Odisha in Ancient Greek Writings

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We have been found mention the region Odisha in ancient Greek writings. Early Greek writers refers to people named “Oretes”. The Sanskrit equivalent of Oretes is “Odra”.

Odisha in Greek Writings

We take an example from the writing of Pliny. In his book “Natural History” , written in First Century AD, presented a list of Indian Races, in which he mentioned about the people- “Oreteus” as the inhabitant of the territory wgere stood mount Maleus. He associated the mount Maleus with the people “Manedes and “Susris”. We have been identified them as the Mundas and Savaras respectively. And the mount Maleus have been identified with the Malayavana or Malayagiri near modern Pallahara in the Angul district of Odiaha. Since time immoral Malayagiri is considered as the habitation of primitive tribe of Mundas and Savaras.

According to prominent historians the list of Indian races mentioned by Pliny was borrowed from the writings of Megasthenes the Greek ambassador to the court of Chandragupta Maurya in 4th century BC. Therefore we may assume that whether Greek Oreteus is a variant of Sanskrit Odras or latter is a derivative from the former.

We found the first expression of Oddra in Sanskrit in the writings of Manu in 2nd century BC. But the Purans and epics such as Mahabharata mentioned that it was existed in the time of Mahabharata war. The king of Kalinga beleived to be fought Mahabharata war from the side of Kauravas. But the epic period is controversial and we may to use it in sense of historical writings.

Relation with Rice:

The Greek “Oreteus” and the Sanskrit “Odras”, both seem to have been suggested by the term “Orua”, means rice. The word Orua prevalent in Odisha since early times and probably the Greek word for rice “Oruza” was taken from the odia word Orua. Therefore, the “Oreteus” or the “Or” (Odra) people means the rice producing or rice growing people.

1. History of Odisha by Sahu, Sahu and Mishra
2. History of Odisha Vol-I by Dr Y.K Sahu