Bharat is a pious land where every temple has a story behind its existence- be it a tragedy, a joy, a sacrifice or a tale of heroism and martyrdom. One such temple is the Ananta Vasudev temple- a masterpiece of Kalinga architecture from the medieval Kalinga where the kings and the royal families spent more on temples rather than their palaces and forts. It was a mark of immense gratitude towards the Gods and also one of the two reasons why you see less palaces and forts in Odisha, while Odisha thrives with temples with more than 3000 temples in Bhubaneswar alone.
Many of the temples in Odisha are memorials of fallen heroes. The Ananta Vasudeva temple is one such memorial.
For years, the Eastern Ganga dynasty of Kalinga and the Kalachuris had deep enmity. Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, who had built the current Jagannath temple on the ruins of the ancient Jagannath temple, was in continuous conflict with the Kalachuris. The Haihaya dynasty, which claimed their origin from the Ratnapur Kalachuri, was engaged in constant conflict with Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. Anantavarman tried many times to recover the lost western regions of Tri Kalinga, but was unable to do so. After a few kings succeeded him for a short period, his descendant Anangabhima Deva III ascended to the throne. The first thing his descendant (son of Rajaraja III) did was to reclaim those lost territories.
Meantime, Kalinga was facing threats of Islamic invasions from a long time and the Kalinga army had crushed these aggressions successfully. Under the commandership of Brahmin minister Bishnu Mahapatra (Vishnu Mahapatra), the Kalinga army had defeated an invading Muslim force in 1223-1225 AD. The notorious Bakhtiyar Khilji was the military general of Qutab ud Din Aibak. Even when Bakhtiyar Khilji was razing Nalanda University to dust, grand temples were being erected at Kalinga, signifying the strong military power Kalinga was to even demoralize the demonic Khilji from attacking Kalinga. After Bakhtiyar Khilji was killed, events led Ghiyas ud Din Khilji to become his successor and the ruler/governor of Bengal. Ghias ud Din made a strong navy and sent them under the command of Masud to attack Kalinga through Mahanadi. The newly formed Barabati fort and the Kalinga navy crushed the Muslim navy, while Bishnu Mahapatra crushed the Muslim forces on land, chasing them up to the northern frontier.
Regarding this battle, the Chateswar temple inscription says-
Karnottam- Sita-Savakasya-Subhata-Nekakina Nighnatah
The above inscription literally means- “Muslim forces of Bengal were defeated by the able commander Vishnu who was able to pull his bow string until his ears and shot arrows killing many enemy soldiers”
The Ananta Vasudeva temple (which was built much later) inscription says:
-Pradhvastaratiraja Vraja -Yuvati-Yanodgita Gambhirasarah
Svantapasarpata Yavamapi Yavanam Sangare Sanjahara.
The above inscription literally means- “In Chodaganga Deva’s lineage, the heroic Anangabhima was like a flag, whose profound strength was celebrated by the damsels of a multitude of hostile kings destroyed by his power, and who was exceedingly proud of his swift horses, the speed of which surpassed that of snakes’ foes Garuda. He made an end of the war by defeating the Yavanas with impetuosity after entering into their territory beyond the frontier”
While Anangabhima Deva III was busy in tackling the Muslims, the Kalachuri king mighty Pratapmalla continued his attempts to invade the frontiers of the Eastern Ganga territory along with his courageous son Paramardi Deva. After chasing out the Muslim army out of Kalinga borders, the Kalinga army led by Bishnu Mahapatra faced the Kalachuri army at the Seori Narayana village in undivided Sambalpur district on the banks of the river Bhima near the Vindhya Hills. The Kalinga army defeated the Kalachuri army in a decisive battle. As an ode to the Brahmin minister, an inscription in Chateswar temple mentions the valour of Bishnu Mahapatra-
Visnumayam Yatha Parinatam Tummana Prithivipateh
The inscription literally translates to- “Vishnu, the Brahmin minister and general of Anangabhima Deva III frightened the king of Tummana on the bank of the river Bhima near Vindhyas so much so that the latter perceived Vishnu everywhere throughout his kingdom”.
Bishnu Mahapatra was a highly-educated profound scholar well versed in the Vedas, Puranas, ethics, logic, knowledge of statecraft and administration of justice. He believed in making friends out of foes and thus, not only believed in eliminating enmity but also believed in increasing own power. He advised Anangabhima Deva III to initiate a matrimony tie with the already defeated Haihayas by marrying off his daughter, princess Chandrika, with the Haihaya prince Paramardi Deva. A marital relationship was formed and the two dynasties became allies.
After Anangabhima Deva III, his son Langula Narasingha Deva aka Narasingha Deva I ascended to the throne. Narasingha Deva I was very aggressive- not only by his nature with respect to Raj Dharma, but also by body language.
Throughout history, we can find one thing very consistent about the Odia diaspora- The Odias are far fewer in number than any other ethnicities of the Bharatas. The biggest testimony of this fact is that during the Ashoka vs Kalinga war, while Kalinga forces consisted of 100,000 people including both military soldiers and common civilians who fought for their sovereignty, the Mauryan army itself consisted of 150,000 soldiers. Narasingha Deva was well aware of this number-game. A long war of would have only benefitted the Sultans of Delhi with their vast legions of slave soldiers and fanatic bloodthirsty ghazis. Every day, fresh armies of Turks, Arabs, and Persians arrived from all over the World to loot and rape the once verdant fields of Bharata. Their control over the Sindhu and Ganga Plains also gave them access to the most fertile lands of India. The Hindu powers which primarily depended on Centralized Bureaucracies were highly affected by the collapse of Trade systems and extensive Raiding as compared to the Feudal Mohammedans.
Narasimhadeva I had few but significant advantages:-
1. Kalinga, being the last bastion of the Classical India of the Guptas and the Pratihara- was arguably the best organized State in Bharata, with its superior administration and bureaucracy allowing Odias to trade blows on equal terms with vastly more populous and powerful enemies.
2. The vast elephant corps. of the Odia armies. Despite several eminent historian’s dismissing “war elephants” as useful- partly because their parroting Graeco-Roman propaganda accounts against their Persian foes or on account of their ignorance of Military Science, war elephants represented the heaviest form of cavalry available in the world and could also be used as siege weapons or siege weapon platforms.
3. From depictions in palm leaf manuscripts, sourced from Dr J P Das’ works or from temple inscriptions and sculptures, we can rebuild a depiction of Odia armies then. The armies of Cuttack were built around regiments of armoured missile cavalry, swift horsemen who carried lances, longbows, and sabres- riding into melees but dismounting to fight while loosing arrows. Their longbows gave them greater range and power than the composite bows carried by their Mohammedan foes while their superior discipline allowed them to dispatch off greater number of Ghulam and Ghazi enemy troops.
4. Finally- the greatest reason for Odia success against the Mohammedans- a united ideology. Under Emperor Anangabhima Deva III, Kalinga was restructured as a one united land, one clenched fist under the kingship of Prabhu Jagannath himself. As long as Odias fought for the glory of Srikshetra and Dharma on Earth, there could be no defeat for the armies of the Three Kalingas.
The best way for the Chodaganga lords and generals to take advantage of their centralized bureaucracy as well as compensate for low Odia population was, thus, to conduct rapid invasions into northern regions of India, use superior Odia troops to clear Mohammedan forces before reinforcements could come- and hold against all comers.
Instead of merely defending his kingdom from the invading Muslim forces, he decided to attack the Bengal Sultanate which had deepened its roots and had carried out the Islamization of Bengal forcing Bengali Hindus to flee Bengal and settle in Ekamra Kshetra and Srikshetra.. Narasingha Deva I, aided by Paramardi Deva, marched towards Bengal in 1242 – 1243 AD. To crush the Bengal Sultanate, Narasingha Deva seized Lakhnauti twice, which consisted of the two subdivisions Rarh and Varendra.
Under the command of Narasingha Deva I, Paramardi Deva had led the Kalinga army and possibly the other conscript soldiers from the independent and semi independent Hindu kingdoms (which they overran) against the Muslim rulers of Bengal and seized the fort of Lakhnauti (1243 AD). This event is recorded as the first seize of Lakhnauti. To defeat the Kalinga army, Tughrail Tugha Khan asked Muslims to join forces for Jihad. Many Muslim rulers responded to the call and even a Qazi named Minhas-us-Siraj joined the war. The Odia forces were outnumbered by a bigger Muslim force and retreated upto fort of Katasin (Contai in southern regions of today’s Bengal). The region was surrounded by jungle and thick cane bushes. As a strategy, the Odia army had dug trenches which forced the advancing Muslim cavalry to slow down and halt. The Odia army also left some of their elephants unattended along with fodder in open field to lure the advancing enemies and expose them to capture. Upon seeing their trenches halting up the Muslim forces, the Odia army attacked them with guerrilla warfare tactics. After killing some of the Muslim forces, the Odia army divided itself into two parts and one part played/acted as if it is retreating, thus forcing the Muslim army to believe that the Odia forces have left. The Muslim forces halted the army in ease and settled down for midday meal. A sudden and unprecedented attack was launched by the other half of the Odia army led by Narasingha Deva I himself, thus leading to a massive slaughter and easy victory.
To describe the intensity of the battle, the inscription of Kendupatna says-
Radha Varendra Yabani Nayanjanaasru,
Pureya Dur Binibesita Kalima Srihi,
Tadh Bipralamm Karayadrabhuta Nistaranga,
Gangapi Nunamamuna Yamunadhunavut
Which means: The Ganga herself blackened for a great extent by the flood of tears which washed away the collyrium from the eyes of the Yavanis [Muslim women] of Radha and Varendra [west and north Bengal] whose husbands have been killed by Narasingha’s army.
In the Contai battle, Tugha Khan himself narrowly escaped his death and retreated.
During the second seize of Lakhnauti which started in end of the year in 1244 AD, the Odia army again captured Varendra and Rarh and surrounded the Lakhnauti fort. The Muslim commander of the Lakhnauti fort, Fakr-Ul-Mulk-Karimuddin-Laghri, tried to battle with the Odia army in the open field but was killed along with his detachment. As Minhaj wrote in Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, on 14th March the Ganga forces of Gajapati Narasingha consisting of the mighty Paiks and elephants finally decimated the Mamluk forces to dust, thus 14th March represents the 775th Anniversary of the Assault on Lakhnauti- the Apotheosis of the Chodaganga Campaign against the Delhi Sultanate under Gajapati Narasimhadeva I. It marks the half century of Oriya control over Eastern India- against all the hordes the Delhi Sultanate could throw at Orissa. Many battle weapons were also seized from the Muslim Bengal Army. Later, Sultan Alauddin Masud Shah sent governor of Awadh Qamruddin Tamur Khan to assist Tugha Khan. However, seeing the Kalinga army surrounding the Lakhnauti fort, governor of Awadh admitted defeat and removed Tugha Khan from his governorship to end the seize and save themselves.
In 1247 AD, a new Muslim commander lkhtiyar-ud-Din Yuzbak was appointed as governor of Bengal. With massive army assistance from the Delhi Sultanate, the new governor of Bengal attacked the Odia forces twice but failed miserably. The Muslim army again got fresh reinforcement from the Delhi Sultanate and marched further into the Odishan territory. A massive battle ensued at Mandarana or Umurdan in today’s Jahanabad subdivision of Hooghly. Paramardi Deva was defeated and killed in the battle-field but he resisted the Muslim army long enough for the Odia reinforcement to arrive and attack the Muslim forces. The Muslim forces had no choice but to retreat. The campaigns by Narasingha Deva I was so aggressive that for the next 200 years, no Muslim dared to attack Odisha. Rarh and Gauda remained occupied by the Odia forces and were under the northern regions of Kalinga while Varendra was under the Mamluk Muslims who carried out their Islamization deep into the common citizens.
In 1278 AD, the Odia princess Chandrika took permission from her brother Narasingha Deva I and built the majestic Vaishnava temple called Ananta Vasudev temple in Bhubaneshwar. It was built in honor of her husband & commander-in-chief of Odia army Paramardi Deva who lost his life while fighting the war against Islamic army at Umurdan.
The Ananta Vasudeva temple is quite unique due to the fact that while most of the temples in Bhubaneswar is dedicated to the Shiva, Ananta Vasudev temple is dedicated to Vishnu. The temple has a walled compound. The main temple consists of a deula, jagamohana, nata-mandapa and bhoga-mandapa. All the units are aligned on a single east-west axis. The nata-mandapa and bhoga-mandapa are later additions.
Opposite to each central niche of the main deul, a subsidiary shrine is placed. The architecture of Ananta Vasudev temple is designed as per the sapta-ratha plan. In sapta-ratha plan, kanika-paga, pratiratha and anartha-paga are on each side of raha-paga. Bada is consisted of pabhaga, jangha and baranda. Pabhaga is built with regular five mouldings. Jangha is divided into two equal size storeys, separated by a madhya-bandhana of three mouldings.
Raha-niche on the south has an image of Varaha while on north it has Vishnu as Trivikrama. Saraswati and Lakshmi are shown standing on either side of Trivikrama at the corners. The jagamohana is built in pancha-ratha style consisting of pabhaga , jangha and baranda. The raha-paga is in the form of gavaksha (window).
On the north gavaksha is seen Rama, Lakshmana and Sita accompanied by a monkey on each side, the monkey can be identified with Hanumana and Vibhishana. Upper storey on raha has shikshadana motifs. In these motifs, a lady is shown seated on a couch and opposite to her are her attendants and devotees shown in two rows. Historians suggests that the lady shown is none other than Chandrika, the donor of the temple.The traditional texts of Bhubaneswar, Ekamra-chandrika, Kapila-samhita, Svarnadrimahodaya and Ekamra-Purana tell us that Ananta-Vasudeva temple houses the stone images of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra, jointly referred as Silabrahma. The similar images enshrined in Puri Jagannatha temple are referred as Darubrahma.
During British Regime, Major-General Charles Stuart of Bengal army carried four stone inscriptions from Bhubaneswar. Three of these four inscriptions, inscription of Bhatta Bhavadeva, Megheswar and Brahmeswar were kept in the Museum of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. The fourth and the last, inscription of Chandradevi or Chandrika, was sent to Royal Asiatic Society, London. The inscriptions housed in the Asiatic Society of Bengal were returned to Bhubaneswar in 1837 on suggestion of Major Markham Kittoe. Two of the returned inscriptions, that of Bhatta Bhavadeva and Megheswar, were fixed to the compound wall of Ananta-Vasudeva while the third, Brahmeswara inscription, never reached Bhubaneswar, probably lost forever during its transit.
Various such valuable inscriptions had been destroyed due to the uncivilized whims of the Briitish, which has made a significant damage to the Odia history which is already ignored by the eminent leftist historians who never acknowledge that Odisha has a rich culture, heritage and history as one of the civilized and advanced Janapads of Bharata.