The word “Katak” etymologically means army cantonment and also the capital city. The history of Cuttack amply justifies its name.The city of Cuttack started as a military cantonment because of its impregnable situation that further developed into the capital of the state of Odisha. Inscriptions of Anangabhimadeva lll refer the orginal city as Abhinab-Baranasi–Katak.
Like the city of Baranasi, situated in between Baruna and Asi, Cuttack is situated between the rivers Mahanadi and Kathajodi and was therefore named as Abhinab Baranasi (a new type of Baranasi). Cuttack developed into a city out of five villages’ viz. Choudwar Katak, Baranasi Katak, Sarangagarh Katak, Viraja Katak and Amaravati Katak. In the remote past, Cuttack was connected both by land routes and waterways with the renowned medieval ports like Chelitalo, Palur and Tarmalipti.
Although politically Cuttack was not that significant before the 8th century A.D, still it was a flourishing mart of Eastern trade. However,Cuttack became a capital city at the end of the 10th century A.D,during the reign of Somavanansi dynasty of Odisha.The importance of Cuttack rapidly increased after the occupation of Odisha by Chodagangadeva early in the 12th century A.D. Chodaganga transferred his capital from Kalinganagar to Katak, which was more centrally located.
The famous Barabati Fort was constructed in 1229 A.D.by the famous Ganga ruler Anangabhimadeva lll.After the Ganges, Odisha passed into the hands of the Gajapati under whom Cuttack continued to be the capital of the state. The reference from Ain–i–Akbari clearly denotes that Cuttack was a flourishing capital city during the time of Mukunda Deva. On the eve of Afghan occupation, Cuttack was found to be a well guarded and heavily fortified capital.The Afghans however were not destined to rule Odisha and they were soon ousted by the Imperial Mughals. Cuttack continued to be the capital of Mughal Odisha and Abul Fazl clearly mentions that Mughal Governor was residing in that city.
During the rule of the Marathas, Cuttack greatly prospered as an emporium of trade and commerce and became a central market for exchange between the Marathas of Nagpur and the English merchants of Bengal and Northern Circar.As per the treaty of Deogaon, Cuttack came under British occupation in 1803 and the English set themselves to the task of consolidation and land revenue administration.
As an after effect of the devastating famine of 1866, the government gave serious consideration to remove the isolation of Cuttack from the outside world and at the same time to prevent the recurrence of such calamities in future. Along with several water ways, roads were also opened during the later part of the 19th century to provide Cuttack with internal communication. Then towards the last decade of the 19th century, railway line of BNR connected Cuttack directly with Madras and Calcutta.
The first newspaper of Odisha, ‘Utkal Dipika’ was published by the Cuttack Printing Company due to the efforts of Gourisankar Ray in 1866. There was a great change in the educational scenario of Cuttack after the British occupation, with the establishment of the first Government English School in 1841. It slowly progressed as the Higher English School until the famine of 1886.
Then the school was converted into a college with intermediate teaching in 1868, which in due course of time took the name of Ravenshaw College. Ravenshaw College was converted to Ravenshaw University on 15th November 2006. Odisha Medical was established in 1875, following the establishment of Cuttack General Hospital in 1874.
The Cuttack Municipality came into existence in 1876. In 1923, two new educational institutions opened in Cuttack. One was Cuttack Training College and the other was Odisha School of Engineering, which developed out of the old Survey School, separated from the Ravenshaw College in 1915 and from the Government workshop located at Jobra.
Barabati Stadium During the freedom struggle, Swaraj Ashram of Sahebazada Bazar was the center of all nationalist activities. The Ashram is a place of pilgrimage for all Gandhites as Gandhiji indoctrinated the youths of Odisha with the mantra of truth and nonviolence.Cuttack has been enjoying all along the unique privilege of being the administrative and commercial nerve center of Odisha.
It was the seat of the Commissioner of Odisha Division till 1936, and with the formation of the province of Odisha in that year; it was exalted to be the head quarter of the new province. The historic Lalbagh place which was being occupied by the Commissioner became the Governor House. Now it has been converted to children’s hospital called ‘Sishu Bhawan’. A stadium known as the Barabati Stadium has been built on the famous Killa Maidan near the Barabati Fort.
The High court came into existence in 1948 and its building is another impressive structure of Indo-European style. In 1948, Akasvani (All India Radio) was established in the old Madhupur building of Cuttack.The city is reputed all over the country for its exquisite and delicate filigree works, artistic horn works and as also for its fine and multi-coloured textile products.
The state government finally selected Bhubaneswar, situated at a distance of eighteen miles from Cuttack, as its new capital in accordance with the plan of greater Cuttack. Though Bhubaneswer has been made the new capital of Odisha, still Cuttack acts as a bridge linking the past, present and future of state’s history and heritage. It is ranked as one of the old cities of India with her life spread over for more than thousand years; being famous as the ‘Millennium City’.