Lying cosily along the vast eastern sweep of the Bay of Bengal, Odisha is a predominantly rural, essentially agro-based State with a rich reserve of minerals, coal and many semi-precious stones. It is blessed with sprawling patches of fertile green coastal plains .
Odisha is a palpably religious state. The state was once a center of Buddhist learning, but changes in ruling dynasties brought shifts in religious affiliation, moving away from Buddhism first to Jainism and then to Hinduism. It now harbours one of Hinduisms most active pilgrimage sites:
Odisha's hazy past focuses with the War of Kalinga ( 260 B.C. ) .In ancient times Odisha formed part of the powerful kingdom of Kalinga, Around 260 BC the Kalinga kings, at the peek of their power, came into head-on collision with Ashoka, the powerful Mauryan emperor. When the war ended Kalinga was subdued, but the bloody carriage left Ashoka with such a bitter taste in his mouth that he turned his back on violence forever and embraced the Buddhist faith of peace and compassion To mark the event, he left many sets of rock edicts in the State, after the death of Ashoka, Kalinga regained its independence. Kalinga regained its independence. Buddhism quickly faded however. In the 2" Century BC, Kalinga became a powerful country once again under the rule of Kharavelas (the 3rd Chedi king), It was during his reign that Jainism was restored as the faith of the people.
With the death of Kharavela, Odisha passed into obscurity. In the 4th Century AD Samudragupta set out on his conquest of the south from Magadha. In AD 610, Odisha came under the sway of King Sasanka following whose death Harsha conquered Odisha.
The State had its own dynasty of rulers (the Ganga dynasty) in the 7th Century AD by which time Hinduism had reasserted itself. In AD 795 Mahasivagupta Yayati the Second, came to the throne and with him began the most brilliant epoch in the history of Odisha He united Kalinga, Kangoda, Utkala and Kosala in the imperial tradition of Kharavela. He is believed to have laid the foundation of the famous Lingaraj temple at Bhubaneswar.
Muslim incursions from both the Northwest and the south (Golconda) led at last to the overthrow of the Hindu rulers. From the 14th century, Odisha was ruled by successive Muslim Kings till 1592 when Akbar annexed it to the Mughal empire. With the decline of the Mughals, the Marathas occupied Odisha and continued to hold it till the British took over in 1803.
Under the kings of the Ganga dynasty, the Odishan culture continued to flourish. Narasingha Dev of the Ganga dynasty is reputed to have built the temple of the Sun God at Konark.
Despite an easy conquest, the British found it formidable to consolidate the territory as Oriyas offered stubborn resistance right from the beginning. The defective land revenue system and the administrative vagaries of the British rule gave rise to strong discontent among the people which ultimately gave rise to the "Pike Rebellion of 1817".Finally it was decentralised and kept under the control of different administrative provinces.
A failure of rain in 1865 resulted in the loss of usual crops and brought about a catastrophic famine in 1866-67 which led to the death of about one million in Odisha. It took Odisha a long time to recover from the effects of the calamity.
At long last Odisha was made into a separate province in 1936. With Independence the princely States in and around Odisha, surrendered their sovereignty to the Government of India. By the States merger (Governor's provinces) Order, The princely States of Odisha were completely merged with the State of Odisha on 19th August 1949 and the new Odisha became nearly twice its size by the addition of more people to its population.
Odisha's percentage of literacy is around 63.6, the male-female divide being 76.1:51. Although the progress during the last decade seems to be consistent, we are not yet able to catch, up with the all-India level of literacy, which is 65.4%.
About 85 per cent of Odisha's population live in villages. The districts of Phulbani, Mayurbhanj and Kalahandi are mostly rural having a rural population of about 94 per cent in average. Only about 15 per cent of the people live in towns and cities. The 2001 census enlists 124 urban units including 102 statutory census towns, i.e. they have either a municipality or an NAC each. Of these there are only 8 cities with a population of one lakh and above. Two of these cities, Bhubaneswar and Rourkela, are of the modern type, the rest have the traditional urban structure of agglomeration of houses in rows along roads or lanes. The low figure of urban population is almost half of the all-India percentage. However, there is a consolation that the initial Sap between the two figures is gradually getting reduced.
The occupational classification as per 2001 census data shows that the total workers in the State account for 142.73 lakh constituting 38.88% of the total population of the State. Out of the total number of workers, main workers accounted for 67.07%. The workers comprises of cultivators (29.69%), agricultural labourers (35.04%), household industries workers (4.83%) and other workers (30.44%). The proportion of male workers to make population and female workers to female population in 2001 stood 52.75% and 24.62% respectively.
While town life provides larger scope for varied activities, villages offer greater opportunities for community life. There are occasions when the entire village may rise to a man, for instance, when there is a crisis or calamity like a cyclone or flood. During festivals and ceremonies, the villagers feel like a single community. In Odisha festivals come periodically round the year: Raja; Dasahara, Nuakhai or Navanna, Karma, Kumar Purnima, Diwali, Rasa Purnima, Makar, Holi, Chait Parab and so on. During the- festivals, both in the villages and towns, the larger society operates as a cohesive unit, but more so in the former.
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