Significance of Kalanjara Fort
in The History Of Chandellas

by Dr. S. K. Sullerey

The fort of Kalanjara (Banda District. U.P.) is one of the most famous places of India. Kalanjara had been occupied from remote times. According to Wilson, it is mentioned in the Vedas as one of the “Tapasya Stahalas”.1 It is included in the list of holy places of India. The cultural glimpse of Kalanjara can be had form the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and Puranas like the Vayu, the Matsya,the Vamana, the Agni, the Linga, the Bhagavata and Brahmanda.2

The name of Kalanjara is said to have been derived from Siva himself, who as Kala causes all things to decay(Jar) and who is therefore destroyer of all things and god of death.3 The ascetics of Kalanjara were therefore devoted to the worship of Siva. Thus Kalanjara has been the center of Saivism from earliest times.

The fort of Kalanjara is connected with the traditional stories of the Chandellas which trace its origin to the moon . According to one legend compiled by Crooke, the original birthplace of Chandellas was Kalanjara. According to another legend the fort of Kalanjara was built by Chandravarman the additional founder of the Chandella dynasty 5.

The occupation of Kalanjara was his first achievement and show close relationship of Chandellas and Kalanjara fort. These traditions are not reported by epigraphic evidences.6Of the eight forts ascribed to Chandellas by tradition Kalanjara is most important and is believed to have been the military center of of their kingdom.7 The sturdy defenses of Kalanjara provided them with a comparative security against external enemies. The importance of fort of Kalanjara in the history of the Chandellas is evident from their political history.

The greatest achievement of Yasovarman was his conquest of Kalanjara which enhanced the prestige of the family and the Chandellas came to be recognized as a political power. The Khajuraho inscription says8, He easily conquered the Kalanjara mountain the dwelling place of Siva ,which is so high that it impedes the Sun at midday9. The The question form whom Yasovarman conquered Kalanjara is of great controversy.10 In the history of Chandellas Yasovarman was the first ruler who conquered the fort of Kalanjara. The conquest of Kalanjara by Yasovarman was an important event in the history of Chandellas, and this was signified by assumption of epithet “Kalinjaradhipati” by his successors.11 The imperial epithet was regularly used by the Chandella rulers from time of Dhanga., the successor of Yasovarman. It was during the reign of Dhanga that we meet with for the first time a positive demarcation of the boundaries of Chandella kingdom. The Khajuraho inscription says” He playfully acquired by the action of long and strong arms as far as Kalanjara and Bhasvat situated on the banks of the river of Malva, from here also to the bank of river Kalindi, from here also to the frontiers of Chedi country and even as far as that mountain called Gopa .12 It appears from the verses that the Chandella kingdom during the reign of Dhanga included two strategic fortress of northern India viz. Kalanjara and Gwalior. Farishta refers to him as a ruler of Kalanjara 13. Dhanga became a devout worshipper of Siva and since then Saivism became state religion for all practical purposes.14 This change signified Dhanga’s close contact with Kalanjara ,the famous abode of Nilkantha Siva.

Vidhyadhara was most powerful ruler of his time and his reign marked the zenith of chandelle supremacy.15 Vidyādhara had unique distinction of being the only Indian ruler who effectively checked the triumphal career of Sultan Mahmud and saved his kingdom from wanton destruction by that ruthless conqueror.16 Dr. Ray thinks that Mahmud could not capture Kalanjara in two invasions.17 Strategic importance of fort was also accepted by the Hasan Nizami, according to whom the fort of Kalanjara was celebrated throughout the world for being strong as a wall of Alexander. 18 The sturdy defenses of Kalanjara provided security against invasions of Sultan Mahmud and helped Vidhyadhara to defend his kingdom. This was the greatest achievement of Vidhyadhara which gave him unique position amongst the contemporary rulers.

After the death of Vidhyadhara there was change in in the history of Chandellas. The empire showed visible signs of downfall during the time of Vijayapala and Devavarman. Literary and epigraphic records mention defeat of Devavaman by Kalachuri king Lakshmikarna.but the fact that he uses the title of “Kālañjarādhipati” shows that he retrained his hold on this strategic fortress.19 The Vikramankadeva Charitaalso describes him as Kalinjara-giripate.20 Chandella Kīrtivarman who defeated Kalchuri Karna and recovered is territories appears to have performed one of the sensational military achievements of the times. The name of this ruler is also associated with building activities at Ajaigarh and Kalanjara. After Kīrtivarman during the times of Madanvarman the Chandellas flourished once again in the political scene of Northern India as an important power . Kalanjara inscription informs that Madanvarman in an instant defeated the king of Gurjara as Krishna defeated Kansa.21 Another inscription on a pillar in Nilkantha temple refers to Mahäpratihära Sangrimasimha and Maharani Padmavati attached to the temple.22

The important fortress of Kalanjara and Ajaigarh and the cities of Mahoba were held Madanvarman. Paramárdideva was the last ruler of eminence. In all relevant inscriptions Paramárdideva is recorded as Kalinjaradhipati.23 The Chandellas came into conflict with Cahamananas during his reign . Paramárdideva succeeded in recovering most of his lost territories in course of few years. But the Chandella kingdom was again invaded by Kutubuddin. Paramardideva could not stand the onslaught of Muslim invaders and agreed to surrender. In the meantime he died a natural death or was assassinated . Ajdeo the minister of Paramárdideva tried to defend the kingdom. As the reservoirs of water in the Kalanjara fort dried due to severe drought last resistance also broke down and army was compelled to capitulate. The fort thus fell to invaders who destroyed the temples and converted them to mosques. The government of Kalanjara was conferred upon Hazabaruddin Hasan.24 The successor of Paramardideva quickly recovered Kalanjara from Turkish occupants of the hill fortress Once again the Chandella ruler Trailokyavarman found himself justified in using the title of “Kālañjarādhipati”. Recapture of fortress from the Turks is clearly indicated in Garra site of Trailokyavarman 25 as well in the Ajaigarh inscription of Viravarman.26 It may be mentioned that the fort of Kalanjara remained in hands of the Chandellas in spite of repeated attacks till the tenth century .

The brief survey of the Chandella dynasty made above and its association with sturdy fort of Kalanjara justifies the assertion of N.S.Bose that the whole history of Chandellas has centered round the historic fort of Kalanjara and to a lesser degree ,the fort of Ajaigarh.27 Time and again fortune of the dynasty depended upon the possession of Kalanjara fort.28 Extraordinary significance of forts in the kingdom of the Chandellas was due to geographical factors of the country which determined the methods of war that were followed in that period.

About Prof. S.K. Sullerey :

Retd. Head of Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture & Archaeology
Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya, Jabalpur (M.P.) INDIA
Ex-Fellow-IIAS, Shimla



1.Cunningham,Archeological Survey of India reports,VolXXI.p.21

2.Proceedings of Indian History Congress ,41st session,1985.

3.Cunningham,Archeological Survey of India reports,VolXXI.p.22

4.W.Crooke ,The tribes and Caste s of North western India and oudh,Vol.II,p.196,fn.3

5.N.S.Bose: The Histyory of the Chandellas,p.2

6.Epigraphia Indica,Vol.I,pp.127-28,Vs31

7.IndianAntiquary,XXXVII p.131

8.S.K.Mitra ,”The early rulers of Khajuraho,p.37

9.EpigrahiaIndica,Vol. I,pp-127-28vs.31

10.Hindustani Part XXXVI.pp.88-93

11.S.K.Mitra The early rulers of Khajuraho,p.92

12.Epigraphia Indica,Vol.I,pp.129-34

13.Briggs ,Tarikh –i-Farishta ,I,p.18

14.S.K.Mitra ,”The early rulers of Khajuraho,p.193

15.N.S.Bose: The Histyory of the Chandellas

16.R.C.Majumdar ,Ancient India,p.351

17.H.C.Ray ,Dynastic history of Northern India ,Vol.II,p.693


19.S.K.Mitra .The Early rulers of Khajuraho.p.92

20.Vikramanakdevacarita ,XVIII,p.93

21.J.A.S..B.1848 ,XVIII,Pt.1,p.318

22.Cunningham,Archeological Survey of India reports,VolXXI.p.34

23.EpigrahiaIndica,Vol. XX,pp-128-31

24.Elliot,Vol.II,pp. 231-32

25.EpigrahiaIndica,Vol. XVI,p.275


27.N.S.Bose-History of Chandellas,p.134