5 Fascinating Facts About King Jajati Kesari
The name of King ‘Jajati Keshari’ has been immortalized in the history of Odisha. A ruler of the Somavanshi dynasty, who united eastern and western Odisha under his rule in the 10th century, Jajati Kesari has become an intrinsic part of Odiya identity with a number of buildings and roads named after him in the state. But not many people outside Odisha have heard of Jajati Keshari, his achievements and the Somavanshi dynasty.
It's intriguing that as per historians, the story of Jajati Keshari is not of a solitary figure, but rather as a harmonious fusion of the story of two distinct kings of the same name: Jajati Keshari I and Jajati Keshari II, who ruled around 50 years apart.
The Somavanshis were a medieval Indian dynasty that reigned over Kalinga, present-day Odisha, from the 9th to the 12th century CE. The two-century rule of the dynasty was a golden period in the history of Odisha. It was for the first time that the different regions of Odisha - Kalinga, Utkala, Kongoda and Kosala were united under a single authority. This period also saw a reemergence of Hinduism in the region, with new temples being built and art and culture being patronized. We bring to you five fascinating facts about the story of King Jajati Kesari of Jajpur -
1. The Rediscovery of Lord Jagannatha:
One of the most significant contributions of King Jajati Kesari was his role in the rediscovery of the idols of Lord Jagannatha, Balabhadra, and Subhadra. According to ‘Mandala Panji’ - the annals of the Jagannatha temple at Puri, these sacred idols had been hidden by priests during an invasion in a cave near Subarnapur, where they remained for 146 years. During his reign, King Jajati Kesari came to know of the hidden idols from Puri. He sent an expedition to Subarnapur and through his determination and devotion, located the hidden idols. He found that the wooden idols had deteriorated very badly, and ordered the creation of new ones. As per the temple annals, Jajati Kesari also rebuilt the Jagannatha temple at Puri, under the guidance of Shankaracharya. This act not only restored the divine presence of Lord Jagannatha but also immortalized the name ‘Jajati Kesari’ in Hindu tradition.
2. Foundation of Yayatinagar (Present-day Jajpur):
King Jajati Kesari played a pivotal role in establishing the city of Yayatinagar, now known as Jajpur. Till the 10th century, Jajpur was known as ‘Guhadeva Pataka’ and served as the capital of the Bhaumakara kingdom. Following the conquest of the region, King Jajati Kesari I built a new city here called ‘Abhinava Yayatinagar’ or the ‘New City of Yayati’. The palaces and other grand buildings were constructed around the present day Biraja Mata Temple in Jajpur.
Yayatinagar served as his capital and a center of administrative, cultural, and religious activities. The city's strategic location on the banks of the Baitarani River facilitated trade and commerce, further enhancing its prominence. Jajpur became a hub of architectural marvels, reflecting the king's vision and patronage of the arts.
3. The Ten Ashwamedha Yagnas:
Jajati Kesari's reign was marked by the performance of ten Ashwamedha Yagnas (Horse Sacrifices) on the banks of the Baitarani River. This happened at the present day Dashashwamedha Ghat. To commemorate this Yagna, Jajati Kesari also built the Yagna Varaha Temple just above the ghat. This elaborate ritual was a symbol of power, authority, and the extension of the kingdom's influence. As part of these grand ceremonies, Jajati Kesari settled thousands of Brahmins from Kannauj, fostering cultural exchange and religious practices. Large number of Agraharams were built, they where emerged as centers of learning. The Ashwamedha Yagnas demonstrated his commitment to religious patronage, solidifying his reputation as a devout ruler.
4. Literary Legacy:
Jajati Kesari's influence extended beyond the realm of politics and administration. He became a subject of fascination for poets and authors throughout history. His mention in the Sarala Mahabharata, an Odia translation of the epic Mahabharata, elevated his stature as a legendary figure. The celebrated poet Radhanath Ray immortalized Jajati Kesari in his poem "Jajati Keshari," blending historical events with imaginative storytelling. This poem, published in the late 19th century, further solidified Jajati Kesari's place in the hearts and minds of the people of Odisha.
5. Cultural Renaissance and Legacy:
Under the rule of King Jajati Kesari, Odisha experienced a remarkable cultural renaissance. He generously patronized artists, musicians, and scholars, contributing to the growth of literature, art, and architecture. The construction of temples and palaces adorned the region, serving as enduring testaments to his reign. Copper plate grants discovered across Odisha provide evidence of his equitable distribution of wealth and resources among his people. Jajati Kesari's just rule and emphasis on cultural development left a lasting impact on the collective memory of the region.
King Jajati Kesari, a revered ruler of the Somavanshi dynasty, left an indelible legacy in Odisha's history. His rediscovery of Lord Jagannatha, performance of the Ten Ashwamedha Yagnas, establishment of Yayatinagar (Jajpur), literary immortality, and contributions to cultural renaissance are testaments to his visionary leadership. King Jajati Kesari's achievements continue to captivate the imagination of generations, serving as a reminder of Odisha's glorious past and its enduring cultural heritage.
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