Orissa (ərĭsˈə, ō–) [key], state (2001 provisional pop. 36,706,920), 60,162 sq mi (155,820 sq km), E India, on the Bay of Bengal. Bhubaneswar is the capital. The relatively unindented coastline (c.200 mi/320 km long) lacks good ports save for the deepwater facility at Paradwip. The narrow, level coastal strip, including the Mahanadi River delta, is exceedingly fertile. Rainfall is heavy and regular, and two crops of rice (by far the most important food) are grown annually. In the south are the Eastern Ghats, which yield valuable timber. Supporting a major industrial zone in the north are deposits of iron, manganese, coal, and mica. A canal system links the Mahanadi River with the Hugli River in West Bengal. The temple-dotted cities of Konarak, Puri, and Bhubaneswar attract many tourists. The dense population, concentrated on the coastal alluvial plain, is Oriya-speaking. The interior, inhabited largely by Munda-speaking aborigines, is hilly and mountainous. Orissa is subject to intense cyclones; in Oct., 1999, one caused severe damage and some 10,000 deaths.
In ancient times the region of Orissa was the center of the Kalinga kingdom, although it was temporarily conquered (c.250 B.C.) by Asoka and held for almost a century by the Mauryas. With the gradual decline of Kalinga, several Hindu dynasties arose and built temples at Bhubaneswar, Puri, and Konarak. After long resistance to the Muslims, the region was overcome (1568) by Afghan invaders and passed to the Mughal empire.
After the fall of the Mughals, Orissa was divided between the Nawabs of Bengal and the Marathas. In 1803 it was conquered by the British. The coastal section, which was made (1912) part of Bihar and Orissa Province, became in 1936 the separate province of Orissa. In 1948 and 1949 the area of Orissa was almost doubled and the population was increased by a third with the addition of 24 former princely states. In 1950, Orissa became a constituent state of India. It is governed by a chief minister and cabinet responsible to an elected unicameral legislature and by a governor appointed by the president of India.
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