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Evolution of State in Early Medieval Orissa

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Medieval Orissa is an example of gradual integration of various regional principalities and small kingdoms into a larger structure bound together by a process of cult appropriation. In the period around 5th to 7th century CE, Orissa was divided into a large number of geographically small nuclear areas that were ruled by local chieftains. The favourable riverine landscape of the region helped in the agrarian extension especially in rice and increase in population. The region also participated in local trading. These economic factors played a considerable if not decisive role in the development of the nuclear areas. The social strata were largely fluid owing to the presence of a large number of communities that were outside the Varna fold.

For the early Gangas who occupied the region of Kalinga, the imperial Cholas under Rajadhiraja were a constant threat. It was under the rule of Vajrahastadeva III, also designated as Maharajadhiraja Trikalingadhipati that the Gangas undertook territorial expansion and created a new administrative structure for consolidation of his power through a Nayaka system. These Nayakas were powerful local leaders selected on the basis of their military capabilities and influence. They were given territories with special rights and duties. This system strengthened the military of the rulers.

Another process of a large number of brahmanical settlements through land grants was also at work. Unlike the arguments of feudal proponents who associated land grants with parcellisation of sovereignty and political power, land grants in Orissa according to SK Panda benefitted the rulers as well as the society through spread of brahmanical ideology. Gallavalli copper plate inscriptions mention that Brahmanas were invited to settle in these tribal areas. Under the reign of Anantavarman CodaGanga , the territorial ends of the empire were expanded to the Hooghly river in the north and the Godavari river in the south.


The process of conquest and expansion was marked by overthrow of weaker powers,  Bhaumakaras of Central Orissa by somavamsis of Dakshina Kosala and them by Gangas of South Kalinga and involved unification of two nuclear areas: the one of the conqueror and the one of the conquested. This was followed by intensification of political control through hierarchization and its extension to other peripheral zones. This administrative machinery was strengthened by the Nayaka system. The imperial power rings increased in size considerably where the power potential was at the capital seat of the ruler and its immediate surroundings.

The number of courtiers and officers grew as well. There are evidences of 5 ministers (pancha pradhana) comprising mantrin,purohita,senapati,yuvaraja,dauvarika which subsequently increased to 16 . The number of Patras and mahapatras (ministers) indicate hierarchy. Territorial units comprised of dandapatas (provinces) which were previously termed mandalas. They were managed by the mandalesvara, Samantas and pariksha(central administrator). The empire was divided into 5 provinces, east west,north, south and a special Kalinga Dandapata. The parikshas served as intermediaries between the Nayakas and the rulers.


Annexation of territories was followed by enlarging, shifting or re-establishing of the capital. The eastern gangas also shifted their capital from Kalinganagara in South Kalinga to Cuttack (abhinava Varanasi) in 12th century located in deltaic Orissa. Capitals were usually shifted to achieve geographic centrality in terms of location or were accompanied by successive developments of the state. The major intention behind it was penetration into a larger , potentially richer nuclear area to extend the core region.



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