(Last Updated on : 07/01/2010)
Mostly located on the coast along the Bay of Bengal, the villages of Orissa are endowed with natural beauty with virgin beaches, serpentine rivers, rich wildlife, etc. Their wonderful scenic beauty attracts several tourists from all over India every year. One can enjoy the charm of lush green and fertile plains in the villages, most of which are surrounded by palm, coconut trees and mango groves in Orissa. A major portion of Orissa's total population resides in the villages. The villages of Orissa are rich in tradition and cultural heritage and the villagers celebrate several colourful festivals throughout the year.
People following different religious beliefs live together in the villages of Orissa. The predominant religious community in the villages is the Hindus. The villages of Orissa have one of the highest Hindu populations among all villages in India. The castes like Brahmins, Karans, Kshatriyas, etc. are the major Hindu castes in Orissa. Apart from the Hindus, the other major religious communities include the Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Vaishnavs, Saivas, Christians, etc. The tribal religion of Sarana is also followed by some people in the villages of Orissa. Many tribal communities also reside in the villages of Orissa and in fact, Orissa is home to one of the highest number of tribes in India. Most of the tribal communities live in the villages located in the three districts of Koraput (undivided), Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj. The major tribes in Orissa include Santal, Munda, Oram, Gond, Juanga, Bhuiyan, Saora, Dharua, Bonda, Koya, Mohali, Lohara, etc.
The principal language spoken in the villages of Orissa is Oriya. The language is closely related to Assamese, Bengali and Maithili and it has many linguistic variations. The most common linguistic variations of Oriya include Baleswari (Balasore), Bhatri (Koraput), Laria (Sambalpur), Sambalpuri, Ganjami, Chhattisgarhi, Medinipuri, etc. Oriya is also the official language of the state. Apart from Oriya, the other languages spoken in the villages of Orissa include Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Telugu, Gujarati, etc. Some tribal dialects are also spoken in the villages of Orissa.
The villages of Orissa have an impressive educational scenario. Many government primary schools have been established in the villages of Orissa to provide primary education. There are also a few private organisations that work for providing primary education to the villagers. After completing the primary and secondary education, the students can pursue higher education in the colleges and universities located in the urban areas. Though, the rural literacy rate in Orissa is good, the governmental authorities are trying hard to further improve the educational status of the villages of Orissa.
The principal source of occupation in the villages of Orissa is agriculture. Like most villages in other parts of India, a majority of the rural population in Orissa is dependent on agriculture to earn their livelihoods. The villages of Orissa are one of the largest producers of rice in India and they contribute to almost one tenth of the total rice production of the country. Apart from rice, the other major crops cultivated in the villages of Orissa include jute, oil seeds, pulses, coconut, sugarcane, tea, rubber, cotton, gram, mustard, maize, sesame, ragi, potato, soybean, etc. Many people in the villages of Orissa are also engaged in non-agricultural activities. They are involved in various occupations including forest based husbandry and the industries like minerals, cement, paper, sugar, fertilizer, iron and steel, handloom, etc. Another major source of occupation in the villages of Orissa is arts and crafts. The villagers in Orissa are famous all over the country for the unique and exceptional handicrafts like Patta Chitra, Sand Art, Metal Work, Silver Filigree, Stone Carving, etc. They are also famous for making Puppets and Masks etc.
The villages of Orissa have a rich tradition of art and cultural activities. The rural people celebrate various fairs and festivals throughout the year with pomp and cheerfulness. The festivals have always been a part and parcel of village life in Orissa. The villagers celebrate all the popular festivals like Holi, Diwali, Dussehra, etc. Apart from these, there are also some regional and local festivals. The Ratha Yatra is the principal festival in Orissa. Apart from Ratha Yatra, the other major festivals include Dhanu Yatra, Magha Saptami, Makar Sankranti, Mahastami, Kumar Purnima, Dipavali Amavasya, Sri Nrusingha Chatturdashi, Janmashtami, Kartika Purnima, Navaratri, Sri Vinayak Chaturthi/ Ganesh Chaturthi, Sri Rakhi Purnima, etc.
The rhythmic flow of folk melody and graceful dancing steps of damsels is always an integral part of the Oriya village culture. People in the villages of Orissa perform different forms of traditional music and dance during the fairs and festivals. The most popular folk or traditional music forms in the villages include Balipuja Geeta, Kendra Geeta, Jaiphula Geeta, Bhajan, Sariman, Champu, Malasri, Vyanjani, Chaturang, Tribhang, etc. The traditional dance form of Orissa, Odissi is one of the most important features of celebration of festivals in the villages. Apart from Odissi, the other popular dance forms performed during the festivals include Chhau, Naga dance, Humo, Bauli, Jhulki, Jamudali, Mayalajar, Gunjikata, Ghumra, etc.
The villages of Orissa present a unique blend of tradition and modernity. The villagers like to preserve their traditional forms of music and dance and they have also willingly accepted the modern musical and dance forms. This rich variety and cultural diversity has made the villages of Orissa one of the most attractive tourist destinations. The villages play a major role in the tourism sector of the state by attracting several tourists from all over the country, every year.