Dhenkanal Palace Dhenkanal Palace
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Dhenkanal Palace

A truly royal eastern retreat, Palace Dhenkanal, the residence of the former Rajas of Dhenkanal is now a heritage homestay where you could experience the history, tradition, art, culture and heritage of Dhenkanal, one of the Feudatory States of Orissa styled “the Gurjat mehals of the Eastern States Agency. Dhenkanal is bounded on the north by the Pallahara and Keonjhar Feudatory States and the Sukinda Zemindari in the Cuttack district, on the west by the district of Angul and the States of Talcher and Hindol; on the south by the Baramba, Tigiria and Athagarh States and by the Balarampur, Madhupur, Darpani, Kalkala and Dalijora Zamindaries in the Cuttack district, on the east. The area of the State, which stood third in position among the Feudatory States of Orissa, is 1463 square miles in extent.

The last ruler, Raja Shankar Pratap Mahindra Bahadur (1925 – 65), was the seventeenth ruler since the foundation of the State and the first ruler in Orissa to merge with India in 1948. The present Raja of Dhenkanal is Brig Raja Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo Mahindra Bahadur ( 1941- ).

Before the predecessors of the present Raja occupied the Gadi of the State as ruling chiefs and prior to the formation of the present compact area a stretch of land to the south of the Brahmani River was subdivided into small principalities ruled over by semi-independent chiefs of hindu and aboriginal descent. At that time certain other land in and around was ruled over by a chieftain named Dhenka a member of the Savar tribe. A similar area towards the west, called Garh Besalia, was ruled by a chieftain of the Bhanja clan, named Sreedhar Bhanja. Sreedhar defeated Dhenka in battle. On his death-bed Dhenka asked Sreedhar Bhanja that as the latter had mortally injured him and had intended to take possession of his favorite place, he should, in order to maintain his supremacy and memory, name his territory after his (Dhenka) own name and that he should preserve and worship a relic of his. The territory of Dhenka Savar, Dhenkanal, was styled after him by ancestors of the present Raja Kamakhya Prasad and till this date the relic is worshipped very day at the Dhenkanal Palace.

The genealogy of the line of the present ruling chief prorogates from, Raja Hari Singh (afterwards Hari Singh Bidyadhar who came to Puri from the Rajputana States in company with his two brothers Govind Singh and Janardan Singh. The eldest, Govind Singh became the Maharaja of Orissa after the death of Maharaja Pratap Rudra Deb. Hari Singh, accompanied the Maharaja in his expedition to Southern India, who having won victories in several campaigns was able to vanquish a chief from whom the Minaketan katari and Minaketan pagree (dagger and headgear) were wrested for the Maharaja. In 1529, the Maharaja offered him as jagir a strip of land called the Karamul Patna of Singha Rai Khola in Dhenkanal comprising seven kosh on the banks of the River Brahmani. Raja Hari Singh ruled till 1584 and was succeeded by his son Raja Loknath Rai Singh Bhramarbar Rai.

Raja Loknath laid the foundation of the Baldev Jew temple or what is now called Balaram Mandir in Dhenkanal town, barely 500 mts from Dhenkanal Palace. Raja Balabhadra Rai Singh Bhramarbar Rai who ruled in 1606-32 succeeded his father in the former year and he annexed a portion of the adjoining Talcher State and founded the Mundailo Balabhadrapur Sasan.

The rule of the chivalrous ruler Raja Nrusingha Rai Singh Bhramarbar Rai (1652 - 1694) son of Nilakantha Rai Singh Bhramarbar Rai is amongst the most important chapters in the history of Dhenkanal and his name is still proverbial among the people of the State. He defeated the Raja of Madhupur and annexed a part of his estate. He further extended the area of Dhenkanal by attaching to it portions from Keonjhar, Athagarh, Tigiria, Madhupur and Sukinda and he completed the temple of Baldev Jew and set up the idol in it. Up to the time of Raja Nrusingha Bhramarbar the capital town of Dhenkanal had been at Karmool garh and Hadgurh but he founded the present one and spent a certain period in each year in what is now referred to as the Ragadi Nahar, remnants of which can be seen from the Dhenkanal Palace.

Raja Kunja Behari Rai Singh Bhramarbar Rai, the next in succession (1694 – 1720) annexed the Gotmara Biso from Angul and established the Kunja Beharipur Sasan and the temple of Sambhu Gopal Jew at Dhenkanal, while Braja Behari Rai Singh Bhramarbar Rai (1720 – 1740) was responsible for the Braja Beharipur Sasan and the temple of Jaigopal Jew.

The valiant Raja Trilochan Mahindra Bahadur (1746-88) fell out with the Marhatta Rajas of Nagpur, who had been establishing their supremacy in Orissa, owing to some disagreement in the payment of pesh kush (tribute). It appears that Rajaram Pandit, the Subedar at Cuttack, demanded double peshkush sent troops to Dhenkanal who were defeated at “Motori Garh” in Dhenkenal.The Subedar then appealed to the Bhonsle Raja of Nagpur and in response to a requisition for fresh troops a large army led by Chimna jee Bhonsle was sent to subdue Dhenkanal. Many skirmishes and a closely fought battle ensued between 1779 and 1781 which stretched into a stalemate and the Mahratta Army withdrew and The Dhansa (big drum) and the chadak-nali (matchlock) were the trophies that the Raja received from the Mahratta force.For this act of valour the Maharaja of Puri conferred on the Raja the hereditary title of Mahindra Bahadur, reserving that of Rai Singh Bhramarbar Rai to be enjoyed by the heirs-apparent, the Yuvaraj.

The next rulers were Krishna Chandra Mahindra Bahadur (1812-22) and Shyam Sundar Mahindra Bahadur (1822-32) and the latter was succeeded by Maharaja Bhagirathi Mahindra Bahadur (1832-77). This period is a very important one in the annals of Dhenkanal as it introduced an entirely new era. Bhagirath Maharaja Bhagirath a profound scholar of high Sanskrit learning an able administrator a patron of learning and industrial improvements a man of rate intellect high morals exemplary character and of liberal views restored all administrative reforms and secured order by settling the tenure of the State and by introducing working methods and the keeping of accounts in the various departments. The establishment of all public institutions such as schools, dispensaries, jails, and courts was undertaken by him he built the present Dhenkanal Palace and by virtue of his successful ruler ship he was created Maharaja by the British Government.

Bhagirath Maharaja Bhagirath having no issue of his own adopted as his heir Raja Dinabandhu Mahindra Bahadur the youngest brother of the late Chief of Boud who came of a distinguished Kshatriya family. Dinabandhu was a minor when he died in 1885, the State having been under the management of the Court of Wards since the death of the late Maharaja and he left an only son a babe six months old Surapratap and his widow Rani, the daughter of old Chief of Bonai who was widely known as the “Rajarshi” (the most pious and orthodox ruler).

Bhagirath Rajarshi Sura Pratap Mahindra Bahadur the sixteenth ruler in the line was born in 1885 and he took charge of the State in 1906 at the age of twenty one years. The State therefore had remained under Government management for the long period of about thirty years. The Dowager Rani Annapurna a noble lady has been since her widowhood, leading a life of austerity as a religious devotee and she has fully dedicated herself to works of public good and to ameliorating the cause of suffering humanity. The large Narayan temple at Kapilas the vast water reservoirs constructed by her orders orchards planted at her own cost and many other acts for the benefit of the public will serve as lasting monuments to immortalize her name and it was the noble example.

Rajarshi Sura Pratap since his installation to the Gaddi, he reserved forests by introducing forest laws, improved the working of the same by appointing qualified officers reclaimed jungle lands by leasing them out on easy terms, executed irrigation works on important streams and rivulets for facilitating agriculture, encouraged the breeding of cows and horses by the free distribution of good bulls and stallions, developed various kinds of arts and industries such as weaving, carpentry, works in fine arts, filigree, horn and ivory, has sent candidates abroad for technical education, erected magnificent buildings for the English High School in commemoration of his illustrious grandfather, now known as BB High School, founded the George Primary School, started large orchards, erected pucca granaries for the storage of paddy and grain for people. The elegant stone temple, Kunjakanta, with marble pavements dedicated to Lord Sri Krishna has been constructed with all up to date improvements and designs upon a hill which overlooks the Annapurna Sarobar and the temple in the town dedicated to the goddess Kamana Devi has been built by the Rani Saheba with the same object of affording relief. The new guest house, Kunjakanta Palace, on the hill with the new temple by its side and the extensive Sarobar underneath it are located among the many mango groves planted by Rajarshi Sura Pratap. The above structures combined with the High English School, the hostel and the Circuit house situated upon hills overlooking each other present a picturesque sight and afford a panorama of enchanting views from the Dhenkanal Palace. The addition of a magnificent Darbar hall called the Rangamahal, the Devimandir in front of the Dhenkanal Palace and the Dhenkanal Castle at Puri called the Annapurnalaya were all constructed during his reign. It may be added that Rajarshi Sura Pratap was an invited guest at the Coronation Durbar at Delhi in 1911 and that he was honored by having a prominent position. He was succeeded by his son Raja Shankar Pratap in 1925 after a small period of Court of Wards.

Weapons Raja Shankar Pratap was educated at the Rajkumar College Raipur where the foundations of good administration and human resources development were imbibed. He strengthened the education system by opening of schools, augmented irrigation facilities, introduced electricity and facilitated the use of modern techniques in agriculture, medicine and animal husbandry. He was widely travelled and represented his people in the Orissa Legislative Assembly after independence. Raja Shankar Pratap was also elected to the House of Elders, Rajya Sabha, in 1962 from Orissa. He passed away in August 1965 and the Government of India recognized his son Raja Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo as the Raja of Dhenkanal.

Raja Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo continued with the same manner of service to his people and motherland. He has been elected seven times to the Parliament of India. A retired Brigadier in the Territorial Army he is the only Member of Parliament in the history of Independent India to have actively taken a part in war, the Liberation of Bangladesh. Raja Kamakhya Prasad has served as a Union Minister under three Prime Ministers of India is a keen sportsman and administrator. He is the Founder Life President of the Asian Rowing Federation and is the present Raja of Dhenkanal residing at Dhenkanal Palace, the ancestral home of his ancestors.

Dhenkanal Palace