The Ganga King ruled over Kalinga from the 6th Century to 11th Century A.D. At that time Kalinga was restricted by the river Rusikulya in the north and the Simhachal hills in the south. At the centre of Kalinga was the Mahendragiri range of hills. The Mathar Kings who ruled over Kalinga before the Gangas had Singhapur as their Capital. But after the fall of the Mathar dynasty, the Ganga kings established their Capital at Kalinga Nagar on the banks of the river Vamsadhara. Today it is located in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh, known as Nagari Katak.

Very close to this is a place known as Mukhalingam in which the Madhukeswar Siva temple was constructed in the 10th century A.D. by Madhukamarnava Deva, a Ganga king. His son, Vajrahasta Deva, did quite a lot of development works for the temple and laid down all the rites and rituals for worship of the Deity there. From a copper plate issued by him it is known that he had brought a number of families adept in dance from Baidumba kingdom, which was the home of the maternal uncle of Vajrahasta Deva.

These families gradually increased in number and the King settled them in a village called Srikurumapatak, located at a distance of 19 km. from Kalinga Nagar on the sea coast. There is a Vishnu temple in Srikurumapatak enshrining Srikurma Avatar (the Tortoise incarnation of Visnu). The Vaishnavites who came from southern India taught Sanskrit literature, philosophy and religious texts to the students in this place. There was also a school for music and dance at Srikurumapatak for the dancing girls and boys. The temple dancers were called Sani.

The Ganga Kings ruled over Kalinga for about 400 years and then Chodaganga Deva was born to Maharaja Devendravarma Rajaraja Deva and queen Rajasundari, who was the daughter of the Chola King of Kanchi named Maharaja Kulatunga Rajendra Chola the Second. Rajasundari had two sons namely, Cholaganga Deva and Pamardy. When Rajrajara Deva died prematurely in 1077 A.D., Cholaganga Deva was only 5 year old and Paramardy, the second son, was only 3 year old.

Kalinga was thus without a ruler. The neighbouring states wanted to occupy Kalinga. In order to save the kingdom and the two kids from their enemies Rajasundari, the widowed queen, desperately sought the help of her brother Virachoda, who was ruling over the Bengi Kingdom. Virachoda accepted the request, came to Kalinga Nagar and organised the coronation of the child Cholaganga Deva. He got his own daughter Gundichodi, later known as Kasturikamodini, married to Cholaganga Deva and proclaimed that Kalinga was not without a ruler. Virachoda was a brave and intelligent king himself. He engaged teachers of high caliber for the education of his daughter and son-in-law. Cholaganga Deva later led a huge army and started a series of campaigns against the neighbouring enemy kingdoms.

Situated to the east of Kalinga was Utkal, which was ruled at that time by the Somavansi king Karnadeva. Cholaganga attacked Utkal, and with this battle for the conquest of Utkal, the Somavansa were eliminated. Cholaganga then defeated Chalukya, King of Bengi, and also defeated the Pala King of Bangal at Mandargada and Armyanagar, at present known as Arambag. He extended his Kingdom Kalinga from Godavari in the southwest to the Ganga in the northeast. In 1112 A.D. he shifted his capital from Kalinga Nagar to Varanasi Katak, which is at present known as Bidanasi. From a Deopara copper plate inscription it is known that Vijayasena prided himself on being a friend of Cholaganga.

Since it took some time to bring about peace and stability in the conquered territories of Utkal and Banga, Cholaganga, along with his family, stayed in Kalinga Nagar up to 1126 A.D. and then shifted to Varanasi Katak after restoration of peace and stability. In 1050 Sakabda (1128 A.D.) his first year of reign was declared to be counted as found from an inscription in Nrusingha temple near Mukti Mandap at Srimandir. Cholaganga assumed the title of Parama Maheswara, Parama Vaisnava and Parama Brahmanya. He was initially a Saiva and later on became Vaisnava. His Saiva Guru was a Sadhu in Madhukeswar temple and his Vaisnava Guru was from the Vishnu temple of Kurumapatak.

Cover of an Oriya translation of Gita-ovinda, published 1840
Cholaganga Deva organised the coronation of his eldest son, Sri Kamarnava Deva, at Sri Purusottama Temple of Puri and stayed in his palace at Puri for the rest of his life. This was in the year 1142 A.D. Cholaganga Deva started the construction of the present Jagannath Temple at Puri. At the coronation function temple dancers from Sri Kurumapatak were called to perform a dance at the Lord Jagannath Temple. This sect was known as the Sani sect. As found out from the temple inscriptions at Madhukeswar temple and Simanchal Temple, the Ganga Kings had encouraged this tradition of temple dancers in the kingdom of Kalinga, and then in the Kalinga empire.

As recorded in an inscription in the Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar, during the reign of Raghava Deva, the second son of Chodaganga Deva, all the land rights for a region called Baheda Khanda were purchased from Sadhu Pradhan Jayadeva of Kurmapataka and donated to Kirtivaswar (Lord Lingaraj) by Medam Devi, her father Komi Nayaka and her mother. The three of them had donated three Akhanda Dipas (arrangements for non-stop burning of oil-lamps) to the temple. They belonged to the Sani sect.

A similar inscription appears on Madhukeswar temple at Mukhalingam where Komi Nayak, father of Medam Devi and his wife Nagama Devi (Title of Gudisani meaning Temple Dancer) arranged for offering an akhanda deepa in the temple in 1113 A.D. There is yet another inscription in the said Madhukeswar temple in which they had offered akhanda deepa in 1128 A.D. The system of providing akhanda deepa and donating rights of land to the Deities appears to be common in the three events in 1113, 1128 and 1156 A.D.

The Life of Sri Jayadeva

The presence of Jayadeva and his description as Kurmapataka Pravara establishes that he had close lineage with the dancing families of Kurmapataka who had come to Orissa during the period of Chodaganga Deva. Had the Gudi Sanis (temple actors and dancers) been socially looked down upon, then their donations to temples could not have been accepted and immortalized in inscriptions.

The two inscriptions at Madhukeswar temple and the one at Simhachal temple were discovered, read and interpreted by Dr. Satyanarayan Rajaguru, the Pitamaha Bhisma of historians and linguists of Orissa. Read with the inscription at Lingaraj temple, it leads to the conclusion that Jayadeva had been a member of the teaching faculty of the school at Srikurmapatak. He might have studied there as well. After his childhood education he must have gone to Srikurmapataka and gained experience in composition of poetry and music and in dancing. He perhaps came back to Orissa along with the group, and he performed in the Puri temple.

Sri Jayadeva, the celebrated Poet of Gita-Govinda, was born in the village Kenduvilva Sasan or Kenduli Sasan in Balipatna P.S. in Khurda district, a part of the earlier Puri district. He was most likely born in the first part of 12th Century A.D. during the reign of Cholaganga Deva. Kenduli Sasan close to the river Prachi, which was then inhabited mostly by Brahmins. The presiding Deity in the village is Ambika and there is a Nrsingha temple as well.

Jayadeva must have gone for higher education in Sanskrit literature and music to Kurmapataka and after education he must have become a tutor there. That is why the two titles Kurmapataka Pravara and Sadhu Pradhan have been mentioned with reference to him in the Lingaraj Temple inscription. Read together, the three inscriptions indicate the fact of close association of Jayadeva to the family of Komi Nayaka and to the institution at Kurmapataka.

Oriya Gita-ovinda
Prachi valley witnessed the rise and spread of Jainism, Buddhism, Saivism, Saktism, Sun cult and Vaisnavism. Kenduvilva and many other villages nearby are full of religious monuments dedicated to these different cults. Numerous temples were erected by Bhaumas, Somavanshis and the Gangas in the Prachi valley. Village Kenduli Sasan has rich relics of brick and stone temples and sculptures of Saiva, Vaisnava and Sakta cults as well as Buddhism belonging to the period between 9th and 13th Century A.D. In Prachi Valley whether the temple has a Sakta or Saiva deity, Gita–Govinda is recited on festive occasions, symbolizing the influence of Vaisnavism over Saktism and the immense popularity of the text of Gita-Govinda.

The copper plate grant of Nrsingha Deva, the 4th which was recovered from a tank near the Nrsingha temple of Kenduli village, was originally issued from Varanasi Katak in A.D. 1383. It refers to the establishment of Narasinghpur Sasan donated to one Mahapatra Narahari Das Praharaj, who was the minister of Narasingha Deva. This Sasan is located very close to Kenduvilva on Prachi valley. This grant also contains the names of Olatapura and Attahaspura Sasan adjacent to Kenduli, established by Attahasdeva, the youngest son of Cholaganga Deva.

Jayadeva’s Introduction of Radha and Madhava

To quote Dr. Harish Chandra Das “While discussing about the historical background of Jayadeva it will perhaps not be out of place to glance through how he introduced Radha and Madhava and dasavatara cult in the most popular manner breaking the stylized tradition. From this point of view Gita-Govinda is virtually a historical text unfurling the historical truth through his poetic narration. The cult of Madhava, which is historically proved to be in existence in Orissa from seventh or eighth century A.D., gained great momentum from the time of Jayadeva.

The first epigraphical evidence of Madhava we come across in the copper plate grant of Madhavaraja of the Sailodbhava dynasty, where the scribe has particularized the epithet of Chakrayudha Madhava. The image of Nilamadhava installed by the Bhanja monarch at Gandharadi (ninth century A.D.) comes next in order of chronology. The image of Santosa Madhava recorded in the copper plate grant of Indravarman Codaganga, Madhava in the pillar inscriptions of Rellivalasa at Srikakulam, and numerous Madhava sculptures and temples in Prachi Valley are clear revelations of the long continued tradition of Madhava worship in Orissa with wide distribution in Prachi Valley, the birth place of Jayadeva ,who in the course of his wanderings and as a devout worshipper of Madhava infused exuberantly in his Gita-Govinda the lucid description of Madhava, his Deity of love and admiration.”

Sri Jayadeva introduced the cult of Radha and Krishna through his Gita-Govinda and due to the influence of Srimad Bhagavata and Gita-Govinda, the composite figure of Krishna and Vishnu as Gopinath became very popular in Orissa. When Vaisnavism became the state religion of Orissa the composite sculpture of Krishna and Vishnu with upper two hands in the pose of playing the flute, standing in the tribhanga pose associated with Astagopi and cattle, which is the characteristic feature of Krishna, indicates the amalgamation of two cults. The long continued tradition of Dasavatara had a deep imprint on Sri Jayadeva, who popularised the 10 Avatars of Vishnu in lucid language, which would be put to music and dance.

To quote Dr. Harish Chandra Das again, “That the concept of ten incarnations of Visnu was widely prevalent in Orissa since seventh century A.D. is substantiated by literary and archaeological evidences. In this connection mention may be made of Varaha worship referred to in the copper plate of Dharmaraja of the Sailodbhava dynasty and other individual and collective images particularly in coastal Orissa, which speak in short to the prevalence of dasavatara worship in Orissa before the advent of Jayadeva. Jayadeva in his composition (dasakrtikrte) has shown the greatness of Lord Visnu in his ten incarnations individually.

It was Sri Jayadeva who institutionalised the Devadasi system introduced from the time of the Somavansi Kings. Devadasi or Maharis were women dedicated to the Deity in the temple for performance of dance and music. The importance of this dancing service became so great that a special structure called Natamandir was added to the Viman and Jagamohan.”

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu

Madhava Patnaik, a Vaishnavite poet, was a contemporary of Panchasakha and Sri Chaitanya. As is well known, Panchasakha refers to Balarama Das, Jagannatha Das, Achyuta Das, Ananta Das and Yashovanta Das, the saint poets of Orissa. Madhava Patnaik has described in detail the events in the later part of the life of Shri Chaitanya in Puri. In this book is given a graphic description of the development of Vaishnavism in Orissa.

The following are the facts from this book which clearly mentioned the following:

1.Chodaganga Deva actually renovated an old temple and started construction of the present Jagannatha temple, and he had conducted in the temple itself the abhishek of the crown prince Kamarnava Deva.

2.On this occasion, dancers were called from the South to perform dance and drama in the Puri temple.

3.A small Natamandir was constructed and arrangements were made for presentation of regular dance and drama by Maharis (Temple dancers) in the honour of Lord Jagannatha in the temple during the time of Chodaganga Deva and his son.

4.Sri Chaitanya, after he had arrived at Puri, was advised by Pandits to go to Rajamahendri to meet Raya Ramananda, who was Governor of this southern province of Orissa. There Chaitanya came to discuss Dvaitavada and Advaitavada with Raya Ramananda

5.Bipra Jayadeva was born in Kenduli Sasan on the bank of the river Prachi. He worshipped Madhava at Niali. He was an expert in the Shastras and Puranas, music and dance. He was a saint poet who composed the Gita-Govinda in the temple of Jagannatha at Puri and his wife Padmavati danced to the tunes of Gita-Govinda before Lord Jagannath.

6.Chaitanya and Panchasakha were going on Sankirtan trips to different parts of Orissa for a number of years. One such annual trip started from the Ananta Vasudeva temple of Bhubaneswar and ended at Puri, touching Balakati-Kenduli-Niali, Madhav, Adaspur, Kakatpur and Konark. Madhav Patnaik has described as to how Sri Chaitanya and Panchasakha were dancing in Sankirtan and singing Gita-Govinda at Kenduli village, which was the birth place of Jayadeva.

This book was discovered and compiled from three Palm leaf manuscripts collected in Orissa from three places in the early 1980s.

Gita-Govinda of Sri Jayadev, therefore, is accepted as a historical text in addition to its great literary and religious significance. Sri Jayadev initially highlighted and systematised the traditional cults but also introduced his own ideologies, poetic imagery and music. Both Cholaganga Deva and his son Kamarnav were disciples of Ramanuja and devotees of Sri Jagannath and his consort Laxmi. Jayadeva was influenced by Ramanuja’s ideology of Jagannath and Laxmi. In Gita-Govinda, Krishna tells Radha that formerly she as Laxmi chose Him as her consort on the seashore on the occasion of Samudra Manthana. As a result of this incident Siva swallowed poison out of despair.

Gita-Govinda was composed before 1150 A.D. and Gita-Govinda dance drama was enacted in the Puri temple during the rein of Cholaganga Deva and Kamarnavadeva. The earliest reference to Jayadeva outside Orissa was made by poet Chandabaradai, the Court poet of Prithviraj Chauhan who was defeated and killed in 1192 A.D. by Md. Ghori in the battle of Tirori.

The next earliest reference is found in an inscription of Raja Sarangadev in the year 1201 A.D. Therefore, it is established that Gita-Govinda, because of its regular performance in the Sri Jagannath temple of Puri, assumed popularity throughout India within a brief period of 30-40 years of its composition. It combined the best in the rich traditions of philosophy, literature, music and dance in Kalinga and Utkal. The philosophy was developed later into Achintya Bheda Bheda Tatwa, so ably propounded by Raya Ramananda and immortalized by Sri Chaitanya, Pancha Sakha and the Six Goswamis.