- The Mahameghavahana dynasty (250s BC – 400s AD) was an ancient ruling dynasty of Kalinga after the decline of the Mauryan Empire.
Kharavela (193 BCE–170 BCE):
- Kharavela (193 BCE–170 BCE) was the third and greatest emperor of the Mahameghavahana dynasty of Kaḷinga (present-day Odisha).
- The main source of information about Kharabeḷa is his famous seventeen line rock-cut Hatigumpha inscription in a cave in the Udayagiri hills near Bhubaneswar, Odisha. According to the inscription, Kharavela belonged to the Chedi clan.
- During the reign of Kharavela, the Chedi dynasty of Kaḷinga ascended to eminence and restored the lost power and glory of Kaḷinga, which had been subdued since the devastating war with Ashoka.
- Kaḷingan military might was reinstated by Kharavela. Kharavela led many successful campaigns against the states of Magadha, Anga, Satavahanas till the southern most regions of Pandyan Empire (modern Tamil Nadu) and made Kaḷinga a gigantic empire.
- He is credited to have broken the Tamil confederacy in the south, uprooted the western powers and defeated Demetrius, the Indo-Greek king of Bactria. After his victory over Demetrius, the first Sunga emperor of Magadha, Pushyamitra Sunga accepted the suzerainty of Kharavela and became a vassal of Kalinga. Pushyamitra also returned the Jina statue of Mahaveera to Kalinga.
- Within a short span of ten years (form his 2nd to 12th regnal years) Kharavela could achieve a series of brilliant victories extending his suzerainty from the North-Western part of India to the farthest extend in the South.
- Although religiously tolerant, Kharabeḷa patronized Jainism.
- Under Kharavela‘s generalship, the Kaḷinga state had a formidable maritime reach with trade routes linking it to the then Simhala (Sri Lanka), Burma (Myanmar), Siam (Thailand), Vietnam, Kamboja (Cambodia), Malaysia, Borneo, Bali, Samudra (Sumatra) and Jabadwipa (Java).
- He seems to have abandoned his throne in the 13th year of his reign, and was succeeded by his son Kudepasiri (he is mentioned in few minor inscriptions).
- The Hathigumpha Inscription (“Elephant Cave” inscription), from Udayagiri, was inscribed by Kharavela during 2nd century BCE.
- Hathigumpha Inscription consists of seventeen lines incised in deep cut Brahmi letters, on a natural cavern called Hathigumpha in the southern side of the Udayagiri hill, near Bhubaneswar. It faces straight towards the Rock Edicts of Ashoka at Dhauli, situated at a distance of about six miles. In the former hill we find the inscription of the victory of Magadha and in the latter that of the victory of Kalinga.
- The inscription is dated 165th year of the era of the Maurya kings, and 13th year of Kharavela’s reign, which, considering the coronation of Chandragupta in 321 BCE as the probable start of the era, makes a date of 157 BCE for the inscription, a date of 170 BCE for Kharavela’s accession.
Salient Features of Hathigumpha Inscription:
- The Hathigumpha inscription starts with a version of the auspicious Jain Namokar Mantra.
- Kharavela refers to irrigation canals built by the Nandas and takes a pride in his own efforts in this direction. Besides references to conquests, he lays claim to spending vast sums on the welfare of his subjects.
- The Hathigumpha Inscription mentions that:
- In the very first year of his coronation, His Majesty caused to be repaired the gate, rampart and structures of the fort of Kalinga Nagari, which had been damaged by storm, and caused to be built flight of steps for the cool tanks and laid all gardens at the cost of thirty five hundred thousand (coins) and thus pleased all his subjects.
- In the second year, without caring for Satakarni, His Majesty sent to the west a large army consisting of horse, elephant, infantry and chariot, and struck terror to Asikanagara with that troop that marched up to the river Kanhavemna.
- Then in the fourth year, The Rathika and Bhojaka chiefs with their crown cast off, their umbrella and royal insignia thrown aside, and their Jewelry and wealth confiscated, were, made to pay obeisance at the feet of His Majesty.
- And in the fifth year, His Majesty caused the aqueducts that had been excavated by king Nanda three hundred years before, to flow into Kalinga Nagri through Tanasuli.
- And in the seventh year of his reign the Queen of Vajiraghara, blessed with a son attained motherhood.
- In the 8th year, His Majesty attacked Rajagriha in Magadha and forced rival king (described as “Yavana-raja”) to retreat to Mathura.
- In the 12th year of his reign, he attacked the king of Uttarapatha. Then brought back the holy idols of Kalinga’s Jain Gods (The Blessed Tirthankars) which earlier Magadha rulers had carried away with them after Kalinga War in Past. Tirthankar’s idol was brought back with its crown and endowment and the jewels plundered by king Nanda from the Kalinga royal palace, along with the treasures of Anga and Magadha were regained.
- His Majesty then attacks the kingdom of Magadha, and in Pataliputra, the capital of the Sunga, makes king “Bahasatimita” (thought to be the Sunga King Brhaspatimitra, or Pushyamitra himself) bow at his feet.
- The inscription states that the Emperor Kharavela had a liberal religious spirit. Kharavela describes himself as: The worshiper of all religious orders, the restorer of shrines of all gods.
- There is also no direct evidence in Hathigumpha inscription to show that Kharavela belongs to Cedi Dynasty. The only meaning conveyed by this expression is that Kharavela was the son of Cetaraja.
Minor Inscriptions of Kharavela:
- Besides the celebrated Hathigumpha inscription of Kharavela, there are several minor Brahmi inscriptions in the twin hills of Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves. These minor inscriptions pertaining to Emperor Kharavela have also been engraved in Brahmi script, Prakrit language.
- These minor inscriptions throw light on the reign and kingdom of Kharavela.