Kalinga (historical region)

Extreme points of Kalinga, as mentioned in the historical records

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.

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, Somavamshi, and Eastern Ganga. Throughout their history the Eastern Chalukyas were the cause of many wars between the more powerful Cholas and Western Chalukyas over the control of the strategic Vengi country. 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.


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.[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]


According to scholar Godavarti Ramadasu (1980) that the word kalinga itself is a Dravidian word. In the Kui language, rice is called kulinga. Since the Kuis were mainly rice eaters, Aryans might have called them Kulingas or Kalingas. (Source- Ramadasu.G, (1980) Telugu bhasha charitra, Telugu academy).

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 dynasty ruled the region, although they called their kingdom "Tosala" (derived from Tosali, the ancient capital of Kalinga).[13] The subsequent Somavamshi 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]

Kalinga is also an important part of the legendary history of Sri Lanka, as it was the birthplace of legendary Prince Vijaya according to the Mahavamsa.[16]

Derived from Kalinga is the still current term Keling or Kling, used in parts of Southeast Asia to denote a person of the Indian subcontinent or Indian diaspora and at present having some derogatory and pejorative connotations, especially in Malaysia. [17] [18][19] The word Keling derives from the ancient Indian kingdom of Kalinga. While this was apparently sometimes localized as Kalingga (as in the Indonesian Kalingga Kingdom), the terminal schwa sound was dropped in common usage to form Keling. Though ostensibly denoting the Kalinga kingdom, the term Keling in ancient Southeast Asia came to be a more general term for India and its people. The Khmer word Kleng (ក្លិង្គ) and the Thai word Khaek (แขก) derived from the same root. Prior to the introduction of the English word "India", Keling and Jambu Dwipa were used to refer to the country in the Malay and Indonesian language, while Benua Keling referred to the Indian Subcontinent. The earliest known occurrence of the word Keling appears in the Sejarah Melayu (Malay Annals). The legend mentions Raja Shulan as the king of Kalingga who sets out to conquer China with his descendant Raja Chulan. Scholars identify Raja Chulan with the Chola king of southern India,[5] from whom the term Chulia derives, as in Penang's Chulia Street. Later parts of the Sejarah Melayu mention the voyages of Hang Nadim and Hang Tuah to Benua Keling (India). However Keling must not be misunderstood as a specific territory, rather it refers to people of Indian origin and not only the inhabitants of Kalinga.[4] For example, a colonial-era Indonesian tradition refers to the Ramayana epic as Rama Keling meaning "Rama the Indian". After the introduction of Islam, Keling sometimes referred specifically to Tamils or Telugu people while Gujaratis and Indo-Aryan peoples from Pakistan were often confused with Parsi or Persians. The Dutch used the words "Clings" and "Klingers" to refer to the Indian inhabitants of Malacca. The British colonial writings also use the word "Kling" to describe the immigrants from Madras Presidency and Coromandel coast.[4] John Crawfurd (1856) mentioned that the term "Kling" was used by the Malays and the Javanese as "a general term for all the people of Hindustan (North India), and for the country India itself".(Reference- "A historical perspective on the word 'Keling'").

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1996, p. 1.
  2. ^ a b Dineschandra Sircar 1971, p. 167.
  3. ^ Dineschandra Sircar 1971, pp. 168-171.
  4. ^ Mano Mohan Ganguly 1912, p. 11.
  5. ^ Chandramani Nayak 2004, p. 6.
  6. ^ R. C. Majumdar 1996, p. 19.
  7. ^ Dineschandra Sircar 1971, p. 168.
  8. ^ a b K. A. Nilakanta Sastri 1988, p. 18.
  9. ^ Jagna Kumar Sahu 1997, p. 24.
  10. ^ a b Megasthenes Indica Archived 21 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Snigdha Tripathy 1997, p. 219.
  12. ^ Snigdha Tripathy 1997, pp. 64-65.
  13. ^ Umakanta Subuddhi 1997, p. 32.
  14. ^ Walter Smith 1994, p. 25.
  15. ^ Dineschandra Sircar 1971, p. 169.
  16. ^ Thera Mahanama-sthavira. Mahavamsa: The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka. Jain. p. 196. ISBN 978-0-89581-906-2.
  17. ^ Aiman Mohamad (1991). Minerva English-Malay Malay-English Dictionary. Kuala Lumpur.
  18. ^ "KBBI - Keling". Kamus Besar bahasa Indonesia.
  19. ^ M. Veera Pandiyan (10 August 2016). "'Keling' and proud of it". The Star online.