Orissa State

Introduction :

Orissa is a state of India, located on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It is the modern name of the ancient nation of Kalinga, which was invaded by the Maurya Emperor Ashoka in 261 BC. The modern state of Orissa was established on 1 April 1936 as a province in India, and consists, predominantly of Oriya speakers 1 April is therefore celebrated as Utkal Divas (Orissa Day).

Orissa is the ninth largest state by area in India, and the eleventh largest by population. Odiya is the official and most widely spoken language. Orissa has a relatively unindented coastline (about 480 km long ) and lacks good ports, except for the deepwater facility at Paradip. The narrow, level coastal strip, including the Mahanadi River delta supports the bulk of the population. The interior of the state is mountainous and sparsely populated. Deomali at 1672 m is the highest point of the state.

Orissa is subject to intense cyclones. The most intense one, in October 1999, Tropical Cyclone 05B caused severe damage and some 10,000 deaths. Orissa is home to the Hirakud Dam, the longest earthen dam in the world. Orissa has several popular tourist destinations. Puri, with the Jagannath temple near the sea (famous for Rath Yatra or the Car Festival), and Konark, with the Sun Temple, are visited by thousands of tourists every year. The Jagannath Temple of Puri, The Sun Temple of Konark, The Lingaraja Temple of Bhubaneshwar and the Barabati Fort of Cuttack are important in the archaeological history of India.

History :

Orissa has a history spanning a period of over 3,000 years. The history of Orissa is in many ways atypical from that of the northern plains, and many of the common generalizations that are made about Indian history do not seem to apply to the Odia region. The name Odia originated from Odra or Udra tribes that inhabited the central belt ( Angul, Dhenkanal,Nayagarh ) of modern Orissa. Orissa has also been the home of the Kalinga, Utkal and [Kosal} that played a particularly prominent role in the region's history, and one of the earliest references to the ancient Kalingas appears in the writings of Vedic chroniclers. In the 6th century BCE, Vedic Sutrakara Baudhayana mentions Kalinga as being beyond the Vedic fold, indicating that Brahminical influences had not yet touched the land. Unlike some other parts of India, tribal customs and traditions played a significant role in shaping political structures and cultural practices right up to the 15th century, when Brahminical influences triumphed over competing traditions and caste differentiation began to inhibit social mobility and erode what had survived of the ancient republican tradition.

A major turning point in world history took place in Orissa. The Kalinga War that led emperor Ashoka to embrace non-violence and the teachings of Buddha was fought here in 261 BC. Ashoka's military campaign against Kalinga was one of the bloodiest in Mauryan history on account of the fearless and heroic resistance offered by the Kalingas to the mighty armies of the expanding Mauryan empire. Perhaps on account of their unexpected bravery, emperor Ashoka was compelled to issue two edicts specifically calling for a just and benign administration in Kalinga. Later on, Ashoka was instrumental in spreading Buddhist philosophy all over Asia.

In the third century BCE, Kalinga flourished as a powerful kingdom under the Jaina king, Kharavela. He ruled all the way down south to include parts of the Tamil country. He built the superb monastic caves at Udayagiri and Khandagiri. Subsequently, the kingdom was ruled under various monarchs, such as Samudragupta and Sasanka. It also was a part of Harsha's empire. In 795 AD, the king Yayati Kesari I of Kesari or Soma dynasty united Kalinga, Kosala and Utkala into a single empire. He is also supposed to have built the first Jagannath Temple at Puri, although the current structure of the temple is entirely different and was built by Kings Choda Gangadeva and Ananga Bhimadeva of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty in the 12th century. The famous Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneshwar was started by Keshari dynasty king Yayati Keshari III and completed by his son Lalatendu Keshari in the 10th century. King Narasimha Dev is reputed to have built the magnificent Sun Temple at Konark. Although now largely in ruins, the temple may have once rivaled the Taj Mahal in splendour.

The Mughals conquered Orissa in 1576. The last Hindu Emperor of Orissa, Gajapati Mukunda Deva, was defeated and was killed in the battle of Gohiratikiri. The Mughals divided Orissa into two parts, Garjat and Mughalbandi. The coastal plain of Orissa from Medinipur to Rajahmundry came under Mughalbandi rule, which was broadly divided into six parts as Jaleshwar Sarkar, Bhadrakh Sarkar, Cuttack Sarkar, Chicacole (Srikakulam) Sarkar, Kalinga Dandapat and Rajamundry Sarkar or Godavari Province. The Garjat areas of Orissa's Central, Northern, Western and Southern hilly areas were ruled independently by the Hindu kings. These Hindu kings were paying their tribute to the Mughal Subahdar of Orissa who was residing at Cuttack. The Nizam of Hyderabad occupied the area between Rajahmundry to Srikakulam in 16th century. The remaining parts of Orissa, including the Mughalbandi and Garjat areas, were subsequently ceded to the Marathas in 1751.

Geography And Climate :

Bhubaneshwar is the capital of Orissa. It is famed for its magnificent temples, numbering around a thousand. Cuttack, the former capital of Orissa, is 22 km from Bhubaneshwar. With the rapid expansion of two cities and better road connectivity, the two cities are now almost conjoined and considered as twin cities. The city of Puri is about 60 kilometers from Bhubaneshwar and lies on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Puri is considered a holy city and the abode of the deity Lord Jagannath. It is one of the Char Dhams (Four holy places) of Hinduism. The world-famous "car festival" (rath yatra) is celebrated every year in the Hindu month of Ashadha (Mid June to Mid July) in Puri.

The Chota Nagpur plateau occupies the western and northern portions of the state, while along the coast are fertile alluvial plains and the valleys of the Mahanadi, Brahmani, and Baitarani rivers, which fall into the Bay of Bengal. These alluvial plains are home to intensive rice cultivation. The Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI),Asia's largest rice research Institute is situated along the bank of Mahanadi in Cuttack. One of the major nesting ground for the Olive Ridley sea turtles can be found in the Beaches of Orissa; in Devi, Gahirmatha and Rushikulya, which are known to be the nesting sites for the L. olivacea Indian Ocean population. In 2007, around 130,000 turtles nested on the beaches of Gahirmatha. The shore line also acts as their mating site & have attracted various scientific communities for research & studies.

Although most of Orissa's forest cover has been denuded lately, one of the greatest attractions of Orissa is its still vast expanses of unspoiled natural landscape that offer a protected yet natural habitat to the state’s incredible wildlife. There are many wildlife sanctuaries in Orissa. The Simlipal National Park Tiger Reserve is a huge expanse of lush green forest with waterfalls, inhabited by tigers, elephants, and other wildlife. The Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary has been protecting estuarine crocodiles since 1975.

Chilka Lake, a brackish water coastal lake on the Bay of Bengal, south of the mouth of the Mahanadi River, is the largest coastal lake in India and the second largest in the world.It is the largest wintering ground for migratory birds on the Indian sub-continent. It is protected by the Chilka Lake Bird Sanctuary, which harbors over 160 migratory and resident species of birds. Birds from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and southeast Asia, Ladakh and Himalayas come here. It also has the small area of Satpada which is a safe sanctuary for the lesser known & endangered Irrawaddy Dolphins. The highest mountain peak in the state is Deomali (1672 m), which is situated in Koraput district in southern Orissa. It is also the tallest peak of the Eastern Ghats. It is part of the Chandragiri-Pottangi mountain system. Location: 18°40'3"N 82°58'59"E.

Tourism :

The landscape of Orissa is dotted with a large number of temples. The temples of Orissa conform to the Indo Aryan Nagara style of architecture, with distinctive features specific to this region. The best known of these are the Lingaraja temple at Bhubaneshwar, Jagannath Temple at Puri and the Sun Temple at Konark. The temples of Orissa exhibit a majestic grandeur. An Odia temple (deula) usually consists of a sanctum, one or several front porches (jagamohana) usually with pyramidal roofs, a dancing hall (nata mandir) and a hall of offerings (bhog mandir).

The Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneshwar boasts of a 150 foot high deul while the Jagannath Temple at Puri is about 200 feet high and it dominates the skyline of the town. Only a portion of the Sun Temple at Konark, the largest of the temples of the Golden triangle exists today, and it is still staggering in size. It stands out as a masterpiece in Orissa architecture. Orissa is also well known as a Buddhist and Jain pilgrimage destination. North-east of Cuttack, about 100 km from Bhubaneshwar, there are Buddhist relics and ruins at the three hilltop complexes of Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, which still bear witness to Buddhism's fruitful tryst with this region until well into the 13th century.

Orissa's varying topography – from the wooded Eastern Ghats to the fertile river basin – has proven ideal for evolution of compact and unique ecosystems. Thereby creating such treasure troves of flora and fauna that even seem inviting to many migratory species of birds and reptiles. Bhitar Kanika National Park is famous for its second largest mangrove ecosystem. The bird sanctuary in Chilika (Asia's biggest brackish water lake) and the tiger reserve and waterfalls in Simlipal National Park are integral part of any eco tours in Orissa, arranged by Tourism of Orissa.

Orissa's varying topography – from the wooded Eastern Ghats to the fertile river basin – has proven ideal for evolution of compact and unique ecosystems. Thereby creating such treasure troves of flora and fauna that even seem inviting to many migratory species of birds and reptiles. Bhitar Kanika National Park is famous for its second largest mangrove ecosystem. The bird sanctuary in Chilika (Asia's biggest brackish water lake) and the tiger reserve and waterfalls in Simlipal National Park are integral part of any eco tours in Orissa, arranged by Tourism of Orissa.

The Gharial Sanctuary at Tikarpada and the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles in Gahirmatha turtle sanctuary also feature on the list of avid nature watchers. The city wildlife sanctuaries of Chandaka and Nandan Kanan are a must visit for the lessons they teach is conservation and revitalization of species from the brink of extinction.

Orissa is blessed with around 500 km long coastline and has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Chilika, Asia's largest brackish water lake, not only provides a haven for millions of birds, but is also one of the few places in India where one can view dolphins. The lush green forest cover of Orissa plays host to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including the famed Royal Bengal Tiger. Amidst the picturesque hills and valleys nestle a number of breathtaking waterfalls and rivulets that attract visitors from all over. Orissa beaches include Puri, Gopalpur-on-Sea, Chandipur, Ramachandi Beach, Balighai Beach, Astarang Beach, Paradeep Beach. If you visit India you must visit the famous Shiva Temple near Dhenkanal.