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Orissa is a land of temples. In the pre-Muslim period, Hinduism in its various creeds and forms was manifested in the construction of many temples where the worship was performed by the devoted Hindus.
The Gajapati kings generally patronized the Vishnu temples, though Saiva worship in Saiva temples were not neglected. Sun worship embodied in the social life of Orissan people continued to find inspiration from the Sun-temple of Konarak though with their distinct features. But Gaudiya Vaishnavism under royal patronization was gradually gaining popularity over the Orissan Vaishnavism.
All these creeds, religious thinking and approach to spiritual attainment were gathering a form of synthesis under the institution of Jagannath. The more the institution of Jagannath manifested the assimilating and synthesizing ability, the more it was with the presence of those protagonists at this place, Puri emerged as a great abode of Hinduism, meeting the challenge of sectarian attitudes of particular creeds. Puri, being the principal sanctuary of Hindu ideas and culture on the east part of India and also being a renowned place of pilgrimage was considered to be the center of Hinduism by the Muslims, when they first entered into Orissa.
Sulaiman Karrani, the Afghan leader of Bengal, was first to establish Muslim rule in Orissa by destroying the power of Mukunda Harichandana, the last Hindu ruler of Orissa. With him came the Muslim soldiers, Muslim officials, Muslim traders and camp-followers with a new religion of their own not known to the Hindus of Orissa.
The Afghan short-period rule as enforced did not accept in principle, the policy of toleration to the Hindus. The main objective of Kalapahar, the general of Sulaiman Karrani was to desecrate Jagannath who, to him, appeared as the embodiment of religion of the Oriya people. He broke certain portion of the temple of Jagannatha, plundered the store house and broke the idols of the gods . From his campaigns against the Hindu gods of Orissa it seems, that he was more interested in mutilating, breaking or desecrating the Hindu idols rather than destroying the temples in which the idols were placed. Such Afghan campaigns must have left the impression into the minds of the Oriyas that Muslims as a class of people, had no regard for other faiths and would continue to interfere in the free worship of Hindus more particularly in the famous temple of Jagannatha.
This fear of the Hindus in Orissa was set aside when Akbar’s attention was drawn to this territory. Consistent in his tolerate policy towards the Hindus, as elsewhere in India, he denounced the iconoclastic and persecuting policy of the Afghan towards the Hindus in Orissa, and under his discretion, the treaty which was signed in the first Orissa campaign of Raja Man Singh, between him and Daud, included a clause to the effect that the Afghans should not invade or desecrate the temple of Jagannatha in future. This clause gave a new impression to the Hindu mind in regard to the liberal Mughal policy and made the Afghan rule more unpopular in the eyes of the Oriyas.
The Mughal fight with the Afghans, Mughal occupation of Orissa through a Hindu general like Raja Man Singh, and the most generous treatment of this Mughal general towards the highly reputed Hindu institution of Jagannatha and the recognition of Raja Ramachandra Deva the founder of Bhoi dynasty as the Superintendent of the temple of Jagannatha, by Raja Man Singh, removed for the time being the fear that their gods would be humiliated in the hands of the Muslims. Akbar’s rule in Orissa based on the principle of tolerance and that of non-interference encouraged the Hindus to freely worship their gods. What impressed most the priestly section of the temple of Jagannatha was that Akbar’s general Raja Man Singh’s wife constructed the Mukti Mandap of the temple of Jagannatha .
The impact of liberal Islam on Orissa was practically over with the end of the reign of Akbar. The religious policy of both Jahangir and Shah-Jahan gave a twist towards traditional conservatism and orthodoxy though a regular religious persecution was not sanctioned.
In the reign of Jahangir, with approach of Hashim Khan in Orissa, the priests of Jagannatha were so much frightened at the probable invasion of the temple of Jagannath that, they perhaps with the advice or knowledge of Purusottam Deva the Raja of Khurda, took away the idol of Jagannath from the temple to the temple of Gopalji in Khurda .
Again another Muslim general known as Mukarram Khan injured the idol of Sakhigopal and invaded Khurda. Therefore the sevakas of the temple of Jagannatha in fear could not perform the festivals and apprehending the desecration of the idol of Jagannatha, they took it away to a place known as Gurubai. Then from that place it was brought to Gobapadara in Khurda Raja’s territory and there the Chapa festival was celebrated .
The Muslim occupation of the Khurda capital drove Purusottam Deva from his palace and he along with his family was forced to reside at Manitri, on the border of Ranpur. But Gobapadar was no longer found safe for the worship of Jagannatha. Therefore the salagram of the idol was taken away by the sevakas on their cloth and was kept in Manitri. It appears that the idol of Jagannatha was to be kept there for a long time, as after the death of Purusottam Dva, his son and successor Narsingh Deva, was to take care of the idol in that particular palace . When the period of panic was over, the idol was brought back to Puri.
In the reign of Jahangir, Shah-Jahan rebelled and entered into Orissa with his followers to move towards Bengal. The very advance of the Prince scared away the priests. The sevakas again brought away the idol of Jagannatha to Khurda and worshipped there. It is only when Shah Jahan returned through Orissa to the Deccan that the idol of Jagannatha was brought back to Purusottam (Puri) for worship .
In the reign of Shah-Jahan, Mutaqad Khan invaded Puri, plundered the store of Jagannatha and slew Narasingh Deva, the Raja of Khurda. Madalapanji says that Narasingh Deva offered his head for the security of Brahmins and gods . The reign of Aurangzeb is most disturbing and humiliating to the worship of Lord Jagannatha. With the beginning of the reign of Aurangzeb, Orissa had to feel more the impact or orthodox Islam than before. He was a puritan Muslim and was a great patron of conservative Islam. As soon as he became the Emperor of India he soon passed orders for the restoration of the Officers of the cannon law strictly according to Islamic rule. Such officers were appointed in every province and in every important town. So far Orissa was concerned, Shaikh Junaid was appointed Mujtahid at Cuttack. The following were two qazis who did their duty at Cuttack. One was Rahmatullah who, after being appointed to the post, violated the cannon law and therefore was dismissed for bad conduct. The other was Sayyid Muhammed Ghasu .
Apart from his emphasis on orthodox Islam, what might have been much perturbing and might have been regarded as very unusual by the Hindus of Orissa was Aurangzeb’s temple destruction order. His temple destruction order was issued in the following manner:
“To all faujdars, thanadars and mutasaddis, agents of jagirdars, kroris and amlas from Cuttack to Medinapur on the frontier of Orissa. The imperial paymaster Asad Khan has sent a letter written by order of the Emperor to say that the Emperor learning from news letters of the Province of Orissa that at the village of Tilkuti in Medinapur a temple has been newly built, has issued his august mandate for its destruction and the destruction of all the temples built anywhere in this province by the worthless infidels. Therefore you are commanded with extreme urgency that immediately on the receipt of this letter you should destroy the above mentioned temples.
Every idol house built during the last 10 or 12 years whether with brick or clay should be demolished without delay. Also do not allow the crushed Hindus and the infidels to repair their old temples. Reports of the destruction of the temples should be sent to the court under the seal of the qazis and attested by pious Shaikhs. 
In consequence of the order of Aurangzeb not only the temples newly constructed in the village of Tilkuti was destroyed, but also a temple at Kendrapara was broken and on its ruins a mosque was built. 
It has been sometimes asked by some that if Aurangzeb’s anti-Hindu measures and religious persecution were designed to see the downfall of Hinduism and the ruin of the Hindu temples, then how some very important Hindu monuments survived in the period? But the answer to this question is that as the purport of the Aurangzeb’s order as quoted above shows, it was not the desire of Aurangzeb to see the end of the old temples in Orissa. What he actually desired to see was that no new temples would be constructed or any repair to the old temples would be made in Orissa, to show the sign of the prosperity of the religion. One of the effects of such an order as it seems to have been was that the hitherto incentive for building Hindu temples would have been crippled and might have affected the very profession of the workers, who were so far, as masons might be building the temples under the patronization of a rich zamindar or any pious man.
Though the general principle was to break every ‘idol house’ during the ‘last’ 10 or 12 years, yet sometimes some old temples drew the attention of the highly enthusiastic subadars or other officers of Orissa, who were often found to threaten to break them. Such danger of destruction of the chief citadels of religion could be avoided by heavy bribes, by the priests to the officers concerned. For example, this may be stated, that Akram Khan and his brothers Jamal Khan and Abdullah Khan put obstruction on the worship of Lord Jagannath and were threatening to break the idol of Jagannath. But when Divyasinha Deva, the Raja of Khurda and the Superintendent of the temple of Jagannath gave a bribe of rupees thirty thousand to the governor of Orissa, the Muslims interference in the worship of Lord Jagannath or the threat to break the idol was withdrawn. 
Aurangzeb did not follow the liberal religious policy of Akbar nor did anything to see that the worship of Lord Jagannath, the most important Hindu institution in the north east of India, would continue without any interference. The Raja of Khurda was intimately connected with the temple as he was the Superintendent of the temple of Jagannath. Even if he had his capital at Khurda, it was his duty to see that the worship of Jagannath was to be done as per the religious prescriptions. So the festivals to be performed at the temple of Jagannath required in most cases the presence of the Raja of Khurda, at Puri.
It is stated that during the period of festival of Lord Jagannath some Ekram Khan assisted by his brother Muhammad Khan, Zaman-ullah and another named Iman Koli practiced vandalism in the temple of Jagannath. They broke a certain portion of the lion’s gate of the temple, took away the wheel from Bhogamandap and the wooden idol of Lord Jagannath, which was considered as an act of desecration. This frightened Divyasimha Deva, the Raja of Khurda (who was then at Puri) to such an extent that instead of facing the problem, in utter fear he preferred taking shelter in the house of Bidyadhara Mahapatra, probably a sevaka of the temple of Jagannath.
This unexpected interference in the temple matters brought confusion and chaos, as a result of which, all the festivals including Chandan Yatra could not be performed. Whatever was performed afterwards could not be done according to the prescribed religious procedure. 
In the post-Aurangzeb period the policy pursued by the governors of Orissa never had any newness. Though generally not so conservative or fanatical as that of Aurangzeb, it could never go back to the days of liberal Islam of the reign of Akbar.
The difficult in the worship of Jagannath in the temple of Puri was not over. Particularly during the administration of Taqi Khan, the frequent Muslim invasion of Khurda ultimately affected the worship of Jagannath and created panic at Puri. For the reason that as Khurda the capital of the Superintendent of the temple of Jagannath was frequently raided, therefore the Raja could not attend to his duties at the temple of Jagannath. Under such circumstance the panic stricken sevakas, apprehending desecration of the idol, were found to have taken it from the temple, sometimes through the Chilka towards Banput, sometimes to Bolagada, and at other times to Tikeli on the border of Khallikote or to Athagar. This explains, if not anything else, the frequent movement of the Supreme Deity of Orissa, for safety in the southern inaccessible regions. It is noticed that the idol was preferred to be taken away through water, i.e. through Chilka, or any other river.
With the beginning of the reign of Murshid Quli Khan II, the disinterest so far shown to Jagannath worship underwent a different turn. Mir Habib, a right hand man of Murshid Quli II, took particular interest in taking measures for the reinstatement of the idol of Jagannath in the temple at Puri.  This friendly and generous attitude of Murshid Quli to the Raja of Khurda and Jagannath was considered as a big relief to the Hindus of Orissa.
Thus in the Mughal period, except during the reign of Akbar and Murshid Quli II, the worship at the temple of Jagannath was very often disturbed. Nothing was done to allay the suspicion and fear of the priestly class, the Superintendent of the temple and the devotees of Jagannath that they were free to worship Jagannath without any interference. On the other hand, occasionally some governors or generals in fact raided or desecrated the temple, which made their probable fear a fact or reality.
Again the frequent attacks on the Raja of Khurda made the worship of Jagannath some times either unpracticable or difficult. The treatment shown to Jagannath and the Superintendent of the temple by most of the Muslim rulers or officers must have given the impression that in general, the Muslims had no regard for the religious susceptibility of the other people.
In the Muslim period, a pilgrim tax on the pilgrims, coming from various parts of India to visit the temple of Jagannath was imposed in Orissa. But it is not definitely known when and who introduced it. It is just possible that this pilgrim tax might have been introduced during the rule of Aurangzeb.
One may infer that the Muslim officers might be collecting tax at those principal ghats at Atharanala and Lokanath leading to the town, and Jagannath from the north and south respectively, as was done in later period by the Marathas at the end of the Mughal rule. The amount of pilgrim tax collected from the pilgrims to Orissa under every Muslim ruler is not known. But during the administration of Raqi Khan, Muslim government was deprived of revenue amounting to 9 lakhs of rupees a year collected from pilgrim tax. This shows that the income from the pilgrim tax was usually at least not less than 9 laks of rupees per year.  But as it appears during the Mughal rule, most of the time the idol was taken away from Puri to a place of safety and there was disturbance in worship, and all the tax gathering Mughal generals except Murshid Quli II cared little for income under this head.
Islam and its prosperity in Orissa
Muslim migration to Orissa was continuous after its conquest and Muslims settled in the new province with a new religion and culture. Along with the administrators, generals, traders and camp followers came in train, ulemas and saints to cater to their religious needs.
Under the patronization of Muslim governing and religious-minded people, the Muslim religious institutions flourished. First Cuttack, the Muslim capital of Orissa, grew to be the most important place of Muslim religious institutions, and later on with the penetration of the Muslim population to the interior of the province, the Muslim mosques and tomb of saints were found in other parts of the province.
Ekram Khan constructed a mosque in Balubazar, in Cuttack and dedicated it to Shahajada Begum (Zebbunisa), daughter of Aurangzeb.  Shuja-uddin built the famous Qadam Rasul mosque at Cuttack.  Some of the other principal monuments which were erected during the Muslim period at Cuttack were Diwan-bajar masjid, Ujale Khan masjid of Mahamadia Bazar and a masjid inside the compound of Lalbag. The religious-minded Muslim governors, Deputy governors or some officers certainly encouraged the growth of Muslim institutions by their generous grants. Probably the more important role was played by the Muslim saints who could spread Islamic ideas and left reputation behind them. This is testified from the tombs of saints, like those of Shah Mansur and Panja Shah at Oriya Bazar and Bakshi Shahib in Barabati fort, Cuttack, which have been practically places of adoration and pilgrimage to all those Muslim devotees.
The other two saints who were famous during the Muslim rule were Malang Shah and Mastan Shah, and their tombs are found in the compound of the Cuttack branch of G.P.O. and on cantonment road respectively. All these saints were well-known for their piety, kindness, pious and exemplary life they led. They were respected and loved by the Hindus and Muslims. 
With the spread of Muslim power to other parts of Orissa, Muslim monuments were built there. The Qadam Rasul built at Balasore by the Taqi Khan and Abu Nasar mosque were built there. The Qadam Rasul built at Balasore by Taqi Khan and the Abu Nasar mosque built at Jajpur are indicative of the prosperity of Islam at places other than Cuttack proper.
A dargha known as Takht-I-Sulaiman was constructed during the reign of Nawab Shuja-uddin Muhammad Khan in honour of a holy saint who came to the mountain top of Alti in mauza Charnangal in the present Cuttack district.  The tombs of saints at Pipli like the tomb of Sayyid Sultan, Sindhy Bakhs saheb and the tomb of Bokhari saheb at Kaipadar a tomb of Sayyid Bokhari at Jajpur  remind one of how the saints moved from one part of Orissa to the other.
Orissa was a place where not only Sunni scholars, saints and learned men were available but also Shia scholars and saints too. Shah Mansur was a Shia saint. His tomb lies inside Lalbag. It is visited by both Muslims and Hindus. Shia scholars were envied by the Sunni saints. This shows the animosity that was prevalent during the Muslim period, more particularly during the rule of Aurangzeb. 
There was a noted saint in Orissa called Shah Qasim Ho Allahi. He claimed to have supernatural power. He was a Sunni saint and all that he did was to convert the Shias of Orissa into Sunni faith not by force but by magic and miraculous deeds. He succeeded in persuading one Hakim Tahir, a Shia to renounce Shiaism and to be his disciple. 
Orissa attracted some reputed Muslim scholars. For example, Mirza Zarif stayed in Orissa for three years. He was well-versed in jurisprudence and natural science. He was the maternal uncle of Be-dil, who came from Bihar for his visit to Orissa. Mirza Zarif cured Sayyid Muhammad from swollen limb. Sayyid Muhammad was nobody but Khan-i-Dauran, the governor of Orissa. There were also many dervishes in Orissa who were having high knowledge in spiritual matters. 
The Muslim government granted a good deal of lands to the poor, destitutes, holy men, ulemas, maulavis, saints and to the different Muslim religious institutions for their maintenance. Ten batis of land were granted by the Mughal government to the holy men like Abdul Hamid and others for their maintenance and for praying to God for the longevity of the throne. In the year 1686, the Nawab of Bengal and Orissa granted 5 batis of land to Masabat Aisa Bibi of Jajpur for her maintenance. Aurangzeb in the year 1704-5 gave a grant of 2 batis of land to Shaikh Abdus Salam for his maintenance. [ ]
It is wrong to say that the generosity of the Muslim government was extended only to patronize the Muslim monuments, Muslim saints and Muslim religious-minded persons. Consistent with the tradition maintained by the previous government and having same regard to the established Hindu institutions, the Muslim government was found to confirm the lands already enjoyed by the Hindu gods or to grant new lands for the Hindu religious purposes, with a view to winning the popularity of the Hindus. For example, once Alivardi Khan granted one bati of land to Sham Mohapatra in Usuna village in Kadinda Parana for the purpose of khairat.
Sometimes eminent Muhammadan noble men or provincial governors granted certain lands to the Hindus or Hindu institutions as charity. It is stated once some Guljari Husain granted the entire mauza of Baghua to Shri Jagannath Thakur (God) through Mohan Das for amrit-manohi.
Again Shuja-uddin Muhammad Khan granted one bati and two manas of land to Purusottam Bharati in Suasahi village for the maintenance of sadabart. To add to this, it may be stated that Raja Sarf-uddin Husain granted the entire village of Jagannathpur to adhibari Gopinath Das for the expenses of travelers and beggars. Choudhury Fateh Khan and others granted 7 batis 7 manas and 15 gunthas of land to Radhakanta Thakur through Balki Das in Kandarpur as khairate in 1748.
It is not correct to say that in consequence of the spread of Islam and the development of Muslim institutions, necessarily dawned a period of stagnation for the growth of Hindu religious ideas. On the other hand, what actually happened in Orissa was that patronization of their respective protagonists, patronizers and religious experts or reformers. So far the Hindu institutions were concerned, they prospered under the case of the Raja of Khurda, and other individual religious minded persons. It is during this period that a good number of matha were established by Vaishnava gurus for the propagation of Vaishnavism. Vaishnavism continued to spread in various parts of Orissa, more particularly in the interiors.
The Raja of Khurda, being the Superintendent of the temple of Jagannath and having principal part to be played in the festivals of Lord Jagannath was called by the Oriya as Thakur Raja, or the Raja having some of the spiritual power over others. Jagannath was not hampered and the installment of new gods in the compound of the temple was done in keeping with the aspiration and liking of the Hindu religions class. Besides, he was to perform his duties in the temple to the satisfaction of the Hindu and the Brahmins were to be patronized.
During the period of Muslim rule there were ten Rajas  who ruled over Khurda. Claiming to have inherited the royal position on the previous ancient kings of Orissa, they generally devoted their attention to make some additions to the Jagannath institution at Puri. Various types of koth bhoga (corporate offering) in this period were created and arranged for Lord Jagannath. The wheel of the temple of Jagannath which was broken was re-setup.  The statue of “the moon and sun” from the temple of Konarak, were taken and instituted in the compound of the Jagannath Temple.  The Jagamohan of the goddess Lakshmi near the Jagannath Temple was constructed  and the Jagamohan of Gopal Deva mandir was also built up. Also an additional mandap of Bimalai was constructed  and some other additions were made to the temples of existing gods or goddesses in the compound of Jagannath Temple. Gundicha Temple mukhasala was built. Again in the reign of Ramachandra Deva II, the Jagamohan to Gundicha Temple as well as bhog mandap were constructed. 
Besides, the temple of Jagannath was whitewashed several times by the supervision of the Raja of Khurda. 
Establishing Brahman villages was considered as a religious duty imposed on the Raja of Khurda. Hence, Brahmans were invited honoured and were given rent free lands and were settled in the villages. Such village where Brahmins were settled was called sasana. A very large number of sasanas were established by the different Rajas at different times and generally the sasanas were named according to the name of the Raja who established it. For example, Ramachandra Deva established Shri Ramachandrapur sasana and Vijaya Ramachandrapur sasana. Purusottam Deva established Birapurusottampur sasana, Shri Purusottampur sasana and Pratep Purusottampur sasana, Narsingh Deva set up Narasinghpur sasana. Balvadra Deva set up Balavadrapur sasana, and so on.
Also some sasanas were established by the efforts of some of the important officials of the Raja who wished to earn reputation for their religious generosity; for example Kahnai Bidyadhar, an officer under the Raja Narasingh Dev I established Kahnai Bidyadharput sasana. Another officer, Damodar Senaptai, set up Damodarpur sasana.  Similarly a third officer, Basu Samantaray, got reputation by setting up Basudevpur sasana and Biswanath by Biswanathpur sasana. Except when the image of Jagannath was removed from the temple to a place of safety, in the fear of desecration or normalcy prevailed, the daily worship of Jagannath was performed in usual way and food was offered to him more than once in a day and the people who took this bhog numbered to 20,000. It is stated in Ain-I-Akbari, “The three images are washed six times every day and freshly clothed. Fifty or sixty priests wearing the Brahminical thread stand to do them service and each time large dishes of food are brought out for the images so that 20,000 people partake the prasad. 
The car festival was celebrated in a great ceremonial style and the people with a view to removing their sin dragged the rope of the car on the street. Ain says “They constructed cars of sixteen wheels which in Hindi they call ‘Rath’ upon which the images are mounted; the believe that whosoever draws it is absolved from sin and is visited by no temporal distress. 
During this Moghul period land grants by charitable persons to the temples and Hindu religious institutions were not discontinued. From the study of revenue records it is evident that land grants were made profusely by the generous Hindus either for the maintenance of the temple or offering bhog to Lord Jagannath.  The institution thus was further enriched and the fame of the deity spread.
Many more other deities throughout Orissa enjoyed the privilege of land grants for maintenance for worship, for khairat and amrit-manohi. The Vaishnavite deities were given as such adoration as the Saivite deities. These grants helped the management of the institutions and catered more to the spiritual and religious needs of the Hindu community.  Also other deities throughout Orissa enjoyed the privilege of land grants either for khairat or amrit-manohi.
Not only deities, but also the maths were also given land grants for its maintenance; for example, in 1744 Ghanshyama Nasukroi Mohapatra granted 15 manas of land to Bilapade math through Guriba Bharati for the maintenance of sadabart.
As Muslims occasionally made land grants to Hindus, similarly some Hindus are found to have made land grants to the Muslims, for example Choudhury Sambhu Patnaik granted two bhatis of land in Samatara Sahi, Bakharabad to some Sham Mohammad and others for Madad-I-Mash in 1712.
Even though Islam spread from one part of Orissa to the other, still Vaishnavism’s penetration to the interior of Orissa seems to have gone unchecked. The flourishment of a number of Vaishnava maths  and the establishment of many of them, of their branches at different parts of the province show that Vaishnavite philosophy was perhaps more attractive to the Hindus during this time. For example, it may be stated that Vaishnava saint Rashikananda went to the court at Rajgarh of Vidyanath, the Raja of Mayurbhanj and converted the whole of Bjahna-bhum into Vaishnavism.  This it may be stated that not only the Muslim saints preached their message to the people of their religion in the Mughal period, as it appears, Hindu saints spread their reputation as religious guide to the Hindu population.
Benupada gadi (a Vaishnavite math), Bolgarh gadi (a Vaishnavite math), and Sunapada gadi are only some of the examples to show that Hindu saints were as active as the Muslims to teach their preachings to the people of Orissa.
Thus it may be concluded that in Medieval Orissa, generally there were the currents of two religions, often moving simultaneously towards prosperity on the principle of coexistence. Nowhere this principle of reconciliation and simultaneous development of the two religions are better illustrated than in the province of Orissa. In the history of Orissa, there is no evidence to show that any communal conflict ever marred the understanding between the two sections of the people. The attack on the temple of Jagannath instigated by some individual fanatic Muslim generals may be treated as an exception rather than a general principle.
From “Orissan Under the Mughals: From Akbar to Alivardi, a fascinating Study of the Socio Economic and Cultural History from Orissa” by B.C. Ray, M.A. Ph.D (London), University Professor and Head, Post-Graduate Department of History, Berhampur University, Orissa; Calcutta, 1981.