In the first half of the eighth century A. D., a dynasty known as Bhauma or Kar (alternatively spelled Bhaumakara) established its rule over Orissa’s coastal belt. Guhadevapataka or Guhesvarapataka, the capital of this dynasty, was located near modern Jajpur town in the Jajpur district. The Vishnu Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Harivamsa Purana, Dathavamsa, Gandavyuha, and Hudud-alAlam are the primary literary sources for reconstructing the history of the Bhauma-Karas. Additionally, the inscriptions and grants of this dynasty’s rulers such as the Neulpur plate, Ganeshgumpha inscription, Dhauli cave inscription, Terundia, Dharakote, Dhenkanal, Talcher, Ambagaon, Angul, and Talatalia plates shed significant light on the dynasty’s political, economic, and religious history.


Contents

  1. Origin and chronology of the Bhaumakaras
  2. Dynastic History of the Bhaumakaras
  3. Administration of the Bhaumakaras
  4. Religion During the Bhaumakaras
  5. Society During the Bhaumakaras
  6. Economy During the Bhaumakaras

Origin and chronology of the Bhaumakaras

In the first half of the eighth century A. D., a dynasty called Bhauma or Kar (also known as Bhaumakara) established its rule over Odisha’s coastal belt. Guhadevapataka or Guhesvarapataka was the capital of this dynasty. It was located near modern Jajpur town in the Jajpur district. Scholars have been unable to definitively establish the origin and chronology of Bhaumas. K.C. Panigrahi established the dynasty’s origins through an examination of the Nepalese Pasupati temple inscription. Rajyamati, the queen of Nepalese king Jayadeva, was the daughter of Harsavarman, a member of a royal family known as Bhagadatta who conquered Gauda, Odra, Kalinga, and Kosala, according to this inscription. Given that the Odisha Bhaumas claim descent from Bhagadatta, Panigrahi concludes that the Odisha Bhaumas and Harsavarman, the ruler of Assam, are descended from Bhagadatta. He assumes that after conquering Odra, i.e., Odisha’s coastal belt, Harsavarman appointed a member of his family as governor of the conquered territory, who later proved to be the founder of the independent dynasty of Bhauma. Due to the chaotic political situation that existed in Bengal and Odisha in the early eighth century, such an invasion is natural. The similarity in linguistic structure between Assamese and Oriya languages supports the possibility of early interaction between the two regions.

Additionally, the scholars identified an artistic connection between Odisha and Assam. Dah Parvatiya’s Ganga images in Assam’s Tezpur district and Ratnagiri’s Ganga images in the Jajpur district share similar iconographic characteristics. Odisha’s geographical location allows for migration or invasion from three directions – north-east, north-west, and south-west. The Bhaumas originated in the north-eastern region. Subsequently, the Somavamsis and Gangas arrived from the north-west and south-west, respectively. According to Binayak Mishra and some other scholars, Odisha was the original home of the Bhaumas, who were a non-Aryan tribe most likely related to the Bhuyans who live in modern-day Odisha. According to some scholars, Guhasiva, the Buddhist king of Kalinga whose name appears in the Cylonese chronicle Dathavamsa, may have founded Bhauma rule in Odisha.

In the Vishnu Purana, a king named Bhauma Guha is mentioned as ruling over Kalinga, Mahisya (Midnapore), and Mahendra. According to some scholars, Bhauma Guha was the forefather of the Bhaumas, and Guhadeva Pataka, the Bhaumas’ capital, is named after him. The Bhaumas used a Samvat or era in their inscriptions and copper plate grants. According to K. C. Panigrahi, the Bhauma era began in the year 736 CE on the Gregorian calendar. Who founded the “Bhauma dynasty?” Who ushered in this new era? Two ancestors of the Bhauma rulers of Orissa are mentioned in the Bhauma records. Lakshmikaradeva and Kshemankaradeva were their names. Kshemankaradeva, according to some, inaugurated the new Bhauma era. Others assert that the Bhaurna era begins with the accession of Sivakaradeva-1, Kshemankaradeva’s son and successor. Kshemankaradeva was an ardent follower of Buddhism.

As a result, he has been given the Buddhist epithet ‘Paramopasaka’ in the Bhauma epigraphic records. After careful consideration, Biswarup Das accepted the view of S. N. Rajguru, who dates it to 736 CE, and the majority of scholars concur.

Dynastic History of the Bhaumakaras

Kshemankaradeva

Kshemankaradeva was the founder of the Odisha-based Bhauma-Kara dynasty. Prior to him, anarchy had destroyed this land’s social structure. According to the Neulpur Charter of Subhakaradeva II, Kshemankara established the society’s traditional four-tiered caste system. His blood and iron policy ensured the empire’s law and order. On the other hand, he demonstrated his conciliatory policy toward his subjects in order to promote social peace and harmony. Kshemankaradeva took appropriate measures to safeguard the empire’s integrity. According to the Samangad inscription and the Dasavatara inscription, Rastrakuta ruler Dantidurga defeated Kalinga and Kosala but refrained from attacking Odra and Utkala. This demonstrates Kshemankaradeva’s heroism in consolidating the Bhauma rule in Odisha.

Sivakaradeva I (C-736-783 CE)

Kshemankaradeva’s worthy son Sivakaradeva I, alias Unmattasimha or Unmatta Kesari, succeeded him. He was a powerful ruler who promoted extensive expansion in the north-east and south-west. Sivakara III’s Talcher plate compares him to Poros, who fought Alexander and his Macedonian garrison. According to the same plate, he marched to south west Bengal with his grand army, defeated the ruler of Radha, and “took away in victory the king’s daughter along with the latter’s kingly fortune.” That princess may be identified with queen Jayavallidevi, who is depicted on Sivakaradeva II’s Chaurasi plate.

According to the Talcher plate of Sivakara III, the Bhauma army conquered the entire Kalinga region during his reign, from the river Vamsadhara to the Godavari, defeating the Ganga power. Additionally, his victorious arms reached Kongoda and Svetaka. According to the Ganjam grant of Jayavaramandeva of Svetaka, the Svetaka ruler donated the village Valarisranga in Varttini Visaya of Kongoda mandala to Bhatta Nannata after obtaining the necessary permission from Unmatta Kesari of Viraja via Visavarnavadeva, who was possibly Kongoda’s governor. This fact demonstrates unequivocally that Jaya Varmandadeva was a vassal of Unmattakesari alias Sivakaradeva I, Kongoda and Svetaka’s overlord. As a result, Sivakaradeva I expanded his sphere of influence to Kalinga, Kongoda, Svetaka, and Radha. I was eager to maintain cultural ties with countries outside Odisha, Sivakara I. He presented a Buddhist work, Gandavyuha, to Chinese Emperor Te-tsong via Prajna, a Buddhist scholar tasked with providing the emperor of China with a translation of that work. This was unquestionably a harbinger of Sino-Indian cultural relations. Naturally, scholars disagree on how Gandavyuha should be presented. According to some, it occurred during the reign of Subhakaradeva I, Sivakaradeva I’s son and successor. However, SivakaradevaI’s patronage of distinguished scholars tempts the present writer to concur with many scholars that this act must have occurred during that ruler’s reign and not most likely during the reign of his son Subhakaradeva I.

Subhakaradeva I (C-780-800 CE)

Subhakaradeva I succeeded his father Sivakaradeva I, who left his son a vast kingdom. During his father’s reign, he was instrumental in expanding the Bhauma-Kara dynasty’s influence to Kalinga, Kongoda, and Svetaka. His dream was never fully realised because he was forced to bear the brunt of the Rastrakuta ruler Govinda III’s wrath. According to Amoghavarsa’s Sanjan plate, Govinda III conquered Odraka, Kosala, Kalinga, Vanga, and Dahala. This fact is confirmed by a faint reference in Subhakara I’s Hindol plate, which states that “despite the fact that he (Subhakaradeva I) was deserted by his soldiers, his glory was never diminished by his adversaries, and he was the best of men.” Referring to the Madala Panji. K. C. Panigrahi analyses a storey contained in it that A. Stirling has nearly e.aborated. The episode details Haktavahu’s invasion and the retreat of Subhanadeva, Odisha’s king, with images of Jagannath. Balabhadra and SLbhadra are two forms of Balabhadra. Prof. Panigrahi connected Raktavahu to the Rastrakutas and Subhanadeva WitI’ to Subhakaradeva I. Biswarup Das, on the other hand, disputes Prof. Panigrahi’s assertion that the Rastrakutas had a bad reputation for destroying Buddhist images (God Jagannath has been treated as a Buddhist deity) in any location. Since Subhakara I assumed full imperial titles such as ‘Paramabhattaraka and Paramesvara,’ the present writer believes it is certain that he was not a feudatory of the Rastrakutas. Of course, the Rastrakuta invasion occurred, but it passed through the Bhauma suzerainty like a meteor. Subhakaradeva I was well-known for his tolerance of other religions. Though he was a Buddhist ruler, as evidenced by his assumption of the title ‘Parama Saugata,’ he granted 200 Brahmins the villages of Komparaka in Panchala Visaya and Dondaki and Yoka in Vabhyudayar Visaya. Additionally, as evidenced by the Hamsesvara temple inscription in Jajpur, his queen Madhavadevi constructed the Madhavesvara Siva temple in Viraja and appointed a Saivacharya to oversee the God’s worship. Additionally, she excavated a tank near the temple and established a nearby market (hata). Subhakaradev I was an all-around brave and benevolent ruler. According to the Hamsesvara temple inscription, he was a mighty king of the Bhauma-Kara family. He is described as a’mine of good conduct and good qualities’ in the Bhauma records.

Sivakaradeva II (C-800-820 CE)

With Sivakaradeva II’s accession, an ignominious chapter in the Bhauma-Karas’ history began. The Palas invaded Odisha during his reign. According to the Narayanapala era Badal Pillar inscription, “the Lord of Gauda (Devapala) exterminated the race of the Utkalas.” According to some scholars, he was unquestionably defeated by Devapala. The Badal Pillar inscription bears witness to this fact, as do Taranath’s accounts of Devapala’s conquest of Utkala. Sivakaradeva I, also known as Saugatasraya, was a Buddhist king. Of course, his queen Mohinidevi was a Saiva, and she was responsible for the construction of the Mohini temple in Bhubaneswar. When the Bhauma-Karas showed complete contempt for Sivakaradeva II and the Bhauma Kindgom resembled “a female with a distressing heart,” Sivakaradeva II abdicated the throne in favour of his younger brother Shantikaradeva I.

Shantikaradeva I (C- 820-835 CE)

Shantikaradeva I’s succession to his elder brother proved to be a watershed moment in Bhauma history. To bolster Bhauma power, he formed a matrimonial alliance with Rajamalla, the Western Ganga king. Shantikaradeva I defeated the Palas with the assistance of the latter. Odisha quickly became an independent kingdom under his leadership. The Hindol plate of Subhakaradeva III provides a semblance of confirmation for this fact. In this context, it can be stated that Pandit B. Mishra and D. C. Sircar’s association of Gosvaminide alias Tribhuvanamahadevi with the Naga family is incorrect; she actually belonged to the Western Ganga family, as historical analysis reveals. Shantikaradeva I was a ruthless ruler who wielded enormous power over his feudatories. According to the Talcher plate of Sivakara III, “his fascinating lotus-like feet shone alongside the crownless heads of subjugated rulers.” Subhakara IV’s Talcher plate also attests to this fact. As with his forefathers, he possessed noble characteristics. Subhakaradeva III’s Hindol plate states that “he was powerful and renowned throughout the world.” He was well-behaved, peaceful, affable, and of unmatched quality. Contemporary records lavishly praise the Bhauma kingdom’s power and glory during his reign period. Perhaps it was during his reign that the Bhauma kingdom attained its pinnacle of celebrity.

Subhakaradeva II (C-835-.838 CE)

Subhakaradeva II’s reign is completely barren, as nothing glorious occurred during his reign. According to his Terundia copper plate grant, he was a Buddhist, and he bestowed a village called Lavaganda in Sulantarakurbha Visaya in South Tosali on six Brahmins of the Bharadvaja gotra.

Subhakaradeva III (C- 838-845 CE)

Subhakaradeva III succeeded his cousin. Though brief, his reign ushered in a period of change for the Bhauma ruling family. Because this younger branch is his charter, he never mentions the elder branch’s Subhakaradeva II. Subhakaradeva III was a devout Catholic. As the Hindol Charter reveals, he built the temple of Pulindesvara at Yuvangulapatika at Pulindraja’s request and installed a deity named Vaidyanatha Bhattaraka there. To support the temple’s maintenance, he donated the village of Naddilo in Northern Tosali’s Kankavir visaya. His generosity is also evident in the Dharakot plate, which records the grant of the village Gundaja in the Kongoda mandala’s Jayantika visaya to two Brahmins named Narayana and Devakantha of the Maudgalya and Kausika gotras, respectively.

Tribhuvana Mahadevi I (C- 845-850 CE)

With the accession of Tribhuvana Mahadevi I, the political history of Bhauma-Karas took a new turn. As Subhakaradeva III died without issue, his mother, the widow queen of Shantikaradeva I, assumed the imperial title and ascended to the throne as ‘Tribhuvana Mahadevi’. Her glory is described as follows in Subhakaradeva IV’s Talcher plate: “She took on the burden of the entire world and shone like Sesanaga, holding the entire earth up on her hoods.” Perhaps her ascension to the Bhauma throne did not come without opposition, and she crushed the rebellion with an iron fist. A faint echo of it exists in her own record, where she is described as having “ascended the throne in the manner of Katyayani.” As her Dhenkanal plate reveals, she adopted the title Paramavaisnavi.

Tribhuvana Mahadevi I exercised effective control over her vassals, who demonstrated their “devoted loyalty” to her. She administered her subjects efficiently by appointing officers “of pure character and clean hands.” Subhakaradeva IV’s Talcher plate extols her virtues, stating, “During her reign, the country advanced in three (branches of administration), the foes were annihilated, the glory spread abroad, and there was peace among the people.”

According to the Hudud-al-Alam, “royal authority belongs to a woman known as rayina” (rani or queen) and that the “Dahuma (Bhauma) does not regard anyone as superior to herself.” Tribhuvana Mahadevi I played a critical role in preserving social harmony. She was a staunch supporter of Vaishnavism and a great devotee of Hari. She set an example by becoming the first female head of the Bhauma family. This served as an inspiration for the Bhauma-Kara dynasty’s subsequent female ruler.

Shantikaradeva II (C-850-865 CE)

Tribhuvana Mahadevl I alias Gosvamini Devi was succeeded by Shantikaradeva II. Subhakaradeva IV’s Talcher plate states that she abdicated the Bhauma-Kara throne in favour of her grandson Shantikaradeva II when the latter matured and was deemed capable of bearing the burden of administration. Though Shantikaradeva II does not have a known inscription, he is mentioned in the records of his successors. According to those records, he was also known as “Lonabhara” or “Lavanabhara I” and “Gayada II.” His queen was Hira Mahadevi; in her son Subhakaradeva IV’s records, she is referred to as ‘Maharajadhiraja Paramesvari’. This indicates that she assumed administration for a brief period following her husband’s death while her son was still a minor.

Subhakaradeva IV (C- 865-882 CE)

Subhakaradeva IV, alias Kusumahara II, succeeded Shantikaradeva II as his eldest son. Subhakaradeva IV, as revealed by the charters, has shown signs of promise since his youth. When he was not even a youth, he delved deeply into the inner meaning of the sacred hymns recounted in the Sastras. He is lauded in contemporary accounts as a man devoted to noble human virtues such as magnanimity, gentleness, royal behaviour, and veracity. However, the Bhauma-Kara Kingdom bore the brunt of the Somavamsi aggression during his reign. By that time, Janmejaya I, the ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty, had attacked the Bhauma Kingdom, and Ranabhanjadeva, the feudatory of the Bhaumas in the Khinjali mandala, had to square off against the mighty ruler of the Somavamsi dynasty. Janmejaya I annexed Khinjali mandala to the Somavamsi Kingdom following Ranabhanja’s ultimate demise. Thus, this was the first sign of the Bhauma-Kara power’s demise. In any case, Janmejaya I solidified his matrimonial alliance with the Bhaumas by bestowing upon Subhakaradeva IV his daughter Prithivi Mahadevi. This was another blunder by the Bhaumas and was largely responsible for the Bhauma authority’s demise. As envisioned, Subhakaradeva IV was a weak ruler despite his numerous positive characteristics.

Sivakaradeva III (C- 882-890 CE)

As Subhakaradeva IV died childless, his brother Sivakaradeva II alias Lalitahara succeeded him. Nothing remarkable about his reign period is known. He was referred to in his records as ‘Paramamahesvara’ and ‘Paramabhattaraka’. This demonstrates that he was an ardent Saiva. On the other hand, he was a Buddhist patron. This is confirmed by his two Talcher charters, which record the grant of two villages, Kami in the Purvarastra visaya and Surdhipura in the Madhyama-Khanda visaya, to the ‘Buddha Bhattaraka,’ whose temple Ambubhattaraka constructed. This demonstrates his catholicity and tolerance.

Prithivi Mahadevi alias Tribhuvana Mahadevi II (C-890-896 CE)

Prithivi Mahadevi alias Tribhuvana Mahadevi II succeeded Sivakaradeva III on the throne. Perhaps this occurred as a result of her father Janamejaya I’s interference. Although a fact cannot be asserted conclusively, the possibility cannot be ruled out either. As such, she pays glowing tribute to her father Janmejaya I in her charters. According to the Brahmesvara inscription of Somavamsi King Udyotakesari Mahabhavagupta’s time, Janmejaya “drew to himself the fortune of the King of Odra country, who was killed in battle by his Kunta.” This fact, combined with the description of his qualities in Tribhuvana Mahadevi’s charters, demonstrates that Janmejaya I played a significant role in establishing Prithiv Mahadevi on the throne of the BhaumaKaras. Sankaragana, the Kalachuri king, invaded Kosala at this point, and Janmejaya I remained engaged in combat with the aggressor. Taking advantage of this situation, the Bhauma-Kara dynasty’s loyal officials approached the widow queen of Sivakaradeva III to assume the Bhauma throne, thereby subsidising Prithivi Mahadevi’s claim. Tribhuvana Mahadevi ascended the Bhauma throne as a result of this. By then, Janmejaya I had reached an agreement with the Kalachuris. He did not, however, believe it prudent to interfere with Tribhuvana Mahadevi III’s administration of Tosali, as Tribhuvana Mahadevi III had firmly established his position there. Prithivi Mahadevi appears to have spent the remainder of her life at her father’s residence in Kosala.

Tribhuvana Mahadevi III (C-896-905 CE)

The circumstances surrounding Tribhuvana Mahadevi II’s ascension to the throne have been previously stated. She took imperial titles such as ‘Paramabhattaraka’, ‘Maharajadhiraja’, and ‘Paramesvan’. She was lauded for her magnanimity, courtesies, grace, beauty, and bravery. By faith, she was also a Vaisnava. She was a devout woman. According to the Dhenkanal Charter, she granted a village Kontaspara to one Bhatta Jagadhar, an astrologer, for the purpose of bringing down rains and averting death. She reigned for only nine years.

Shantikaradeva III and Subhakaradeva V (C- 905-910 CE)

Shantikaradeva III and Subhakaradeva V, Sivakaradeva III’s sons, succeeded Tribhuvana Mahadevi III in succession. Their reign was relatively uneventful. However, tranquillity and peace prevailed throughout the Bhauma kingdom. Regarding Shantikaradeva III, Dharma Mahadevi’s Angul plate states that he “lived happily, fearless as he was, following the annihilation of all adversaries.” Similarly, the Kumurang plate of Dandi Mahadevi states of Subhakaradeva V that he was “the slole repository of all kinds of prosperity.” However, little is known about his activities.

The Bhauma-Kara dynasty’s final years (C-910-950 CE)

Following Subhakaradeva V, the last male ruler of the Bhauma-Kara dynasty, the Bhauma throne was occupied by four female rulers in succession.

Gauri Mahadevi

Gauri Mahadevi, Subhakaradeva V’s queen, was the first of them. Naturally, no record of her time exists. However, she was able to maintain law and order within the kingdom. The Kumurang plate of Dandi Mahadevi praises her, stating that “….. at her lotus-like feet was prostrate the entire population (of the kingdom)”.

Dandi Mahadevi

Gauri Mahadevi’s daughter Dandi Mahadevi succeeded her. She made numerous grants, such as the Kumurang grant. Grants from Santarigrama, Arual, Ambagan, and two Ganjam. Not only was she graceful and endowed with charm, but she also successfully maintained her authority over the entire Bhauma kingdom. Additionally, she protected the Bhaumakara dynasty’s borders from “formidable and hostile kings humbled by her prowess.” She was given imperial titles such as ‘Paramamahesvari’, ‘Paramabhattarika’, and ‘Maharajadhiraja Paramesvari’ in her records. This demonstrates that she was a strong ruler. The donation of lands in Uttara Tosali and Dakshina Tosali further substantiates this fact. The description of pearls and gems in her records attests to the prosperity of Bhauma Kingdom during her reign.

Vakula Mahadevi

Dandi Mahadevi died in childbirth and was succeeded by her stepmother Vakula Mahadevi, a Bhanja family member. ‘ Apart from the donation of a village in Uttara Tosali, little is known about this ruler. One thing becomes clear: the Bhanjas have now entered the Bhauma-Karas’ internal administration.

Dharma Mahadevi

Dandi Mahadevi was succeeded by Dharma Mahadevi, Shantikaradeva III’s wife. She was the dynasty’s last known ruler. She issued two charters, one for Angul and another for Taltali. She is referred to in the latter charter as ‘Paramabhattarika Maharajadhiraja Paramesvari’. However, because she was a Bhanja princess, the Bhanjas’ involvement in the Bhauma-Kara dynasty’s internal affairs became crystal clear. Her reign was insignificant and paved the way for the Bhauma-Karas’ demise. The rise of the Somavamsis under Janmejaya I, and more specifically during Yayati I, heralded the demise of the Bhauma-Karas. Yayati I, who drove the Bhanjas from the Baud-Sonepur region, may have occupied the Bhauma kingdom by assassinating Dharma Mahadevi, the Bhauma-Kara dynasty’s last ruler. This is evident from his copper plate grant, which details his donation of a village called Chandra grama in Dakshina Tosali’s Marada Visaya. Thus, with the demise of the Bhauma-Karas, the Somavamsis took over the administration of Tosali.

Administration of the Bhaumakaras

The Bhauma-Karas established a stable government for the people of this land. The kings used lofty titles such as ‘Paramabhattaraka’, ‘Maharajadhiraja’, and ‘Paramesvara’. Clearly, the government was monarchical, and the Bhauma-Karas adhere to the law of primogeniture. However, there were exceptions, most notably with the Bhauma queens.

Officers in the administration of Bhauma

Numerous officers assisted the Bhauma kings in carrying out their administration. Mahasamanta, Maharaja, Ranaka, Rajaputra, and Antaranga were among them. Kumaramatya, Uparika, Visayapati, Ayuktaka, Danda pasika, Sthanontarika, Vallabha Chata, Bhata, Pratihara, Mahasandhivigraha (ka), Mahakshapatalika, Kutakola, and Dutaka are some of the other names. Guhadevapataka (Guhesvarapataka) was the capital of the Bhauma Kingdom, located in Biraja, Jajpur. Though historians disagree, this is accepted with a reasonable degree of certainty.

Relation with feudatories

The Bhauma-Kara kings, like the Guptas, maintained cordial relations with the feudatories. Their kingdoms were not annexed, and thus continued to function as vassel states, assisting the Bhauma sovereign during times of war. Under the Bhauma-Karas, the Sulkis, Bhanjas, and Nandodbhavas remained feudatories. Thus, the Bhauma- Karas’ statecraft was efficient and well-organized.

Society During the Bhaumakaras

Throughout ancient and mediaeval Odisha, society changed. Despite the fact that the Bhauma rulers were Buddhists, they accepted the Brahmanical socio-religious order. They attempted to impose Varnashrama, that is, the division of society into four Varnas (Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra). According to Subhakaradeva I’s Neulpur charter, Kshemankardeva established Varnas in their proper locations. Subhakaradeva II established the Varnashrama system in accordance with the scriptures, according to his Terundia charter. As a result of their acceptance of the Varnashrama urder, the Bhauma rulers placed a premium on the Brahmanas, the highest Varna. They enticed Brahmans from Madhyadesa (north India) and Bengal to migrate by offering land grants.

The Social Structure : Caste system

The caste system was a prominent feature of ancient Indian society. Odisha’s society was no exception. It was composed of numerous castes and sub-castes, and their interaction fostered social harmony, resulting in peace and tranquillity in Odisha. The caste structure of Bhaumakara society is as follows:

Brahmins

In the Varna system, the Brahmins held the highest social position and were considered to be of the first order. They commanded respect from the populace due to their education, wisdom, piety, and other virtuous characteristics. Numerous inscriptions of the Bhauma-Karas indicate that Brahmins from various gotras such as Bharadwaja, Kausika, Visvamitra, Sandilya, Kashyapa, and Atreya settled in Odisha. As evidenced by numerous inscriptions from the Ganga and Suryavamsi Gajapati periods, they settled in the Shasanas (agrahara villages). They were granted land by kings and other landed aristocrats in order to worship gods and goddesses in various temples. These were tax-exempt lands. Additionally, they were indispensable for a variety of significant ceremonies, including the king’s Abhiseka (coronation ceremony), marriage, and upanayana (sacred thread ceremony). They earned the society’s respect through their noble deeds as priests and were elevated to the highest position in the caste structure. Apart from performing their priestly duties, the Brahmins obtained lucrative positions in the courts of kings and Zamindars.

The Kshatriyas

The Kshatriyas held a position in society alongside the Brahmins. They were a warrior class charged with the responsibility of defending the country against internal uprisings and external aggression. Apart from fighting, they governed the country. They were benevolent rulers, not despots or autocrats, as the inscriptions and literary sources of this land attest. They held high regard for the Brahmins, from whom they sought advice on how to conduct administration. They were outstanding constructors. Through their patronage, a large number of temples were constructed in Odisha. They were well-known for their charitable deeds. Their eyes were also on the digging of tanks, the establishment of Shasanas, and educational institutions, among other things. They were also concerned with the promotion of education within society. Apart from the kings and members of the royal family, the Kshatriya caste included army chiefs, soldiers, and other officials. The Kshatriyas were concerned with the welfare of the society’s subjects.

The Vaisyas

The Vaisyas were a trading class who engaged in agriculture, cowherding, trade, and commerce. Generally, the land’s prosperity was highly dependent on the people of this community. They controlled both inland and maritime trade by organising hatas (local markets). Since the time of Asoka, trade routes on land passed through Kalinga, where it monopolised trade and commerce and her economic prosperity became an eyesore for Kalinga. This was possible because of the ancient and mediaeval Odisha’s trading class (Vaisyas). Additionally, the Vaisyas of Odisha engaged in international trade with countries such as Ceylon, Siam, Burma, and Suvarnadvipa, bringing wealth to this land. Additionally, they aided in the spread of Odishan culture throughout South-East Asia. The Kshatriyas were also concerned with the development of the Vaisyas. The kings bestowed upon them special villages known as the’ Vaisya agrahara.

Sudras

Sudras occupied the lowest position in the traditional class structure. Sudras were drawn from the community of artisans, craftsmen, petty agriculturists, and servants, among others. They were even attached to temples in order to serve the gods and goddesses. Apart from the professions mentioned previously, some Sudras were untouchables. They were considered untouchables and were excluded from society. They did, however, contribute to society in a variety of ways. They included the washerman (rajaka), the fisherman (kaivartta), the shoemaker (charmakara), and the basketmaker (doma), among others. Apart from Sudras, the society included saundikas (brewers), tantuvayas (weavers), kumbhakaras (potters), malakaras (gardeners), napita (barber), tambarakara (coppersmith), tathakara (metal worker), and kamara (blacksmith), among others.

Promotion of Language and learning

The Bhaumakara period’s inscriptions and literature were written in Sanskrit. Gandavyuha, the Buddhist manuscript, was written in Sanskrit. The Bhauma rulers were learned and cultured individuals who patronised educational institutions. Ratnagiri monastery was one of the greatest centres of Buddhist learning in mediaeval India, attracting scholars from all over the world. According to Tibetan tradition preserved in Pag Sam Jon Zang, Bodhisri and Noropa practised Yoga at Ratnagiri. Taranath mentions that Acharya Pito, who possessed the Siddhi of invisibility, was teaching Yoga at Ratnagiri and that his disciples included Abadhuti, Bodhisri, and Naro (Naropa?).

Women’s position

During the Bhaumakara period, women held prominent positions in society. Although they were dependent on their parents and husbands, they were still held in high regard in society. A distinguishing feature of the Bhauma rule was the presence of several female rulers. In ancient India, if a king died without male heirs, the chief queen adopted a boy as the heir apparent, or if the king died leaving a minor son, the dowager queen served as regent, but during the Bhauma rule, women ruled independently in their own right. Tribhuvana Mahadevi-I ruled as a full sovereign following her son’s death. Tribhuvana Mahadevi-II ruled the kingdom following her husband’s death, despite the fact that her husband’s brother had legitimate claims to the throne. During the Bhauma period, there were six female rulers. Five of them were dowagers, and one was the daughter of a king. Women of affluence and noble families were educated. Additionally, they received training in music and dance. The Bhauma queens were devout followers of various religious faiths and were instrumental in the construction of temples and the establishment of provisions for God or Goddess worship. The literature of the time period reflects a society in which monogamy was the prevailing norm. Polygamy, on the other hand, was not unknown in royal and higher families. Sati and Pardah systems were not prevalent. In general, women held prominent positions in society.

Dress and ornaments

The women of the Bhauma period favoured a variety of hairstyles, cosmetics, perfumes, and accessories. The period’s sculptures incorporate a variety of organs, including the Kundala (ear ring), Karnaphula (ear flower), Ratnahara or Chandrahara (necklace), Mekhala (girdle), and Koyura (armlet). Kankana (foot ornament) and Manjira (foot ornament) (bracelet). Necklaces and foot ornaments were preferred by the queens. Their gold and silver ornaments were studded with pearls and diamonds.

Religious Life during the Bhaumakaras

Pre-Bhauma Odisha was dominated by both the Hinayana and Mahayana schools of Buddhism. Odisha’s Hinayana monks had the audacity to assert their doctrine’s superiority before king Harsha, a great patron of Mahayana Buddhism. In the early years of Bhauma rule, Mahayana and Vajrayana or Tantrik Buddhism flourished in Odisha. The three early Bhaumakara rulers – Kshemankaradeva, Sivakaradeva I, and Subhakaradeva I – were known as Paramopasaka (devout worshipper of Buddha), Parama-tathagata (devout worshipper of Tathagata or Buddha), and Paramasaugata (devout worshipper of Tathagata or Buddha), respectively (devout worshipper of Saugata or Buddha). A Buddhist monk named Prajna travelled from Odisha to China at the request of Sivakaradeva I to translate the Buddhist manuscript Gandavyuha. Numerous Viharas or Buddhist monasteries established prior to the Bhauma period continued to thrive during the Bhauma period. The Bhauma period’s great Buddhist centres included Puspagiri, Ratnagiri, Lalitagiri, Udayagiri, Khadipada, Kupari, Chaurasi, and Jayarampur. Numerous Mahayana and Tantrik Buddhist images from this era have been discovered in the majority of the locations mentioned above. The Bhauma rulers practised magnanimity and tolerance for all religious sects. The later Bhauma kings appear to have been attracted to non-Buddhist sects such as Saivism, Vaishnavism, Tantricism, and Shakti cult. Madhava Devi, Subhakaradeva I’s wife, constructed a Siva temple; Subhakaradeva III donated a village for the upkeep of the Pulindesvar Siva temple. Subhakaradeva IV, Sivakaradeva III, and Dandi Mahadevi were all staunch Siva devotees. Sisiresvara, Markandesvara, and Talesvara Siva temples in Bhubaneswar date from the Bhauma era. Tribhuvana Mahadevi I, Subhakaradeva IV, Prithvi Mahadevi, and Santikaradeva II all seem to be Vishnu devotees. The Nandodbhavas, who were subservient to the Bhaumas, were patrons of Vaishnavism. In Odisha, the Bhauma period also saw the growth of the Sakti cult. This period saw the construction of Bhubaneswar’s Vaital and Mohini temples, which both enshrine Chamunda. The Bhauma period’s numerous temples and images attest to architectural and sculptural excellence, as well as religious synthesis and eclecticism.

Economy During the Bhaumakaras

The Bhauma kings levied a light tax on their subjects. They aided the growth of feudalism by awarding hereditary land grants to their officers rather than paying salaries. Additionally, land grants were made to religious institutions such as monasteries, temples, and Brahmins.

Peasants in donated villages paid taxes to the donees rather than the king. The Bhauma period’s most important industry, after agriculture, was the manufacture of cloth. Other industries included stonework, metalwork, carpentry, poetry, ivory work, perfumery, and jewellery. The surviving temples and images are eloquent witnesses to the Bhauma period’s artistic activities.

The copper plates and bronze images of the era attest to the advancement of metallurgy. Odisha appears to have had commercial relations with Ceylon, China, and South East Asia during the Bhauma period. Tamralipti, Che-li-talo, and Palur were the Bhauma territory’s ports.

The Bhauma-Kara dynasty was a watershed moment in Orissa’s sociocultural history. It established a stable government with complete control over the feudatories. The Bhauma-Kings were concerned with the expansion of trade and commerce throughout the land. They were also excellent builders. During this time period, various religions such as Buddhism, Saivism, Saktism, and Vaishnavism coexisted in harmony. This period saw the culmination of a trend among these religions. Their capital, Guhesvarapataka (modern Viraja in Jajpur), was dotted with ‘numerous temples of the Saiva, Sakta, and Vaishnava faiths. However, the Bhauma-Karas’ glorious rule came to an end when the Somavamsis captured power.

Sources and References

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