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The maritime trade of Orissa with transoceanic countries is evident from the early historical period onwards. It has been observed that new ports were set up after the decline of old ports in the nearby vicinity; however, information on the decline of ancient ports is very sparse. The archival
and historical records of the 16th and 19th centuries and the writings of contemporary scholars mention the ports of northern Orissa, viz. Balasore, Dhamra, Pipli, Chandbali, Laichanpur, Churamani and False Point, and their decline because of the shifting of the power centre, heavy taxation, bribes and sometimes due to natural forces such as siltation, formation of sandbars and cyclones. The devastating cyclones which occurred along the Orissa coast between 1823 and 1900 caused enormous loss of human lives and property and destroyed the ports and port structures. The role of
cyclones in the decline of these ports is scarcely mentioned in contemporary literature. Occurrences of storm surges during cyclonic events combined with the relatively large tidal ranges present along the Orissa coast caused tremendous destruction in the coastal area. In this article, an attempt has been made to study the decline of the ports of northern Orissa between Paradip and Sagar and to understand the various causative factors such as cyclones, storm surges and siltation, besides anthropogenic factors.