In the post-Mauryan period in Kalinga, there was a local line of rulers named Mahameghavahana who were the descendants of the ancient line of the Chetis (Chedis). The third ruler of this line was Kharavela.

Political history

The Hathigumpha inscription in the Udayagiri hill in the Puri district of Orissa is of Kharavela. He is described as a descendant of the royal sage, Vasu, and a scion of the lunar race.

Evidence gathered from different sources indi­cates that Kharavela came to power at the beginning of the second century bc. The Hathigumpha inscrip­tion has seventeen lines, of which only four are legible, and detail the first thirteen years of Kharavela’s reign.


The inscription describes the training and education that Kharavela received as a prince. He came to the throne at the age of twenty-four. Kharavela campaigned successfully against the Bhojakas and the Rathikas and against Magadha.

According to Dr V.A. Smith, Kharavela attacked Magadha twice during the reign of Pushyamitra. Circa 165 bc, he went very near Pataliputra, but sensing a trap in Pushyamitra’s strategic retreat to Mathura, he came back.

In 161 BC, however, he invaded Pataliputra with the help of the elephants in his army and confiscated the treasures of the city.

But this view is disputed on epigraphical and philological grounds. In support, it is stated that the king defeated by Kharavela (Hathigumpha inscrip­tion) was Bahasatimita and not Pushyamitra.


Kharavela also attacked the area adjacent to the Satavahana kingdom a number of times. He was a great military leader and his southern conquests went beyond the Godavari. Kalinga thrived under him.

Welfare measures

Kharavela’s capital, Kalinganagara was hit by a cyclone in the first year of his rule, and he undertook repairs of the city’s gates and ramparts. Kharavela brought the waters of a canal from Tanasuli to his capital, in the fifth year of his reign.

The canal had probably been excavated by a Nanda king. Kharavela worked for the welfare of his people. He not only provided amenities to the people residing in the capital, but also looked after the welfare of those in rural areas and remitted taxes when it was necessary.



To commemorate his victories in North India, in the ninth year of his reign, Kharavela built the Mahavijayaprasada (palace of great victory) on both the banks of the river Prachi.

The enormous amount of riches that Kharavela plundered from Magadha and Anga were spent in building a huge temple at Bhuvanesvar (modern Bhubaneshwar) which had beautiful towers.

The Hathigumpha inscriptions also mention the construction of dwelling place for Jain ascetics on the top of the Udayagiri hill. It consisted of a grand hall constructed with magnificent columns and adorned with sixty-four panels of sculptures.



Kharavela, a follower of Jainism, patronised Jain ascetics. He gave them gifts and constructed residen­tial chambers for them. But he was equally tolerant of other religions and accorded equal respect to them. It is believed that he undertook the repair of temples belonging to other faiths and religions.