the states of India, Orissa has perhaps the highest concentration of the Hindus, although
all other religions have their followers in it. In 1971, the Hindus formed 92 per cent of
the total population; the Muslims, Christians and Buddhists forming 1.5, 1.7 and. 04 per
cent respectively. The balance is accounted for by the other religions including the
tribal religion of Sarana followed mostly by the Santals. Orissa is a land of religious
tolerance and the people belonging to different religions and faiths live harmoniously,
often within the same village.
Usually there reside a large
number of castes in a Hindu village from among the Brahmins, Karans, Khandayats or
Kshatriyas and the functional castes like cultivators, carpenters, weavers, blacksmiths,
braziers, goldsmiths, confectioners, milkmen, oilmen, potters, barbers, washermen, etc.
Quite often, if the village happens to be a big one, the different castes have their homes
in different parts of the village part being called a sahi, khandi or para. The scheduled
castes too have their sahis within the villages but usually apart from its center part.
The entire village constitutes the village community, will all the villagers sitting
together in the village meetings, listening. to the recitals of the scripture or
hymns and prayers (bhajan and kirtan) in the evening in some common place like the
Bhagabat Tungi, and even eating together, usually in separate lines, in the community
feasts. In fact the caste system is mostly functional and not rigid in Orissa as in the
South. By and large untouchability has been wiped out in the post-Independence period.