The district of Puri, the southernmost district of the Odisha Division and of the Province of Bengal, in situated between 19° 28’ and 20° 26’ North Latitude and 84° 56’ and 86° 25’ East Longitude. It extended over an area of 2,499 square miles and contains a population, according to the census of 2011, of 17 Lakhs souls.
The district is named after its headquarters Puri, situated on the shore of the Bay of Bengal in 19° 48’ N. and 85° 52’ E. The place is known to up-country Hindus as Jagannath and locally as Purushottam kshetra, the abode of the best of beings, i.e., Jagannath, the lord of the Universe, whose shrine has, for centuries past, attracted devout pilgrims from all part of India.
The name Puri means simply the city and seems never to have been in use before the British conquest of Orissa; it is believed to be merely an abbreviation of Jagannath Puri, the city of Jagannath.
Origin of the name of the city Puri
According to Cunningham the ancient name of this town was Charitra mentioned by the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang as Che-li-ta-lo. But the restoration of the word Che-li-ta-lo as Charitra and its identification with the town of Puri is open to doubt. The importance of the town as a seat of Vaisnavism increased when Chodaganga Deva constructed the temple of Purusottama Jagannath and installed the image of the deities. Thereafter, it become famous as the abode of Purusottama and was popularity called Purusottama Kshetra.
In the drama Anargharaghava Natakam attributed to cir. 9th century A.D. we find the name Purusottama applied to this town. In the Nagari Plate of Anangabhima III of the Saka year 1151-52 i.e., 1229-30 A.D., the place is called Purusottama Kshetra. This name in the form of Purusottama Chhatar or only in the form Chhatar was used by the Mughal, the Maratha as well as the early British rulers in their official records. Even in yoginitantra1 and Kalikapurana the city referred to as Purusottam. Puri2 region was also known as Utkal.
The name Purusottama Kshetra was also for sometime Known as Purusottama Puri and as the word Purusottama Kshetra was contracted into Kshetra or Chhatra so also Purusottama Puri was expressed in the contracted from Puri. In fact, in many early British record this town is known by the name Pooree. In the modern times Puri has become the most popular of all the other names of this town.
History of the city as an administrative unit and changes in its parts.
Under the Mughal rule (1592-1751), Orissa for the purpose of Revenue Administration was divided in to three circars, namely, Jaleswar, Bhadrak, and Kataka, each of which was subdivided into Mahals or Dandapatas and the Mahals were again subdivided into Bishis. Puri formed a part of Kataka circar.
The conquest of Orissa by the British in 1803 set forth great changes in revenue divisions and political relations. In June 1804, the Province was divided in to two divisions, namely, the northern and southern divisions, the river Mahanadi, forming the natural boundary.
As the Raja of Khurda revolted in 1804, he was arrested and was placed in confinement in the Fort of Barabati at Cuttack. His territory was confiscated and the Raja was subsequently released. In 1807 he was permitted to live at Balisahi in the town of Puri and functioned as the Superintendent of the temple of Jagannath.
Puri was the capital of the province of Orissa and the headquarters of the Collector till 1816. In 1806 there was a proposal to remove the headquarters of Jajpur, but did not get government sanction. In August 1814, a part of the Collector’s establishment was removed to Cuttack, which was again brought back to Puri in December. A petition from a number of Zamidars for the removal of the Collectorate to Cuttack, which was the seat of administration under the Mughal and the Marathas, although rejected by the Collector, was finally approved and the headquarters was permanently shifted from Puri to Cuttack in 1816.