Structural Remains at the Early Medieval Fort at Raibania, Orissa

Dr. Bratati Sen, Kolkata


This paper is dedicated to Late Dr. Asok Dutta, retd. Reader, Dept. of Archaeology, University of Calcutta, under whose supervision the work was carried out and who passed away during the project.


The fortifications of mediaeval India occupy an eminent position in the history of military architecture. The present paper deals with the study of the structural remains at the early mediaeval fort at Raibania in the district of Balasore in Orissa. The fort was built of stone very loosely kept together. The three-walled fortification interspersed by two consecutive moats, a feature evidenced at Raibania, which is unparallel in the history of ancient and mediaeval forts and fortifications in India. Several other structures like the Jay-Chandi Temple Complex, a huge well, numerous tanks and remains of an ancient bridge add to the uniqueness of the Fort in the entire eastern region.


The importance of fort and fortifications realized by the rulers and were raised around the important cities and the capitals at most strategic locations under the patronage of the contemporary kings. Early Sanskrit literature mentions the terms ‘Durga’ and ‘Pur’ to denote the fortified-city or village. The Sanskrit texts also mention different types of Durgas, viz. Giridurga or Parvatadurga (Mountain fort), Jaladurga (Water fort), Dhanvadurga (Marudurga), Dhanudurga (Desert fort), etc (Singh 1993). The Vedic literature may be regarded as earliest literary records with focus on the construction of stone and iron forts. The detailed descriptions of different types of forts and fortifications have been mentioned in the Vedic texts. The forts were built by earth, brick, and stone masonry in square, rectangular, hexagonal, octagonal, polygonal, circular and irregular shapes.


The fort at Raibania (21°55’26.12” N; 87°11’36.83” E) is one of the largest of the group of four mediaeval forts. The mud fort is located at the north-west angle of Raibania village located nine miles north of Jaleshwar and two miles from the right bank of the river Subarnarekha, in the district of Balasore in Orissa (Behuria 1994) (Fig. 1). The area was encircled by the river Subarnarekha from three sides and only in the western side it is linked to land which was full of dense forests. The fort of Raibania was a very large one, bigger than that of Barabati and one of the greatest in India (Mahtab 1959). John Beams, the then

Magistrate of Balasore and an archaeologist had made a survey of the area in the nineteenth century and narrated about the fort. There are no mention of the size and area of the fort anywhere no stone or copper inscriptions have yet been discovered. Beams (1872) could find the ruins of four forts in the southern side of the river Subarnarekha, although two forts out of them are situated on the eastern bank of the river. Out of the group of four forts, the two larger ones are close to the village Raibania and the two smaller ones at the village of Phulta (Phulahatta). Of these two small forts nothing now remains except the outline of mud walls, with scattered debris of laterite stones and is thus completely demolished. (Figs. 2A & 2B)

The district of Balasore acquired military significance in the history of Orissa during the mediaeval period because of its strategic location in the north-eastern border of Orissa. As a part of Kalinga, the district was included within the empires of Nandas, Mauryas and the Mahameghavahanas. In the later centuries various major ruling dynasties of Orissa like the Bhanjas, the Bhaumakaras, the Somavamsis, the Ganges and the Gajapatis included the areas of the district within their kingdom. During the period of the Ganges and the Gajapatis all the military marches to Bengal were undertaken through the district. The Muslims led down in the coastal tracts of this district. Also the great fight between the Afghan army and the Mughal soldiers was held at Mogalmari (excavated by Dept. of Archaeology, University of Calcutta, 2003-’07 & 2008-‘12) is geographically closer to the town of Jaleshwar, also on the bank of Subanrarekha River. The fort at Raibania played a noteworthy role in the political and military activities of the rulers of the Ganga dynasty. From the reign of Chodaganaga the Gangas ruled in Orissa for fifteen generations covering a total period of 325 years. They transferred their capital from Mukhalingam to Kataka (Cuttack), which they called Varanasi Kataka and settled down here permanently. Several Oriya scholars observe that the Gangas of Orissa imbibed Oriya customs and even adopted the Oriya language for all practical purposes, and even became patrons of Oriya literature. Raibania finds mention in the Ain-i-Akbari written by Abul Fazl in the 16th Century BCE. It has been mentioned as “Rayn” and the situation of the place “on the borders of Orissa” leaves no doubt that the correct reading is ‘Raiban” (Beams 1872). Ain-i-Akbari also mentions the existence of “three forts” at ‘Rayn’, which however, was found to be four when John Beams (1872) explored the area. In absence of any written documents it is difficult to assign any specific date to the Raibania fort. However several indirect sources of information regarding the date of this fort may be mentioned…Access the Full Text Article>>