abhinava varanasi kataka

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  • 8/14/2019 Abhinava Varanasi Kataka



    Dr Rajashree Swain, M.A., M.Phil, Ph.D. (Utkal)

    Senior Lecturer in

    History Baba Bhairabananda Mahavidyalaya,

    Chandikhol, Jajpur

    Cuttack, now the metropolis of Orissa is one of its old cities, located in latitude


    North and longitude 85050/

    East. It is situated at the bifurcation of the

    Mahanadi and its main branch, the Kathjori. These two rivers form an extensive delta

    of which the Bay of Bengal serves as the base and Cuttack as the apogee. From the

    geographical point of view, the city is also unique because it is surrounded on three sides

    of its north, west and south by forest clad hills.

    Historical evidences are scanty regarding the establishment of Cuttack.

    Madala Panji, the temple chronicle of Lord Jagannatha throws some light on it, but its

    accounts are based more on traditions. On the basis of Madala Panji, Andrew Sterling

    writes, Raja Nrupa Kesari, a martial and ambitious prince, who was always

    fighting with his neighbours, is said to have planted a city on the site of modern

    Cuttack, about A.D. 989. The reign of Markata Kesari was distinguished for the

    construction of stone revetment, or embankment faced with that material, probably

    the ancient one of which the remains are yet to be seen to protect the new capital

    from inundation in A.D. 1006; and Madhava Kesari has the credit of building a

    fortress of vast dimensions at Sarangher1.


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    But from the Madala Panji, it is known that Nripa Kesari ruled up to

    Saka 875 (i.e. 953, A.D.) but regarding the foundation of Cuttack no reference is

    made in it.2 Markata Kesari, the successor of Nrupa Kesari is acclaimed with

    construction of the fort of Barabati on the bank of Mahanadi, whereas the stone

    embankment along the Mahanadi is credited to one Nabaghana Singh during the

    reign of Ghata Kesari3.

    From the Katakarajavamsavali, the Sanskritised version of the Madala

    Panji, it is known that, Anantaram-Nripa-Kesari-rajo-raja -rajya-kritavan-Asau-

    bahun-rajno-jitva-rajyani-grihitavan-Mahanadi Madhya-Kataka nama-nagaram-

    tadantargata-dvadasa-vatika-name-durga ca- karitavan.4 It means that a king

    named Nrupa Kesari ruled the kingdom after defeating many kings. There is the city of

    Kataka in the middle of Mahanadi. The construction of the fort of Barabati is ascribed to

    him. Markata Kesari, the successor of Nrupa Kesari ruled upto Saka 929, i.e.1007, A.D.

    His brother Nrisimha Ray constructed the stone embankment around the city of


    Thus it is clear that the recollections entreasured in these texts are

    confusing and the authentic history of the Kesari dynasty cannot be ascertained


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    from it. However, neither the history of the Kesari Vamsa of these traditions is totally

    imaginary nor the Madala Panji is totally devoid of historical evidences. Of course,

    these legendary stories might have embodied certain elements of historical truth which

    otherwise remains uncorroborated or supported by historical sources.

    Kataka, situated on the bank of river Mahanadi, had not attained the status of a

    metropolis during the rule of the Somavamsis as they had their capital at Abhinava

    Yayatinagara or the modern Jajpur.

    On the basis ofarchaeological evidences, K. C. Panigrahi has tried to

    place his arguments that Cuttack was a place of importance even during the Bhauma

    rule in Orissa5. Of course, his view, to some extent, has been supported by the

    existence of a few sculptural and structural remains of the ancient temples of the 8th

    - 9th century A.D. at Cuttack belonging to the Bhauma kara period . But it is doubtful

    whether it had enjoyed the status of a metropolis, during this time. Most probably, it

    served the purposes of a military cantonment.

    During the reign of the Sailodbhava dynasty, Katakabhukti visaya is mentioned

    in the Parikuda plate of Madhyamaraja. R. C. Majumdar identified this Katakabhukti

    visaya with Cuttack6. But scholars have rejected this identification of R. C. Majumdar

    on the ground that the Sailodbhava territory never expanded beyond the Puri-

    Ganjam region that was also known as Kongoda Mandala.

    After the conquest of Orissa by Codagangadeva during the early part of the

    12th century A.D., the importance of Kataka gradually increased. Madala Panji reveals


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    that Biranasi Kataka is one among the Pancha katakas being occupied by

    Codagangadeva, the founder of the Ganga dynasty at the time of his conquest of Orissa.

    Basing on Madala Panji, Sterling described this Kataka in the name of

    Biranasi but subsequently this name was being mentioned as Baranasi in Madala

    Panji. From this, one can conclude that two distorted names, i.e. Biranasi and

    Baranasi were being created out of the original name Baranasi. Amongst these, the

    name Biranasi gradually converted to Bidanasi and the name Baranasi was

    converted to Benaras in the writings ofmuslim historians. Just as the city of Baranasi

    is situated between the rivers Baruna and Asi, likewise Cuttack is situated between the

    rivers Mahanadi and Kathjori, and, was, therefore, named as Baranasi Kataka.

    Codagangadeva had occupied Orissa during the early parts of 12th century.

    According to Madala Panji7, Codagangadeva had occupied Kataka in the guise of a

    dancer (nata vesare asi Kataka madivasi raja hoila). Mukhalingam

    plates of Codagangadeva, dated 1108 A.D. refer to his restoration as the king of Utkala,

    which is also supported by his Korni plates, dated 1112 A.D. From these two plates, we

    can conclude that Codagangadeva occupied Orissa or Utkala around 1108 A.D. In order

    to check the Kalachuris, Codagangadeva shifted his capital from Kalinganagara after

    1135 A.D. to Kataka, which was centrally located in his vast empire.

    Land grants by Anangabhimadeva III in 1157 sakabda or 1230 A.D. at

    Abhinava Varanasi Kataka is mentioned in a copper plate found from Nagari

    village near Cuttack. This proves that a certain Varanasi Kataka already existed by


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    the time Anangabhimadeva came to power. Madala Panji assigns the construction of

    the Barabati fort and the establishment ofKataka to Anangabhimadev III.

    The shifting of capital by Anangabhimadev III is mentioned in

    Madala Panji as follows:

    Anangabhimadeva - The king used to reside at the town called Choudwar

    Kataka. One day the king crossed the Mahanadi and while was on the southern bank of

    it, in the vicinity of Bisvesvara Siva situated in the village Barabati in the Kodinda

    Dandapata, he saw that a heron killed a hawk. The king was astonished at this unusual

    event and laid foundation of a Kataka in the Barabati village and after building the

    palace and making it a Kataka, called the place as the Varanasi Kataka and left

    Choudwar Kataka. Anangabhimadeva III named his new capital as Abhinava -

    Varanasi Kataka.8

    The Nagari copper plate issued by Anangabhimadeva III also corroborates the

    transfer of capital from Choudwar to Varanasi - Kataka. From this Nagari copper plate it

    is known that the king, a devout Vaisnava, built a gigantic temple for Lord

    Purusottama at his new capital and the images were installed on the 9th day of the bright

    fortnight of Chaitra. In the Nagari plate the king made land grants to a Brahmin named

    Sankarsana Nanda of Silo who had taken part in the consecration ceremony of this

    temple.9 This Nagari plate of 1230 A.D. definitely confirms the fact that Abhinava-

    Varanasi-Kataka as the capital seat of Anangabhimadeva-III was existed before that year.

    The Arulal-Perumal temple inscription of Kanchipuram dated 1226 A.D. refers to


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    Abhinava-Varanasi-Kataka, which clearly indicates that this new capital had definitely

    come into existence prior to 1226 A.D.

    The temple of Purusottama seems to have been destroyed by Firuz Shah Tughlaq

    in 1360-1361 A.D. during the reign of Bhanudeva III (1351-1388 A.D.). During his

    invasion, Firuz Shah Tughlaq had destroyed many temples from Khiching to Banarasi-

    Kataka. The invasion of Firuz Shah is mentioned in the inscription at Khambhat in

    Kheda district of Gujrat and also in the Persian texts such as Sirat-i-Firuzshahi and

    Tarikh-i-Firuzshahi. After occupying Banarasi Kataka, Firuz took away the idol of

    Purusottama made of stone from the Rais or Bhanu Diws fort to Delhi.

    The excavation of Barabati fort conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India

    reveals the remains of the temple

    showing three mouldings of the

    base over a foundation of laterite

    blocks. It stood on the sandy soil

    without any habitational deposit.

    The excavation indicates the

    possibility that the temple is the


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    earliest structure within the fort. The badly mutilate sculptures discovered show close

    resemblance with those of Konark on stylistic ground.

    About four hundred architectural fragments belonging to temple parts and sculptures

    depicting erotic couples, musicians, standing female figures, heads of females showing

    ornaments and dif