Orissa News

Within their own jurisdiction, the Mughal authorities’ couldnot exercise full control as there were frequent revolts by Orissa princes. The rulers of Mayurbhanj, Kendujhar, Kanika, Khordha, and Khalikot, among others, did not consider the Mughals as their legitimate suzerain and defied the Subedars whenever opportunity arose. The kings of Khordha, at the core of Orissa, were in continuous hostility towards the Mughal Governors, making the latter’s administration shaky and uncertain. The Mughal period of nearly two hundred years in Orissa was, thus, a period of confusions and chaos, affecting adversely the stability and prosperity of the land.

But it was during this period that the Oriya merchants carried on their brisk overseas trade and commerce as in earlier days and helped to maintain the prosperous economy of the country as before. Lured by Orissa’s economic potentiality the European traders in large numbers came for their trade settlements on the coasts of Orissa. The Portuguese, the Danish, the Dutch, the English, and the French found plentiful of commodities for markets outside. The Mughal administration permitted the Europeans for their commercial enterprise and activities. A number of sea ports like Baleshwar and Pipli flourished during the time as the centres of external trade.

Another notable thing about the Mughal rule in Orissa was that unlike other parts of the country where people were forced into conversions to muslim,Orissa was left untouched.The reason being, the delayed beginning of Muslim rule which had subsided the earlier zeal for conversion. Secondly, the medieval Bhakti Movement had taken so deep a root in the Oriya mind that the new religious upsurge around the cult of Jagannath did not permit any external impact to a perceptible extent.

Islam had, however, succeeded in making an impact in the Oriya culture as a whole as it got embedded into the Oriya literature.Hundreds of Arabic, Persian and Urdu words made their way into local dialect. The cult of Satyapir appealed to the popular imagination and rather became a widely prevailing faith. The famous Muslim poet, Sal Baig, composed numerous devotional poems resulting in an unprecedented cultural synthesis. Some of the famous Muslim shrines like the Quadam-I-Rasul and the Bokhari Sahib of Kaipadar attracted both Hindus and Muslims for devotional purpose. Places like Bhadrak assumed importance because of Muslim festivities like the Mughal Tamasha.Subsequently people of both the sect learnt to accept each others tradition and live in perfect cordiality.

Under a declining state of influence during the later part of Aurangzeb’s rule, the noble of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, Aliverdi Khan, became virtually independent. But he fell prey to the rising might of Marathas who after long drawn battle with him were able to acquire the province of Orissa.

Maratha Rule

The Maratha administration of Orissa effectively began from the year 1751. Raghuji Bhonsle-I became the new master of the territory and a new system of government was put into operation. The Marathas divided Orissa into two broad political divisions: the Mughalbandi and the Garhjat.

The Mughalbandi, comprised of the coastal districts and was divided into 150 Parganas and placed under 32 Revenue Commissioners or Amils. Each Pargana was divided into several Mahalas. For a systematic and better collection of revenue, hereditary revenue collectors titled as Talukdars, Kanungos and Chaudhuris were appointed. Attempts were also made to collect the revenue directly from the raiyats or through the village headmen. The administration paid attention to the welfare of the peasants in particular. While embankments were constructed to protect extensive cultivable lands against flood, the peasants were given at times remission from payment of land revenue when there was crop failure due to flood or drought.Marthas were responsible for popularising rath yatra

The Garhjat region covered the hill tracts of Orissa was allowed to be ruled by 24 tributary chiefs, who paid light tributes to the Maratha Government. The chiefs were bound by engagements that permitted their autonomy. They administered their respective areas, maintained their forces and enjoyed princeship by status, but side by side, they had to respect the Maratha Raja of Nagpur as their overlord. Against possible rebellions from their side, the Marathas maintained a big force at Cuttack. The Marathas relation with the Orissa chiefs was more effective and purposeful than that of the Mughals.

They realized the importance of indirect taxes and for the first time in the history of the state introduced the Pilgrimage tax that was charged from the visiting tourists. Thus pilgrimage to Orissa, particularly to the Jagannath temple of Puri, from other parts of India was encouraged by the Marathas. Extra attention was paid to uphold the sanctity of religious places and shrines. Grants were allotted for repair of temples. The temple of Jagannath was brought under direct management of the Government with special attention paid for its preservation and maintenance. The great festivals of Puri received total government patronage. All major temples, monasteries and Mathas of the state received help from the Maratha Government.

In brief, the Maratha regime, distinguished itself for making Orissa a centre of attraction for numerous people of India. It goes further to the credit of the Marathas that they granted lands and paid financial help to some of the noted Muslim shrines in Orissa.