The King Who Brought Shaivism To Odisha

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Bhubaneswar: “When one quarter of the Kali Age has passed away, Chandrama will go to earth. My devotee Sasanka, the Lord of the earth, with his mind fixed on none (except me), will rule a portion of the earth extending up to Kalinga. According to my command, he will construct a massive and beautiful temple, hearing the voice of the gods, O the best of ascetics, you have (now) heard (this all) well,” said Lord Shiva, as mentioned in Ekamra Purana, to King Balakhilya.

In the text above, Shiva refers to the Gauda King Sasanka, a staunch follower of Lord Shiva, who is said to have built the first temple at Ekamra Kshetra- the magnificent Lingaraja Temple, in the first quarter of 7th Century AD. (However, there is no strong evidence such as written texts that prove that Sasanka built this Shaiva shrine.)

As the season of Lord Shiva- shravana- begins, here are some interesting things to know about the king who revived Shaivism in Odisha, Sasanka.

Shaivism, according to historians, is a pre-Aryan cult and its origin can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization. Saivism is the cult and the tradition according to which Lord Shiva is the supreme god and the creator of this universe.

Sasanka bringing in Saivism is evident from the Ganjan plate of Madhava Raj- II of 619 A.D., and the coins he circulated.

He disregarded Buddhism as a religion and had demolished various Buddhist monuments. When in 637-38 A.D., Hiuen-Tsang visited Magadha, it is said, he found that Sasanka had cut the famous Bodhi Tree of Gaya.

As the king of Gauda, he ruled over Northern and Western Bengal which is evident from the Doobi Copper Plate.

He had defeated the King Sambhhuyasas of Nana dynasty of Dandabhukti, modern Danton of Midnapore, Utkala and Kangada (Northern and Southern Odisha). In Odisha, his kingdom extended in the South up to the Mahendra Mountain in Ganjam district.

The Ganjam inscription of 619 A.D. depicts that Sasanka was the sovereign ruler of Bengal, South Bihar and Odisha for a long time.

(Lingaraja Temple as per records, was established in the 11th century when Jagannath cult had started to flourish in the state).

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