangadeva as his nominee to rule over this Suhma teritory. Vijayasena, the grandson of Samantasena, established cordial alliance with Chodagangadeva and became the master of Radha desa. By these extensive conquests, Chodagangadeva became the master of a vast kingdom stretching from the river Ganges in the north to that of Godavari in the south.
Chodagangadeva was known by several names as Anantavarman, Chalukya Ganga, Virarajendra Chodaganga, Vikrama Gangesvara and Gangesvara Deva bhupa. From his Ronaki inscription, it is revealed that he bore titles like ‘Maharajadhiraja, Trikalingadhipati, Sri Gangachudamani, Rajaparamesvara, Paramabhaftaraka, Paramamahesvara, Paramavaisnava’ etc. These high sounding and pompous titles show that Chodagangadeva was undoubtedly great king of the Ganga dynasty. Though Kalinganagara was the capital of his empire, but he made Sarangagarah another political head-quarter of the empire. Kalinganagara has been identified by the scholars with modern Mukhalingam on the river bank of Vamsadhara in the Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. The reason behind this is obvious as Sarangagarah (near Baranga in Cuttack district) was almost centrally located in the vast empire of Chodagangadeva. Besides, he also built several strong forts at Jajpur Kataka, Amaravati Kataka (near Chhatia) Choudwar Kataka, Sarangagarh Kataka etc.
Introduction of a well organised administration
In order to give stabilisation and consolidation to the vast empire, Chodagangadeva introduced a well organised administration. Being a foreigner to this alien land he could very well realise his duty towards the people of Odisha. He devoted himself for the material prosperity of his subjects by executing various humanitarian and welfare projects. This made him popular among his Odishan subjects.
Patron of literature and learning
He was a great patron of literature and learning. His inscriptions bore brilliant testimony of the fair knowledge of Sanskrit, Odia and Telegu literature that he possessed. Being a good conversationalist, he was also well acquainted with the Vedic lore. He displayed his talent in fine arts and poetical composition. Science had its progress during his age. Satananda composed Bhasvati, a manual of rules to determine the position of the heavenly bodies. As an outstanding ruler, Chodagangadeva was famous for his religious toleration. Though, he was a great devotee of Lord Gokarnesvara in the Mahendra mountain at his earlier days but later on, he became a loyal follower of God Jagannath at Puri. Still then, he never imposed his personal religion upon anybody. His construction of the temple of Jagannath at Puri and the endeavour to bring all religious faiths into the fold of a single cult. i.e. the Jagannath cult was a landmark in the religious history of Odisha.
In the field of art and architecture
In the field of art and architecture, Chodagangadeva has contributed a lot. He had started the building of the great temple of God Jagannath at Puri which was completed by Anangabhimadeva III. However, it is controversial that Chodagandadeva started the construction of the temple of God Jagannath. The Dasgoba plates of Rajaraja III states that the construction place of Purusottama (God Jagannath) abandoned by earlier kings was taken up by Gangesvara (Chodagangadeva). Chodagangadeva was also instrumental in building several forts in several strategic places for the protection of his vast empire from the onslaught of the enemies. The glorious career of Chodagangadeva came to an end with his death in 1147 A.D. His wife Kasturikamodini built a Jagannath temple at Tekkali in 1150 A.D. to preserve the memory of her deceased husband.
The seventy years long rule of Chodagangadeva was a glorious epoch in the medieval Odishan history. Of course, his discomfiture in the hands of the Kalachuri ruler Ratnadeva II could not enable him to have his sway over Sambalpur-Sonepur-Bolangir tract. Still then, the vast empire extenidng from the Ganges to the Godavari definitely establishes the fact that Chodagandadeva was a great military genius. As an administrator, patron of art, architecture and culture and a liberal ruler, Chodagandadeva is a remarkable figure in the medieval Odishan history.