Kalinga (historical region)

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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 northern part of Andhra Pradesh, at its widest extent, the Kalinga region also included a part of present-day Chhattisgarh and Telangana.

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, Somavamsi, and Eastern Ganga. The Bhauma-Karas were another important regional dynasty, although they did not call their kingdom Kalinga, at various times, the Kalinga region also formed part of the bigger empires, and gradually lost its distinct political identity after the Eastern Gangas.


Kalinga (historical region) is located in India
Mouth of Godavari
Mouth of Godavari
Mouth of Mahanadi
Mouth of Mahanadi
Extreme points of Kalinga in present-day India

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.[1]

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.[2]

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, while the western part was included in the Dakshina Kosala region.[3] Utkala gradually lost its identity, and came to be considered as a part of Kalinga.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]


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.[7]

The Kalingas occupied the extensive territory stretching from river Baitarani in Odisha to the Varahanandi in the Visakhapatnam district.[8] Its capital in the ancient times was the city of Dantakura or Dantapura (now Dantavaktra fort near Chicacole in the Ganjam district, washed by the river Languliya or Langulini).[8]

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 Kalinga region was annexed by the Nandas at some point,[9] 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.[10]

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.[10]

Kalinga was annexed by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, 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".[2]

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.[11]

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").[12]

During 8th-10th centuries, the Bhauma-Kara kings ruled the region, although they called their kingdom "Tosala" (derived from Tosali, the ancient capital of Kalinga),[13] the subsequent Somavamsi kings called themselves the lord of Kalinga, Kosala, and Utkala.[14]

During 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.[15]

See also[edit]