History of Odisha

Its territory formed a part of the ancient Kalinga of Mahabharat fame. Ashok the Mauryan King of Magadh, invaded Kalinga in 261 BC and this event has gone down in history as the Great Kalinga war. Then the people of Kalinga offered a relentless & dauntless resistance, but they lost at last. How desperate was the battle, how bitterly was it fought, and how terrible were the results, are known from Ashok’s own descriptions. This is what he wrote about the Kalinga war in his thirteenth Rock Edict. The country of Kalinga was conquered when King Priyadarshan, beloved of the Gods had been anointed eight years. One hundred and fifty thousand were there from captured, one hundred thousand were there slain, and many times as many died.

But what was the result? The conquered Kalinga conquered her conqueror. This was the last war fought by him after which he became the great champion of Buddhism and upheld the values of peace and non-violence.

The ancient state rose to prominence as a Kingdom under Kharavela , a great conquerer and patron of Jainism, in the second half of the Ist century B.C. Other great rulers belonged to the Keshari dynasty and the Eastern Ganga dynasty who were also great builders.

At one time the vast kingdom spanned from Ganga to Godavari. The flourishing maritime trade with South-East Asian countries i.e. Java, Borneo had brought in a golden era of affluence and opulence.

The Kalinga School of architecture flourished from the 7th to 13th century A.D. The most important monuments of this period can be seen in and around Bhubaneswar and Puri. The Mukteswar Temple is the finest piece of architecture of Kalinga. The Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneswar, the Jagannath Temple of Puri above all the world renowned world heritage Sun Temple at Konark is the epitome of temple architecture and sculpture. The construction of Konark Temple utilized 12 years of state revenue which can be compared to the mighty Moghul Empire, which also utilized its resources of 12 years for building world famous Taj Mahal.

It has also shown its military strength and prowess  during Buxi Jagabandhu, period of the warrior of  Khurda Paikas. The glories of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) ended in later half of 16th century. Two centuries later the British administered the final blows by dividing the original territory in to several administrative units.




In 1936, ultimately an independent state Odisha (Formerly Orissa) was constituted as a separate province by carving out certain portions from the provinces of Bihar, Odisha (Formerly Orissa) and Madras. As centuries rolled by, Odisha (Formerly Orissa) continued to invite heros, Scholars and prophets alike. Famous Kings like Samudra Gupta and Harsha Siladitya came to Odisha (Formerly Orissa) on political missions while scholars like Prajna and Hieuen-Tsang came to learn at centers of learning. Hieuen-Tsang, the famous Chinese pilgrim of the 7th century who visited Odisha (Formerly Orissa) was surprised to see the University of Puspagiri imparting knowledge to innumerable scholars now lying buried under Buddhist complex at Ratnagiri-Lalitgiri-Udayagiri.

Various prophets visited Odisha (Formerly Orissa), the significant among  those  visits is the visit of Adi   Sankaracharya in 9th century to Puri to make  it a center of his mission and a towering citadel of his spiritual ideology & message. He established four monasteries in four corners of Indian Peninsula out of which “ The Gobardhan Pitha” of Puri was one of the most significant. Another Great Saint Ramanujacharya, the propounder of Visista Dwaita philosophy also visited Puri and established the Emar Matha. In the same century Jayadev composed his world famous lilting treatise “Gita Govinda”. Subsequently in 16th century Sri Chaitanya, the exponent of the Bhakti Cult  came to Odisha (Formerly Orissa) and made Puri his abode for last 18 years of his life. His contemporary Pancha Sakha i.e. Sri Jagannath Das, Sri Achyutananda Das, Sri Balaram Das, Ananta & Yasobanta were spiritual stalwarts and literary luminaries of the time.

Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja, Kabi Surya Baladev Ratha, Radhanath Ray, Fakir Mohan Senapati, Pandit Gopabandhu Dash, Pandit Nilakantha Das, Godabaris Mishra, Kalandi Charan Panigrahi, Sachidananda Routray & many others have contributed substantially to the language & literature of Odisha (Formerly Orissa).

Utkal Gaurav Madhusudan Das was the architect of Modern Odisha (Formerly Orissa) and subsequently Sri Nabakrushna Chowdhury, Dr. Harekrishna Mahatab, Sri Bijayananda Patnaik & others engineered their best efforts for catapulting Odisha (Formerly Orissa) to himalayan heights of fame & glory.

In fact, Odisha (Formerly Orissa) has become a multi dimensional, multi coloured, many splendoured, vibrant & boisterous modern state all set on its journey in the present millenium  to make its presence and voice felt in the nooks & crannies of the world through the Universal Cult of brotherhood, its unique cultural heritage, luxuriant forests & wild life, sprawling Chilika Lake, bountiful coastline, wide range of tribes & colourful canvass of art & culture.

Odisha (Formerly Orissa) has been resurgent again rejuvenating and resuscitating its ancient glory, glamour & greatness.



Origin of the name of the State
The name Odisha (Formerly 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. Greek writers like Pliny and Ptolemy described the Odra people as Oretes. In the Mahabharata the Odras are mentioned along with the Paundras, Utkals, Mekalas, Kalingas and Andhras, while according to Manu the Odras are associated with the Paundrakas, Dravidas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Sakas, Paradas, Pallhavas, Chinas, Kiratas and Khasas. The location of the Odra territory has been given in the Natural History of Pliny in which it is mentioned that the Oretes were inhabiting the country where stood the Mount Maleus. The Greek Oretes is probably the Sanskrit Odra and the Mount Maleus has been identified with Malayagiri near Pala Lahara. Pliny associates the Mount Maleus with the people called Monedes and Sharis who were probably the same as the Mundas and the Savaras respectively inhabiting the upland regions of Odisha (Formerly Orissa).

The Chinese pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang who visited Odisha (Formerly Orissa) in about 636 A.D. gives an account of the territory named Wu-Cha which is very likely the same as Odra. The pilgrim states that the Wu-Cha (Wu-tu) country was above 7,000 li in circuit and its capital was above 20 li in circuit. The area of the territory, which was 7,000 li or (2,253 km) in circuit, was very extensive. General Cunningham who calls this territory as Odra or Odra Desa writes as follows:

“The ancient province of Odra desa or Or-desa was limited to the valley of the Mahanadi and to the lower course of the Subarnarekha river. It comprised the whole of the present districts of Cuttack and Sambalpur and a portion of Midnapore. It was bounded on the West by Gondwana, on the North by the wild hill states of Jashpur and Singhbhum, on the East by the sea and on the South by Ganjam. These also must have been the limits in the time of Hiuen-Tsang as the measured circuit agrees with his estimate”.

The Muslim geographer lbn Khurdadhbin who wrote his geography in 846 AD refers to a territory called Ursfin which is identified by the Russian scholar V. Minorsky with Odra Desa. In another Persian geography called Hudad-al Alam written towards the close of the 10 th century A.D. mention has been made of a territory called Urshin (Odra Desa) which has been associated with the territories called N. Myas, Harkand, Smnder and Andhras which were more or less contiguous. The territory called N.Myas may be Mahismati and Harkand is suggested to be Akarakhand (eastern Malwa). Urshin may be the same as Odra Desa and Smnder may be the territory bordering the sea. Andhras is without doubt the same as Andhra Desa. Alberuni has referred to a territory called Udra Vishau located 50 forsakhs towards the sea in the south from the Tree of Prayaga. Fifty forsakhs is equal to about 200 miles or 321.86 km. So Udra Vishau may be the same as Odra Desa.

In the mediaeval Muslim chronicles like Tabaquat-I-Nasiri, Tabaquat-I-Akbari, Riyadus-Salatin, Tarkh-I-Firuzsahi, etc., the Odra territory has been referred to as Jajnagar probably after the capital Yayatinagar or Jajatinagar. The territory of Jajnagar very probably denotes to the Ganga empire during the period from Chodagangadeva to Anangabhimdeva III when Jajatinagar (modern Jagati on the Mahanadi) was the capital of that empire. It was Anangabhimadeva III who transferred the capital from Jajatinagar to Baranasi Kataka. And even after the change of capital some Muslim chroniclers continued to call this territory as Jajnagar. Shams-I-Seraj-Afif called this territory as Jajnagar-Udisa with its capital city Banaras on the right bank of the Mahanadi. The word ‘Udisa’ added to Jajnagar appears very significant. It is a developed form of the word Ursfin or Urshin used by earlier Muslim writers of the 9 th and 10 th centuries A.D. In Buddhist literature this word is expressed as Odivisa or Udivisa as found in the works of Lama Taranath and the author of Pag-Sam-Jon-Zang. In the Tantric literature of the mediaeval period the word Udisa has been frequently used and in Tantrasara, Jagannath has been referred to as Udisanatha. Poet Sarala Das mentions both the words Odra Rastra and Odisa in his famous treatise Mahabharata while Gajapati Kapileswaradeva (1435 – 1467 AD) in his proclamation inscribed on the temple walls of Jagannath calls his territory as Odisa Rajya. Thus from the 15 th century AD onward the land of the Oriya people was called Udisa or Odisa.

History of the State as an Administrative unit and Changes in its component parts
On the height of their power in the 15 th century AD, the Gajapati Kings of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) ruled over a kingdom, extending from the Gangas in the north to the Kaveri in the far south. But already in the early 16 th century, the Gajapatis lost great portions of their southern dominion to Vijayanagar and Golkonda. The dismemberment of the Oriya-speaking central region began immediately after the downfall of the kingdom in 1568, when the present Ganjam district was conquered by Golkonda and when, in the early 17 th century, the districts north to the river Subarnarekha were annexed to the Bengal Subah of the Mughal Empire. The fate of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) was further determined in 1751 when the Marathas merely conquered central and western Odisha (Formerly Orissa) whereas southern and northern Odisha (Formerly Orissa) remained under the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Nawab of Bengal respectively. And when, in the year 1803, Odisha (Formerly Orissa) was finally conquered by the East India Company, the districts of Ganjam and Midnapore, already several decades ago, had become part of its fast expanding territory.

The East India Company had no intention of unifying the Oriya-speaking territories which it had conquered piece by piece during a period of more than half a century. On the contrary, after further reorganization of those Oriya-speaking areas which lay outside the Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Division, the Oriyas were administered by five separate political authorities, i.e. Bengal and its Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Division, Chota Nagpur, the Central Provinces, Madras and the Garhjat Mahals of feudatory states of Odisha (Formerly Orissa).

The formation of the linguistic province of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) in 1936 may be regarded as one of the landmarks in the history of the evolution of the Indian Union. The demand for linguistic states, which became so conspicuous in India after independence had its genesis in the movement of the Oriya-speaking people for a separate province on the basis of language during the later half of the British rule. This movement had a long and chequered history ranging from the last quarter of the nineteenth century till the new province was created on the 1 st April, 1936.

The British conquest of India was carried on according to prevailing political situations as well as military conveniences of the conquering power. In the process of territorial conquests the traditional compositions of the socio-cultural affinities of the various Indian people were very much neglected. As one of the major linguistic communities of the Indian subcontinent, but placed under several administrative jurisdictions, the Oriya people suffered the injustice of dismemberment for nearly a century since the British conquest of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) in 1803. Ganjam and other Oriya-speaking areas south of the Chilika lake remained tagged to Madras; Midnapore to Bengal; Singhbhum, Seraikela and Kharsawan to Chota Nagpur Division; Sambalpur and Chhatisgarh feudatory states to the Central Provinces. Thus, when the British occupied Odisha (Formerly Orissa) in 1803 it was confined to the three coastal districts of Puri, Cuttack and Baleswar.
A new awakening was marked in Odisha (Formerly Orissa) after the ‘Na Anka’ famine of 1866 and during the time of the ‘language agitation’. Growth of education, development of communication, increase in the volume of trade and commerce, establishment of printing press and publication of journals and periodicals paved the way for the growth of political consciousness in Odisha (Formerly Orissa). This consciousness made the people aware of administrative disadvantages.

The tales of the woes of the scattered Oriyas under other neighbouring people and their strong desire for union with Odisha (Formerly Orissa) crowded the columns of the newspapers and journals. When Lord North Brook, the Governor-General, suggested to break up the Central Provinces and to merge its areas with other provinces, the pioneers of the Oriya movement advocated strongly to merge Sambalpur with Odisha (Formerly Orissa).

The question of amalgamating outlying Oriya-speaking tracts with Odisha (Formerly Orissa) was so far confined to newspapers and journals but later steps were taken to submit representations to the Government to that effect. When John Beams was the Commissioner of Odisha (Formerly Orissa), the Oriyas appealed to him for the merger of the Oriya-speaking areas into a distinct linguistic unit. The people of Baleshwar made a similar representation to Richard Temple, the Lieutenant-Governor, who did not pay any heed to that appeal. In 1876, Raja Baikunthanath Dey of Baleshwar and Bichitrananda Das, the Sirastadar of the Commissioner of Odisha (Formerly Orissa), made a representation to the Government for the union of all the Oriya-speaking areas under a single administration.

 In creating consciousness for the amalgamation of the Oriya-speaking areas, the district of Ganjam played a leading role. The people of Ganjam for the first-time organized meetings and passed resolutions for the unity of all the Oriya-speaking areas. In September 1870, in the village of Russelkonda (present Bhanjanagar) under Ghumusar Taluk in the Ganjam district, a mass meeting was held. In the meting it was resolved to request the Oriyas of Cuttack to make united efforts for amalgamation. The Ganjam Oriyas formed an association called the ‘Ganjam Utkal Hitabadini Sabha’ with the Raja of Kalinga, Venkates Beu, as its Secretary and carried on the agitation more vigorously.



In the Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Division, on the 28 th November, 1874, there was a vast congregation of all the Rajas, Zamindars, and aristocrats in the garden of Bichitrananda Das to discuss the common problems of Odisha (Formerly Orissa). In July 1877 an association called ‘Utkal Sabha’ was formed under the leadership of Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das. On the 16 th August, 1882 the Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Association was also formed by Mr.Das. In 1888 the Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Association made a representation to Sir Stewart Colvin Bayley, the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, to unite all the Oriya-speaking areas. On 15 th December, 1902 Raja Baikunthanath Dey submitted a memorial to Lord Curzon to the same effect. In 1903 the Ganjam Oriyas sent a memorial to Lord Curzon for the amalgamation. They also sent a copy of their memorandum to the people of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Division. In the same year a meeting was held at Rambha in the Ganjam district under the leadership of the Raja of Khallikot and the ‘Ganjam Jatiya Samiti’ was formed. Its first meeting was held at Brahmapur and Shyamasunder Rajguru of Paralakhemundi was its President. Delegates to attend this meeting from Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Division included such eminent persons as Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das, Biswanath Kar, Nanda Kishore Bal and Gopal Chandra Praharaj. This meeting was regarded as the fist national conference of the Oriya people. This was followed by the formation of the Utkal Union Conference at Cuttack on the 30 th December, 1903 under the leadership of Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das. This conference played the most significant role for the amalgamation of the Oriya-speaking areas.

In 1901 Andrew Fraser, the then Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces proposed to transfer Sambalpur to the Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Division. On 3 rd December, 1903 Lord Curzon in a scheme proposed to unite under a single administration the scattered sections of the Oriya-speaking population while considering a proposal for the partition of Bengal. But the proposed scheme was partially carried into effect by the transfer of the Sambalpur district to Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Division on the 1 st September, 1905 minus the Chandrapur and the Padmapur estates and the Phuljhar Zamindari. In the same year the two feudatory states of Gangpur and Banei (Bonai) from the Chota Nagpur Division and the other five Oriya feudatory states of Patna, Kalahandi, Sonapur (Sonepur), Bamra and Redhakhol (Rairakhol) were transferred to Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Division from the Central Provinces.

The next great agitation for the amalgamation took place in 1911 when Lord Hardinge, the Governor General, created a new province consisting of Bihar and Odisha (Formerly Orissa) excluding the Oriya-speaking areas of Midnapore, Ganjam and Vizagapatnam agencies; the states of Sarangagarh, Rayagarh, Bastar, Phulijher, Chandrapur, Padmapur, etc. and the states of Saraikela, Kharsawan and Sundergarh. The Odisha (Formerly Orissa) being dissatisfied at this, continued their agitation with double vigour. The claims of the Oriyas were discussed at the Utkal Union Conference which met from year to year. Besides the Utkal Union Conference, the Oriya Peoples’ Association, the Balasore National Conference, the Udit Club of Singhbhum, the Utkal Milan Samaja and the Utkal Hitaisini Samaja of Ganjam also played leading roles for the union of the Oriya-speaking areas. A counter movement called the Ganjam Defence League was organized by the Telugus in Ganjam to oppose the Oriya movement.

In 1917 the Montagu-Cheimsford Commission visited India on the subject of self-Government. As regards Odisha (Formerly Orissa), the Commission in its report recognized the need for an administrative union of the Oriya-speaking people and recommended for a sub-province for the Oriyas. But in the Act of 1919, there was no provision for a separate sub-province and the merger of the Oriya-speaking areas.

The question of amalgamation of the Oriya-speaking people was discussed from time to time in the Central and the Provincial legislations. On the 20 th February, 1920 Satchidananda Sinha moved a resolution in the imperial Council for the amalgamation of the Oriya-speaking tracts. A similar resolution of A.B. Latthe supported by Brajasundar Das was moved in the Indian Legislative Assembly on the 2 nd September, 1921. In reply Sir William Vincent, the Home Member, expressed his inability to take any step to change the provincial boundaries. On the 25 th November, 1921, Viswanath Kar, an Oriya member in the Bihar and Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Legislative Council moved a resolution for the union of the Oriya-speaking tracts. In the same year Sasibhusan Rath moved a similar resolution in the Madras Legislative Council. All these resolutions were disallowed by the Government.

At last India Government appointed C.L. Philip and A.C. Duff to make enquiry regarding the attitude of the Oriya inhabitants of the Madras Presidency towards this merger with Odisha (Formerly Orissa). The Commission in their report made the following concluding remarks “Our enquiry has shown that there is a genuine long-standing and deep seated desire on the part of the educated Oriya classes of the Oriya-speaking tracts of Madras for amalgamation of these tracts with Odisha (Formerly Orissa) under the administration”. Before any step was taken on the recommendations of the Commission, the Government appointment a statutory commission in 1928 under the Chairmanship of the Sir John Simon to report on the working on the reforms in India. The Commission in its report stated, “Bihar and Odisha (Formerly Orissa) is a glaring example of the artificial connections of areas which are not naturally related.” The Commission, therefore, appointed a sub-committee for Odisha (Formerly Orissa) with Major Attlee as Chairman. The sub-committee recommended the creation of a separate Odisha (Formerly Orissa) province.

The report of the Simon Commission led to the summoning of the Round Table Conference. Krushna Chandra Gajapati Narayan Dev, the Maharaja of Paralakhemundi represented Odisha (Formerly Orissa) in the Conference. The Maharaja circulated the pamphlet, “the Oriyas, their needs, and reasons for a separate province.” His efforts bore fruits : before the Third Round Table Conference ended, the Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Boundary Commission was appointed to review the boundary lines of the proposed Odisha (Formerly Orissa) province.

According to the suggestion of the Simon Commission the Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Boundary Commission was appointed with D’Donnell as the Chairman. The Committee examined the claims of the Oriyas and finally recommended for inclusion in Odisha (Formerly Orissa) of the plains and the agency areas, excluding Paralakhemundi, in the Ganjam district; and Kharial and Padmapur, excluding Phuljhar in the Central Provinces. But the Commission opposed the inclusion in Odisha (Formerly Orissa) of the Oriya-speaking areas in Bihar and Bengal. The report of the Committee was vehemently opposed by the Oriyas.

The “white paper” was published on the 17 th March, 1933, containing the draft proposals for the reform of the Indian Constitution. It proposed to create two new provinces, viz., Sind and Odisha (Formerly Orissa). But the proposal regarding the boundary of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) was far from satisfactory. It excluded the Vizagpatam Agency and Paralakhemundi estate and the Jalantar Maliah in the Ganjam agency from the proposed Odisha (Formerly Orissa) province. When the “white paper” was under review of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, an Oriya delegation consisting of seven members met the Secretary of State under the leadership of the Maharaja of Paralakhemundi on the 3 rd July, 1933 and submitted a representation.



In the meantime, the Utkal Union Conference Committee met and authorized the Maharaja of Paralakhemundi to represent before the British Parliament for the inclusion of the Oriya-speaking areas of the Ganjam district. The Maharaja by his powerful arguments convinced the Parliamentary Committee for the transfer of Jaypur (Jeypore) agency and a portion of Paralakhemundi to Odisha (Formerly Orissa). The Commission after careful consideration made the following recommendations.

A separate province of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) would, however, be perhaps, the most homogenous province in the whole of British India both racially and linguistically. They recommended that a new province of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) be constituted. They also recommended that there should be added to the Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Province, a portion of the Jaypur (Jeypore) estate which the O’Donnell Committee proposed to transfer to Odisha (Formerly Orissa), the Paralakhemundi and Jalantar Maliahs and a small portion of the Paralakhemundi estate including Parlakhemundi town.

But no step was taken for the transfer of Oriya-speaking areas from Bengal and Bihar. By this recommendation the total area was raised from 55,799 to 84,677 sq. km. (21,545 to 32,695 sq. miles). In the lines of the recommendations of the Committee, the Government of India Bill 1935 was passed by the Parliament and the new province of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) as an administrative unit came into being on the 1 st April, 1936 with the following areas as per the Government of India (Constitution of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) ) Order,1936.
Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Division of Bihar and Odisha (Formerly Orissa).

Areas from Madras;-

  • the Ganjam agency tracts :
  • non-agency portion of Ganjam district such as the Taluks of Ghumusur, Chatrapur, Asika, Sorada, Kodala and a portion of the Taluks of Ichhapur and Brahmapur as laid to the north and west of the line described in Part-II of the Schedule.
  • So much of the Paralakhemundi estate as laid to the north and east of the said line.
  • From Vizagapatnam district-the Jaypur (Jeypore) estate and so much of Patangi Taluk as was not included in that estate.

Areas from Central Provinces

  • the Kharial Zamindari in Raipur district
  • the Padmapur tract consisting of the 54 villages of the Chandrapur-Padmapur estate,
  • seven villages, namely-Kuakunda, Badima, Soda, Brahmapur, Palosoda, Jagni and Thakurpali.

Since then throughout the pre-independence days Odisha (Formerly Orissa) has suffered a lot as it was not possible to put together all the Oriya-speaking areas under a single administration. There were only six districts, viz., Cuttack, Puri, Baleshwar, Sambalpur, Ganjam and Koraput. The old district of Anugul was split up into two statutory districts, viz. Anugul and the Khondmals under the Angul Laws Regulations, 1936 and the Khondamals Laws Regulations, 1936 respectively. But for administrative purposes Angul was tagged to Cuttack district and Khondamals to Ganjam district. The Collectors of Cuttack and Ganjam became respectively the ex-officio Deputy Commissioners of those two areas. The rest of the province constituted 26 princely states, governed by the Rajas and Maharajas who had the last word of law within the jurisdiction of their respective princely states. They were loosely knit and administered under Political Agent of the British Government who was mostly satisfied after the collection of a predetermined part of the total revenue collection known as tribute or Nazarana from the rulers of those states. The process continued till 1947 when the country got independence.