Glorious History of Odisha(Orissa)
The word Oriya is an anglicised version of Odia which itself is a modern name for the Odra or Udra tribes that inhabited the central belt of modern Orissa. Orissa has also been the home of the Kalinga and Utkal tribes 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 C. BC, 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 C. 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.
Very early in Kalingan history, the Kalingas acquired a reputation for being a fiercely independant people. Ashoka's military campaign against Kalingawas 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.
Unsurprisingly, Mauryan rule over Kalinga did not last long. By the 1st C. BC, Kalinga's Jain identified ruler Kharavela had become the pre-eminent monarch of much of the sub-continent and Mauryan Magadha had become a province of the Kalingan empire. The earliest surviving monuments of Orissa (in Udaigiri near Bhubaneshwar) date from his reign, and surviving inscriptions mention that Prince Kharavela was trained not only in the military arts, but also in literature, mathematics, and the social sciences. He was also reputed to be a great patron of the arts and was credited with encouraging dance and theater in his capital. It is known from this record that Kharavela on the premature death of his father took up the administration first as a Yuvaraja and then on completion of 24 years of age ascended to the throne as Maharaja. The Mahameghavahana dynasty continued to rule over Kalinga and Mahishaka up to the 1 st century A.D. as known from some recently discovered inscriptions of Guntupalli and Velpuru in Andhra Pradesh. The Velpuru inscription reveals the rule of one Airamaharaja Haritiputra Manasada who belonged to Mahameghavahana dynasty.
The Imperial Gangas
The Eastern Gangas who started their rule in Kalinga about the end of the 5 th century A.D. continued as a petty power till the time of Vajrahasta V who came to the throne in 1038 A.D. As mentioned above he was the son of Kamarnava II by his queen Vinaya Mahadevi. He made Kalinga independent by defeating the Somavamsis and declared himself Maharajadhiraja. He also received the title of Trikalingadhipati. He made matrimonial alliance with the Kalachuris of Kosala and also with the ruling family of Ceylone. This helped him in consolidating the political power of his family. He was succeeded in 1070 A.D. by his son Rajrajdev I born of his queen Anangadevi. Rajarajdev was faced with his enemies, the Somavamsis of Utkal in the north and the Chalukya of Vengi in the south. By 1075 A.D. his Commander Vanapati of Vengi obtained victory over the kings of Chola, Utkal, Khemundi, Kosala, Gidvisingi and Vengi. The Somavamsi king Janamejaya II was defeated but succeeded in protecting his kingdom. By that time Kulattunga was the ruler of the Chola kingdom. By that time Kulattunga was the ruler of the Choloa kingdom.
Rajrajdev had a premature death in 1077 A.D. He left two young sons, the elder Chola Gangadeva being of two years in age. This young boy was crowned at Kalinganagar in February, 1078 A.D. Vira Choda, the third son of Kulattunga, was the Viceroy of Vengi till 1093 A.D. He was supporting the Gangas of Kalinga and in 1093 A.D., Chodagangadeva married Chodadevi, the daughter of Vira Choda. As a result of that Vira Choda was removed from power and expelled from Vengi by his father Kulattunga. Vira Choda was of great help to Chodagangadeva in his wars against Vengi and Utkal.
He established his supremacy over the entire territory from the Ganga to the Godavarari by 1135 A.D. Chodagangadeva like his ancestors was a great devotee of Siva. He was, however, found inclined towards Vaishnavism at times. Long before the conquest of Utkal by Chodaganga, Puri (Shrikshetra) was a place of worship of Purusottama and Chodaganga constructed the gigantic temple for the Lord to respect the religious sentiment of the people of the newly conquered territory rather than to obey the dictates of the Vaishnava Acharya Ramanuja.
Chodagangadeva died in 1147 A.D. and was succeeded by his eldest son Kamarnavadeva. The Ganga-Kalachuri war was continuing by that time and Kamarnava was defeated by the Kalachuri king Prithideva II, son and successor of Ratnadeva II. After the death of Kamarnava, the second son of Chodaganga named Raghava became the king in 1158 A.D. During his time poet Jayadeva is known to have composed his famous work Gitagovinda. Raghava died in 1170 A.D. and was succeeded by Rajraj II, the third son of Chodagangadeva. Next ruler was Anangnagabhimadeva II, the fourth and last son of Chodagangadeva. He was the only son of Chodaganga to have a son Rajraj III, who succeeded him after his death in 1198 A.D.
Rajraj III died in 1211 A.D. and was succeeded by his son Anangabhimadeva III. During his time Ghiyathu'd-din Iawz, ruler of Bengal, invaded Orissa. Taking advantage of this invasion the Kalachuri king of Tommana also declared war and the age long Ganga-Kalachuri war continued. At this critical time Vishnu,.the General of Angnagabhimadeva III, not only repulsed the invasion of the Muslim but also decisively defeated the Kalachuris on the bank of the Bhima river and near the Vindhya hills. After his victory the Gangas occupied the Sonapur region. Anangabhimadeva III gave his daughter Chandrika in marriage to the Kalachuri prince Paramardideva. By that he could win the friendship of the Kalachuris who were of great strength to the Gangas in their war against the Muslims. Anangabhimadeva was also successful in his work in the south and his empire extended up to the mouth of the Krishna river. Anangabhimadeva established a new city at the bifurcation of the Mahanadi and the Kathajodi which was called Abhinava Varanasi Kataka. By 1230 A.D. he transferred the headquarters to this new city where he constructed a big temple of Lord Purushottama.
Anangabhimadeva III died in 1238 A.D. and was succeeded by his son Narasimhadeva I. By that time Izzu'd-din Tughril Tughan Khan was the Governor of Bengal and had semi-independent status. Narasimhadeva, apprehending danger from him, mobilized his forces against his territory. Izzu'd-din Tughril probably anticipated this attack and in the war that took place he obtained initial victory but subsequently the Muslims were completely defeated with heavy loss. Izzud’d-din himself fled away from the battle to save his life. On his request the Sultan of Delhi sent Qamaru'd-din Tamur Khan, the Governor of Oudh to help the army of Bengal but before the arrival of Oudh army the War at Bengal hnd already ended. The next year (1244 A.D.) Narasimhadeva invaded Bengal for the second time and the Orissan army attacked Lakhnor, the headquarters of Radha, and killed the Muslim commander and a large number of his troops. Narasimhadeva I was successful in his campaigns against the Muslims and humbled the pride of his enemy. Like his father he was a devotee of Lord Purushottama. He is remembered in history as the builder of the world famous temple at Konarka.
In 1264 A.D. Narasimhadeva I was succeeded by his son Bhanudeva I born of queen Sitadevi. During his time Narahari Tirtha the disciple of Ananda Tirtha (Madhdavacharya) had great influence in Orissa. He was even appointed as a Governor of Kalinga. During the rule of Bhanudeva, Chandrikadevi, the daughter of Anangabhimadeva I, constructed the Ananta Basudev temple at Bhubaneswar in 1278 A.D. That year Bhanudeva died and his son Narasimhadeva II was an infant. Narahari Tirtha worked as regent for long twelve years. Narasimhadeva II is known to have fought against the Muslims of Bengal the results of which were indecisive. His long reign from 1278 to 1306 was peaceful and eventless. He was succeeded by his son Bhanudeva II. R.D. Benerji states that one Purushottamadeva ruled Orissa up to 1312 A.D. making Bhanudeva II a prisoner in his palace. This is however not a fact. Purushottamadeva ruled over southern part of Kalinga as a feudatory of Bhanudeva II.
Narasimhadeva III succeeded Bhanudeva II in 1328 A.D. Very little information is obtained regarding his political activities. He was succeeded by his son Bhanudeva III in 1352 A.D. In 1353 Shamsud’-din Ilyas Shah invaded Orissa but he retreated after obtaining few elephants. It was by that time that Prince Sangama, the nephew of Bukkaraya I of Vijayanagar, invaded Orissa and defeated Bhanudeva III. As a result of this victory Bukkaraya occupied souther portion of the Ganga kingdom. In 1361 A.D., Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq invaded the Ganga kingdom. He defeated the forces of the Gangas and occupied Varanasi Kataka. Bhanudeva III fled away and took shelter with his family and courtiers in an island probably inside Chilika lake. Sultan Firuz Shah destroyed the temple of Purushottama built by Anangabhimadeva III and disgraced the idols. Bhanudeva III made a treaty with the Sultan by offering twenty big elephants and agreeing to give annual tribute. Thus during Bhanudeva III the prestige and power of the Gangas greatly declined. He died in 1378 A.D. and was succeeded by his son Narasimhadeva IV. He was succeeded by his son Bhanudeva IV in 1414 A.D.
Kapilendradeva belonged to the Solar dynasty. His ancestors were feudatory Chiefs under the Gangas. When he usurped the throne in 1435 A.D. many feudatory Chiefs challenged his authority. At the time of this internal danger Sultan Ahmed Shah of Bengal invaded Orissa but he was defeated by Minister Gopinath Mahapatra while Kapilendradeva suppressed the internal rebellion with strong hands. By 1443 A.D., Kapilendradeva succeeded in consolidating his power over the newly acquired kingdom but in 1444 he had to fight against the combined army of the Reddy of Rajamundry and king Devaraya II of Vijayanagar who invaded the southern part of his territory. Just by that time Mahamud shah, the Sharqui Sultan of Jaunpur invaded from the north. Faced with these two invasions Kapilendradeva gave his wholehearted attention to drive out Muslims from the north neglecting the south. Mahamud Shah was defeated and retreated from northern Orissa after which Hamvira, the son of Kapilendra, fought against the Reddy’s of Rajahmundry and scored a victory over them. Thus Kapilendradeva could occupy almost the entire seaboard of Vijayanagar up to the Kaveri. His entire career was spent in wars and he acquired many enemies both inside and outside his kingdom. He chose Purushottam, his youngest son, to be his successor. So his heroic son Hamvira revolted against him. Kapilendradeva was a great devotee of Jagannath and constructed the outer walls of Jagannath temple. He died in 1468.
After the death of Kapilendradeva his son Purushottam born of a Brahmin lady called Parvatidevi succeeded to the throne. After becoming king, Purushottam tried to get back Kondapalli and Rajahmundry from the Bahmany Sultan. He also tried to occupy the territory snatched away by Saluva Narasimha during the civil war. Purushottamdeva with a view to restore the lost territory mobilized his army against Sultan Mahmad Shah III Bahmany. He besieged Rajahmundry but without fighting any battle made an alliance with the Sultan. After that the relation between Bahmany and Vijayanagar became very bitter and stray battles took place between the forces of these two kingdoms. In 1481 Sultan Mahammad died and was succeeded by his young son Mahmad Shah. When the Bahmany kingdom was in chaotic condition Purushottam mobilised his forces and occupied Rajahmundry and Kondapalli. He further sent his army to occupy Udayagiri which had been taken away by Saluva Narasimha. Udayagiri was occupied and Saluva Narasimha was taken captive. Thus Purushottam could restore his power and glory during his last days and then devoted his attention for promotion or religion and culture. He died in 1497 A.D. and was succeeded by his son Prataprudradeva.
Prataprudradeva inherited a vast kingdom which was however fast declining. By that time the kingdom of Vijayanagar was rapidly rising as a rival of Orissa. In 1509 when Prataprudra led a campaign against Vijayanagar, Krushnadeva Raya had just succeeded to the throne of other kingdom, but before a decisive battle was fought Sultan Allauddin Hussan Shah of Bengal invaded Orissa and advanced as far as her capital. So Prataprudradeva was forced to give up war with Vijayanagar and rushed back to his capital. Sultan Hussan Shah was defeated and was driven back beyond the borders of Orissa. But in the south Krishnadeva Raya acquired an easy victory over Orissan army.
The last war Krishnadeva Raya with the army of Orissa was fought in 1519 and this time also he came out victorious. Durinmg this last war he is said to have burnt the city of Katak.Subsequently a treaty was concluded between Orissa and Vijayanagar in August 1519. According to the treaty the river Krishna formed the southern boundary of Orissa. Krishnadeva Raya married Jaganmohini, the daughter of Prataprudradeva.
Prataprudradeva succeeded in retaining his kingdom from the Ganges to the Krishna inspite of military defeats. During his rule Orissa made great advancement in the sphere of religion and culture. Sri Chaitanya who came to Orissa in 1510 preached the gospel of Vaishnavism and had a great impact on the religion and culture of Orissa.
After the death of Prataprudradeva his two sons named Kaluadeva (Ramachandradeva) and Kakharuadeva (Purushottamdeva) succeeded one after the other and ruled for less than two years. Both these brothers fell victim to the conspiracy of the minister Govinda Bidyadhar who occupied the throne in 1534 A.D. and founded the rule of the Bhoi dynasty. In 1540 A.D. the Sultan of Golkonda occupied Rajmahendri. Govinda Bidyadhar made a treaty with him and recognized river Godavari as the boundary between Golkonda and Orissa. Govinda Bidyadhar died in 1549 at Dashasvamedha Ghat of the Baitarani river. He was succeeded by his son Chakrapratap. He was a weak and cruel ruler and was very unpopular among the people. He died in 1557 A.D. He was probably murdered by his son Narasimha Jena who succeeded him and ruled for about a year. He was murdered by Mukunda Harichandan who placed Raghuram Jena, a son of Chakrapratap, on the throne and himself became the virtual ruler. Mukunda Harichandan captured the Minister Janardan Bidyadhar by an intrigue and impriosoned him in the Barabati fort where he died subsequently. Mukunda Harichandan declared himself as the ruler of Orissa in 1559 A.D.
MukundadevaM belonged to the Chalukya family. He came to the throne in 1559 by treachery and blood-shed. In 1560 Sultan Ghiyasuddin Jallal Shah of Bengal invaded Orissa and marched up to Jajpur. Mukundadeva defeated him and drove him out of Orissa. About that time one Afghan Chief named Suleiman Karrani occupied Bengal and became the Sultan. His rival Ibrahim fled to Orissa and got shelter under the protection of Mukundadeva.
By that time Akbar was planning to conquer Bengal and made alliance with Mukundadeva for that purpose. Mukundadeva received the Mughal ambassador and sent his own emissary to the Mughal court. Thus Mukundadeva became an enemy of Suleiman Karrani, the Sultan of Bengal. In 1567 when Akbar was busy in the invasion of Chitor, Sultan Karrani invaded Orissa. The Mughal Governor of Bihar, Munim Khan became indifferent and Mukundadeva resisted the invasion of Bengal singlehanded. He was defeated by the Sultan and took shelter in the fort of Kotsima, where Sultan Karrani besieged him. In the meantime, Bayazid, the son of the Sultan, led his army to Cuttack which was occupied by him. At that critical moment Ramachandra Bhanja, the feudatory of Sarangagarh, rose in rebellion. Mukundadeva made a treaty with Suleiman Karranim and marched against Ramachandra Bhanja. A battle took place in Gohiri Tikira near Jajpur where Mukundadeva lost his life at the hands of Ramachandra Bhanja. After that Ramachandra was defeated and killed by Bayazid and Orissa passed to the hands of the Afghans of Bengal in 1568 A.D."
The Maratha administration of Orissa effectively began from the year 1751. Raghuji Bhonsle-I became the new master of the territory and a new system of government was put into operation. The Marathas divided Orissa into two broad political divisions passing under the more familiar terms as the Mughalbandi and the Garhjat. The Mughallbandi, comprising the coastal districts was divided into 150 Parganas and placed under 32 Revenue Commissioners or Amils. Each Pargana was divided into several Mahalas. For a systematic and better collection of revenue, hereditary revenue collectors titled as Talukdars, Kanungos and Chaudhuris were appointed. Attempts were also made to collect the revenue directly from the raiyats or through the village headmen. The administration paid attention to the welfare of the peasants in particular. While embankments were constructed to protect extensive cultivable lands against flood, the peasants were given at times remission from payment of land revenue when there was crop failure due to flood or drought.
The Maratha rule lasted in Orissa for a brief period of half a century only. This period coincided with the rise of the British power in Bengtal. It was in the nature of historical developments that the foundation of the British Empire should not be followed by its expansion and the British were acutely conscious of that historical role for which they were destined. And, the British were thoroughly aware of the stragtegic position of Orissa, situated as the land between their emerging power in Bengal and Madras. They had come to Orissa as traders during the first half of the 17 th century A.D. and had established their factories, and had acquainted themselves with the land and its people, while simultaneously making assessment of the strength and weakness of the ruling powers.
As early as 1633, the British established a trade centre at Hariharpur, one of the first of their settlements in India. Their subsequent establishment at Baleshwar on river Burhabalanga and at Pipili on river Subarnarekha developed into flourishing centres of trade as well as of power. According to William Wilson Hunter, the English historian, it was those two Orissa harbours which became the basis of the future greatness of the British in Bengal.
After the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and Buxar in 1764 the ambition of the British empire-builders reached its logical height to acquire as much of Indian territories as possible, and Orissa being so near to Bengal automatically came under the orbit of that design. Clive’s successor in Bengal, Warren Hastings tried to persuade Janoji’s successor Madhoji Bhonsla to reconsider the issue. The negotiation failed again, though the Maratha ruler permitted the movement of the British troops through Orissa towards the south, under the command of Colonel Pearse. Lord Cornwallis adopted the same policy of persuasion, but achieved no result. Madhoji’s successor, Raghuji Bhonsla II, however, was made to agree to permit the British troops to pass through Orissa once again during the Third Mysore War. The British failed to get Orissa through diplomacy, but their soldiers could see and know Orissa during their movements for future need.
Lord Wellesley, the aggressive Governor-General who came to convert the British Empire in India into the British Empire of India, decided to acquire Orissa by war. The second Maratha War gave him that opportunity. The conquest of Orissa was achieved in 1803 without any difficulty. The treaty of Deogarh, signed on 17 December 1803, ended the Maratha rule and inaugurated the British Rule in Orissa. It contained only the three coastal districts of Baleshwar, Cuttack and Puri, and the sixteen Tributary Mahals (the number increased to 18 in 1837) in the hill tracts.
Though the British conquest of Orissa proved to be an easy affair, the consolidation of the territory proved itself much more difficult because of the defective land revenue and administration systems which the new rulers initiated. Within a few years, therefore, there broke out a rebellion against the British, famous as the Paik Rebellion of 1817.
The rebellion broke out in Khordha, and spread to surrounding areas. The cause of this insurrection was the defective administration with which the new rulers began their regime. The traditional warrior class of the area, known as the Paiks, were in possession of their hereditary lands by virtue of their earlier role in the services of the former Hindu rulers. The new administration, under Major Fletcher, forfeited those lands and thereby ruined the economic life of a martial people. The leader of the rising was Bakshi Jagabandhu, a former General of the armed force of the Khordha Raja. Deprived of his own landed estate and reduced to the condition of a pauper, he took advantage of the general discontent among the Paik population and with the support of a large number of distressed Khonds from Ghumusar, he raised the standard of a serious revolt. The Government establishments, police-stations, and treasuries were attacked, plundered and destroyed. The British troops suffered initial reverses with one of their Commanders, Lieutenant Faris, killed. The rebel forces reached Puri on 12 th April, 1817 and caused considerable destruction to official property, and drove out the Government troops and officers. The success of the rebellion inspired confidence in the discontented elements at other places. The Rajas of Kujang and Kanika, too, came under the suspicion of the British for rebelious activities. In September, British troops were dispatched to Kujang where, after an encounter, the Raja surrendered himself to Captain Kennet in October.
Vigorous military measures were taken by the British to reconquer the lost places and restore order. The rebellion ended by the end of October 1817 though its leader evaded the British for long till at last he surrendered himself in 1825 and became a prisoner at Cuttack. The Bakshi died in 1829.
The paik rebellion gave a rude shock to the British Government, but at the same time made it realize that its polices required thorough modifications. The responsibility of this reorientation fell upon the newly appointed Commissioner in Cuttack, Robert Ker. But, tragically enough, for various factors, Orissa’s economic vitality declined rapidly during the British rule and the Government paid scant attention to the condition of the people. In fact, the people of the princely states were left to themselves to suffer in their separated existence, and the coastal belt under the direct rule was regarded chiefly as a land route between the two presidencies of Bengal and Madras, as if without deserving any special consideration for developments.
Within eight years of the transfer of power from the East India Company to the British Crown, Orissa came under one of the worst calamities in her history. It was the infamous Na’anka Famine of 1866-67. The East India Company had done almost nothing to improve communication system in the territory during the 55 years of its indifferent administration. The only road which connected Orissa with Calcutta remained unmetalled and unbridged through several large rivers followed to the sea and kept the belt under inundation for months in every year. Whatever communication the people of Orissa maintained in earlier days by sea with the outer world had been totally destroyed by the British Orissa was, thus, an isolated patch of land from the rest of the country. Speaking about this feature, the Famine Commission reported: “The famine in Orissa stands almost alone in this, there was almost no importation, and the people shut up in a narrow province between pathless jungles and an impracticable sea, were in the condition of passengers in a ship without provision.’ A failure of rain in 1865 resulting in the loss of usual crops brought about a famine which could have been met with successfully had there been facilities for transportation.
The famine which began to show its symptoms from October, 1865 revealed in no time the total failure of the administration to realize the situation. Indifference of the officers, failure to import food, economic policy of laissez-faire and wrong conclusions regarding the nature of the impeding calamity led to disastrous consequences all too suddenly. The actual area of intense famine was not too large and the period of its intensity was limited to half a year of 1866 only. But failure to meet the emergency by the authorities led to a mortaility of one million. Nearly one man in every three in Orissa died in the famine.
Orissa took time to recover from the effects of the Great Famine. The British, too, were obliged to pay some attention atleast towards the development of the area. But, the real significance of the post-Na’anka era in 19th century was that a new consciousness was beginning to take shape amonmg the thiking minds of the rising generation who thought it to be their imperative duty to work for a regeneration from within. The East India Company had neglected the education of the people to the worst extent. At the close of its rule, Orissa possessed only three Zilla Schools in the district headquarters of Baleshwar, Cuttack and Puri hjaving a total of 282 pupils only. A few schools run by the Christian missionaries and some of the vernacular schools were doing their little bit to meet the needs, by every effort in educational direction was at its lowest degree. It was just after the Famine, in 1867, that the Government raised the status of the Cuttack Zilla school to that of a High English school, affiliated to Calcutta University. It became a college in 1876/ It is from such narrow scopes fofr modern education that the pioneers of Oriya renaiscance of the late 29 th century came forward for their role. A notable product of the new education was Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das, the first graduate of Orissa who took B.A. degree from Calcutta University in 1870, M.A. degree in 1873, and a degree in Law in subsequent years. His ideas about the regeneration of his country,em made him one of the foresmot leaders of moden Orissa.
The new consciousness found its expression in the literacyn activities of some of the eminent writers who herealded the growth of modern Oriya literature.Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843-1918) and Radhanath ray (1848-1908) gave a tremendous impetus to Oriya literature through their numerous works. An All-Orissa phenomenon of literacy resurgence became the new characteristic of the age through the writings of Madhusudan Das, Biswanath Kar, Ramasankar Roy, Gangadhar Meher and Nanda Kishore Bala.
By the time the Indian National Congress was born in 1885, the conscious minds of Orissa were ready for appropriate responsive role in the promotion of the Congress ideologies and programmes. Within a few weeks of the first Congress Session, the Oriya leaders met at Cuttack on 3 rd March 1886 to chalk out their future plans in support of the Congress resolutions. In December of the same year, the Utkal Sabha and the National Society sent their delegates numbering seven to attend the second session of the National Congress. Every year thereafter, representatives from Cuttack attended the Congress Sessions to uphold actively the cause of the National Movement. Leaders like Madhusudan Das and Gouri Sankar Ray popularized the Congress principles among the patriotic people of Orissa during the last decade of the 19 th century, Orissa, thus, joined the main stream of the national life right in time.
In 1874, in a large congregation of the native chiefs, landlords and the leading persons, the problem of Oriya-speaking people was discussed with the ulterior objective of union. In 1877, when the Utkal Sabha was formed by such leading minds as Madhusudan Das, Fakirmohan Senapati and Radhanath Ray, the idea of a greater Orissa began to take shape. By the time Utkal Gourab Madhusudan formed the famous Orissa Association in 1882, grounds were prepared for a move to draw the attention of the Government towards the problem of the Oriyas.
Out of such sporadic attempts finally there emerged a political movement to units all the Oriya-speaking areas under one administration. In the capital of Orissa, Cuttack, the representatives of the Oriya-speaking territories that lay outside such as Ganjam, Sambalpur and Midnapore, gathered on the closing days of December 1903 and doing with the leading Oriyas of Orissa proper formed an organization that became famous as the Utkal Sammilani on the Utkal Union Conference. The native chiefs, prominent landlords, lawyers, government servants and students took a prominent part in forming this organization to campaign the cause of a united Orissa under the able leadership of Madhusudan Das. A memorandum was submitted to the Government to transfer all the Oriya-speaking tracts as situated in other provinces to the Orissa Division. The movement continued till the goal was reached. On the April, 1936, the new province of Orissa came into being.
Simultaneous with the movement for its territorial unity, Orissa marched o the path of freedom struggle with the rest of India for national independence. Right from the Swadeshi Movement of 1905-1910 the practice of the land felt inspired for the cause of the country and developed anti-British feelings rapidly. By the side of the first World War, anarchical philosophies had taken root in Orissa. In the town of Baleshwar and in the Kaptipada forest areas in Mayurbhanj district, the Bengal territories with the active assistance of Oriya inhabitants worked for anti-Government activities in a daring spirit.
By the end of the War, Utkalmani Pandit Gopabandhu Das emerged for a remarkable role in promoting the Congress Movement in Orissa. A generation of youthful patriots soon arose to champion the national movement and to carry the spirit of the struggle to the people at large. Among them were men like Harekrushna Mahtab, Gopabandhu Choudhury, Nabakrushna Choudhury, Bagirathi Mahapatra, Jagabandhu Singh, Mukunda Prasad Das, Nityananda Kanungo, Jadumani Mangaraj, Niranjan Patnaik, Dibakar Patnaik, Chandra Sekhar Behera, Nanda Kishore Das, Raj Krushna Bose and others. Pandit Gopahandhu Das became the President of the Utkal Provincial Congress Committee.
The tide of the Non-Co-operation Movement swept over Orissa. In March 1921 when Gandhi toured Orissa, there was a unique response to his call from all sections of the people. Though the Mahatma visited a few places only, the message touched the hearts of the rural mass as well as the elite of Orissa. Many Youngman left schools and colleges, some of the eminent lawyers gave up their legal profession, men like Gopabandhu Choudhury, Lingaraj Misra, Surendra Nath Das and Muhammed Hanif resigned from government jobs, and Pandit Nilakantha Das gave up his teaching assignment of Calcutta University to serve in a national school.
In the meantime, Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das working on lines of liberal statesmanship, entered the Bihar and Orissa Legislative Council and became a Minister in January 1921. As an idealist in politics, and a reformer by temperament he quickly showed his inviduality, not as a subservient Minister to the ruling power, but as a real servant of the people, with dedication to the cause of their uplift. As a Minister of Local Self-Government, he suggested to the Government that “To ensure the success of the reforms it is necessary that the Minister of Local Self-Government should not draw any salary, but should be an honorary worker’. The Governor would not entertain such ideas in view of the administrative prestige of the Ministers and consequently, Mr. Das tendered his regisnation in March 1923. The resignation of a Minister on grounds of principles became a rare example in British-Indian constitutional history and the action of Madhusudan Das drew admiration from Mahatma Gandhi and many others.
When Gandhi gave his call for the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930, Orissa came forward for a most vigorous struggle as one of the most politically progressive regions of India. The breaking of Salt Law which became the symbolic feature of the disobedience, proved to Oriya leaders as the most effective weapon to fight the British. All over the long coastal belt of Orissa, and with a special attraction for the people’s age-old engagement in salt manufacture which the British had destroyed, there was an unprecedented popular enthusiasm to break the Salt Law and prepare salt in their own hand. At Inchudi in Baleshwar district, Salt Satyagraha under Surendra Natha Das became only second to Gandhi’s Satyagraha in Gujarat in importance and impact. At other places, such as Kujang in Cuttack district, Kuhudi, Singeshwar and Latra in Puri district; and Huma in Ganjam district (at that time in Madras Presidency) the Salt Satyagraha in thousands broke the law and suffered the consequences. Smt. Rama Devi, Smt. Malati Choudhury, Acharya Harihar Das, Gopabandhu Choudhury, Atal Bihari Acharya, Govind Misra, Raj Krushna Bose, Smt. Sarala Devi, Smt. Annapurna Devi, Narayan Birabar Samanta, Birakishore Das, Lakshmi Narayan Misra, Smt. Binapani Devi, and Surendra Nath Patnaik, among many others, became the leading spirits of the Civil Disoebedience Movement and many of them suffered imprisonment with their followers from among the common people.
While the freedom struggle took its full course in the British administered Orissa, under the leadership of National Congress, spontaneous popular movements became a distinctive feature of the Garhjat areas where the people rose both against feudal tyranny of the princely rulers and their overlord, the British. The leaders of such uprisings came from the ranks of the down trodden and the oppressed, but they showed their revolutionary determination in the most practical manner. The people’s movements in the Orissa Garhjats were without a parallel in the rest of the princely India, though sufficient light has not yet been thrown on the subject.
The anti-feudal and the anti-British uprisings became frequent in the second and the third decade of the 20 th century for economic and political reasons. There were five such risings in Bamra, (Bamanda) three in Talcher, one in Mayurbhanj, one in Dhenkanal, and one in Nilagiri, besides a dangerous rising of the Kondha in Dashapalla during the period above mentioned. It is with much brutality, that the respective authorities could manage to restore order in their areas.
In course of time, popular democratic movement of the type as had developed in British Orissa took shape in the Garhjat areas. In 1931 the Orissa state’s People’s Conference was organized at Cuttack and by 1936-37 this organization proceeded to enquire into the people’s grievances in the states. The ruling chiefs vehemently opposed such moves and in some of the states, they restored to repressive measures in order to strike terror in the minds of the people, so that they should not speak anything against the establishment. These anti-people measures in turn paved path for organized popular movements, such as the non-violent Satyagraha of the Nilagiri Prajamandal to secure civil liberty for the people, resulting in large scale arrests of the Satyagrahis, lathi charges and firings. In Dhenkanal, in September 1938, the movement took such serious turn that a gathering of forty thousand people, agitating with demands, had to be dispersed with severe police action.
It was a people’s uprising all over the state, but suppressed by repressive actions leading to several deaths including the death of a brave young boy named Baji Rout whose courage and sacrifice became almost a legend in Orissa.The relentless action of the armed forces forced thousands of people to escape from their homes while countless houses were destroyed. The movement was continued with a great determination to escape the tyranny of an arbitrary regime, backed by an imperial power. The help of the revolutionaries of Dhenkanal that came to satyagrahis from outside and it became obvious that such popular movements were destined for ultimate success.The most heroic role in the Dhenkanal uprising was played by Sri Baishnav Charan Patnaik, a born revolutionary coming from the most common ranks of the oppressed subjects who was subjected to untoled sufferings but fearlessly and carelessly he carried on his radical revolution showing rare courage against formidable forces. He carried the revolution to its logical end and made the Dhenkanal struggle an interesting episode in people’s mind.
The movement spread to Talcher where the feudal systems like bethi or forced labour roused the suffering peasantry into action. The authorities resorted to harsh methods of torture, beating, imprisonment and looting of people’s property, while the people were resorting to peaceful Satyagraha of the Gandhian type. Shri Pabitra Mohan Pradhan, a firm believer in Gandhian principles of non-violence was in the forefront of this movement. Nearly thirty thousand people fled from the ex-state to save their life and honour. In other ex-states like Athagarh, Tigiria, Baramba (Badamba), Narasinghapur and Nayagarh, the Prajamandals launched civil resistance movements and offered Satyagraha to press for the liberation of the people from antiquated feudal systems. A remarkable feature of all these Prajamandal movements was that side by side with their political aspects, the people were moved to action for economic and agrarian reasons. It was the peasantry everywhere which spearheaded the movements.
The movement in the small ex-state of Ranpur was met with so much of brutality from the authorities that an otherwise peace loving people were forced into violent agitation which culminated in the murder of the British Political Agent, Major Bazelgette in January 1939. It was followed by extreme police and military action and a virtual reign of terror forcing thousands of people to escape for life.
The serious nature of the Orissa State People’s agitation drew the attention of the Indian leaders, and eminent persons like Rajendra Prasad, C.F. Andrews, Agatha Harrison, N.G. Ranga and Hare Krushna Mehtab set themselves to bring about a conciliation between the ruling chiefs and their agitating people. Mahatma Gandhi took up the matter himself. He advised the people to suspend the Satyagraha and advised the authorities to find out ways and means for a constitutional settlement.
In the meantime, since the formation of the separate province of Orissa in 1936, the political events in India were heading towards the final phase of the freedom struggle. General elections were held in the British Indian Provinces in 1937 to form Provincial Legislatures in accordance with the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935. In Orissa, in the said election, the Congress won 36 seats out of 60, and in July 1937, the first Congress Minstry was formed under the leadership of Biswanath Das with two other ministers, Nityananda Kanungo and Bodhram Dube.
This ministry began its work for the implementation of several pronounced policies of the Indian National Congress. Constructive programmes were taken up for the welfare of the common people in spite of obstacles created by the British controlled bureaucracy and for lack of adequate financial resources. Yet, the ministry worked out plans for the uplift of the Harijans, for introduction of basic education, for enforcement of prohibition, etc. But the ministry proved short-lived because of external events. The outbreak of the Second World War created in India a political crisis of great magnitude. At the call of the Congress High Command, all the Congress ministers tendered resignation in November, 1939.
The political crisis deepened rapidly. The Congress renewed its demand in July 1940 for complete independence and launched individual Satyagraha campaign soon thereafter. In Orissa, the campaign was carried on with considerable enthusiasm. The Congress ex-Ministers, legislators and several top-ranking leaders were arrested. Numerous other Congressmen spread over the land to carry the hope of independence far and wide. As the war progressed, national struggle in India also developed to its logical height.
In the power vacuum after the resignation of the Congress ministry, situations in Orissa developed rather in a delicate manner with the Congress preparing for a final onslaught against the British, while some of the leaders trying to form a Government to serve and advance the interest of Orissa. Out of the later mjove, a Coalition ministry was formed in November, 1941 with the Maharaja Paralakhemundi as Premier and Pandit Godavaris Mishra and Maulvi Abdus Sobhan Khan as ministers. This ministry functioned for a little over two and a half years. Its most noteworthy achievement was the establishment of a university in Orissa, famous as the Utkal University.
When the Quit India Movement began in August 1942, as the final attempt of the National Congress to end the British Raj, Orissa played its full part in the revolution, with widespread popular risings in remote rural areas. At many such places, the British administration almost vanished for sometime. With almost all Congressmen in prison, it was more or less like a leaderless revolution by the people, carried on fearlessly as long as possible. And, in this regard, Orissa earned the historic fame for the massacre of Eram in the district of Baleshwar where the largest number of people died in a single police action as compared to any such action in whole of India. Eram also proved how the revolution in Orissa was an affair of the poor and common people in far-away villages who required no leadership to rise, but possessed a spontaneous will to take part in revolution.
Another significant aspect of the Quit India Movement in Orissa was the underground revolutionary activities carried on by a group of determined patriots under Surendra Nath Dwivedy which came to be known as the Orissa Conspiracy. The organization was ultimately broken up and the leaders were tried in a special court and sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
Events moved faster after the Quit India revolution. With the end of the World War in 1945, the days of the British Indian Empire became numbered. The Labour Government in Britain which replaced Winston Churchill’s Government realized the hard realities of the Indian situation and came to the conclusion that it was impossible to retain India any longer. General elections were held to Indian Legslatures in 1946 and in Orissa, the Congress Party won 47 seats out of 60 and formed its ministry under the leadership of Harekrushna Mahtab. The other ministers of the Mahtab Cabinet were Nabakrushna Choudhury, Pandit Lingaraj Misra, Nityananda Kanungo and Radhakrushna Biswasroy. The independence of India was already in sight. Time called for ardous constructive works from the new Government. Side by side the amalgamation of the Orissa states became the most crucial issue of the hour.
With the coming of the independence in August 1947 the issue of the merger of the states was taken up immediately for which the grounds had long been prepared by the Praja Mandal Movements. In spite of the determination of the ruling chiefs not to give up their hereditary rights and their attempts to counteract the people’s demands, their time was running out with the emergence of a new independent India. People everywhere became restless and the omen of a mass upsurge loomed large on the horizon.The leaders of Orissa and of India could not have allowed the princely chiefs to continue to rule as before. H. Mahtab, therefore, took the initiative for the merger of the states without any further delay. The unrest in the ex-state of Nilagiri forced him for intervention and the ex-state was merged with Orissa in November 1947.This alarmed the other rules while it encouraged the people to stand up boldly for their political emancipation. The developing crisis made the central intervention imperative, and Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel came to Orissa in December 1947.
His statesmanship and strength bore result when all the princely states, except Mayurbhanj, signed the agreement handing over the administration of their states to the Government of India in perpetuity, who on their part delegated the administrative power to the Government of Orissa to work out the merger to the states. The princely states, thus, except Mayurbhanj, were amalgamated with Orissa with effect from 1 st January, 1948. Mayurbhanj, too, was merged with Orissa a year later. It was, however, unfortunate that under some extraordinary circumstances and political miscalculations the two Oriya-speaking ex-states of Seraikela and Kharsawan were placed under Bihar in spite of strong resentment from the entire Oriya-speaking population.
With the merger of the states, the new Orissa became nearly twice as big in size, and with the addition of 50 per cent more people to its existing population, it became one of the major territorial units of the Indian Union. With potential economic resources in form of unlimited minerals, extensive forests, fertile lands, many river valleys, and numerous waterways, Orissa’s future appears brigher in the days to come.
The bravery and richness of the Kalingas became legendary, and finds mention in all most all religious scriptures, stories and history of incredible India In this respects, Oriya history resembles more the history of the nations of South East Asia, and may have been one of the features of Oriya society.