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Histiry Of Chilika :Legend and geology provide interesting contrasts in their versions of the history of chilika. Legend reveals that the pirate King Raktabahhu came to ransack Puri with a huge fleet of ships. He anchored out of sight to avoid detection, but the sea washed up refuse from the ships to shore and warned the townspeople, who fled with all their possessions. Raktabahu thus found a deserted city when he finally arrived. Furious, he insisted that the sea had betrayed him and ordered his army to attack it. The sea entered the seabed in pursuit. Then it surged back, drowning the army and forming what is now Chilika lagoon.Many ancient texts mention the southern sector of Chilika as being a major harbour for martime commerce, back in the days when the King of Kalinga was known as Lord of the Sea. Indeed, some rocks in the Southern sector are marked by a band of white formed by remains of coral (which are exclusively marine). This band is at a height of 8m above the current water level, a clear indication that the area was once marine, and the water much deeper that it is today.

Geological studies tell us that the coastline extended along the western shores of Chilika in the Pleistocene era, and that the entire northeastern region above Chilika was under the sea. Since then, the coastlilne has moved considerably eastward (Chatterjee and Goswami 1966). Similarly, the Konark temple, built on the seashore a few hundred years ago, is now over 3 km from the coast.

Most lagoons seen today were formed as a result of a worldwide rise in sea levels over the last 6,000-8,000 years. There was a pause in the rise in sea levels about 7,000 years ago, when a sandy beach might have formed near the coast at the Southern sector, As the sea rose further, this sand beach grew gradually. It progressed seaward and to the northeast, to form what is now the spit of Chilika. A recent fossil from the southwestern edge of the spit has been dated to about 3,500-4,000 years ago, which is some indication of howlong ago the lagoon was formed (Venkataratnam 1970). The growth of the spit at Chilika is supposed to be due to the abbrupt change in the direction of the coast north of the lake, strong winds transferring sand to the shore, longshore drift, and the presence or absence of strong river and tidal currents in different areas (Bandyopandyay and Gopal 1991)

The spit of Chilika is constantly changing. The sand bar has been widening, and the position of the mouth contantly shifting, moving generally towards the northeast. The mouth was described as being about 1.5 km wide in 1780, and had decresed to half that within forty years (Hunter 1877). The mouth frequently gets choked up and has to be cut open artificially, often by the local fisherfolk, whose livelihood depends critically on maintaining an access for the sea to enter Chilika. Meanwhile the former seabed that is now Chilika is being gradually silted up by the rivers running into it, converting, the lagoon into its present shallow state.

Chilika is an integral part of the culture of coastal Orissa. Almost 400 years ago, the saint poet Purshottam Das, a devotee of Lord Jagannath, wrote a poem about Lord Krishna dancing with a milkmaid called Maniki, who had come to sell curds on the banks of the Chilika. Even today, a villave Manikagauda (gauda being the cowherd caste) stands on Chilika lagoon. More recently, the great Oriya poet, Radhanath Rai, fascinated by the beauty of the lagoon, wrote an epic poem 'Chilika" which is regarded as a masterpiece of descriptive geography. The freedom fighter Gopababdhu Das (know as "Orissa's Gandhi"), in his book "Bandir Atmakatha" ("Autobiography of a prisoner"), wrote eloquently about Chilika viewed from a train travelling along its banks in the 1920s.

When the British invaded Orissa from the south in 1803, the traitor Fateh Muhammed met them on the shores of Chilika. He showed them the eastern route, by which they managed to reach Puri undetected. In, return, Fateh Muhammed was given freehold of the areas of Malud and Parikud, most of which is today called Garh Krishnaprasad block.

The British and settlement for Orissa in 1897-98 recorded the exclusive enjoyment of fisheries in Chilika by the fishermen community. The fisheries of Chilika were part of the Zamindari estates of Khallikote, Parikud, Suna Bibi, Mirza Taher Baig and the Chaudhary families of Bhungarpur and the Khas mahal areas of Khurda, lying within the kingdoms of the Rajas of Parikud and Khallikote. The zamindars used to lease out the fisheries exclusively to the local fisherfolk. The Birtish also started a Cooperative

store in Balugaon in 1926 to provide fishing equipment to locals. In addition, the British constituted 25 Primary Fishermen Cooperatives during the Second World War (OFC undated).

During these centuries of exclusive rights, fisherfolk evolved a complex system of partitioning the fisheries of Chilika amongst themselves. Several castes of fisherfolk developed a large array of fishing techniques, nets and gear. According to the fisherfolk the harvested the lake in a relatively sustainable fashion (Mohanty and Das, unpublished). After the abolition of zamindari in 1953, traditional fishing areas continued to be leased out to cooperatives of local fishermen. As fishing (particularly prawn fishing) become increasingly remunerative, outside interests began entering the area.

The leasing system broke down completely in 1991 when the Orissa government outlined leasing policy that would in essence have resulted in the auction of leases to the highest bidder. The cooperatives challenged the order in court, and the Orissa High Court directed the Government to make changes that would safeguard traditional fishermen's interests. However, no new lease have been issued to date. As a result, chaos reigns and the local people are being marginalized by powerful outsiders (Das 1993).

Recently the Government of  Orissa have issued a notification banning the lease of Chilika for Culture fishery.


Chilka Lake - Asia's largest brackish water lagoon with water spread ranging from 1165 sq km m the rainy season to 906 sq km in the dry season is nestled in the heart of coastal Orissa. It extends from Bhusandpur in Puri district in the North to Rambha-Malud in Ganjan district in the South, separated from the Bay of Bengal by a 60 km long narrow strip of marshy islands and sand-flats. Some of the prominent islands like Nalabana, Kalijal, Somolo, Honeymoon, Break-fast, Birds and Rajahansa inhabited by small subsistence fishermen families, are popular destinations for daily boat trips. Because of its rich bio-diversity and socio-economic importance, Chilika was designated as a Ramsar site in 1981 to afford better protection.

          Chilika is recognized as one of the most important wetlands in the world because it is home to a phenomenal variety of birds. Chilika lake offers visitors a spectacular display of its colourful avian charms in a thousand different hues presented by over 160 species in the peak season between November and February. The lake and its reed islands teem with nesting birds-white bellied sea eagles, ospreys, golden plovers, sand pipers, flamingos, pelicans, shovellers, gulls, include migratory ones flying great distances from Iran, Central Asia and Siberia. The large Nalabana Island (Forest of Reeds) covering about 16 sq km in the lagoon area was declared a bird sanctuary in 1987. The core area of about 9 sq km attracts around 400,000 waterfowls of different species. Often underwater, the island gradually emerges with the outset of summer. It is literally a paradise for bird-watchers. Another major attraction at Chilika is Irrawady dolphins

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Chilika Photos

  which are often spotted off Satpada Island. Satpada, bounded by the lagoon on three sides offers an excellent view and attracts the visitors to its entire 30 km
stretch of sand bar. Boats arranged by OTDC are available for both the islands. The lake also supports the local fisherman in earning their living from Chilika's prawn,
 mackerel and crabs. Of late slightly reduced number of birds, owing to growth in prawn farming as well as silting and reduced salinity has alarmed the conservationists.
The plying of mechanized boats, the increasing of different fishing
nets and gears has threatened the flagship species of the Chilika lagoon, the Irrawady dolphin.
  Attractions Near the Chilka Lake
Kalijai Temple, standing on one of the tiny rocky island considered to be the abode of the Goddess Kalijai, Shiva's consort Durga, is a pilgrimage spot. Each year
 at Makar Sankranti (14th January), pilgrims flock at the site to leave votive offerings in the cave where the deity is enshrined. A temple dedicated to Lord Varuna, the
God of Sea, in the tiny island of
near Magarmukh is revered.

  In a small village of Manikpatna there exists the temple of Bhabakundesvar Shiva and an old Mosque. A piece of unique architecture, the mosque has its
entrance door made of jaws of whale.

A place of scenic beauty in between the sea and the lake, Brahmapura is also a site to watch small deer, called Baliharina.

Others include, Birds Island, a haven for resident and migratory birds. The Parikud and Malud are colourful islands within the lake. The Beacon Island,
3 km from Rambha presents an architectural marvel with a conical pillar and a small room constructed on a submerged mass of rock near Ghantasila Hill. The
Breakfast Island and Honeymoon Island present very dark blue water to visitors, who come here to relax.

11 km from Rambha and 21 km from Barkul, Nirmala Jhar, is perennial stream, a great picnic spot and also a place of worship. By the side of a perennial
 stream, 10 km from Barkul and 22 km from Rambha, Narayani, is a temple site dedicated to Goddess Narayani. Banpur, at a distance of 13 km from
Barkul is associated with shrines of Goddess Bhagabati and Dakshya-Prajapati.

A former port now a popular seaside resort, Gopalpur-on-sea is 75 km from Barkul and 50 km from Rambha.

Reaching Chilka Lake in Orissa
Trains on the Kolkata - Chennai route of East Coast Railway stop at several villages along the lake like Balugaon, Chilika, Khalikote and Rambha.
 The nearest railhead for Barkul is Balugaon and for Satpada is at Puri (50 km).
  Barkul, Satpada and Rambha are three entry points to the Chilika Lake. Bhubaneswar-Balugaon is 110 km and Bhubaneswar-Rambha, 130 km. Barkul
is 26 km North of Rambha. To reach Barkul, take a bus from Bhubaneswar or Puri for Berhampur and get down at Balugaon. From Balugaon it is 7 km
to Barkul by auto rickshaw. From Puri there is a regular bus service to Satpada, 50 km. There is also a ferry service between Satpada and Balugaon, 3 hrs
.Private boats are also available.
Facts about Chilka Lake, Orissa
Water Spread Area 1100 sq km
Max length 64.3 km
Max breadth 18 km
Districts Puri, Khurda and Ganjam
Best time to visit Chilka Lake November-February
Entry Points Satpada, Barkul and Rambha-110 km, 97 km and 120 km respectively from Bhubaneswar


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