Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Subsistence cultivation of paddy is ubiquitous as rice is the staple food. Double-cropping, sometimes even triple-cropping in irrigated fields, and single-cropping in drought-affected or rain-fed areas are all common. Large-scale farming with heavy agricultural machinery is still uncommon. Plowing with two bullocks or two buffalo is usual, with a wooden plow. Only recently have iron plows been coming into use. Cash crops like sugarcane, jute, betel leaves on raised mounds, coconuts and areca nuts (betel nuts) are grown in coastal Orissa, and pulses and oil seeds in drought-prone areas. Recently coffee, cocoa, cardamom, pineapples, and bananas have also been raised on a commercial scale. Fish are caught in traps and nets from Village tanks, streams, rivers, coastal swamps, and also in the flooded paddy fields. Fishing boats with outboard motors and trawlers are nowadays used at sea. The domestic animals include cows, goats, cats, chickens, ducks, and water buffalo among the lowest castes, as well as pigs and dogs among the urban middle class.
Industrial Arts. Most large villages had castes of artisans who served the agricultural economy in former times. Carpenters, wheelwrights, and blacksmiths were absolutely necessary. Some villages had potters with pottery wheels and weavers with cottage looms (cotton was formerly grown and yarn spun). Today, industrial products are displacing the Village products except for the wooden plow and cart wheels. Some cottage industries, especially the handloomed textiles (including the weaving of ikat, cotton textiles that are tied and dyed), are producing for export. Brass and bell-metal utensils and statues and silver and gold filigree ornaments have a wide clientele.
Trade. In villages, peddling and weekly markets were the usual commercial channels. Since World War II ration shops have sold scarce essential commodities.
Division of Labor. Men plow, sow, and carry goods with a pole balanced on the shoulder, whereas women carry things on their head, weed, and transplant the fields. Harvesting is done by both sexes. While men fish and hunt, women perform household chores and tend babies. Traditionally, among higher-caste and higher-class families, women did not work outside home. Nowadays men and some women are engaged in salaried service, but only lower-caste and lower-class women undertake wage labor.
Land Tenure. Before Independence land under agriculture had increased substantially. However, because of the high rate of population growth and subdivision of landholdings, the number of marginal farmers and the landless increased sharply thereafter. Following Independence some land above the statutory ceiling or from the common property resources was distributed among the landless, weaker sections of society. Large-scale industrial and irrigation-cum-power projects displaced people and added to the ranks of the landless. All of this has resulted in various categories of tenancy and contractual lease of land for subsistence cultivation.