How the King of Odisha Defeated the Mighty Delhi Sultanate.

Introduction:  

Once in the eastern region of India, a very powerful empire thrived. At its height it stretched from lower Bengal till upper regions of Telangana state. From the beaches of Orrisa till the central forests of Jharkhand.

This is the empire of the Eastern Gangas.

The empire which not only defeated the various invasions of the Delhi Sultanate; but was perhaps the only one which thrived during those tumultuous times.

At the helm of this empire is their beloved and strong king, Anangabhima Deva III. On his watch his empire stretched from the river Ganga to Godavari.

And there was no one in the entire eastern region who could challenge his authority.

But he was about to be tested on his judgements. By none other than the Ghyassudin Iwaj Shah, the successor of Bakhtiyar Khilji.

Yes, the same Bakhtiyar Khilji who destroyed the Nalanda university.

The Bengal sultans had tried to capture some regions from the Eastern Gangas before, but had failed.

Unfortunately for them, Anangabhima did not forget about this invasion.

He had just learnt about the new plans of his enemies.

And he was more than happy to welcome them, in his own way.

Status Prior to Battle:

Anangabhima had been coronated at a very risky time. And that was because his kingdom was on the brink of collapse.

Because in modern times, it becomes very difficult to gauge how tumultuous the medieval era was, I have written the problems he faced. Just to be clear, this is what he was going through:

A: His kingdom was facing repeated attacks from the forces of Ghyassudin Iwaj Shah. He was the sultan of Bengal at the time. And was in a semi autonomy under the banner of Delhi Sultanate.

B: The Kalachuri Kings were on the warpath at the southern border. They were trying to carve out their own piece from the Orrisa territory.

C: From the Western regions, the Somavanshi were repeatedly invading the territory.

Anangabhima had to act quick. It wouldn’t take long before his kingdom will split from three regions.

The other warring states looked at his weakened kingdom with hungry eyes. They were ready to gobble up whatever remained.

The Odia king moved his capital to a new strategic location. The bifurcation of the rivers Mahanadi and Katthajodi was suitable.

It provided a fresh source of water and was very defensible. He moved the capital to Baranasi Katak. It is said that the city was so well defended that it was near impregnable.

In fact, the word Katak, in local language literally means fortress or a fortification.

To top it all off, he also constructed a mighty new castle and named it Barabati. It would be under the command of his capable minister, Vishnu.

Anangabhima’s ancestor named Ananta Varman Chadaganga deva is credited for numerous victories against the enemies of his state. But, none of them were long lasting.

Fortunately for Anangabhima, his lucky streak had just started. His rival clans The Kalachuri and the Somavanshi were fighting against each other.

This gave the Odia king the chance he was waiting for.

In the battle, the Kalachuri defeated the Somavanshi, but were greatly weakened in return. Anangabhima Deva laid out a trap and started rumours that his army is very weak and on the verge of Mutiny.

The Kalachuri king name Pratapmalla made the biggest mistake of believing the rumour. And the moment he sent his army against Anangabhima, the Odia forces counter charged.

Led by the great minister Vishnu, the Odia forces completely routed the enemies. Vishnu’s contingent fought in such a way that the enemies thought twice before engaging in a battle against them.

In fact, the Kalachuri had lost in such a fashion, that their King Pratapmalla was captured.

He could have been killed, BUT Anangabhima was a very different kind of enemy. Instead of killing or taking him hostage, Pratapmalla had to cede regions of:

1:Sonepur

2: Bollinger

3: Sambalpur.

But in return his son would be married to the Odia Princess Parmar Devi. This was what later led to the complete domination of Anangabhima in all of Odisha.

Now as the Odia king had finally defeated his local threats, he was going to look north. The Sultan of Bengal had just increased his navy, and his soldiers had been harassing the Odia territories for years.

Anangabhima was itching for a fight. a fight in which he showed why he was called the Kalinghapati, the lord of all Kalinga.

BATTLE:

While Anangabhima dev was busy basking in his victories against his old rivals, up to the north, things looked very bleak.

Khilji Maliks of Bengal were now a force to be reckoned with. Their king, Ghyassudin Iwaj was the successor of Bakhtiyar Khalji. He was shrewd, cunning and very powerfull.

And his ambition was to become one of the strongest kings in all of India.

In fact, we wanted to lock horns with the Sultan of Delhi Sultanate, Iltutmish. But with Anangabhima so strong, this plan had to wait.

Ghyassudin was busy building a powerful navy. He was dead set on conquering the Kingdoms in Odisha. The moment was ripe and he at once launched the naval Invasion force via the Mahanadi river.

The Skirmishes between these two empires happened in the span of two years. But today we will focus mainly on the core army and the siege of Barabati fort.

The Malik army stealthily approached the Odisha region. With this surprise attack, overran the entire northern parts of the defenders.

The Khilji Navy blocked the Mahanadi river which meant that it had divided the kingdom in two.

Saffron Units are Odia forces under Vishnu. Green contingents are the invaders

Now the soldiers present in the stronghold of Barabati wanted to help their northern feudatory allies.

But they were not able to as the Khalji army had halted their path completely.

The exact number of soldiers present in each side is not clearly known but according to the local guides it was in tens of thousands. That can still be considered an exaggerated figure.

So when the Malik Army besieged the castle, all hell broke loose.

The Odia forces were not prepared for this sort of attack. They had just won a major battle against their old enemies. And within some months another strong opponent starts to beat down on them!

Considering the state of affairs though, the Odia army under Anangabhima and his minister Vishnu did exceedingly well. They were able to repel the enemy force again and again.

Throughout this time, the Barabati fortress stood firm against the waves of enemies, providing protection against the invading army.

The invaders even so managed to reach the main entrance gate of the fortress, only to be repelled when the defenders poured boiling water over them.

Despite potentially outnumbering the defenders, the Khalji wasn’t able to scale the walls. And there was a good reason for that.

It was all due to the difference in equipment.

While the afghan army was completely filled with skirmishers and soldiers which had melee-based weapons, the Odia army was comprising of mostly archers.

The Afghan army had chainmail with small buckler shield with swords, which was great for one-on-one combat.

But they lacked the archer units. And the heavy tipped bows of the defenders were easily piercing the Mamluk coat of mail.

On the other hand, the Odia forces wore no armor than a dhoti and some anklets. Their entire defence was by a large round wooden shield which covered their body from neck till knee.

Even if the Mamluk forces managed to overpower the Odia forces in Archery, their large shield will still protect them.

The major plus point was that with no armour, the defenders were very fast.

This allowed them to outplay their invaders and carry out swift night raid on their camps.

Demoralised and tired, the Khalji army slowly and slowly started to deserted from their posts. One by one, night by night, less and less enemies showed up to fight against the defenders.

The time was ripe and this was what Vishnu hoped for.

One night, after a full day of battle, he brought out the entire cavalry of Eastern Ganga army and smashed hard against the enemy troops.

The invaders were completely shocked. The Odia forces used to performed daring attacks before but this was something clearly different. The famed Horse archers were now in full swing.

The archer cavalry led by Vishnu ran circles around the scared Khalji forces.

One by one the invading enemy died. Their generals tried to launch a counter offence but to no avail. They wanted to surrender. But for the defenders, it was far from over.

Cornered by the great Mahanadi river in front, and the rampaging Odia army in the back, the invaders couldn’t even get on their ships.

They tried swimming across the river with their armor, only to drown with their own equipment.

Those who did manage to cross the river now were under pursuit by Vishnu

The Odia forces gave chase to their invaders as far back as their own territory, and held it as an occupied land.

How the tides have turned.

AFTERMATH:

Ghyassudin Iwaj Khalji didn’t learn anything from this defeat. He thought of himself as a great leader blaming the loss on his general’s incompetency.

He no longer wanted to fight needlessly against Odisha as he had a new and stronger enemy in his mind.

Sultan Iltutmish of Delhi Sultanate.

Within a year after his expeditionary defeat by the hands of Odia forces, he will lock horns again the Sultan himself.

Only to, die by his hands. Yes, seriously he didn’t survive that battle and was killed.

So much for being a great general.

On the other hand, with this stunning display of military, Anangabhima deva proclaimed himself multiple titles such as Durgaputra, Durgapur of his region.

In the next five year, he will venture down south and occupy the lands till Srirangam for a brief period. He built numerous sprawling temples, some of which survive to this day.

And the Eastern Ganga Dynasty ruled over vast areas of eastern region for hundreds of years.

Leading to the formation of the formidable empire, the Gajapatis of Odisha and their struggle for supremacy with the legendary Vijaynagara empire.

But that is a story for another time.

Till then.

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