Time stops in Cuttack. Katakis are a confident lot, with thousand years of history behind them. Thousands of Katakis witnessed the Century’s worst floods in their unique style, eating Dahibara and Aloo Dum on the embankments of Kathajodi and Mahanadi. Bhaichara, Parampara and Aitiho : these three words dominate every public discourse in Cuttack. Roughly translated, these words mean brotherhood, tradition and history. We have seen all, is the predominant sentiment of Katakis. And truly so, as Katakis have seen the glory of Kalinga Empire, the might of Mauryan Ashoka, the Marathas and the Mughals, the British and the fight for independence. Pride of thousand years’ existence has an equalizing effect.
1803 is the foundation year of the Cuttack district under the Bengal Presidency of the British India. It was the capital of Odisha with Cuttack Commissioner as the head of the British Government. The district has contributed liberally to Odisha’s who’s who list. It is one of the three districts that formed Odisha, viz., Cuttack, Puri and Balasore. Always known for its complexity, Cuttack was divided into four districts on 1st April in 1993. The rest while subdivisions of Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur and Kendrapara are now separate districts.
Land of antiquities, monuments and handicrafts, the district Cuttack has a modern port at Paradeep. The growing industrial centers at Choudwar, Vyasnagar and Dhanamandal and handicraft centers at Maniabadi, Ghantimunda and Lalitgiri has made Cuttack district and all the more paddy fields with patches of hamlets thickly shaded with trees has its serene appeal to the eye of the visitors.
Cuttack is a city of thousand years old flanked between river Mahanadi and Kathajodi. The District of Cuttack is named after the Principal town as well as the head quarter of the district of the same name. The word Cuttack is an anglicized form of the Sanskrit word ‘KATAKA’ that assumes two different meanings namely “military camp” and secondly, the fort of capital on the seat of the Government protected by the army.
The city however, attended glory early in the 12<>supth century as the Capital of imperial Gangas whose empire stretches from the river Ganges in the north to the river Godavari in the south. This Capital town continued to prosper during the rule of the successive dynasties, except for a brief period of unrest when in mid-fourteenth century, Firoz Shah Tughluq invaded Odisha and let loose on orgy of vandalism, looting and destruction. After the death of Mukunda Deva, the last Hindu king of Odisha , the suzerainty of Cuttack passed on the hands of Muslims and Mughals.
This is one of Odisha’s oldest cities and was the State capital till 1950, before being shifted to Bhubaneswar. The present capital is only 35 kms towards south. Cuttack is popularly known for its traditional values and rich cultural heritage. It is also famous for silk adn cotton textiles, horn and brasswares. The exquisite, delicate silver filigree work and casting of metal sculptures of Cuttack are world famous. The sights to see here include the ruins of a 14th century Barabati Fort. Kadam Rasool, located in the centre of the city, is a sacred 18th century shrine that is revered by both Hindus and Muslims. It contains the footprint of the Prophet Mohammed. There is an 11th century stone Revetment on the Kathajodi river, which protects the city from seasonal floods. It’s a remarkable example of ancient technological skill of Odisha.
Cuttack is the centre of the Odisha canal system, which is used for transport and irrigation. Nearby are the delta of the Mahanadi and Brahmani rivers. Inland the region is hilly, and a third river, the Baitarani, also traverses the area. Entrance to the rivers is impeded by silting and sandbars. The principal agricultural produce of the district is rice. The chief industrial products of the city are silver filigree work and leather. Many educational institutions are here, including a medical school, a school of engineering, and Ravenshaw College.
- Airways: The nearest airport from Cuttack is Bhubaneswar, which is around 29 kms away. Flights to other important cities in India can be taken from here.
- Railways: Cuttack is an important station on the Kolkata-Chennai main railway line and connected to Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai through regular trains.
- Roadways: NH-5 passes through Cuttack and makes it the most accessible city of Odisha. The city is connected by road with Bhubaneswar, Puri, and other important cities of the State.
Where to stay?
There are number of big and small hotels available at Cuttack as well as Bhubaneswar, which is just 25 kilometers away from Cuttack. Cuttack is an important city of Odisha, so the accommodation facilities are also available here according to the budget of individual traveler.
- Bali YatraBaliyatra is the festival of remembering the ancient tradition of trade between Odisha and Java, Bali and Sumatra held on Mahanadi river bank at Cuttack on the fullmoon day of Kartik(considered highly auspicious for taking a voyage to distant lands) to commemorate the glorious past of commercial voyages to the islands of Bali. Odisha’s ancient maritime linkages with Bali are celebrated in this unusual festival. Tiny boats made of either paper or barks of banana tree, lit with clay lamps are floated in rivers and tanks all over the State.
Karthik Purnima was considered as the most auspicious day by the traders (Sadhabas) of Odisha to venture in their huge boats called Boita, on journeys to distant lands like the islands of Bali, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Tourism of Odisha offers tours to Odisha during the Bali Yatra fair and festival so that you can get a glimpse of Odisha’s rich cultural history.
Bali Yatra is a hugely popular fair held on the bank of river Mahanadi in the fort area of Cuttack city as well at the seashore at Paradeep. To celebrate the glory of the ancient times, the people in Cuttack as well as in the rest of Odisha float small boats made of cork, colored papers and banana tree barks in the river and water tanks. The ritual of launching tiny paper boats lit by lamps placed within its hollow is known as Boita Bandana.
Images of Karthikeswar are worshipped and immersed in the water of river Mahanadi, near the Shiva Temple, to mark the end of the month of Karthik.
- Durga PujaDussehra is the festival of Goddess Durga. Durga Puja (September-October) symbolises the commemoration of good over evil. Life comes to a stand-still in the city of Cuttack as crowds pour over the Puja Mandaps to enjoy the festivities. On the day succeeding ‘Vijaya Dasami’, the last day of Dussehra, hundreds of images of the Goddess are carried aloft through streets to be immersed, after nine days of celebrations, in the river Kathajodi. In Cuttack, the celebration of Durga Puja ( Dussehra ) is particularly vibrant with the images of the Goddess being dressed most exquisitely and finally being carried in a colourful procession for immersion in the river. The religious aspect is just one facet of the celebration, the city’s best theatrical companies put up plays, shops offer special discounts on everything from clothing to food.
- Kite Flying FestivalAmong other celebrations the Kite flying festival is very much attractive. It is held in the month of March.
- Raja SankrantiRaja Sankranti (Swing festival) or “Mithuna Sankranti” is the first day of the month of ‘Asadha’ from, which the season of rain starts. It inaugurates and welcomes the agricultural year all over Odisha, which marks through biological symbolism, the moistening of the summer parched soil with the first showers of the monsoon, thus making it ready for productivity.
All nights ‘Yatra’ performances or ‘Gotipua’ dances are arranged in prosperous villages where they can afford the professional groups. Enthusiastic amateurs also arrange plays and other kinds of entertainment.
A special variety of cake is prepared out of ingredients like rice-powder, molasses, coconut, camphor, ghee etc. known as “Poda Pitha” (burnt cake). The size of the cake varies according to the number of family members. Cakes are also exchanged among relatives and friends. Young girls do not take rice during the three-day festival and sustain only with this type of cake, fried-rice (‘Mudhi’) and vegetable curry.
For shopping and souvenirs, Cuttack is one of the best places in Odisha. The famous silver filigree works with intricate interwoven wires, horn and brass products, tie and dye textiles of Maniabandha and Sambalpur, applique works of Pipili in exquisite cloth designs and the stone works of Puri are preferred most by the tourists and make Cuttack town perhaps the grandest show room of Odisha.
The existing commercial activities of the town are mostly found along both sides of NH-5, NH-42, SH-9, SH-12, Buxi Bazar, Chhatra Bazar, Choudhury Bazar, Dargha Bazar, Ranihat, Mangalabag, O.M.P. Square, Malgodown, Balubazar, Chandini Chowk, Bajrakabati Road, Dolamundai. The Cuttack Development Authority has constructed a few Commercial Complexes namely; Jajati Kendra and Dinabandhu Bipani in Buxi Bazar Market Area, Bajrakabati Shopping Centre, Vikash adan near College Square, Bidanasi Market Complex Phase-I and II. Shopping Centre at Sikharpur Housing Scheme area, Mahanadi Vihar, Market Complex, Raghunath Jew Market Complex, Arenodaya Market Complex (Presently used as Administrative, Commercial and professional office purposes).
- Art & TextileThe Art & Textiles of Odisha characterised by the bold and unusual patterns, beautiful blend of colours and luxuriant texture have an individuality of their own. The magic hand of the weavers of this traditional art has made it possible to convert the cotton and silk threads into beautiful sarees and dress materials. The skill of the artisans has proved Odisha to be the land of fine arts and clothes. The weavers of Cuttack produce saris and other fabrics in buautiful design and colours using the hand operated looms. The distinctive feature of Odisha textile industry is the ‘Ikat’ design. This design which finds its ancient linkages with the maritime activities of South-East Asia is an intricate process of tie and dye. Selected yarns are knotted before dipping them in separate colours one at a time and finaly weaving them to produce delightful designs in multiple colours and in motifts adopted from nature. Some of the typical varieties of Odisha sarees are ‘Pashapalli (Chess Board) from Sambalpur and Bolangir districts, Bichitrapuri (double ikats) woven into temple motifts such as fish, lion etc. also from Sambalpur district, Sonepuri woven in zari thread from Sonepur district. Other varieties include Khanduas, Saktapada, Tarabali, Bomkai etc. These exquisite fabrics in large range of designs and variety of materials are durable and economical too. Along with cotton, tassar silk is also used extensively. The availability of fine quality of tassar yarn is very popular for its natural luster.
- Brass and Bell MetalBrass and bell metal are the two earliest known alloys. Bell metal ware occupies a pride of place in Odisha history. The artisans of brass and bell metal are traditionally called “Kansari”. They are propagating ancient and modern method of manufacturing utensils and decorative items which are of traditional shape. They are used in temples and houses for religious and other purposes. The flexible brass fish of Ganjam, the cute brass figurine of Khalisahi, the brass and bell metal wares of Cuttack, Khurda, Dhenkanal, Jajpur and Sambalpur are typical examples of Odisha’s metal ware, presenting a syntax of beauty and utility. These products are manufaftured in the traditional process of heating and beating. Every brass and bell metal utensils with its shape and netal composition has got its own characteristic and is known for its cooking and medicinal properties. In couple of decades, this traditional craft activity has received a great set-back, because of shift of demand for steel, aluminium and plastic products. For sustainable development of this craft, product diversification with introduction of appropriate technology is inevitable.
- HornworksMystical and eye-inspiring, richly textured and finely fashioned articles made from the horns of animals, are a class apart. The horns that are mostly from buffaloes and cows require a high degree of skill and imagination in application. The artisans who excel in this art use the specific texture of this material to mould all sorts of objects with a marvellous degree of fluidity of movement. The craftsmen of Cuttack and Paralakhemundi skillfully fashion horns into birds arrested in flight, animals of prey caught prowling, fighting bulls, fish-guzzling cranes, elephant rolling logs, combs, pen stand, pipes, prawns, lamp-stands etc.
- Silver FiligreeFiligree is a unique craft. It has its own intricate design and superb craftsmanship. Cuttack district has a long tradition of meticulous and sophisticated craftsmanship in silver filigree works, locally known as ‘Tarakasi’. The silver filigree of Cuttack is noted for its delicateness and intricate workmanship. The art is ancient which has its origin in Persian countries since 15th century. This craft had sufficient patronage during the Mughal period, but subsequently suffered due to lack of encouragement and marketing facilities. Most of the artisans engaged in the trade had to seek other avenues for their livelihood under difficult conditions. In 1952, the State Government took a bold step to ameliorate the conditions of these artisans by brining them in co-operative fold.
There are three categories of filigree crafts, such as Rose work, Siko work and Jali work to make filigree articles. The artisans first prepare a frame work for the article by means of a piece of silver wire drawn into thread as fine as a spider’s web. Then weave inner textures and set it inside the frame. The whole thing is then fixed on a mica sheet with an indigenous paste and soldered. To give it a finish it is burnt in fire and cleaned in soap nut water. Filigree work is distinguished from other ornaments and jewellery by excellent finish, fine foils, textures and snowy glaze. That is why they are presented as Souvenirs and are given by important functionaries, including the State Government to peopleof National and International eminence visiting the State. Decorative Pieces of Lord Krishna’s Chariot, Konark Chakra and variety of other eye catching and spectacular silver ornaments are a craze for the modern fashion loving folk. The invention of machine finish is a threat to the sector which can be counter balanced by innovative creations of artisans.
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