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Cultural Symbols || Rituals || Social Culture || Personal Culture

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There are lot of mention about the people of Odisha in historical epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Manu Samhita, Natyashastra of Bharata Muni and various Indian Puranas and other religious texts of ancient India. But still there no records which gives an exact picture of the original inhabitants of the people of Odisha. In history the early period has records of the people of Odisha belonging to a race known as Odras and the name of their country was named accordingly. The people from the Odras racial community where those who were inhabiting this region and are believed to be the earliest Aryan settlers. The Odras people accordingly were the Vratyas in the institutes of Manu, are described as those who do not adhere to or follow any customs or religious rites and so they were treated with disrespect and devoid of their caste. The culture of Odisha can be best expressed as comprising the following :

The Odras were placed in par with the Poundras and Dravidas. They also came in terms with mutual concession with the mighty Kalingas and the Dravidians of the adjoining area and at least for quite a long period they resided together which resulted in certain traits of their culture leading to resentment of the Vedic Aryans. These people who are known for their heroic deeds and being great warriors drove away the tribal people who were the earliest dwellers of this region to hilly areas and the Vratyas are settled in the fertile plains and even today popularly known as the Odiyas who are the successful agriculturists of the state. Later these people were defeated by the Utkalas and the Vratyas had to shift themselves to mountainous regions of Western Odisha. The Savaras who count more than one million now living in Odisha claim themselves to be the earliest inhabitants of Odisha.

The people of Odisha take pride in their ethnic mosaic which includes nearly 62 vibrant tribes including 13 primitive tribal groups who are scattered throughout the state. Some of the primitive groups of the tribal people of Odisha living in the Eastern Ghats are the Bonda of Koraput and the Kondhs of Kandhmal.The people of the Bonda community are very unpredictable in their behavior whereas the Kondhs are the largest tribal community of Odisha who are believed to be the descendants of the Proto-Australoid ethnic group and speak Kui language, a Dravidian language written in Oriyan script. The Kondhs are known for their human sacrifice which is no more practiced. The people belonging to the Gadaba tribe are known to be one of the earliest settlers of the country who have been mentioned in ancient epics like Ramayana. They are found in various places of Odisha like Koraput, Kalahandi, Sundergarh, Gangam, Sampalpur and Boudh Phulbani districts.

The people of Odisha being ruled by various rulers, their culture along with arts and crafts has also emerged accordingly. It is the language and the culture of the Aryans seen in Odisha. These people who made their entry from the north eastern state can be defined as those very primitive nor can you term them to have a decent cultural background. Thus the present style of the living of the people of Odisha is a result of the racial and cultural amalgamation. Also the geography of the state contributes to its culture for the state stands as a coastal corridor between the northern and southern India and having a blend of the races and cultures of the Aryans and the Dravidians. Though the people and the state are slowly getting urbanized, still certain primitive traditions and values are kept alive in its original or ancient form for the major portion of the state is largely in its rural form. The people of Odisha are known for their rich cultural heritage and have an amalgamation of the Jagannath cult, the Vaishnav cult and Buddhism and Sivayat cult. Odia apart from being the oldest language of the state is also the most commonly spoken and the official language of the state where at least 85% of the total population speak this language. There is also other tribal languages spoken by the different group of tribal people.

The music of Odisha is said to be as old as 2500 years which contributes a major percentage to the cultural heritage of the people of Odisha. Odissi is the lyrical form of dance which is very famous across the globe. It is a traditional form of classical dance and belonged to the 'Devadasi' cult, wherein young women were 'married' to gods and remained in the service of the temple, worshipping their lord and master. Chhau Dance, Danda Dance, Ghoomra Dance, Animal Mask Dance, Kathi Dance, Kedu Dance, Ranapa Dance, Paika Dance, and various tribal Dances contribute to other subtle dance forms and style of the people of Odisha. Among the tribal community and in the rural part of the state Baunsa Rani circus is very famous. Other theatrical performances include Pala and Daskathia.The people were very much patronized by the Kings for their artistic performances and this led to creativity by the artists in various fields and has passed on to ages. Some of the most famous Oriya paintings are the Bhitichitra or the murals, the Patachitra or the cloth painting and the Pothichitra or the palm leaf engraving .These paintings mainly uses motifs and themes based on folklores, legends and myths. The people of Odisha are very famous for their applique work which is a method of art involving super imposing patches of colored cloth on a fabric base to create bright and vivid bedcovers, garden umbrellas, wall hangings and hand fan,s etc.

Mostly the people of Odisha including the tribal population follow the traditions pertaining to the Hindus with a small variation depending on the various racial groups they originate from and finally it is displayed as a blend. Mostly all the religious and social ceremonies like wedding, birth and death include singing songs, rural dances along with feasts. The people believe in supernatural beings and they don't have one standard god or spirit for their belief changes as new ones come their way. These supernatural beings vary from each other by composition, function, character and nature. Some are charitable; some are impartial and some are ill-disposed, to which more importance was given by the people. The main outlook of the tribal people was that of the prediction of the environment for all the ritual activities are based on these natural powers. Any disaster or calamity caused to the people is believed to be due to the curse or malicious act of the Gods or ancestors. At times of religious festivals and fairs, sacrifices of different kinds of livestocks along with rituals are quite common among the people. They believe it is a way to appease the god and spirits. Any decision making is confirmed only after the appeasement of Gods and good omens for the people are extremely superstitious in nature. All their spiritual needs is catered by the functional heads of various communities like in the Saoras community- the priests are divided into three categories namely the Buyya are those who preside over agricultural festivals, offers and sacrifices. The functions of priest, prophet and medicine-man put together are taken care by the Kudan. The sacerdotal head among the Juang is called Nagam or Buita, Pujari or Sisa among the Bondos and Jani among the Kondhs.

The traditional dress of the men of Odisha is dhoti and kurta and the women dress up in saris. Mostly the working men tie a turban around their head and also use this piece of cloth to put on their shoulder. This piece of cloth is called as gamuchha.Lungi is quite common among rural areas which is more of an informal outfit and mostly used by the younger generation. But with modernization and urbanization the people are also slowly opting for western outfits.

Orissa food
The staple food of the people of Odisha is rice. They have a lot of liking for creamy rich curd in their food. Sea food is also favorite among the people and they cook it by the traditional method in curd and coconut milk. Sometimes brinjal and pumpkin is also cooked in curd. The vegetarian delicacies of the people are Alu bhajia, alu dum, alu matter and charchari and usually the vegetables are seasoned with panch-poron, which is a mixture of cumin, fenugreek and black cumin. They eat crab, prawns, chicken and mutton. There is also the widely prevalent practice of taking cooked rice soaked in water overnight, called pakhal, as an alternative to a warm rice meal.

Orissa land
Agriculture is the man occupation of the people of Odisha and the state constitutes to about at least one tenth of the total production of rice from India. Some of the small scale industries include beverages, tobacco, gur and molasses which are important. However the people living in urban areas are into trade and other profession. The people are also into aqua- culture and fishery.

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