Odia people

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ଓଡ଼ିଆ ଲୋକ
Total population
c. 34 million [1]
Regions with significant populations
Flag of India.svg  India 33,026,680 (2011) [2]
Flag of the United States.svg  USA 36,400
Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg  UAE 32,000
Flag of Qatar.svg  Qatar 25,590
Flag of Kuwait.svg  Kuwait 19,394
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 17,350
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia 15,000
Flag of Oman.svg  Oman 13,400
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore 10,800
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 8,430
Om.svg Hinduism

The Odia (ଓଡ଼ିଆ), also spelled Oriya, are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group native to the Indian state of Odisha and have the Odia language as their mother tongue. They constitute a majority in the eastern coastal state of Odisha, with significant minority populations in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal. [3]



The earliest Odias were called Odra or Kalinga, which later on became Utkal. The word Odia has mentions in epics like the Mahabharata. The Odras are mentioned as one of the peoples that fought in the Mahabharata. Pali literature calls them Oddakas. Ptolemy and Pliny the Elder also refer to the Oretas who inhabit India's eastern coast. The modern term Odia dates from the 15th century when it was used by the medieval Muslim chroniclers and adopted by the Gajapati kings of Odisha.


The Odias are distinguished by their ethnocultural customs as well as the use of the Odia language. Odisha's relative isolation and the lack of any discernible outside influence has contributed towards preserving a social and religious structure that has disappeared from most of North India.

The inhabitants of Odisha were known as Odras, Utkal and Kalinga in Mahabharata. During 3rd century BCE coastal Odisha was known as Kalinga. According to Mahabharata Kalinga extended from the mouth of Ganga in north to the mouth of Godavari in south.

During 4th Century, Mahapadma Nanda conquered Kalinga. During rule of Ashoka, Kalinga was annexed as part of Maurya Empire. During 2nd century BCE, Kharavela emerged as powerful ruler. He defeated several kings in North and South India.

Hathigumpha inscription of King Kharavela at Udayagiri Hills Hatigumfa.jpg
Hathigumpha inscription of King Khāravela at Udayagiri Hills

During reign of Gupta Empire, Samudra Gupta conquered Odisha. Harshavardhana of Kannauj conquered Odisha in 7th century. Bhauma-Kara dynasty ruled Odisha from 8th to 10th century followed by Keshari dynasty from 9th to 12th century. Then Eastern Ganga dynasty ruled Odisha from 11th to 15th century AD.

Narasimhadeva I is known to have built the Konark temple. Konark Sun Temple Front view.jpg
Narasimhadeva I is known to have built the Konark temple.

Odisha remained an independent regional power till the early 16th century A.D. It was conquered by the Mughals under Akbar in 1568 and was thereafter subject to a succession of Mughal and Maratha rule before finally falling to the British in the year 1803. [4]

Hard impositions of taxes by the British, administrative malpractices by the pro British Bengali landlords or officials and stripping the rights of local people along with suppression of native landlords in Odisha led to India's first [5] reorganized revolt against the British in the year 1817 popularly known as Paika Bidroh or rebellion. Battle worthy leaders like Jayi Rajaguru (1806) and Buxi Jagabandhu (1773) along with the Paikas and Kondh tribal conscripts fought gallantly against the British and won for brief time declaring the independence from the British authority. A series of rebellions and uprisings led by numerous brave Odias like Tapang rebellion (1827), Banapur rebellion (1835), Sambalpur uprising (1827–62), Ghumsur Kondh uprising (1835), Kondh Rebellion (1846–55), Bhuyan uprising (1864), Ranapur Praja Revolt (1937–38), etc. followed in Odisha making it a difficult task for the British to maintain absolute authority over Odisha.

While under the Maratha rule, major Odia regions were transferred to the rulers of Bengal that resulted in successive extinction of the language over the course of time in vast regions that stretched until today's Burdawan district of West Bengal. The British applied their divide and rule policy and subsequently transferred Odia areas to the neighboring non-Odia administrative divisions that contributed to the extinction of Odia culture and language in the formerly core regions of Odisha or Kalinga. Following popular movements and rise of consciousness for Odia identity, a major part of the new Odisha state was first carved out from Bengal Presidency in 1912. Finally Odisha became a separate province and the first officially recognized language-based state of India in 1936 after the amalgamation of the Odia regions from Bihar Orissa Province, Madras Presidency and Chhattisgarh Division was successfully executed. 26 Odia princely states including Saraikela-Kharswan in today's Jharkhand also signed for merger with the newly formed Odisha state while many major Odia speaking areas were left out due to political incompetence. [6]

Geographic distribution

Although the total Odia population is unclear, 2001 Census of India puts the population of Odisha at around 36 million. There are smaller Odia communities in the neighbouring states of West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Most Odias in West Bengal live in the districts of Midnapore and Bankura. Surat in Gujarat also has a large Odia population, primarily diamond workers in the southern district of Ganjam. Bengaluru and Hyderabad have sizable Odia population due to an IT boom in late 2000s. Some Odias have migrated to Bangladesh where they are known as Bonaz community.

While the southern part of the state has inter migration within the country, the northern part of the state has migration towards the middle east and the Western world. Balasore and cuttack are known as immigration centers of Odisha. Most of the Odia population abroad originates predominantly from the northern district of Balasore followed by Cuttack and Bhadrak. The migrants who work within the country predominantly originate from Ganjam and Puri districts.

While most American Odias prior to 1980 came from Balasore, Sambalpur and Cuttack, increased demand for software engineers and adoption have brought Odias from other areas.

Migration to the United Kingdom has been recorded since 1935, where mostly people from Balasore in undivided Bengal province went to work to United Kingdom and thereafter continuing a chain migration very predominant then, and continues to this day. Most British Odias have obtained British citizenship.

In the late 2000s many Odias, predominantly from Balasore and Cuttack, went to the US East coast to study and to work. This resulted in chain migration, predominantly from Balasore and Cuttack.

During 2009 construction boom in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, Odias predominantly from Balasore, Bhadrak and Cuttack migrated to the area to earn high salaries in the IT and construction sectors.

Language and literature

Around 35-40 million people in Odisha and adjoining areas speak and use Odia language which is also one of the six classical languages of India and the only regional language in the Indo-Aryanic family to receive classical language status. [7] Odia words are found in the 2nd century B.C Jaugada inscriptions of emperor Ashoka and 1st century B.C Khandagiri inscriptions of emperor Kharavela. Known as Odra Bibhasa or as Odra Magadhi Apabrhamsa in ancient times the language has been inscribed throughout the last two millenniums in ancient Pali, Prakrit, Sanskrit and Odia scripts. The Buddhist Charyapadas composed in the 7th to 9th centuries by Buddhists like Rahula, Saraha, Luipa, etc. The literary traditions of Odia language achieved prominence towards the rule of the Somavamshi and Eastern Dynasty. In the 14th century during the rule of emperor Kapilendra Deva Routray, the poet Sarala Dasa wrote the Mahabharata, Chandi Purana, and Vilanka Ramayana, praising the goddess Durga. Rama-bibaha, written by Arjuna Dasa, was the first long poem written in Odia. Major contributions to the Odia language in the Middle Ages were contributed by the Panchasakha, Jagannatha Dasa, Balarama Dasa, Acyutananda, Yasovanta and Ananta.

Mughalbandi or Kataki Odia, spoken in the Cuttack Khordha and Puri districts is generally considered as the standard dialect and is the language of instruction and media. There are eight major forms of Odia spoken across the Odisha and adjoining areas while another thirteen minor forms spoken by tribal and other groups of people. New literary traditions are emerging in the western Odia form of the language which is Sambalpuri and prominent poets and writers have emerged like Haldar Nag.

Position of women in Odia society

The position of women in the Odia society has been always held with high value. Besides the historical depiction of queens surrounded by female bodyguards on the temple arts, Odia women are accustomed to follow traditional ways along with acceptance of modern culture. Odia culture celebrates female concentric festivals like Raja, Khudrukuni Osa, Sudasa Brata, Kumar Purnima, etc. which is unique in its nature compared to other cultures in India. Remarkable Odia women like Sarala Devi, Rama Devi, Kuntala Kumari Sabat, etc. played a pivotal role in the national and freedom movement of India. Nandini Satapathy became the first female chief minister of the state of Odisha in 1973. The new generation of young women in Odisha pursue higher education and are career-oriented in nature.



Odissi is one of the oldest classical dances of India. The Applique work of Pipili and Sambalpuri sarees are notable. The silver filigree work from Cuttack and Pattachitra of Raghurajpur are some really authentic representation of ancient Indian art and culture.

Odias were the master of swords and had their own form of martial arts, later popularly known as "Paika akhada".


The Odia architecture has a regional architectural tradition that dates back to at least the 6th century from the times of the Shailodbhava dynasty. From the times of the Somavamshi and the Eastern Ganga dynasty the Kalinga architecture form achieved prominence with its special style of temple designs which consist of four major sections of a religious structure, namely Mukha Deula, Nata Mandapa, Bhoga Mandapa and Garba Griha (or the inner sanctum). The examples of these marvelous structures are prevalent across the several hundreds of temples build across the state of Odisha mainly in Bhubaneswar which happens to be known as the temple city. Puri Jagannath temple, ruins of the Konark Sun temple, Lingaraj temple, etc. are the living examples of ancient Kalinga architecture.


Seafood and sweets dominate Odia cuisine. Rice is the staple cereal and is eaten throughout the day. Popular Odia dishes are Rasagolla, Rasabali, Chhena Poda, Chhena kheeri, Chhena jalebi, Chenna Jhilli, Chhenagaja, Khira sagara, Dalma and Pakhala. Machha Besara (Fish in mustard gravy), Mansha Tarkari (Mutton curry), sea foods like Chingudi Tarakari (Prawn curry), and Kankada Tarakari (Crab curry). A standard Odia meal includes Pakhala (watered rice), Badhi Chura, Saga Bhaja (Spinach fry), Macha Bhaja, Chuin Bhaja, etc. [8] [9]


A wide variety of festivals are celebrated throughout the year; There is a saying in Odia, ‘Baarah maase, terah pooja’, that there are 13 festivals in 12 months of a year. Well known festivals, that are popular among the Odia people, are the Ratha Yatra, Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Nuakhai, Pushpuni, Pua Jiunita, Raja, Dola Purnima, Pana Sankranti (as Vaisakhi is called in Odisha ), Kartik Purnima / Boita Bandana, Khudrukuni puja /Tapoi Osa, Kumar Purnima, Ditia Osa, Chaitra Purnima, Agijala Purnima, Bhai Juntia, Pua Juntia, Jhia Juntia, Sabitri Brata, Sudasha Brata, Manabasa gurubara etc. [10]


Odisha is one of the most religiously homogeneous states in India. More than 94% of the people are followers of Hinduism. [11] Hinduism in Odisha is more significant due to the specific Jagannath culture followed by Odia Hindus. The practices of the Jagannath sect is popular in the state and the annual Rath Yatra in Puri draws pilgrims from across India. [12] Under the Hindu religion, Odia people are believers of a wide range of sects with roots to historical times.

Before the advent of the Vaisnava sects Purrushotam Jagannath cult in Odisha, Buddhism and Jainism[ citation needed ] were two very prominent religions. According to Jainkhetra Samasa, the Jain tirthankar Prasvanth came to Kopatak which is now Kupari of Baleswar district and was the guest of a person called Dhanya. The Kshetra Samasa, says that Parsvnath preached at Tamralipti (now Tamluk in Bengal) of Kalinga. The national religion of ancient Odisha became Jainism during the time of the emperor Karakandu in the 7th Century B.C. The Kalinga Jina asana was established and the idol of Tirthankara Rishabhanatha then also known as the "Kalinga Jina"was the national symbol of the kingdom. Emperor Mahmeghvahana Kharavela was also a devout Jain and a religiously tolerant ruler who reclaimed and re-established the Kalinga Jina that was taken away as a victory token by the Magadhan king, Mahapadma Nanda.

Buddhism was also a prevalent religion in the Odisha region until the late Bhaumakar dynasty's rule. Remarkable archaeological findings like at Dhauli, Ratnagiri, Lalitgiri, khandagiri and Puspagiri across the state have unearthed the buried truth about the Buddhist past of Odisha in a large scale. Even today we can see the Buddhist impact on the socio-cultural traditions of the Odia people. Though a majority of Buddhist shrines lay undiscovered and buried, the past of Odia people is rich with descriptions about them in the Buddhist literature. The tooth relic of Buddha was first hosted by ancient Odisha as the king Brahmadutta constructed a beautiful shrine in his capital Dantapura (assumed to be Puri) of Kalinga. Successive dynasties in ancient Odisha's Kalinga or Tri Kalinga region were tolerant and secular in their governance over all the existing religions with Vedic roots. This provided a peaceful and secure environment for all the religious ideologies to flourish in the region for over a time period of three thousand years. The founder of Vajrayana Buddhism, King Indrabhuti was born in Odisha along with other prominent monks like Saraha, Luipa, Lakshminara and characters of Buddhist mythology like Tapassu and Bahalika were born in Odisha.

Hindu sects like Shaivism and Shaktism are also the oldest ways of Hindu belief systems in Odisha with many royal dynasties dedicating remarkable temples and making them state religion over their time of rule in history. Lingaraja, Rajarani, Mausi Maa Temple and other Temples in Bhubaneswar are mostly of Shaivaite sect while prominent temples of goddesses like Samleswari, Tara-Tarini, Mangala, Budhi Thakurani, Tarini, Kichekeswari and Manikeswari, across Odisha are dedicated to the Shakti and Tantric cult.

The Odia culture is now mostly echoed through the spread of Vaishnavite Jagannath culture across the world and the deity Jagannath himself is deeply rooted to every household traditions, culture and religious belief of Odia people today. There are historical references of wooden idols of Hindu deities being worshiped as a specific trend of Kalinga region far before the construction of Puri Jagannath temple by the king, Choda Ganga Deva in 12th century.

Lately converted Christians are generally found among the tribal people especially in the interior districts of Gajapati and Kandhamal. Around 2% of the people are Odia Muslims, most of them are indigenous though a small population are migrants from North India and elsewhere. The larger concentration of the minority Muslim population is in the districts of Bhadrak, Kendrapada and Cuttack.

Music and dance

Odissi music dates back as far as the history of the classical Odissi dance goes back. At present, the Odissi music is being lobbied by the intellectual community of the state to be recognized as a classical form of music by the cultural ministry of India. Be side Classical Odissi dance, there are some other prominent cultural and folk dance forms of the Odia people that have followed different parts if evolution over the ages.

The folk dance forms have evolved over ages with direct tribal influence over them. They are listed as below.

Modern Odias have also adopted western dance and forms. Remarkably, the Prince dance group was declared as the winner of TV reality show "India's Got Talent" in the year 2009 and Ananya Sritam Nanda was declared as the winner of junior Indian Idol in the year 2015.


Ancient traces of entertainment can be traced to the rock edicts of Emperor Kharavela which speaks about the festive gatherings held by him in the third year of his rule that included shows of singing, dancing and instrumental music. Ancient temple art of the Odias give a strong and silent testimony to the evolution of Odissi classical dance form over the ages. Bargarh district's Dhanujatra which is also believed to be world's largest open air theater performance, Pala and Daskathia, Jatra or Odia Opera, etc. are some of the traditional ways of entertainment for masses that survive to this day. Modern Odia television shows and movies are widely appreciated by a large section of the middle class section of the Odias and the it continues to evolve at a rapid rate with innovative ways of presentation.


Odias people are subdivided into several communities such as Brahmin, Jyotish , Karan, Rajput, Paika, Khandayat, Chasa, Gopal, Bania, Kansari , Gudia, Patara, Tanti, Teli, Badhei, Kamar, Barika, Mali, Kumbhar, Chamar, Keuta, Dhoba, Bauri, Kandara, Domba, Pano, Hadi etc. [13]

Notable people

See also

Related Research Articles

Odisha State in eastern India

Odisha, formerly Orissa, is an Indian state located in south-eastern coastal India.It is the 8th largest state by area, and the 11th largest by population. The state has the third largest population of Scheduled Tribes in India.. It neighbors the states of West Bengal and Jharkhand to the north, Chhattisgarh to the west and Andhra Pradesh to the south. Odisha has a coastline of 485 kilometres (301 mi) along the Bay of Bengal. The region is also known as Utkala and is mentioned in India's national anthem, "Jana Gana Mana".. The language of Odisha is Odia, which is one of Classical Languages of India.

Odia language Indo-Aryan language

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Odissi One of the classical Indian dances, native to Odisha

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Bhubaneswar Metropolis in Odisha, India

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History of Odisha

The name Odisha refers to the current state in India. In different eras the region and parts of the region were known by different names . The boundaries of the region also have varied over the ages.

Eastern Ganga dynasty

The Eastern Ganga dynasty also known as Rudhi Gangas or Prachya Gangas were a medieval Indian dynasty that reigned from Kalinga from as early as the 5th century to the early 15th century. The territory ruled by the dynasty consisted of the whole of the modern-day Indian state of Odisha as well as parts of Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The early rulers of the dynasty ruled from Dantapura; the capital was later moved to Kalinganagara, and ultimately to Kataka. Today, they are most remembered as the builders of the world renounced Puri Jagannath Temple and Konark Sun Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site at Konark, Odisha.

Odia literature is the literature written in the Odia language and predominantly originates in the Indian state of Odisha. The language is also spoken by minority populations of the neighbouring states of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The region has been known at different stages of history as Kalinga, Udra, Utkala or Hirakhanda. Odisha was a vast empire in ancient and medieval times, extending from the Ganges in the north to the Godavari in the south. During British rule, however, Odisha lost its political identity and formed parts of the Bengal and Madras Presidencies. The present state of Odisha was formed in 1936. The modern Odia language is formed mostly from Pali words with significant Sanskrit influence. About 28% of modern Odia words have Adivasi origins, and about 2% have Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu), Persian, or Arabic origins. The earliest written texts in the language are about thousand years old. The first Odia newspaper was Utkala Deepika first published on 4 August 1866.

Odisha is one of the 29 states of India, located in the eastern coast. It is surrounded by the states of West Bengal to the north-east, Jharkhand to the north, Chhattisgarh to the west and north-west, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to the south and south-west. Odia is the official and most widely spoken language, spoken by 33.2 million according to the 2001 Census. The modern state of Odisha was established on 1 April 1936, as a province in British India, and consisted predominantly of Odia-speaking regions. April 1 is celebrated as Odisha Day.

The Indian state of Odisha has a rich cultural and artistic heritage. Due to the reign of many different rulers in the past, arts and crafts in Odisha underwent many changes giving an artistic diversity today in the forms of traditional handicrafts, painting and carving, dance and music.

Odissi music

Odissi music is a genre of classical music in India, originated from the eastern state of Odisha. The traditional ritual music for the service of Lord Jagannatha, Odissi music has a history spanning over two thousand years, authentic sangita-shastras or treatises, unique Ragas & Talas and a distinctive style of rendition.

Non-resident Odia are people of Odia ancestry residing outside Odisha. Most Odia people are from Northern, Western, Central and Coastal Odisha.

Maritime history of Odisha

The Maritime history of Odisha, known as Kalinga in ancient times, started much before 800 BC according to early sources. The people of this region of eastern India along the coast of the Bay of Bengal sailed up and down the Indian coast, and travelled to Indo China and throughout Maritime Southeast Asia, introducing elements of their culture to the people with whom they traded. The 6th century Manjusrimulakalpa mentions the Bay of Bengal as 'Kalingodra' and historically the Bay of Bengal has been called 'Kalinga Sagara', indicating the importance of Kalinga in the maritime trade. The old traditions are still celebrated in the annual Bali Jatra, or Boita-Bandana festival held for seven days in October / November at various coastal districts, most famous at Cuttack though. Studies in Maritime Heritage of Odisha, 2016,OIMSEAS,


Gotipua is a traditional dance form in the state of Odisha, India, and the precursor of Odissi classical dance. It has been performed in Orissa for centuries by young boys, who dress as women to praise Jagannath and Krishna. The dance is executed by a group of boys who perform acrobatic figures inspired by the life of Radha and Krishna. The boys begin to learn the dance at an early age until adolescence, when their androgynous appearance changes. In the Odia language, Gotipua means "single boy" (goti-pua). Raghurajpur, Odisha is a historic village known for its Gotipua dance troupes. The dance of the Gotipuas is accompanied by traditional Odissi music with the primary percussion being the Mardala.

Paika akhada is an Odia term which roughly translates as "warrior gymnasium" or "warrior school". In former times they served as the training schools of the peasant-militias in Odisha, eastern India. Today's paika akhada are used for practicing the traditional physical exercises in addition to the paika dance, a performance art with rhythmic movements and weapons being hit in time to the drum. It incorporates acrobatic maneuvres and use of the khanda, patta (guantlet-sword), sticks, and other weapons.

Aruna Mohanty Odissi dancer

Aruna Mohanty is an Odissi dancer, choreographer and guru. She is currently the Secretary of the Orissa (Odisha) Dance Academy. She has received a number of awards for her work, including the Padmashree award.


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