Odia people

"Odias" redirects here. For other uses, see Odia.
(ଓଡ଼ିଆ ଲୋକ)
Regions with significant populations

Primary populations in:

Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam

The Odia, known classically by various names (Oriya, Odri, Utkaliya, Kalingi,ଓଡ଼ିଆ), are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group of eastern India. They constitute a majority in the eastern coastal state of Odisha, with minority populations in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

The vast majority of the Odias are Hindus and are known for their history of Sun worship. Odisha is home to some of the oldest Sun temples in India, including Konark. There are small Christian and Muslim minorities.

The term 'Odia', while sometimes used to refer to any inhabitant of Odisha, more precisely refers to the ethnic group which natively speaks the Odia language. The Greek writers like Ptolemy and pliny have referred to the Odra people as Oretes in their accounts. While many of Munda people have adopted the Odia language, they maintain a distinct identity and there is no discernible admixture between them and the Odias.


The earliest Odias were called Orda or Kalingas. Utkals was a later name.

The word Odia has mentions in epics like the Mahabharata. The Odrakas are mentioned as one of the peoples that fought in the Mahabharata, a testimony to their Aryan roots. 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 king.


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 earliest Odias were called Orda or Kalingas. A later name is Utkals.

Noteworthy rulers like the Jaina emperor Karakandu (7th Century B.C.E) and the Buddhist king Brhamadutta (5th Century B.C.E) strengthened the region as one powerful political entity. A part of Odisha was first conquered by the Nanda dynasty ruler Mahapadma Nanda in 4th Century B.C.E and later by Ashoka of Mauryan Empire around 261 B.C.E for brief periods of time. The resulting bloodshed was the catalyst that led to the Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka eschewing warfare and converting to Buddhism and spreading Buddhism outside India.

Emperor Kharavela (2nd Century B.C.E), a Jaina ruler conquered vast territory in Kalinga and surrounding areas. Successive emperors like Satrubhanja (4th Century A.D), Langula Narasingha Deva I (13th Century A.D) and Kapilendra Deva Routaray (15th Century A.D) hailing from different dynasties captured vast territories and formed huge Odisha region concentric empires. The fourth quarter of the first millennium saw the rule of Bhaumakara dynasty on Odisha in which a successive line of eight queens reigned over the land despite the availability of male heirs. This seems to be a unique occurrence of attaining heights in the field of women empowerment in India and the world history.

Rajendra Chola, a Tamil king of Chola Kingdom conquered and sacked 1019 CE Odisha during his expedition to the Ganges.[2] This led to the decline of the ruling Somavamshi dynasty and the rise of the medieval powers in India like the Eastern Ganga and Suryavamshi Gajapati dynasty. 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.

The Odias were basically a peasant and warrior class of hardy people that came under the rule of the British. The Odia Paika militia was renounced and the most feared fighting force of eastern India during the times of the Gajapati rulers. 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 organized 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 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 moments 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.


It is impossible to arrive at a precise figure for the Odia population. The Census of India 2001 pegged the population of Odisha at around 36 million. Around 8 million of these people belong to the Scheduled Tribes. Therefore, the Odias number around 27 million. Smaller Odia communities may also be found in the neighbouring states of West Bengal (Midnapore), Jharkhand (West Singhbhum, East Singhbhum, Saraikela Kharsawan), Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh (Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam district). Surat in Gujarat also has a large Odia population, primarily from the southern district of Ganjam that works in its diamond industry. The sex ratio is around 979 women per 1000 men, high by Indian standards.

Language and literature

Around 55-60 million people in Odisha and adjoining areas speak and use Odia language which is also one of the six classical languages of India. Odia shares a common root with Pali and Sabari language and is the oldest and richest in vocabulary among four sister languages derived from Sabari language, the other three being Maithili, Bengali and Assamese. 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 the 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 Ganga 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 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 also popularized as Kosli and prominent poets and writers have emerged like Haldar Nag.

For more details on this topic, see Odia language.

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 comapred to other cultures in India. Remarkable Odia women like Sarala Devi, Rama Devi, Kuntala Kumari Sabat, Malati Choudhury, Pravavati Devi, Arnapurna Devi, 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. New generation of young women in Odisha pursue higher education and are carrier oriented in nature.


Odisha has a rich indigenous culture that is heavily influenced by the original tribal inhabitants of the land. It is also remarkable for its almost total absence of Islamic influence, largely owing to its relative isolation from the Indian mainstream.


Odisha is one of the most religiously homogeneous states in India. More than 95% of the people are followers of Hinduism. The practices of the Jagannath sect are extremely popular in the state and the annual Rath Yatra in Puri draws pilgrims from across India. 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 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 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 he 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. Following remarkably logical arguments put forth by many scholars and intellects some believe that Gautama Buddha himself was born in Odisha.

Hindu sects like Shaiva and Saktism 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 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 the Odisha state are dedicated to the Sakti 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 Boudh and Kandhamal. Around 2% of the people are Muslims, most of them descendants of migrants from North India and elsewhere. The larger concentration of the minority Muslim population is in the districts of Bhadrak, Kendrapada and Cuttack.


The Odia architecture has a rich and unique architectural tradition that dates back to at least the 6th century A.D. from the times of the Sailodbhav 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.


Odissi (Orissi) is one of the classical dances of India. The Applique work of Pipili (a small village), and Sambalpuri saree are notable. The silver filigree work from cuttack and Pattachitra of Raghurajpur are some really authentic representation of ancient Indian art & culture.

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


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.

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.


Main article: Cuisine of Odisha

Odia cuisine is a reflection of the state's location. Many dishes of Odia origin are mistakenly considered to be Bengali in the rest of India. 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.

Pithas or country cakes are an integral part of Odia traditional life. Any Odia festival is incomplete without a variety of Pitha as traces its origin to the Odia culture and been adored by neighboring states.


Odia people are festive in nature and a wide variety of festivals are celebrated throughout the year for which it is said 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, Nuakhai, Pushpuni, Pua Jiunita, Raja, Dola Purnima, Pana Sankranti (as Vaisakhi is called in Odisha ), Karthika Purnima / Boita Bandana, Khudrukuni puja /Tapoi Osa, etc.

Notable people

See also


  1. "Oriya". Ethnologue.
  2. Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen p.281
  3. http://www.mha.nic.in/pdfs/Padma(E)2013.pdf Archived 28 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. "Sorry for the inconvenience." (PDF). presidentofindia.nic.in.
  5. "Odisha Profile" (PDF). Orissa.
  6. "Welcome to Orissa Post". Orissapost.com. Retrieved 2013-09-24.

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