Orissa


Orissa
/aw ris"euh, oh ris"euh/, n.
a state in E India. 24,870,000; 60,136 sq. mi. (155,752 sq. km). Cap.: Bhubaneswar.

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State (pop., 2001 prelim: 36,706,920), eastern India.

It lies on the Bay of Bengal and is bordered by Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and West Bengal states. It occupies an area of 60,119 sq mi (155,707 sq km), and its capital is Bhubaneshwar; Cuttack is the largest city. Part of the ancient kingdom of Kalinga, it was a stronghold of Hinduism before its conquest by the Afghan rulers of Bengal in 1568, when it became part of the Mughal Empire. It was ruled by Britain from 1803 until India's independence in 1947 and became a state in 1950. Situated in a tropical savanna that is subject to cyclones, it has a largely rural population, which is engaged mainly in agriculture. Crops include rice, oilseed, jute, and sugarcane. It has a rich artistic heritage and contains some of the best examples of Indian art and architecture.

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Introduction

      state of India. It is located in the northeastern part of the country. It is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east and by the states of West Bengal in the northeast, Bihar in the north, Madhya Pradesh in the west, and Andhra Pradesh in the south. Its area is 60,119 square miles (155,707 square kilometres). Before India became independent in 1947, Orissa's capital was at Cuttack. The present capital was subsequently built at Bhubaneshwar, in the vicinity of its historic temples.

Physical and human geography

The land
Relief and drainage
      Orissa's geologic formations vary considerably in both age and character. In the interior regions, extending across the stable landmass of the Indian Peninsula (a fragment of the ancient continent Gondwanaland), are found some of the oldest rocks of the Earth's crust, while along the seaboard are deltaic alluvium or littoral deposits and ridges of windblown sand.

      The state can be broadly divided into four natural divisions: (1) the Northern Plateau, (2) the Eastern Ghats, (3) the Central Tract, and (4) the Coastal Plains. The Northern Plateau (in the northern part of the state) is an extension of the forest-covered, lightly settled, and mineral-rich Chota Nagpur Plateau centred in southern Bihar. The Eastern Ghats, extending roughly parallel to the coast, are remnants of a very ancient line of hills in eastern peninsular India; rising to heights of 3,600 feet (1,100 metres), the Eastern Ghats are forest-covered, provide a home for a variety of wildlife, and are populated by several tribal groups. The Central Tract comprises a series of plateaus and basins occupying the inland area west and north of the Eastern Ghats; the plateau areas provide scant resources, but several of the basins—notably the Kalahandi, Balangir, Hirakud, and Jharsuguda—have the soil and the irrigation facilities to support local agriculture. The coastal plains are formed of alluvial soils deposited by the many rivers flowing to the Bay of Bengal; locally the area is known as the Baleshwar Coastal Plain to the northeast, the Mahanadi delta in the centre, and the Chilika Plain to the southwest. The coastal plains are heavily populated, have extensive irrigation, and are devoted almost entirely to the growing of rice during the rainy season.

      The main rivers are the Subarnarekha, Burabalang, Baitarani, Brahmani, Mahanadi, Rushikulya, and Vamsadhara. Notable mountain ranges are the Mahendra Hill (Giri; rising to 4,924 feet [1,501 metres]), the Malaya Hill (3,894 feet [1,187 metres]), and the Megasini (3,822 feet [1,165 metres]). Orissa's Chilika Lake is the biggest saltwater lagoon in India.

      Orissa is located in a climatic region known as tropical wet-dry (or tropical savanna). Temperatures average about 79° F (26° C) at Cuttack; January is the coldest month, averaging 68° F (20° C), but in May, the warmest month, the mean temperature rises to about 92° F (33° C). The higher elevations of the hills provide some relief from the summer heat, which becomes particularly oppressive in the basins of the Central Tract. Rainfall is concentrated in the months of the southwest monsoon (June to October). Average annual rainfall in the state is about 70 inches (1,800 millimetres), with even heavier precipitation in the Eastern Ghats; the coastal area south of Chilika Lake is the driest location, averaging 37 inches.

Plant and animal life
      Orissa's forests cover more than one-third of the state. They are commonly classified into two categories: tropical moist deciduous and tropical dry deciduous. The first type occupies the hills, plateaus, and more isolated areas within the northeastern part of the state, while the second is found in the southwest. In both forests there are bamboo, teak, rosewood, and padauk. The dense forests northeast gradually become less so toward the southwest. Within the state six wildlife sanctuaries have been set aside to provide a natural habitat for tigers, buffalo, antelope, monkeys, and birds.

      Orissa has the same animal life as the rest of peninsular India. Monkeys are common. Carnivores include different types of tigers. The elephant, the wild buffalo, the blackbuck, and the four-horned antelope are found in some areas. The peafowl is a distinctive feature of the Orissa forests. Chilika Lake is a breeding ground for many fish and water fowl of the Bay of Bengal.

The people
      The population of Orissa includes tribal and nontribal peoples. The tribes are divided into three linguistic groups: the Munda-speaking (Munda languages) (e.g., the Santhal, Savara, and Juang), the Dravidian-speaking (Dravidian languages) (e.g., the Khond, Gond, and Oraon), and the Oriya-speaking (Oṛiyā language) (e.g, the Bhuina). Most tribal people live in the hill areas, but they are also found in the plains. The nontribal population is mainly Oriya-speaking and Hindu.

      The tribes for a long time have been undergoing the process of Hinduization. Tribal chieftains have claimed Kshatriya (warrior) status, while many of the Khonds, who constitute the largest tribe, have abandoned their Kui language (Dravidian) and speak Oriya, the state's official language. Many tribes are bilingual. Some have become almost indistinguishable from the Hindus and have lost their original language.

      The Oriya language does not vary in its written form, but there are some regional variations in the spoken form. The purest Oriya is spoken in the coastal districts of Cuttack and Puri. About 85 percent of the population use Oriya as their principal language; this proportion is higher in the Mahanadi Delta but lower in the hills and in the coastal lowlands of the northeast, where Bengali is widely spoken.

      Hindus make up about 95 percent of the population of Orissa. Muslims are the largest religious minority in all areas of the state except the districts of Sundargarh, Ganjaam, Kraput, and Phulabani, where there are greater numbers of Christians. In none of the state's 13 districts, however, does a single minority religion claim more than a tiny fraction of the population.

      The caste structure is similar to that in other states of eastern India. Next to the Brahmans are the Karanas (the writer class), who claim Kshatriya status (with the pen as their weapon rather than the sword). The Khandayats (literally, “Swordsmen”) are mostly cultivators but call themselves “Khandayat-Kshatriyas.” All castes look to Jagannatha (one of the incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu) as the centre of their religious faith. For centuries the town of Puri, known as the abode of Jagannatha, has been the only place in India where all castes, including the so-called “untouchables” (the Scheduled Castes), eat together.

      Orissa has a predominantly rural population. The only major cities are Cuttack, Raurkela, Bhubaneshwar, Sambalpur, and Brahmapur.

The economy
      About 80 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture, even though much of the land is either unproductive or unsuitable for more than a single annual crop. There are about four million farms in Orissa, averaging about 8 acres (1.5 hectares), but the farmed area per person is less than one-half acre. Farms occupy about 45 percent of the total area of the state. About 80 percent of the sown area is in rice. Other important crops are oilseeds, pulses, jute, sugarcane, and coconut. Low sunlight availability, modest soil quality, minimal use of fertilizer, and variable volume and timing of the monsoon rains combine to give Orissan farmers low yields and to place them among the poorest in the nation.

      A number of agricultural families also engage in nonagricultural pursuits, as most rural people do not get continuous employment the year around. The amount of agricultural land available per person has been declining because of population growth. Attempts at placing ceilings on large landholdings have largely not succeeded. Some marginal lands acquired by the state, however, have been voluntarily turned over to former tenants.

      The industrial resources of Orissa are considerable. Orissa leads all states of India in the production of chromite, manganese ore, and dolomite. It is also one of the leading producers of high-quality iron ore. Coal from the important Talcher field in the interior district of Dhenkanal provides the energy base for the state's smelting and fertilizer production. The steel, nonferrous smelting, and fertilizer industries are concentrated in the inland portions of the state, while most of the foundries, rail shops, glass works, and paper mills are located around Cuttack near the Mahanadi delta. Tying the two industrial regions together is the great Mahanadi River system, which has been harnessed by one of the most ambitious multiple purpose projects on the subcontinent: the Hirakud Dam and the Machkund hydroelectric project, together with several smaller units, provide flood control, irrigation, and power to the entire lower basin.

      Large-scale industries, mostly based on minerals, include a steel plant and fertilizer plant at Raurkela, ferromanganese plants at Joda and Rayagarha, refractor-producing factories at Raj Gangpur and Belpahar, a refrigerator manufacturing plant at Choudwar, and a cement factory at Raj Gangpur. There are some large-scale sugar and paper mills at Rayagarha and Choudwar; other industries include textiles, glass, aluminum ingots and cables, and heavy machine tools.

      Communication facilities were undeveloped before 1947, but the merger of a number of feudatory states with Orissa and the discovery of mineral resources required the construction of a network of good roads. Bold construction programs—such as the building of bridges over most of the major rivers—were undertaken by the government of Orissa. The state, however, still lacks adequate railway communications.

      An all-weather, sheltered, deep-draft port has been constructed at Paradwip at the mouth of Mahanadi River. This port has become an important departing point for the state's exports, especially coal.

Administration and social conditions
      The head of the state is a governor appointed by the president of India. The actual administration is conducted by a Council of Ministers, headed by a chief minister and responsible to the elected Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha), whose members are elected at intervals of not more than five years through universal adult suffrage.

      There are 13 districts—Balangir, Baleshwar, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Ganjam, Kalahandi, Kendujhar, Koraput, Mayurbhanj, Phulabani, Puri, Sambalpur, and Sundargarh—grouped into three revenue divisions, each under a divisional commissioner. A board of revenue is in charge of revenue administration. The district administration is conducted by a deputy commissioner, who is also the district magistrate.

      The districts are divided into tahsils, each having a tahsildar as its revenue officer. Tahsils comprise groups of villages, administered by pancayats (village councils), to which villagers elect their representatives. A sarpanc (elected president) heads the pancayat. The towns are administered by municipalities.

      At one time there was a high rate of malaria along the coastal belt, and the whole state was subject to epidemics of cholera and smallpox. The incidence of filariasis (a disease caused by the presence of filarial worms in the blood and glands), leprosy, and tuberculosis was also high. Since independence, however, much attention has been paid to health services, and great progress in reducing the incidence of these diseases has been achieved through various programs. Filariasis is no longer a widespread problem, and cases of leprosy are rare. The number of hospitals and dispensaries has increased, and the three medical colleges—at Cuttack, Brahmapur (Berhampur), and Burla (Sambalpur)—have expanded considerably.

Education and welfare
      The number of educational institutions increased considerably after 1947. There are five universities (and numerous associated colleges), of which Utkal University and Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology are the largest and best known. Despite the presence of these institutions, only an extremely small fraction of Orissa's population is university-educated, and the state's literacy rate is below the national average.

      Orissa's Tribal Welfare Department has devised programs to promote the educational, cultural, economic, and social advancement of the tribes. A Tribal Research Bureau and a Tribal Research Laboratory have been established at Bhubaneshwar to collect data about tribes; this information assists the state government in formulating plans and policies regarding tribal welfare. The state Social Welfare Advisory Board, instituted in 1954, cares for the welfare of women and children through courses of instruction, urban-welfare-extension projects, and holiday camps for children.

Cultural life
      Orissa has a rich artistic heritage and has produced some of the best examples of Indian art and architecture. Artistic traditions are maintained through mural paintings, stone carving, wood carving, icon paintings (known as patta paintings), and paintings on palm leaves. Handicraft workers are famous for their exquisite silver filigree ornamentation and decorative work.

      In tribal areas, Orissa has a wide variety of folk dances. The music of the madal and flute is common in the countryside. The classical dance of Orissa, known as orissi (oṛissī), has survived for more than 700 years. Originally it was a temple dance performed for the gods. The modes, movements, gestures, and poses of the dance are depicted on the walls of the great temples, especially at Konarka (Konarak), in the form of sculpture and in relief carvings. Modern exponents of the dance have made it popular outside the state. The chhau (a dance performed by groups of masked dancers) of Mayurbhanj and Saraikela regions is another feature of Oriya culture. For the promotion of dancing and music, the Kala Vikash Kendra centre was founded at Cuttack in 1952 with a six-year teaching course. The National Music Association serves a similar purpose. Other notable dance and music centres in Cuttack are the Utkal Sangit Samaj, the Utkal Smruti Kala Mandapa, and the Mukti Kala Mandir.

 There are many traditional festivals. A festival unique to Orissa is the ceremony of Boita-Bandana (worshiping of boats) in October or November (the date is set to the Hindu calendar). For five consecutive days before the full moon, people gather near riverbanks or the seashore and float miniature boats as a symbolic gesture that they will leave for the faraway lands (Malaysia and Indonesia) to which their ancestors once sailed.

      The town of Puri is the site of the Jagannatha (Jagannātha) temple, perhaps the most famous Hindu shrine in India, and of the temple's annual Chariot Festival, which attracts hundreds of thousands of people; the English word juggernaut, derived from the temple's name, was inspired by the massive, nearly unstoppable wagons used in the festival. A few miles away, in Konarka, is a temple in the form of a chariot of the sun god, Surya, one of the finest examples of medieval Orissan culture.

History
      In ancient and medieval times, the land corresponding roughly with modern Orissa passed under the names of Utkala, Kaliṅga (Kalinga), and Oḍra Deṣa, although its boundaries were sometimes much larger. These names were originally associated with peoples. The Okkalā or Utkala, the Kaliñgā, and the Oḍra or Oḍḍakā were mentioned in literature as tribes. Ancient Greeks knew the latter two as Kalingai and Oretes. Eventually the names became identified with territories. For centuries before and after the birth of Christ, Kaliṅga was a formidable political power, extending from the Ganges River to the Godāvari. Approximately between the 11th and 16th centuries the name fell into disuse; instead, the name Oḍra Deṣa was gradually transformed into Uḍḍiṣa, Uḍisā, or Oḍisā, which in English became Orissa. The language of Oḍisā came to be known as Oṛiyā or Oṛiā.

      At the dawn of Indian history, Kaliṅga was already famous. Buddhist sources refer to the rule of King Brahmadatta in Kaliṅga at the time of the Buddha's death. In the 4th century BC the first Indian empire builder, Mahāpadma Nanda, conquered Kaliṅga, but the Nanda rule was short-lived. In 260 BC the Mauryan emperor Aśoka invaded Kaliṅga and fought one of the greatest wars of ancient history. He then renounced war, became a Buddhist, and preached peace and nonviolence in and outside India. In the 1st century BC the Kaliṅga emperor Khāravela conquered vast territories that collectively came to be called the Kaliṅga empire.

      Kaliṅga became a maritime power beginning in the 1st century AD, and its overseas activities culminated in the 8th century with the establishment of the Ṣailendra empire in Java. Orissa was ruled during the 8th, 9th, and 10th centuries by the powerful Bhauma-Kara dynasty and in the 10th and 11th centuries by the Soma dynasty. The Temple of Liṅgarāja at Bhubaneshwar, the greatest Ṣaiva monument of India, was begun by the Soma King Yayāti.

      Medieval Orissa enjoyed a golden age under the Gaṅga dynasty (Ganga dynasty). Its founder, Anantavarma Cōḍagaṅgadeva (1078–1147), ruled from the Ganges to the Godāvari with Cuttack as his capital. He began the construction of the temple of Jagannātha (Lord of the Universe) at Puri. Narasiṃha I (1238–64) built the Sun Temple (Surya Deuḷa) of Konārka, one of the finest specimens of Hindu architecture. In the 13th and 14th centuries, when much of India was overrun by the Muslims, independent Orissa remained a citadel of Hindu religion, philosophy, art, and architecture.

      The Gaṅgas were succeeded by the Sūrya dynasty. Its first king, Kapilendra (1435–66), won territories from his Muslim neighbours and greatly expanded the Orissan kingdom. His successor, Puruṣottama, maintained these gains with difficulty. The next and the last Sūrya king, Pratāparudra, became a disciple of Caitanya, the great medieval saint, and became a pacifist. After his death (1540) Orissa's power declined, and in 1568, when King Mukunda was killed by his own countrymen, Orissa lost its independence to the Afghan rulers of Bengal.

      The Mughal emperor Akbar conquered Orissa from the Afghans in 1590–92. When the Mughal Empire fell in 1761, part of Orissa remained under the Bengal nawabs, but the greater part passed to the Marāṭhās. The Bengal sector came under British rule in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey; the Marāṭhā sector was conquered by the British in 1803. Although after 1803 the British controlled the entire Oṛiyā-speaking area, it continued to be administered as two units. It was not until April 1, 1936, that the British heeded calls for unification on a linguistic basis and constituted Orissa as a separate province; 26 Oṛiyā princely states, however, remained outside the provincial administration. After the independence of India in 1947, all these princely states except Saraikela and Kharsāwān (which merged with Bihār) became part of Orissa.

Manmath Nath Das Robert E. Huke

Additional Reading
B. Sinha, Geography of Orissa, 2nd ed., rev. (1981), is an excellent overview especially strong in physical geography. Two works, L.K. Banerjee and T.A. Rao, Mangroves of Orissa Coast and Their Ecology (1990); and Walter Fernandes, Geeta Menon, and Philip Viegas, Forests, Environment, and Tribal Economy: Deforestation, Impoverishment, and Marginalisation in Orissa (1988), deal with endangered portions of the region. Suresh Chandra Mallick, Marketing of Rice in Orissa (1987), deals with a troublesome sector of the economy. Susan Seymour, The Transformation of a Sacred Town: Bhubaneswar, India (1980), describes the transformation of an ancient temple town into the modern capital city of Orissa.Robert E. Huke

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Universalium. 2010.

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