Before we conclude this account of the successors of the Satavahanas who ruled different parts of the Deccan from the middle of the third century AD to the middle of the sixth century AD when the entire Deccan was on its way to being conquered and consolidated by the Chalukyas of Vatapi, it would be appropriate to give an account of the happenings in Kalinga after the Mauryan rule came to an end there. It is known that Asoka conquered Kalinga.
His remorse, however, did not oblige him to regrant independence to Kalinga. He maintained it as a part of his empire. After the powerful king passed away there was a general tendency for the southern parts of his kingdom to declare their independence; perhaps Kalinga too did so. But we do not know anything about the fortunes of Kalinga between the death of Asoka and the first half of the second century BC. So, for about three quarters of a century the history of Kalinga is dark for us.
But we come across an epigraph called the Hathigumpha inscription usually dated on paleographical grounds to about 160 BC Apart from the paleographical grounds the assumption that the epigraph was inscribed in the 165th year of the Mauryan era will give us (325 minus 165=160) BC as the date of that inscription.
The inscription is so called because it is found near an elephant gate in the neighbourhood of Udayagiri near Cuttack (Orissa). The inscription is not perfectly intelligible or in places even legible so that it is possible for interested historians to read as much as they want in it. But it says certain things undoubtedly.
It gives the activities of Kharavela during the thirteen years of his reign which may be from 173 to 160 BC It can be compared to the Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudragupta since it is the only source of our knowledge of the hero of Kalinga. The inscription is composed in Prakrit and written in the Brahmi script.
It mentions one Mahameghavahana as an ancestor of Kharavela. It then gives an account of his education, the improvements he effected to his capital, his repulse of the Satavahana power, his conquest of the Rashtrikas and the Bhojakas, perhaps subordinates of the Satavahanas; he performed the Rajasuya, supported merchant guilds and remitted taxes; he defeated Demetrios the Greek and drove him to Mathura; he invaded North India; he defeated and destroyed a Tamil confederacy which had been in existence for 113 years.
He was a Jaina, invaded Anga and Magadha and brought back an image of Jina which had been once taken away by the king Nanda of Pataliputra. The inscription mentions a number of his titles, for example, ‘the king of dharma’, ‘the king of peace and of prosperity’, Tie who respects every sect’, ‘the renovator of temples’, ‘the supreme conqueror’ etc. In his days Kalinga was prosperous and powerful. Kharavela must have been a remarkable prince cast in the mould of Asoka but more forthright in declaring his intentions and achievements.