|Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)|
Mahakantara (500 BC to 500 AD): In the beginning of the Christian era probably it was known as Mahavana. During the 4th century AD the territory was referred to as Mahakantara (Greater forest). Both Mahavana and Mahakantara are synonymous terms representing the same land. Mahakantara and Kosala (or South Kosala) comprising Sambalpur, Bilaspur and Raipur were two distinct but neighboring territories. Originally these two geographical units were known as Kantara and Kosala in Ramayana and Mahabharata.
In the 4th century AD Vyaghraraja was ruling over Mahakantara comprising Kalahandi, undivided Koraput and Bastar region. Asurgarh was capital of Mahakantara. In ancient history Asurgarh region was transition point for trading between Kalinga, Mahakantara and Kosala (South). Asurgarh bears special importance so far as the Atavika people are concerned. These people find mention in Ashokan edicts and they are considered to have constituted the fighting forces of Kalinga against Ashoka in the famous Kalinga war. The Gupta emperor Samudragupta defeated Vyaghraraja of Mahakantara after defeating Kosala or South Kosala. But after defeating him the state of Mahakantara was returned to Vyaghraraj, as the Gupta influence in the Deccan was more of cultural than of political significance. The impact of Gupta culture in Kalahandi region is known from the rise of Saktism, Saiviam and Vaishaniam as well as spread of Sanskrit culture in this area in post-Gupta period. In the 5th century AD Sanskritization in Orissa was first started from Kalahandi – Koraput (ancient Kantara). Kalahandi was the cradle of Stambeswari Creed in the 5th century AD due to Sanskritization, which was a forerunner of Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra or Jagannatha Cult. The first brick temple in Eastern India, the temple of Goddess Stambeswari, was built at Asurgarh during the 5th century AD.
विजयेन्द्र कुमार माथुर ने लेख किया है ...महाकांतार (AS, p.720) प्रयाग-स्तंभ पर उत्कीर्ण समुद्रगुप्त की प्रख्यात प्रशस्ति में इस वन्य-प्रदेश के राजा का नाम व्याघ्रराज बताया गया है ('महाकांतारक व्याघ्रराज'). स्मिथ के अनुसार महाकांतार (अर्थात घोरवन) मध्य प्रदेश तथा उड़ीसा के जंगली इलाके का नाम था जहां आज भी घने वन पाए जाते हैं. राय चौधरी के अनुसार मध्य प्रदेश की भूतपूर्व जसो रियासत इस वन्य प्रदेश में सम्मिलित थी. शायद महाकांतार के शासक इसी व्याघ्रराज का नाम, पृथ्वीसेन के नचने की तलाई तथा गंज से प्राप्त गुप्तकालीन अभिलेखों में है.
- H. C. Rayachoudhurey, Political History of Ancient India, 538
- Mahabharata Sabhaparva, 31, sloka-11-16
- Mohapatra, Ramesh Prasad (1986). Archaeology in Orissa. II. Delhi.p.16
- Aitihasik Sthanavali by Vijayendra Kumar Mathur, p.720