Kharavela: a Jaina Chakravartin?

Introduction: Kharavela’s Hathigumpha inscription of late first century B.C. at the marvellous Udayagiri Jaina caves near Bhubaneswar is the most important epigraphical document of early historical India after Ashoka’s inscriptions although some portions are no more decipherable . Its uniqueness is based not only on its detailed chronological list of Kharavela’s victorious military expeditions against a Tamil  confederacy in the south, the Satavahana king Satakarni in the  west and a Yavana (Greek)king in north India. Perhaps even more interesting are the many details, e.g. about his building activities, remittance of taxes and that he recovered the Kalinga Jina from Pataliputra which had been captured by the Nandas in the early 4th century  and that he revived popular festivals which had been suspended by the Mauryas in the 3rd century. The inscription is yet in another context a historical document. It was the first inscription written in the early Brahmi script to be fully deciphered by J. Princep in1837, followed by Ashoka’s inscriptions at nearby Dhauli.

(see also AHOI, ch. 2, section Kharavela of Orissa and the Andhra Satavahanas)

(quoted from N. K. Sahu, Kharavela, Bhubaneswar 1984, pp. 315-346)

Salutation to Arhats. Salutation to all Siddhas. Ārya Mahāmeghavāhana Mahārāja Śrí Khāravela, the overlord of Kaliṅga, who heightens the glory of the dynasty of Chetarāja, who possesses many auspicious signs, and is gifted with qualities spreading over four quarters, and who has handsome brown Complexion, played the childhood games for fifteen years.
Thereafter, being proficient in writing, coinage, arithmatic, law and procedure and skilled in all arts, (he) ruled as the Crown Prince for nine years. After completion of his twenty-fourth year and with the ripening of the age of minority, (he) as glorious as Vaiṇya, was crowned king in the third generation of the royal dynasty of Kaliṅga.
In the very first year of his coronation (His Majesty) caused to be repaired the gate, rampart and structures of the fort of Kaliṅga-nagari, which had been damaged by storm, and caused to be built flight of steps for the cool tanks and laid out all gardens at the cost of thirty-five hundred thousand (coins) and thus pleased all his subjects.
In the second year, without caring for Sātakarṇi (His Majesty) sent to the West a large army consisting of horse, elephant, infantry and chariot, and struck terror to Asikanagara with the troop that marched up to the river Kṛṣṇā.
Thereafter, in the third year, well-versed in the Gāndharva Veda, (His Majesty) made (Kaliṅga)nagari play, as it were, by arranging festivals and convivial gatherings, and organising performances of acrobatism, dance, as well as, of vocal and instrumental music.
Then, in the fourth year, (His Majesty) ……. the Vidyādhara tract, that had been established by the former kings of Kaliṅga and had never been crushed before.
The Rāṣṭrika and Bhojaka Chiefs with their crowns cast off, their umbrella and royal insignia thrown aside, and their jewellery and wealth confiscated, were made to pay obeisance at the feet (of His Majesty).
And, in the fifth year, (His Majesty) caused the aqueduct that had been excavated by King Nanda three hundred years before, to flow into (Kaliṅga)nagari through Tanasuli.
Further, in the sixth year of his coronation (His Majesty) in order to display the regal wealth, remitted all taxes, cesses and benevolences for the urban and rural population, to the extent of many hundred thousands (of coins).

Line 7–8

And, in the seventh year of his reign (the Queen) of Vajiraghara, blessed with a son attained motherhood.
Then in the eighth year, having destroyed the strong (fort) of Gorathagiri with a mighty army (His Majesty) oppressed Râjagṛha.
Getting the tidings of all these achievements, the Yavanarâja who retreated to Mathurâ for the rescue of his army encamped there (surrendered).
The Sage (Khâravela), with the Kalpa tree burdened with foliage and with the horses, elephants and chariots.…….. distributed (gifts) to all houses and inns and with a view to making gifts universal, gave away the spoils of victory to theBrâhmaṇas.

Line 9–10

And, in the ninth year, (His Majesty) caused to be built (in Kaliṅganagari) the Great Victory Palace—the royal residence at the cost of thirty-eight hundred thousand (coins). Then in the tenth year, (His Majesty), the embodiment of politics, diplomacy and peace, caused (the army) to march through Bhâratavarṣa for conquest.
And, in the eleventh year, (His Majesty) secured jewels and precious stones from the retreating (enemies). (His Majesty) caused to be cultivated Píthuṇḍa, founded by former Kings of Kaliṅga, with ploughs drawn by asses. Also (His Majesty) shattered the territorial confederacy of the Tamil States having populous villages, that was existing since thirteen hundred years.

Line 11–12

Line 13

And, in the twelfth year, (His Majesty) terrorised the Kings of Uttarâpatha by (an army of) hundred thousand; after that (His Majesty) generated great fear among the people of Magadha while making the elephants and horses drink in the Ganges. (His Majesty) made Bahasatimita, the King of Magadha, pay obeisance at his feet. (His Majesty) then brought back the image of Kâliṅga Jina with its throne and endowment that had been taken away by King Nanda and the jewels plundered by him (King Nanda) from the Kaliṅga royal palace, along with the treasures of Aṅga and Magadha.
(His Majesty) brought to submission the people of …… And in the thirteenth year Upâsaka Śrí Khâravela a devoted worshipper of those, who used to clothe themselves in fine cloth, enjoy royal endowment and take to rainy season retreat, excavated in the Kumârí hill, where the wheel of Victory had been well turned, dwelling cells for resting of the bodies of the Yapaññâpaka Arhats who had renounced their sustenance.

Line 14

Line 15–16

…………… (His Majesty) caused to erect towers with strong and beautiful gateways at the cost of two thousand coins. (His Majesty) obtained horses, elephants and jewels losing strange and wonderful elephants and ships. The King of Pâṇḍya caused to be brought here various pearls, Jewels and precious stones hundred thousand in number.
(As desired by) the Queen of Siṁhapatha, (His Majesty) built (an edifice)in front of and close to the dwellings of the Arhats with thirty-five hundred thousand stone slabs, raised from the best quarries and (brought) from a distance of many yojanas, for the convenience of the honoured Śramaṇas and for the Yaits, Tâpasas, Ṛṣis and Saṃghíyânas, who hailed from all directions, and also set up on the pink coloured floor, pillars bedecked with emerald at a cost of one hundred and five thousand (coins).
(His Majesty) revived the Tauryatrika included in sixty-four branches (of art) that had been suspended during the time of the Mauryas.

Line 16–17

(Thus reigns) the King of bliss, the King of prosperity, the Bhikṣu king and the King of Dhamma, (His Majesty) the mighty conqueror Śrì Khâravela, the descendant of Râjarsi Vasu, the embodiment of specific qualities, the worshipper of all religious orders, the repairer of all shrines of gods, the possessor of invincible armies, the upholder of law, the protector of law, and the executor of law, having seen, heard and felt all that is good.


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