The Queens who ruled Jajpur

    • bookmark icon


    Jajpur is Odisha is intrinsically associated with Goddess Biraja, whose temple lies in the heart of the town and the great Somavanshi king Jajati Keshari, who once made it his capital. But even a lot of the residents of this town may not be aware that their very town was the capital of the Bhaumakara kingdom, where the reigns of six powerful queens once shaped the course of history. From the 9th to the 10th centuries, the Bhaumakara Kingdom of Jajpur was under the rule of a line of remarkable queens whose names have been etched into the annals of history.

    The city of Baghdad is roughly 4300 miles away from Jajpur. But 1100 years ago, one of Baghdad’s most illustrious residents, the famous Geographer Ibn Khordadbeh (820-913 CE) had heard of these Odiya queens. In his most famous work Kitāb al Masālik w’al Mamālik (The Book of Roads and Kingdoms), a geographical work first published in 880 CE, Ibn Khordadbeh refers to the Kingdom of Dahum (Bhauma) in Eastern India , where “the royal power belongs to a woman who is called Rayina (Ranima)”. Not just Ibn Khordadbeh, but a number of contemporary Persian and Arabic chroniclers have mentioned the rule of the Bhaumakara queens. So it is a bit ironic that few in India have heard of them today.

    As you explore the tales of these extraordinary queens, such as the valiant and wise queen Tribhuvana Mahadevi, you'll be transported to a world of ancient splendour and intrigue. The Bhaumakara Kingdom was not just a place of great wealth and culture, but also a realm where women were celebrated for their power and influence.

    The Bhaumakara Kingdom of Jajpur

    The recorded history of Jajpur prior to the ascension of the Bhaumakara dynasty in 736 CE is shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. However, early historical accounts reveal that the Bhaumakaras descended from a person named 'Bhauma', and later identified themselves as 'Karas'. It is for this reason that the dynasty has come to be widely recognized as the Bhaumakara dynasty.

    Kshemendradeva who was a member of the Bhauma family of Kamarupa, started the Bhaumakara rule in Odisha in 736 CE. The Bhauma rulers established their capital at Jajpur and in course of time they extended their sway over the northern eastern part of coastal Odisha comprising the modern districts of Midnapore, Balasore, and Cuttack with that being the part of Puri district.

    The Bhauma karas ruled for a period of 200 years and their rule is considered to be the golden epoch in the history of Orissa. The kings and queens of this dynasty built a large number of temples and monasteries throughout the length and breadth of their territory and even had cultural relations with far off countries like China.

    The Great Queen – Tribhuvana Mahadevi

    The first and the most famous queen to rule over the Bhaumakara Kingdom was Queen Tribhuvana Mahadevi (r. 845-850 CE), the wife of King Santikara I (r. 825-845 CE). Queen Tribhuvana Mahadevi was originally born as Goswamini Devi and was the daughter of Rajamalla , the ruler of Mysore region. A 9th century copper plate found in Dhenkanal speaks of how the Bhaumakara kingdom was in a desperate plight due to the invasion of the Palas of Bengal. During this period, King Santikara married the daughter of the Ganga king. With this alliance, the Bhaumakaras were able to defeat the Palas of Bengal.

    After the sudden death of her husband in 845 CE, Queen Tribhuvana Mahadevi was persuaded by the nobles to ascend the throne. Interestingly, she assumed the title of ‘Maharajadhiraja’ in her own right. In the contemporary Odiya records, she has been held in high esteem as an ideal ruler who vanquished many subordinate kings, spread the glory and fame of her family and established social harmony. The high praise bestowed upon her by the contemporary Odiya records is also amply substantiated by the accounts of the contemporary Arab and Persian geographers such as Ibn Khordadbeh of Baghdad.

    During her time, Jajpur was known as Guhadevapataka. The Queen, like others in her dynasty were devout Buddhists and patronised learning centres such as Lalitagiri, Udayagiri and Pushpagiri, which developed in and around Jajpur.

    After ruling peacefully for five years, Tribhuvana Mahadevi abdicated in favour of her grandson King Shantikaradeva II around 850 CE. Though she ruled for a short time, Tribhuvana Mahadevi’s name was immortalised in history.

    Queen Prithvi Mahadevi – The Somavanshi ‘Mole’

    The next queen to rule Jajpur was Prithvi Mahadevi who ruled between 890 to 896 CE, around 40 years after Tribhuvana Mahadevi. Prithvi Mahadevi was the daughter of the Somavanshi King Janmajeya I, and the wife of King Subhakara IV. The Somavanshis and the Bhaumakaras were staunch enemies and the marriage was seen as an alliance between the two families.

    But Prithvi Mahadevi was extremely proud of her Somavanshi lineage and acted as a ‘mole’ promoting the rival interests in the Jajpur kingdom. After the death of her husband, she killed the rival claimants and took control over the throne with the help of her brother King Jajati I. The Somavanshis began to indirectly control the Jajpur region through her and people were very unhappy with her rule.

    Historian B Das remarks that “this external interference in the internal affairs of the Bhaumakara kingdom might have generated an ill feeling among the subjects towards Prithvimahadevi. She succumbed to popular pressure and had to quit the throne after a brief period of rule’.

    While Queen Prithvi Mahadevi ruled for a very short period, her rule was disastrous for the Kingdom. She deliberately weakened the Bhaumakara Kingdom to help her own family – the Somavanshis. During her time, the Somavanshis, who ruled Eastern Odisha were able to spread their influence over the rich regions of Coastal Odisha.

    The Last four Bhaumakara Queens

    Around twenty years after the rule of Prithvi Mahadevi, the last male ruler of the Bhaumakara dynasty Subhakara V (r. 902-909 CE) died in 909 CE. After him, four queens successively ruled over the Kingdom of Jajpur. Interestingly, none of these queens adopted a male heir.

    The first among them was the widowed queen, Gauri Mahadevi (r. 909-914 CE) succeeded to the throne after her husband’s sudden death. Though not much is known about her, we do know that she was able to maintain law and order in her kingdom. She was succeeded by her only daughter Dandi Mahadevi.

    Dandi Mahadevi (r. 914-934 CE) came to the throne after her mother and ruled for a long time. A large number of copper plates of charitable grants made by her have been found all over Odisha, which tells us that she too had a peaceful reign. But during her time, Bhaumakara power began to decline as local feudal lords began to rebel and assert their independence. Dandi Mahadevi died unmarried and without an heir and was succeeded by her step mother Vakula Mahadevi (r. 934-940). Nothing much is known about her rule, except that the Palas of Bengal and the Somavanshis began taking over large parts of the Bhaumakara kingdom.

    After Vakula Mahadevi, the throne passed to Dharma Mahadevi (r. 940-950 CE) the last known Queen of the Bhaumakara dynasty. She had to ascend the throne in a very tragic state of affairs, when no male or female heir to the throne existed. She was the old queen of Lavanabhara II, who ruled the kingdom efficiently. It was during her rule that King Jajati Keshari II captured Jajpur and ended the Bhaumakara rule over the region.

    Due to the passage of time, little remains of the Bhaumakara era in the town of Jajpur. However, scattered throughout Odisha are numerous copper plates, the sole testament to the reign of these legendary queens, and their charitable grants. It is truly remarkable that six queens could rule over such a mighty kingdom over a thousand years ago, an achievement that deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated. May they receive the recognition they so rightly deserve.

    Peepul Tree World powered by Live History India, is a first of its kind digital platform aimed at helping you Rediscover the many facets and layers of India’s great history and cultural legacy. Our aim is to bring alive the many stories that make India and get our readers access to the best research and work being done on the subject. If you have any comments or suggestions or you want to reach out to us and be part of our journey across time and geography, do write to us at

    Prev Button

    Blue Sparkle Handmade Mud Art Wall Hanging

    Next Button