The Ganga Empire reached its zenith with Narasimhadeva I’s succession to the Ganga throne in 1238 CE. Throughout his twenty-six years of glorious rule, he accomplished extraordinary feats in every facet of Ganga administration. His aggressive and belligerent military policy instilled fear in the Muslim rulers of Bengal and Oudh. This elevated the imperial Gangas to new heights of strength, glory, and splendour. For the first time, he bore the title Gajapati, demonstrating his vast possession of elephants; this title was occasionally borne by later Ganga rulers and invariably by Suryavamsi kings. The magnificent creation in the field of architecture that brought Narasimhadeva was the Sun temple at Konarka. He was popularly known in Odisha as Langula Narasimhadeva.
Attack on Bengal
Following his accession in 1238 CE., Narasimha I pursued an aggressive imperialist policy. Tughril Tughan Khann (1233 – 1246 CE.) was the governor of Bengal at the time. After consolidating his position, Narasimha marched towards Bengal in 1234 CE. with his grand army, aided by Paramadrideva, his brother-in-law. The Odishan army overran a number of semi-independent Hindu rajas in the area east of the Ganges and made a calculated advance on northern Radha, Tughri Tughan Khan’s territory. At this point, Tughril Tughan issued a rallying cry to all Muslims, urging them to wage zihad (holy war) against the Hindus. Even Qazi Minhaj-us-Siraj became a participant in this holy war.
Minhaj paints a vivid picture of the war in his Tabaqat-i-Nasiri. Tughril Tughan launched a counter-offensive against the Odishan army in 1244 CE. After achieving initial success, the Muslim army forced Narasimhadeva’s forces to retreat to their frontier fort Katasin (Kantei in West Bengal’s Midnapur district), which was surrounded by jungles and cane-bushes and provided strategic defence for the Odishan army. Tughril-Tughan Khan took refuge in Lakhnauti to save his life. His reign over Radha drew to a close. The Anantavasudeva temple inscription describes Narasimhadeva I’s victory over the Muslim army.
It was unquestionably established that Narasimha had extended his sway up to Radha through his victory over Tughril-Tughan Khan. After defeating Radha, Narasimhadeva did not retire. He desired to extend his influence all the way to Varendra. By that time, Lakhnauti was divided into two major divisions: Radha and Varendra, which were located on opposite banks of the Ganges. Radha’s headquarters were in Lakhnor, while Varendra’s were in Diwkot. Narasimhadeva directed his army against Varendra due to his sway over Radha. The Odishan army pillaged Muslim territory in Bengal, instilling fear among the Muslims. Tughril Tughan Khan, fearful, appealed to Sultan Alauddin Masud Saha of Delhi for assistance, who dispatched Quamuruddin Tamur Khan, the governor of Oudh, to assist Tugha Khan. However, once in Bengal, Tamur had a sharp disagreement with Tughril Tughan. Tughril Tughan was eventually driven out of Bengal, and Tamur Khan remained as its governor until his death in 1246 CE.
lkhtiyar-ud-Din Yuzbak was appointed governor of Lakhnauti by Balban, the Sultan of Delhi Sultanate. Once again, Narasimhadeva carried his arms all the way to Bengal. Between 1247 and 1256 CE, Minhaj’s Tabaqat-i-Nasiri mentions four battles between Yuzbak and Narasimha. Again, the leader of the Odishan army in this battle was Paramadrideva, whom Minhaj refers to as Saba ntar. Yuzbak was victorious in the first two battles. In the third, he suffered humiliation at the hands of the Odishan army. He petitioned Delhi for military assistance and marched towards Umurdan (present Amarda Mayurbhanj district). However, Paramadrideva, the valiant son-in-law of Anangabhimadeva III and brother-in-law of Narasimhadeva I, perished in this great battle. Yuzbak’s victory has been substantiated by the mint of Lakhnauti issuing silver coins in commemoration of the conquest of Umardan. However, following his demise, Lakhnauti fell directly under the control of the Delhi Sultanate, and Narasimhadeva united Bengal, Midnapur, Howrah, and Hoogly under the Ganga empire.
With the Kakatiyas, hostilities have erupted.
Not only did he subdue the Muslims, but he instilled fear in Kakatiya ruler Ganapati. The inscription on the Lingaraj temple refers to a conflict between Ganapati and Narasimha. Ganapati was a powerful ruler of the Kakatiya dynasty who, according to the Bhimesvara temple inscription, invaded the southern part of Kalinga and seized some of its territory. As a result, it is reasonable to assume that the two kings clashed frequently and that Narasimhadeva inflicted a crushing defeat on Ganapati.
His construction accomplishments
Narasimhadeva’s accomplishments as a builder were unmatched. The magnificent Sun temple at Konarka is a work of art, architecture, and sculpture. Though the main temple has been destroyed, the Jagamohana (Porch) has survived. The temple’s magnificent art, architecture, and sculpture capture the attention of millions of tourists from around the world who visit the Konark Sun Temple.
His significance in the fields of religion, art, and literature
Not only was he a great military genius and builder, but he was also a great statesman in his day. His able administration was characterised by catholicity. He was a spokesman for Hinduism. According to his Lingaraj temple inscription, he founded a monastery called Sadasiva Matha in Ekamrakhetra (Bhubaneswar). This monastery served as a haven for Hindu refugees fleeing oppression at the hands of Muslim rulers in Gauda and Radha.
Sanskrit literature’s patron
He was a staunch defender of Sanskrit literature. Vidyadhara, his court poet, composed the famous Alankara work Ekavali, which details Narasimhadeva I’s accomplishments. As evidenced by the language and style of various inscriptions from his period, his court was adorned with great men of letters. Narasimhadeva was well-known for his tolerance of religions. If the Sun temple in Konarka suggests he was a great devotee of the sun God, his Kapilasa inscription refers to him as Sri Durga Putra, Sri Purusottam Putra, and a devotee of God Mahesvara. He unquestionably followed his father Anangabhimadeva III’s policy. Narasimhadeva I was endowed with lofty titles befitting his station. He is crowned with the title ‘Vavanani Uallabha’ in the Ekavaii, ‘Vira-NaraKesari-Dharadhipa’ in the Lingaraja temple inscription, and ‘Gajapati’ in the Kapilash inscription. In 1264 CE, his glorious reign came to an end.
Thus, Narasimhadeva-I was a king endowed with numerous admirable characteristics. He possessed considerable ability in the art of government and was also a patron of men of letters. He achieved fame for his heroism and the magnificent construction of the Sun temple in Konarka.
Sources and Reference
1. History of Odisha Vol-I by Dr Manas Kumar Das
2. History of Odisha Vol-II by Dr Manas Kumar Das
3. History of Odisha Vol-III by Dr Manas Kumar Das
4. History of Odisha Sahu, Sahu, Mishra
5. History of Odisha Vol-I by Y.K. Sahu
6. History of Odisha Vol-II by Y.K. Sahu
7. History of Odisha by RD Banerjee
8. Odishara Itihasa by Satyanarayan Rajguru