The Matharas

The history of Kalinga region underwent great change about the middle of the fourth century AD. after the South India campaign of Sarnudragupta. The political situation of the period contributed to the rise of a new ruling dynasty named Mathara. In ancient time the Mathara family enjoyed high political and social status and had matrimonial relations with several powerful ruling families of Kosala and South India.

1. The Mathara family under Vishakha Varman (350 to 360 A.D)

About the middle of the fourth century, Vishakha Varman of the Mathara family succeeded in organising a small principality in Kalinga region with its headquarters at Sripura identified with the modern village Batiasripua near Paralakhemundi in Ganjam district. Vishakhavarman assumed the title Sri Maharaja and started his political career as a modest ruler of a petty territory. His territory was divided into a few Panchalis of which one was named Karosodaka. In the seventh year of his reign, Visakhavannan is known to have donated the village Tapoyoka located in that Panchali to five- Brahmanas. In the records of the early Ganga king we find the Karasodaka Panchali as a part of the Kalinga territory. But Visakhavarman did not assume the title “Lord of Kalinga” No record of Visakhavarman is found beyond his seventh regnal year. It appears that he established the new kingdom for his family towards the later part of his life and ruled only for about the decade from circa 350 to 360 A.D.48

2. Umavarman (360 A.D-395 A.D)

Maharaja Visakhavannan was succeeded by Umavarman who was very likely his son. Umavarman started his career as a modest ruler like his father with Sripura as the headquarters of his small principality. But, he was an ambitious ruler and taking opportunity of the political changes of his time, he began to extend his territory and power at the cost of the neighbouring territories. By his sixth regnal year he extended his kingdom up to the Svetaka region (modern Chikiti) and established a new headquarters at Sunagara. King Umavarman issued two of his copper plate grants-Baranga grant and Dhavalapeta grant from this headquarters donating the lands to the Brahmins.

By his ninth regnal year, his territory further extended to the south and comprised the modern Tekkali region. He shifted his headquarters from Sunagara to Vardhamanpur where form he issued his Tekkali copper plate grant. Thus, Umavarman extended his territory steadily and by his thirtieth regnal year his territory comprised the present Srikakulam disttict. By that time he declared himself as the “Lord of Kalinga” and transferred his capital from Vardhamanpura to Simhapura. It was from this new headquarters which he called Vijaya Simhapura that he issued his Vrihatproshtha grant in which he declared himself the “Lord of Kalinga.” The territory of Kalinga had remained in obscurity after the Call of the Chedi rule in the first century A.D. and its historical tradition was revived by Maharaja Umavarman towards the end of the fourth century A.D. Thus Umavarman was the first great ruler ofthe Mathara dynasty and with him Kalinga entered into a long and vigorous political career and her influence was felt in the history of Eastern India and Deccan. Maharaja Umavarman ruled for about thirty five years and was
succeeded by Sankarvarman in circa 395 A.D.

3. Sankarvarman (395 A.D-400 A.D)

Sankarvannan was very probably a brother of Umavarman and his rule appears to be very short one. No copper plate gran t issued by him has come to light as yet. It is known from the records of his son that Maharaja Sankaravarman married in the Vasishtha family which was a ruling family of the Devarastra region during the period after the South Indian campaign of Samudragupta. This matrimonial relation paved the way for extension of the Mathara kingdom over the middle Kalinga region. Maharaja Sankaravarman died about 400 A.D. and was succeeded by his son Maharja Saktivarman.

4. Maharja Saktivarman (400 A.D-420 A.D)

Maharja Saktivarman was an ambitious and war like ruler and succeeded in unifying the Northern and Southern Kalinga. The vasishthas of the middle Kalinga region with whom the Matharas had matrimonial relation must have been a great help for Saktivarman in occupying South Kalinga. The occupation of South Kalinga signifies the fall of the Salankayana power in Vengi. The Ningondi grant of king Prabhanjanavarman reveals that Saktivarman, the son of Sankaravarman extended his territory from the Mahanadi to the river Krishna and ruled the far
flung empire following the ancient laws. The Mathara kingdom extended up to Krishna at the cost of the Salankayanas. The Pallavas who were the allies of the Salankayanas were also at a state of decline by that time. Saktivannan very likely defeated the combined-forces of the Salankayanas and the Pallavas to extend his territory up to the banks of the river Krishna. Thus, Saktivarman built a strong empire on the foundation laid by Umavarman and heightened the prestige and powers of the Matharas. The political condition of India by the time of Saktivarman was being dominated by three imperial powers – the Matharas in the South, the Guptas in the North and the Vakatakas in Central India.

Maharaja Saktivarman transferred his capital from Simhapura to Pishtapura some time before his 13th regnal year when he issued his Ragolu copper plate grant from his new capital. This indicates that he conquered the Southern region before his 13th regnal year and he maintained the integrity of his empire as long as he ruled. Maharaja Saktivarman died in circa 420 A.D. and was succeeded by his son Anantasaktivarman.

5. Anantasaktivarman (420 A.D-450 A.D)

The political history of South India underwent a change by that time owing to the rise of the Vishnukundin dynasty. Madhavavarman I who was the founder of this dynasty was a powerful and ambitious ruler and was very probably a contemporary of Anantasaktivarman. The Ipuru plates (of Madhavavarman-Il) reveal that he fought successful battles with his neighbours and performed eleven horse sacrifices and thousands of other sacrifices. The Vishnukundins had to fight for their rise and stability with the Pallavas in the south and Matharas in the north. King Madhavavarman fought with the Mathara king Anantasaktivarman and the Pallava king Simhavarman-II and defeated both the adversaries. After defeating Anantasaktivarman, he occupied the southern regions of the Mathara kingdom including south Kalinga. Anantasaktivarman issued his Andhavarman grant from the military camp at Vijayapura in his 14th regnal year. It appears that his wars with the Vishnukundins were continuing at the time of the issue of this grant and very probably he was compelled to leave Pishtapura by that time. His Sakunaka grant issued in his 28th regnal year was executed by his two high military officersCommander in chief (Mahabaladhikrita), Sivabhojaka and the General (Dandarieta) Vaasudatta. This indicates that the military had unusual predominance in the sphere of civil administration during his rule. Anantasaktivarman could not maintain the integrity of the empire inherited from his father. After the loss of south Kalinga he had to shift his headquarters from Pishtapura to Simhapura and tried to consolidate his position in northern and middle Kalinga. He died circa 450 A.D. and was succeeded by Chandravarman who was very likely his son.

6. Chandravarman (450 A.D-460 A.D)

Maharaja Chandravarman is known from the Bobbiii and Komarti copper plate grants issued by him in his 4th and 6th regnal years respectively. His two grants do not reveal any political activity of this ruler. He bore the ephithets like Paramabhagavata and Parmadaivata and ruled from his capital Sirnhapura. Chandravarman probably had a premature death about 460 A.D. when he was succeeded by Prabhanjanavarman, another son of Saktivarman.

7. Prabhanjanavarman (460 A.D-480 A.D)

It appears that after the death of Saktivarman there was a rift between his two sons
Anantasaktivarman and Prabhajanavarman. This internal quarrel contributed to the weakness of the Mathara dynasty. The defeat of the Matharas when they were at the zenith of their power by newly organised Vishnukundins was probably due to their internal dissensions. It may be pointed out that Maharaja Prabhanjanavarman while referring to his predcessors in the Nirgondi grant ignores Anantasaktivarman and Chandravarman and declares himself as direct successor of Saktivarman, the son of Sankarvarman. This indicates the rift between the houses of Anantasaktivarman and Prabhanjanavarman. The Mathara power could not recover the loss of prestige and territory and they began to decline steadily. No doubt king Prabhanjanvarman attempted to recover South Kalinga and he assumed the title “Sakala Kalingadhipati”. This epithet was not borne by the previous Mathara rulers and it indicates his temporary success
against Visbnukundins. He died around 480A.D.

8. Nandapravanjanavarman (480 A.D-498 A.D)

Nandapravanjanavarman succeeded Prabhanjanavarman. But his relation with the latter is not clearly known. He was the last Mathara king and during his time, the political status-of the Matharas relapsed to that of the time of Visakhavarrnan and early years of king Urnavarrnan. King Nandapravanjanavarman made Vardhamanapura his headquarters which was the headquarters of king Urnavarman in , his ninth regnal year. But in spite of the political decline Prabhanjhanavarrnan continued to bear the title “Sakala Kalingadhipati” which was assumed by his successor Nanda Pravanjanavarman. During the close of his reign the Eastern Gangas appeared in the Trikalinga territory and extended their power over the Kalinga region. Dantapura, the famous city of Kalinga was declared to be the capital of the Eastern Gangas. The Ganga era which was founded in 498 AD. heralded the political change signifying the rise of the Eastern Gangas and the fall of the Matharas.

Thus, the Matharas ruled for one hundred and fifty years. Politically independent of the Gupta suzerainty, the Mathara monarchs styled themselves as Maharajas, and Lords of Kalinga (Kalingadhipati). Their rule provided a sound administrative set-up to the Kalinga region. They divided their kingdom into such territorial units as Panchali, Bhoga and Vishava. Their inscriptions mention some territorial units, such as Mahendrabhoga, Dantayavagubhoga, Bhillingabhoga, Vishaya, Kalinga Vishaya and Varahavarttini Vishaya. Village was the lowest territorial unit. The Mathara king was assisted by a number of civil and military officials, such Amatya (minister), Kumara-Amatya (minister of royal blood), talavara. (revenue offIcial), ueshaksapatla (record keeper), Mahapratihara (chamberlain), Ajna Bhogika (messenger), Dutata (spy), Mahavaladhikrita (head of the army), Mahadanda nayak (chief commander), Dandanayaka (commander) and Dandaneta (commander of a group). Culturally, the Matharas subscribed to the general trend of the time in north India. The Mathara period saw the development of such Brahmanical cults in Orissa as Bhagavata and Saiva. The Matharas patronised Sanskrit literature. The pre-Mathara period in Orissa had seen the dominance of the non-Brahmanical religions like Jainism and Buddhism. But in Mathara period the Brahmanical religion gradually began to assume a place of importance. During this period, the people of Kalinga were carrying on maritime trade with south-east Asian countries. Dantapur (modern Palur), the great city port, was situated in the territory of Matharas.