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 Tamralipti.
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.
Observance of many socio-religious cultural festivals are common features of the City as well as the District.
Akshaya Trutiya: This is an important agricultural festival, falls in the month of Vaishakha and characterized by the ceremonial sowing of paddy in the field.The construction of Chariots for the Car festival and the Chandan Yatra starts in this auspicious day. In cuttack District, the rural households observe Akshaya Trutiya very piously.
Rathayatra: It is celebrated on the 2nd day of the month of Asadha. In Cuttack Town, the Car festival is being observed at Dolamundai Jagannath Temple, Chandini Chowk Jagannath Temple , Ranihat Jagannath Temple along with many other places of the District like at Jagannath Temple, Dampada, Athagarh Jagannath Temple etc. with huge gatherings.
Ganeshpuja : The festive season in Cuttack city starts from Ganesh Puja to Baliyatra. Lord Binayak is the household deity of prudence and prosperity. It is observed in the fourth day of bright fortnight of lunar month Bhadrav. The emersion ceremony of Lord Ganesh is celebrated in Cuttack City with much pomp and fanfare especially enjoyed by the youth.
Like wise Saraswati Puja, Khudurukuni Osha, Shiv Ratri, Magha Saptami and Mangal bara Osha are being observed by the people of the district.
Durgapuja: Maa Katak Chandi and Gada Chandi are famous Shaki Pithas in Cuttack City. The Shakti worship in Odisha goes back to the pre-Gupta period. It is said that the first mass celebration of Durgapuja was started observed in Cuttack City during the visit of Sri Chaitanya Dev in 15th Century CE. However a large nos of Durga, Siva,Parbati/Shakti idols are being built up by the artisans. The emersion ceremony of Durgapuja is very attractive, popular and enjoyable. This puja has been mingled with the Odisha’s socio-religious and cultural traditions . Since last 2 years Durga , Lord, Shiva and related idols are worshipped in 157 Puja Mandaps of the Cuttack City with much fanfare. The unique fact in emersion ceremony of Durgapuja is that almost all the idols are taken in a procession with very much discipline with the spirit of brotherhood called “Bhai Chaara” among the Katakias( people of Cuttack).
Kumar Purnima : It is celebrated on the full moon day of Aswina every year. Laxmi Puja is very much famous at Choudwar and Banki let alone Cuttack. At banki since 2000 CE, Banki Mahotsave is being celebrated for about 5 days every year with much joy and enthusiasm.This year Banki Mahotsav was held from 5th to 9th October.
Kalipuja : Kalipuja in Cuttack City is celebrated with immersion Utsav with much pomp and fanfare. This year Kalipuja along with Deepavali was observed on 19th October and Bhasani Utsav was held on 22nd October. About 75 idols of Maa Kali were worshipped in different Puja Mandapas in and around Cuttack City.
Maa Sholapuri Puja : Popularly known as Shola pua maa thakurani Puja is observed by the Telegu community in Cuttack city. This festival has been synchronised with Cuttack’s own traditions of worshiping mother goddess Durga.
Chhat Puja : Bihari community of Cuttack city celebrate the famous festival “Chhat” during the month of October. They go to the river bed to perform Puja to Sun God.
Kartik Purnima/Rasa Purnima and Baliyatra : The Odia month of Kartik is the most auspicious month of the year. The fool moon day i;e Kartik Purnima has been celebrated at Boita Bandana Divas since ancient times. The memories of Odisha Maritime activities are very much connected with the Kartik Purnima celebrations. The Sadhavas (Merchants) were beginning their voyage by boat from the Kalingan shores to Java, Borneo, Sumatra, Ceylon like East Asian countries on Kartika Purnima. To commemorate the day, even today, early in the morning of kartik Purnima ,boats made out of Banana stem with the lamps and betel leaves and betel nuts are set a sail on the river or in the tank by the people of Odisha.
The famous Balijatra Cuttack starts on this auspicious day. It has now extended from Killa Fort ground to the Sand bed of Mahanadi(Tala Padia) Thousands of stalls are open to exhibit various products. Like yester years , this year National level Pallishree Mela, Gandhi Silpa Bazar are being organized and the Balijatra Cuttack Utsav continues for seven days starting from 4th November.
Balijatra has now established a commercial approach like Puskar Mela of Rajashthan. This year cultural programme in Baishnab Pani Mandap of Balijatra ground are being organised form 4th to 10th November. Besides local artists from the District and rural folk artists (lok Kala) of Zilla Kala Sanshruti Sangha, cultural troupes from Cultural department of Odisha, different parts of Odisha as well as from other states like Assam and from abroad are participating in these week long cultural programme being organised on the occasion of Balijatra.