Kalinga (historical region)

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Kalinga is a historical region of India. It is generally defined as the eastern coastal region between the Mahanadi and the Godavari rivers, although its boundaries have fluctuated with the territory of its rulers. The core territory of Kalinga now encompasses a large part of Odisha and northern part of Andhra Pradesh. At its widest extent, the Kalinga region also included a part of present-day Chhattisgarh.

StateOdisha, Andhra Pradesh
 • SpokenOdia
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (IST)
Ancient CapitalsVisakhapatnam, Cuttack, Puri, Rayagada, Jeypore

The Kalingas have been mentioned as a major tribe in the legendary text Mahabharata. In the 3rd century BCE, the region came under Mauryan control as a result of the Kalinga War. It was subsequently ruled by several regional dynasties whose rulers bore the title Kalingadhipati ("Lord of Kalinga"); these dynasties included Mahameghavahana, Vasishtha, Mathara, Pitrbhakta, Shailodbhava, Somavamshi, and Eastern Ganga. The last two dynasties to rule over Kalinga were the Gajapati dynasty and Suryavansh of Nandapur.[1]


Extreme points of Kalinga, as mentioned in the historical records

The Kalinga region is generally defined as the eastern coastal region between the Mahanadi and the Godavari rivers. However, its exact boundaries have fluctuated at various times in the history.[2]

In the ancient Indian literature, the Kalinga region is associated with the Mahendragiri mountain located in the Ganjam district of Odisha, near its border with Andhra Pradesh.[3]

At times, the southern border of Kalinga extended further up to the Krishna river. In the north, it sometimes extended beyond the Mahandi river, up to the Vaitarani river. The Kalinga region did not encompass the whole of present-day Odisha: the north-eastern part of Odisha was included in the distinct Utkala region.[4] Utkala gradually lost its identity, and came to be considered as a part of Kalinga.[5]

The eastern boundary of Kalinga was formed by the sea (the Bay of Bengal). Its western boundary is difficult to pinpoint, as it varied with the political power of its rulers. However, the Puranic literature suggests that Kalinga extended up to the Amarakantaka hills in the west.[6]

Several ancient inscriptions mention the term "Trikalinga", which has been interpreted in several ways. According to one theory, Trikalinga refers to the widest extent of Kalinga. However, the Eastern Chalukya records suggest that Kalinga and Trikalinga were two distinct regions, with Trikalinga denoting the hilly region to the west of Kalinga.[7]


The name of the region is derived from a tribe of the same name. According to the legendary text Mahabharata, the progenitors of the Kalingas and of their neighbouring tribes were brothers. These neighbours included the Angas, the Vangas, the Pundras, and the Suhmas.[8]

The Kalingas occupied the extensive territory stretching from river Baitarani in Odisha to the Varahanandi in the Visakhapatnam district.[9] Its capital in the ancient times was the city of Dantakura or Dantapura (now Dantavaktra fort near Chicacole in the Ganjam district, washed by the river Languliya or Langulini).[9]

The Hathigumpha inscription suggests that a king named Nandaraja had excavated an aqueduct there in the past. Assuming that Nandaraja refers to a king of the Nanda dynasty, it appears that Kalinga region was annexed by the Nandas at some point.[10] It appears to have become independent again after the fall of the Nandas. It is described as "Calingae" in Megasthenes' Indica (3rd century BCE):

The Prinas and the Cainas (a tributary of the Ganges) are both navigable rivers. The tribes which dwell by the Ganges are the Calingae, nearest the sea, and higher up the Mandei, also the Malli, among whom is Mount Mallus, the boundary of all that region being the Ganges.

— Megasthenes fragm. XX.B. in Pliny. Hist. Nat. V1. 21.9–22. 1.[11]

The royal city of the Calingae is called Parthalis. Over their king 60,000 foot-soldiers, 1,000 horsemen, 700 elephants keep watch and ward in "procinct of war."

— Megasthenes fragm. LVI. in Plin. Hist. Nat. VI. 21. 8–23. 11.[11]

Kalinga was annexed by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. The headquarters of the Mauryan province of Kalinga was located at Tosali. After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, the region came under the control of the Mahameghavahana family, whose king Kharavela described himself as the "supreme lord of Kalinga".[3] The Calingae were widely diffused over a large area according to Pliny and consisted of the Calingae proper, the Gangarides-Calingae(Ganges Delta) & the Macco-Calingae.Reference- Pliny, Bostock & Riley (tr.) (1855), p. 44 note 50. Kalinga came under Gupta suzerainty in the 4th century CE. After the Gupta withdrawal, it was ruled by several minor dynasties, whose rulers bore the title Kalingadhipati ("Lord of Kalinga". These included the Vasishthas, the Matharas, and the Pitrbhaktas.[12]

In the 7th century, the Shailodbhava king Madhavaraja II as well as the Eastern Ganga king Indravarman claimed the title Sakala-Kalingadhipati ("the lord of the entire Kalinga").[13]

During 8th-10th centuries, the Bhauma-Kara dynasty ruled the region, although they called their kingdom "Tosala" (derived from Tosali, the ancient capital of Kalinga).[14] The subsequent Somavamshi kings called themselves the lord of Kalinga, Kosala, and Utkala.[15]

During 11th-15th century, the Eastern Gangas became the dominant power in the region, and bore the title Kalingadhipati. Their capital was originally located at Kalinganagara (modern Mukhalingam), and was later transferred to Kataka (modern Cuttack) during the reign of Anantavarman Chodaganga in the 12th century.[16]

Kalinga is also an important part of the legendary history of Sri Lanka, as it was the birthplace of legendary Prince Vijaya according to the Mahavamsa.[17]

Medieval EraEdit

The last Eastern Ganga ruler Bhanudeva IV was dethroned by Kapilendra Deva in 1435. This event marked the foundation of the Gajapati dynasty that ruled over the regions of Utkala (North Odisha) and Kalinga (South Odisha, North Andhra Pradesh). Prataparudra Deva was the last great king of the Gajapati dynasty and soon after his death his minister Govinda Vidyadhar usurped the throne by murdering the last two Gajapati scions. The fall of the Gajapati kingdom meant the independence of their many tributary and feudal states.

Evidently, a tributary kingdom called Nandapur ruled by the Suryavansh dynasty that arrived in the region in 13th century from Kashmir.[18] The king of this little kingdom was Vishwanath Dev Gajapati who began expanding his kingdom in the southern region of Odisha and northern region of Andhra. In 1545, he sent his military commander and the chief of Kasimkota, Mukund Harichandran to conquer the northern plains of Odisha which were under control of the weak Bhoi dynasty of Govind Vidyadhar.[19]

Govind Vidyadhar signed a truce with Vishwanath Dev and was granted the status of a tributary state. Mukund Harichandran was appointed as the minister in order to seek full control over the region, however, he later assassinated the last two Bhoi heirs and declared himself as the new king of Utkala. Nevertheless, Kalinga was still ruled by the Suryavanshi kings until they were defeated and became a Vassal of the Golconda Qutb Shahi during the reign of Balaram Dev, who failed to control the vast dominion of his predecessor, Vishwanath Gajapati .[1] His successors ruled over the region as 'Maharajah of Kalinga' until the feud of Ramchandra Dev I and Balaram Dev III which marked the end of their domination over Kalinga.[20] They came to be known as Jeypore Samasthanam under the British rule until 1947.

Derived from Kalinga is the still current term Keling or Kling, used in parts of Southeast Asia to denote a person of the Indian subcontinent or Indian diaspora and at present having some derogatory and pejorative connotations, especially in Malaysia.[21][22][23]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b Dutt 2009, p. 43.
  2. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1996, p. 1.
  3. ^ a b Dineschandra Sircar 1971, p. 167.
  4. ^ Dineschandra Sircar 1971, pp. 168-171.
  5. ^ Mano Mohan Ganguly 1912, p. 11.
  6. ^ Chandramani Nayak 2004, p. 6.
  7. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1996, p. 19.
  8. ^ Dineschandra Sircar 1971, p. 168.
  9. ^ a b K. A. Nilakanta Sastri 1988, p. 18.
  10. ^ Jagna Kumar Sahu 1997, p. 24.
  11. ^ a b Megasthenes Indica Archived 21 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Snigdha Tripathy 1997, p. 219.
  13. ^ Snigdha Tripathy 1997, pp. 64-65.
  14. ^ Umakanta Subuddhi 1997, p. 32.
  15. ^ Walter Smith 1994, p. 25.
  16. ^ Dineschandra Sircar 1971, p. 169.
  17. ^ Thera Mahanama-sthavira. Mahavamsa: The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka. Jain. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-89581-906-2.
  18. ^ Mohanty 2013.
  19. ^ KBS Singh 1939, p. 26.
  20. ^ Dutt 2009, p. 44.
  21. ^ Aiman Mohamad (1991). Minerva English-Malay Malay-English Dictionary. Kuala Lumpur.
  22. ^ "KBBI - Keling". Kamus Besar bahasa Indonesia.
  23. ^ M. Veera Pandiyan (10 August 2016). "'Keling' and proud of it". The Star online.