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Orissa


Orissa' a constituent part of Bengal Subah in the sixteenth century and now a province of India. Orissa was a part of the dominions of the Nanda emperor of Magadha in ancient time. The city lies along the eastern coast of India, from Bengal on the north to Andhra on the south.

The name Orissa is derived from the Sanskrit Odra Vishaya or Odra Desa. Both Pali and Sanskrit Literatures mention the Odra people as Oddaka and Odrah respectively. Odra or Udra tribes inhabited the central belt of modern Orissa. In the mediaeval Muslim chronicles like Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, Tabaqat-i-Akbari, Riyazus-Salatin, Tarikh-i-Firuzshahi the Odra territory has been referred to as Jajnagar. Shams-i-Siraj Afif called this territory as Jajnagar-Udisa.

Orissa had also been the home of the Kalinga and Utkala tribes that played a prominent role in the region's history. One of the earliest references to the ancient Kalingas appears in the writings of Vedic chroniclers. The Kalingas acquired reputation for being a fiercely independent people. Present Orissa can be classified into part of three different kingdoms in ancient time. Kalinga, Kantara or Mahakantara and South Kosala were the kingdoms during the period of the Mahabharata where Kalinga existed in the eastern part of present Orissa, South Kosala in the North-Western part of present Orissa and Kantara (Mahakantara) in the South-Western part of present Orissa. Cuttack-Bhubaneswar and Kalinga Nagar (North Andhra Pradesh) were the central places of Kalinga kingdom.

Asoka's invasion of Kalinga was an epoch-making event of far-reaching consequences. A major turning point in the world history took place around 261 BC when the Maurya emperor Asoka invaded Kalinga. Asoka's military campaign against Kalinga was one of the devastating events in Maurya history on account of the heroic resistance offered by the people of Kalinga to the armies of the expanding Maurya empire and consequent massacres. Though Asoka succeeded in subjngating Kalinga he could not bear the inhuman bloodshed caused by the war, and vowed never to resort to such massacres again. He adopted the path of non-violence as an article of faith in his life and became a follower of Buddhism. Later on, Asoka became a missionary of peace. He died in 232 BC.'

By the first century BC, Kharavela the ruler of Kalinga emerged as the pre-eminent monarch of greater part of the subcontinent, and Magadha became a province of his empire. Kharavela ruled Orissa in the first half of the second century BC. The earliest surviving monuments of Orissa (in Udaigiri near Bhubaneswar) dates from his reign. The history of Orissa for several centuries after Kharavela is unclear. It is important to note that a hereditary warrior caste like the Kshatriyas did not take hold in the region. Soldiers were drawn from the peasantry as and when needed and rank in the military depended as much on fighting skills and bravery as on hereditary factors. In this respect, history of Orissa resembles more the history of the nations of South East Asia.'

In the 4th century AD Orissa was a part of Gupta empire and in the 7th century it was within the empire of Harshavardhana. Then Orissa passed under the Bhanja dynasty in 9th century. From 8th to 10th centuries the Bhauma-kara dynasty ruled over Utkal when the Uriya language was just begening to take shape. In the middle of the 11th century the Eastern Ganga dynasty established its rule in Orissa and continued to rule until the end of 12th century. The Ganga king Anantavarman built the Jagannatha Temple at Puri. The Eastern Ganga kings upheld the independence of Orissa against the Mohammedan raids from northern India. In 1359, Sultan Firuz Shah Tughluq invaded Orissa. But he left Jajnagar (Orissa) in return of a gift of a large number of elephants.

Mukundadeva was the last Hindu independent king of Orissa. Sulaiman Karrani, the Afghan Sultan of Bengal (1564-72) defeated and killed Mukundadeva and subsequently conquered Orissa in 1568. With the death of Mukundadeva, Orissa lost its independence. Orissa was annexed to the Mughal empire by Emperor Akbar in 1572 which formed a part of the Bengal Subah. Later in 1607 Orissa was made an independent subah during the reign of Emperor jahangir (1605-1627).

The first Mughal governor of Orissa was Hashim Khan (1607-1611) and the last governor was Alivardi Khan. In 1741 the army of Bhonsala Raja of Nagpur under his general Bhaskar Ram ravaged Orissa. alivardi khan, Nawab of Bengal, was compelled to cede Orissa to the Marathas. Earlier, the portuguese, the english, the duTch and the french established their trade settlements at Pipli, Hariharpur and Balashore. With the death of Aurangzeb (1707), Mughal Empire began to decline and Orissa passed in the process under the direct rule of the Nawabs of Bengal.

The battle of Giria (1741) made Alivardi the undisputed master of Bengal and Bihar, but Orissa still remained beyond his control. By the end of 1741, Alivardi established his absolute authority over Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. In 1751 a part of Orissa was ceded by Alivardi Khan to the Marathas under Raghuji Bhonsle and it remained a part of the Maratha dominions till 1803 when it was ceded by the Bhonsle raja to the East-India Company under the treaty of Deogaon.

In 1823, Orissa was divided into three districts; Cuttack, Balasore and Puri, and a number of native tributary states. Orissa was tagged to the province of Bengal and was placed under the direct administration of the Governor General until 1854 when along with Bengal and Bihar it was placed under the administration of a Lieutenant Governor. In 1912 the coastal area of Orissa was separated from Bengal to be tagged to Bihar forming a separate province, in response to local agitation for a separate state for Oriya-speaking peoples. In 1936, Bihar and Orissa bifurcated into separate provinces.

After the partition of India, new states of Orissa were unified in 1948 and an administrative reorganisation of the state was taken in hand. Consequently the area of Orissa was almost doubled and in 1950 Orissa became a constituent state in the Union of India.

Culturally, Orissa made notable achievements in the fields of art, architecture, literature and philosophy. The Chinese pilgrim hiuen-tsang who visited Orissa in about 636 A.D. observed how buddhist viharas and Brahminic temples flourished there side by side. Numerous Buddhist architectural remains, sculptures of great artistic excellence, the stupas and bihars had been unearthed during the excavation. The earliest Orissan temples bear clear testimony of the post Gupta influence in architectural style. Architecture and sculpture made notable progress in the medieval period under the patronage of Sailadhavas, Bhumkaras and Gangas. The development of different religions in Orissa was the basis of such abundant output of art.'

Temple constitutes the most dominant form of artistic expression in Orissa. Apart from Brahmnical temples, a few ancient Buddhist and Jaina temples are still extant. All these bear some common features of the typical Kalinga style of architecture. The great Jagannat Temple at Puri was built in the 12th century A.D under the patronage of the Ganga king. It is the tallest extant temple in Orissa. The magnificent Konarak temple marks the climax of Orissan temple style. It was built by King Narshima-1 (1238-1264).

Both Buddhism and Jainism played an important role in the cultural and philosophical developments of early Orissan civilization. Most Buddhist and Jaina texts were written in Pali-Prakrit mix leading to the speculation that Pali might have been the original language of the Oriyan people. Later, Orissa's Buddhism came to be influenced by Tantric influences. Tantric influences are clear in the survival of the Yogini cults in Orissa. The Yogini cults concentrated on worship of the shakti (female life force) with a belief in the efficacy of magic ritual. Although Yogini cults were not unique to Orissa, two out of four surviving Yogini temples are to be found in Hirapur and Ranipur-Jharial. The Hirapur temple is attributed to the Bhauma and Somavansi rulers of Orissa (mid 8th - mid 10th C. AD). Under the administration of the Ganga and Surya kings, tribal deities were slowly edged out as Brahminical gods acquired supremacy, and at the same time social mobility declined and the first concrete appearances of a formalized caste system began to appear.

Bhubaneswar is the capital of Orissa. It is famous for its magnificent temples, numbering about a thousand. Cuttack, the former capital of Orissa, is 22 km from Bhubaneswar. The historical city of Puri is about 60 kilometers from Bhubaneswar and lies on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Puri is considered a holy city and the abode of the deity Lord Jagannath. The Hirakud Dam near Sambalpur is the longest earthen dam in the world. It has several popular tourist towns. Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar are known as the golden triangle of eastern India. The Jagannath Temple of Puri, the Sun Temple of Konark, the Lingaraja Temple, Khandagiri, Udaygiri, Dhauligiri of Bhubaneswar, Ashoka's famous Rock Edict at Jaugada near Berhampur city and the Barabati Fort of Cuttack are important archaeological marks of the state. [Nasrin Akhter]'