Dynastic history and achievements of the Somavamsi rulers

1. Janmejaya I Mahabhavagupta (C- 882 – 922 A.D.)

Janmejaya I was the successor of Panduvamsi or Somavamsi dynasty. His copper plates describe his relation with Mahasivagupta, his only predecessor, who is supposed to be his father. Being driven away from Dakshina Kosala that comprised the undivided Sambalpur and Bolangir districts of western Odisha which he termed as Kosala whose capital was Suvarnapura (modern Sonepur), Janmejaya I, thus, became the first ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty of Kosala. After consolidating his empire, Janmejaya I wanted to cross sword with the Bhanjas of Khinjali MandaI who were the feudatory of the Bhauma-Karas of Tosali. The Bhanja king Ranabhanjadeva became the victim of Janmejaya who inflicted a crushing defeat on the former and annexed the Baud-Phulbani area to his kindgom. This paved the way for the conquest of Utkala.

In addition, Janmejaya I wanted to extend his sway over Utkala. He was instrumental in placing Tribhuvana Mahadevi II alias Pritivi Mahadevi, the widow queen of Subhakaradeva IV on the throne of the Bhaumas. Though he had defeated the King of Odra, but he made peace with him perhaps, due to the fact that he had to deal with the kalachuris of Oahala. However, his endeavour to extend his authority upto Utkala was certainly commendable. Janmejaya I also subdued the Kalachuris. In the record of his son and successor Yajati I, Subhatunga (Janmejaya I) is said to have defeated the Chaidyas (Kalachuris). Janmejaya I was a powerful ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty. He assumed high sounding titles like’ Paramesvara’, ‘Paramabhattaraka,’ ‘Trikalingadhipati’ etc.

2. Mahasivagupta Yayati I (C-922-955 A.D.)

Yayati I ascended the throne after Janmejaya I. He not only firmly consolidated his empire but also followed a policy of expansion. Soon after his accession, he shifted his capital from Suvarnapura to Vinitapura, which has been identified with Binka around twenty-five kilometer from Sonepur situated on the bank of river Mahanadi. Fifteen years after, he shifted the capital again to Yayatinagara near Baud. However, Biswarup Das identifies Yayatinagara with Jajpur which was also known as Yayatitirtha. Yayati I had a rift with the Kaiachuris. His two copper plate grants and also a charter of his son and successor state that he captured 32 elephants and rescued the captured women who were forcibly being taken away from Kosala by Yuvaraja, the Kalachuri king of Dahala. The charters narrate that Yayati I not only rescued the women and elephants of Kosala but also killed the protector and burnt a part of the Kalachuri country. Thus, with tolerable degree of certainty, it can be stated that he subdued the Kalachuris. The great achievement of Yayati I was his annexation of the Bhauma kingdom into his own kingdom. Though the circumstance under which Yayati I occupied the Bhauma throne is not known, still it is definite that the territory was under the grip of his authority. In his ninth regnal year, he granted a village Chandragrama in Dakshina Tosali in favour of a Brahmin named Sankhapani of Odra desa recorded in his Cuttack plate charter. From this it is evident that he had extended his sway upto Tosali. It was Yayati I who was instrumental in subjugating the Bhanjas. From his copper plate grant of the fifteenth regnal year it is known that he offered a village named Gandharadi in the later Bhanja period as gift in the Gandhatapati mandala. Gandharadi is twelve miles away from Baud. It happened during the period of Satrubhanja who was defeated by Yayati I. Had it not been so, it would not have been possible on his part to grant a village at the heart of the Bhanja territory. Yayati I was a brave warrior. Not only he crossed sword with the Kalachuris but subdued the Bhanjas and held his sway over the Bhauma kingdom of Tosali.

3. Bhimaratha Mahasivagupta I (C-955-980 A.D.)

After Yayati I, his son Bhimaratha ascended Somavamsi throne. The records of his time do not throw much light on his political career. Bilhari stone inscription of the Kalachuri king Yayati I states that Lakshmanaraja who ruled at Tripuri from around 945 to 970 A.D. “worshipped Somesvara and with the effigy of Kaliya wrought of jewels and gold which had been obtained from the prince of Odra after defeating the Lord of Kosala.” This shows that by that time Odra had become a part of the Kosala kingdom. The defeat of the king of Kosala and the taking away of the effigy of Kaliya (the serpent) from Odra by Lakshmariaraja clearly shows that Odra was under the sway of Kosala and most probably the appointment of subordinate rulers for Odra started with Bhimaratha. In the Khandapara plates of Dharmaratha, he has been praised as “religious, courageous, valorous who performed wonderful activities and assumed the status of Devaraja (Indra).” Definitely, his rule contributed in the consolidation of the Somavamsi Empire and brought peace and tranquility in the country.

4. Dharmaratha (C-980-1005 A.D.)

Dharmaratha who succeeded Bhimaratha was definitely a powerful ruler. His grant of a village in the Antaruda Visaya (Antarudra Pragana of the undivided Puri district) clearly shows that he was the master over the Bhauma Kingdom by then. In the Brahmesvara temple inscription, he has been described as the ‘Second Parasurama’. Perhaps, he subdued the Pala power in Gauda and fought valiantly with the Estern Chalukyas of the South.

5. Nahusa (C-1005-1021 A.D.)

As Dharmaratha died issueless, his brother, Nahusa succeeded him to the throne of Kosala. His period was uneventful. His inefficiency might have brought unpopularity to him. Perhaps, he was killed by Indraratha, another brother of Dharmaratha, who ascended the throne after him.

6. Indraratha (C-1021-1023 A.D.)

Indraratha had been appointed by Dharmaratha as the governor of Kalinga. Perhaps, the aspiration of Indraratha to the throne of Kosala led him to cross sword with Nahusa. As a result, the latter with his uncle Abhimanyu were killed. Indraratha was regarded as a usurper and so, his name does not figure in the Somavamsi charters. He was defeated at the hands of Rajendra Chola and was probably killed.

7. Chandihara Yayati II (C-1 023-1040 A.D.)

The death of Indraratha by Rajendra Chola at Yayatinagara created anarchy and confusion in the Somavamsi dynasty. At that critical juncture, the ministers declared Chandihara Yayati II, the son of Abhimanyu and grandson of Vichitravira, a lineal descendant of Janmejaya as the king of Kosala. With his accession, Yayati II paid his attention to the kingdom of Utkala which fell vacant due to the death of Dharma Mahadevi, the last ruler of the Bhauma-Karas. Yayati II immediately occupied it. Thus, Utkala was totally subjugated and amalgamated with the kingdom of Kosala.

Chandihara Yayati II was a mighty ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty. In his charter it has been described that his “footstool is kissed by the great jewels of the headgears of all kings or subordinate kings, who (in character) resembled such, renowned kings as Nala, Nahusa, Mandhata, Dilipa, Bharata and Bhagiratha.” In his records, he has also been credited to have conquered Karnata, Lata, Gujrat, Dravida country, Kanchi, Gauda, Radha, Trikalinga and assumed the title ‘Maharajadhiraja’. Of course, the conquest of the above mentioned territories are mere poetic exaggeration. He appears to have maintained friendly relation with Rastrakutas as during the period of Krishna III, his records never mention about himself or his army who carried arms to Kosala or Utkala. No Rastrakuta king after Krishna III also has mentioned the latter’s victory over Kosala or Utkala.

Yayati II was a patron of Brahmanism. Tradition credits him of inviting 10,000 Brahmins from Kanyakubja (Kanauj) to perform Dasasvamedha sacrifice at Jajpur. It was a great landmark in the cultural heritage of Odisha and till now the memory of that noble work of Yayati II is reflected in the nook and corner of Odisha during the marriage ceremony and at the time of giving pinda at Navigaya in Jajpur. Yayati II is also credited with the construction of the Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar which was completed during his successor Udyotakesari. Of course, the family deity of Yayati II was Panchamvari Bhadramvika, a form of Goddess Durga.

Yayati II was the greatest ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty. He consoiidated the empire firmly which was full to anarchy and confusion. His vast empire extended from the Bay of Bengal in the east to Sambalpur in the west and from Dandakabhukti to Ganjam in the south. Under his patronage, Brahmanism flourished in Odisha.

8. Udyotakesari Mahabhavagupta (C-1 040-1 065 A.D)

Udyotakesari, who succeeded Yayati II, was a worthy son of an illustrious father. He settled score with Karna, the Kalachuri ruler who had first invaded the Somavamsi kingdom. Later on, Udyotakesari invaded Dahala and got victory over it. Similarly, the enemity that existed between Gauda and Kosala ended with the defeat of Vigrahapala II of the Pala dynasty. As Udyotakesari faced the attack of the enemies from different directions, he divided his kingdom into two parts, viz, the Kosala part left under the care of his grandfather Abhimanyu and he himself ruled over Utkala portion. He also completed the construction of the Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar.

9. Janmejaya II (C-1065-1085 A.D.)

With the accession of Janmejaya II, the son of Udyotakesari, disintegration of the Somavamsi dynasty started. During his period, Somesvaradeva, the Chandika Naga ruler sent his general, Yasorajadeva of Telugu Choda family who occupied the Eastern Kosala. By that time, the Western Kosala also passed into the hands of the Kalachuris. Janmejaya II also faced an invasion from the Ganga king Raja Raja II of Kalinga. All these invasions brought distress to Janmejaya who breathed his last after the Ganga invasion.

10. Puranjaya (C-1085-1100 A.D.)

Janmejaya II was succeeded by his son Puranjaya I. During his period, Ratnagiri inscription states that he kept his feudatory chiefs in control. Further, he also resisted successfully the invasion of the kings of Gauda, Dahala, Kalinga and Vanga. It seems that taking advantage of the weakness of the Somavamsis, the above mentioned powers invaded the Somavamsi kingdom and paved the way for its downfall.

11. Karnadeva (C-1100-1110 A.D.)

Karnadeva was the last known ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty who was the brother of Puranjaya. Though in his records, he has been praised as a great ruler having full control over his feudatories, but it is not true. From his fragmented inscription preserved in the Jayadev museum, Bhubaneswar proves that his kingdom extended upto Balasore district (from Gandibeda village, the inscription is found) which was the last limit of Uttara Tosali. Dandakabhukti mandala was ruled then by Jayasimha, the feudatory of Ramapala of Bengal. During his period, Chodagangadeva attacked Utkala more than once. The Ratnagiri inscription and the Ramacharita of Sandhyakara Nandi together justify the fact that by the help of the Palas, Krishnadeva, the shrewed and able minister of karnadeva saved Utkala from the onslaught of the Gangas. However, this resistance was feeble and at last the Somavamsi Kingdom fell a prey to the Gangas who established their sway over Utkala.