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Medieval Odisha

Purusottamadeva (1467 – 1497 A.D.)

Purusottamadeva was a unique personality among the Suryavamsi Gajapati kings of Odisha. His success, in its varied aspects, was multi-dimensional, original and effective. His assumption of power in 1467 A.D. by the ‘Will of God Jagannath’ as Kapilendradeva had pointed out, marked a fratricidal war with Hamvira, his older brother. During the period of Kapilendradeva, his eldest son Hamvira had accompanied him in almost all his expeditions and brought laurel to the former. His claim to the throne was set aside by Kapilendra, perhaps, due to the persuasion of the mother of Purusottama who was a Phula-Vivahi wife (a position between queens and concubines) of Kapilendradeva. Since the legitimate claim of Hamvira to the throne of Odisha was relegated to back-ground, he proceeded to settle his score with Purusottamadeva.

As per the accounts of Ferishta, Hamvira, in association with the Bahamani king Muhammad Shah III attacked the Gajapati kingdom in the south. Muhammad Shah had sent Malika Hussain Bheiry on his behalf to help Hamvira in the campaign. Hamvira occupied Kondapalli and then proceeded to Cuttack and defeated Purusottamadeva. Hamvira was placed as the Gajapati on the throne of Odisha. Taking Ferishta’s accounts into consideration and also taking into consideration the version of the Saravati Vilasa, Subrarnanyam supports this fact because from 1472 to 1476 A.D. no inscription of Purusottamadeva is found in any part of Odisha. He further states that Hamvira drove away his brother Purusottama to forest and occupied the throne. When he failed to receive any assistance from the Bahamani Sultan for the outbreak of a great famine in the Bahamani kingdom, he had to compromise with his younger brother Purusottama. Prof. R. D. Banerjee and K.C. Panigrahi do not agree with Dr. Subramanyam’s view and reject the Muslim accounts of Ferishta. Prof. Panigrahi says that there is no source from 1472 A.D. to 1476 A.D. to show Hamvira’s rule in Odisha. Further, as Hamvira enthroned himself as the Gajapati king of Odisha, what was his necessity to receive help from Bahamani Sultan for maintenance of his position when he had already driven away Purusottamadeva to the forest?

However, the views of Prof. Banerjee and Prof. Panigrahi cannot be accepted on three grounds. First thing, why there is no evidence to support the rule of Hamvira? It is, perhaps, due to the fact that after reassuming the throne Purusottamadeva, through his sincere efforts, might have obliterated all the evidences associated with the reign period of Hamvira, Secondly, as the people of Odisha had tremendous faith on God Jagannath, they ventured not to mention anything about Hamvira who had a legitimate claim over Odisha as Purusottama was declared Gajapati by the will of Lord Jagannath. Thirdly, when Harnvira felt that he would not receive the support of the people of Odisha due to their fear to God Jagannath, he thought it prudent to compromise with his brother. Of course, he did it when he was defeated at the hands of Purusottama and the latter also allowed Hamvira to rule over Khimindi as a vassal. Perhaps, Purusottama never wanted, to reflect his discomfiture at the hands of Hamvira or the latter’s defeat at his hand· as both the facts were correlated. In the genealogical list of the Suryavamsis given.by Raghudeva Narendra in the copper plate grant, the name of Hamvira does not figure. Perhaps, right from the days of Purusottamadeva, there was sincere and deliberate attempt to ignore the name of Hamvira from the pedigree of Kapilendradeva, the founder of the Suryavamsi Gajapati rule in Odisha.

Recovery of Kondavidu and Rajahmundry

Taking an opportunity of the civil war that took place between Purusottamadeva and Hamvira, Saluva Narasimha had occupied a large slice of Odishan territory extending his sway as far as Masulipatam, in the north sometimes before 1476 A.D. Meanwhile, Sultan Muhammad Shah III of Bahamani had conquered Rajahmundry and Kondapalli. When Purusottamadeva marched towards Rajahmundry, the fort of Kondavidu was already in possession of the Sultan of Bahamani.

As per the accounts of Ferishta, Purusottama had to sue for peace with the Sultan being unable to recover the fort and offered 25 elephants to the Sultan as a token of friendship. After the expulsion of Odishan army from Rajahmundry and Kondavidu, the Sultan of Bahamani placed Muslim governors there and when wanted to take revenge upon Saluva Narasimha who was a silent spectator when Purusottama was marching to cross sword with him. After suppressing a revolt at Kondavidu, when Muhammad Shah III was encamping at Malur, he got a forged letter of Nizam-UI-Mulk Hassan Bahry showing that Mahmud Gawan, his trusted general and well-wisher of Bahamani Sultan had asked the help of Purusottamadeva against him. At this, he became furious and ordered to execute Mahmud Gawan which was immediately obeyed after his death, the plot was unearthed and out of grief, the Sultan died in 1482 A.D. leaving the empire with chaos and confusion. The accession of Mahmud Shah to the throne of Bahamani kingdom who was only twelve years old, provided an opportunity to Purusottama to recover the lost territories in the South. Taking advantage of the Mal-administration of Bahamani, Purusottama fished in that troubled water and easily conquered Rajahmundry and Kondavidu early in 1484 A.D.

Recovery of Udayagiri-rajya

After consolidating his power in the entire Krishna Godavari delta, Purusottama aimed at the occupation of Udayagiri-rajya which was under the possession of Odisha under Kapilendradeva and that had been occupied by Saluva Narasimha during the civil war between Hamvira and Purusottama with which, the latter was grossly entangled. Now, Purusottama, with his army, marched to Udayagiri, defeated and imprisoned Saluva Narasimha who purchased his freedom by surrendering Udayagiri and offering his daughter to Purusottama who is associated with ‘Kanchi-Kaveri legend’. Though, no definite date or year is known about the occupation of Udayagiri, but with tolerable degree of certainty. It can be stated that the task was accomplished sometimes before 1489-90 A.D. The Sanskrit epic Prabodhachandrodaya refers to the fact that in the conquest of Udayagiri Purusottamadeva was helped by Vira Vasava or Basavabhupati. Further, the Sarasvati Vilasam narrates that Saluva Narasimha was captured alive in the battle and he purchased peace by surrendrening Udayagiri-rajya to Purusottarnadeva. After the conquest of Udayagiri, Purusottamadeva is never seen in the war-field. He tried to bring peace inside his kingdom by performing religious and constructive works. He spent his time with the company of eminent scholars. Purusottamadeva died in 1497 A.D.

Estimate of Purusottamadeva

To estimate Purusottamadeva, as envisaged, he was a great diplomat. Immediately after his accession, he abolished Chaukidari tax which was imposed previously on the Brahmins. He also renewed old grants to them as is evidenced from his Jagannath temple inscription. He capitalised the favour of his father Kapilendradeva, the divine blessings of God Jagannath and the sympathy of the Brahmins to legitimatise his position on the Suryavamsi throne. Like his father Kapilendradeva, Purusottama was an opportunist. Taking the weakness of the Bahamani Kingdom, he attacked it and recovered the lost Rajahmundry region and Kondavidu fort. He also recovered Udayagiri-rajya from Saluva Narasimha.

During his reign, the boundary of Odisha did not expand. He was not a hero of the first rate calibre like his father Kapilendradeva. As an administrator, Purusottama was a liberal man. His reign was peaceful which created circumstances for the growth of Odia literature. There was no attack, either from the North or South on Odishan Empire during his reign. This, undoubtedly, brought happiness to his subjects who breathed a fresh air of peace and tranquility. Though there was initially trouble at the time his accession owing to the revolt of Hamvira but very soon, Purusottama diplomatically solved the problem and brought normalcy inside his empire. Purusottamadeva was a patron of literature. He was a great Sanskrit scholar. The two Sanskrit lexicons- Haravali and Trikandasesam are ascribed to him. Prof. P. Mukherjee informs that these lexicons were quoted by the lexicographer Vandaghatiya Sarvananda in his Tika Sarvasva. Purusottama is credited with the composition of abhmava Gitagovinda and Namamalika. Besides, Chaininka Chakada Pustaka by Fakir Chaini, Arjuna Dasa’s Kalpalata and Ramavibhaha, Damodara’s Rasakoili Chautisa were some notable works in Odia that belonged to his reign period.

Like his father, Purusottamadeva was a builder too. According to tradition, Purusottamadeva built the temple of Sundara Madhava at Purusottamapur in the Ganjam district. During his reign period, Tamma Raya, one of his vassals installed an image of Gopala Krishna at Udayagiri which Krishnadevaraya had taken away to Vijayanagara after his conquest on Udayagiri-rajya. Purusottamadeva was a pious man. Besides giving grant to the Brahmins, he also made arrangements for new provisions in the Jagannath temple. He made gifts for the personal enjoyment and stage entertainments of the Siva deity at Potavara. He gave away the revenue of a village to meet the expenses of offerings to the Simmachalam temple.Thus, Purusottamadeva was a noble ruler. His reign period witnessed peace and stability in the Gajapati empire.

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