Kaudi (Cowrie) In The Odia Culture

These humble sea shells have played an integral part in human history - weaving and interlinking different people, cultures, lands, & time periods.Kaudi has been used as money, in religious rituals, as jewelry & home decor,& also for recreational games!

Being the common money recognized almost everywhere in the world 1500 years ago (or earlier) till 600 years ago , it eventually dwindled when the dominance of the Islamic & European powers swept the globe in the Middle Ages! Even with the advent of copper, silver, gold & paper money, still cowries continued to be used for smaller denominations. Foreign diplomats & travelers of the 12th/ 13th century Tomè Pires & Wang Dayuan mention the use of cowries for money.

Starting from many centuries ago-when the mighty Kalinga/Odra glories were at their zenith- till the 19th century British rule, it served as money for all strata of people in Odisha.

Its continuing usage in Odisha from ancient times to present day is something of an enigma! When with changing times we keep adapting newer/more modern things- this little shell has managed to sustain its place & presence in our rituals! For Odias, Kaudi has a unique presence in our most important stages of life -from birth till death - as the eyes for Ma Shathi during the 6th day puja of a newborn; in the famous kaudi-khela between a bride & groom; as the ‘khai-kaudi’ during the rituals after a person’s demise!

When the British Raj decided to abolish the cowries (kaudi) as money and tax people in silver & in other ways, the Pāika soldiers of Odisha protested against this injustice. Never before the Britishers had come across such a heroic uprising against their colonial power. This is remembered as the Pāika Bidroha of 1817, which led the foundation of struggle against the British rule in the land!

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