Oriya - History and Cultural Relations

Orissa has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Chalcolithic cultural remains abound. By the fourth century B . C . there was a centralized state in Orissa, though the hill areas often nurtured independent princedoms mostly evolving out of tribal polities. In 261 B . C ., Orissa, then known as Kalinga, was conquered by the Emperor Ashoka after a bloody Kalinga war, leading to the conversion of the king into a nonviolent Buddhist who spread Buddhism in Asia. In the early second Century B . C . Emperor Kharavela, a Jain by religion and a great conqueror, had the famous queen's cave-palace, Ranigumpha, cut into the mountain near Bhubaneswar, with exquisite sculptures depicting dancers and musicians. Both eastern and western Orissa had famous Buddhist monasteries, universities, and creative savants. Starting in the first Century A . D ., according to Pliny and others, there was extensive maritime trade and cultural relations between Orissa (Kalinga, Kling) and Southeast Asian countries from Myanmar (Burma) to Indonesia. Orissa was ruled under several Hindu dynasties until 1568, when it was annexed by the Muslim kingdom of Bengal. In 1590, Orissa came under the Mogul empire, until the Marathas seized it in 1742. In 1803 it came under British rule. As early as 1817 the agriculturist militia (Paik) of Orissa revolted against the British in one of the first regional anticolonial movements. In 1936 Orissa was declared a province of British India, and the princely states with an Oriya population were merged into Orissa in 1948-1949. The cultures and languages of south India, western India, and northern India—and also those of the tribal peoples—have enriched the cultural mosaic and the vocabulary of the Oriya.

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