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Odissa

Orissa is officially spelled as Odisha, is a state of India, located on the east coast of India, by the Bay of Bengal. It is the modern name of the ancient kingdom of Kalinga, which was invaded by theMauryan Emperor Ashoka in 261 BCE. The modern state of Orissa was established on April 1, 1936, as a province in British India and consisted predominantly of Oriya speakers. April 1 is therefore celebrated as Utkala Dibasa (foundation day of Orissa). Cuttack remained the capital of the state for over eight centuries until April 13, 1948 when Bhubaneswar was officially declared as the new capital of Orissa, and still is the present capital of this state.

Orissa is the 9th largest state by area in India, and the 11th largest by population. Oriya (officially spelled Odia) is the official and most widely spoken language, spoken by three quarters of the population. Orissa has a relatively unindented coastline (about480 km long) and lacked good ports, except for the deepwater facility at Paradip, until the recent launch of the Dhamara Port. The narrow, level coastal strip, including the Mahanadi river delta supports the bulk of the population.

The name Orissa is derived from the Pali or Sanskrit words Ora (Ura) or Odra Desa or Sumera or Odra Visaya The earliest epigraphic reference to Odras is found in the Soro copper plate grant of Somadatta from which it is clear that Uttara Tosali with its visaya Sarepahara identified with Soro of Balasore (Baleswar) district was part of Odra Visaya. Both Pali and Sanskrit literatures mention the Odra people as Oddaka and Odrah, respectively. Ancient writers like Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy described the Odra people as Oretes. In the Mahabharata the Odras are mentioned along with the Paundras, Utkals, Mekalas, Kalingas and Andhras, while according to Manu the Odras are associated with the Paundrakas, DravidasKambojasYavanasSakas, Paradas, Pallavas,Chinas Kiratas and Khasas. The location of the Odra territory has been given in the Natural History of Pliny in which it is mentioned that the Oretes were inhabiting the country where the mount Maleus stood. The Greek Oretes is probably the Sanskrit Odra and the Mount Maleus has been identified with Malayagiri near Pala Lahara. Pliny associates the mount Maleus with the people called Monedes and Sharis who were probably the same as the Mundas and the Savaras respectively inhabiting the upland regions of Orissa.

Visitors also called the Orissa with different names. The Chinese pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang who visited Orissa in about 636 CE gives an account of the territory named Wu-Che which is very likely the same as Odra. The pilgrim states that the Wu-Cha (Wu-tu) country was above 7,000 li in circuit and its capital was above 20 li in circuit. The area of the territory, which was 7,000 li or (2,253 km) in circuit, was very extensive. The Muslim geographer Ibn Khurdadhbin who wrote his geography in 846 CE refers to a territory called Ursfin which is identified by the Russian scholar V. Minorsky with Odra Desa. In another Persian geography called Hudad-al Alam written towards the close of the 10th century CE mention has been made of a territory called Urshin (Odra Desa) which has been associated with the territories called N. Myas, Harkand, Smnder and Andhras which were more or less contiguous. The territory called N. Myas may be Mahismati and Harkand is suggested to be Akarakhand (eastern Malwa). Urshin may be the same as Odra Desa and Smnder may be the territory bordering the sea. Andhras is without doubt the same as Andhra Desa. Alberuni has referred to a territory called Udra Vishau located 50 forsakhs towards the sea in the south from the Tree of Prayaga. Fifty forsakhs is equal to about 200 miles or 321.86 km. So Udra Vishau may be the same as Odra Desa.

In the medieval Muslim chronicles like Tabaquat-I-Nasiri, Tabaquat-I-Akbari, Riyadus-Salatin, Tarkh-I-Firuzsahi, etc., the Odra territory has been referred to as Jajnagar probably after the capital Jajatinagar or Jajatinagar. The territory of Jajnagar very probably denotes to the Ganga empire during the period from Chodagangadeva to Anangabhimdeva III when Jajatinagar (modern Jagati on the Mahanadi) was the capital of that empire. It was Anangabhimadeva III who transferred the capital from Jajatinagar to Baranasi Kataka. Even after the change of capital some Muslim chroniclers continued to call this territory as Jajnagar. Shams-I-Seraj-Afif called this territory as Jajnagar-Udisa with its capital city Banaras on the right bank of the Mahanadi. The word ‘Udisa’ added to Jajnagar appears very significant. It is a developed form of the word Ursfin or Urshin used by earlier Muslim writers of the 9th and 10th centuries CE. InBuddhist literature this word is expressed as Odivisa or Udivisa as found in the works of Lama Taranath and the author of Pag-Sam-Jon-Zang. In the Tantric literature of the mediaeval period the word Udisa has been frequently used and in Tantrasara, Jagannath has been referred to as Udisanatha. Poet Sarala Das mentions both the words Odra Rastra and Orissa in his famous treatise Mahabharata while Gajapati Kapileswaradeva (1435–1467 CE) in his proclamation inscribed on the temple walls of Jagannath calls his territory as Orissa Rajya or Orissa Rastra. Thus, from the 15th century CE onwards, the land of the Oriya people was called Orissa.

On November 4, 2011, the English rendering of the name Orissa was officially changed to "Odisha". The change required minor amendments to the Orissa Bill and the Constitution (113th) Amendment Bill which were approved by both houses of parliament. The Oriya language is now officially rendered "Odia" in English.