Kalika Purana- a compilation of the time of Dharmapala of Kamarupa

by  Tirthanath Sarma

Published in The Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. 23, no. 4 (mar-dec) p. 322-326

Sri K. L. Barua while discussing the date of the Kalikapurana observes: "It would not be quite unreasonable to suppose that the Kalikapurana was compiled during his (Dharmapala's) reign and perhaps under his auspices"[1]. The proof adduced in support of his contention is uncertain and inadequate. An attempt is made here to test the correctness of his opinion by certain internal evidences of the Purana itself.

As regards the Kamarupa origin of this Purana there is hardly any ground for doubt. The internal evidences of the text itself are sufficiently strong for its probable date. That the Purana was late in its origin is proved by the fact that it refers to the Visnudharmottara [2] a text of the ninth century. The inscriptions of Kamarupa hitherto found have to say nothing about the goddess Kamakhya or of her shrine on the Nilakuta hill with which our Purana is wholly occupied. The river Lauhitya occupies a prominent place in some of the inscriptions and it is mentioned with sufficient veneration. The difference between this Purana and one of the inscriptions of Indra-pala in explaining the name 'Lauhirya' is therefore significant. The second inscription of Indrapala is called Lauhitya because its waters were stained with the copious blood of the Ksatriyas. The Kalikapurana offers quite a different explanation. According to it, the river came to be called Lauhitya because it originated from the Lake Lohita.[3] Evidently the composer of the inscription depended on an earlier legend and had no knowledge of the Kalikapurana.

The Purana gives an account of the pithas in Kamarupa with their locations (Chs. 77-79). While giving fuller descriptions of the sacred places on the southern side of the Brahmaputra, especially those around the Kamakhya hill, it deals only superficially with the northern bank of the river. It makes no mention of the huge temple of Hataka Sulin so enthusiastically recorded as a great achievement in the inscription of Vanamaladeva [4] (9th century). Considering the zeal with which the Purana makes mention of sacred shrines of Siva, it seems unlikely that it would have passed over this important place of Siva worship of the 9th century, had it been known to its author. What is most likely is that the temple of Hataka Sulin became then a thing of the past or sank into insignificance. The Purana must have been compiled after the capital of Kamarupa was shifted from Haruppesvara to Durjaya on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra.

The Purana actually makes a passing notice of a city near a hill called Durjaya with a shrine of Bhairava (79. 156-161). From the description it appears that the hill and the city on its slope lay further east of the Citrakuta (modern Navagraha hill). There was on the top of the hill a Bhairava sprung from the middle part of the body of Sarabha [5], a form assumed by Siva[6]. The Bhairava, according to the Purana, should be worshipped with rites enjoined for the worship of Kamesvara. Now while giving a description of the city of Durjaya, the inscriptions of Ratnapala bring a comparison with the Mt. Kailasa in so far as it is an abode of Siva (kailashnigirishikharmivaparmeshvaradhishtanam). If we take this city by the side of the Durjaya hill of the Kalikapurana as the city of Durjaya of the inscriptions, then of course, the date of the Purana comes down to the time of Ratnapala during which the city grew into prominence, but as we shall see presently, it comes further down.

On the topmost part of the Kamakhya hill there is the temple of Bhuvanesvari. Another epithet of Bhuvanesvari is Mahagauri.[7] The Bhairava attached to Mahagauri or Bhuvanesvari is Mahabhairava who sprang from the middle part of the body of Mahadeva in his Sarabha form[8]. This makes both the Bhairavas identical. The association of Mahagauri with Mahabhairava sprung from the body of Sarabha who seems to be identical with the Bhairava at the Durjaya hill who in turn again is associated with Kamesvara in respect of the rules of worship, is significant. It may be that when Durjaya was abandoned for some reason or other by Dharmapala, Mahagauri and Kamesvara were brought to the top of the Kamakhya hill and installed there, or the pitha and the Bhairava installed there had their prototype at Durjaya. In any case Durjaya, and her presiding deity lost their former glory during the time when the Kalikapurana was compiled.

It is evident that the Kalikapurana was compiled to extol the glory of Kamakhya and to determine her position in the Sakta pantheon. This must have synchronized with the renovation, if not the beginning, of the worship of Kamakhya. There is a tradition among the Basattariya Brahman families of lower Assam that their ancestors were settled by Dharmapala with land grants and that it was for the purpose of conducting the worship of Kamakhya. There are still several Brahman families of the ‘Basattariya' group among the colony of Pandas on the hill around the temple. This tradition is quite old.

There is nothing to doubt the truth of the tradition. The Kalikapurana in all probability was compiled during the reign of Dharmapala. The covert allusion to the patron king Dharmapala in the mantra employed for consecration of the sound meant for the human sacrifice is not improbable. In fact, a whole chapter is devoted to the eulogy of Dharma (ch. 28). Frequent slesa on the word Dharma can be detected. The most interesting matter in this chapter is that some of its passages bear a close comparison with a few in the inscriptions of Dharmapala. Strangely enough, this is the shortest chapter in the Purana consisting only of sixteen verses and its connection with the context is rather loose. We give below some of the instances of slesa on the word Dharma:

saram tasvam paramam nishkalayam

Nmuttarya honam murttimanam dharma eshah

Sarohanyohasau sarheenam tadanyaj -- 28. 16

Here Dharma is characterised as the second reality having a form which may be taken as meaning Dharmapala the embodiment of Dharma, Again in the line saro dvitiyo dhammastu yo nityapraptaye bhavate (28.7), there is a slesa in the words dharma and nityapraptaye which may be construed as Dharma (the king) the second reality from whom proceed gifts every day.

The following passages from the inscription of Dharmapala and the Kalikapurana may be profitably compared:


Nripohabhavat Dharmapala iti

sanvayahshyayah(Kam. Sas. P. 177)

Dharmapala iti dharmaparohapi kamamarthashcha




Stajyahkadachidapi nityasukho na dharmah:Ibid. p. 173


Dharmashatrushpad bhagawan jagat

Palyatehnisham (28.12)Dharma catuspad - Dharma - consisting of four parts - tapah, shaucham, daya, satyam.Dhrama catuspad - king Dharma dispenser of justice with the four processes (catuspad)

Shravedanam, pratigyakalitam, nirarpayah : |

Itare tu trayo dharmajjayantehartho-dayohpare | 28.9

Varam praraparityagah shirso vatha kartanam

Na tu dharmaparityago loke vede cha garhitah |


These clearly point to some connection of Dharmapala with the compilation of the Kalikapurana. Dharmapala's reign falls at the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th and this was the time when the Kalikapurana was compiled.

This date may tally with the evidences adduced by P. K. Gode for fixing A.D. 1000 as the limit before which the Purana was composed (Journal of Oriental Research Society, vol. X. Pp. 289-294). The earliest reference to the Kalikapurana found by Prof. Gode is in the Bharatabhasya of king Nanyadeva who is identified with king Nanyadeva of Mithila (A. D. 1097-1133). This makes Nanyadeva a junior contemporary of Dharmapala if the identification is correct. Considering the constant communication of Kamarupa with Mithila from the earliest times, it is not impossible that the Kalikapurana should have been known in Mithila within the quarter of a century of its compilation. Basattariya Brahman families in Assam came probably from Mithila which was famous for Tantricism at that time. The story in the Kalikapurana that Naraka was an adopted son of king Janaka of Mithila is interesting in this respect. The story is evidently an invention of the Purana, and most probably the purpose of the invention was to establish some connection of Kamarupa with Mithila. Perhaps the ancestors of the Basattariya (seventy two) Brahmans themselves had hand in compiling the Purana.


1 Early History of Kamarupa, p. 164.

2 Kalikapurana, 88.71; 89.2.

3 K.P. 83-33

4 Kam. Sas., p. 62.

5 Sarabha, a legendary animal with eight feet.

6 The story is narrated in Chs. 31, 35

7 Mahagauri tu ya devi yogini siddharupini

Sa brahaparvate chaste silarupena chodhartah

Shritiva rupasampanna namna sa bhuvaneshvari | K. P. 62-127

8 Ibid., 62-124

Published in The Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. 23, no. 4 (mar-dec) p. 322-326

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