Konark - A Legend Untold

The might and glory of any Civilization is synonymous with the art , literature and technological advancement of the times people live in. Among the several ruins, forts and temples in Odisha,Konark is a cameo in the string of several artistic excellencies from this part of the world. When there is a creation as magnanimous as Konark it is expected that there will be several anecdotes getting associated with it. For a better word to Anecdote I have used the word "Legend" in the title.

My attempt here is to narrate one such anecdote inspired from "Konark Kavya" by Pandit Nilakantha Das.

Of the several folklore on Konark one that is referred from Puranic text is the tale of Samba who built the magnificent temple. Samba was the Son of Lord Shri Krishna and Jambavati. He was a really impatient child and his tantrums irked Lord Krishna to an extent that he cursed his own son.The poor child contracted Leprosy. Jambavati pleaded with the Lord for their child.Seeing the grief of his Wife and Son, Lord suggested Samba be taken to the bank of Chandrabhaga River and they should pray to Sun God to heal their child. Sun God was pleased with the prayers and offering and Samba was cured. Dedicated to Sun god King Samba built this temple in the memory of the Sun. This is a story that still reverberates among Odia people. Many Odias celebrate "Samba Dasami'' on the 10th Day of the Sukla Paksha of Pausha Masa in the Hindu Calendar. The festival is celebrated in memory of King Samba, Son of Lord Krishna and is often observed by parents for the well being of their child.

In this text I am referring to another historical anecdote. Part of the text is also about the folklore behind the construction of Konark. It was built by the 13th Century King of Kalinga from the Eastern Ganga Dynasty Narasingha Deva. Few know that this piece of art has a story of Love, Deceit, Jealousy and Regret. As earlier stated this is inspired from the composition Konark Kavya by Pandit Nilakantha Das. Pandit Nilakantha Das is a social and a Political Reformer who has made immense contributions to odia culture and literature. He is regarded as one of the Pancha-sakha, a group of five such great reformists in the early 20th century whose struggle for the Odia Language and against British Rule inspired many generations.

Pandit Nilakantha Das was on a visit to the Kingdom of Devgad which is situated in the western part of Odisha. He visited the court of the regional Satrap. The Satrap requested him to spend a few days in his kingdom. The satrap offered him an elephant and sanctioned a Guest house for his accommodation. Pandit Nilakantha Das was grateful to him and then he started touring the vassal state and meeting people in this part of the state to understand their life and problems. In one such Tour he came across a Singer (Called as Bhaata in Odia), they are a community which often sings eulogizing the royal family and are a sort of historian as they tell stories from the Royal Court in the form of poems.The Bhaata was asking for alms with a begging bowl seeing which Pandit Nilakantha Das started to enquire about his well being. The bhaata replied that "Well, nowadays the mani-maa(King in English) is no more interested in our sangeet and hence we have been reduced to a status of a vagabond". Pitying him , Nilakantha Das offered him some money and asked him to bring his fellow singers and perform for him. He thought he was going to be of some help to him in this way. Little did he know the poem he is about to listen to will go down in history as one of his Magnum Opus "Konark Kavya".The Song is articulated in the best possible expression in Odia depicting the prowess of Odia Literature. I will try to narrate the whole poem in the form of a story based on my understanding.

Narasingha Deva,the 13th century erstwhile king of utkal was the senapati of the royal army which was led by his father Ananga Bhima Deva. There used to be a vassal state under the feudal structure of Utkal kingdom known as Tanka rajya (Now Dhenkanal district). The sardaar of the vassal state was known for his notorious deeds, he used to commission a few highwaymen to loot travelers crossing his territory. Prince Narasingha Deva, hearing prayers from the subjects from the Tanka rajya, thought of raiding the vassal state and setting the state affairs in order (usually referred popularly in Odia as Dassu damana).While returning from the tanka rajya he was supposed to cross the kathajodi river. The description of the place in the poem makes me think it must be the place somewhat around the new new bridge now called Subash Chandra Bose Setu. As you drive from Cuttack towards Bhubaneswar crossing this bridge you come across a protected wildlife sanctuary for Elephants known as "Chandaka '' in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. If you manage to get a chance to drivedown this road amidst the lush green forest it is a beauty to behold with.Going back in time, Ananaga Deva must have been spellbound seeing the same place. There was one more important event that was about to happen with him as he was crossing the river.This event was going to change his life in a certain way and would result in the creation of one of the historical monuments of our times, Konark.

Seeing the beautiful place he thought of resting near a Mango orchard and spending some more time in the ambience. In the distance he saw a bunch of girls giggling and playing. He clearly recognised one Woman who was so distinct from the Rest that infatuation took the better part of him. As he started walking and asking about her whereabouts he learnt that she is the Je-Maa(princess) of another vassal state called Chudanga Gada. As he was the prince of the utkala this was a feudal state and he thought of spending some time in the vassal state before returning to the capital. He lived in the uwaasa(the palace) of the Je-Maa and with time they both fell in love with each other. The name of the princess was Mayawati. The beautiful fort of Chudanga gada almost in ruins now can still be located amidst the outgrown weeds in the same road next to the bridge. The place is very much deserted now but is a witness to one of the legendary love stories of that time.

After a brief stay at the chudanga gada fort the prince did promise to marry mayawati upon reaching the capital and then decided to get back to the capital.On reaching the capital after a long gap there were too many reports of invasion and he got so involved in the business of running the state affairs that he almost forgot about mayawati.Narasingh Deva is often credited with going on offensive with the Turko-Afghan invaders after his father successfully defended the kingdom. It is quite understandable that he must have been a busy man back in those times. In the several raids, conquests and pacts he eventually found time to get married to the princess of Kashmir who was known for her arrogance because of the beauty she possessed.

Mayawati still lived in the memory of Narasingha Deva and was still obsessed with her beauty.He often speak about Maywati to her newly wedded queen describing her beauty and intelligence. Ironically though he still remembered her and used to mention her so often for unknown reasons he never visited her nor did he make any attempt to find out more about her. Once there were some reports of pirates attacking from the eastern fronts through bay of bengal on which his Father King Ananga Bhima Deva asked his Son Narasingha Deva to prepare for war. He got his naval warship ready and an intense bloody battle resumed. Narshima Deva finally accomplished the task given to him by his father and he was returning home after decimating the enemies. He reached the shores and as fate would have it he found the casket made out of logs near the river chandrabhaga. The casket looks to belong to some royal family as it has an emblem on it. This prompted the king to have a close look at the casket. He opened the casket to see the dead body of Mayawati. It melted him to an extent and led him to remorse and regret that he could not help to console himself.

Prequel to this event , while the King was away on expedition the queen got curious about meeting Maywati. She heard so many tales about her from her husband and her subjects the princess thought of visiting her to actually meet her. This could be probably out of jealousy for someone who took so much pride in her own beauty. She asked her father in law King Ananga Bhima Deva to arrange a charter for her so that she can go close to her subjects and see the beautiful kingdom of Kalinga. Pleased by the request from her daughter in law who will be the future Queen of the kingdom Ananga Bhima Deva ordered for all the arrangements to be made and instructed all its vassal states to prepare themself to receive the Princess. She did visit several vassal states, finally making a stop over at Chuddanga Gada. As expected, Mayavati was aware of the visit and she was preparing for the arrival of the princess. Few days before the arrival of the princess she got a swapnaa-adesh(some kind of instruction you get in your dreams) that not to let the princess touch or come close to her as it might harm her to a lot of extent and turn fatal.

From the very first day Maywati was cautious of not going near her. The princess stayed at chudanga gada a little more than expected. Mayawati understood her intentions of wanting to be close to her and talk with her. Mayawati finally apologized to her for the reason she cannot come close to her. The Princess knows that Mayawati is very affectionate and she will eventually give up on her pleadings. It finally happened and Mayawati was next to the princess both seeing each other and admiring the beauty of each other. The fear Mayawati had in her mind interrupted their rendezvous with the princess and she told her that if she touches her she might not live any more. The queen did not believe in superstition and said she wanted to hug her as a freind. Maywati insisted that she should not come near her.

The worst fears came true upon touching the princess. Mayawati started to lose her beauty and she felt sick and weak instantly. Before the queen left her, Mayawati requested that after she breathes her last breath her body instead of getting cremated should be put in a casket and then should be set for a sail in the nearby kathajodi river. After a few days Mayawati passed away and the queen fulfilled her last wish. The casket might have sailed through kathajodi and then to another arm of mahanadi Kushabhadra and then to the estuary at Bay of Bengal.As the river meets the ocean the dead body of Mayawati flowing across the kushabhadra river met Prince Narashinga Deva while he was returning from his expedition Destiny and fate resolved to turn some events in her favor to fulfill her last wish of meeting her beloved king Prince Narsingha Deva.

The freely floating mortal remains of Mayawati amidst the chandrabhaga waves spoke a thousand words to the king which was sealed within her while she was alive. The King felt the sands getting washed away under his feet while bidding farewell as the waves retreated back into the sea. The king was full of regret and guilt as several thoughts started echoing in his mind. He resolved to build a temple dedicated to Sun God in memory of Mayawati.Mayawati lived a life full of grace and honor and her departed soul continues to live in the same way in the form of the greatest engineering marvels of our times right next to the shores of the Chandrabhaga river -"Konark".

REFERENCES:Various Sources

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