Puri is famous for its temples and festivals but few of us are aware that the place has an interesting history to relate as well. As you flip through the old historical records of the district, you will know that the place was initially a hill-lock enveloped with thick tropical forest with miles and miles of woodland. Right from the ancient ages, the district was never deemed as a potential political seat but was rather rendered as a religious and cultural hub in Orissa. The myth surrounding the origins of Puri remains dubious. It is said that the place came to be known only after the Ganga kings founded the region. During the rule of the Ganga kingdom, the place grew spiritually and reached the zenith of Vaisnavism. During the Mughal, the Maratha and the British rule in the region Puri served as a main centre for revenue collection. During the British rule in India, Puri grew as an important administration centre managing revenue collection activities in the region. Read the article to know more about the history of Puri.
Have you ever wondered how old the ancient city of Puri is? Did you know that there are several versions about the early history of Puri? According to the local people, the place first belonged to a distinct Austro-Asiatic tribe before it came to be ruled by the kings of the Ganga dynasty. Early history refers King Chodagangadeva of the Ganga dynasty as the founder of the Purusottama Jagannath shrine from which the city got its former name of Purusottam Kshetra. Another historian Cunningham contradicts the above version. According to him, the place was named as 'Charitra' by a Chinese explorer who visited the place. However, it remains unclear how the place got its name of 'Puri'.
While speaking about the history of Puri, one cannot miss the spiritual and cultural importance of the region. During the medieval time, under the dominance of the Hindu kings, Puri reached the height of spiritualism. Several 'matha' (i.e. abbeys) were founded in the region, Govardhana and Adi Shankara matha being the most popular ones in the country. The purpose of the mathas was to spread the message of Hinduism. Even today, the place continues to hold great importance to most Hindu followers.
Mughal & Maratha Era
Before the supremacy of the Muslim rule in the country, the district of Puri had already become a popular town. Several tourists used to visit the place to have a glance of the Jagannath temple. Apart from being a popular pilgrimage centre and the highest pedestal for Vaisnavism among Hindus, Puri also began to flourish spiritually with several Hindu monasteries being set up in the region during this time. The Mughal leaders, taking advantage of the situation, took hold of the opportunity to collect land revenues from the landlords. If the owners refused to pay the revenue income to the royal members, the lands were confiscated. Owing to this, the region near the constituency of Orissa was divided into to three important "circars" such as Jaleswar, Bhadrak and Kataka for the collection of revenue. The district of Puri fell under the province of Kataka. Over the years, the state of Orissa expanded towards the south and later two more revenue heads were added. With the arrival of the British, the state underwent different divisions.
When the English had captured the state of Orissa, they were unaware and new to the concept of revenue collection policy in the region. Soon they followed the Mughal strategy of revenue collection that prevailed in many parts of Bengal. Under the British rule, the place underwent a change in the divisions. Orissa was fragmented into north and south districts. By 1816, Puri not only became the capital of Orissa but also was the head of the administrative revenue affairs in the region. Despite several proposals on behalf of certain governing officials to change the revenue headquarters to other provinces in Orissa, Puri remained as an important and convenient governmental centre. Over the years, the British made further amends with respect to the region and by 1912, the Oriya speaking areas were reshuffled and merged with the new provinces in the state. After Independence, the place continued to undergo several revises with regard to its boundaries.