From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Chilika Lake
Mains level : Ramsar wetlands in India
The Chilika Lake in Odisha, Asia’s largest brackish water lake, was once part of the Bay of Bengal, a study by the marine archaeology department of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, has found.
Try this PYQ:
Q.Consider the following statements:
- In India, the Himalayas are spread over five States only.
- Western Ghats are spread over five States only.
- Pulicat Lake is spread over two States only.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1 and 3 only
- Chilika Lake is a brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha.
- It is located at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal, covering an area of over 1,100 km2.
- It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the largest brackish water lagoon in the world after The New Caledonian barrier reef.
- It has been listed Ramsar Site as well as a tentative UNESCO World Heritage site.
- The process of the formation of the Chilika might have begun in the latter part of the Pleistocene epoch, around 20,000 years ago.
- India’s peninsular river Mahanadi carried a heavy load of silt and dumped part of it at its delta.
- As the sediment-laden river met the Bay of Bengal, sand bars were formed near its mouth.
- These created a backflow of the seawater into the sluggish fresh water at the estuary, resulting in the huge brackish water lake.
- Marine archaeological studies on the Odisha coast clearly show that the Chilika once acted as a safe harbour for cargo ships bound for Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.
Historical accounts on Chilika
The lake has been a useful centre for maritime activities since the third millennium before the Common Era (CE).
- Greek geographer Claudius Ptolemy (150 CE) described Palur as an important port of Kalinga and referred to it as ‘Paloura’.
- This port was situated close to the ‘point of departure’ located outside the southern tip of the lake at Kantiagarh, from where ships used to sail directly for Southeast Asia.
- Stone anchors and hero stones from Manikapatna, Palur and the adjoining onshore regions of the Chilika suggest that the present brackish water lagoon was in fact a part of the Bay of Bengal.
- Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (7th century CE) recorded ‘Che-li-ta-lo-Ching’ as a flourishing port.
- This port was located at Chhatargarh on the banks of the Chilika.
- The Brahmanda Purana (10th century CE approximately) says the Chilika was an important centre of trade and commerce, with ships sailing to Java, Malaya and Ceylon.
- The famous Sanskrit poet Kalidas called the king of Kalinga ‘Madhodhipati’ or ‘Lord of the Ocean’.