Brief History of Kanika Estate: From Origin to Demise

Origin of Kanika

Sometime about 1200AD a brother of the then Chief of Mayurbhanj, by name Bhujabal Bhanja , acquired by conquest a small territory in what is now known as Kanika. The place was then ruled by a Raja of low caste, and Bhujabal Bhanja, having subdued the Raja, set up a Government of his own & thus founded the Bhanja Raj of this Fort , the status of which was recognized by the Vishnuvite or Gajapati (Gangetic) dynasty of Odisha in the middle of the thirteenth century of the Christian era.

The Fort originally consisted of what is now known as Elaka Chhamuka, to which the portion lying in the District of Balasore, & called Panchmukha was soon added. Elaka Kerara was sometime after acquired, probably by conquest, the date of which cannot now be as certained. The last Elaka Kaladwip, which until the close of the eighteenth century formed part of a separate Raj known as Harichandan, was acquired by matrimonial alliance with its last Raja, whose daughter was married to Raja Balabhadra Bhanja of Kanika.

The heraldic emblem of the family is the figure of a peacock,from which is derived the name of the Richest Feudatory State of Mayurbhanj, a brother of the Chief of which State, as mentioned above, founded the Bhanja Raj family in Kanika.The family has its origin in the #Solar_dynasty, being a branch of the Raj family of Jaipur in Rajputana.

The status of the Chiefs of the Kanika Garha a down to 1803 was more or less that of a semi-independent ruler of a small principality.They were in possession of full sovereign right within the territory,and their allegiance to the Kings of Orissa, and subsequently to the Mahommedar and the Mahratta rulers of the Province, was only nominal.

Geographical Location

The Fort/Quilla is situated along the sea coast on both sides of the estuary of Dhamra ,extending about 20miles inland & contains an area of 440 square miles. The seat of the Raj was originally at a place called Bajarpur,on the right bank of the Baitarani River, & was after-wards removed to Righagarh, on the right bank of the Brahmani River.The latter place having proved unhealthy, it has since been removed to Rajkanika, which is situated directly on the Cuttack Chandbali road, about four miles to the south of the Chandbali Port.

Kanika is a town in the Province of Orissa, in the district of Cuttack, 80miles north-east from the town Cuttack. This was the capital of one of the Tributary States in Cuttack (subject to the British regulations), the exact limits of which had never been ascertained, but which had been roughly estimated at 75miles from north to south by 50 from east to west.

Bhanja Dynasty in Kanika

The following is the succession list of the Chiefs of the dynasty since its foundation down to the British occupation of the Province in 1803:

  • Bhujabal Bhanja
  • Bishwanath Bhanja,
  • Trilochan Bhanja,
  • Gopinath Bhanja,
  • Paramananda Bhanja
  • Dibya-sinha Bhanja
  • Narasinha Bhanja
  • Tribikram Bhanja
  • Gangadhar Bhanja
  • Gopal Bhanja
  • Basudeb Bhanja
  • Raghunath Bhanja
  • Lakshman Bhanja
  • Bairagi Bhanja
  • Trilochan Bhanja II
  • Gopinath Bhanja II
  • Paramananda Bhanja II
  • Sarbasinha Bhanja
  • Basudeb Bhanja II
  • Divyasinha Bhanja II
  • Narasinha Bhanja II
  • Tribikram Bhanja II
  • Gadadhar Bhanja
  • Gopinath Bhanja III
  • Dasurathi Bhanja
  • Gopal Bhanja II
  • Bairagi Bhanja II
  • Balabhadra Bhanja.

Clash of British and Maratha in Kanika

Prior to the acquisition of Cuttack by the British, the Raja of Kanika, who possessed this inundated & unhealthy tract of country, had long baffled the Marhatta generals in all their attempts to subdue him. The Marhattas had been accustomed to embark troops & artillery on large, unwieldy flat- bottomed boats, unmanageable in large streams or near the sea, in consequence of which their ill-constructed fleets always fell a prey to the Raja’s light-armed vessels, which were long, narrow, with barricades to cover the men, & some of them having too paddles or oars. When these squadrons met, the Odia boats moved quickly round the heavy Marhatta armada & picked off the men with their matchlocks, until the remainder were compelled to surrender, when they were carried into a captivity from whence they seldom returned, the pernicious atmosphere of these wet grounds permitting none to live but the aborigines.

Kanika on the eve of British Conquest

The following extracts from Government publications will throw a light on the status of the Killa and the history of this ancient dynasty and Raj family:

The ancestors of the present Raja of Kujanga & Kanika were barons of the land, created by the Gajapati Kings of Orissa. Aul /Ali, Patamundai, & Tirtol were for centuries under the influence of native Chiefs, & the Rajas of Kujanga, Kanika, & Aali(ଆଳି) long exercised considerable power in the south-eastern and north-eastern parts of the district.

When the English conquered the Province they found a few land owners of a superior class, descendants of noble families or high officials to whom larger States had been assigned for maintenance, subject only to the payment of a quit rent. Such were the Rajas of Kanika & Kujang, who were originally members of the Royal Family of Mayurbhanj, & were established in their possession about the thirteenth century, AD.

Treaty of Engagement with the British

On the British occupation of the Province in 1803, treaty engagements were exchanged between the then representatives of the British Government appointed by the Marquis of Wellesley and the then Chief of Kanika. Both of these documents are re-produced below:

I, Raja Balabhadra Bhanja, Raja of Kanika, in the Soobah of Orissa, engage faithfully and correctly to, abide by this engagement, entered into by me with the Honourable East India Company, as contained in the following clauses, to wit :

  1. I will always hold myself in submission and loyal obedience to the Honourable East India Company aforesaid.
  2. I will continue to pay, without demur, to the said Government, as my annual peshkus or tribute, 84,840 kajhanas of cowries, in three instalments, as specified herein below.
  3. I will, on demand to that effect, cause any person who is an inhabitant of the Soobah appertaining to the Honourable Company aforesaid, and who may have fled and come into my territory, to be forthwith arrested and delivered over to the Government.
  4. Should any person, who is a resident in my territories, commit a crime within the limits of the Mogulbundi, I hereby engage, on demand to that effect, to cause such person to be arrested and delivered over for trial to the Government Authority. Moreover, I further bind myself, in cases where I may possess any claim or demand on one who is an inhabitant of the Mogulbandi, not of my own authority to enforce such claim; but I will notify the same to the constituted authority and will act in accordance with such orders as may issue from him.
  5. I engage that whenever the troops of the Honourable Company’s Government shall pass through my territories, I will direct the people of my Killa(*kingdom) to supply, to the extent of their capability, all russud and supplies, which shall be sold at fair prices. Further, I will, on no manner of pretext whatever, ever stop, or detain, or offer any let or hindrance to, any subject of the Honourable Company’s Government, or to any other person whatever, who may be proceeding by land or water, with goods or orders, or with any perwannah on the part of the Government, through my boundaries, and will rather take care that no loss or mischief shall befall such parties in life or goods.
  6. In case any neighbouring Raja or any other person whatever shall disobey the said Government, I engage, on demand and without demur, to depute a contingent force of my own troops with the forces of Government for the purpose bringing him under the subjection of the aforesaid Government. Such contingent to receive only rations agreeably to the previously Current practice, so long as they shall be present.These shall be the instalments of my peshkus, to be paid : In the month of Chaitra, kajhanas-28,840; Jeysta- 28,000; and Ashadha- 28,000; total- 84,840. Dated the 22nd November, 1803.

Raja Rajendra Narayan Bhanja Deo

Raja Rajendra Narayan Bhanja Deo
Credit: Mayurbhanj Lovers

The Honourable His Highness Raja Rajendra Narayan Bhanja Deo, who was the proprietor of the Estate during 1917 regarding to the History of Kanika, was the second son of the Raja of the adjoining area of Aul/ଆଳି. He was born in 1881 and adopted into the Kanika family in 1896. During his minority the Estate was under the management of the Court of Wards. He was educated at the Government Collegiate School and College, Cuttack. He married in 1899 a daughter of the late Chief of Nayagarh. He assumed management of the Estate from the Court of Wards on attaining majority in 1902. In December 1906 he presided over the Utkal Conference held at Berhampore/ Brahmapur, in the Ganjam District.

In 1907 he visited England and travelled in other parts of Europe. In 1908 he was nominated a member of the Bengal Advisory Fishery Board, and in the following year he was elected as the representative of the Landholders of Odisha and Chota-Nagpur to the Bengal Council.

In 1910 He visited England again, joining Lincoln’s Inn, and in 1911 he attended the Coronation ceremony of their Imperial Majesties at Westminster Abbey, in London. On his return to India, in December in the same year, he attended the Imperial Coronation Durbar at Delhi, and on the creation of the new Province of Bihar and Odisha in 1912 he was elected to the Provincial Council as the representative of the Landholders of Odisha. He was again elected to the Council of Behar and Odisha by the same constituency in 1916. He had since been elected as an additional member of the Council of the Viceroy and Governor- General of India to represent the landholders of the entire Province of Behar and Odisha. Raja Rajendra Narayan had always taken an active part in all matters before the Council, especially those relating to the interest of his constituents.

The most important measure affecting their interests, before both the Bengal and the Behar and Odisha Provincial Councils, during his term of office was the Orissa Tenancy Bill. He vigorously opposed the passing of the measure, doing his best to protect the interests of the landlords, and although the Bill was eventually passed into law, he was no doubt able to secure certain rights and privileges for them. The Raja had always taken a lively interest in every matter of public concern. He was President of the Odisha Landholders’ Association and one of the Vice- Presidents of the Bengal and the Bihar Landholders’ Associations. He was also a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, London. The Raja signalized the assumption of management of his Estate from the Court of Wards by providing the handsome Lady Woodburn Female Ward, which supplied a long-felt want in the General Hospital, Cuttack. On several occasions he spent large amounts in relieving distress among his tenantry, and his services in this respect were always recognized by Government.

In connection with the famine relief measures of 1913, the Hon. Mr. McPherson, Chief Secretary to the Government, thus spoke at the Council Meeting on August 29, 1913 :

Local relief funds had been opened, and in that connection Government desired to record their appreciation of the generosity of the Hon. Raja Rajendra Narayan Bhanja Deo of Kanika, who had contributed very largely to the fund and had taken effective steps to assist the tenantry of his estate.

In reference to the same subject, at the Durbar held at Cuttack on November 28, 1913, His Excellency the Viceroy and Governor General of India thus observed :

I am happy to think that on this occasion there was no loss of life in your district, and I trust that the prompt advances made by Government and the organization of relief funds, to which the Raja of Kanika so generously contributed, together with the repair of the irrigation channels, had done all that is humanly possible to minimize your losses, while some consolation is to be found in the anticipation of bumper rabi crops as the result of seasonable rainfall and the unusual amount of silt deposits.

The Raja had always taken great interest in the cause of education. He was a member of the Patna University Committee, and i a member of the Governing Body of the Ravenshaw_College, as well as of the Managing Committee of the Ravenshaw Girls’ High English School, Cuttack. He had made provision for boys’ and girls’ schools on his estate, besides contributing liberally towards institutions outside. He maintained a High English School and several Upper and Lower Primary Schools, and there are, further, six tolls to teach Sanskrit for the Oriental Titles.The Raja maintained four charitable dispensaries within the estate, for free medical treatment of the tenantry as well as of the outside public.The Raja was an expert at billiards, tennis, and badminton, and was a great shikari and an admirable shot. In short, he possessed all the qualities and qualifications necessary for a refined nobleman of high and eminent order.

Sailendra Narayan Bhanja Deo

Sailendra Narayan Bhanja Deo
Credit: Mayurbhanj Lovers

Tikayet Sailendra Narayan Bhanja Deo, born on September 29, 1908, was the son and heir of the Raja. He was a fine and fair-looking lad, and was being brought up in a manner consistent with his position in life.He was a fine scholar with B.A. Degree having the hobbies like shooting boat building ,sailing and reading . He had a special interest in Agriculture Land reclamation Hydro-Power Irrigation Floods and coastal errosion. Countries He visited were England, France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Czechoslovia, Yugoslovia, Austria, Egypt and Hungary. He won from the RAJNAGAR CONSTITUENCY as Member of Legislative Assembly of Odisha from (01/03/1967-23/01/1971). He was Elected Municipal Commissioner in 1932. He took active parts in Utkal Sammilani Movement.

He was elected from Rajnagar Mahakalpada to Cuttack District Board in 1934-37. He was elected as Independent Candidate from Landholders Constituency in 1946 and elected Leader of Opposition 1946-51. He Undertook the ground water exploration in the Coastal and Saline areas in 1953. He was the Member of Odisha Jail Reforms Committee of 1954. He joined Congress in 1957 nominated as Speaker for a short period when the new constitution came into operation in 1952 from 1946-51 Chairman Public Accounts Committee remained in Opposition till 1956 joined Congress in 1957 and became Minister of works in the coalition ministry and took keen interest in Balimela and Talcher projects appointed Chairman of Flood Inquiry Committee.

The usual places of residence of the Raj family are Cuttack and Raj Kanika, and at each of these places there were suitable palatial buildings. The one at Cuttack, with its spacious lawns and large tank, is quite imposing, being the best in the town, while the ideal palace at Raj Kanika, richly fitted and furnished, with its beautiful and spacious compound finely laid out, was considered to be the best structure in Odisha.


  1. Orissa, pp. 38-9. By Andrew Sterling,
  2. Esq., Persian Secretary to the Bengal Government. Edited by James Peggs, 1846.
  3. A Statistical Account, vol. xviii., p. 125. By W. W. Hunter.
  4. Bengal District Gazetteer, Cuttack, p. 54. Ibid., p. 161. Videpp.
  5. 314-16 of Part III. of Vol. I. of Aitchi- son’s “Collections of Treaties, Engagements, and Sanads.

About Author: Rushiraj Pattanayak
At: Prasanti Medicare, Near MKC High School Petrol Pump, Wd. No:- 04, Lalabazar, Baripada, Mayurbhanj, Pin code:- 757001

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