Aftermath of Merger of Princely States in Orissa

April 5, 2010 at 6:57 pm 6 comments

Following is a report from
IT IS said that on linguistic affinity the demand of a separate Orissa province was mooted before the British Government. Orissa province was created in 1936. While the movement for a separate state was going on, the then British Government appointed the Atlee sub-committee to examine and recommend to the Government, the feasibility of a separate province or a separate Oriya state.

The committee submitted its report in 1930 where among other recommendations it also pointed out that unless the Oriya speaking princely states were amalgamated with the Orissa province, economically the said province would not be viable. This point caught the imagination of Harekrusna Mahatab and he started planning how to bring the princely states within the fold of Orissa province and thereby to strengthen the economy of the new province, as these princely states were a repository of mineral and forest resources. But the outbreak of the Second World War did not give the opportunity to Mahatab to execute his plan.

There were 26 princely states where Oriya language with regional variation was spoken. These princely states were not under direct British administration unlike Balasore, Cuttack, Puri, Khurdha, Ganjam, Sambalpur and Koraput. The regions under direct British administration were then called Mugalbandi or British Orissa and the localities under kings and princes were called Gadjats or Princely States.

Besides, in Chhatisgarh there were 16 states under the rulers. About 23 out of the 26 Oriya speaking states of Orissa and 16 states of present Chhatisgarh did not want to join the Orissa province or Madhya Pradesh. There was an apocalyptic fear among the peoples that in the event of their merger with Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, there interest would be jeopardized and there locality would lag behind during post- independence in view of the fact that freedom struggle could not gain momentum in these princely states unlike their counterpart British administered states. Thus, they wanted to form a separate province under the Indian Federation or Dominion. Just after independence, almost all princes conceded their accession with the Indian Dominion, but they too wanted a separate state. Thus, the people and rulers of these 39 Princely States started Eastern States Union, a province under the Indian Dominion. Raipur was selected for its capital and the High Court started to function there.

Eastern States Union immediately took the cause of Indravati Dam Project in Kalahandi. As Indravati is an inter-state river, the state union appealed to the Indian Government for clearance. Nevertheless, the recognition of Indian dominion to the eastern States Union as separate province was wanting. Just at that time, Prajamandala Movement broke out in many Oriya speaking states except Kalahandi and few small states, under the direct instigation of the then Congress led Government of Orissa or Harekrushna Mahatab, the then chief minister of Orissa.

The leaders of Prajamandala movement were impressed upon by H. K Mahatab and Congress party that their movement is primarily designed to obtain democratic right, self- determination and people’s representative form of a government from their rulers. Princely states like Nilgiri, Dhenkanal, Talcher, Ranapur, Nayagarh, Bonai, Sonepur and Mayurbhanja witnessed the outbreak of this movement and the problem of law and order arose in these states.

This became a plea for H. K. Mahatab to argue and impress upon the Indian Government to take way the administration of these princely states and merge them with Orissa province and not to recognize eastern states union as separate province. At his request, Sardar Patel and home secretary, V.P Menon arrived at Cuttack on 13th December 1947 and then called a meeting of 26 Oriya rulers in Cuttack. In the meeting held on 14th December, when Patel and Menon appealed to the kings to join with the Orissa province, the response from the side of the rulers was low key. The next day, Orissa military was prepared to meet any eventuality.

P.K Deo, ruler of Kalahandi openly said that since the legislative Assembly of Kalahandi has passed a resolution to join the Eastern States Union, it is difficult on his part to agree to join the Orissa province. The next day the DIG of Orissa Police was ordered to proceed and forcibly occupy the princely state which would not join the Orissa province. Then one by one all rulers put their signature on the merger document. P.K Deo, then Maharaja of Kalahandi, was the last to sign. Under intimidation and threats to people and rulers, Mahatab achieved his objective. The leaders of Prajamandala Movement met Mahatab the next day and condemned him for betraying to the cause of self – determination of the people for which the Prajamandala Movement was working. Mahatab threatened one of the leaders of Prajamandala Movement Pabitra Mohan Pradhan of Talcher with the words, “…. you would be the first person to be shot at in this merger drama ….”.

Immediately after the merger, the spontaneous reaction of the people against the merger started in Mayurbhanj, Kalahandi, Baudh- Sonepur and some other places. There was lathi charge and arrest at Bhawanipatna and Madanpur Rampur in Kalahandi. People were giving slogans like “Orissa Government, get out, we want separate state”. There was firing at Bamanghati of Mayurbhanj and some people were killed.

According to the rearrangement of Orissa province, the princely states and the British administered localities (Orissa province before 1948) were grouped under 13 districts.

Even the selection of Bhubaneswar as capital was wrong in view of the fact that capital should be located in the centre of the State. It should be located in central Orissa – Athmallik- Baud. This suggestion was also put forth to the Indian Government. But Mahatab exploited the situation in favour of Bhubaneswar to safeguard the interest of coastal people. Today Bhubaneswar is always in an advantage and these princely states Athmallik, Baud, Kalahandi etc are at the receiving end.

Though Kalahandi is infamous for poverty in present day Orissa, the general condition of these princely states was not so miserable before their merger with Orissa province. There was no scarcity of food in these states. During the Bengal famine of 1942, Kalahandi alone had supplied one lakh tonnes of rice to Bengal. On the other hand, the British administered coastal Orissa including Sambalpur and Koraput were poverty stricken due to flood and scanty rainfall every year. However, western education first entered British administered territories as the establishment of colleges show.

Suddenly after the merger of Princely States, these British administered areas or previous Orissa province started to develop. The Government of Orissa and Government of India started to build all necessary infrastructures, and the Princely States were sidelined. This policy continues till now by the Orissa Government. This is just like the apartheid policy pursued by the White minority Government of South Africa over the black majority.

There are so many examples also that whenever any issue relating to two different zones arises; Orissa Government favours former British ruled areas. The example of Indravati project in Kalahandi and Hirakud project in Sambalpur may be cited as first instance. The idea of Indravati dam project goes to the period of P.K Deo’s rule [1939- 1947] in Kalahandi. The idea of Hirakud Dam project was a later development, but Hirakud Dam project was executed by the Government immediately and the Indravati dam project was suppressed till 1978.

Indravati irrigation project is not yet 40 per cent completed. Similarly, when Sambalpur University, University College of Engineering Burla and VSS Medical College were established at Sambalpur, the Government did not adopt distributive system in Bolangir, Kalahandi (Princely States) and Sambalpur. Another recent example – the people of Mayurbhanj struggled for more than a decade to get a University from the Government. But we don’t have any such information about the struggle of Balasore for the cause of a University unlike Mayurbhanj. But when the Orissa Government was compelled to establish a University at Mayurbhanj, automatically the Government favoured Balasore too.
The last example may be the establishment of the Central University in Koraput instead of Kalahandi despite Kalahandi beng centrally located in KBK districts and Kalahandi is struggling for a Central University since the past two decades. Public sector industries like NALCO, VAL etc were established in Koraput. Paper mill was initially proposed in Kalahandi but shifted to undivided Koraput.

Kalahandi is always at the receiving end by the Orissa Government since it merged with the Orissa province. Joining Orissa province cost Kalahandi in terms of development. This must be addressed.


Entry filed under: Athmallik, Balangir, Bargarh, Boudh, Deogarh, History of Koshal, Jharsuguda, Kalahandi, Mugalbandi and Gadjat, Nuapada, Region watch, Sambalpur, Subarnapur, Sundergarh.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Soumyajit  |  April 6, 2010 at 8:17 am

    I’ve been following this post for quite some time now and as a person, I am inclined to believe historical picture depicted here. But I am eager to know the source of this information. I am afraid that to someone reading this blog for the first time, the facts won’t be credible unless backed by evidence.

    The disparity shown by state government towards the former Gadjats is rightly depicted except in the example of Hirakud. Mahanadi is the one that flows into the heart of coastal region and causes floods there. That is why the issue of Hirakud dam was dealt promptly by the state government, not just to show preference towards Sambalpur. But I would definitely agree that the States attitude towards Kalahandi is utterly ridiculous.

    Nonetheless, the contents of this article are of great importance to Koshali people and I urge you to extend it.


  • 2. Anand Sagar Dash  |  April 10, 2010 at 8:10 am

    The concept of dividing Orissa into British administrated Orissa and Princely states are old thoughts. Such discriminating thought was there probably at the time of merger during 1936- 47. Present day’s govt’s perception is not based on it but, two different regions named Coastal orissa, comprising undivided districts of Katak, Puri, Baleswar, Ganjam and Dhenkanal and rest hilly region of Orissa including Western Orissa and Undivided Koraput, Phulbani, Kendujhar and Mayurbhanj districts.

    British administrated Sambalpur and Koraput districts were never known as Mogulbandi areas. The author should refer some good historical books. The coastal orissa was under Moguls, so that was known as Mogulbandi where as Sambalpur under the Chowhans, was a separate state comprising 18 garhs and was known as Hirakhand. Later it became a district in British empire.

    During the infamous “Na’ anka Durbhikhya” in eastern India, specially in Baleswar district and coastal orissa, Sambalpur had no abnormal death. (as written in Dist Gadgetor). This is the time when many migrated from coastal orissa to this part, which was untouched by the giant famine. What Kalahandi did that time was different but giving wrong information about others is improper.

    Finally, Hirakud Dam was not built for the development of Sambalpur but, to save Katak from regular floods that it was facing. Sambalpur had hardly ever seen flood prior to the construction of the Dam. There are some good references available in this regards.

    Though there are some facts behind the development of Mogalbandi and Gadjat area in Orissa.

  • 3. Digambara Patra  |  April 12, 2010 at 10:23 am

    [I was just answerging Anand Babu’s comment in merinews but could not post due to technical error, here it is]
    This article was based on Gadajat regions vs Orissa in 1936, statistics support that in the name of Western Odisha development was confined to Sambalpur-Rourkela, major projects in KBK till now goes to Koraput, similarly in North Orissa mostly it goes to Balesore wereas Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Balangir, Kalahandi etc who were Gadajat, were marginalized till recently. Nobody can argue that Sambalpur did not get medical college, Univ., UCE, industries and Rourkela REC, steel plant in those days. There was development in those pockets compared to other Gadajat of 1936 like Kalahandi, Balangir, Boudh etc. Similarly Koraput got NALCO, HAL, railways in industrial development. Of course, one may argue compared to Cuttack, Bhubaneswar etc, Sambalpur/Rourkela would not have received much attention, but here we compare Gadajat who joined Orissa in 1948 vs those regions who participated and struggled to form Orissa state in 1936. Indeed there was substantial approval by people or leaders in Sambalpur, Koraput, Parliakhemundi etc regions to be part of Orissa rather than any other state in those period of time (before 1936). There is a relative comparison. Hirakud dam would have been built to save other region but this article did not focus to investigate reasons for that rather than it focused how Indravati project was sidelined for decades despite being visualized much earlier. I am also aware that people of Sambalpur region proves in many ways the dam was in the interest of Coastal Orissa people, this could be the reason why Indravati project was sidelined. There are many data which indirectly prove that interest of coastal Orissa has been given priority by the state Govt. in post independence period in higher education, infrastructure, other major projects, and even in irrigation, that does not mean there was no difference between Sambalpur/Rourkela and Balangir/Kalahandi in development. Statistic wise there is a clear indication that after coastal Orissa cities like Bhubaneswar/Cuttack/Berhampur/Puri who has been beneficiary is Sambalpur/Rourkela (Sundergarh and Sambalpur were one dist till 1948) or next is undivided Koraput regions (Koraput, Jeypore, Sunabeda, Rayagada etc), whereas major Gadajat towns such as Bhawanipatna, Balangir, Bapriapda, Keonjhargarh rarely received any major Govt. projects.

  • 4. Anand Sagar Dash  |  April 17, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Dear Digamber Sir,

    I agree to your arguments that state govt. has given more priorities to coastal orissa than western Orissa and after Bbsr-ctc-Baerhampur it gives importance to SBP-RKL belt. But, that doesn’t confirm that Hirakud Dam was built in favour of Sambalpur. A more fertile and culturally strong and prosperous area went under water without the consent of the natives just to save Katak. State govt. found more profit in making Hirakud than Indrabati because it was directly saving their cultural capital at the cost of Sambalpuri people and place. Regarding whatever development of Sundargarh dist or RKL in particular, I like to bring this to your notice that Sundargarh was not a part of Sambalpur before 1948 but like Kalahandi these were two separate Gadjat named Gangpur and Banei and amalgamated into Orissa along with rest Gadgat in 1948. So, I don’t see any Mogalbandi and Gadjat connection here.

    Oriss state has three revenue divisions. Western Orissa though comprises districts of Sundargarh, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Sonepur, Baud, Balangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi and Atthamallik subdivision, is divided into two different revenue divisions. When Sundargah, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Bargarh, Balangir, Sonepur comes under Northern division with HQ at Sambalpur, where as Baud, Kalahandi, Nuapada comes under South-division with HQ at Berhampur.

    The three general Universities and Medical colleges were distributed among the three divisions. So, two of them came to Sambalpur as the other two respective HQ got.
    So, there is no clash with Kalahandi here and also, there is no Gadjat and Mogalbandi principle applied but three revenue division HQ were the parameters.

    After the completion of Hirakud Dam, a large no. of official quarters were vacant in Burla and it helped the state govt to save money from building new infrastructure to establish the institutions. As minerals such as coal, iron ore were already available in SNG- SBP- Kendujhar belt, the addition of water reservoir and electricity from newly built Hirakud Dam provided ample environment to develop industry in this area so the Brajarajnagar paper works at Brajarajnagar and RSP in Rkl originated.

    Anand Sagar Dash

  • 5. Digambara Patra  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Dear Anand Babu,
    I also do not disagee to the reason why Sambalpur was chosen or Hirakud dam was built, indeed it helps to understand why Indravati project was ignored in favor of coastal Orissa. I do not know much about the theory of relation between vacant building and establishing new institution, but Sambalpur and Berhampur were definitely given regional importance. The three divisions were given institutions but institutions were not made accordingly, what I read when there was plan to include Kalahandi under Berhampur Univ., there was protest. Till now Boudh, Kalahandi, Nuapda comes under Samablpur Univ., but in South division. There was nothing wrong chosing Sambalpur, but statistics shows there was relative negligience towards former princely states. I had also argued earlier if state Govt had made 3 divisions as you have rightly mentioned for various districts and would have chosen based on geographical need & distance, such as Sambalpur for North division (for Bargarh, Sambalpur, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Angul, Dhenkanal, Sonepur) and Bhawanipatna-Lanjigarh-Muniguda of Rayagda (for Nuapada, Kalahandi, Boudh, Balangir, Kandhamal, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Malkangiri, Rayagada, Gajapati) for South division, Cuttack/BBSR (for Cuttack, Jagatsingpur, Jajpur, Kendrapara, Balasore, Bhadrak, Mayubhanj, Nayagarh, Puri, Khudha and Ganjam) for coastal division, it would not have that confusion. Protest in Kalahandi, Boudh regions etc would have been avoided. But seems lobby of infleuncial people in Orissa state worked against all these princely states.

    Even now when any developmental initiatives come in the name of Northern, Southern, Western and Central Orissa regions, always three of them goes to coastal part, in BBSR/Cuttack for central Orissa, in Berhampur for South Orissa, in Balasore for North Orissa, where as large part of interior boordering (Western) Orissa from Sundergarh to Malkangiri gets only one. If for north Orissa Balasore/Bariapada and for central Orissa Cuttack/BBSR are chosen then for Western Orissa Samablpur and for Southern Orissa Bhawanipatna/Muniguda should be chosen. But this is not being done. If three centers like Berhampur, Cuttac/BBSR and Balasore/Baripada are chosens in Coastal Orissa then in Western Orissa also there should be at least three, though geographically it needs four.

    Best regards

  • 6. Anand Sagar Dash  |  April 21, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Dear Digambara Babu,

    I completely agree with your arguments that in the name of North, Central and South zone, it is the coastal orissa that enjoying the benefit. I wonder why people from Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Koraput don’t shout against, when all the developmental works goes to Berhampur in the name of South Orissa ? Neither Berhampur is in a central location nor it is far from state capital Bbsr. If you consider the distance between Bbsr and Berhampur as the standard for creating revenue divisions then Rkl and Titlagarh are farther from Sbp in comparison to that. Considering the present situation we should demand for creation of separate Revenue divisions for Kalahandi and Koraput and Balangir- Kandhamal.

    Availability of vacant Buildings in Burla helped the state govt. to establish the Educational institutions as it saved initial cost towards infrastructural development. The Medical college office had started functioning in the bungalow of the Chief Engineer of Hirakud Dam which is now the govt. bungalow of the principal and the employees were adjusted in residential quarters of the Dam project laying vacant that time.

    I do agree that most of the Gadjats that joined the union in 1948 are underdeveloped except Gangpur and Banei, Mayurbhanj. Of course they are not developed by choice. And also, we can’t consider RKL as the yard stick to judge the development of the Sundargarh dist.

    Best regards,


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