Kapilendra Deva

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Kapilendra Deva
Gajapati, Routaray, Nabakoti, Karnata, Kalabargeswara, Gaudeswara
Gajapati Kapilendradeva.jpg
Reign1434 A.D - 1466 A.D
SuccessorGajapati Purushottama Deva
DiedBanks of Krishna River
SpouseRupambika, Parvati Devi, etc.
FatherJagyeswara Routa
Sketch of an Image at Bhubaneswara's Kapileswara Temple Depicting Kapilendra Deva

Kapilendra Deva (Odia: କପିଲେନ୍ଦ୍ର ଦେବ) (r. 1434-1466 AD[1]) was the founder of the Gajapati dynasty that ruled parts of eastern and southern India, including present-day Odisha as the center of his empire. He had staged a military coup against the preceding and the last Eastern Ganga dynasty ruler Bhanu Deva IV and overtook the throne as the king was weak and had lost territories to the south. His name is also written as Kapilendra Routray or Sri Sri Kapilendra Deva. In claiming descent from the Surya Vamsha (Sun dynasty) of the Mahabharata, he also took the title shri shri ...(108 times) Gajapati Gaudesvara Naba Koti Karnatotkala Kalbargesvara. This title literally meant the lord of Bengal (Gauda), of Karnataka region or Vijayanagara kingdom, of Golkonda kingdom and of nine crore subjects. The title is still used by the sun dynasty kings of Puri on ritual occasions.

The Initial Life of Kapilendra Deva[edit]

There are separate theories or concepts about Kapilendra Deva's initial life. In Madala Panji records of Puri temple it states that he was known as Kapila Routa and was born in a poor family whose job was to take care of domesticated cows. Due to a divine symbol of cobra (naga) seated by his head while he was resting, he was predicted to become a king one day. Another note from the same records state that he used to be a robber by profession and appointed his friend from his gang called Kali Dasa as the head priest of his court once he became a king. In the third statement from the same records it states that he used to beg in front of the Puri Jagannath temple as a child and was later adopted by the last Eastern Ganga dynasty ruler Bhanudeva following a divine dream. He was later appointed in his young days as a military general of the Ganga forces and was assigned the task to fight the Muslim forces of Bengal.

Consolidation of Authority by Suppressing Internal Rebellions[edit]

Due to the weakening administration of the Eastern Ganga dynasty rulers, Kapilendra Deva mounted the throne with internal support while the last ruler of the dynasty, Bhanu Deva IV was on a military expedition in the southern territories. He was declared as the new king with a rajyabhishek ceremony at Bhubaneswar. Since the accession was based on a coup or rebellion, some feudal kings of Odisha like Matsarvamshi of Oddadi, Shilavamshis of Nandapur, Bishnukundina of Panchadhara, etc. declined his authority and declared themselves independent. Around the same time, the Sultanate of Jaunpur also posed as an external threat to his kingdom. He appointed his able minister Gopinath Mahapatra to deal with the Jaunpur threat which was successfully executed by him and Kapilendra Deva himself suppressed the internal rebels with force. The rebels were suppressed by the year 1440 A.D. The rebellious troubles dealt by him with force are proven by his Lingaraj Temple declaration in which he has ordered the rebels to accept his rule or be toppled from power. [2]

The Odia Military under Kapilendra Deva[edit]

Different historical sources give varied accounts about the Odsihan military commanded by the Gajapatis. According to Muslim text Buhan-m-Mansir, Kapilendra had an elephant force numbering two hundred thousand (2,00,000). This number of war elephants is usually a very huge number compared even to any military of the existing kingdoms during the times of Kapilendra Deva himself in India. Nizzamuddin writes that the Gajapati encamped on the Godavari river banks with an infantry of seven hundred thousand (700,000). Another Muslim source documents that Kapilendra Deva raided Bidar with only 10,000 foot soldiers while being assisted by the Vellamati chiefs of Telangana.[3]

The Odia poet Sarala Das who lived during the era of Kapilendra Deva, has given descriptions about the military divisions in his Odia Mahabharata. The divisions mentioned are:-

  • Hantakaru Dala :- This division was in the forefront of the marching army and was responsible forward scouting, clearing jungles and marking roads for the army.
  • Aguani Thata :- The division that marched ahead of the main army.
  • Pradhana Vala :- The main division of the army
  • Pachhiani Thata :- The rear guard division
  • Anga Vala :- The specially deployed bodyguards of the military generals and the royalties.
  • Oridandas :-The contingent of the army that stayed in charge of conquered forts and the adjoining regions.

Sarala Das also gives a picture of different musical instruments used to motivate soldiers during the march and warfare Some names of the weapons used by the Gajapati army are also mentioned like Dhanu, Troua, Sara, Asi, Parigha, Pattisa, Kunta, Jathi, Buruja, Saveli, etc. Information with regard to breaking of the gateways and the walls of the fort with the help of horses, elephants and iron instruments is also found in the same text.

Military Conquests and Territorial Expansion[edit]

The military hegemony of Odisha had declined during the last line of Eastern Ganga dynasty rulers which provided enough opportunity for the rising powers in its neighborhood. When Kapilendra Deva took over the throne, hostile Muslim powers like the Sultan of Jaunpur (Mahmud Shah), Bahmani Sultanate and the young ruler of Bengal Samsuddin Ahmad Shah were continuously preparing to invade Odisha. Deva Raya II of Vijayanagara along with Reddys of Rajmahendri had advanced as far as the Simhanchalam territory in the south. Along with suppressing internal rebellions, Kapilendra Deva first defeated the Jaunpur forces with the help of his minister Gopinath Mahapatra and contained Bengal forces with the help of his minister Joginath Mahapatra after which only he initiated his aggressive military campaigns of the Southern and Deccan parts of India.[4][5][6][7]

Conquest of Rajamahendri[edit]

  • First Campaign in 1444 A.D. - The first campaign against the alliance of Vijayanagar kingdom and Rajamahendri Reddys was unsuccessful as Odia forces had to face a two front war with both the Jaunpur Muslim forces in the north and the Vijayanagar forces under the able leadership of the Devaraya II's able commander Mallapa. Kapilendra Deva first diverted his attention in dealing with the invasion in the northern frontiers and hence the campaign in the south was abandoned.
  • Second Campaign in 1446 A.D. and Capture of Kondavidu by Hamvira Deva - The Odia forces returned in the year 1446 A.D. led by Hamvira Deva or Hamvira Kumara Mahapatra, the eldest son of Kapilendra Deva. The political alliance between Vijayanagar and the Reddy kingdom had ceased to exist as Deva Raya II had died and the power passed on to a weaker successor, Malikarjuna Raya. The Reddy kingdom was conquered and the Odia forces occupied Kondavidu by the year 1454 A.D. A vassal king by the name Ganadeva was made the feudal ruler of the region.

Subjugation of Vijayanagar Kingdom and Expansion till Tiruchirappalli[edit]

From the documents of Gangadasa Bilasa Charitam it is known that Kapilendra Deva ordered Hamvira Deva to conquer Vijayanagar and Bahmani sultanate. Hamvira Deva successfully captured the Vijaynagar capital, Hampi and forced the weak ruler Malikarjuna Raya to pay yearly taxes. Hamvira Deva's commander Tamavupala conquered the southern states of Udayagiri (Nellore district) and Chandragiri in the year 1460 A.D.. The inscriptions of Srirangam temple near Trichinapalli dictate that Hamvira Deva captured as far as Trichinapalli, Tanjore and Arcot in south before stopping his advance. Hamvira Deva assumed the title of Dakshina Kapileswara in the year 1464.[8]

Odishan Empire of Gajapati Kapilendra Deva (1434 A.D - 1466 A.D)
Odishan Empire of Gajapati Kapilendra Deva (1434 A.D - 1466 A.D)

Conquest of Telegana (Gulberga or Kalaberga)[edit]

The political situation of Telegana provided an opportunity for the Gajapati army to intervene and capture the territory. The Velama chiefs of Devara Konda in Telegana and the Bahmani sultan Aladdin Ahmad Shah II had cordial relations in the initial stages but on the event of war between Vijayanagar and Bahmani Sultanate, the Velama chiefs backed Bahmani sultante and sought to fight Vijaynagar. In an act of revenge the Bahmani sultan invaded the Telegana region and the Bahmani commander Sanjar Khan exerted barbaric atrocities on the common people. Hindus were sold as slaves. In 1456 A.D. Humayun Shah ascended the throne of the Bahmani sultanate and his general Sikander Khan suppressed the rebel Velama chiefs after occupying Devara Konda. Kapilendra Deva was invited by the Velama chiefs to rescue the Telegana population from the Bahmani rulers. In 1458 A.D. a battle ensued at Devara Konda between Odia forces led by Hamvira Deva and Bahmani forces. As a result of this battle Odia forces came out as victorious and Telegana region became a feudal state of the Gajapati empire with the Velama chiefs as the vassal rulers.

Campaigns against Bahmani Sultanate and March on Bidar[edit]

  • First Campaign - After the death of Humayun Shah in 1462 A.D., his underage son Nizam Shah was crowned as the ruler of the Bahmani sultanate. With the help of Zamindars of Telegana and the Velama chiefs the Odia forces marched towards Bidar, the then capital of the Bahmanis. Widespread loot and rampage of Bahmani country side ensued during this march. However, due to the invasion by Muslim Sharqui ruler of Jaunpur on the northern borders of Odisha with 3,00,000 cavalry and 1400 war elephants forced Kapilendra Deva to abandon the campaign and move against the invading enemy.
  • Second Campaign - During his second expedition on Bidar, the Bahmani sultanate faced another simultaneous invasion from the Malwa kingdom due to which the Odia forces easily captured the capital Bidar and carried out widespread loot and destruction of the kingdom.

Construction Activities and Cultural Renaissance of the Odia Society[edit]

Kapilendra Deva patronized vaishnavism and expanded the Jagannath temple at Puri. Although his entire life was spent in warfare, the Jagannath temple became the center for an efflorescence of drama and dance (Odissi) and other forms of art during Gajapati rule.[9] He was a great patron of Vedic culture and himself wrote a Sanskrit play called Parshuram Bijaya. He constructed the Shaivite temple of Kapileswar in Bhubaneswar which shows that he was tolerant to every sectarian belief under the Hindu domain. It was during the rule of Kapilendra Deva when Odia language was officially used as an administrative language and the poet Sarala Das wrote the Odia Mahabharata. Several learned poets and writers were promoted by him.[10]

Kapilendra Deva had declared himself as the servant ruler of lord Jagannath which also reflects from his title Routaray meaning the lord's servant king. Narendra tank at the Puri Jagannath temple premises was constructed by Kapilendra Deva in the memory of his martyred younger brother, Veer Narendra Deva. Fourteen out of sixteen ghats of the tank are named after his fourteen nephews. The two concentric defensive stone walls known as Kurma Prachira (the inner wall measuring 400’ x 278’) and Meghanada Prachira (the outer wall measuring 665’ x 644’ with height varying from 20’ to 24’) were constructed during the rule of Kapilendra Deva. The Chandan Jatra festival of Lord Jagannath was initiated during his rule. He himself donated a large amount of jewelry and utensils to the Puri temple during the 41 anka of his rule. The Gajapati was man of charity who had solely pledged to donate equal amount of wealth and rights to the Brhamins. He had ordered his officials to follow the path of justice, righteousness and spiritual teachings and had issued warning to them to face the punishment of exile if they failed to do so.[11] Kapilendra Deva was a builder of a welfare state and had ordered not to commit atrocities or impose excessive hardships on the people of his kingdom.

Last days of Kapilendra Deva[edit]

Kapilendra deva was troubled by treacherous internal subjects who were opposed to his overthrowing of the Eastern Ganga dynasty. His edicts in the Puri Jagannath temple towards his end days provide a glimpse of his troubled state of mind due to rebels and traitors. He had taken oath to punish all those who rebelled against him. Before his death in 1466 A.D., he chose his youngest son Purushottama Deva, as heir, resulting in a rebellion by Hamvira Deva. In 1472, Purushottam was defeated and Hamvira Deva became king, but in 1476 A.D., Purushottam fought back and recaptured the throne.


  1. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 121–122. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  2. ^ "Society and culture as depicted in literature of the Gajapati period, Chapter II - Political history" (PDF). www.shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in. pp. 15–16. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  3. ^ "MILITARY SYSTEM UNDER THE SURYAVAMSI GAJAPATIS" (PDF). www.shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  4. ^ History of Odisha. New Delhi: Kalyani Publishers. 2004. pp. 86–94. ISBN 81-272-1367-5.
  5. ^ Odia Jatira Itihaasa O Sanskruti, Part – 1. Cuttack: Vidyapuri. 2012. pp. 177–181. ISBN 81-7411-656-7.
  6. ^ "RELATIONS WITH THE GAJAPATHIS" (PDF). www.shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  7. ^ "Society and culture as depicted in literature of the Gajapati period, Chapter II - Political History" (PDF). www.shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in. pp. 15–21. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Some aspects of administration and society in Medieval Andhra AD 1038 to 1538 under the later Eastern Gangas and the Suryavamsa Gajapatis, Chapter II, Section II - The Suryavamsa Gajapatis. Kapilesvara (A.D.1434 - 1538)" (PDF). www.shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in. pp. 38–43. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-08-04. Retrieved 2011-03-21.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ History of Odisha. New Delhi: Kalyani Publishers. 2004. ISBN 81-272-1367-5.
  11. ^ Glimpses of Kalinga History. Calcutta: Century Publishers. 1949. pp. 218, 219.