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 different hair styles and mutilated images of Ganesa and Surya were

    recovered from the filling in the palace. The temple covered with debris was completely

    destroyed. It is found that the pillars of later period are resting over it, causing damage to

    later lime plaster flooring associated with the temple. It clearly indicates that the palace,

    to which these pillars belong, was constructed at the time when the temple was

    already passed into oblivion. This implies a gap of more than a century between the

    destruction of the temple and the construction of the palace . The Nagari plate of

    Anangabhimadeva III refers to a temple being constructed by the king for Lord

    Purusottama. The temple excavated at Barabati Fort was the only temple that was built

    by the Ganga monarch. This is also supported by the description of Tarikh-i-

    Firozshahi, in which the destruction of Purusottama temple during Feroz Tughlaqs

    invasion of Cuttack and carrying off the idol of Purusottama to Delhi has been

    mentioned. Thus it can be presumed that the ruins of a temple found during the

    excavations at Barabati fort was the same temple constructed by Anangabhimadeva

    III and destroyed by Firoz Tughlalaq in 1361 A.D.

    Nagari plates of Anangabhimadeva III10 mentions that the king donated

    twenty vatis of land at Purunagrama to a Brahmin named Sankarsanananda Sarman while

    taking bath in Mahanadi, between the temples of Chitresvara and Visvesvara at


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    Abhinava - Varanasi-Kataka. On the eve of the consecration of God Purusottama in Saka

    1152 (1230 A.D.), the king donated the land. Again in Saka 1152, while standing before

    the God Purusottama at Abhinava-Varanasi Kataka, the king had granted four vatis and

    eight manas of land to a Brahmin named Devadharasarma. The date, recorded in the

    charter, confirmed to January 5, 1231 A.D.

    Abhinava-Varanasi-Kataka, without doubt represents the fort area of the

    present city of Cuttack. The area seems to have been known as Varanasi because of

    the presence of the temple of Visvesvarasiva on the bank of the Mahanadi, which

    was regarded equal to the sacred Ganga.

    Abhinava-Varanasi-Kataka continued to be the capital under the later

    Imperial Gangas. The Suryavamsi Gajapatis succeeded the Gangas. Kapilendradeva,

    the founder of Suryavamsi Gajapati dynasty, had his capital at Kataka on the bank of

    river Mahanadi which is known from a copper plate grant of Ganadeva Rautraya11


    Kondavidu dated 1455 A.D. mentions:

    Katakakhya Puri-yasya- rajadhani-




    Kataka, the capital of Kapilendra deva, has been compared with Amaravati, the

    celestial abode, which reveals its importance and prosperity. The Anatavaram plates12


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    of Prataprudra Deva, dated 1500 A.D., refer Kataka as the capital of Kapilesvara

    Gajapati. Thus Kataka served as the capital of Orissa during the reign of Suryavamsi


    After the death of Prataprudradeva, his treacherous ministerGovinda Vidyadhara,

    after killing his masters two minor sons Kakharudeva and Kaluadeva, established a

    new dynasty, called Bhoi dynasty. Kataka remained as the capital of Orissa under the ill-

    reputed Bhoi rulers.

    Mukunda Harichandan established the rule of the Chalukya dynasty in Orissa,

    after imprisoning Raghubhanja Chhotray, the last ruler of the Bhoi dynasty. He was the

    first and last ruler of this dynasty and also the last native king of Orissa. Mukundadeva

    undertook the reconstruction work of the magnificent Barabati fort, the greatest

    citadel of the illustrious monarchs of several dynasties who ruled from Kataka for about

    seven centuries. Mukundadeva, besides repairing the defensive walls of the fort, also

    constructed a nine-storied palace. Since that time, the fort of Barabati was known as the

    palace of Mukundadeva.

    After the death of Mukundadeva, Orissa came under the influence of the Afghans

    who ruled from Barabati fort from1568 A.D. till 1592 A.D., when the Mughals finally

    supplanted them. The Mughals ruled Orissa from Kataka, which was mentioned by

    Abul Fazl that the Mughal Governor was staying at Kataka, which had a stone fort of

    great strength and a masonry palace within.


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    In 1633 A.D. a new palace known as Lalbag palace, on the bank of Kathjori, was

    built which became the residence of the Subahdar of the province. The Mughal rule

    over Orissa continued up to 1767 A.D. after which the Nazims of Bengal had a brief

    sway before it came under the occupation of the Marathas.

    The Marathas had remarkably improved the fort of Barabati by strengthening the

    ramparts while the ditch round the fort was widened and deepened. During their

    rule, Kataka flourished as an emporium of trade and became the central market of

    exchange between the Marathas of Nagpur and the English merchants in Bengal

    and Northern Sircars. It was by this time that the English power was considerably

    growing in Bengal, in the north and in the Northern Sircars, in the south of Orissa. After

    the battle of Plassey, the relationship between the Marathas and the English was strained.

    By 1799 A.D. the Eastern Coast up to Ganjam came under the control of the English. The

    Governor-General Lord Wellesely wanted to unite the Northern Sircars by a

    continuous line of seacoast with Bengal. Finally by the treaty of Deogaon concluded on

    17th December 1803, A.D. Raghuji Bhonsala ceded in perpetual sovereignty of the

    province of Cuttack along with the port and the district of Balasore to the East India


    During the early part of the British rule, Puri served as the headquarters of Orissa.

    But from 1816 A.D. onwards, Cuttack served as the headquarters of Orissa

    throughout the British rule.

    Abhinava Varanasi Kataka represents the present Barabati fort area of

    Cuttackhas witnessed the rise and fall of several kingdoms and empires in the history of


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    Orissa. Cuttack had enjoyed the opportunities of becoming the capital of several

    kingdoms, empires and the political headquarters of Orissa for a long time . It also

    stands as a witness of some important happenings in the history of Orissa.

    Thus in the past, the present city of Cuttack was famous in various names

    such as Abhinava Varanasi Kataka, Abhinava Varanasi, Varanasi Kataka and

    Kataka. This famous city had gone through various stages of metamorphosis, from a

    mere military cantonment to that of the capital of Orissa. Unlike many other ancient

    cities of India, it does not meet its end in the cross current of time. It continues to be one

    of the important cities of Eastern India even today .--------------------- O ---------------------

    Address for correspondence: -

    Dr Rajashree Swain

    A/1, Dev Apartment

    P.O. College Square

    Cuttack-753003 (Orissa)


    E-mail: [email protected]

    References: -

    1. Andrew Sterling, Orissa; chronology and History, reprinted in N. Sahu (Ed.) History of

    Orissa, vol II (Delhi, 1980) p. 234

    2. A. B. Mohanty (Ed.), Madala Panji (Utkal University reprinted) p. 14

    3. Ibid pp. 14-15

    4. G. C. Tripathy and Hermann Kulke (Ed.), Katakarajavamsavali,(1987) pp. 15

    5. K. C. Panigrahi, History of Orissa (Cuttack, 1981) p. 453

    6. Epigraphia Indica - XI, pp. 281-287

    7.A. B. Mohanty, Op. cit, p. 22


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    8. Ibid. p. 27

    9. Epigraphia Indica - XXVIII, pp. 235 - 258

    10. Ibid

    11. Indian Antiquary - XX pp 390 ff

    12. R. Subrahmanyam, Inscriptions of the Suryavamsi Gajapatis, (Delhi, 1986), p. 153