Royal succession stories have always been marred with bloodshed and betrayal. One such tale from the Land of Kalinga is the war of succession between the Gajapati and the Bhoi dynasty.
From the world of Odisha
The story of the last independent king of Kalinga, Mukunda Deva, starts with the Chalukya family of South India. Being a Chalukya by birth, Mukunda was popularly known by Telenga Mukundadeva. He initially worked as an accountant under the last Gajapati ruler, Prataparudra Deva. Mukunda was an able and trustworthy man, but little did the others know that his trustworthiness would one day convert into treacherousness.
With passing time, King Prataparudra became old and frail and passed away in 1540. Even under his reign, the kingdom went through many upheavals and rebellions due to frequent conflicts with neighboring rulers, including the Qutb Shahi rulers of the Golconda Sultanate. A succession of weak rulers, increasing political and economic instability, internal disputes, increasing threats of invasions from different kingdoms of the subcontinent together took a toll on the Gajapati Kingdom. Taking advantage of this situation, Govinda Vidyadhara murdered the rest of the successors, took over the throne of Cuttack, and laid the foundation of the Bhoi dynasty.
Govinda was succeeded by his son, Chakrapratapa, who was later killed by his son Narasimha Jena. Here entered the main antagonist of our story, Mukunda Deva. He assassinated Narasimha Jena and placed the king's younger brother, Raghuram Chaudhry, on the throne and made him his puppet ruler. During this time, Janardhan Danai Vidyadhara, the brother of Govinda Vidyadhar, extended his influence in the empire, but Mukunda didn't let this happen. He assassinated Raghuram, fended off Janardhan, crowned himself as the next king in 1560, and brought Chalukya Vansh to power.
With Mukunda Deva as the king, Odisha saw many architectural developments, including two elongated streets from Lion's Gateway to the Gundicha Temple. He also established a Dola Mandap or a cradle arch wherein Lord Jagannatha, Lord Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra would swing during the Dola Festival. He also erected a chain of forts at Raibania, but Kalapahad stormed it in 1558.
Mukunda Deva soon came in close contact with the Mughal emperor Akbar, making him an enemy of the Sultan of Bengal. As a result, he had to face the wrath of the Sultan twice on the battlefield. In 1560, Sultan Ghiyasuddin Jalal Shah of Bengal invaded Orissa, but Mukunda defeated him and drove him out at the perfect time.
But this was not the end as the army of Bengal, along with the infamous general of Sultan, Kalapahada, attacked Cuttack. Since Mukunda Deva was not present, Ramachandra Deva declared himself as the king of Odisha. As soon as Mukunda heard this news, he rushed back and fought with Ramachandra at Jajpur. Little did Mukunda know that his death was awaiting him. On this very battlefield where he had once won the title of kingship, he lost his life. After his death, Ramachandra Deva allied with Akbar to avoid Afghan invasion and rule as the next king of Odisha.
But Ramachandra Deva's rule did not continue for long as he was caught in a conflict and murdered by Bayazid. Since Akbar was busy preparing for the invasion of Chitor, he couldn't help Rama. By the year 1568, the entirety of Odisha was in the hands of Karani rule. The year 1568 is considered one of the most tragic years of Odisha's history as it was the end of independent rule.
Rulers came and went by, but Emperor Akbar remained constant. Stay tuned to know what happened to Odisha under the rule of Emperor Akbar and his able successors.
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