With a view to establish the commercial, cultural and political linkage of ancient Odisha (Kalinga/Utkala) with the South East Asian Countries as also the Roman Empire, West Asia, Sri Lanka and Western Part of India, the Odisha Institute of Maritime and southeast Asian Studies have been formed since 1986-87 under the Chairmanship of the Hon’ble Chief Minister, Odisha to extricate the glorious maritime heritage from the darkness of the past. The mutual relations and contacts between ancient Odisha and South East Asia continued at least from the early Christian era. Situated on the shore of Bay of Bengal, ancient Odisha comprised the coastal regions of modern Odisha and the adjacent coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh and Bengal. Owing to its location between the two great east Indian deltaic regions of the Ganges and the Krishna and Godavari rivers, Kalinga itself had two distinctive historical core areas in the delta regions of the Mahanadi in Central Odisha and further to the southeast of the Rishikulya and Vansadhara rivers in southern Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh. In ancient times almost all the trade centers (ancient ports) are said to have been located in these coastal areas controlled by Kalinga people.
From early times, Odisha has taken part in inland as well as overseas trade as known from literary and archaeological sources. Its geographical location between north and south India and her favorable position along the shore of Bay of Bengal provided an excellent opportunity for its inhabitants for maritime trade. As a coastal state on the east, the vast span of Bay of Bengal opening into the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea on the west. The entire hinterland has a net of several big and small rivers. All the big rivers discharge into the Bay of Bengal. The meandering coast-line along with environmental conditions has imbibed an inborn instinct in the local population to swim which in due course made them seafaring people. This spirit is reflected in literature, sculpture, and archaeological evidence.
The Buddhist, as well as Jaina texts, Greek writings, Hieun Tsang’s accounts, Arab writer’s accounts, refer to Odisha’s sea-borne trade with the outside world through a number of ports situated on the coasts of Kalinga. Ptolemy (2nd century A.D.) refers to a port named Palura. According to him the point of departure (apheterion) for ships bound for Khryse (Land of South East Asia) was “immediately to the south of a town of the territory on the Gangetic Gulf called Palura. Hieun Tsang in 7th century A.D. mentions an important port called Che-li-ta-lo. The Arab and the Persian writers of the 9th-10th centuries A.D. also informs us about the seaports of Odisha as Kalinganagara, Ganjam-Keylkan, and Nubin which are yet to be properly identified, except Kalinganagar as Kalingapatnam and Ganjam. They inform us that Nubin was situated on the frontier of the Bhauma kingdom and the corn of Sarandip (Suvarna Dvipa) came from this town. They refer to the products of Odisha such as large elephants, large quantities of pepper, good cotton, textile, and white conch shells (Terbinala pirum) which were the commodities of trade in this period.
On the coast of Odisha, several port towns were developed and served as outlets for external trade. Ancient Odisha’s geographical boundary covering a major part of Eastern India had a distinct political identity from time to time and called Kalinga, Odra, Utkala, Kangoda, and Odisha (Odisha). The most important was the Kalinga. Its traditional boundary was extended from the areas that were called the Kalingas. In the 7th century, the Chinese pilgrim refers to Odra (Wu-Cha) and Kangoda and also to a number of port towns. In the early medieval period under the Bhaumakaras and the Samavamsis, the coastal regions from Midnapur to Puri was known as Utkala. Hence, the port located from the mouth of the river Ganga to the mouth of the river Godavari was directly responsible for the trans-Asian maritime trade.
Historically, Kalinga (modern Odisha) has been famous for its trade and commerce. Both literary and archaeological sources refer to the inland and overseas trade of Odisha. Its overseas clientele was spread all over Burma, Malaysia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Bali, Ceylon, and China and after the 9th century over Arabia, Greece, and even some of the western African countries.
The information supplied by the above literary sources needs to be substantiated by archaeological evidence. Therefore, in order to establish the commercial and cultural linkages of ancient Kalinga with southeast Asian countries. The government-sponsored Odisha Institute of Maritime and South East Asian studiers have been formulated.
Aims & Objectives
The major aims and objectives of Odisha Institute of Maritime and southeast Asian Studies are as follows:
- To study the past cultural links between Odisha (Ancient Utkala/Kalinga) and southeast Asian countries.
- To study the maritime connection that continued for a long period between the people of this land and of these countries.
- To take up archaeological survey and exploration of the important sites stretching from Tamralipti to Kalingapatanam (the then coastal line of Kalingan empire) for reviving cultural materials of significance which may be invaluable for an in-depth study of cultural and economic links maintained by Odisha with those overseas countries.
- To excavate the important archaeological sites of the coastal belt and to trace out archaeological treasures which will constitute the primary source of information.
- To take up the oceanographic study of the Indian Ocean.
- To liaison between the allied Institutes established in India and in the countries of Southeast Asia.
- To take up the study of written and oral folklore prevalent in coastal Eastern India and in these countries.
- To study the evolution of art and architecture in Odisha and in those countries.
- To take up the study of performing art of Odisha and of those countries.
- To take up an in-depth study of textile and other materials preserved in the Museums of countries of South East Asia with a view to establishing linkages.
- To organize lectures, symposia, national and international seminars with wider participation of scholars particularly from the South East Asian countries.
- To publish reports, research papers, and books based on primary sources.
- To establish a Museum of Marine History
- To take up such other activities as may be required to widen the aims and objectives of the Institute.