The political history of the Suryavamsi Gajapatis started with Kapilendradeva who ascended the throne in 1435 A.D. The Madala panji narrates him as an adopted son of Matta Bhanudeva or Bhanudeva IV, the last Ganga king who was childless. On the other hand, the Gangavamsanucharitarn of Vasudeva Ratha describes that Kapilendradeva usurped throne of the Gangas when Bhanudeva IV was fighting in a distant place.
Various inscriptions of Simhachalam support this fact revealing that Bhanudeva IV was carrying on protracted struggle against the Reddis of Rajahmundry in distant south by that time. Had it not been so, Kapilendradeva would not have crowned himself at Kritivasa kataka i.e. Bhubaneswar rather at Cuttack which was the citadel of Ganga power. Perhaps, out of the fear of the feudatories, he accomplished the coronation work at Bhubaneswar with great hasty. Further, had he been adopted as son of Bhanudeva IV, he would have described himself as a Ganga king in his own records and also the records of his successors would have described him as a Ganga king. On the other hand, he himself, his sons and grand-sons, all have been described as the member of the Suryavamsa. The story of Kasia-Kapila, Kapila as a cow boy, a thief, etc. and his selection by the Ganga king Matta Bhanudeva by the will of and Jagannath all had been designed to legitimatize his claim to the throne and thus, are far from historical facts.
Problems for Kapilendradeva at the time of accession
Just after his accession in 1435 AD., he found the throne of Odisha as full of problems.
1. In the South, the Reddi rulers of Rajahmumdry were extending their frontiers further north. Form the North, the country was threatened by the Sultan of Bengal.
2. The distant Malwa also tried to take advantage of the revolution of local chiefs and feudatories to acknowledge the suzerainty of Kapilendradeva.
At that critical juncture, Kapliendradeva took immediate steps and by his army subdued the rebel chiefs like the Matsyas of Oddadi, the Salivamsi chiefs of Nandapura, theVishnuvardhana Chakravartins of Panchadharala and the Gangas of Khimindi. His Lingaraj temple inscription reveals thus: “all kings of my kingdom of Odisha should work for the good of the paramount sovereign and should keep to virtuous ways and not remain in bad ways. If they act badly towards their sovereign, they will be expelled from the kingdom and all their property confiscated.” This order definitely directed the defiant chiefs to acknowledge the suzerainty of Kapilendradeva.
Introduction of Kapilabda
Kapilendradeva introduced ‘Kapilabda’ after his ascession. The above mentioned Lingaraj temple inscription was issued in the 7th year of Kapilendradeva‟s rule. It states that by 1442-43 A.D., the task of quelling the internal rebellions by Kapilendradeva had been accomplished. After subjugating the unruly feudatory chiefs, Kapilendradeva embarked upon the policy of aggrandizement which earned him a good name as a great hero of the Gajapati dynasty.
His wars and conquests
1. Victory over Gauda
After his accession, he wanted to settle score with the lllyas Shahis of Bengal. Taking the internal quarrel of the Sarquis of Jaunpur, the Gangas had extended the frontier of Odisha upto the river Bhagirathi (Ganges). Perhaps, Kapilendra, while fighting against the combined army of the Reddis of Rajahmundry and Vijayanagara Empire, received the news of the attack of sultan Nasiruddin Abul Muzzafar Mahmud Shah of Bengal. He rushed immediately and inflicted a crushing defeat upon him extending the sway of Kapilendradeva up to the river Ganges. In an inscription dated 1447 A.D., Kapilendradeva assumed the title ‘Goudesvara’. So, definitely by 1447 A.D., Bengal (Gauda) was under the sway of Kapilendradeva. However, the attack of Sultan Mahmud Sharqul of Jaunpur in 1457 A.D. and his son in 1458 A.D. and Kapilendra’s negotiation with them as per Ferishta’s Tabaqat-i-Akbari have not been ascertained by any other corroborative evidences. One thing is affirmed that Kapilendra had won victory over Bengal. Had it not been so, he would not have assumed the title ‘Gaudesvara’.
2. Occupation of Rajahmundry
In the south, Virabhadra I, the Reddi ruler of Rajahmundry posed a great problem of Kapilendradeva in checking the southward progress. An inscription at Draksharam dated 1444 A.D. clearly proves that by that time Rajahmundry was under the control of the Vijayanagara Empire. Before his engagement with Mahmud Shah of Jaunpur, Kapliendradeva had suffered a setback at the hand of Mallappa Odeyar sent by the ablest ruler of Bahamani, Devaraya II whenKapiledndra had attacked Rajahmundry. With the death of Devaraya II in 1446 A.D. the Vijayanagara Empire became weak under his son and successor Mallikarjunaraya. The hold of Vijayanagara over Rajahmundry became weak. Taking advantage of this situation, Kapilendradeva dispatched a grand army under his son Hamvira for the occupation of Rajahmundry. Hamvira defeated the Reddis with ease and Rajahmundry was annexed to the empire of Kapilendradeva. Raghudeva Narendra Mahapatra was appointed as the Governor of Rajahmundry. The task of subjugating Rajahmundry was accomplished before 1448 A.D.
3. Conquest of Kondavidu
For a few years, Kapilendradeva postponed his conquest in the South as he had to pay attention towards his northern frontier. The inscription of Mallikarjuna at Matamura in the Guntur district dated August 19, 1453 testifies the fact that the territory to the South of Krishna was under the authority of the Vijayanagara empire. Taking advantage of the weakness of Mallikarjuna Kapilendra’s army crossed the krishna river and occupied Kondavidu. Kapiiendradeva appointed Ganadeva Routaraya, one of his relations as the Pariksha of Kondavidu. An inscription at Chintapallipadu in the Guntur district dated April 12, 1454 records Ganadeva Routaraya’s gift to a temple. Thus, almost whole of the Guntur district passed into the hands of Kapilendradeva before April 1454. Now, he became the master of the Reddi Kingdom of Rajahmundry and Kondavidu.
4. Victory over Telingana
Having encouraged with his success, Kapilendra wanted to extend his sway up to Telingana coast that lied between Rajahmundry and Bahamani Kingdom. Telingana had important forts like Rachakonda, Devarkonda and Warangal. They were under the occupation of the Bellama chiefs of Telingana. Their support to Devaraya II, the king of Vijayanagar in a war against Bahamani enraged Alauddin ahmad Shah who through Sanjar Khan subdued the Bellamas, describes Burhan-i-Maasri. Alauddin Ahmed Shah II was succeeded by his son Humayun Saha who appointed Malik Shah as the governor of Telingana. Sikandar Khan, the son of Jalal Khan revolted against this decision of Humayun Shah. Aided by Linga, the Bellama chief at Devarkonda, Jalal Khan took up arms against Humayun shah and was killed by the latter. Humayun wanted to punish Linga. Linga appealed Kapilendradeva to render military service to him. Kapilendradeva readily extended his helping had to Linga.The Bahamani forces sustained a total defeat at the hands of the combined army of Odisha and Devarkonda in 1458 A.D. After this, the Bellemas of Devarkonda, Rachakonda and Warangal became vassals of Kapilendradeva against Bahamani Kingdom. This victory over Devarkonda led Kapilendradeva to assume the title ‘Kala vargesvara’.
5. Capture of Bahamani Kingdom
The death of Humayun Shah in 1461 created appropriate situation for Kapilendradeva to invade Bahamani kingdom. Now Kapilendra with his grand army aided by the Bellama chiefs marched towards Bidar, the capital of Bahamani kingdom. Sultan Nizam Shah was only eight years old. The Hindu army plundered and devastated the country while proceeding towards the capital of Bahamani kingdom. The fall of the Muslim Kingdom was inevitable. However, at that juncture, Kapilendradeva had to retreat.
Ferishta informs that the Hindu army took refuge in a fort and Kapilendradeva had to pay a large sum of money and retreated. This description of Ferishta is to be taken with a pinch of salt. If a critical analysis is made, it will be apparent that Kapilendradeva had no chance to surrender to a weak and feeble minor ruler of the Bahamani kingdom. On the other hand, it can be presumed that the long absence of the Odishan army from the capital led the Muslim ruler of Bengal to attack Odisha and Kapilendradeva had to retreat to deal with sultan Hussain Sharqui of Jaunpur. However, after setting score with the Sultan of Bengal, Kapilendra again marched towards Bahamani kingdom with renewed vigour and captured Hahur, Bidar and several other places that rightly led him to justify the title ‘Kalavargasvara’.
6. Vijayanagara Empire
The death of Devaraya II and the succession of his son in 1447 A.D. created an opportunity for Kapilendradeva to cross sword with the Vijayanagara empire. Saluva Narasimha the subordinate ruler of Chandragiri under the Vijayanagara empire was dreaming of building his own castle over the Vijayanagara empire. The internal mal-administration of the empire prompted Kapilendra to attack that country. To materialise his plan, Kapilendra first wanted to conquer Udayagiri fort which occupied a strategic position of the Vijayanagara empire in the coastal regions. By the instruction of Kapilendra, his lieutenant Tamma Bhupala conquered it in 1460 A.D. as an inscription of the top of Udayagiri hill of the same year records the construction of a temple. After the conquest of Udayagiri, Basava Bhupala, son of Tamma Bhupala was appointedas its governor. With Udayagiri as base, Hamvira, the valiant son of Kapilendradeva, marched along the coastal line of the Vijayanagara empire, Now, Mallikarjuna transferred Saluva Narasimha, the ruler of Chandragiri rajya to the central division of his empire with Vinukonda as its capital. This made Chandragiri rajya weak. Pasupati Tamma Bhupati, a lieutenant of Kapilendradeva, attacked the fort of Chandragiri and occupied it sometimes before 1464 A.D. Controversy prevails over the occupation of Vijayanagara empire by Odishan army. The Anantavaram plates of Prataprudradeva state that Kapilendra sent his son Hamvira to conquer Hampi, the capital of Vijayanagara who succeeded in conquering it and forcing the emperor to pay tribute.
The Gangadasa- Vilasa Charitam confirms the fact stating that Kapilendradeva in combination with the Hayapati (Bahamani Sultan) wanted to humiliate the young emperor of the Vijayanagara empire but the latter came out like a cub of the lion from his den and defeated the combined army of the Gajapati and Hayapati. R. Subramanyam brings a solution to this riddle by his opinion that though Hamvira defeated the Vijayanagara army but the whole Vijayanagara Kingdom did not come under the sway of the Gajapati ruler of Odisha. That Hamvira had proceeded upto Trichinapolli is evident from an inscription in Sriranga temple which records a gift of cows in 1464 A.D. by „Dakshina Kapilesvara Kumara Mohapatra‟. After the conquest of Tanjor and Tnchinapolli regions, Hamvira stopped his agressive march. The grandson of Kapilendra named Kumara Kapilesvara Mohapatra was appointed as the Viceroy of the conquered tsrntores n 1464 A.D. By extensive conquests of Kapilendradeva, the Odishan empire extended from the rivel Ganges, in the north to Kaveri, in the south.
Closing years of Kapilendradeva
The last years of Kapilendradeva were full of sorrows and problems. He found himself deserted and betrayed by some of his trusted servants and soldiers. Though, diplomatically he nominated Purustottamadeva, his younger son as his successor by the will of God Jagannath. But it was not accepted by Hamvira with ease. When a fratricidal war was imminent between the two brothers, news of the loss of territories reached Kapilendradeva. In the North, Ruknuddin Barbak captured Mandaran fort. In the South, Saluva Narasimha occupied his previous kingdom driving out the Odia army from that territory. The internal quarrel between Hamvira and Purusottama and the loss of territory made Kapilendra weak and he breathed his last most probably in 1466-67 A.D.
Estimate of Kapilendradeva
The reign of Kapilendrdeva was a splendid epoch in the history of Odisha. He was a great military genius. He was the founder of the Suryavamsi rule in Odisha. The spirit with which he subdued the refractory chiefs and firmly established the Suryavamsi regime is certainly commendable. He bore high-sounding titles befitting to his status. By putting an end to the Ganga rule in Odisha and bore the title ‘Gajapati’. After conquering a part of Bengal, he justified his title Gaudesvara. His conquest of a part of the Bahamani kingdom and his expedition to Bidar led him to assume the title ‘Kala varges vara’. After conquering a part of the Vijayanagar empire, he entitled himself as ‘Navakoti Karnata’. ‘Navakoti, perhaps meant ‘nine crores’ of people of the parts of Bahamani kingdom and Vijayanagara empire. Thus, the pompous title of Kapilendradeva was ‘Gajapati Gaudesvara Navakoti Karnata Kalavargesvara’. After centuries of military inactivity, Kapilendradeva brought Odisha into the chess board of Indian politics breaking her isolation. He defeated his contemporary rulers like Mahmud Shah, Humayun Shah, Mallikarjuna and Saluva Narasimha. As a result, he created a vast empire stretching from the river bank of the Ganges to that of Kaveri.
Kapilendradeva was a great patron of literature. He himself was an accomplished scholar in Sanskrit. His play Parasurama Vijaya shows that he was a dramatist of no mean order. This drama had been staged before God Jagannath during a Mahotsava, informs the Madala Panji. During his reign period, Nrusingha Vajapayee, a famous Advaitavadin had written a commentary named Samkshepa Saririka Vartika on Sankaracharya’s work Samshepa Saririka. The first renaissance started in Odia literature during Kapnendradeva. Sarala Dasa’s Odia Mahabharata represented the totality of Odishan culture. His Vilanka Ramayana and Chandi Purana were two other great works. Not only Kapilendradeva was a patron of poets and men of letters but he was great builder too. He constructed the outer-wall of the Jagannath temple at Puri. He also established Kapilesvarpura and Damodarapura Shasana. Perhaps, he constructed the temple of Kapilesvara near Bhubaneswar. Further, the Gokarnesvara Siva temple at Midnapur and Mallkarjuna Siva temple contained the inscriptions of Kapilendradeva. Kapilendradeva was a great devotee of God Jagannath. He always described himself as the Sevaka (servant) of the God. He provided the number of facilities for the worship of the God in Puri Jagannath temple.Thus, in achieving his political goal, he also used the name of the God as a magic stick.
Kapilendradeva wanted to maintain peace and tranquility throughout the empire. Though he was constantly busy with warfare, he desired that his people should live happily. It is needless to say that his reign period created several mile-stones in the annals of Odishan history.