Dynastic history and achievements of the Somavamsi rulers

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

Janmejaya I became the first ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty of Kosala after he was driven out of Dakshina Kosala, which comprised the undivided Sambalpur and Bolangir districts of western Odisha that he dubbed Kosala and whose capital was Suvarnapura (modern Sonepur). Janmejaya I desired to clash with the Bhanjas of Khinjali MandaI, who were the feudatory of the Bhauma-Karas of Tosali, after consolidating his empire. Ranabhanjadeva, the Bhanja king, fell victim to Janmejaya, who dealt the former a crushing defeat and annexed the Baud-Phulbani area to his kingdom. This paved the way for Utkala’s conquest.

Additionally, Janmejaya I desired to expand his influence over Utkala. He was instrumental in establishing Tribhuvana Mahadevi II alias Pritivi Mahadevi, Subhakaradeva IV’s widow queen, on the Bhaumas throne. Though he defeated the King of Odra, he may have made peace with him as a result of having to deal with the kalachuris of Oahala. His attempt to extend his authority up to Utkala, on the other hand, was certainly commendable. Additionally, Janmejaya I subdued the Kalachuris. Subhatunga (Janmejaya I) is said to have defeated the Chaidyas in the record of his son and successor Yajati I. (Kalachuris). Janmejaya I was a powerful Somavamsi dynasty ruler. He assumed lofty titles such as ‘Parmesvara,’ ‘Paramabhattaraka,’ and ‘Trikalingadhipati,’ among others.

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

Yayati I succeeded Janmejaya I on the throne. He not only solidified his empire but also pursued an expansionist policy. Soon after his accession, he relocated his capital from Suvarnapura to Vinitapura, which has been identified as Binka, a town located approximately twenty-five kilometres from Sonepur on the banks of the river Mahanadi. He relocated the capital to Yayatinagara near Baud fifteen years later. Biswarup Das, on the other hand, associates Yayatinagara with Jajpur, which was also known as Yayatitirtha. I had a schism with the Kaiachuris, Yayati. His two copper plate grants, as well as a charter for his son and successor, state that he captured 32 elephants and rescued captive women who were being forcibly removed from Kosala by Yuvaraja, the Kalachuri king of Dahala. Yayati I not only rescued the women and elephants of Kosala, but also murdered the protector and set fire to a portion of the Kalachuri country, according to the charters. Thus, it can be stated with a reasonable degree of certainty that he subdued the Kalachuris. Yayati I’s crowning achievement was the annexation of the Bhauma kingdom. Though the circumstances surrounding Yayati I’s occupation of the Bhauma throne are unknown, it is certain that the territory was under his authority. He granted a village Chandragrama in Dakshina Tosali in his ninth regnal year to a Brahmin named Sankhapani of Odra desa, as recorded in his Cuttack plate charter. This demonstrates that he had extended his influence all the way to Tosali. Yayati I played a significant role in subjugating the Bhanjas. He offered a village named Gandharadi in the later Bhanja period as a gift in the Gandhatapati mandala, as evidenced by his copper plate grant of the fifteenth regnal year. Gandharadi is located twelve miles south of Baud. It occurred during Satrubhanja’s reign, when he was defeated by Yayati I. If this were not the case, he would not have been able to grant a village in the heart of the Bhanja territory. I was a valiant warrior, Yayati. Not only did he fight the Kalachuris, but he also subdued the Bhanjas and ruled the Bhauma kingdom of Tosali.

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

Following Yayati I, his son Bhimaratha ascended to the throne of Somavamsi. His political career is obscured by the records of his time. According to the Kalachuri king Yayati I’s inscription on the Bilhari stone, Lakshmanaraja, who ruled at Tripuri from approximately 945 to 970 A.D., “worshipped Somesvara and with the effigy of Kaliya wrought of jewels and gold obtained from the prince of Odra after defeating the Lord of Kosala.” This demonstrates that Odra had become a part of the Kosala kingdom by that time. The defeat of Kosala’s king and the removal of the effigy of Kaliya (the serpent) from Odra by Lakshmariaraja demonstrate unequivocally that Odra was under Kosala’s control, and most likely that the appointment of subordinate rulers for Odra began with Bhimaratha. In Dharmaratha’s Khandapara plates, he is praised as “religious, courageous, and valorous who performed marvellous acts and attained the status of Devaraja (Indra).” Without a doubt, his reign contributed to the consolidation of the Somavamsi Empire and brought the country peace and tranquillity.

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

Dharmaratha, Bhimaratha’s successor, was unquestionably a powerful ruler. His grant of a village in Antaruda Visaya (Antarudra Pragana of the undivided Puri district) demonstrates unequivocally that he was the Bhauma Kingdom’s master at the time. He is referred to as the ‘Second Parasurama’ in the Brahmesvara temple inscription. Perhaps he subdued the Pala power in Gauda and fought valiantly against the South’s Estern Chalukyas.

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

Dharmaratha’s brother, Nahusa, succeeded him to the throne of Kosala after he died without issue. His tenure was relatively uneventful. His inefficiency may have contributed to his unpopularity. Perhaps he was assassinated by Indraratha, another of Dharmaratha’s brothers who succeeded him on the throne.

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

Dharmaratha had appointed Indraratha as Kalinga’s governor. Perhaps Indraratha’s ambition to ascend to the throne of Kosala drove him to confront Nahusa. As a result, the latter was assassinated alongside his uncle Abhimanyu. Because Indraratha was regarded as a usurper, his name is omitted from the Somavamsi charters. He was defeated and probably killed by Rajendra Chola.

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

Rajendra Chola’s assassination of Indraratha at Yayatinagara sowed anarchy and confusion within the Somavamsi dynasty. At that critical point, the ministers installed Chandihara Yayati II as king of Kosala, the son of Abhimanyu and grandson of Vichitravira, a lineal descendant of Janmejaya. With his accession, Yayati II focused his attention on the kingdom of Utkala, which had become vacant following the death of Dharma Mahadevi, the Bhauma-Karas’ last ruler. Yayati II immediately took possession of it. As a result, Utkala was completely subjugated and absorbed into the kingdom of Kosala.

Chandihara Yayati II was the Somavamsi dynasty’s mighty ruler. According to his charter, his “footstool is kissed by the great jewels of all kings or subordinate kings, who in character resembled such renowned kings as Nala, Nahusa, Mandhata, Dilipa, Bharata, and Bhagiratha.” He is also credited with conquering Karnata, Lata, Gujrat, Dravida country, Kanchi, Gauda, Radha, and Trikalinga and assuming the title ‘Maharajadhiraja’ in his records. Naturally, the conquest of the aforementioned lands is a poetic exaggeration. He appears to have maintained a friendly relationship with Rastrakutas, as his records make no mention of himself or his army transporting arms to Kosala or Utkala during the reign of Krishna III. After Krishna III, no Rastrakuta king has mentioned the latter’s victory over Kosala or Utkala.

Yayati II was an ardent supporter of Brahmanism. According to tradition, he invited 10,000 Brahmins from Kanyakubja (Kanauj) to Jajpur to perform the Dasasvamedha sacrifice. It was a significant milestone in Odisha’s cultural heritage, and the memory of Yayati II’s noble work is still reflected in every corner of the state during marriage ceremonies and at the time of giving pinda at Navigaya in Jajpur. Yayati II is also credited with completing the Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar during his successor Udyotakesari’s reign. Naturally, Yayati II’s family deity was Panchamvari Bhadramvika, a manifestation of Goddess Durga.

Yayati II was the dynasty’s greatest ruler. He firmly established order in an empire that was rife with anarchy and confusion. From the Bay of Bengal in the east to Sambalpur in the west, and from Dandakabhukti to Ganjam in the south, his vast empire stretched. Brahmanism flourished in Odisha under his patronage.

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

Udyotakesari, Yayati II’s successor, was a deserving son of an illustrious father. He made amends with Karna, the Kalachuri ruler who had invaded the Somavamsi kingdom in the first place. Udyotakesari later invaded Dahala and defeated it. Similarly, the enmity between Gauda and Kosala ended with the defeat of the Pala dynasty’s Vigrahapala II. As a result of the attacks from various directions, Udyotakesari divided his kingdom into two parts, leaving the Kosala portion in the care of his grandfather Abhimanyu and ruling over the Utkala portion himself. He also completed the Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar.

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

With the accession of Janmejaya II, Udyotakesari’s son, the Somavamsi dynasty began to disintegrate. Somesvaradeva, the Chandika Naga ruler during his reign, sent his general, Yasorajadeva of the Telugu Choda family, to occupy Eastern Kosala. By that time, the Western Kosala had also fallen into the Kalachuris’ hands. Janmejaya II also faced an invasion by Raja Raja II of Kalinga, the Ganga king. All of these invasions caused Janmejaya distress, and he died following the Ganga invasion.

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

Puranjaya I succeeded Janmejaya II. During his reign, the Ratnagiri inscription states that he maintained control over his feudatory chiefs. Additionally, he successfully resisted the invasions of the kings of Gauda, Dahala, Kalinga, and Vanga. It appears as though the above-mentioned powers invaded the Somavamsi kingdom and paved the way for its demise by exploiting the Somavamsis’ weakness.

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

Karnadeva was the last surviving ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty and Puranjaya’s brother. Though he is praised in his records as a great ruler with complete control over his feudatories, this is not true. According to his fragmented inscription preserved in Bhubaneswar’s Jayadev museum, his kingdom extended up to Balasore district (from Gandibeda village, the inscription is found), which was Uttara Tosali’s final boundary. Jayasimha, the feudatory of Bengal’s Ramapala, ruled the Dandakabhukti mandala at the time. Chodagangadeva attacked Utkala multiple times during his reign. The Ratnagiri inscription and the Ramacharita of Sandhyakara Nandi both attest to the fact that Krishnadeva, Karnadeva’s astute and capable minister, rescued Utkala from the Gangas’ onslaught with the assistance of the Palas. However, this resistance was frail, and the Somavamsi Kingdom eventually fell to the Gangas, who established their dominance over Utkala.

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