The Odia community migrated from the Utkal coast to the Konkan coast over the past couple of decades in search of greener pastures and some have made Goa their home. With over 20,000 Odias in Goa today, the community has a striking presence in the Goan landscape. NT NETWORK find out more
VENITA GOMES | NT NETWORK
Although the first people from Odia came to Goa, soon after liberation their numbers picked up soon after the 1990s. They moved to Goa in search of better career prospects; little did they know about the place, but they fell in love with Goa, and made it their home.
Spread across Goa
According to the 2011 Census of India there were around 5558 Odia speaking people in Goa. Out of which 2716 were from North and 2842 from South Goa. Salcete had the highest population of 1301; Mormugao (973), Bardez (992), Tisawadi (792); Ponda (569); Quepem (289); Bicholim (226); Sanguem (202); Satari (120); Canacona (68); and Pernem (17).
Today, there are more than 20,000 Odias residing in Goa, according to the data provided by the All Goa Odisha Association.
Integrating into the
Founder member of the All Goa Odisha Association, Sukant Kumar Mishra narrates how the Odias made their way to Goa. “If you look back before Goa’s Liberation there was not much of a trace of the Odia community in Goa. It was during Liberation that officials from the Indian Air Force, Military, and bureaucracy came to Goa. Over a period of time as technological advancement and communication began taking place, people from erstwhile Orissa started moving here. As the mining and industrial sector was emerging in the state many skilled and unskilled workers migrated to Goa for better job prospects,” says Sukant.
Many Odias settled in Goa to comply with their job-related postings while others found Goa attractive and peaceful due to several favourable factors. Many entered the business sector while others got into small-scale industries. There were even some who started their own business.
46-year-old, Gagan Das from Aquem who has been residing in Goa for past 16 years speaks of how from a skilled plumber’s job, he and his family were able to start their own plumbing company. He says: “Our family profession is plumbing. I came to Goa with my uncle who was a plumber and together we would render services to various prominent hotels in South Goa. My brother started small with a salary of `500 and slowly we started taking up major hotel projects and then developed our own company ‘Das Techno Engineers (I) Private Limited’. We got more workers from Odisha and employed them in our company as we needed many hands.”
Today, Das Techno Engineers (I) Private Limited has over 200 employees from Odisha and they render plumbing services for prominent five-star hotels in Goa and others in Mumbai. “Goa has been very generous to us. Though our motherland is Odisha, Goa has been our second home it has helped us make a living and made us self-sufficient. Starting small, we grew bigger and successful in this place and we are thankful to Goa for the same,” says Gagan.
Homeopathic practitioner, Suresh Kumar Barik who came to Goa for a one-day trip fell in love with the place and decided to make it his home for nearly 18 years now. “Goa and Odisha are coastal areas and this makes the culture, the food habit and the lifestyle somewhat similar. I was previously working in Mangalore and then got a job at Shri Kamaxidevi Homeopathic Medical College, Shiroda and I shifted here with my family,” says Suresh who also practices in Ponda and Panaji. He believes that through his services he is doing his bit for the society and for the people of Goa.
Until the 90s there was no formal organisation of the community but in 2002 the All Goa Odisha Association was registered. The whole aim behind this was to organise the people of Odisha and to channelise them in the right direction. “When you are away from your hometown you feel alone in a new place. You miss the place, the people and the community. Therefore, we thought of getting together the people of Odisha and providing them with a homely atmosphere,” adds Sukant. The community also has a religious group called ‘Shree Jagannath Temple Trust Goa’ which looks into all the religious and spiritual celebrations and activities of the community.
“Whenever we, Odia Goans would meet either for a picnic or a celebration, a common topic would be to have a Jagannath temple. Lord Jagannath is known to be the Lord of the Universe and is considered supreme of Odia. The Jagannath culture is dear to every Odia irrespective of the religion. It is sort of a sangam of major Indian thoughts, be it Jains, Buddhists, Shaivites, Vairshnavities or Ganaoatyas the culture is dear to all. There was always a discussion of having a temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath where the Odias and other members could meet and indulge in spiritual activities,” says Sukant.
In the year 2017 a piece of land near Bandora, Ponda was donated by NC Nilkanth and Chetan from Bicholim for building the Lord Jagannath temple. Through donations, contributions and fundraising events the temple was constructed. It is one of the few temples in Goa to have off-grid solar panel system, which helps to meet all the electrical needs of the temple.
This is the way we celebrate
The state of Odisha, an erstwhile part of Bihar, was ruled by many empires and has had its culture influenced by the same. Popularly, known for its Odissi and Chhau dance; Pattachitra art, the Jagannath temple and various others historical sites the Odias stand distinct from the rest. For the Odia Goan, the Ratha-Yatra and Utkal Divas are two popular festivals which they celebrate.
For past 10 years the All Goa Odisha Association and ISKCON have been jointly celebrating the Ratha-Yatra. In Puri, Odisha the Ratha-Yatra is one of the most popular festivals wherein the chariots with deities Jagannath, Balabhadra (his brother), Subhadra (his sister) on a wooden deula-shaped chariot are pulled during a procession by the devotees. Enacting the same the Rath-Yatra is celebrated in Goa.
“On this day devotees especially the ladies observe the fast wherein they refrain from eating food containing onion and garlic. Following is the Ratha-Yatra wherein, thousands of devotes pull the chariot of Lord Jagannath starting from Miramar circle to Panaji ferry point. At the start of the yatra a ‘Gajapati Maharaj broom’ is given to the leader who cleans the path for the deity. The whole idea of celebrating Jagannath is unity and bringing together the people from different communities. It is not just the Odisha people but members of different faith and communities coming to pay respect to the deity,” says Vasco-based Sanjukta Mishra.
Every year on April 1 the Odisha Day is celebrated in order to commemorate the Odisha Statehood Day. “On this day several cultural activities take place. Artistes from Government of Orissa, department of tourism and culture and other cultural bodies, come here to perform Odissi, Sambalpuri and Gotipua dance and enthral the audience in Goa. These celebrations refresh the memory of our rich cultural heritage and comes as an instrument for educating our younger generations about the history of Orissa,” says ex-president and founder trustee of Shree Jagannath Temple Trust Goa and advisory committee member of All Goa Odisha Association, Swarnaprabha Mishra.
She adds that during this celebration they hold several competitions like Pitha (traditional pancake making), drawing competitions in junior and senior levels, rangoli making and other activities. “This is a time for us to rejoice and bond with our own community members as well as our invitees from Goa who also enjoy the community feast and our cultural performances,” says Swarnaprabha.
Besides that the community also comes together to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi in a grand way.
The Odia cuisine –
similar yet different
When you speak about the Odia cuisine it is somewhat similar to Goan cuisine as both are coastal states. Fatorda-based, Swarnaprabha Mishra speaks about the similarities in the cuisine. “Historically it’s believed that Saraswat Brahmins came from the banks of River Saraswati and settled down in east coast and then they moved to Konkan region to settle down here, so the food habits of the Odias and Goans are somewhat the same. We are also mainly fish and rice eating people. The only difference is we eat a lot of sweet water fish whereas in Goa it is mainly salt water fish,” says Swarnaprabha.
She adds that when it comes to the ingredients in the masala of the Odia cuisine, very less use of coconut is made. “We prepare pancakes made of rice flour with sweetened coconut stuffing. Another common food item used is bamboo shoots which is a delicacy in western Odisha. Our preparation of batata vada has more spicy stuffing than the Goan batata vada. Only thing we miss out in Goa are the sweets made from curdled milk. Now of course these sweets are available at a number of shops,” adds Swarnaprabha.
Adjustment in a new home
Odisha and Goa being on two extreme sides of the Indian subcontinent, people from Odisha often have to adjust, compromise and face a lot of hardships and difficulties; may it be the food, the people, the culture, the place. For the Odia Goans the shift from their hometown to Goa was not a smooth sail.
Initially, when Gagan moved to Goa with his family it was not easy to understand and speak English and Konkani. “Most of the contracts we got were in hotels and their people mostly spoke English and Konkani. That was a difficult part but not too bad, because we would speak Hindi, which many knew. Later as we got our children enrolled in Goan schools they started learning and helping us understand the language better,” adds Gagan.
Negative news often attracts readers and the same happened on several accounts to this community. Sukant highlights how crime cases by members of other communities were often highlighted and that tended to tarnish the image of the entire community. “Not only with our community but all outside communities if they commit a crime it is often highlighted. Crime can be committed by anyone not only by an outsider; highlighting the community is not justified. We often perceive a society by with the crime news we read,” states Sukant.
Mechanical engineer, Rahulraj Pradhan from Mapusa found his home in Goa, he feels happier to be called a Goan rather than an Odia. “I came down to Goa with my parents and completed my engineering studies and currently am working in Goa. It was easy for me to mix around with the people of Goa. I never felt like a migrant here. In fact, I feel difficult to mix with people back in Odisha,” he states.
Stating that Goa has changed a lot over the years and it is no longer same, Prasan Kumar Pradhan says: “When I came to Goa it was nice and different. Things nowadays have changed, the environment is different. But being in Goa, I have got to learn many things and there are many others from Odisha with whom we can connect whenever we need help.”
Though the Odia community is slowly growing in Goa, all they seek is respect and love from the people and to include them as part of Goa.