Nature of kalinga State at the time of Kalinga war

Author: Brajabandhu Mahanta, MAH

A highly debatable question of Indian history is “Who is the king of kalinga at the time of Kalinga War”? In other words whether Kalinga a monarchical one or anything else? As we have lacking any historical source in this regard many scholar argue that at the time of kalinga war- Kalinga was not a morchical one but a republic state like many other republican states ( Ganarajyas of North India) of Ancient India such as Vajji , Malla etc.

But if we carefully study the nature and geographical extent of ancient republics (Ganarajyas) then we find that these were spread in very small areas centered on a city (Nagara) with a numbers of villages surrounds the same. These were very much similar with the city states of Greece. Hence, the republican nature of Kalinga state is not matching due to following reasons:

First and most important is its area of extension. The Kalinga state extended from Godavari in South to the river Ganga in north-east and the Kalinga Sea in east to Vindhya Range in north-west. This much extension of a vast state needed a well organized administration to function. But in an Ancient direct republic, it is not possible to give a sound administration to Kalinga like vast empire.

Second, though during the Nanda rule Kalinga was a part of Magadha empire but soon it gained its independence by taking advantages of chaos and confusions arise during the ascendancy of Chandragupta Maurya into Magadha throne and Kalinga rapidly increased its power in eastern India with the help of both inland and overseas trade. Soon it reached to a position of an alternate centre of power in eastern India. Magadha Empire in all sectors be it trade, commerce or politics. As a result their inter–relationship was converted to a hostile one. Both looked to each other in suspicion. It was confirmed by the writing of the Buddhist monk Lama Taranath and Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya. In one account Megasthenes mentioned that he often hear about the people living on the other side of Vindhya Range are very dangerous. They have lacking nose and their whole head resembles a nose. From this type of descriptions it is very clear that the people of Magadha had very wrong conceptions about the people of Kalinga. In other words, there must have been sense of hatred among the people of both empires. It is possible, when there is a long going Cold war happening between both the empires. Therefore Kalinga was not a republican because it was not possible for a republican state to give a stiff competition to a Magadha like vast pan-Indian empire in ancient political conditions.

If we accept the monarchical nature of kalinga state, then Why Asokan inscriptions, particularly 13th major rock edicts, where he mentioned about the Kalinga war, silent about the name of the king of kalinga and its political set up?

Excerpt from 13th Major Rock edict of Asoka
When king Devanampriya Priyadarshi had benn anointed eight years, the country of the Kalingas was conquered by him. One Hundred and fifty thousand in number were the men who were deported thence;One hundred and thousand in numbers were those who were slain there; and many times as many those who died.After that, now that the country of the Kalingas has been taken, Devanampriya is devoted to the pursuit of Dhamma, the love of Dhamma, and to instructing the people in Dhama. This is the repentance of Devanamprira an account of his conquest of the country of the Kalingas. For the slaughter, death, and deportation of people that take place in the course of conquering an unconquered country is considered very painful and deplorable by Devanampriya.

The careful study of the 13th major rock edict (Shahbazgarhi version) reveals the fact that it is not a eulogy type of inscription where he glorify his valour or his great victory over the Kalinga. Here he described about how the mass slaughter and destruction of life and property of people in war and their sorrow and sufferings changed his heart. Therefore he might not feel necessary to give any information about the politics and king of Kalinga.

So we cannot conclude from the fact that Asokan inscription did not provide the name of king of kalinga means it was a republic state.

1. History of Odisha, Vol-I by RD Banerjee
2. The Early History of Kalinga by DN Das
3. The History of Odisha, Vol-I by Y K Sahoo
4. Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol-I, Inscriptions of Asoka by E Hultzsch 1969

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