Odia people

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"Odias" redirects here. For other uses, see Odia.
Total population
31 million
Regions with significant populations
Primary populations in: Other:
Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam
Related ethnic groups

The Odia, known classically by various names (Oriya, Odri, Utkaliya, Kalingi, Latin: Uri), are an ethnic group of eastern India. They constitute a majority in the eastern coastal state of Odisha, with minority populations in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Karnataka, 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 (that is, an Orissi or Odishan), more precisely refers to the ethnic group which natively speaks the Odia language. 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 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 socio-religious structure that has disappeared from most of North India. The earliest Odias were called Orda or Kalingas. Then Utkals. The Kalinga people were first to have stablished sea route trade links with Sri Lanka and far east like Java,Bali, Sumatra, Borneo, Malaya, Burma, Thailand. Prince Vijaya along with his 700 followers were exiled to Sri Lanka by his father Singh Bahu, contemporary of Lord Buddha and King of Singhpur of Kalinga. They gave rise to Sinhalese race later on. Srivijaya dynasty was founded by Kalina people in Java and Bali. The Emperor Sailendra of Indonesia belonged Bhoumakara Dynasty of Kalinga. Odisha was first conquered by the Mauryan Empire around 261 BCE. 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 Meghavahana Aira Kharavela, a Jaina ruler conquered vast territory and Odisha or Kalinga spread from river Ganges in the north to river Godavari in the south. He seems to have captured vast area of upper Punjab too. Rajendra Chola a Tamil king of Chola Kingdom conquered 1019 CE Odisha during his expedition to the Ganges.[3] Thereafter Odisha remained an independent regional power for more than a thousand years when it began to undergo a slow decline. 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. It was carved out from Bengal in 1912 and finally became a separate province in 1936.


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.


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 970 women per 1000 men, high by Indian standards.


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.


The Odia speak the Odia language, an eastern Indo Aryan tongue that shares a common root with Pali and Sabari Language and is the oldest and richest in vocabulary among three sister languages derived from Sabari Language, the other three being Maithili, Bengali and Assamese. The spoken language varies substantially across the state and has no less than seven dialects. Mughalbandi Odia, spoken in the Cuttack and Puri districts is generally considered as the standard dialect and is the language of instruction and media. Recently the Central Government of India granted the Odia language Classical Language status.


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. Christians are generally found among the tribals 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 Odias express themselves in a variety of ways. Odissi (Orissi) is one of the classical dances of India. The Applique work of Pipli (a small village) and Sambalpuri saree are notable.

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


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 chenna jhilli, Chhena Poda, Chhenagaja, Daalma and Pakhala, Machha Besara (Fish in mustard gravy), Mansha Tarkari(Mutton curry), sea foods like Chingudi Tarakari (Prawn curry), and Kankada Tarakari (Crab curry).


Well known festivals, that are popular among the Odia people, are the Ratha Yatra which is celebrated in Puri, Odisha, Durga Puja, Nuakhai, Raja, Durga Puja, Pana Sankranti (as Vaisakhi is called in Odisha ).

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Oriya". Ethnologue. 
  2. ^ Krishnakumar, Chitra (29 May 2014). "SingOdia Community celebrates Utkal Divas.". Pravasi Express. Retrieved 14 September 2015. 
  3. ^ Ancient Indian History and Civilization by Sailendra Nath Sen p.281
  4. ^ http://www.mha.nic.in/pdfs/Padma(E)2013.pdf Archived 28 February 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Sorry for the inconvenience." (PDF). presidentofindia.nic.in. 
  6. ^ "Odisha Profile" (PDF). Orissa. 
  7. ^ "Welcome to Orissa Post". Orissapost.com. Retrieved 2013-09-24. 

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