Orissan History, Culture and Archaeology

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Item Code: IDD106
Author: S. Pradhan
Publisher: D. K. Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 1999
ISBN: 8124601178
Pages: 496 (14 Color Illus:, 37 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.8" X 7.3"
Weight 1.45 kg
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Book Description

From the Jacket

Lying on India’s eastern coast, Orissa is the legendary old-world Kalinga. Which conquered by Asoka, metamorphosed this ‘terrible’ triumphant emperor into a ‘compassionate’, remorse-stricken votary of the Buddhist faith. Today as ever before, Orissa not just has its share in India’s glorious cultural heritage, but epitomizes its architectural marvels and at once fascinating sculptures, including the erotic figurines frozen in stone. And these are best reflected in Orissa’s profusely sculptured temples, like the Sun-god’s at Konark, Lord Jagannath’s at Puri, and Lingaraja’s at Bhubaneswar; besides the Jaina/Buddhist rock-cut caves of Khandagiri, Udayagiri and Dhauli.

This felicitation volume, occasioned by Professor Mishra’s retirement, in 1997, from the University of Sambalpur, captures the changing contours of Orissa’s society, economy, religions, cultural life, and art expressions: from the earliest times to almost the present day. In 29 essays, each authored by an area specialist, the volume embraces diverse specificities from every epoch of Orissan history, focusing notably on its prehistoric painted rock shelters, archaeological remains, ancient maritime activities, major and minor religions, Vaisnavite sculptures, stellate temples, development of education and, besides these, its various tribal, revolutionary and socio-religious reform movements during the colonial rule.

Professor P.K. Mishra, (born: 19 Jan. 1937), is a distinguished Orissan historiographer, extensively published author, and scholar with wide-ranging specialized interests. Recipient of two prestigious Senior National Fellowships (of ICHRand UGC), he has also surveyed and documented the monuments in Upper Mahanadi Valley - on a Ford Foundation Project.

About the Author

Sadasiba Pradhan, (born: 16 May 1955) holding Ph.D. (Sambalpur), has had professional training in archaeology: both at the Institute of Archaeology, ASI (Archaeologieal Survey of India), New Delhi, and at the Institute of Archaeology, U.C.L., London. A brilliant scholar with varied academic interests that are reflected in the Ph.D/M.Phil. Dissertations he has guided, Dr. Pradhan himself has been the recipient of the Senior Research Fellowship of the American Institute of Indian Studies, Varanasi (1987). And has also, on a UGC-sponsored research project, surveyed and documented prehistoric Rock Art in Orissa.

Currently, Dr. Pradhan is Reader in Post Graduate Department of History, Sambalpur University, Sambalpur, Orissa, and working on Eastern India’s Rock Art and Archaeology. His published work comprises over half-a-dozen books and many more papers.


When Professor P.K. Mishra attained the age of superannuation and retired from Sambalpur University in 1997 his students and scholars who were present on that day to felicitate him sincerely desired to bring out a Felicitation Volume in his honour for his contributions to Orissan studies. It was also decided that the volume should be based on the findings of the research works pertaining to Orissa. Hence the title of the present volume appears so comprehensive.

Chapter 1 on ‘Neolithic and Post-Neolithic Cultures of Orissa: An Overview’ deals with the Neolithic cultural scenario of Orissa when the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherers changed over to a subsistence economy based on food producing and domestication of animals and the trajectory of cultural succession from the Neolithic to the Early Historic Period. The author not only attempts at bridging the hiatus between the prehistoric and the early historic phase but also explains at length the factors contributing to Orissa’s emergence from a simple society of the prehistoric period to a complex one of the historic period.

The sporadic discovery of copper artifacts from different parts of Orissa, unassociated with any type of stone tools and/or ceramics, led the scholars to doubt the existence of a Chalcolithic culture in Orissa. But the recent excavations conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India at Golabai (Puri district) and the excavations conducted by the P.G. Department of History, Sambalpur University at Khambesvaripalli (Suvarnapur district) proved in no uncertain terms the existence of a well-defined Chalcolithic culture characterized by mudhouse settlements, agriculture, domesticatition of animals, use of stone and bone tools and painted potteries, etc., dating back to the second millennium BC. The C-14 date available from Golabai dates the culture to 4100+100 B.P. i.e., c. 2100+100BC.

Chapter 3 on ‘Painted Rock-Shelters of Orissa’ deals with the art heritage of Orissa of a great antiquity documented from 28 rock-shelters. The works of art drawn predominately by the prehistoric man in the form of paintings and engravings on the walls of the rock-shelters are the earliest written and visual documents of man revealing his inner thoughts and beliefs and above all his relationship with nature. Executed in mineral colours of haematite red, purple, buff and lime white either in monochrome or in polychrome, these rock-pictures date from the Mesolithic period to the early historic period, of course, through the Neolithic and Chalcolithic phases. The rock-pictures include human forms, a variety of animal forms like deer, bull, bison, lizards, tortoise, fish, frog and snake, and a host of geometric and non-geometric intricate decorative motifs and patterns that baffle the beholder. The unique feature of Orissa’s rock-art is the blending of paintings with engravings, not found elsewhere in India. In Orissa they are complementary to each other having been found together in the same rock-shelter.

Chapter 4 deals with the political condition of Orissa in the wake of the Gupta invasion as recorded in the Allahabad Pillar Inscription Samudragupta. The south Indian campaign of Samudragupta which passed through western Orissa is a turning point in Orissan history. In the post-Samudragupta period Orissa witnessed the process of Sanskritisation and Aryanisation of the people and their culture. The exercise puts to rest a great controversy revolving round the question of whether Orissa was under the sway of the Guptas or not.

Though Orissa is a varitable storehouse of archaeological treasures dating from the prehistoric times, these have not received due attention of the scholars for survey, documentation and interpretation. Chapters 5, 6 and 7 deals with the findings of field-works conducted by the scholars on hitherto unknown significant facts of Orissan history.

The society in medieval Orissa (736-950) presented a picture of rapid acculturation of the tribal people through large-scale migration of the brahmanas from Madhyadesa, Barendra and Radha region. Even Chinese pilgrims observed the changing milieu of Odradesa, Kongoda and Kalinga, etc., under the impact of religious coexistence. Under royal patronage, religious shrines and endowments increased, trade flourished and Sanskrit education spread to the inaccessible hilly tracts. Women got a respectful position in the society. Inter-state relation had its own impact due to open-frontier policy of the Bhaumakaras and the Somavamsis. The Bhaumakaras even looked beyond the Indian frontiers when they exchanged cultural ambassadors between China and Utkala. The Buddhist centres in and around modern Jajpur exercised much social influence on account of the great religious and educational institutions which grew up there. Satyabati Pradhan has captured these historical and cultural changes in this chapter in a very concise but lucid manner.

Contemporaneous with Bhaumakaras, their feudatory Bhanjas carved out a powerful kingdom in the central Mahanadi region. It was known as Khinjalimandala. The rulers issued a number of copper-plate charters and built shrines. They followed the policy of religious synthesis as is known from the charters of Ranabhanja who styled himself as Paramamahesvara, Paramavaisnava and Stambhesvaripadabhakta. Ruling over a dense forest kingdom inhabited by aboriginal tribals he and his family slowly worked upon the acculturation of their people through the process of Sanskritisation. Mohapatra also shows how the Gupta system of administration was adopted to suit the local conditions.

Religion has always played an important role in shaping the history and culture. Chapter 10 gives an account of all major religions of India that have flourished in Orissa. Buddhism and Jainism dominated the religious life of the people of Orissa till the advent of the Imperial Guptas. In the post-Gupta period cults of Brahmanism like Saivism, Vaisnavism and Saktism with their sects and subjects dominated the religious life of the people. Orissa provided a congenial atmosphere for their peaceful coexistence. In a process of assimilation tribal deities were Sanskritised and brought within the fold of Hinduism. The process of religious syncretism finally culminated in the emergence of the cult of Jagannath in the twelfth-thirteenth centuries AD.

Besides the aforesaid major religions a host of minor religious sects like Natha, Mahama, Satnami, Siddha and Naga cults also flourished in Orissa, catering to the sentiments of the tribals and the low-caste people who could not accommodate themselves within the complexities of orthodox Hinduism. In these new creeds they not only got an opportunity for free expression of their religious thoughts and practices but also achieved distinct identity in the socio-religious life of Orissa.

Early medieval Orissa saw the emergence of Visnu-worship as a major phenomenon in Brahmanical religion. Kings and Queens since the time of the Matharas (fourth-fifth centuries AD) extended liberal patronage for its growth. The tradition probably came from the north. In course of time the Vaisnavite shrines from Sripura to Sriksetra were embellished with many forms of Visnu as eulogized in the epics and Puranas. The process finally culminated and got crystallized with the cult of Jagannath at Puri which epitomized religions syncretism and the concept of divine incarnation. The cult also affected a synthesis between the tribal and Aryan religious practices through the preachings and practices of the many proponents of Jaannath-worship. Patel surveys the rise and growth of Visnu-worship with rare insight and understanding.

In the domain of art and architecture Orissa has always retained her distinct regional identity. In chapter 13 the author has examined the regional distinctiveness in the iconography of Ananta-Narayana Visnu. The images of Ananta-Narayana Visnu in Orissa show a synthesis of the north and south Indian plastic tradition. Simultaneously, some distinct characteristic have also been noted. For example, Bhudevi is substituted by Sarasvati and the position of Vasuki shows some unique features.

Among the minor cults, Sun-worship occupied an important place in the religious history of Orissa. The earliest sculptural representation of the diety is found in the relief friezes of the Anantagumpha in Khandagiri hills dating back to the first century BC. The religion flourished under the royal patronage of the different ruling dynasties which culminated with the construction of the gigantic Sun temple at Konark in the thirteenth century AD. Sangita Bedbak has made an extensive survey of the archaeological sources in tracing the antiquity and popularity of Sun-worship in Orissa.

Orissa has the rare distinction of possessing a series of homogeneous group of temples known as the Kalingan temples. These temples were constructed predominately in coastal Orissa at centres like Bhubanesvar, Puri and Konark during the seventh-thirteenth centuries AD. The chapter on stellate temples of Orissa highlights yet another sub-regional variety found in western Orissa. Constructed over an unusual stellate or star-shaped ground plan these temples of the erstwhile South Kosala region exhibit a style of their own in the scheme of their construction and sculptural decoration. While discussing about the characteristic features of these temples the author traces that these temples of Orissa were the forerunners of the Bhumija temples of Malwa and the Hoysala temples of Karnataka.

The Suryavamsi Gajapati period (1435-1568) saw the evolution of Oriya Vaisnavism as a sequel to the literary propaganda conducted by the Pancasakha. This was also the period when Gaudiya Vaisnavism had gained immense popularity. Due to the advent of Sricaitanya in Puri the Gaudiya Vaisnavism received great impetus for gaining mass appeal. In their treatment of Radha, a great difference existed between Utkaliya and Caudiya Vaisnavism. This concept of Radha became a source of inspiration for many Oriya poets and philosophers. The poetry of the period is replete with emotional outbursts of Radha for Krsna. Baba Mishra has encapsulated this phase of Oriya literature in its historical perspective.

That Orissa coast was once upon a time studded with a number of ports on the estuaries of many rivers which flow into the Bay of Bengal and facilitated maritime trade is borne by the facts presented by H.C. Panda with recorded evidence. He has chosen to discuss the north Orissan ports namely Pipli, Sartha, Chanua, Balasore, Laichanpur, Churaman and Dhamra: their importance, contributions and decline. Among the causes of decline he suggests the silting of rivers as the primary one. He also discusses the merchandise which the ports exported and imported and activities of the early European traders.

Orissa’s contact with South-East Asia is an important aspect of her culture. The archaeological excavations conducted in the last two decades have pushed back Orissa’s cultural contact with Thailand to the prehistoric period as exemplified by a comparative study of the unearthed knobbed wares, beads and potteries. In the field of art and architecture there is a remarkable resemblance between the curvilinear spires of the temples of both the regions. One of the important aspects of the Thai culture is the indelible impression of the Orissan culture which has been highlighted in chapter 19.

As Mayurbhanj was close to Bengal, it enjoyed great strategic importance when the East India Company was trying to build up a land bridge connecting Madras with Bengal. Lord Wellesely had to wage a war against the Maratha power of Nagpur for the occupation of Orissa. It was at this juncture that the British had initiated the famous Ring Fence Policy to protect Mayurbhanj against the possibility of Maratha invasion and to win over the Raja to their side. The policy had the desired effect in opening the frontier of Mayurbhanj to the British Government who got the permission of Damodar Bhanj for a survey work to be conducted by James Rennel. The author has used rare archival sources to expose British diplomacy which precipitated their expansion.

Like Bengal and other provinces of India, the nineteenth century was a period of renaissance and reforms. Under the impact of Jeremy Bentham the British utilitarians in India introduced a series of reforms to tone up their administration with a touch of liberalism. This reforming attitude had its desired effect on Oriya society in removing some amount of dross which had accumulated over years of misrule and conservatism. In introducing Western education on a large scale, in encouraging women to avail the benefits of education, in checking the prevailing practice of sati, infancticide, meriah sacrifice, etc., the British Government took a positive attitude to precipitate the beginning of a new era. Ahalya Swain studies the significance of British policies in the social perspective.

Orissa is a land of the tribals. With the advent of British rule there was a removal of the socio-economic barriers which had kept the tribals divided. There was a free movement of the plainsmen in the hill tracts of western Orissa. The new immigrants like the new rulers brought along with them new rules and regulations, new currency, new customs and new ideas which were most incompatible to the traditional life of the tribals. Many other factors joined together to irritate the tribal mind. From north to south across the tribal area, rebellions abruptly erupted forming an are of fire. Aruna Das analyses the underlying cases of the tribal uprisings and the reaction of the government which led to their suppression.

Patel deals with a social miracle that took place in nineteenth-century Orissa. What a series of law could not have achieved in a century, the introduction of collegiate education could successfully achieve. The creation of an elite class, the product of collegiate education, paved the way for spectacular changes in social attitude and political consciousness. The Oriya community long accustomed to inaction and indifference woke up suddenly demanding redressal of their grievances. Education worked as a magic wand transforming the people overnight and heralding a new era.

Raja Rammohun Roy, the prophet of modern India, was the founder of a new era. He espoused the cause of nationalism and Western education. The Brahmo movement started by him came to some selected urban centres of Orissa. After the famine of 1866 in Orissa a new religious creed was propagated by Mahima Gosain. The new faith was known as Mahima dharma. It was meant for the peasants of the rural areas. Like Brahmo, the Mahima faith believed in a casteless and priestless society. The Mahima order became popular due to the beautiful songs of Bhima Bhoi, a saint poet. The simple logic of his lyrics impressed the illiterate peasants of western Orissa. It had social equality as an objective. With the spread of Mahima cult and preachings of Christian missionaries a new wave of socio-religious reforms blew across Orissa tumbling down the old pillars of conservatism and superstition. Mamata Bisoi brings the social resurrection of the Oriya people under focus. Her study is one of sympathy and understanding.

The last decade of the nineteenth century witnessed a fierce language controversy in Orissa. It began in 1869 in the Orissa Division, spread to Ganjam in the 1870s and exploded in Sambalpur in 1895. Sambalpur was a district of the Central Provinces. The Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces for administrative convenience decided to substitute Oriya by Hindi as the official language of Sambalpur. The people resisted and an intense public controversy cropped up. Known as the Oriya movement, it drew the attention of Lord Curzon when the Government of Nagpur took the unfair decision to abolish 82 Oriya primary schools denying the Oriya children the benefit of education. A.K. Mishra tries to bring to light the impact of a cultural movement on the government, the reaction of the Viceroy and the new policy of undoing the wrong by Curzon. The success of the people had far-reaching consequences which shook the British government as never before.

In the 1920s the communist movement took its birth from the roots of the national movement on account of disillusioned revolutionaries. Manynon-cooperators, Khilafatists, labour and peasant activists eagerly sought political and economic emancipation. M.N. Roy was the founder. He had contact with Moscow. He obtained Lenin’s promise of support for communism in the colonial world. How Roy’s revolutionary movement gathered momentum, and its perception of violence and modus operandi through the 1920s have been discussed by A.K. Pattnaik. The revolutionary terrorism was an aspect of Indian nationalism which required competent handling by mature scholarship. Pattnaik has been able to do that.

The study of economic history is an off-beat theme in Orissan historiography. But the effort of A.K. Kar reveals how interesting and intriguing the study of the socio-economic history of Orissa can become, particularly of the last phase of British rule in India. He has examined the trade policy and its impact, and various aspects of social changes that took place in India under pressure after the First World War. He has selected Orissa as the focal point for micro study as the period is fraught with great prospects and potentialities.

The small estate of Paralakhemundi had been a very sensitive area due to its peculiar ethnic composition consisting of the Oriya and Telugu-speaking people. Its rulers were the scions of the Suryavamsi Gajapati dynasty of the medieval period having strong pro-Oriya leanings. They were liberal patrons of Oriya language and literature. Paralakhemundi was a centre of Oriya culture and Oriya movement. The joint authors have spared no pains to throw light on what the chiefs of the estate did for promoting Oriya literature in the nineteenth century.

Dr. Samal has a deep insight on the growth of education in Orissa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries he has examined the progress of various categories of education, like general, technical, vocational in the post-Independence period, particularly after the establishment of the universities. His close association with the university system has given him the advantage of studying the issues from a very close range and making value judgement. The study has great relevance for the present-day society.

I am grateful to all the contributors for their learned articles without which the volume could not have been brought out in its present shape.

My thanks are due to Dr. P.K. Nayak, Dr. Biswajit Pradhan and Ashok K. Dash for their ungrudging help and cooperation.

Mr. S.K. Mittal of M/s D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd., New Delhi deserves congratulations for showing keen interest in the publication of this work within a record time with meticulous care.

I am conscious of my limitations and on behalf of all the contributor. I present this volume at the lotus feet of my Guru, Professor P.K. Mishra as a small token of our deep love and profound respect.




  Guru Abhinandanam vii
  Transliteration Chart xvi
  List of Illustrations xvii
  Introduction 1
1 Neolithic and Post-Neolithic Cultures of Orissa: An Overview 9
  -K.K. Basa  
2 Chalcolithic Culture of Orissa 33
  -S. Pradhan  
3 Painted Rock-Shelters of Orissa 39
  -S. Pradhan  
4 Orissa During the Gupta Age 47
  -G.S. Patel  
5 Archaeological Investigations in the Coast of Cilika Lake 75
  -P.K. Mohanty  
6 Maritime Activities of the Kalingas, New light thrown by the Excavations at Khalkatapatna 83
  -B.K. Sinha  
7 Archaeological Remains of South Orissa: A note on the Jain Temple of Subei 95
  -S.K. Panda  
8 Society in Medieval Orissa, (AD 600-950) 99
  -Satyabati Pradhan  
9 The Bhanjas of Khinjali Mandala 111
  -J. Mahapatra  
10 Major Religions of Orissa: A Review 123
  -K.C. Mishra  
11 Minor Religious Sects of Orissa 161
  -B. Pradhan  
12 Visnu-Worship in Orissa 179
  -S.K. Patel  
13 Sun-Worship in Orissa 197
  -S. Bedbak  
14 The Reclining Images of Visnu: A study 207
  -P.K. Nayak  
15 Chaurasi Plate of Sivakaradeva: A New Look 229
  -S.K. Acharya  
16 Stellate Temples of Orissa 233
  -J.K. Pattnaik  
17 Radha and Her Contour in Orissan Culture 243
  -Baba Mishra  
18 Decline of the North Orissan Ports 261
  -H.C. Panda  
19 Orissan Culture in Transit: Indo-Thai Relations 273
  -P. P. Mishra  
20 British Ring-Fence Policy towards the State of Mayurbhanj 281
  -D.B. Kabi  
21 British Impact on Orissa in the Nineteenth Century 299
  -A. Swain  
22 Tribal Movements in Orissa during the British Rule 315
  -A. Das  
23 Socio-Religious Reform Movements in Orissa in the Nineteenth Century 327
  -Mamata Bisoi  
24 Collegiate Education in Orissa during the Nineteenth Century 345
  -A.K. Patel  
25 Language Crisis in Sambalpur, 1895-1903 357
  -A.K. Mishra  
26 The Indian Revolutionary Movement in the Twenties and its Perception of Violence 363
  -A. K. Pattanaik  
27 Some Aspects of Socio-Economic History of Orissa, 1912-47 379
  -A.K. Kar  
28 Contributions of Paralakhemundi Zamindari to the Literary Activities of Orissa 397
  -J.K. Samal  
  Coloured and b/w Illustrations 429
  List of Contributors 459
  Index 463

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