The Identification of Kalinganagara
By Bhavaraj V. Krishnarao, B.A., B.L. Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research Society Vol.15, pp. 105-115
There is a considerable difference of opinion today among
the scholars over the identification of Kalinganagara, the reputed
capital of Kalingadesa. Almost all the copper-plate grants
of the Ganga kings of Kalinga were issued from their capital,
Kalinganagara. Those who have identified the city with the
modern town of Kalingapatam have mainly based their
argument on three grounds. They are (1) the reference to the
Kalinga rajadhani in Kalidasa's Raghuvamsa as being situated
very near to the sea, (2) the similarity of the two names and,
lastly (3) Kalingapatam's ancient glory as a seaport and its
commercial prosperity from the earliest times. A close examination
of these reasons will doubtless show that their identification
is utterly untenable. The date of Kalidasa is still
a matter of doubt and uncertainty and Kalinga-rajadhani of his
day must therefore remain still a matter of conjecture. Except
its nearness to the sea, Kalingapatam has no traces of antiquity,
of a nature which could suggest the fact of its having been
once the capital of Kalinga. It might be after all that
Kalidasa by a stretch of his poetic imagination brought the
sea nearer the city than it really was. Further the similarity
of the names alone is not a sufficient reason to enable us
to identify one city with the other; Kalingapatam could never
have been the ancient Kalinganagara. It is a matter of common
knowledge with the students of South Indian History that the
appellation pattana was always associated with the seaport towns,
while nagara was with the capital cities or rajadhanis of the
kings. Thus we have for instance, in South India several
seaport towns the names of which end with the appellation
Pattana like Kayalapattana, Kaveripattana, Nagapattana, Kottapattana,
Desyuyukkondapattana. (another name for Motupalli,)
Machilipattana, (Masulipatam) Visakhapattana, (Vizagapatam)
and lastly Kalingapattana, while we have not even a single
town, the name of which ends with the appellation nagara
on the sea coast. The fact that Kalingapatam was once a
flourishing port does not necessarily mean that it must have been
also the ancient Kalinganagara. All the extant Telugu Verses
quoted in support of the Kalingapatam theory are of recent
production and could never have been composed by the celebrated
poet Vemulavada Bhimakavi, who lived in the eleventh or
twelfth century of the Christian era. The verses, the authorship
of which has been gratuitously attributed to Bhimakavi
contain references to the English, Dutch and French factories
in Kalingapatam and incidentally mention that the town was
built upon an island celled Srngala-dvipa. The reference to
the European trading companies puts beyond doubt the composition
of the verses at sometime in the latter part of the seventeenth
century. The island of Srngala with the beautiful town
on it, is not to be seen today; it is said to have been swallowed
up by the sea sometime ago during the nineteenth century.
It is certain, therefore, that Kalingapatam was known only as
Kalingapattana even as far back as the sixteenth century and
not as Kalinganagara. The former was probably the seaport
and the latter, the capital of ancient Kalinga; and both could
never have been one and the same.
We have however, references to 'Kalinganagara' the capital
of the earlier Ganga dynasty in the inscriptions. But as we are
not sure of the relations between the early Ganga dynasty and
the later Gangas and consequently whether their two Kalinganagaras
are one and the same. Until the riddle of the Ganga
Chronology is solved the identity of the Kalinganagra of the
early Gangas must remain a matter of doubt. In the Srikakulam
inscription of king Indravarman(1) of the early Ganga
dynasty, Kalinganagara is described thus :- "Svasti jaladhitaranga
-kara -pallav-alingitu sakala-Kalingavanitala-tilakaya-
mana- dvij=aya= Kalinganagarat." This passage suggests no
1. Ind. Ant, Vol. XII, p. 123.
doubt that Kalinganagara was on the sea coast but as has been
remarked it is not possible to identify it with any known
place. But we may ask, is this the city that was described
Let us see then whether we have any evidence to identify
Kalinganagara of the later Gangas with any known place in
Kalingadesa, i.e., the modern districts of Ganjam and Vizagapatam.
There has been a tradition current in Kalinga that the
villages of Mukhalingam and Nagarakatakam on the Vamsadhara
river, in the Parlakimedi taluk, Ganjam district once formed
the ancient city of Kalinganagara. It was Rao Sahib
G.V. Ramamurti Pantulu who first identified the two villages
with Kalinganagara on very substantial grounds.(1) But his
identification has not unfortunately been accepted as conclusive.
Nevertheless new evidence that has since come to light has
placed his identification beyond all doubt.
All examination of the inscriptions found in the temples
reveals to us certain facts that give us the clue to identify
Kalinganagara with certainty. There are three temples dedicated
to S'iva in Mukhalingam, under the names of Madhukesvara,
Aniyanka-Bhimesvara and Somesvara. The linga which
is called Mukhalingesvara appears, however, to have been never
known as such; it was always called Madhukesvara. Equally
surprising is the fact that though at the present day the village
is called Mukhalingam, the name too, does not appear in the
inscriptions found in the temples. The locality in which the
temples of Madhukesvara and Aniyanka- Bhimesvara stand is
called Nagaramu,(2) Nakaramu,(3) Nagara,(4) or Nagaranavidu(5) in
the inscriptions that range over a period of five to six centuries
beginning from the ninth century A.D. Nagara is a
Sanskrit word borrowed into Telugu, and sometimes pronounced
1. Ep Ind. Vol. IV: pp. 181-189.
2. S.I. I. Vol. V. nos. 1007 and 1025.
3. Ibid, nos. 1025, 1034, 1040 and 1046.1046.
4. Ibid. nos. 1042 and 1057.
5. Ibid nos. 1142 and 1046.
as nakara also and means the capital or the residence of the
king (rajadhani). Vidu is a Pure Telugu word meaning
a house, abode, dwelling place, citadel or the city itself, usually
where the king resides. Nagarana- Vidu, which is a compound
words means vidu of the city or vidu in the city. Evidently
vidu is here referred to as a proper word signifying the name
by which that part of the city where the temples stand, was called
in those days. This would then lead us to locate the Nagara
itself, which in all certainty must have surrounded the Vidu.
Again, at the present day there is a small village called
Nagarakatakam within a mile or two to the south from Mukhalingam
which further suggests to us the identity of Kalinganagara.
Ruins of temples and other buildings all over Mukhalingam
and beyond to the south, as far as Nagarakatakam and large
inscribed slabs and stones found here and there, confirm also
the suggestion of identity. The name Nagarakatakam is
apparently a compound of two words, viz., nagara and katakam, each
of them having distinctly different meanings. Kataka which
appears to be the prakrit form of Sanskrit Khetaka conveys the
idea of the city proper where the populace lived. It was
associated with several capital cities of the Deccan and we have
for instance, Kataka or kalyana-Kataka, Dhanya-Kataka,
ManyaKhetaka (Malkhed) and so on. But the origin of the
name Nagarakatakam might be twofold. The fact that the
capital of the neighbouring kingdom of Orissa was popularly
called mere Kataka like the capital of the Western Chalukyas(7)
might probably have induced the people of Kalinga to call their
rajadhani with an appellation "Naqara", or it might be that
the name "Nagarakatakam" meant the Kataka or the city
proper (where the populace lived) of NAGARA, the capital of the
Ganga kings of Kalinga, just as it was said of the Vidu of
Nagara as Nagarana=Vidu.
Again, Nagara might be an abbreviation of Kalinganagara,
for we have innumerable instances of the city having been
1. The capital of the Western Chalukyas was known as Kalyanskataka but
popularly called mere Kataka.
called as such. God Madhukesvara is referred to in a number
of inscriptions found in the temple itself in the following
manner:-- "Kalingavani- Nagare Sriman Madhukesvaraya
Sarvaya,(1) Kalinga-desa-Nagare Sriman Madhukesvaraya devaya(2)
Trikalingavani- Nagare Sriman Madhukesvaraya,(3) Nagare-
Kalingadese Svayambhuve Madhukesvaraya"(4) and I stly "Nagare-
Madhukesvarayam,"(5) which are suggestive of the meaning that
the city was called Nagara of Kalinga or Kalinganagara or
Nagara itself. Thus, curiously however, that while Katakam
of Nagara is still called Nagarakatakam the Vidu of Nagara
ceased to be known as such and a new name Mukhalingam
has usurped its place. This is indeed interesting and I think it
may not be out of place here to enquire into the origin of this
new name. The name of the linga Madhukesvara becomes
Mohakesvara in prakrit, and Moha and Madhuka mean the
same mauha tree. The name Mohalingam has in course of
time become corrupted into Mukhalingam on account of the
Telugu Brahmanas who ignorant of the original meaning
explained the word in the Kshetramahatmya as a compound
of two words, Mukha and Linga, i.e., linga with face.(6) Thus
in course of time Mukhalingam, the name of the deity lent
itself to the village also and people gradually forgot the names
of Nagara and Vidu.
There is yet another piece of evidence in support of view, viz.
that Mukhalingam and Nagarakatakam represent the ancient
city of Kalinganagara. The Vizagapatam copper-plate inscription
of Anantavarman dated S.S. 1040 records three facts which
bear on this question.(7) They are as follows:-- (1) Kamarnava
I one of the ancestors of the king had for his capital the
1. S.I.I., Vol. V., no, 1035.
2. Ibid., no. 1036.
3. Ibid., no. 1101.
4. Ibid., no. 1098.
5. Ibid., nos. 1042 and 1057.
6. Ep. Ind., Vol. IV, pp. 188-189, Sanskrit Mukhha becomes Moha in
Telugu or Andhraprakrit.
7. Ind. Ant., Vol. XVIII, pp. 167-168, lines 49-50 and 60-63.
town named Dantavura which excelled all the cities of all the
kings and even the city of Surendra. (2) Kamarnava II, nephew
of Kamarnava I, had for his capital the city named Nagara that
surpassed Trivistapa, the city of gods, in beauty; and (3)
in that city Nagara, Kamarnava II had built a lofty temple for
the emblem of God 1sa (Siva) in the form of Linga to which he
gave the name of Madhukesa because it came out of a madhuka
Now let us examine these facts carefully. The first of these
is that Kamaranava I, the reputed founder of the Ganga dynasty
originally had for his rajadhani a town called Jantavuram
which seems to be mistake for Dantavuram; Dr. Fleet clearly
had misread the letter ja for da. Mr. Ramamurti Pantulu
accepting the word as Jantavaram mistook Jantavurum for
Jayantipuram which is mentioned in the Khsetramanatmya.(1)
The name Jantavunram could not he a mistake for Jayantipuram.
It is impossible for the engraver to commit such a grave error
in respect of a city which was well known to him as the
residence of the former kings of Kalinga and which was
certainly in existence at that time.(2) Besides the fact that
Kamarnava II, nephew of Kamarnava I had for his capital
another town named Nagara where he is said to have built
a temple for Madhukesvara shows that Jantavuram and
Jayantipuram could not be identical with one another as
suggested by Mr. Ramamurti Pantulu, Further the identification
seems to be unsound and even untenable on both philological
and phonetical grounds. In the Korni Copper-plate
inscription of Anantavariman dated S.S. 1034 edited by
Mr. G.V. Sitapati, these facts are repeated.(3) But the
editor did not, like Dr. Fleet, misread the name of the city as
1. Ep. Ind., Vol. IV, pp. 188-ff.
2. S.I.I., Vol.V, nos. 1076 and 1084. The inscriptions in which Dantavuram
is mentioned belong to the reign of Anantavarman, 1078-1148, A.D., as
they are dated in S.S. 1027 (A.D. 1105) and S.S. 1035 (A.D. 1113) respectively.
3. Q.J.A.H.R.S., Vol. I, pp. 107-123.
Jantavuram; it is correctly read as Dantavuram(1). That the
name of the city is beyond all doubt Dantavuram is also borne
out by other epigraphical evidence available.(2) In the inscrip-
tions found in Mukhalingam, we come across the name
Dantavuram, and in one of them a grant of land in Dantavur-
am was also made to the shrine of Madhukesvara in Nagara.
Then the second fact that Kamarnava II, had built a new
city named Nagara and changed his residence to that place.
Anantvarman, however, does not give us any reasons for this
change of the capital by Kamarnava II. This 'Nagara' is
said to have been built on the bank of the river Vamsadhara.
There is a local tradition now extant in the neighbourhood of
Mukhalingam which however assigns a reason for the change
of the capital from Dantavuram to the newly built town
Nagara on the bank of Vamsadhara, which appears to be
probable, nay even true for it fully corroborates and explains
the facts stated in the inscriptions, of Anantavarman. It is
said that a king ruling in Dantavuram who was a devout
worshipper of Siva had once developed bitter hatred towards
the Baudhdhas who were living in a large monastery in his city.
And acting on the evil advice of his wicked ministers he wanted
to drive them out of his capital but having failed in that
attempt he planned their destruction secretly. Accordingly one
day he invited all the Bauddhas to a grand feast in his
palace; and as each guest arrived in he caused him to be
forcibly carried away by his men who hid themselves behind the
doors, insulted, tortured and finally did away with them quietly.
In a short time the news of this cruelty and torture spread in
the city like wild fire and the panic stricken Bauddhas cursed
the king and his city and fled from the monastery for their
lives. When the news of the curse reached the king, he
trembled, deserted his capital and fled into the forests, where
1. Though the facsimile of the Vizagapatam Copper-plate inscription was
not published in the Indian Antiquary. I have made myself sure of the reading
of the name Dantavuram by looking at the original plates. In the Korni grant
the letter da in Dantavuram is very clear.
2. S. I. I., Vol. V, nos. 1076 and 1084.
he built a new rajadhani on the northern bank or the river
Vamsadhara. Since that/time Dantavuram ceased to be the
capital and gradually the people, too, deserted it. The curse
of the innocent Buddhist monks caused so much affliction to
the city, its king and his people, that the city in course of time
fell into ruins and was afterwards never again fully
repopulated.(1) People of Amudalavalasa and the neighbourhood
near Chicacole Road railway station point out to a site which
is within two miles from the railway station and where stands
to this day a huge earthen wall about a mile in length and
a large opening into it in the middle which is said to be the
place where stood once the main gateway or the simhadvara
into the fort and call the place Dantavuram or Dantavaktrunikota.
They however, ignorantly associate the place with the
demon-king, Dantavaktra, brother of Sisupala, lord of Chedidesa
and the rival of Sri Krsna for the hand of Rukmini.
It may not be out of place to discuss here about the
identification of Dantapura, the reputed capital of ancient Kalinga.
The close similarity between Dantavuram and Dantapura of
the Buddhist chronicles induces me to identify Dantavuram
with Dantapura. This identification is also corroborated by
the writings of the ancient Roman geographer, Pliny who
mentions about the Calingoe in his Natural History.(2)
According to him the territory of the Calingoe extended as
far as the promontory of Calingon and the town of Dandaguda
or Dandagula,(3) which is said to be the capital of ancient
Kalinga is situated at a distance of 625 Roman Miles or 524
1. Watters:-- Travels of Yuwan Chwang., Vol. II, p. 198. Yuwan Chwang
tells us of a similar story in connection with Kalinga when he visited the
country in Circa 640 A.D. "This country (Kalinga)," the pilgrim relates, "had
once been very densely inhabited; a holy rishi possessing supernatural powers had
his hermitage in it; he was once offended by a native and cursed the country;
as a consequence of this curse became, and remained utterly unpopulated. In the
lapse of many years since that event it had become gradually inhabited again,
but it still had only a scanty population ... .....
2. Hist. Nat.,VI. 21.''Gentes; Calingoe proximo mari supra Mandei,
quorum mons Mallus, finisque ejus tractus eat Ganges."
3. Ibid. VI. 23. Philemon Bolland's translation has Dandagula.
English miles from the mouth of the Ganges. Calingon is
said to have been situated at the mouth of a great river which
Cunningham takes to be the Godavari on account of the
great similarity he finds between Calingon and the great
seaport town of Coringa (Tel. Korangi,) which is situated
on a projection of land at the mouth of the Godavari.(1)
The town of Dandaguda or Dandagula is, according to
Cunningham, the Dantapura of the Buddhist Chronicles.(2) And
he identifies Dantapura with Rajamahendri (Rajahmahendravaram)
on the eastern bank of Godavari which is within forty
miles from Coringa to the south west. Pliny seems to suggest
that Calingon and Dandaguda were situated very near to each
other. And this fact led the late Sir A. Cunningham to assume
that Calingon and Dandaguda of Pliny were the same as the
well known towns of Coringa and Rajahmahendri, respectively.(3)
But this identification seems to be incorrect.
Calingon has certainly more similarity to Kalinga or Kalingapatam
and likewise Dandaguda to Dantavura, than to any other
names known to us. Besides these towns are said to have
been situated in Calingoe, a territory which has been long ago
identified with Kalinga. We may therefore assume with much
probability that Calingon represents the modern town of
Kalingapatam as it was said to be on the projection of land
at the mouth of a 'large river' which might be taken to be
the river Vamsadhara, and Dandaguda, the ancient capital of
Kalinga, Dantavura or Dantapura.(4) Perhaps it was this city
1. Cunnningham's Ancient Geography of India, pp. 592-593, Edited by
S.N. Mazumdar :
4. Even today the site on which Dantavuram once said to have stood is not
very far from the river Vamsadhara. It might be that at one time the river
flowed near the city, three miles in a southwardly direction; for is a well
known fact that rivers gradually change their courses. The distance between
Dantavuram or Dantapura and Calingon or Kalingapatam which is at the mouth
of the river is about sixteen or twenty miles. Calingon and Dandaguda were
therefore cities of Kalinga and if Pliny could not give the name of the river
Vamsadhara it might be that his informant forgot or omitted its name because it
was not probably considered as important a river as the Godavari or the Krishna.
on the coast that Kalidasa mentioned and king Indravarman
described as being "tickled by the bands of waves of the ocean."
And now coming back to the tradition, I do not propose to
enter into a discussion of its details and also of the facts
referred to in the inscriptions of Anantavarman. It is not
necessary for our purpose to know which prince lived in
Dantavuram and which king changed his capital to Nagara on
the banks of the river Vamsadhara. Nor are we concerned
about the reasons that prompted the king whoever he might
be to shift his residence from Dantavuram to Nagara. There
are the facts of the change of the capital and the building of
a new rajadhani and the construction of the temple to
Madhukesa recorded in the inscriptions of Anantavarman, who
must be taken to have mentioned them as very important facts
concerning his capital and his ancestors as they were current
in his time. And now they are corroborated by the tradition.
Further, there stands to this day the temple of Madhukesvara
in Nagara which is no other than Mukhalingam itself. And
nowhere else in Kalinga there is another temple for Isa under
the name of Madhnkesvara. The name of Dantavuram, too, is
mentioned in the inscriptions of Mukhalingam. In the light
of these facts it is idle to contend any longer that Mukhalingam
and Nagarakatakam do not represent the ancient Kalinganagara.
There is yet one more piece of evidence that places the
identification on unshakeable ground. There is an inscription
in the temple of Mukhalingesvara which records a grant to the
dancers and musicians of the god Madhukesvara (called
Trikalingdeva here) issued from the 'Victorious Kalinganagara'
itself, by Anantavarman.(1) The inscription which is not
1. S.I.I., Vol. V, no.1010. The inscription runs thus:--
however, dated, is in Sanskrit prose and engraved in the North
Indian Nagari characters on a, pillar to the right of the
entrance into the central shrine of Mukhalingesvara. It begins
with the usual words, "Svasti! Srimat Kalinganagarat! etc."
meaning, "Hail! From the victorious Kalinganagara."
Thus when there is a record concerning the dancers and
musicians of the temple of Madhukesvara in Kalinganagara,
issued from and inscribed in a prominent place in the temple
itself, in Kalinganagara, what stronger proof is required to
identify Mukhalingam and Nagarakatakam with the ancient
From an examination of all these facts and by the ruins
that lie scattered between the two villages I am inclined to
believe that the site covered by the two villages, Nagarakatakam
and Mukhalingam represents the ancient Kalinganagara. Of the
beautiful palaces of its former kings, buildings and other
monumental works that once adorned the grand capital city of
Kalinga on account of the munificience and devotion of its noble
kings, three temples alone remain to-day recalling even faintly
the former glory of the city.(1) Everywhere in the vicinity
of these temples and the villages one comes actress within an
inch or two of digging the upper layer of the earth massive
structures in brick which remind us of the existence formerly
of beautiful edifices. Surrounded by these ruins at the present
day these three temples of Siva ruined and half-ruined as they
are still serve to attest the former magnificience of the ancient
city of Kalinganagara.
1. A temple of Visnu is mentioned in the inscriptions of Mukhalingam. It
is said to have stood in the Nagarapu-vadai probably at the other end of the
street. See S. II., Vol. V, no. 1049.