Kalinga (India)

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This article is about the ancient Indian kingdom. For other uses, see Kalinga (disambiguation).
Kalinga c. 261 BCE

Kalinga (NLK Kaḷiṅga) was an early republic in central East India that comprised north eastern parts of modern state of Andhra Pradesh, most of the modern state of Odisha and a portion of Chattisgarh & Madhya Pradesh States.[1][2][3] It was a rich and fertile land that extended from the Damodar River/Ganges to the Godavari River and from Bay of Bengal to the Amarkantak range in the west.[1] The region was scene of the bloody Kalinga War fought by Ashoka of the Maurya Empire approximately 265 BCE.[4]

Rise of Kharavela[edit]

Kharavela was the warrior-emperor of Kalinga.[5] He was responsible for the propagation of Jainism in the Indian subcontinent. According to the Hathigumpha inscription near Bhubaneswar, Odisha, he attacked Rajagriha in Magadha, thus inducing the Indo-Greek king Demetrius I of Bactria to retreat to Mathura.[6] This shows his strong ties with the Shunga Empire rulers Pushyamitra Shunga and Agnimitra, who established their rule after uprooting the Mauryans.

Historical accounts of Kalinga[edit]

Kalinga is mentioned in the Mahabharata. Kalinga King Srutayu is stated to have fought the Mahabharata war for the Kauravas. Kalinga is also mentioned as "Calingae" in Megasthenes' Indica:

The Prinas and the Cainas (a tributary of the Ganges) are both navigable rivers. The tribes which dwell by the Ganges are the Calingae, nearest the sea, and higher up the Mandei, also the Malli, among whom is Mount Mallus, the boundary of all that region being the Ganges.

—Megasthenes fragm. XX.B. in Pliny. Hist. Nat. V1. 21.9–22. 1.[7]

The royal city of the Calingae is called Parthalis. Over their king 60,000 foot-soldiers, 1,000 horsemen, 700 elephants keep watch and ward in "procinct of war."

—Megasthenes fragm. LVI. in Plin. Hist. Nat. VI. 21. 8–23. 11.[7]

The Kalinga alphabet[8] derived from Brahmi was used for writing.

The Fall of Kalinga[edit]

The kingdom fell when Ashoka, leader of the Mauryan Empire led a war against the republic, leading to its bloody defeat in the Kalinga War. It is said that the war was so bloody that the river turned red. This ultimately led to Ashoka becoming a Buddhist king. Some advocates of the Greater India theory claim this led to an exodus of people to Southeast Asia where they set up Indianized kingdoms, but there is no evidence for such a migration of people.[9]

The term "Keling"[edit]

Long past the end of the Kalinga Kingdom in 1842 CE, derivatives from its name continued to be used as the general name of India in what are now Malaysia and Indonesia. "Keling" was and still is in use in these countries as a word for "Indian", though since the 1960s Indians came to consider it offensive. It may be due to "Sadhabas" (or Sadhavas) were ancient mariners from the Kalinga empire, which roughly corresponds to modern Odisha and Northern Coastal Andhra Pradesh. They used ships called Boitas to travel to distant lands such as Bali, Java, Sumatra, and Borneo, in Indonesia, and to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Persia, China, Greece and Africa to carry out trade and for cultural expansion. Kartik Purnima, immediately before the full moon in October–November, was considered an especially auspicious occasion by the "Sadhabas" to begin their long voyages. Coconuts, earthenware, sandalwood, cloth, lime, rice, spices, salt, cloves, pumpkins, silk sarees, betel leaves, betel nuts, elephants, and precious and semi-precious stones were the main items of trade. Sometimes, even women were allowed to navigate as "Sadhabas". Odia navigators were instrumental in spreading Buddhism and Hinduism in East and South East Asia. In addition, they disseminated knowledge of Indian architecture, epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Indic writing and Sanskrit loan words in many Indo-Chinese languages such as Khmer and Indonesian. Maritime trade declined only in the 16th century, with the decline of the Gajapati dynasty. Today, the descendants of these ancient mariners generally bear the last name "Sahu".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b An Advanced History of India. By R.C. Majumdar, H.C. Raychaudhuri, and Kaukinkar Datta. 1946. London: Macmillan
  2. ^ http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/310196/Kalinga
  3. ^ http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-12-02/visakhapatnam/35547536_1_jagannath-temple-kalinga-lord-jagannath
  4. ^ Asoka and the Decline of the Mauryas, 1961 (revision 1998); Oxford University Press
  5. ^ Agrawal, Sadananda (2000): Śrī Khāravela, Sri Digambar Jain Samaj, Cuttack, Odisha
  6. ^ Shashi Kant (2000): The Hathigumpha Inscription of Kharavela and the Bhabru Edict of Ashoka, D K Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
  7. ^ a b Megasthenes Indica
  8. ^ "[Omnigator] Kalinga". Ontopia.net. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  9. ^ Hall, D.G.E. (1981). A History of South-East Asia, Fourth Edition. Hong Kong: Macmillan Education Ltd. p. 17. ISBN 0-333-24163-0.