1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Orissa

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ORISSA, a tract of India, in Bengal, consisting of a British division and twenty-four tributary states. The historical capital is Cuttack; and Puri, with its temple of Jagannath, is world famous. Orissa differs from the rest of Bengal in being under a temporary settlement of land revenue. A new settlement for a term of thirty years was concluded in 1900, estimated to raise the total land revenue by more than one half; the greater part of this increase being levied gradually during the first eleven years of the term. To obviate destructive inundations and famines, the Orissa system of canals has been constructed, with a capital outlay of nearly two millions sterling.

(See Mahanadi). The province is traversed by the East Coast railway, which was opened throughout from Calcutta to Madras in 1901.

The Division of Orissa consists of the five districts of Cuttack, Puri, Balasore, Sambolpur and the forfeited state of Angul. Total area 13,770 sq. m.; pop. (1901) 5,003,121, showing an increase of 7% in the decade. According to the census of 1901 the total number of persons in all India speaking Oriya was more than 91/2 millions, showing that the linguistic area (extending into Madras and the Central Provinces) is much larger than the political province.

The whole of Orissa is holy ground. On the southern bank of the Baitarani shrine rises after shrine in honour of Siva, the All-Destroyer. On leaving the stream the pilgrim enters Jajpur, literally the city of sacrifice, the headquarters of the region of pilgrimage sacred to the wife of the All-Destroyer. There is not a fiscal division in Orissa without its community of cenobites, scarcely a village without consecrated lands, and not a single ancient family that has not devoted its best acres to the gods. Every town is filled with temples, and every hamlet has its shrine. The national reverence of the Hindus for holy places has been for ages concentrated on Puri, sacred to Vishnu under his title of Jagannath, the Lord of the World. Besides its copious water supply in time of high flood, Orissa has an average rainfall of 621/2 in. per annum. Nevertheless, the uncontrolled state of the water-supply has subjected the country from time immemorial to droughts no less than to inundation. Thus the terrible famine of 1865–1866, which swept away one-fourth of the entire population, was followed in 1866 by a flood which destroyed crops to the value of £3,000,000. Since then much has been done by government to husband the abundant water-supply.

The early history of the kingdom of Orissa (Odra-desa), as recorded in the archives of the temple of Jagannath, is largely mythical. A blank in the records from about 50 B.C. to A.D. 319 corresponds to a period of Yavana occupation and Buddhist influence, during which the numerous rock monasteries of Orissa were excavated. The founder of the Kesari or Lion dynasty, which ruled from A.D. 474 to 1132, is said to have restored the worship of Jagannath, and under this line the great Sivaite temple at Bhuvaneswar was constructed. In 1132 a new line (the Gajapati dynasty) succeeded, and Vishnu took the place of Siva in the royal worship. This dynasty was extinguished in 1532–1534, and in 1578, after half a century of war, Orissa became a province of the Mogul empire. It nominally passed to the British in 1765, by the Diwani grant of Bengal, Bhar and Orissa; but at that time it was occupied by the Mahratta raja of Nagpur, from whom it was finally conquered in 1803.

The Tributary States of Orissa, known also as the Tributary Mahals, or the Garhjats, occupy the hills between the British districts and the Central Provinces. The most important are Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Dhenkanal, Baud and Nayagarh. In 1905 five Oriya-speaking states (Bamra, Rairakhol, Sonpur, Patna and Kalahandi) were added from the Central Provinces and two (Gangpur and Bonai) from the Chota Nagpur states. This made the total area 28,046 sq. m. and the pop. (1901) 3,173,395.

Up to the year 1888 some doubt existed as to the actual position of the Tributary states of Orissa; but in that year the secretary of state accepted the view that they did not form part of British India, and modified powers were handed over to the Orissa chiefs under the control of a superintendent.

See Sir W. W. Hunter, Orissa (1872).