Middle Kingdoms of India, Part 40


Ruins of Sambalpur (Humadesh), a Chauhan capital city
British Library

Jun 09, 2015 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of India's great history, religious movements and temple architecture.

The Chauhans

Among the great Vaisnava dynasties in northern India were the Chauhans of the Balangir- Patna region of Orissa. They were dedicated patrons of the Jagannath Cult. Ramaideva, the first Chauhan king constructed a temple at Patnagarh where the sibling Deities, Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra were enshrined.

The Orissan Chauhans were described in some detail in a previous Sun Feature, "Vaisnavism in Upper Mahanadi Valley":

"The great Vaisnava saint Chaitanya Das was thriving during the ruling period of the sixth Chauhan king Prataparudradeva of Bolangir - Patna line (Circa 1455-1480 A.D.). He composed two epoch-making Vaisnava texts, called Nirguna Mahatmya and Visnugarbha Purana. Another great king of the Chauhan dynasty was Vaijal Dev-I (Circa 1410-1430 A.D.) who constructed a temple for Lord Narasimha in the feline form at Narsinghnath in around 1413 A.D as known from the Proto-Oriya Narsinghnath Temple Stone Inscription.

    'Namah Sri Nrusinghaya .....Patana Nagarasthita Vatsarajadeva Rajankara Putra Vaijaladeva Manohara Putrarthe Gandhamardana Parvate Virala Narasinghanatha Svaminkara Deula Tolaila . . . . Prasastikara Agha Narasinghasya Pritaye.'

His wife Rani Durlabha Devi also constructed a temple for Lord Harishankar (Hari-Hara) at Harishankar, both places situated in the Gandhamardan mountain range on the border of the present Bargarh and Balangir districts.

During the time of the Chauhan king Narasingha Deva his younger brother Balarama Deva carved out an independent kingdom. He was the founder-king of the Chauhan rule at Sambalpur (called Humadesh). The Chauhans of Sambalpur Branch also patronised Jagannath Cult in a strong way.

Balarama Deva defeated the king of Sarguja in a battle as a result of which truce occurred and the king of Sarguja gave her daughter in marriage to Balarama Deva, the king of Sambalpur. The princess of Sarguja brought an image of Anantasayana Visnu, which was installed by Balarama Deva in a temple constructed by him. That temple is known as Anantasajja temple which is situated in the Old Fort area of Sambalpur town near the Jemadei Mahal at Kamli Bazar.

His grandson Balabhadra Deva (Reigning Period circa 1561-1591 A.D.) was a great devotee of the Holy Trinity, who constructed the oldest Jagannath temple called Brahmapura temple in Sambalpur town. The third son of king Madhukar Deva of Sambalpur, and grandson of Balabhadra Deva, Vansagopal was a great Vaisnava. He renounced the worldly comfort, established Gopalji Math in the old fort area near the Samlei temple at Sambalpur and spent his entire life worshipping Lord Gopalji as well as Radhakrishna and the Holy Trinity there.

It seems that when the Bhanja rulers of Suvarnapura shiefted their capital to the Baud region, Sonepur area was captured by a tribal chief of the Gond tribe named Dom Gond, whom prince Madan Gopal, the younger brother of Baliar Deva, the fourth Chauhan king of Sambalpur defeated in around 1650 A.D. and started Chauhan rule at Sonepur. King Baliar Dev was a great devotee of Lord Lagannath. His court poet Pandit Gangadhar Mishra composed the great Sanskrit work Kosalananda Kavyam in around 1664 A.D. where Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath at Puri has been described vividly in 17 verses. A later ruler Chhatra Sai (Reigning Period circa 1657-1695 A.D.) also built a temple for the worship of the Holy Trinity, which is called Hutapada Jagannath temple in Sambalpur town.


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