Odisha’s modern capital swallows its ancient urban hub

Context: The nationally protected 2,700-year-old Sisupalgarh, a fort city on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, is being bulldozed by the land mafia, even as official notifications are ignored, and the State government and ASI point a lazy finger at each other. Odisha high court has already ordered to remove the encroachment in the vicinity of the fort.

About Sisupalgarh and its fort:

Ruins of the North West gate of Sisupalgarh
  • Location: Sisupalgarh or Sisupalagada is situated in Khurda District in Odisha on the banks of Mahanadi Delta.
  • Duration: 7th Century BC.
  • It was excavated in 1948 by Braj Basi Lal under Archaeological Survey of India orders.
  • Currently only, Shola Khamba, a constellation of 16 monolithic (now 13) pillars, and the western gateway has survived which proves the presence of ancient city and fort.
  • Stone used for the construction were laterite stones.
  • Excavations in the 1950s revealed the settlement was well planned, with a drainage system and roads crossing each other at 90-degree angles. 

About Kalinga and various Empires

  • Kalinga is known to be a powerful kingdom as early as the time of the Kurukshetra battle. Srutayudha, the king of the Kalinga joined the camp of the Kaurava in the battle and was killed in the battle by Bhimasena with his two heroic sons: Bhanumana and Ketumana. 
  • After the Mahabharata War a new Kshetriya dynasty ruled over Kalinga and it is known from the Buddhist work ‘Mahagovinda Suttanta that the glory and power of Kalinga was restored within a short period. 
  • According to the Puranas 32 Kshetriya kings ruled over Kalinga after the Mahabharata War up to the time of Mahapadmananda who ascended the throne of Magadha in 362 BC. 
  • Nanda rule: Mahapadmananda undertook irrigation projects to eradicate famine condition in Kalinga. The pre-Mauryan black polished potteries and punch-marked coins having four symbols found in plenty from Asurgarh in Kalahandi district and Sonapur in Bolangir district indicate the flourishing economic condition during the time of the Nanda rule. Last Nanda king was overthrown by Chandragupta Maurya. 
  • Mauryan rule: Asoka, the son of Bindusara who invaded Kalinga in 261 B.C. and succeeded in occupying Kalinga (Massive Kalinga War). Seeing the massive loss of life, Ashoka converted to Buddhism. Kalinga became one of the administrative provisions in the empire of Magadha with headquarters of a Kumara (Viceroy) located at Tosali. It was also the headquarter of highest judiciary of Mauryan rule. Edicts were engraved on the Dhauli and Jaugada rocks to inculcate his administration and religious principles to the people.
  • Kharvela rule: In the early part of the 1st century BC Kalinga became independent under the Chedi Chief Mahameghavana. The third ruler of this dynasty was Kahravela who flourished during the second half of the 1st century B.C. The Hatigumpha inscription in Udayagiri near Bhubaneswar furnishes detailed accounts about the life and activities of Kharavela from his boyhood to his 13th regnal year. He repaired the fort at Sisupalgarh (Kalinganagari). Kharavela excavated a number of cave-dwellings in the Kumari hills for the Jain monks and bestowed endowments for them. Jainism greatly flourished in Kalinga under the sincere patronage of Kharavala. Inscriptions of Guntupalli, Velpuru in Andhra Pradesh and Velpuru inscription also talks about this Mahamegahavahana dynasty. 

Practice question:

Q. Which of the inscriptions given below belongs to the King Kharvela?

(a) Girnar

(b) Bagh

(c) Hatigumpha

(d) Sannati

Answer: (c)

Practice question:

Q. With reference to the ancient fort of Sisupalgarh, consider the following statement :

1. This fort flourished during the post-Harsha period.

2. Fort of Sisupalgarh was constructed during the reign of King Kharvela.

3. monolithic pillars of laterite stones are unique features of the fort.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1 and 2 only

(d) 1 and 3 only

Answer: (b)

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