Though the modern city came into existence in 1948, the history of Bhubaneswar can be traced back to 3rd century BC. The city was witness to one of the major events in the history of mankind- The Kalinga war. In the words of noted historian Ramesh Mahapatra -“The political history of mankind in reality is a history of wars and no war has ended with so successful a mission of peace for the entire war-torn humanity as the war of Kalinga”.
The ancient caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri along with the Ashokan Edicts are perhaps one of the few ancient structures in India, which give first hand information on the way of life as it was back then.
We trace brief history of this ancient city by taking into account four most significant structures/incidents/monuments which has shaped the history of this beautiful city.
The excavated structures of this ancient fortress are believed to be 2400 years old. Archaeologists believe the fortification had all the embodiments of great ancient civilisations of history and flourished between 400 BC to till about 100 AD before it went into the oblivion.
Noted archaeologist Shri. B.B. Lal, excavated the site first in 1948 . Subsequently many archaeologists have carried out studies at the site . From the findings as well as the terracotta pottery and coins found at the ruins of Sisupalgarh, it can be concluded that the civilisation was a flourishing one with trade relations with other regions and one can find evidence of interaction with other kingdoms of the time. The population of the fortress was estimated to be around 20,000- 25,000 which is significant since ancient Athens at its peak had a population of about 10,000.
Historic Kalinga War:
Believed to be one of the greatest wars in Indian history, the Kalinga war is likely to have taken place in 261 BC along the Daya River on the outskirts of modern day Bhubaneswar. As per the 13th rock edict of Emperor Ashoka, the great Mauryan ruler invaded Kalinga in the eighth year of his reign and the epic battle led to deaths and destruction on such a large scale that according to legend the water of the Daya river turned red with blood.
Many historians believe that Kalinga then a feudal republic was a strong region in terms of military might and was also prosperous due to flourishing trade relations with Java, Malay, and Ceylon and this attracted Ashoka. It is believed by some historians that the Kalinga army had 60,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry and 700 elephants. Kalinga army also had a powerful naval force, as per some sources.
The devastation caused by the war created a upheaval in the heart of Ashoka, the victorious emperor. He transformed from Chanda Ashok to Dharma Ashok and embraced Buddhism and made it his life’s mission to promote peace and humanity all across the globe.
The era of King Kharavela:
The glorious past of Odisha is depicted in the inscription of King Kharavela on the caves on the Twin hills of Khandagiri and Udaygiri that dates back to 100 BC. The inscriptions found on the walls of these caves indicate the rule of a powerful dynasty of the Chetis (Chedis), specially many achievements of Kharavela, also known as Maha Meghavahana. As per the engravings, the benevolent king repaired the cyclone-devastated fortification of Kalinga-nagara [Sisupalgarh] and set up a massive stone structure at the Kumari Pravat range (Udayagiri and Khandagiri hills) and excavated caves for Jain monks. Kharavela was a powerful king who extended the Kalinga empire far and wide at the same time being a connoisseur of arts and science, he actively promoted them amongst his subjects. Some historians believe Kharavela to be the greatest King to have ruled Kalinga.
Temple City, Capital city and now Smart City:
Bhubaneswar is a perfect example of how history and modernity can coexists and feed off each other. From being the cradle which saw the rise of Kalinga School of Architecture to immortality to the beautiful capital city of Odisha planned by renowned German Architect Otto Königsberger and now the foremost smart city of India, Bhubaneswar has seen excellence across era’s and centuries which is unmatched. The city while graciously accepting the promise of future never lets go of its past, because it knows that it’s the storied past which paved the way for an exciting future.