Orissa, an ancient province of India, now forming a commissionership of Bengal, extending about 250 m. along the W. side of the bay of Bengal, and bounded S. by Madras and W. by the Central Provinces; area, 23,901 sq. m.; pop. in 1872, 4,317,999. It consists of three seaboard districts, Balasore in the north, Pooree in the south, and Cuttack between them, with 19 tributary states in the interior. The three maritime districts consist of low and nearly flat plains, varying in width from 9 m. in Balasore to 40 m. in Cuttack. The geological formation of the tributary states belongs to the metamorphic series, and the general surface is composed of successive ranges of mountains from 2,500 to 3,500 ft. high, stretching seaward from the plateau of central India, and separated by the valleys of the three principal rivers of the province. The greatest river is the Mahanuddy, which waters the southern portion of Cuttack. False Point, at the principal mouth of the Mahanuddy, encloses one of the finest harbors in India. The Chilka lake, in the S. E. corner of the province, near the bay of Bengal, is 44 m. long, 5 to 20 m. wide, and only 3 to 6 ft. deep. It is fresh in summer, but salt in winter. Much salt is made by solar evaporation. The climate of Orissa is hot, wet, and unhealthy.
In Cuttack the annual temperature averages 84°, and the yearly rainfall 63.18 inches. The tributary states and the hilly border of the organized districts constitute the forest region. The saul tree is the chief timber product of the interior; resin, lac, and valuable vine fibres are also obtained. Ebony, bamboo, and rattan are produced in Poo-ree. There are many wild animals, and large coarse oysters are found in Pooree. Rice is the staple crop and main article of food, and pulses are also extensively cultivated. Other products are jute, hemp, flax, tobacco, sugar cane, maize, cotton, and oil seeds. The government has constructed a high level canal from the Brahmani river to the city of Cuttack, and the Kendrapara canal along the N. arm of the Mahanuddy delta. The commerce is chiefly carried on through the port at False Point. - The Indo-Aryan Hindoo race of Uriyas constitute the largest portion of the population. There are several immigrant castes of Hindoos. It is estimated that one fourteenth of the population of Cuttack consists of Mohammedans. The aboriginal races are represented by the Kandhs, Kols, and Savars, all hill tribes.
Small communities of native Christians exist in Pooree and Cuttack, and the Roman Catholics and American Freewill Baptists maintain missions in Balasore. The chief towns are Cuttack, the capital, on the Mahanuddy, Jeypoor, Juggernaut, Balasore, and Pooree. The government of the organized districts is administered by a commissioner. The supervision of the native tributary states is intrusted to a superintendent. - Orissa first appears in history as an aboriginal kingdom under the name of Odra, although it is called Kalinga in the ancient Sanskrit records. Prior to 250 B. C. it was colonized by Aryans, and Buddhism subsequently became the religion of the country. About A. D. 500 a Hindoo dynasty rose into power, and Buddhism was gradually supplanted by Brahmanism. About 1590 the Hindoo kingdom was subjugated by the Mohammedan emperor Akbar and became a dependency of the Mogul empire. In 1751 the governor of Bengal ceded it to the Mahrattas, under whose misrule it remained for upward of 50 years.
The British permanently annexed it to their dominions in 1803. Orissa has repeatedly suffered terrible famines; the latest occurred in 1866, the mortality of which is variously estimated at from 750,000 to 2,000,000. - See "Orissa," by W. W. Hunter, director general of the statistical survey of India (2 vols., London, 1872).