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The Gajapatis were a medieval Hindu dynasty from the Indian subcontinent, which originated in the region of Odradesha (historical region ruled by samrat Odra) (most of present-day Odisha and Northern coastal Andhra) from 1434 to 1541 CE. Under Kapilendra Deva, Gajapatis became an empire stretching from the lower Ganga in the north to the Kaveri in the south.
The Gajapatis at their height in the mid-15th century
|Historical era||Medieval India|
The Gajapati dynasty was established by Emperor Kapilendra Deva (1434–66 CE) in 1434. During the reign of Kapilendra Deva, the borders of the empire were expanded immensely; from large parts of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, and the eastern and central parts of Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. The king took the title of Sri Sri ... (108 times) Gajapati Gaudesvara Nava Koti Karnata Kalvargesvara. This title is still used by their descendants at Puri during the Ratha Yatra. The significant rulers of this dynasty were Purushottama Deva (1466–1497) and Prataparudra Deva (1497–1540). The last ruler Kakharua Deva was killed by Govinda Vidyadhara in 1541, who founded the Bhoi dynasty.
In Odia, "Gaja" means elephant and "Pati" means master or husband. As such, Gajapati etymologically means a king with an army of elephants.
The region known as Kalinga (present-day Odisha) was controlled by the Odia rulers Eastern Gangas of the Vasistha gotra. The early Eastern Gangas ruled from Kalinga-nagara (Mukhalingam near Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh). They shifted their capital to Cuttack in the 13th century. Religious leader Ramanujacharya had a great influence on the Raja Choda Ganga Deva, who renovated the temple at Puri. Narasimha Deva built the Sun Temple at Konark. The Gangas were succeeded by the Gajapati rulers. Two copper plates of the early Pallava dynasty have been found in the Kolleru Lake, traced to Gajapati Langula Narasimha Deva, an Oriya ruler (Odia Raja). According to legend, the Gajapati fort was located at Kolleti Kota on one of the eastern islands of the lake, which protected the Odia forces. The enemy general encamped at Chiguru Kota located on the shores and tried to excavate a channel in the modern-day Upputeru, so that the water of the lake would empty into the sea and allow an attack on the Gajapati fort.
The Gajapatis of Odisha, at the height of their power in the 15th century, ruled over an empire extending from the Ganges in the north near Hoogly to the Cauvery in the south under Gajapati Kapilendra Deva.[full citation needed] But by the early 16th century, the Gajapatis lost great portions of their southern dominion to Vijayanagar and Golconda. This period was marked by the influence of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and by the expansion of Jaganatha temple across the length and breadth of the empire. One of the causes of the reduction in militarism of the population has been attested to the Bhakti movement initiated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who arrived in the empire at the time of Emperor Prataparudra and stayed for 18 long years at Puri. Emperor Prataparudra was highly influenced by the works of Chaitanya and gave up the military tradition of the Odia emperors. He retired himself into the life of an ascetic leaving the future of the empire uncertain. Govinda Vidyadhara took the opportunity to murder the sons of the emperor and usurped the throne himself and carved out the destruction of the once mighty empire.
Lingaraj Temple Inscription of Kapilendra Deva
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[Describing the Gajapati kings of Orissa] Kapilendra was the most powerful Hindu king of his time, and under him Orissa became an empire stretching from the lower Ganga in the north to the Kaveri in the south.
- A History of South India, K.A. Nilakanta Sastri
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