Invasions of the Temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri


The impenetrable caves at the foot of the Trikut Hills at Sonepur-Gopali,
where Their Lordships hid during the Raktavahu invasion

Oct 06, 2011 — CANADA (SUN) — Adaptation of an article by Abhimanyu Dash, in two parts.

Throughout the ages, the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri has been invaded and plundered eighteen times, as recorded in the annals of history. The temple was a lucrative place of wealth for invaders to plunder. To non-Hindu invaders, the temple was a good place to display Zihad (religious war). To loot its property and profane idols were motives behind every invasion.

Owing to a series of inroads on the temple of Lord Jagannath, the Triad were exiled in various regions of Orissa. The invasion of Raktavahu on the temple of Lord Jagannath is considered to be the first one, as per the record of the Madalapanji, the temple chronicle. Andrew Stirling reproduced the description of Raktavahu's invasion from the Madalapanji in his writings in 1822. The story of Raktavahu's invasion recorded in the Madalapanji indicates that he had defeated King Subhanadeva of Orissa.

During this invasion the Deities were taken away to Gopali, a village in Sonepur, and kept underground. Prof. K.C. Panigrahi has identified Raktavahu with Govinda-III, the Rastrakuta King of Deccan, and Subhanadeva with Subhakaradeva-I of Bhaumakara dynasty. As evidence, Prof. Panigrahi has taken the help of the Hindol plate of Subhakaradeva-III of 839 AD, and Sanjan plates of Amoghavarsha. It is stated in the Sanjan plates of Amoghavarsha that the Rastrakuta king Govinda-III (AD 798-814) conquered Kosala, Kalinga, Vanga, Dahala and Odraka. Under Govinda-III the Rastrakutas became invincible everywhere and there is therefore no doubt that they invaded Odraka (Orissa).

Based on the Hindol plate of Subhakaradeva-III, Prof. Panigrahi states that the Rastrakuta King's invasion of Orissa took place during the reign of Subhakaradeva-I. Govinda-III, alias Raktavahu, approached Puri with his army from the sea. The King of Orissa fled from the city with the Deities of Lord Jagannath and His Associates lodged in a cart. Their Lordships reached the Western frontier of Sonepur and were buried at a place known as Gopali. After 146 years Yayati-I, the Somavamsi king, got the Deities dug out, made new Deities, built a new temple at Puri, and enshrined them there. Gopali, a village with a shrine of Jagannath, still exists at a distance of 16 miles from Sonepur. [1]

Yayati-I, after bringing back the Triad, performed navakalebara of the Deities at Puri because of the degraded conditions, with the help of servitors. The citadel of the Lords was fixed in the temple, measuring 38 Hatas (cubits; at present the temple of Lord Nrusingh) beside the Mukti Mandap in the precinct of Sri Jagannath Temple. That is why king Yayati is regarded as the ‘Second Indradyumna' in the annals of history, owing to this restoration. [2]

Lord Jagannath Deities today at Gopali, Sonepur

During the period of invasion of Raktabahu, the Deities were worshipped at Gopali in Sonepur. At present the place is at Chhalia mountain in Kotsamali. The Deities returned to Shrikshetra during 814 A.D. and 819 A.D. [3]

The second invasion on the temple of Lord Jagannath was waged by Illias Shah, the Sultan of Bengal in 1340 A.D. during the reign of Narasinghadeva-III. His defence system in the northern frontier of his empire was very weak. The military organization of the Fort of Raibania in north Balasore was not strong. The commandants of the fort were bribed by Illias Shah.

Narasinghadeva III felt insecure and kept his queens in the Giridurga near Simachalam. He prepared militarily to defend his empire of Utkal. In spite of his military arrangement to safeguard his empire, Illias Shah suddenly attacked the temple of Jagannath in 1340 A.D. He made havoc among the religious minded people of Puri. The people ran in panic to save their lives. The soldiers of lllias Shah killed the people mercilessly and looted the wealth of the temple. Narasinghadeva III was unable to protect his people and the temple, although he successfully hid the triad Deities in an unknown place, and no harm was done to Them.

During the reign of the Ganga King Bhanudeva III, the third invasion took place in 1360 A.D. by Feroz Shah Tughluq, the Muslim ruler of Delhi. At the time of invasion Bhanudeva III was not in his capital. When he got the news of invasion, he returned to Puri with his army and found no Feroz Shah Tughluq. Feroz went back Delhi via Jajnagar (Jajpur). Nothing is known about his desecration of the Triad and plunder of the temple. But scholars believe that he had thrown the Deities into the Mahodadhi (Bay of Bengal). This view is not supported by historical evidence.

The fourth invasion was launched by Ismail Ghazi, the commander of Allauddin Hussain Shah, the Sultan of Bengal in the year 1509 A.D. The Suryavamsi King Prataprudradeva was the ruler of Orissa, and he was in the South at the time of invasion. The priests of the temple sailed the Triad to the forthills of the Chadheiguha Pahada in the Chilika Lake. On being informed, King Prataprudradeva rushed back from Deccan and drove away Ismail to the point at Huguli in the Bengal. [4]

The fifth invasion was launched by Muslim invader Kalapahara in the year 1568 A.D., during the reign of Mukundadeva Harichandan, the Chalukya King of Orissa. Kalapahara was one of the army assistants of Sulaiman Karrani, the Afghan Sultan of Bengal. In this expedition Bayazid, the son of Karrani was the commander of the Bengal army. He was assisted by Sikandar Uzbeg and Kalapahara. The reasons for Karrani's attack on the temple of Lord Jagannath was Mukundadeva's entanglement in the political diplomacy which created much bad blood between the two. Firstly, Mukundadeva gave political shelter to Ibrahim Sur, who was a great enemy of Sulaiman Karrani. Secondly, Mukundadeva committed another offence by exchanging envoys with the great Mughal emperor Akbar. In 1566 A.D., Akbar sent envoys to the court of Mukundadeva and Mukundadeva in exchange sent a Hindu ambassador named Paramananda Ray to the Court of the Mughal emperor. [5] Akbar was a great enemy of Sulaiman Karrani. These two offences committed by Mukundadeva incurred great displeasure in the mind of Sulaiman Karrani, which paved the way for his Orissan invasion.

Kalapahara, the Assistant Army General of Sulaiman Karrani led the expedition against Mukundadeva of Orissa in 1568 A.D. On the contrary, Mukundadeva sent Raghubhanja Chhotaraya to resist the army of Kalapahara,but failed. Raghubhanja proved a traitor, and Kalapahara occupied Cuttack. So Mukundadeva surrendered before the Muslim army of Bengal. In the meantime, Ramachandra Bhanja, the commandant of Sarangagarh Fort (Baranga) rebelled against Mukundadeva. The latter was killed at Gohiratikara (near Jajpur) because of the two traitors Sikhi and Manai, who were the generals of the King of Orissa. Ramachandra Bhanja was also killed by the invader.

Ramachandra Bhanja, who declared himself the King of Orissa, finally proved himself as a traitor behind the assassination of Mukundadeva, the last Hindu king of Orissa. In the Madalapanji, this traitor has sometimes been described as Ramachandra Bhanja and sometimes as Ramachandradeva. The latter name seems to be more correct. [6]

After occupation of the forts of Cuttack and Sarangagarh, Kalapahara successfully led his army to Puri to demolish the temple of Jagannath. The servitors of the temple got information of the fall of Katak (Cuttack) to the hands of the Muslims. They hid the triad, Lord Jagannath, Baladev and Subhadra in an island inside the Chilika Lake, as stated in the Madalapanji. The Deities were hidden underground at Hastipatna in Parikuda, identified with Chhapali, Khepali and Hatipada. Kalapahara could easily know about the secrecy of the hidden Deities. He carried the triad from Chilika Lake to the bank of the river Ganges on an elephant, where he burnt them. Bisher Mohanty, a Vaishnavite saint, followed Kalapahara and managed to bring back the ‘Brahmas' to Kujanga Gada, keeping Them inside a mridanga. Later on the ‘Brahmas' were brought to the Gopal Temple of Khurda Gada in 1575 A.D. by King Ramachandradeva. Subsequently the ‘Brahmas' were placed in the Deities. The Deities were brought back to the temple of Jagannath from Khurdagada.

It is stated in the same chronicle that Kalapahara destroyed the great temple of Jagannath up to the Amalakasila, and defaced the Deities. It is difficult to ascertain the truth of the statement, but to us it seems that the temple was not pulled down or razed to the ground, though the Deities were damaged and disfigured as much as possible. There is no archaeological evidence to show that the temple was rebuilt at any time. The original temple as built by Chodaganga has come down to us, though the carvings on the outer faces of the temple have been damaged or disfigured. [7]

A tradition in Bengal avers that Kalapahara was earlier a Brahmin by caste. His name was Raju, alias Kalachand. He fell in love with Dulari, the daughter of the Sultan of Bengal and married her, but he wanted to retain his religion. The Hindu society refused to accept him. He came to the temple of Jagannath at Puri for expiation, but the priests rebuffed him. This made him reactionary and revengeful. He took a vow to exterminate Hindu religion, deities and temples. This theory is only traditional, and does not have any historical authenticity. Kalapahara was an Afghan; Kalapahara was a title used by many Afghans. A nephew of Bahalul Lodi bore this name. Prof. P. Mukherjee observes that "The Muslim chronicles conclusively prove that Kalapahara was a full blooded Afghan and not a Brahmin renegade." [8]

Sulaiman Karrani died in 1572 A.D. followed by several invasions and plunders on the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri by his successive rulers, namely Bayazid, Daud, Kuya Khan and Kutlu Khan Lohani, who ruled over Orissa one after another.

After them the sixth invasion was jointly waged on the temple of Jagannath in 1592 A.D. by Suleman, the son of Kuthu Khan and Osman, the son of Isha (ruler of Orissa). They havocked people at Puri and killed them mercilessly. They desecrated the images of the great temple and plundered its wealth. By such action, the invaders violated the treaty earlier signed between Isha and Raja Mansingh in 1590 A.D. Mansingh the Mughal general finally suppressed the militant activities of these two Muslim invaders in 1592 A.D.

During this time Ramachandradeva, the Bhoi dynasty ruler of Khurda, took the leadership of feudatory rulers of Orissa, who joined their hands against the Mughal rule. During the reign of Purushottamadeva of Bhoi dynasty, Mirza Khurum, the commander of Islam Khan, the Nawab of Bengal invaded Puri in 1601 A.D., which is considered to be the 7th attack on the temple of Lord Jagannath. The servitors of the temple could smell of it and shifted the triad Deities to village Kapileswarpur near Puri in vessels, on the River Bhargavee. The Deities were kept in the Panchamukhi Gosani Temple at Kapileswarpur. Dola festival was celebrated in that temple. Thereafter the Deities were shifted to Dobandha — Pentha where Their Lordships passed eight months with shital bhoga offerings. As per the description of the Madalapanji, Mirza Khurum invaded Puri temple during the time of Dola Yatra. He found no Deities in the temple and so looted the underground treasury.

Hasim Khan, the Subedar of Orissa waged the eighth invasion on the great temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri. This time Purushottam Deva was also the King of Khurda. He shifted the deities to the Gopal temple at Khurda before Hasim's arrival at Puri. In order to satiate his master Jahangir, the then Mughal emperor, Hasim Khan plundered the temple of Jagannath at Puri. The Deities were returned to the temple at Puri Dham by the King in 1608 A.D.

The ninth invasion on the temple of Jagannath was launched by a Hindu Rajput, Jagirdar Kesodasmaru in 1610 A.D. Kesodasmaru was serving under Hasim Khan. He was a friend of Jahangir. He came to Puri in disguise of a pilgrim accompanied by his faithful soldiers, without military uniform during the celebration of the car festival. They entered into the Jagannath Temple and occupied it, converting the temple into a fort. At that time the Triad were in the Gundicha Temple. Kesodasmaru plundered crores of treasury of the Temple of Jagannath.

Unfortunately, the king of Khurda Purusottamdeva was absent at Puri as chherapahanra (sweeping the chariots) was performed by Mudirath on behalf of the king. The king immediately rushed to Puri with his Paik soldiers, chariots, cavalry forces, elephant forces, arms and ammunitions to punish Kesodasmaru. The Paik soldiers jumped into the premises of the temple with the help of chariots, through the four gates. They fought against the Rajput soldiers who were looting the wealth of the temple. Kesodasmaru ordered his soldiers to counter attack the Paik army. The Rajput soldiers decided to bind up clothes tightly with bamboos and used oils to ignite the clothes, which turned into fireballs, and threw them against the chariots to burn. The chariots very quickly caught fire and burnt to ashes. So many Paiks died.

The King was unable to face the invaders, who looted the wealth of the temple, then went away. During the course of attack, the Deities remained in the Gundicha Temple for eight months. They were brought back to the Temple of Jagannath by the help of Vimana.


1. K.C. Panigrahi, "The Bhaumakaras", in History of Orissa, Cuttack 1995, pp. 78-79
2. Rabindranath Pratihari, "Exile", in Cultural Heritage of Odisha, Puri Dist.(ed) G.Mohanty (et al), Vol. XII, part-III, Bhubaneswar, 2010, P-188
3. Ibid, p. 199
4. Ibid, p. 189
5. K.C. Panigrahi, "The Chalukyas", History of Orissa, Cuttack, 1995, p. 242
6. Ibid, p. 243
7. lbid, p. 244
8. Ibid, p. 245
Source: 'Orissa Review'


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