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Kalinga (historical region)

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StateOdisha, NE Andhra Pradesh
 • SpokenOdia, Telugu
Time zoneUTC+5:30 (IST)
Ancient CapitalsKalinganagara, Cuttack, Puri, Jajpur, Jeypore

Kalinga is a historical region of India. It is generally defined as the eastern coastal region between the Mahanadi and the Godavari rivers, although its boundaries have fluctuated with the territory of its rulers. The core territory of Kalinga now encompasses a large part of Odisha and northerneastern part of Andhra Pradesh. At its widest extent, the Kalinga region also included parts of present-day southwestern West Bengal and Chhattisgarh.

The Kalingas have been mentioned as a major tribe in the legendary text Mahabharata. In the 3rd century BCE, the region came under Mauryan control as a result of the Kalinga War. It was subsequently ruled by several regional dynasties whose rulers bore the title Kalingadhipati ("Lord of Kalinga"); these dynasties included Mahameghavahana, Vasishtha, Mathara, Pitrbhakta, Shailodbhava, Somavamshi, and Eastern Ganga. The last major dynasties to rule over Kalinga were the Gajapati dynasty and the Suryavansh dynasty of Nandapur. [1]


Extreme points of Kalinga, as mentioned in the historical records

The Kalinga region is generally defined as the eastern coastal region between the Mahanadi and the Godavari rivers. However, its exact boundaries have fluctuated at various times in the history[2] and its widest extent can be interpreted from the word Tri-Kalinga (which means 'the whole of Kalinga') stretching from the river Ganges in the north to the river Godavari in the south.[3]

In the ancient Indian literature, the Kalinga region is associated with the Mahendragiri mountain located in the Ganjam district of Odisha, near its border with Andhra Pradesh.[4]

At times, the southern border of Kalinga extended further up to the Krishna river. In the north, it sometimes extended beyond the Mahandi river, up to the Vaitarani river. The Kalinga region did not encompass the whole of present-day Odisha: the north-eastern part of Odisha was included in the distinct Utkala region.[5] Utkala gradually lost its identity, and came to be considered as a part of Kalinga.[6]

The eastern boundary of Kalinga was formed by the sea (the Bay of Bengal). Its western boundary is difficult to pinpoint, as it varied with the political power of its rulers. However, the Puranic literature suggests that Kalinga extended up to the Amarakantaka hills in the west.[7]

Several ancient inscriptions mention the term "Trikalinga", which has been interpreted in several ways. According to one theory, Trikalinga refers to the widest extent of Kalinga. However, the Eastern Chalukya records suggest that Kalinga and Trikalinga were two distinct regions, with Trikalinga denoting the hilly region to the west of Kalinga.[8]


The name of the region is derived from a tribe of the same name. According to the legendary text Mahabharata, the progenitors of the Kalingas and of their neighbouring tribes were brothers. These neighbours included the Angas, the Vangas, the Pundras, and the Suhmas.[9]

The Kalingas occupied the extensive territory stretching from river Baitarani in Odisha to the Varahanandi in the Visakhapatnam district.[10] Its capital in the ancient times was the city of Dantakura or Dantapura (now Dantavaktra fort near Chicacole in the Srikakulam district, washed by the river Languliya or Langulini).[10]

The Hathigumpha inscription suggests that a king named Nandaraja had excavated an aqueduct there in the past. Assuming that Nandaraja refers to a king of the Nanda dynasty, it appears that the Kalinga region was annexed by the Nandas at some point.[11] It appears to have become independent again after the fall of the Nandas. It is described as "Calingae" in Megasthenes' Indica (3rd century BCE):

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.[12]

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.[12]

Annexation by the Mauryas

Kalinga was annexed by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE after the Kalinga War. After the final battle near the Dhauli hills, the capital Sisupalgarh fell to the Mauryas. The headquarters of the Mauryan province of Kalinga was located at Tosali. After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, the region came under the control of the Mahameghavahana family, whose king Kharavela described himself as the "supreme Lord of Kalinga".[4]

Kalinga came under Gupta suzerainty in the 4th century CE. After the Gupta withdrawal, it was ruled by several minor dynasties, whose rulers bore the title Kalingadhipati ("Lord of Kalinga". These included the Vasishthas, the Matharas, and the Pitrbhaktas.[13]

Eastern Ganga

In the 7th century, the Shailodbhava king Madhavaraja II as well as the Eastern Ganga king Indravarman claimed the title Sakala-Kalingadhipati ("the lord of the entire Kalinga"). [14]

During the 8th-10th centuries, the Bhauma-Kara dynasty ruled the region, although they called their kingdom "Tosala" (derived from Tosali, the ancient capital of Kalinga).[15] The subsequent Somavamshi kings called themselves the lord of Kalinga, Kosala, and Utkala.[16]

During the 11th-15th century, the Eastern Gangas became the dominant power in the region, and bore the title Kalingadhipati. Their capital was originally located at Kalinganagara (modern Mukhalingam), and was later transferred to Kataka (modern Cuttack) during the reign of Anantavarman Chodaganga in the 12th century.[17]


Kalinga is also an important part of the legendary history of Sri Lanka, as it was the birthplace of legendary Prince Vijaya according to the Mahavamsa.[18]

The merchant Kaundinya I, who became the co-founder of the Funan kingdom(centered in modern Cambodia) after he married the local Nāga princess Soma also has his origins from the ancient Kalinga region.[19][20][21]

According to scholar R. C. Majumdar, the 8th century CE Shailendra dynasty of Java likely originated from Kalinga and the dynasty was also powerful in Cambodia and Champa(Annam) region.[22][23] The Shailendras are considered to have been a thalassocracy and ruled vast swathes of maritime Southeast Asia and the dynasty appeared to be the ruling family of both the Medang Kingdom of Central Java, for some period and the Srivijaya Kingdom in Sumatra.

Burma went by the name of Kalinga-rattha (likely observed in the old Indo-Chinese records for Pegu) and there is evidence of very early merchant settlements and Buddhist missions in the southern Mon regions and by the 2nd century CE, the rule of Kalinga migrants centered around Kale, the Arakan River valley and Pegu, around the Gulf of Martaban. The remains of a ship excavated at Tante, near Yangon is thought to have belonged to Kalingan traders. Place names and similarities in architecture also indicate close contacts across the Gulf of Bengal.[24][25]

As per Maldivian history, the first kingdom Dheeva Maari was established before 3rd century BC by Soorudasaruna-Adeettiya of the Solar dynasty, an exiled prince and son of King Brahmaadittiya of the Kalinga Kingdom and laid the foundation of the Adeetta dynasty.[26]

In the Philippines according to researcher Eric Casino, the chief (or "king") of Butuan was called as Kiling, is not Visayan in origin but rather Indian, as Kiling is referred to the people of India similar to the word Keling which was used in the nearby Malay regions.[27]

Medieval Era

The last Eastern Ganga ruler Bhanudeva IV was dethroned by Kapilendra Deva in 1435. This event marked the foundation of the Gajapati Empire that ruled over the regions of Utkala (North Odisha) and Kalinga (South Odisha, North Andhra Pradesh). Prataparudra Deva was the last great king of the Suryavamsi Gajapatis and soon after his death his minister Govinda Vidyadhara usurped the throne by murdering the last two Gajapati scions. The fall of the Gajapati Empire meant the independence of their many tributary and feudal states.

Evidently, a tributary kingdom called Nandapur ruled by the Suryavansh dynasty that arrived in the region in 13th century from Kashmir.[28] The king of this little kingdom was Vishwanath Dev Gajapati who began expanding his kingdom in the southern region of Odisha and northern region of Andhra. In 1545, he sent his military commander and the chief of Kasimkota, Mukund Harichandran to conquer the northern plains of Odisha which were under control of the weak Bhoi dynasty of Govind Vidyadhar.[29]

Govind Vidyadhar signed a truce with Vishwanath Dev and was granted the status of a tributary state. Mukund Harichandran was appointed as the minister in order to seek full control over the region, however, he later assassinated the last two Bhoi heirs and declared himself as the new king of Utkala. Nevertheless, Kalinga was still ruled by the Suryavanshi kings until they were defeated and became a Vassal of the Golconda Qutb Shahi during the reign of Balaram Dev, who failed to control the vast dominion of his predecessor, Vishwanath Gajapati.[1] His successors ruled over the region as 'Maharajah of Kalinga' until the feud of Ramchandra Dev I and Balaram Dev III which marked the end of their domination over Kalinga.[30] They came to be known as Jeypore Samasthanam under the British rule until 1947.

Derived from Kalinga is the still current term Keling or Kling, used in parts of Southeast Asia to denote a person of the Indian subcontinent or Indian diaspora and at present having some derogatory and pejorative connotations, especially in Malaysia.[31][32][33] The 16th-century Portuguese traveller Castanheda wrote of the Keling community in Melaka who lived in the northern part of the city of Malacca(Melaka). The merchants were known as Quelins (Kling, the people of Kalinga from India).[34]

See also



  1. ^ a b Dutt 2009, p. 43.
  2. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1996, p. 1.
  3. ^ Majumdar, R.C. (1996). Outline of the History of Kalinga. Asian Educational Services. Retrieved 1 May 2021. Tri-Kalinga has been usually interpreted as denoting the whole of Kalinga in its widest extent...Tri-Kalinga country which extended from the river Ganges in the North to the river Godavari in the South
  4. ^ a b Dineschandra Sircar 1971, p. 167.
  5. ^ Dineschandra Sircar 1971, pp. 168–171.
  6. ^ Mano Mohan Ganguly 1912, p. 11.
  7. ^ Chandramani Nayak 2004, p. 6.
  8. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1996, p. 19.
  9. ^ Dineschandra Sircar 1971, p. 168.
  10. ^ a b K. A. Nilakanta Sastri 1988, p. 18.
  11. ^ Jagna Kumar Sahu 1997, p. 24.
  12. ^ a b Megasthenes Indica Archived 21 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Snigdha Tripathy 1997, p. 219.
  14. ^ Snigdha Tripathy 1997, pp. 64–65.
  15. ^ Umakanta Subuddhi 1997, p. 32.
  16. ^ Walter Smith 1994, p. 25.
  17. ^ Dineschandra Sircar 1971, p. 169.
  18. ^ Thera Mahanama-sthavira (1999). Mahavamsa: The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka. Jain. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-89581-906-2.
  19. ^ Sanyal, Sanjeev (10 August 2016). The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History. Penguin UK. pp. 82–84. ISBN 978-93-86057-61-7.
  20. ^ Tarling, Nicholas (March 2008). The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139055482.
  21. ^ Hall, DGE (14 May 1981). History of South East Asia. Macmillan Education UK. ISBN 9780333241646.
  22. ^ Briggs, Lawrence Palme (April–June 1950), "The Origin of the Sailendra Dynasty: Present Status of the Question", Journal of the American Oriental Society, American Oriental Society, 70 (2): 83, doi:10.2307/595536, JSTOR 595536
  23. ^ Majumdar, 1933: 121-141
  24. ^ Patnaik, Durga Prasad (1989). Palm Leaf Etchings of Orissa. Abhinav Publications. ISBN 81-7017-248-9.
  25. ^ Benudhar Patra (November 2005), Kalinga and Burma - A Study in Ancient Relations (PDF), Orissa Review
  26. ^ Mohamed, Naseema (2005). "First Settlers". Note on the Early History of the Maldives: 9. Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  27. ^ Eric Casino. "The Barangays of Butuan: Lumad Mindanaoans in China and the Sulu Zone". Asia Mindanaw: Dialogue of Peace and Development (2014): 2.
  28. ^ Mohanty 2013.
  29. ^ KBS Singh 1939, p. 26.
  30. ^ Dutt 2009, p. 44.
  31. ^ Aiman Mohamad (1991). Minerva English-Malay Malay-English Dictionary. Kuala Lumpur.
  32. ^ "KBBI - Keling". Kamus Besar bahasa Indonesia.
  33. ^ M. Veera Pandiyan (10 August 2016). "'Keling' and proud of it". The Star online.
  34. ^ KA Nilakanta Sastri (1939). "Foreign Notices Of South India From Megasthenes To Ma Huan". p. 311.