"Ganesh Puja” to be celebrated by Lucknow Oriya Samaj on 13th September 2018

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Orissa Day - A Perspective

Birthday is a memorable day in one's life. In addition to one's birthday, everyone likes to celebrate the birthday of his or her near and dear ones. As a community, we take pride in belonging to the State or Country in which we are born and also celebrate the formation or independence of the State/Country.

On 1st April 1936, the State of Orissa was formed and to remember the contributions and sacrifices made by the people of Orissa in those olden days, Utkal Divas or Orissa Day is celebrated all over the State. Not only Orissa but Utkal Divas is celebrated in many cities and towns in India and abroad, where people from Orissa reside.

History of Ancient Orissa

Orissa has a history spanning over a period of 5,000 years. Before Kalinga, it was named as Udra or "Odra Desa". The Ancient Odra Desa or Ordesa was limited to the valley of Mahanadi and to the lower course of Subarnarekha River. It comprised the whole of the present districts of Cuttack and Sambalpur and a portion of Midnapur. Bounded on the west by Gondwana, on the north by the wild hill states of Jaspur and Singhbhum, on the east by the sea and on the South by Ganjam, Odisha has a legendary history. The name Odia originated from Odra or Udra tribes that inhabited the central coastal belt (Khordha District and Nayagarh District) of modern Odisha. Odisha has also been the home of the Kalinga, Utkal, Mahakantara/Kantara and Kosal 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 century 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 century, 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.

A major turning point in world history took place in Odisha. The Kalinga War that led emperor Ashok embrace non-violence and the teachings of Buddha was fought here in 261 BC. Ashoka's military campaign against Kalinga was 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 Ashok was compelled to issue two edicts specifically calling for a just and benign administration in Kalinga. Later on, Ashoka was instrumental in spreading Buddhist philosophy all over Asia. However, Ativ Land (South Western Odisha) remained unconquered by Ashoka.

After losing its complete political identity in 1568 following the defeat and demise of the last Hindu King Mukunda Dev, efforts resulted into the formation of a politically separate State under British Rule on linguistic basis on 1 April, 1936.

Struggle for formation of Orissa Province

The main revolution for the separate State spanned over three decades from the very day of formation of Utkal Sammilani that led the foundation of a separate Orissa Province.

The movement was intensified under the leadership of Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das, Maharaja Krushna Chandra Gajapati, Pandit Nilakantha Das, Bhubanananda Das and many others with the support of the public. The newly formed Orissa consisted of six districts namely Cuttack, Puri, Balasore, Sambalpur, Koraput and Ganjam having its capital at Cuttack. Sir John Austin Hubbak took oath of office and became the first Governor of Orissa Province. Later on the State was divided into 13 districts and subsequently into 30 districts.

Odisha is the ninth largest State by area in India, and the eleventh largest by population. Odia is the official and most widely spoken language with 93.33% Odia speakers according to linguistic survey.

Rich Heritage of Odisha

Odisha is home to the Hirakud Dam, near Sambalpur the longest earthen dam in the world. Odisha has several popular tourist destinations. Puri. Konark and Bhubaneswar are known as Golden triangle of eastern India. Puri, with the Lord Jagannath Temple near the sea (famous for Rath Yatra or the Car Festival), and Konark, with the Sun Temple, are visited by thousands of tourists every year. The Jagannath Temple of Puri, the Konark Sun Temple, the Lingaraj Temple, Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Dhauligiri of Bhubaneswar, Ashoka's famous Rock Edict at Jaugada near Berhampur city and the Barabati Fort of Cuttack are important in the archaeological history of India.

Odia Culture and Cuisine

The State has a very opulent cultural heritage, one of the richest in India. The capital city of Bhubaneswar is known for the exquisite temples that dot its landscape. The famous classical dance form, Odissi originated in Odisha. Contemporary Odisha has a proud cultural heritage that arose due to the intermingling of three great religious traditions – Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The culture of the Adivasis is an integral part of modern Odia heritage. Odissi classical dance portraying love of Lord Krishna and his supported consort Radha, charming and colourful music, sand art involving beautiful and attractive sculpture on the beach are examples of rich cultural heritage of the State.

Odisha has culinary tradition spanning centuries if not millennia. The kitchen of the famous Jagannath temple in Puri is reputed to be the largest in the world, with a thousand chefs, working around 752 wood-burning clay hearths called chulas, to feed over 10,000 people each day. Salepur Rasogolla is famous and it is mainly prepared by Kar and Brothers (Bikalananda Kar) of Salepur. Its branches are also present in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. Pahala, located on the Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar road, is famous for its variety of Rasgullas. The well-known rice pudding, kheeri (kheer) that is relished all over India, also originated in Puri two thousand years ago. Chhenapoda is also a major Odisha sweet cuisine originated in Nayagarh. It is made by caramelizing cottage cheese with sugar, cardamom and other ingredients and then burning it over a chula (wood-burning clay hearths). Chhenna Jheeli and Malpua are other famous sweet desserts. One of the most famous delicacies of Odisha is Kakara Peetha (made of sooji or finely grained wheat) especially with coconut filling sauteed with pepper, cardamom, sugar and ghee and sometimes cottage cheese (chhena). It is one of the major delicacies during the festival occasions. Arisha is another delicacy. The sweet aroma of powdered rice and Gud being deep fried in Ghee is mesmerizing. Poda Pitha, Haladi Patra Pitha, Manda Pitha, Chitou Pitha are more examples of Odia specialities. Mudhi (puffed rice) is an integral part of every Odia household. Baripada is famous for its Mudhi, especially the Mudhi & mutton curry. Mudhi serves the purpose of an instant snacks. It perfectly blends with anything. Be it Chenachur (mix of fried salty snacks), milk, curries, peanuts or mango pulp.

Pakhala, a dish made of rice, water, and yoghurt, that is fermented overnight, is very popular in summer, particularly in the rural areas. Odias are very fond of sweets and no Odia repast is considered complete without some dessert at the end. A typical meal in Odisha consists of a main course and dessert.

Also one of the most famous veg dishes is Dalma (made of lentils and vegetables boiled together and then fried with other spices) and Santula. Even the former Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam introduced these into the Rashtrapati Bhavan Menu.

The Journey Ahead

Despite glorious past and rich cultural heritage, Odisha is lagging behind in development of key areas. The KBK (Kalahandi, Bolangir & Koraput) Region continues to be the most backward region of the Country. The poverty-stricken people of the region have become easy prey to Maoists and this is in turn disturbing the other-wise peaceful environment of the State. It can be tackled by all round development of Odisha benefiting all segments of the people. Odisha has abundant natural resources and a large coastline. There is an urgent need to accelerate the industrial growth through infrastructure development. Our endeavour should be to make Odisha a developed State. While celebrating of Utkal Divas, entire Odia population including Non Resident Odias need to introspect and take a solemn vow to work towards making Odisha one of the prosperous States in the Country.

Somanath Sahoo
NABARD, Gangtok