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|Sri Sri Gajapati Gaudesvara Navakoti Karnata Utkala Kalavargeshvara|
|Historical era||Medieval India|
The Gajapatis were a medieval Hindu dynasty (ଗଜପତି ସାମ୍ରାଜ୍ୟ୍) that ruled over Kalinga (the present day Orissa), large parts of Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, and the eastern and central parts of Madhya Pradesh and the southern parts of Bihar from 1434-1541. Gajapati dynasty was established by Kapilendra Deva (1434–66) in 1434. During the glorious reign of Kapilendra Deva, the first Gajapati emperor, the borders of the empire of Kalinga-Utkal were expanded immensely and the king took the title of Sri Sri ... (108 times) Gajapati Gaudesvara Nava Koti Karnata Kalvargesvara. This title is still used by the kings of Puri during the Ratha Yatra. The significant rulers of this dynasty were Purushottama Deva (1466–97) and Prataparudra Deva (1497–1540). The last ruler Kakharua Deva was killed by Govinda Vidyadhara in 1541, who founded the Bhoi dynasty.
"Gaja" (ଗଜ)in Oriya means elephant and "Pati" (ପତି)means master or husband. As such, Gajapati etymologically means a king with an army of elephants.
The region between Midnapore and Vijayawada was known as Kalinga (present-day Odisha), and was controlled by the Oriya rulers Eastern Gangas of the Vasistha gotra. The early Eastern Gangas ruled from Kalinga-nagara (Mukhalingam near Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh). They shifted their capital to Cuttack in the 12th century. Religious leader Ramanujacharya had a great influence on the Raja Choda Ganga Deva, who renovated the temple at Puri. Narasimha Deva built the Sun Temple at Konark. The Gangas were succeeded by the Suryavamsi Gajapati rulers. Two copper plates of the early Pallava dynasty have been found in the Kolleru Lake, traced to Gajapati Langula Narasimha Deva, an Oriya ruler. According to legend, the Gajapathi fort was located at Kolleti Kota on one of the eastern islands of the lake, which protected the Oriya forces. The enemy general encamped at Chiguru Kota located on the shores and tried to excavate a channel in the modern-day Upputeru, so that the water of the lake would empty into the sea and allow an attack on the Gajapathi fort. The Odisa army general sacrificed his own daughter (Perantala Kanama) to propitiate the gods and ensure his success against his enemies.
The Suryavamsi Gajapatis of Odisha, at the height of their power in the 15th century, ruled over an empire extending from the Ganges in the north near Hoogly to the Cauvery in the south under Gajapati Kapilendra Deva. But by the early 16th century, the Gajapatis lost great portions of their southern dominion to Vijayanagar and Golconda. This period was marked by the influence of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and by the construction of Jaganatha temples across the length and breadth of the empire. One of the causes of the reduction in militarism of the population has been attested to the Bhakti movement initiated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who arrived in the empire at the time of Emperor Prataparudra and stayed for 18 long years at Puri. Emperor Prataparudra was highly influenced by the works of Chaitanya and gave up the military tradition of the Oriya emperors. He retired himself into the life of an ascetic leaving the future of the empire uncertain. The traitor Govinda Vidyadhara took the opportunity to murder the sons of the emperor and usurped the throne himself and carved out the destruction of the once mighty empire. Patriot Odias accuse Prataprudra and Chaitanya as the reason of downfall of Odissa. They were accused of demolishing the great tradition of Paika's. And by the influence of Prema vakti yoga Odisha army's moral destroyed. And the decline of Odisha started.
Their rule in eastern India is associated with a high point in the growth of regional culture and architecture. Sarala Mahabharata by Sarala Dasa, a transcreation of the original Sanskrit one was written during this period. Similarly transcreation of the Ramayana and Bhagvata Purana were written. They constitute the best examples of Oriya literature till today.
- Kapilendra Deva (1434–66)
- Purushottama Deva (1466–97)
- Prataparudra Deva (1497–1540)
- Kalua Deva (1540–41)
- Kakharua Deva (1541)
- Majumdar, R.C. (ed.) (2006). The Delhi Sultanate, Mumbai: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, pp. 365–72.