The Usable Past
Sachidananda Mohanty
THE NATIONAL MOVEMENTS AND POLITICS IN ORISSA, 1920-1929 by Pritish Acharya Sage Series, 2010, 301 pp., 595
April 2010, volume 34, No 4

In the public domain, public knowledge of Orissa (now happily renamed Odisha) seldom goes beyond Biju / J.B. / Navin Patnaik, Tata/ POSCO projects, starvation deaths in Kalahandi, and now, the menace of Maoist violence on the Andhra-Orissa border. More polite conversation might veer around Oriya bureaucrats in state capitals, Pattachitra paintings of Puri, Jatin / Nandita Das, Sambalpuri sarees, Konarka temple and Odissi dance of Sonal Mansingh

Oriya students on JNU / Delhi University campuses, or the working / blue collar Oriyas in India and abroad, indeed ordinary Oriyas, seem to believe that destiny has been less than fair to their land. After all, goes the argument, both legend and history seem to have conspired to make Oriyas the losers. In the Mahabharata War, it is said, Kalinga backed the Kauravas, the losing side. The same kingdom at a later date was vanquished by Asoka the Great in the devastating Kalinga War.

Mukunda Dev, the last independent King of Orissa tragically lost out to the Afghans in the Gohiratikri battle, near Bhadrak. And finally, the British preferred the three villages on the banks of Hooghly for their settlement rather than Balasore, on the bank of Budhabalanga and Subarnarekha.

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