The Somavamshis of Odisha


Introduction – This dynasty is known from many copper-plate grants and lithic records which are distributed across the present Odisha state. They claim their descent from moon hence called themselves Somakula or Somavamshi (lunar dynasty). Majority of their kings claimed ruling over Kosala and Trikalinga region. This Kosala would have been Dakshina-Kosala region, we will discuss about Trikalinga later in detail.

Origin – J F Fleet edited six records of this dynasty in Epigraphia Indica vol III where he points out errors made by the earlier scholars (Babu Rangalala Banerjea, Babu Pratapachandra Ghosha and Dr Rajendralala Mitra) where almost everyone agreed upon the theory that these kings belong to the Kesari dynasty of Orissa (Odisha) who were initially acting as a feudatory under the Guptas. The main reason behind this theory was the distinction made between the informal and formal names mentioned in their grants.

The early scholars mention that the names ending with ‘Gupta’, like Bhavagupta and Shivagupta, suggest that the individual belongs to the Imperial or Later Gupta line and the names like Janamejaya, Yayati and Bhimaratha, mentioned in these grants are the kings of the Kesari dynasty of Orissa (Odisha).

Kesari dynasty is known from Madala-Panji, the historical annals of Jagannatha Temple at Puri, which states that the dynasty was founded by Yayati-kesari. Madala-Panji details about the rulers of Odisha since 3101 BCE (the start of the Kaliyuga) to the advent of the British. Yayati-kesari is supposed to have reigned from 473 to 520 CE. Fleet does not agree with these identifications. He first rejects the acceptance of Madala-Panji as a historical record giving certain instances where the statements contradict each others. Then he suggests that the names like Janamejaya, Yayati etc are just informal names of the same kings whose formal names, Shivagupta, Bhavagupta etc are mentioned in later lines of the grants. All later scholars agree with Fleet’s theory.

Mahashivagupta I is the first known king of this dynasty as evident from the epigraphs. None of his epigraph has been discovered hence he is known from the records of his descendents. There is an earlier king of the same name, Mahashivagupta-Balarjuna, of the Panduvamshis of Kosala dynasty. As the Panduvamshis of Kosala and Somavamshis ruled over adjacent areas hence there is a possibility of some connection between these two dynasties.

Alexander Cunningham suggests that Shivagupta-Balarjuna, then last known ruler of the Panduvamshis of Kosala, could be same as Shivagupta, the father of Mahabhavagupta, of the Somavamshi epigraphs. He assigns 425 CE to Shivagupta-Balarjuna, hence Mahabhavagupta was assigned to 450 CE. However F Keilhorn and J F Fleet did not agree with this identification as they object to the period assigned by Cunningham and the period of the Somavamshi epigraphs based upon paleographic studies does not match.

Keilhorn suggest that the epigraphs of the Panduvamshis of Kosala could not be placed earlier than 700 CE. Fleet did a detailed analysis of the Somavamshi records on paleographic grounds and stated that these records cannot be dated prior to 900 CE. In such a situation, there is gap of two centuries in between these two dynasties. D C Sircar also does not agree with the identification of the first Somavamshi king with Shivagupta-Balarjuna.

B C Mazumdar, however, goes with Cunningham for the connection specified by him but does not agree with his period assignment. He tells that the rejection of Cunningham’s theory by Fleet is solely based upon paleographic differences. But these differences may be there due to change in location or scribes. The scribes used by the Somavamshi kings were the local Kayasthas of Bengal who would have used different alphabets than those of the Panduvamshi records.

D R Bhandarkar argues that the Panduvamshis of Kosala claim their lineage from the Pandavas however no ruler of the Somavamshi family did the same. A M Shastri, however, points that this Pandava claim is not mentioned in any of the Panduvamshi record after Mahashiva Tivara hence it is very probable that all the later rulers stopped mentioning about this particular statement. Hence Somavamshi, who came after the Panduvamshi of Kosala also did not mention about the Pandava lineage.

Another evidence of this connection between the Panduvamsis and the Somavamshis comes from the usage of prefix ‘mahat’ with the names of their rulers. Another evidence is the practice of informal names in both the dynasties. Tivara and Balarjuna were the informal names of the Panduvamshi rulers Mahashiva and Mahashivagupta, similarly we find informal names like Janamejaya, Yayati, Bhimaratha etc in the Somavamshi records. Last, but not the least, both the dynasties have strong presence in Kosala region hence there could have been some connection between these two.



Somavamshi Genealogy



Kingdom Limits – Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya is referred as Kosalendra, the lord of Kosala. However all the later rulers were referred as Trikalingadhipati, the lord of Trikalinga. Though the later rulers were not referred as the lord of Kosala, but they had strong influence over that region as many villages mentioned in the various grants were located in Kosaladesa. Kelga grant mentions that Abhimanyu, an ancestor of Someshvara, received the Kosala kingdom as a favor from Uddyotakesari of the Somavamshi dynasty. This proves that though the later rulers were not explicitly mentioned as the lord of Kosala however they exercised a strong rule over that region.

There are two opinions about the territories denoted by Trikalinga. Either it is consisted of a single territory known with the same name or it is constituted of the three regions known as Kalinga. Alexander Cunningham tells that Trikalinga is actually a territory comprising of the three Kalingas, Amravati in Andhra, Warangal in Andhra and Kalinga in Odisha. In this manner he suggests that the name denotes the territorial division of Telingana which may be a corrupt form of Tri-Kalinga. F Keilhorn agrees with this identification of Cunningham.

J F Fleet, while editing the plates of this dynasty in Epigraphia Indica vol III, took the word ‘vijaya-kataka’ as a reference to Katak (modern Cuttack) in Odisha. Hence he indetifies Trikalinga region to be comprised of Cuttack and a major part of present Odisha. However his identification of ‘vijaya-kataka’ with Katak is not correct. G M Laskar suggests that Trikalinga includes Kosala and Kalinga region. B C Mazumdar and Binayak Misra identify Trikalinga with Kalinga, Utkala and Kongoda regions. R G Basak identifies it with Kalinga, Kongodu and Odra (Udra).

R D Banerji divides the ancient Kalinga region, from Godavari to the Ganges delta, into three parts, Kalinga, Tosala and Utkala. R S Rao also does the same however he gives names, Utkala to north Kalinga region, Kalinga to the middle part and Tel-Kalinga to the southern part of the ancient Kalinga region. Thinking on the same lines, D C Ganguly proposes old Godavari, Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh and Ganjam district of Odisha as Trikalinga region.

D C Sircar and V V Mirashi suggest that Trikalinga denotes a separate region different from Kalinga, Kosala, Utkala and Kongodu. However they did not give any territory to identify this region, though D C Sircar proposes that Trikalinga was probably situated in between Dakshina-Kosala and Kalinga regions.

H K Mahatab suggests that the entire western Odisha was probably the ancient Trikalinga region. He explains that the entire region between the Rishikulya river and the Lanhulya river with Zemindary of Jeypore in Koraput and the districts of Bastar, Bolangirpatna, Kalahandi, Sambalpur and Sonepur constitute the Trikalinga country.

A M Shastri tells that Kalinga was never mentioned to have three divisions or comprising of three different regions, all named Kalinga, in the early Indian literature and epigraphs. He further points that Odra (old Odisha) and Utkala had nothing to do with Trikalinga as these regions were mentioned individually in various Somavamshi records. Jatesinga-Dungri grant mentions Kalinga, Kongoda and Utkala side by side thus suggesting that Trikalinga was not comprising of these three regions as suggested by Mazumdar.

Shastri mentions that there are strong evidences that though Kalinga was referred as a single territory before the first century CE however sometime in between the first and the sixth century CE, the region of Kalinga was divided into three parts which collectively came to be known as Trikalinga. Trikalinga found mention in few Ganga records, Chalukyan records and the records of the Kalchuris of Tripuri.

Jirjingi plates of the Ganga king Indravarman, Epigraphia Indica Vol XXV, mentions the king as Trikalingadhipati (the lord of Trikalinga). R K Ghoshal, who edited this grant, puts the record in between 475 and 550 CE. As the early Ganga rulers were ruling from Kalinganagara or Mukhalingam hence Mukhalingam in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh was a part of Trikalinga region. Few Chalukyan grants claim that Trikalinga was a part of their dominion as evident from the Masulipatam plates of Amma I, Kolavaram plates of Bhima II.

Shastri tries to identify the three Kalinga regions using rivers and mountains as the natural boundaries. He explains that the Eastern Ghat divides Kalinga into western and eastern parts, Mahanadi forms the northern boundary and Godavari forms the southern boundary, Indravati divides the western Kalinga into north and south Kalinga. With these boundaries he proposes that South Kalinga, Indravati on the west and northwest, Godavari at the south and Eastern Ghat on the east, is comprised of portions of Koraput, Bastar and Srikakulam. North Kalinga, Mahanadi on the north and west, Eastern Ghat on the east and south, is comprised of the portions of northern Koraput and south-eastern Kalahandi. East Kalinga, Eastern Ghat on the west, Mahanadi on the north and Godavari on the south, is comprised of eastern Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam and Ganjam.

Capital – Grants of the Somavamshi kings were issued from various towns and victorious camps. However it appears that Suvarnapura, Vinitapura and Yayatinagara were the main towns or capitals at different times during their rule. The earliest grant of the dynasty, issued by Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya, was issued from Suvarnapura which is identified with present Sonepur in Odisha. It appears that Janamejaya was busy in extending his kingdom as majority of his other grants were issued from various victorious camps however his last grant, Kalibhana plates of 34th regnal year, was again issued from Suvarnapura.

A change in capital is observed during the rule of Mahashivagupta I Yayati I who started issuing his grants from Vinitapura, identified with modern Binika in Odisha. He continued issuing his grants from Vinitapura except his last grant which was issued from Yayatinagara. Identification of Yayatinagara is not satisfactorily done as there are divergent opinions among scholars. The name Yayatinagara is found in the epigraphs of the Somavamshi kings, but there is a mention of Abhinav-Yayatinagara is found in Madala-Panji.

D C Sircar identifies Abhinav-Yayatinagara with modern Jajpur. However J F Fleet does not agree with this identification as the epigraphs mention that Yayatinagara was situated at the bank of Mahanadi and Jajpur is about 70 km from the river. Hira Lal suggests that Yayatinagara is just another name of Vinitapura renamed by Yayati I. Walter Smith and A M Shastri agree with Hira Lal’s opinion. Shastri mentions that both the town were defined in the same manner and lines in the Somavamshi grants that it appears that these were two names of the same town. Also both the towns were mentioned to be situated at the bank of Mahanadi.

The official website of Boudh district mentions the village Jagti, renamed as Narayan Nagar by Raja Narayan Dev in 1940s, as the ancient Yayatinagara. An another identification is done with Jaktinagar on the Mahanadi river.

All the later rulers keeps oscillating between Suvarnapura and Yayatinagara for issuing their grants. Hence it appears that both the cities acted as their capitals. As none of the later ruler issued their grants from both the cities hence it is clear that they probably lost a portion of their kingdom in between which made this frequent shifting of their capitals.

Epigraphs – Following epigraphs of the Somavamshi dynasty are considered in this study.

Epigraph Reference Language Script Date Reign Issued From
Vakratentali Plates of Mahabhavagupta I Epigraphia Indica Vol XI (under Three Copper-plate records from Sonpur) Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 3rd regnal year Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya Suvarnapura
Patna Plates of Mahabhavagupta I Epigraphia Indica Vol III (under Records of Somavamsi kings of Katak) Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 6th regnal year Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya Murasima
Patna Plates of Mahabhavagupta I Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 6th regnal year Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya Murasima
Kalibhana Plates of Mahabhavagupta I Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 6th regnal year Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya Murasima
Satalma Plates of Mahabhavagupta I Epigraphia Indica Vol VIII Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 8th regnal year Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya Murasima
Sonpur Plates of Mahabhavagupta I Epigraphia Indica Vol XXIII Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 17th regnal year Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya Arama
Gaintala Plates of Mahabhavagupta I Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 17th regnal year Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya Arama
Chaudwar Plates of Mahabhavagupta I Epigraphia Indica Vol III (under Records of Somavamsi kings of Katak) Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 31st regnal year Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya Arama
Kalibhana Plates of Mahabhavagupta I Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 34th regnal year Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya Suvarnapura
Orissa State Museum Plates of Mahashivagupta I Epigraphia Indica Vol XXXVIII Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 4th regnal year Mahashivagupta I Yayati Vinitapura
Patna Plates of Mahashivagupta I Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 8th regnal year Mahashivagupta I Yayati Vinitapura
Cuttack Plates of Mahashivagupta I Epigraphia Indica Vol III (under Records of Somavamsi kings of Katak) Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 9th regnal year Mahashivagupta I Yayati Vinitapura
Nibinna Plates of Mahashivagupta I Epigraphia Indica Vol XI (under Three Copper-plate records from Sonpur) Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 15th regnal year Mahashivagupta I Yayati Vinitapura
Patna Plates of Mahashivagupta I Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 24th regnal year Mahashivagupta I Yayati Yayatinagara
Patna Plates of Mahashivagupta I Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 28th regnal year Mahashivagupta I Yayati Yayatinagara
Cuttack Plates of Mahabhavagupta II Epigraphia Indica Vol III (under Records of Somavamsi kings of Katak) Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 3rd regnal year Mahabhavagupta II Bhimaratha Yayatinagara
Kudopali Plates of Mahabhavagupta II Epigraphia Indica Vol IV Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 13th regnal year Mahabhavagupta II Bhimaratha Yayatinagara
Mahulpara Plates of Mahashivagupta II Epigraphia Indica Vol XXXVII Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 11th regnal year Mahashivagupta II Dharmaratha Yayatinagara
Jatesinga-Dungri Plates of Mahashivagupta III Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 3rd regnal year Mahashivagupta III Yayati Suvarnapura
Balijhari Plates of Mahabhavagupta IV Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 4th regnal year Mahabhavagupta IV Uddyotakesarin Yayatinagara
Lalatendukesarin’s Cave Inscription of Mahabhavagupta IV Epigraphia Indica Vol XIII (under Inscriptions in Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves) Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 5th regnal year Mahabhavagupta IV Uddyotakesarin
Mahakosala Historical Soceity’s  Plates of Mahabhavagupta IV Epigraphia Indica Vol XXII Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 11th regnal year Mahabhavagupta IV Uddyotakesarin Kisarakella
Navamuni Cave Inscription of Mahabhavagupta IV Epigraphia Indica Vol XIII (under Inscriptions in Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves) Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 18th regnal year Mahabhavagupta IV Uddyotakesarin
Brahmeshvara Temple Inscription of Mahabhavagupta IV Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 18th regnal year Mahabhavagupta IV Uddyotakesarin
Ratnagiri Plates of Mahashivagupta V Epigraphia Indica Vol XXXIII Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 6th  regnal year Mahashivagupta V Karna Yayatinagara
Kelga Plates of Somesvaradeva Epigraphia Indica Vol XII (as Sonpur Plates of Kumara Somesvaradeva) Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 1st regnal year Somesshavardeva Suvarnapura
Banpur Plates of Indraratha Inscriptions of the Sarabhapuriyas, Panduvamsins and Somavamsins Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets 6th regnal year Indraratha Yayatinagara
Gandhibedha Surya Image inscription of Mahashivagupta V Epigraphia Indica Vol XXXIII Sanskrit Northern class of Alphabets Mahashivagupta V Karna


Chronology – All the known records of this dynasty are dated in their regnal years instead of using any of the known era. Hence we have to depend on other evidences while studying their chronology.  Andrew Stirling and W W Hunter tried to established their chronology on the basis of Madala-Panji however the unhistorical character of Madala-Panji ruled out their chronology. J F Fleet , on paleographic studies, suggests that their records cannot be placed prior to 900 CE and he proposes to place their kings somewhere between 1000 and 1100 CE. F Kielhorn, while editing Kudopali grant, mentions that the grant cannot be placed before the first half of the twelfth century CE.

However any study solely done on paleographic evidences is not very dependable. Hence we should try to study various contemporary connection of the Somavamshi rulers with the other rulers of India and try to find some dated record of these other rulers which can help us in establishing a chronology on firm grounds.

Baud plates of Tribhuvanamahadevi of Bhauma-Kara dynasty mentions her to be the daughter of Svabhavatunga, the king of Kosala, and Nrttamahadevi. Svabhavatunga is referred to be born in Somakula (Lunar race). The plates are dated in year 158 of the Bhauma-Kara era, S C De who edited this grant in Epigraphia Indica Vol XXIX dated it to ninth century CE on the paleographic grounds while D C Sircar assigns it to 988 CE mentioning that the Bhauma-Kara era started in 831 CE as fixed by S R Nema.

D C Sircar identifies Svabhavatunga with Mahashivagupta I Yayati I as a mention of Svabhavatunga was found in the Patna grant of Yayati I. He further mentions that Yayati donated villages in the Bhauma-Kara dominion which suggests that he probably installed her daughter on the Bhauma-Kara throne and donated village to commemorate the occasion. If this is accepted then the eighth or ninth regnal year of  Yayati I and year 158 of the Bhauma-Kara era are not far removed from each other.

A M Shastri tells that Indraratha was the same king who was defeated by a general of the Chola king Rajendra I in about 1022 CE. If we accept the identification of D C Sircar then Yayati would have been ruling till 1015 CE. As we have the latest regnal years of the successors of Yayati I, this results that in 1022 CE, it would have been Bhimaratha ruling over Trikalinga but not Indraratha. He then points to another dating done by S N Rajaguru, on the basis of the astronomical details available from the Daspalla grant of Bhanja chief Satrubhanja, which suggests that the Bhauma-Kara era started in 736 CE but not in 831 CE which is seconded by Umakanta Subuddhi. In this case, year 158 of the Bhauma-Kara era will be 894 CE which falls in inline with the Chola invasion evidence.

Shastri further mentions that the identification of Svabhavatunga with Yayati I is an underestimation of the latter. Yayati I was the lord of Kosala and Utkala or better say Trikalinga, and it is not inappropriate on the part of his daughter who only mentions him as the lord of Kosala thus reducing his political status. He identifies Svabhavatunga with the Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya which is also the opinion of S N Rajaguru and K C Panigrahi. Shastri tells that Brahmeshvara temple inscription clear mentions that Janamejaya killed a king of Odra. As no other Somavamshi ruler was involved with Odra politics hence it would be Janamejaya only who would have killed the Bhauma-Kara king and installed his daughter on the throne.

Bhauma-Kara records also have contradicting information, as the Baud grant (Epigraphia Indica vol XXIX) states that Tribhuvanamahadevi ascended the throne as her husband, Kusumhara II, and his brother,Lalitahara II alias Shivakara III, died without any issue while Dandimahadevi grant (Epigraphia India vol VI) mentions that Shivakara III had two sons who succeeded the throne one after the other. It appears that a civil war broke after the death of Kusumhara II which provided an opportunity to Janamejaya to make her daughter ascending the throne. Shivakara III probably contested against Janamejaya for the cause of his two sons, however he died in the hands of Janamejaya.

The last ruler of the Somavamshi family, Mahashivagupta V Karna, was ousted by the Ganga king Anantavarman (1078-1147 CE) as per Madala-Panji. However the name of the king in Madala-Panji is Suvarnagupta not Karna. Ramacharita of Sandhyakaranandin mentions that the Pala king Ramapala (1077-1120 CE) did a favor to the Utkala king who belongs to the Somakula. A commentary on the same work mentions the Utkala king as Karnakesari which probably is the same as Karna of our study. It appears that Anantavarman annexed lower Odisha between 1112 and 1115 CE as evident from his inscriptions on Lingaraja Temple at Bhubaneswar and Markandesvara Temple at Puri.

Shivagupta (855-880 CE) – Shivagupta is the first known ruler of this dynasty however none of his epigraph has been found hence he is known from the records of his son and successor. Sircar mentions that probably the later rulers did not consider him to be the founder of the dynasty. However he is referred with all imperial titles like ‘paramabhattaraka’, ‘maharajadhiraja’, ‘parmeshvara’ etc which suggests that he ruled as an independent sovereign.

Few scholars have tried to identify him with Shivagupta Balarjuna, the last but second ruler of the Panduvamshi of Kosala family. However D C Sircar states that such an identification is cannot be definitely determined in the present state of insufficient information. A M Shastri proposes that this identification can be accepted then probably Balarjuna was forced to move eastward due to pressure from the Bana chiefs who were ruling from Pali. However he also believes that nothing can be said with certainty. Sircar suggests that if we believe that the Somavamshi kings were ruling over Chhattisgarh region then it would have been the Kalchuri chief Mugdhatunga who forced them to move eastward leaving their parent land.

Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya (880-920 CE) – Janamejaya is known from his thirteen records as the son and the successor of Shivagupta. He is styled as Kosalendra and Trikalingadhipati along with other regular imperial titles. His records were issued from various victorious camps which suggests that he worked hard in extending his territories. It appears that after assuming the rule of Trikalinga, Janamejaya gave the Kosala region of his minister named Sadharana.

He has been identified with Svabhavatunga of the Baud plates of Tribhuvanamahadevi by Umakanta Subuddhi, K C Panigrahi and S N Rajguru. J P Singh Deo points to Sirpur stone inscription of Shivagupta Balarjuna (Epigraphia Indica Vol XI) where Harshagupta has been eulogized as Svabhavagupta. Though the word ‘svabhavatunga’ appears in the inscription in verse 8 however Hira Lal who edited this inscription does not try to link it with the Somavamshi king. I am not very sure if the reading of svabhavatunga can be taken as an alias for Harshagupta.

Deo himself seems confused over this identification as he points to the chronological difficulties as Harshagupta and Tribhuvanamahadevi are about three centuries away. D C Sircar, however, identifies Svabhavatunga with Mahashivagupta I Yayati. If we accept that Svabhavatunga is same as Janamejaya then he becomes the father-in-law of the Bhauma-Kara king Subhakaradeva IV as his daughter Tribhuvanamahadevi was married to the latter. In these circumstances, the statement in Brahmeshvara temple inscription that Janamejaya killed an Odra king with his spear would imply that his enemy was a Bhanja king as suggested by N K Sahu.

Janamejaya was involved with the Kalchuris of Tripuri as the Patna plates of Yayati I mentions that Svabhavatunga acquired the goddess of wealth by defeating the Chaids. The Chedi king tied jata on his head like an ascetic and entered into the jungle in fear of the Somavamshi king. He further killed the Chedi general Bhatta-pedi, and recovered all the women which he was carrying away. Later his son attacked the Kalchuri king, Durgaraja, and burnt and depopulated Dahala region. This Durgaraja is not known from any of the Kalchuri record.

Sircar and Mirashi suggest that his contemporary Kalchuri chief would be Lakshmanaraja II (945-970 CE) who claimed to have defeated the lord of Kosala. However it cannot be Lakshmanaraja as he was not his contemporary as per our accepted dating of the Somavamshi kings.

Two of his feudatories are mentioned in epigraphs, one Mugdhagondaladeva of Rashtrakuta dynasty ruling over a region around river Tel and another one is Devapya ruling over Kolleda-mandala along the Mahanadi river. Both these feudatories are referred as maharajadhiraja. As the last known record of Janamejaya is dated in his thirty-fourth regnal year, so he can be assigned a rule of thirty-five or forty years, taking latter count thus agreeing with Shastri.

Mahashivagupta I Yayati I (920-955 CE) – Mahashivagupta I succeeded his father, Mahabhavagupta I on the Somavamshi throne. He is known from his many records which were issued from Vinitapura except the last two grants. These last two records, dated in his twenty-fourth and twenty-eighth regnal year were issued from Yayatipura. Vinitapura is identified with present Binika and Yayatipura is identified with Jajpur by D C Sircar however the latter’s identification is contested by J F Fleet.

Fleet mentions that Yayatinagara was situated at the bank of Mahanadi but Jajpur is very far from thsi river. Hira Lal suggests that Yayatinagara is just another name of Vinitapura. It appears that Yayati I shifted his capital from Suvarnapura to Vinitapura as the kingdom was getting expanded on its southern boundaries. Later he rechristened it with Yayatinagara.

Yayati I kept a hostile relationship with the Kalchuris of Tripuri as it is mentioned in his Patna grant that he vanquished a Chedi chief Durgaraja and devastated Dahala region. As Durgaraja is unknown from any Kalchuri grant, hence it could be an alias of some Kalchuri king. Shastri suggests that it could be Yuvarajadeva I (915-945 CE).

Viddhasalabhanjika of Rajasekhara described Yuvarajadeva I alias Keyuravarsa as Trilingadhipati. Shastri suggests that Trilingadhipati is an incorrect reading of Trikalingadhipati as later Kalchuri rulers bore this title but no Kalchuri ruler was ever known as Trilingadhipati in epigraphs. This suggests that Yuvarajadeva I attacked over Trikalinga and probably took some portion of this region which made Yayati I to shift his capital. However the latter managed to save his pride by rescuing the women taken away by the Kalchuri general.

Yayati successfully annexed the Bhauma-Kara kingdom as many villages mentioned in his grants are located in Odra region. As his sister, Tribhuvanamahadevi, was ruling over Bhauma-Kara kingdom, so probably after her death, Yayati I won over a major part of the Odra country. However he was able to conquer the whole Odra country in his later years, driving Bhanjas southward towards Ganjam. It is mentioned that Yayati I killed a certain Ajapala in a battle however identification of this Ajapala is very difficult.

At some point of time, kingdom of Yayati I was divided into two rashtras as mentioned in the Balijhari grant. These two regions were Kosala and Odra who had separate ministers for peace and war. Datta family of ministers was taking care of Kosala as mentioned in the Patna grant of Yayati I while Chicchatesvara was holding the same office for Odra as evident from Orissa State Museum grant. Yayati I was the greatest ruler of this dynasty who expanded his kingdom getting whole Odisha under him by driving Bhanjas out and taking over the Bhauma-Kara kingdom.

Mahashivagupta I Yayati is also identified to be the legendary Yayati Kesari of the Madala-Panji. The chronicle mentions that the re-establishment of the Jagannatha temple at Puri was done by Yayati. Hermann Kulke tells that when Yayati called all the learned men and priests to his court to know the whereabouts of the lord Jagannatha. He came to know that the lord was taken to a secret place near Sonepur some 144 years ago after the invasion of a foreign king, Raktabahu. He started an expedition to find the lost images and discovered three ruined statues under a tree in village Gapali but those were so sadly decayed that he decided to prepare new images. he found the required sculptures and setup new images in the temple at Puri.

K C Panigrahi mentions that Yayati was instrumental in re-establishing the cultural and political foundations in Odisha. He performed ten ashvamedha sacrifices at Jajpur (Yayatinagara), in which he invited ten thousand Brahmins from Kanauj. In the words of Panigrahi, Yayati should be remembered as the father of modern Orissa. He is remembered as the hero in numerous traditions still current in that land. Yayati Kesari is a household name in Odisha and all living monuments, irrespective of their age, are generally attributed to him.

His latest dated epigraph is dated in his twenty-eighth regnal year hence a rule of thirty years can be assigned to him. Shastri assigns a rule of thirty-five years while Panigrahi only gives twenty-seven years. Sircar’s dates him very late however as his dating was done in very early years of the discoveries of their epigraphs so we can rule it out as information from new discoveries have altered many dating related issues.

Mahabhavagupta II Bhimaratha (955-975 CE) –  Bhimaratha succeeded his father, Yayati I, on the throne. His latest dated epigraph is in his thirteenth year hence a rule of fifteen years can be assigned to him. Shastri assigns him a rule of twenty years while Panigrahi gives twenty-five years.

Bilhari inscription of the Kalchuri king Yuvarajadeva II mentions that his ancestor Lakshmanaraja II (945-970 CE) conquered over Kosala and Odra. Two immediate ancestors of Bhimaratha were having hostile relationships with the Kalchuris and it is evident that the nature of relationship was continued during the time of Bhimaratha. Though Lakshmanaraja II defeated the Kosala and Odra chiefs however he did not take over their regions but was satisfied with gifts obtained from both these kings. Though the Kalchuri inscription clearly mentions Kosala and Odra as two separate regions, however Shastri states that it was just a poetic misconception or metrical exigencies born of the poet’s desire to eulogize his patron.

There are some allusions about military conquests of Bhimrataha in his Cuttack plates however the statements are very generic and no historical value can be obtained out of these. Mahulpara plates of Dharmaratha mentions a certain Rudra who is referred as an eastern chief. He is said to have looked at Bhimaratha with his crown tremulous over his head. Shastri suggests that this Rudra could be the same as the father of Yuvaraja Bali-Akshya known from an inscription found at Boram though nothing can be said with certainty.

Kudopali plates mention a feudatory chief Ranaka-Punja of the Mathara family, residing at Vamanapati, who like his patron was a devout worshipper of Shiva. He has been described as the lord of fifteen small villages. Indraratha’s grant gives a name of a wife of Bhimaratha, Durga, which seems to be a secondary queen as Indraratha did not succeed his father on the throne. Bhimaratha may had many sons, three of them succeeded him consecutively on the throne.

Mahashivagupta II Dharmaratha (975-995 CE) – Dharmaratha would have been the eldest son of Bhimaratha hence he succeeded him on the throne. He has been referred as Rajamalla which may be an alias or just an adjective. His latest dated grant is of eleventh year hence a rule of fifteen to twenty years can be assigned to him. Shastri and Panigrahi both gives him a rule of two decades.

Mahulpara plates mention Dharmaratha’s conquests over Andhra and Gauda though no mention of kings are found. Shastri suggests that it would be Eastern Chalukyas in Andhra and Palas  in Gauda who could be Dharmaratha’s adversaries. Though Dharmaratha might be successful in his conquests however there was no territorial gain. Eastern Chalukya kingdom was without any king for about twenty seven years (973-1000 CE) after the Telugu Choda king Jata Choda Bhima of Padekallu slew the Eastern Chalukya chief Danarnava. Dharmaratha may have utilized this unstable condition to take out his raids over the Andhra kingdom. His Pala adversary would be Vigrahapala II as the latter seems to have lost much of his domain and was confined to Bihar region.

Eulogized versions of Dharmaratha’s military conquests are found in Balijhari grant and Ratnagiri grants of his successors. In these grants he has been mentioned to have conquered whole India from the setu (Adam’s Bridge) in south to the Himalayas in north and from the eastern ocean (Bay of Bengal) to the western mountains. Brahmeshvara temple inscription compares him with Parashurama. However these statements cannot be taken historical as the region conquered is the all-India sphere of influence of a chakaravatin and usually used to denote the status of a king.

Indraratha, a step-brother of Dharmaratha, was placed as a governor of Kalinga. Banpur grant of Indraratha mentions that he got the royal fortune of Kalinga though a favor from his brother, Dharmaratha. It appears that the coastal region of Odisha was conquered by Dharmaratha with a substantial aid from Indraratha hence the latter was appointed as the governor of the newly conquered region. But Kalinga was an integral part of the Somavamshi kings as many ancestors of Dharmaratha were claimed to be Trikalingadhipati.

If Kalinga was the part of Trikalinga then why there was need to conquer it during Dharmaratha’s time? Or the Banpur grant statement refers to a division of the kingdom during Dharmaratha’s time as Bhimaratha had many sons. Dharmaratha ruled as sovereign while his brothers like Indraratha were given various divisions to govern.

Mahabhavagupta III Nahusha (995-1010 CE) – None of his records are yet discovered and he is known from his descendants. Records of Uddyotakeasri and Karna mention that Dharmaratha was succeeded by his brother. However Brahmeshvara inscription mentions that Dharmaratha died without any issue resulting in a period of political turmoil which made the country susceptible to foreign attacks but the inscriptions does not mention Dharmaratha. Sircar suggests that it could be assumed that Dharmartha died without any issue which made his brother to ascend the throne however he was not able to provide a stable government.

Banpur plates of Indraratha mentions that he defeated the king of Udra or Odra. Odra was in the Somavamshi dominion from very beginning hence it appears that there was some family trouble during Indraratha’s or Nahusha’s time. It may be that Indraratha did not like Nahusha to be on the throne and he deprived him of the Odra region. However nothing much can be said with certainty.

Indraratha (1010-1022 CE) – Indraratha is known from his Banpur grants in which he claims ruling over Odra, Kalinga and Kosala. Indraratha was a son of Bhimaratha, born from his other queen, Durga. Thus he was a step-brother of Dharmaratha. However their relation seems to be on very good terms as he was appointed as a governor by Dharmaratha. After the death of Nahusha, the political scene at the Somavamshi throne was very much confusing. A certain Abhimanyu, a prince from a collateral branch claiming their descent from Janamejaya, put their claim on the throne. However Indraratha slew Abhimanyu in a battle ending all the conflicts with the throne.

Later, he ascended the throne with the approvals from the Brahmanas. He assumed all regal titles usually employed for other Somavamshi kings. His last years were not very fanciful as he suffered a defeat in the hands of the Chola king Rajendra I when the latter was on his Gangetic expedition. E Hultzsch, while editing Tirumalai inscription (Epigraphia Indica Vol IX), mentions a certain Indraratha of the race of the moon who was defeated by Rajendra I.

K A N Sastri and Hultzsch both agree with F Kielhorn in indentifying this Indraratha with the same as mentioned in the Udaypur inscription of Udayeshvara (Epigraphia Indica vol I). However the defeat of Indraratha was said to be at Adinagara in the Chola inscriptions, this Adinagara is taken as Yayatinagara by all scholars. It appears that Indraratha not only faced the wrath of the Cholas and the Paramaras but the Kalchuris also were hostile towards him. Gangeyadeva, with aid from the Kalchuri chief Kamalaraja, is said to have conquered the Utkala region which he would have wrestled from Indraratha only.

Shastri rules out that there were three different invasions but suggests that all the three, the Paramaras, the Cholas and the Kalchuris would have formed an alliance against Indraratha. This is also the opinion of J P Singh Deo. Indraratha was probably kept captive, as evident from the Chola inscriptions, or was killed afterwards. After his death a period of anarchy followed in the Somavamshi kingdom as evident from Balijari grant.

Rajarani temple at Bhubaneswar is assigned to Indraratha as the temple is also known as Indralingeshvar. Few scholars assign Indra-lath, a brick temple at Ranipur-Jharial to Indraratha. However no epigraphical evidences have been found to support these assignments.

Mahashivagupta III Chandihara Yayati II (1022-1040 CE) – It appears that Indraratha died without an issue, or if he had a son then he was killed in the war with the Cholas. As per the Chola records, Indraratha was taken captive together with his family. After this incident, the Somavamshi throne was again without any suitor. Abhimanyu was killed by Indraratha during the civil war broke after the death of Nahusha. Yayati II, Abhimanyu’s son, was in exile during the rule of Indraratha as evident from Brahmeshvara inscription. Yayati II was brought back and installed on the throne by all the ministers in this catastrophe as mentioned in the Brahmeshvara temple inscription. However Balijari grant of Uddyotakesari mentions that Nahusha was succeeded by his younger brother Yayati.

He is referred as Yayati and Chandihara in the records of his successors while in his Jatesinga-Dungri grant he himself mentioned as Mahashivagupta (III). This is the only grant from his reign. He was probably very much engaged in establishing the stability which was lost due to many foreign invasions during Indraratha’s time and after his death. Balijari grant of his successor mentions that he freed two rashtras, Kosala and Utkala which were probably lost by the Somavamshis. Hence he had been referred to claim the title of Trikalingadhipati by his own prowess.

His Jatesinga-Dungri grant mentions that he was a self-chosen husband of Kalinga, Kosala, Kongoda and Utkala. This seems to be proper as the Somavamshis were ruling over these regions from very long. The grant further mentions that he was a burning fever to Karnnata, Lata and Gurjara kings and was very wind in carrying away the garments of Gauda and Radha. However these last two statements seem to be very farfetched as there is no evident to substantiate his claim over these countries.

It can be said the Yayati II’s achievements were in no way insignificant as he brought back the lost fortune of the Somavamshis. He re-established the required stability to the political scene after the death of Indraratha and the turmoil which followed his death. Hence he is compared to legendary kings like Nala, Nahusha, Mandhata, Dilip, Bhagiratha and Bharata in his own grant. His successors, Uddyotakesari and Karna, gave due respect to him and his efforts and compared him with Krishna.

His oldest grant was issued from Suvarnapura which suggests that he was coronated at Suvarnapura only. The reason could be that Yayatinagara was devastated after various foreign attacks and hence he was coronated at the old Somavamshi capital. The grants of his successors were issued from Yayatinagara which suggests that he shifted his capital back to Yayatinagara once that city was restored to its old glory.

Madala-Panji mentions that Yayati started the construction of the Lingaraja temple at Bhubaneswar which was completed in the reign of his son, Udyota Kesari. His only dated grant is from his third regnal year, however Shastri gives him a rule of eighteen while Panigrahi assigns fifteen years respectively. We may go with Shastri’s assignment as this is the latest study in this dynasty.

Mahabhavagupta IV Uddyotakesari (1040-1065 CE) – Uddyotakesarin succeeded his father Chandihara on the Somavamshi throne. He is known from many epigraphs dating from his fourth and the eighteenth regnal years. Shastri and Panigrahi both assigns him twenty five years of rule. Kelga plates of Someshvara tells that Yayati II installed a certain Abhimanyu as his governor at Kosala. This Abhimanyu might be his brother as evident with his name on their grandfather, Abhimanyu. Someshvara, the son of Abhimanyu, later succeeded his father as the governor or sub-king under Uddyotakesari.

It appears that Uddyotakesari kept Kosala and Utkala intact during his reign. Both these regions were under the single minister of war and peace. He probably discontinued the practice of having two separate ministers for these two regions which was followed by his ancestors. Brahmeshvara inscription mentions him to have won victories against the hostile forces of Dahala, Udra and Gauda. He is compared with the legendary kings like Prthu, Mandhata and Bharata.

Shastri mentions that his Kalchuri adversary would have been Karna or Lakshmikarna (1040-1073 CE) who also claimed the title of Trikalingadhipati. Him assuming this title suggests that he got some success against the Somavamshis however no Kalchuri record talks about this incident. In Gauda, his adversary would be the Pala king Nayapala and his son Vigrahapala III. Vigrahapala II was also the son-in-law of the Kalchuri king Karna. However it cannot be said with certainty that if both attacked Uddyotakesari in alliance.

Like all his predecessors,  Uddyotakesari was also a devout Shiva but he was a exercised religious tolerance. His mother, Kolavati, constructed the Brahmeshvara temple at Ekamara (Bhubaneswar) which was dedicated to Vishnu. Few of his epigraphs are found in the Kandhagiri caves which suggests that he also extended his patronage towards Jainism.

Mahashivagupta IV Janamejaya II (1065-1080 CE) – Janamejaya II succeeded his father Uddyotakesari. He is known from his single grant which was issued in his fifth regnal year. Shastri assigns him a rule of fifteen years while Panigrahi gives twenty years. He may be referred as Mahashivagupta, adopting the nomenclature of alternate kings with Mahashivagupta and Mahabhavagupta. A certain Yuvaraja Dharmaratha was acting as a sub-king of the Pachima-Kalinga region during his reign.

This is the time when the Somavamshis witnessed a decline in their power. Janamejaya II was disturbed by the Ganga, the Kalchuri and the Chindaka-Naga kings as all of these showed interest in his territory. The contemporary Kalchuri king, Prthvideva I (1065-1090 CE) assumed the title of Sakala-Kosaladhipati, as evident from his Amoda plates, which suggests that he wrestled Kosala region of Janamejaya II.

The Ganga contemporary king, Rajaraja I Devendravarman (1070-1078 CE) and his son claim that their general Vanapati defeated the kings of Utkala and Kosala. Chindaka-Naga chief Someshvara I (1069-1097 CE) also claims to have defeated the Udra chief and captured six lakhs and ninety-six villages of Kosala.

Mahabhavagupta V Puranjaya (1080-1100 CE) – Puranjaya has left no record of his own and he is known from the Ratnagiri plates of his brother Karna. Shastri gives him twenty years of rule while Panigrahi gives fifteen. Ratnagiri plates mention his victory over the Gauda, Dahala, Kalinga and Vanga chiefs. However these statement do not find support from the epigraphs of the other involved dynasties.

Also it will be hard to believe such a mega expedition on the part of Puranjaya when the Somvamshi throne was under the constant attacks from all the neighboring kingdoms. As Puranjaya was the last but second king of Somavamshi, it would be sensible to reject his claim of victory over all these neighboring kings.

Mahashivagupta V Karna (1100-1113 CE) – Puranjaya was succeeded by his brother Karna who is known from his couple of grants dated in sixth and seventh regnal years. He was the last Somavamshi king who was defeated by the Ganga king Anantavarman Codaganga. Mukhalingam grant mentions that the Ganga king first defeated the king of Utkala but later reinstated him. However later the Ganga king made inroads into the Utkala region as evident from his inscriptions at Puri and Bhubaneswar which suggests his final occupation of the Utkala country won from the Somavamshi chief.

Karna donated a village to a dancing girl which suggests his inclination towards the worldly enjoyments rather than giving his time for his kingdom stability. J P Singh Deo tells that Karna was engrossed in sensual pleasures and merry making and the fall of Karna is a very good example of the Code of Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra.

Kosala region also slipped out of the Somavamshi hands as the Kalchuri king Jajalladeva I wrestled it from Bala and Bhujabala of Suvarnapura, identified with the Somavamshi prince Someshvara, as evident from Kharod inscription of Ratnadeva III. However the Kalchuris did not take away the whole pie of the Dakshina Kosala region, may be they were restricted to the western portion only. Chindaka-Naga occupied the eastern part through their Telugu-choda feudatory Yasoraja who claimed to be the ‘lord of the entire Kosala’.

Time period assignments by various scholars



D C Sircar

K C Panigrahi

S R Nema

A M Shastri

Shivagupta 915-935 CE ———- 910-925 CE 855-880 CE
Mahabhavagupta I Janamejaya 935-970 CE 882-922 CE 925-960 CE 880-920 CE
Mahashivagupta I Yayati 970-1000 CE 922-955 CE 960-988 CE 920-955 CE
Mahabhavagupta II Bhimaratha 1000-1015 CE 955-980 CE 988-1001 CE 955-975 CE
Mahashivagupta II Dharmaratha 1015-1020 CE 980-1005 CE 1001-1012 CE 975-995 CE
Mahabhavagupta III Nahusha 1020-1025 CE 1005-1021 CE 1012-1016 CE 995-1010 CE
Indraratha ———- ———- 1016-1023 CE 1010-1022 CE
Mahashivagupta III Chandihara Yayati II 1025-1055 CE 1025-1040 CE 1024-1060 CE 1022-1040 CE
Mahabhavagupta IV Uddyotakesari 1055-1080 CE 1040-1065 CE 1060-1085 CE 1040-1065 CE
Mahashivagupta IV Janamejaya II ———- 1065-1085 CE 1085-1106 CE 1065-1080 CE
Mahabhavagupta V Puranjaya ———- 1085-1100 CE ———- 1080-1100 CE
Mahashivagupta V Karna ———- 1100-1110 CE 1106-1118 CE 1100-1113 CE



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  1. There is a temple i visited near Midnapore town in West Bengal 3 years before.The place is Known as Karnagarh and there are ancient temples built in Orissa Temple architecture.The historian and local people says those temples were built by King Karna Dev of Keshari(Soma) dynsty and temple dated to 1100-1200 century.

    As i observe King Karna Dev is same Mahashivagupta V Karna,the last king of Keshari(Soma) dynasty of Orissa.

    Thank you.

  2. It is unfortunate that so many historians could not establish chronology of Soma or Kesari dynasty. None has traced when and who built the Famous Biraja Temple at Jajpur which was earlier called Jagnyapur followed by Jagpur and finally Jajpur. It is a seat of Adi Goddess Durga much before Lord Budha and has got history/epics of 5000 years from scriptures of worshipers of Maa Biraja in Palm Leaves. Pl collect from them and read before writing Odisha history. Who was Jajati Keshari ? Further who built Kathajodi Pathar Bandh and when ? Who was Markat Keshari and who was Bai Mundi ? Who built Linga Raj Temple ? And when ? It is shame to our historians. Pl reply me. I am not a hostorian. Neither a student of history. But during my student hood studied some text books on Odisha history. whether those writings were false ? pl clarify.

    • First put your mind in a right frame. There is nothing right or wrong in historical context. Its all about how you interpret the evidences. History is not an exact science, but its study needs a systematic approach. This approach is possible only when you enrol as a serious student in this line. Without it, you can only put forward your opinions but you will find very few takers of those.
      Read more, read valid and authorized content, do not fall into the pitfall of myths, if you want to understand history. That is all I can help you here.

  3. One question to our revered historians on Odisha history . Whether what British historians have studied and found 100-2000 years back are final and we would only follow these as our Gita or Bible without further research and study ????

    • There is nothing called Geeta or Bible in historical context which needs to be followed religiously. The history is always open to new evidences and it is a continually changing day by day. When a scholar, whether British or any other, writes or published on something, that is based upon the then available sources. We need to carefully study that and also take into account if there is anything new discovered in between the period.


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