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Mahanayak Kharvel Ep. 1

Updated: Apr 15

|| Shri Kalingajinayarshabhaye Namah ||

The historical saga of a magnificent era spanning from 270 to 330 years after the nirvana of Lord Mahavir is about to unfold here. As the illustrious Maurya Empire of India was nearing its end, another great luminary was rising from Kalinga, present-day Odisha. His name was Maharaja Kharavela, the Chakravartin of Kalinga Chakra. Surprisingly, both these emperors were staunch followers of Jainism.

Historical facts present both of them as significant "empire builders," yet it seems that the literati who chronicled their history have grossly neglected them. Perhaps, due to the influence and repercussions of secularism, their personal religious beliefs overshadowed their grand personalities. Ignoring someone's personal faith and overlooking their colossal persona would indeed be a grave injustice. What kind of scholarship is this? What kind of literacy?

This narrative unveils unfamiliar pages of history. Many might not have even heard the name "Kharavela." From Kalinga, Kumaragiri, Kumargiri Mountain Range, Maharaja Kharavela, Arya Mahagiri,  Arya Suhasti Suriji,Arya Bal, Arya Uttar-Balisissa,Susthit-Suprathibaddha Suriji,Samrat Samprati,Andhra-Pati Shatakarni, Tamil Sangha leader Brihadratha, Pushyamitra – in all these real contexts, with personalities, along with this extensive life saga – the tale of struggle and victory in the jungle, life in the wilderness, generals like Vapradeva and his son Bappadeva, Kamru Kinkini Acharya Tosali's son, and many imagined characters are narrated.

This story breathes life into a remarkable era. Through his expertise, the author has introduced historical facts in this saga of valor. When readers delve into this narrative, they will immerse themselves in the emotions of that era. Just like the many great epics like Bansala, Veerbhadra, Bhishma, authored by esteemed Pujyashree, this story too enlightens us through this epic with abundant and ancient values. This saga of valor will become a favorite for readers of all ages. I don't want to say much more; now this wonderful tale is presented before you.

This story began at a time when 239 years had passed since the Nirvaan (Liberation of a soul after enlightenment) of Lord Mahavir Swami. In this history of 240 years, there had been significant changes in the religious and political geography of the Indian nation, and continuous changes were still occurring.

In this land of Bharat, the Jain religion as established  and propagated by Lord Mahavir,  was spreading far and wide. Anyone who heard about this religion would say, "It may be difficult, but this religion is certainly spiritually uplifting and  beneficial."

On the other hand, Prince Siddhartha of Kapilavastu, after taking renunciation, gave shape to the Buddha religion. This was also expanding rapidly. The followers of the Buddha religion had a powerful and effective means to expand their religion - opposition to violence in the name of religion. Furthermore, the Buddhist religion was simpler compared to Jainism. If religion could be practiced in a simple way, then why go on a difficult path? Who wants to be so foolish? If there is religion and it is not difficult, then that is good, isn't it?This was the prevalent thought process of the common man.

This era was also a golden period for Buddhism. Mauryan dynasty's  Emperor Ashoka had spread Buddhism all over the world, and the  Buddhist monks and members of the sangha became his helpers in expanding his empire. In return, Emperor Ashoka, after ascending the throne four years after his father Bindusara and grandfather Chandragupta, had abandoned his family's religion, Jainism, for Buddhism. The Jain ascetics,the Nirgrantha Shramanas never made efforts for worldly rule.However the  Buddhist monks, visibly took a keen interest in state affairs and the expansion of Ashoka's empire. 

During that era and time, in the central governance of Magadha, Ashoka convened a grand assembly in Pataliputra, where numerous Buddhist monks were present. The chief monk declared, "Today, we are giving our patron Ashoka a new name - 'Priyadarshi.' Henceforth, we will create a favorable environment for Devanampriya Priyadarshi by traveling to every part of India and beyond. So that public opinion always favors him. Remember, wherever the empire of Priyadarshi reigns, there also exists the reign of Shakyasimha Muni Gautam Buddha."Dhammam Sharanam Gachhami, Buddham Sharanam Gachhami, Sangham Sharanam  Gachhami" ("I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Sangha")

After this event, both Buddhist monks and Emperor Ashoka became actively involved in the implementation of an expansive policy. The allure of power and empire was continuously growing in Ashoka's mind. Whether it was the empire of dharma or the empire of political power, both are marred by craving and ambition.

Emperor Ashoka was more determined and intelligent than even the wise Chanakya. Under the guise of 'Dharma Rajya' (Righteous Rule), he managed to subjugate powerful kings and cleverly incorporate them into his empire. His empire extended almost uniformly over the Aryavarta, Brahmadesh, Java, Sumatra, from Punjab to Nepal, and from there to Andhra. In such a situation, the Vedic Brahmanical religion, which had been prevalent for thousands of years, weakened as it fell into the hands of Brahmins and developed violent rituals. 

Jain monks never engaged in opposition. The conduct and teachings of Jains were so influential that anyone who encountered them could not remain untouched. Jainism never fought for its existence. Lord Mahavir also only preached; he never engaged in opposition. Conversation and not contradiction was the main principle of Jainism.The principle of Anekantavada (multiplicity of viewpoints) continues to operate, accommodating everyone.

However, Brahmanical religion was primarily focused on ritualistic practices and rules. With time, these rituals became violent, and followers of Buddha openly opposed such violent regulations. Due to the support received from rulers sitting in power, Brahmins silently endured the opposition to their religion. Public opinion gradually turned away from Brahmins towards the rise of Buddhists. Thus, Brahmanical religion suffered the most during that time, where Brahmins were always revered, the society now seemed to neglect them.

Politics had entered the domain of religion. Dharma had become a means for the expansion of the empire. Some state officials and ministers, by adopting the attire of Buddhist monks, went to other kingdoms to propagate religion and expand the Mauryan Empire fearlessly. They presented Gautama Buddha as a deity and Emperor Priyadarshi as a messenger of God. Thus, the sun  was shining on the  Ashokan empire.

In these times, Prabhu Veer's teachings, which had been in existence for 239 years, from the 30th year of his empire, were continuously spreading the Wheel of Dharma. Ashoka had already brought all Janapadas under his control except one. Its name was Kalinga.

At that time, Kalinga was like an unconquerable and united empire, unaffected by Ashoka's sword or the influence of the Wheel of Dharma. The people of Kalinga were fearless warriors who went into battle without shields and armor. Their rules of war were different and their tactics were unique. For them, Kalinga's throne was the lord, without any interference from anyone. They did not have any interest in creating obstacles in other kingdoms, but if someone dared to raise a finger against them, they could not tolerate it. Kalinga's people were fiercely independent minded and deeply self respecting.For that population, the king seated on Kalinga's throne was God. They did not care about any divine messengers or saviors.

Moreover, the entire Kalinga population had a deity who they revered, and that was Lord Kalingajin - the golden, peaceful, nectar-like Lord Rishabhdev, the Supreme Being whose temple was on the twin mountains of Kumarakgiri and Kumarigiri.Whether one was a Jain, a Buddhist, a Brahmin, a worker, a craftsman, an employee, or a merchant; whether one was a king or a commoner; whether one was a man or a woman; whether one was a child, a youth, or an elder, Kalingajin was the unspoken family deity for all of them. Nobody knew much about Him, nor did they care to know which society's deity He was. They were not concerned about that at all. Kalingajin had penetrated deep into the hearts and minds of the people of Kalinga. Kalinga's mothers would teach their children that whenever they felt afraid, they should chant the name of Kalingajin. Whenever a child was born, the first thing that would be done was to whisper Kalinjins name in the infant's ear during ear piercing.

The surprising thing was that for the past 100 years, the sacred temple of Lord Kalingjin, located on Mount Kumar, had been in a state of ruin, and inside it, the idol of Lord Kalingjin, who was the heart of Kaling, had been stolen by the the 8th Nandraja of Pataliputra .

He had also destroyed the pilgrimage site. Due to this, all the people of Kaling were troubled, unhappy, and suffering. Since then, every resident of Magadh considered Kaling as their enemy. Every father in Kaling taught his son that the people of Magadh were extremely wicked, like demons, and aggressive. In every street, square, every leaf, every event, and festival of Kaling, the elders, storytellers, and ascetics would encourage the youth of Kaling with proud speeches, appealing in pain, 'Awake! Someone, please wake up! Someone, please free Lord Kalingjin from the captivity of Pataliputra. Someone, please make our hearts beat again. Oh Lord Kalingjin, why are you upset with us? When will you come back to Kaling? Please come! Please come!'

Even today, when Lord Kalingjin was no longer present on Mount Kumar, every Kaling resident would bow down to the mountain as soon as they woke up in the morning and lit a lamp facing the mountain in the evening. Mount Kumar was as revered as Lord Kalingjin. 

More than 20 caves were still present on Mount Kumar, where Jain monks continuously practiced austerity. By applying the dust of their feet, even chronic illnesses would be cured. Their merciful glance would change the fortunes of the unfortunate.However they were highly detached. Most of the time, they would remain silent and engrossed in meditation. Many ascetics didn't even wear clothes. Their frugal life sustenance was in the caves. However, their bodies reflected their devotion to the golden idol.

Kaling residents also revered them from a distance. They did not like crowds either. They were absorbed in their own practice. They were all Jain monks, but they were the beloved saints of all Kaling's people irrespective of the religion of the citizens. They were revered by all, and every Kaling resident would say about them, 'True practice is only theirs.'

The king of Kaling was a staunch follower of Jainism in his personal life. Although he was a Jain himself, he did not impose any religious pressure on his subjects. Furthermore, the hearts of all the people of Kaling were deeply colored by the knowledge of Lord Kalingjin, the unattached ascetics, and the principles of Jainism. Buddhism had failed to have much influence on them.

 Buddhists were on the watch; spies had made many efforts to find a way to propagate Buddhism, but to no avail. The astute ministers were not understanding whether they should negotiate or fight here. Kaling just wanted to remain invincible, forever invincible, like the Kumar - Kumari Giri mountain. Even though the temple was in ruins, it was revered because it was also a part of Kaling's pride and glory.

Most of India's territories were under the authority of Ashoka, Kaling's independence was pricking Asoka like a thorn.Taking a chance Asoka attacked. A fierce battle ensued.Small Kaling lay in ruins still Asoka wasn't satisfied.

 In the battleground, day after day,  heaps of bodies were accumulating. The battlefield needed to be changed daily. The lifeless bodies of the soldiers from Magadha and Kalinga, who fought with swords in open eyes, were now peacefully lying side by side, eyes closed in eternal sleep . The water of the flowing river was tinted with their blood, maintaining a crimson hue for many days.

Still, due to the difficulty in subduing Kalinga, Ashoka became agitated. Now, he transformed from Devanampriya to Chandashoka. Taking an even larger army from Pataliputra, he launched a more forceful attack. Seeing this, tears welled up in the eyes of King Kshemaraj of Kalinga. Despite having a powerful army filled with freedom-loving ministers and brave warriors, he requested Ashoka for a ceasefire and offered to provide whatever Ashoka desired in return. The only condition was to stop the shedding of blood.

Finally, victorious Emperor Ashoka, who had conquered the Kalinga nation, went to see the defeated state of Kalinga. On the way he  listened to the tales of bravery and sacrifice .Upon witnessing those scenes, compassion akin to Buddha and boundless mercy of Lord Mahavir overflowed in Ashoka's stone-like heart. He turned his chariot back halfway. Throughout the night, he was awake, contemplating. Many wars were fought, but this war was the most costly and painful. Kalinga had won even after losing, and Magadha had lost even after winning. That night, Emperor Ashoka decided, "Enough, now we must pull the reins and put a stop to the ambitions of expansion. The festival of violence will no longer be played.In the memory of victory, Emperor Ashoka initiated the Gupta era in Kalinga and ordered Kalinga to remain only under his command.

To be Contiune...


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