View of the banks of the Daya river from atop Dhauli hills, the presumed venue of the Kalinga war.
Konark Sun Temple built by the Eastern Ganga dynasty is one of the most well renowned temples in India and is a World Heritage Site.
Origin of the name of the State
Orissa was renamed as Odisha and Oriya language as renamed as Odiya on November 9, 2010 by Parliament of India. The name Odisha 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 Orissa.
The Chinese pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang who visited Orissa in about 636 A.D. gives an account of the territory named Wu-Che 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 Odisha Rajya or Odisha Rastra. Thus from the 15 th century AD onward the land of the Oriya people was called Udisa,Odisha,Orissa.
Odisha in pre-historic age
Pre-historic painting from Gudahandi, Kalahandi
Since prehistoric days the land of Odisha has been inhabited by various people. The earliest settlers of Odisha were primitive hill tribes. Although prehistoric communities cannot be identified, it is well known that Orissa had been inhabited by tribes like Saora or Sabar from the Mahabharata days. Saora in the hills and the Sahara and Sabar of the plains continue to be an important tribe distributed almost all over Orissa. Most of the tribal people have been influenced by Hindus and have adopted Hindu manners, customs and rituals. Bonda Parajas of Koraput district are the best example of these tribes.
Several Pre-historic sites have been excavated in Orissa since the arrival of Britishers.Kaliakata of Angul,Kuchai & Kuliana of Mayurbhanj,Vikramkhol near Jharsuguda,Gudahandi and Yogimath of Kalahandi,Ushakothi of Sambalpur,Similikhol near Bargarh etc.