India is an ancient land. This means that it has continuously inhabited areas from the primitive historical times to the present era. While we know about ancient, historical and sacred cities like Ayodhya or Kashi, there are many other similar sites across the country. One such example is the ancient city of Jajpur in Odisha. Today Jajpur is a district in Odisha. Known as the seat of Adi Shakti Biraja Mata Shaktipeeth and being a steel centre, it has rich mineral deposits in its soil. As you read through its history, you see this city goes by many names and each name carries the essence of the time when it was in vogue. Come with me to go through the brief history of Jajpur through its names. Brief History of Jajpur River Petarani is the oldest living entity in Jajpur. It is the legendary Vaitarni that we cross to enter the higher realms. In Jajpur, it flows quietly to nourish this ancient land. On its banks are many ancient and sacred temples. Many rotating fairs are held along its banks. Baitarani River in Jajpur is an integral part of the Tarpana rituals that are performed here and hence it is also called Baitarani Tirtha. In modern times, it is considered as a long border of Jajpur district. Brahmani is another important river that flows through and feeds the district. Pauranic Times Yajna Kshetra, Sati Pitha and Biraja Kshetra are some of the names which bring us back to the famous Yajna story performed here. Biraja Devi Shaktipeeth in Jajpur Brahma performed Yagna here in Brahma Kund and from Yagna Vedi or Goddess Biraja appeared. Brahma himself installed a murti here. Since Devi emerged from Yajna, Yajnapura is the oldest name associated with the city. It is called Nabhi Gaya because it is believed to be the place where Gayasur’s navel is located, which makes it on par with Gaya in Bihar. Both places are known as Pinda Dana or Tarpana. Nabhi Gaya Koop It is also home to a temple dedicated to Shweta Varaha – which is the current Kalpa name according to the Hindu calendar. Shakti is also worshiped here in the form of Saptamatrika whose temple stands right next to Baitarani river. The Mahabharata’s Vana Parva tells us that the Pandavas visited this region while on pilgrimages across the country. Yudhishthira, the elder Pandav performed Dharma Yajna here. Duryodhan Bhanumati’s wife was the princess of Kalinga whose capital Rajpur was identified with Jajpur. Her father Shatruyudh fought on the side of the Kauravas in the Mahabharat War. Gada Kshetra Odisha has four sacred precincts named after the four arms or Ayudhas of Vishnu. Puri’s Shakha is called Kshetra, Konark’s is called Padma Kshetra, Bhubaneshwar’s Chakra is called Kshetra and Biraja’s is called Kshetra i.e. Jajpur is known as Gada Kshetra. Prehistoric records of prehistoric times pop up on their own every now and then. Jajpur district includes many archaeological sites belonging to different eras of prehistory. For example, there are six Paleolithic open-air sites at Darbangarh, Sonamukhi Tangier, Ranibandi, Dhanmandal and Mahagiri Tangier. Ancient Subha Stambh in stone at Jajpur Thousands of artifacts such as blades, chips, scrapers, chisels, etc. have been unearthed from such sites. An Iron Age site has been discovered at Chandikhole. Apart from various iron smelting equipment, various types of ceramic wares were also discovered here. Historical times Often in the history of Jajpur, it was the capital of the region. The exact boundaries and names of the district changed from time to time such as Kalinga, Utkala, Odra, Toshali, Odisha, etc., but the city continued to be the capital. Kingdoms exchanged hands between successive dynasties but Jajpur maintained its capital status for a long time. It is said that after the Mahabharata, 32 generations of kings ruled over Kalinga, after which it came under the rule of Nanda of Magadh around 4th BC. It again became a powerful independent kingdom at the dawn of the Mauryan Empire. The Kalinga War of Mauryan King Ashoka is famous for many reasons. In Jajpur, this meant the emergence of Buddhism, which would eventually flourish here for a long time. After the Mauryans, the Chedi kings came to the region with their capital, Chishupalgarh, near present-day Bhubaneshwar. Jajpur is no longer the capital of the region but was part of northern Kalinga under the Kharvilas during the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. It moved to the Kushanas during the early centuries of the first millennium A.D. and they ruled the region through their vassals, in all of the thirteen Morunda kings. We don’t really know if the Gupta dynasty ruled the region, but its influence on the culture is visible. It is believed that the biraja mata murti date back to their time. Their gold coins were also recovered from the area. They also financed Buddhist monasteries at Ratnagiri and Lalitgiri. In the 6th century AD, Prithvi Vijraha ruled the region. In the early 7th century AD, it was under the rule of Harshavardhan when the region was called Odra-Visaya which is nothing but Viraja Mandala or Jajpur. The ornate door of Ratnagiri Monastery, the traveler Huan Tsang, visited Jajpur and mentioned it as Jagapur on his journey. He mentions the people of the area as being tall and dark-skinned, with a great love of learning. He talks about hundreds of monasteries and more than fifty Hindu temples in the area. In the middle of the 8th century AD, the Bhaumakars emerged as a powerful dynasty from Jajpur to rule most of present-day Odisha and beyond. What is interesting about this dynasty is that 18 rulers ruled for more than 200 years, 6 of them were women. Of these, Tribhuvana Mahadevi was the first ruler. I wonder if any other dynasty has nurtured so many powerful rulers. Japur during this time was known as Guhadeva Pataka or Guheswara Pataka, and the time is referred to as Bhauma Era in many copper plate inscriptions. Culture flourished in the form of art, architecture, literature, language, and social design. This is called the golden period of Jajpur. It is believed that the Odia language was formed during this time. Jajati Keshari and the Golden Era of Jajpur In the middle of the 10th century AD, the Bhaumakars fell to Jajati-I of South Kosala. After a period of turmoil, Chandihara, who called himself Jagati II of the Somvamshi dynasty, rose to power. It was later called Jajati Keshari, and it will be remembered for its construction of many temples such as Viraja Temple, Varaha Temple and Subhastambha. He renamed the capital Abhinava Jajatinagara. His son Odyuta Keshari later built the Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneshwar. King Jagati wanted to perform the Dashashwamedha Yagna here to celebrate his empire. For this, he brought 10,000 Brahmins from Kannauj in North India. He settled them across his kingdom by giving them grants of land called Sansanas. Even today, many of the dealers in the area trace their origin to this immigration. Dashashwamedha Ghat on the banks of Baitarani River is a reminder of this major yajna performed by Jajati Keshari. In the early 12th century AD, Jajpur came under the rule of the eastern Ganges dynasty, but Jajpur continued to be the capital for nearly a century, after which it moved to Cuttack. Jajpur transformed from being a cultural and political capital into an army camp to deal with the Afghan invaders. In the 1600s, it had to suffer destruction at the hands of Kala Pahad, which destroyed almost every temple in the area. Temples were demolished, and murtis mutilated and thrown into the Petarani River. Brahma Kund in Jajpur During the later years, Raja Man Singh of Rajasthan and Bhosle Marathas of Nagpur rebuilt some temples like Jagannath Temple, Saptamatrika Temple, Siddeshwar Temple, etc. From the early 19th century till the independence of India, that was of course. under British rule. The people of Jajpur played their part in the freedom movement, heeding the calls of leaders like Gandhiji. Jajpur as the currency of cultural and political capital recovered from various excavations indicates that Jajpur was part of trade routes during different times. All three ancient Indian religions – Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism – flourished in Jaipur, sometimes simultaneously. This is evident in the presence of several large Buddhist monasteries in the region such as Udayagiri, Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri, Langudi Pahada or Pushpagiri. Jajpur Today Jajpur district was carved out from Cuttak district in the year 1993. Today it is one of the most densely populated districts of Odisha. The mining industry here gives us minerals like chromite, iron ore, and nickel. In fact, Jajpur is a pioneer of Chromite Ore which is used in many industrial products like steel. Kalinga Nagar Integrated Industrial Park is a steel hub with many large and small steel mills. In a way, it is living on its ancient heritage of iron ore smelting, even today. These modern industries coexist with traditional industries such as Tussari silk weaving, wood carving, and stone carving. We will talk about these in subsequent posts. Agriculture and mining are the biggest economic drivers for the region. In the future, it will be home to two notable waterways in the country. Overall, Jajpur is a perfect blend of an ancient land layered with history and heritage, blessed with natural resources that are home to heavy industry as well as cottage. There is much for the inquisitive traveler to explore in this hidden gem of Odisha.