We may discuss the career and achievements of Kharavela into two phases:
(1) his career as a prince and (2) his career and achievement as a ruler.
1. His Career as a Prince
The inscription opens with a salutation to the Jaina saints and then gives us some ideas about the childhood and the boyhood of Kharavela before accession to the throne. It is said that he was born with auspicious physical marks and noble qualities which were indicative of his future greatness as a ruler. Till the fifteenth year, he spent his time in different types of sports and games. During this period he also acquired knowledge in different branches of learning, which were essential for discharging royal duty, such as writing or correspondence (Lekha), finance, currency (Rupa), arithmetic (Ganana) and law (Vldhl and Vyvahara). As a prince, Kharavela underwent training in the art of warfare (Dhanuryidya), music and dance (Gandharva vidya) and religion. In the fifteenth year he became the crown prince and started probation in the practical field of administration. At the age of twenty four, he was crowned king by assuming the title Kalingadhipati and gave his subjects a sound administration.
2. His career and achievement as a ruler
After giving a description of his early life up to the 24th year, the Hatigumpha inscription records the events of his 13 years’ reign chronologically.
Renovation of his capital
In his first regnal year, he involved himself in the renovation work by repairing the gates and buildings of his capital Kalinganagara, which had been destroyed by a furious cyclone. He employed people to dig a deep lake and to create beautiful gardens. These repairs and some other public works in the same year cost him thirty-five lakhs of coins from the royal exchequer. This fact has been amply corroborated with the excavation at Sisupalgarh that brings out the remnants of defensive ramparts gateways, high rowers etc.
Expedition against Satavahana king
Kharavela possessed a large army, consisting of infantry, cavalry, elephant force and chariots. Having made adequate preparation, he undertook expedition against the powerful Satavahan king, Satakarni-I in the second year of his rule. Satakarni-I was ruling over a vast empire, comprising northern part of modern Maharashtra, western part of modern Madhya Pradesh and Andhra region. Kharavela’s army advanced up to the Krishna river and besieged the city of Rishikanagara which was obviously situated within the Satavahana territory.
Entertainment of his subjects
After the southern campaign, Kharavela provided entertainment to his subjects in the third year. Kalinganagari, the capital of Kharavela was overwhelmed with joy and jubilation in his third regnal year. Kharavela was proficient in all arts of music and dance. He organised various performances where dance and music, both vocal and instrumental, took place. He also arranged ceremonials and social gatherings in which feast and merrymaking etc. for the entertainment of his subjects.
In the fourth regnal year, the war-drum of Kalinga was heard again. Kharavela mobilised his army and marched towards the Deccan again. The territory of the Rathikas and Bhojakas lying respectively to the south and north of Nasik region were conquered. The Rathikas and Bhojakas paid homage and booty to Kharavela.
Extension of canal from the Tansulia to Kalinganagari
The role of Kharavela as a benevolent king is reflected in the fifth year of his reign. In this year, Kharavela extended the canal from the Tansulia road up to Kalinganagari. This canal was excavated 300 or 103 years before by king Nanda (a Nanda king) for the purpose of irrigation.
Remittance of taxes
In the sixth year of his reign, Kharavela did not undertake any war campaign rather he devoted himself to the welfare activities of his subjects. He remitted taxes and benevolences both in urban and rural area of his kingdom. This clearly shows that the treasury of Kharavela was overflowed with wealth. As a benevolent ruler, he took up this task of remitting taxes to his beloved subjects to win their hearts.
Attainment of fatherhood
In the seventh year of his rule, Kharavela attained fatherhood. His chief queen known by the name ‘the queen of Vajiraghara’ gave birth to a son.
Expedition to the north
In the eighth year of his reign, Kharavela led an expedition to the north and attacked the city of Rajagriha and devastated Gorathagiri which was situated on the Barbara hill of the Gaya district. His triumph at Rajagriha created terror among the yavanas who were then in occupation of Mathura. After their success in that region, they had a plan to attack Magadha, Hearing the exploits of Kharavela, the yavana king fled away from Mathura. The yavana ruler, whose name is read doubtfully as ‘Dimita’ or ‘Dimata’ might be Demitrius or Minandar as opined by several scholars. He had collected large booty from that war campaign of north.
Establishment of Victory of Palace
In the ninth year of his rule, he built the ‘Great Victory Palace(Mahavijaya Prasadam) by spending 38 lakhs of coins in order to commemorate his victory in the northern campaign. He had also distributed the wealth gained from exploits among the Brahmins and Arhats of his empire.
Northern Indian campaign
In the tenth year, Kharavela, who was the embodiment of the principles of politics, diplomacy and peace directed the army towards North India for conquest but the result was obscure.
Expedition against southern confederacy
In the eleventh year, he defeated a confederacy of southern powers. The confederacy of the southern powers consisted of Cholas, Pandyas, Satpuriyas, keralaputras and Tamraparnis. He secured large amount of jewels, pearls and precious stones as a symbol of allegiance.
Campaign against Bruhaspati Mitra
In the twelfth regnal year, Kharavela led campaign against Bruhaspati Mitra, the Sunga ruler of Magadha with a vast army. He inflicted a crushing defeat on the Magadhan king and also on the ruler of Anga. The people of Magadha and Anga bowed to Kharavela in awe and respect. By defeating Bruhaspati Mitra, he secured the Kalinga Jina (the venerated image of Kalinga ) as trophy of his victory which was taken 300 or 103 years before by a Nanda king most probably Mahapadmananda. He also brought a vast treasure of wealth from Anga and Magadha. Really Kharavela avenged the defeat of the Kalingans at the hand of the Nanda King who had taken away the Jina image from Kalinga. The scene of Bahasatimita’s surrendering at the feet of Kharavela is found in the Ranigumpha of Udayagiri. A scene from the Manchapuri cave shows the installation of Kalinga Jina by Kharavela. After his victory over the Magadhan king, Kharavela’s suzerainty was acknowledged by the Naga king of Central India and the Pandya king of South India. The Naga king sent to him jewels, elephants, horses and deer as presents. The pandyan king also sent jewels to him as a mark of loyality.
Construction of caves
In the thirteenth year of his reign, Kharavela probably gave up military activities and turned his attention towards religious pursuits. He built 117 (1700 ? not possible) caves at Kumari Parvata (Udayagiri) for Jaina monks, monks of other religion, sheers and Arhats. This was his noble service rendered to the Jaina and other monks. He revived the art and architecture of ancient Kalinga (Mukhiya Kala) which was going to be extinguished. In different caves of Udaygiri and Khandagiri the images of Jaina Tirthankaras, trees, creepers, images of royal servants were built by him in that year.