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Islam in Orissa

After Hindu religion, Muslim religion people are the second dominated religion in Orissa.  Orissa was a Hindu Kingdom till the mid sixteenth century. Sulaiman Karrani conquered Orissa in 1568 defeating Raja Mukundadeva and appointed Khan Jahan Lodi as the governor of Cuttack. The Afghans ruled Orissa from 1568 to 1592 and later the state was under Mughal rule till 1759.

The Muslim settlement in Orissa started in fifteenth century with the migration of Muslims from Bengal and propagation of Islam. However, Muslim population in the state has remained very small till today. According to 1981 census, there were 422,266 Muslims in the state against 25,161,725 Hindus. In 1991, the Muslim population increased to 577,775 and the Hindu population to 29,971,257. The percentage of growth of the Muslim population during the decade 1981 – 1991 was 36.83. There are only three Muslim representatives in the 147 member strong state legislature. Only 3 percent of the Orissa population is Muslim and most of them are concentrated in Cuttak, Jagasinhapur and Puri districts. Today Muslims make up only about three per cent of the population (over 1 million of Orissa’s estimated population of 40 million).

With the establishment of the Muslim rule, Orissa became an integral part of India’s national political life. During Muslim rule, dress, ornament, food habit, art and culture of the Oriya people were deeply influenced by the Islamic culture. A good number of Persian, Urdu and Arabic words were assimilated in Oriya language and literature. The Mughal Tamasha of Bhadrak bears testimony of the Muslim influence on the indigenous art and culture of Orissa till to day.

At the other extreme, folk Islamic practices strongly influence many of the Muslims of Orissa (as is the case throughout most of South Asia). Cuttack town is one of a number of places in Eastern India and Bangladesh that has a Qadam-i-Rasul shrine, containing what is alleged to be a footprint of the Prophet Mohammed; both Muslims and Hindus venerate this shrine. In some places, Muslims even participate in Hindu rituals related to the Rath Yatra “Festival” dedicated to the Orissan deity Jaganath.

Missionary teams are needed to go to Orissa to proclaim the Messiah to the Muslims of the cities and rural areas. Practical demonstrations of God’s love, through community development programmes, literacy and education, and even small business loans, are crucial as well.

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