Geographically as well as culturally Orissa is one of the most colorful regions of the country, with the vast blue ocean at its east and the mountainous ranges and the deep forests in the western and southern zones. Known at different stages of history as Kalinga, Udra, Utkala, Koshala and Orissa, it had a vast empire in the ancient and medieval times, which extended from the Ganges in the north to the Godabari in the south. During the British rule, however, Orissa lost its political identity and formed parts of the Bengal and Madras Presidencies. The present state of Orissa was formed in 1936.
Orissa has an extremely rich tradition of oral literature consisting of innumerable myths, legends and folklore. Like literature in other Indian languages, modern Oriya Literature has developed rapidly during the last one hundred years, i.e., after the introduction of the printing press and the exposure of Oriya authors to English language and literature. Though economically a backward state, in recent years, Orissa has produced the best authors and poets who have national and international fame.
Known variously as Utkal and Kalinga at the different historical periods, modern Orissa emerged as a separate province on 1st April 1936. Orissa is a confluence of the North and the South, the Aryan as well as the Dravidian culture. There are many features of language, food habits, costumes and folk-lore of Orissa that are common to both the north and the south of India.
The Oriya language has its early beginnings long before the third century B.C. The inscriptions of Ashoka (third century B.C.) and of Kharabela (first century B.C.) lend substantial support to such a view. The language that the people of this part of India then spoke is not clearly identifiable. However, through cultural and commercial transactions, the local tongue enriched itself. Thus, between third century B.C. and 700 A.D., the foundations of Oriya as literary medium seem to have been firmly laid.
From the 7th century A.D. till about the end of the 14th century, literary creations in Orissa were confined to the tenets of esoteric Buddhism and Nathism, a religious and devotional cult named after its founder, Gorakhanatha. From about 750 A.D. till about 1150 A.D., Oriya literature was strongly inspired by the doctrine of ‘Saha-Yaana’, literally, ‘Natural path’ propounded by the famous philosopher Laxminkaraa, significantly a woman. Most of these works that ideologically opposed Brahminical hegemony could be seen in the examples given in Aarya Giti or Songs of Conduct. From about the 11th century until the end of the 14th century, the preaching of Gorakhanatha, the saint-philosopher, gained popularity in Orissa. Religious endowments called Mathas were found in different parts with Natha or Lord Shiva as the supreme object of worship. Nathism laid stress on social and moral discipline as the road to the highest spiritual salvation.
The writers of the Charyapada, some of them were definitely from the tract of land comprising Orissa. Oriya Natha Literature: The Bratakathas
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Oriya poetry owes its origin to the Charyapadas (QÐ¯Ðà`]), a form of Buddhist mystical verses, composed presumably in the tenth century A.D. Sarala Das’s Mahabharat (ckÐbÐe[), written in the 15th century, clearly shows that Oriya had already matured as a language and has become the fit medium for a stable literature. Medieval Oriya poetry, composed between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, consisted mostly of Kavyas (LÐaÔ) (romantic/narrative poems), Puranas (`ÊeÐZ) (narrative poems with themes borrowed from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagabata and folklore), Bhajanas (bS_) (devotional poems), Champus (QÕ`Ê), Chautishas (QD[Þh) and Chandas (RÐt) (poetic forms with a variety of themes). Medieval poets mostly depended on the Royal Court and the folk performers for popularizing their work among the masses.
Radhanath Roy (1848-1908) is the first major modern poet who broke away from the Medieval tradition. He created a new idiom and form and explored new themes. He belonged to the first generation of Oriyas who received western education. He wrote nine Kavyas (LÐaÔ), the themes of which were borrowed from Greek sources. These blended the two literary traditions: the Indian and the western. Patriotism is a dominant theme in his work.
Madhu Sudan Rao (1853-1912), Gangadhara Meher (1962-1924), Nanda Kishore Bal (1875-1928) and Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843-1918) were Roy’s contemporaries. Rao wrote lyrics and other forms on divine love and patriotism, in a style that is sanskritised and literary. Meher borrowed his themes from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and other classical sources and was a superb craftsman. Senapati wrote about ordinary experiences of life, in a language that is colloquial.
The first two decades of the 20th century saw the emergence of a group of poets whose chief concern was patriotism. Gopabandhu Das (1877-1928), one of the founders of the modern Orissa state, was the leader of this group, which was known as the Satyabadi Group (j[ÔaÐ]Ñ jÕO). It was followed by another group, called the Sabuja (jaÊS) (the Greens) who wrote under the influence of Western and Bengali literatures. The Sabuja poets introduced new themes and forms, and their work was youthful.
Considering the fact that the reading public in Orissa is limited, the richness and variety of modern Oriya poetry is amazing. It clearly proves that poetry is the genre in which the Oriya genius has been most articulate. Mayadhar Mansingh (1905-1973), Radha Mohan Gadanayak (b.1911) and Godavarish Mohapatra (1900-1938), Ananta Patnaik (1910-1988) and Sachidananda Routaray (b.1919), who belong to both Pre- and post-independence periods, are the major poets of this century.
Mansingh and Gadanayak have written excellent lyrics, odes, sonnets and ballads on variety of subjects. Mansingh’s love lyrics in his collections Dhupa (^Ë`) (Sacred Flame) and Gadanayak’s collections of ballads in Smaranika (jêeZÞLÐ) (Remembrance) are classics in Oriya poetry. Godavarish Mohapatra, who edited Niankhunta (_ÞAÜ MÊÃ) (Burning Pestle), a magazine devoted to political and social criticism, published a large number of satires, which have added a new dimension to modern Oriya poetry. Ananta Patnaik has made bold experiments in the diction and form of modern poetry; (unlike Mansingh and Gadanayak, who generally preferred a conventional style and form) His themes range from Marxism to the disillusionment that followed India’s independence.
No other Oriya poet in the twentieth century has written on such a wide range of subjects and experiments in so many forms and dictions as Sachidananda Rout Roy has done. He took the Oriya readers by storm when he published Baji Rout (aÐSÑ eÐD[) in 1943, a long poem that celebrated the martyrdom of a boatman boy who succumbed to the bullets of British police. Rout Roy is a prolific poet and has published as many as twenty collections of poems. His Pallishri (`mâÑhÍÑ), dealing with Oriya village life, is as successful as his Pratima Nayak (`Í[ÞcÐ _Ð¯L) a poem that portrays the suffering and the predicament of a city girl. A winner of Jnanpitha award (sÐ_`ÞW `Êe²Ðe), Rout Roy has recently published a few poems with religion as their theme. It is interesting that a poet, who was inspired by Marxism in this youth, has chosen Lord Jagannatha as a theme in his old age.
Guru Prasad Mohanty (b.1924), Ramakanta Rath (b.1934), Sitakant Mahapatra (b.1937), Jagannath Prasad Das (b.1936), Soubhgya Kumar Mishra (b.1941) Devdas Chhotray (b.1946), Rajendra Kishore Panda (b.1944) and Hara Prasad Das (b.1945) are some of the major ports of the post-independence period. The list given here is by no means exhaustive.
Guru Prasad Mohanty’s Kala-Purusha (LfÐ-`ÊeÊi), is a landmark in modern Oriya Poetry. Though based on T.S.Eliot’s The Waste Land, Kala-Purusha reads like an original poem, with its Indian (Oriya) landscapes, situation and characters. Ramakanta Rath is perhaps the most powerful poet of the post-Rout Roy scenario. In an idiom that is distinct and sophisticated, and imagery that is startling, Rath often deals with loneliness, death and agony in a metaphysical vein. Sitakant Mahapatra writes about intimate personal experiences in colloquial idiom and often blends myth and contemporary situation. He is the most widely translated poet in Oriya. Rath and Mahapatra have won the Saraswati and the Jnanpitha awards respectively and have brought distinction to modern Oriya Poetry, Jagannath Prasad Das, like Rath, often concerns himself with the lonely predicament of the modern man. Soubhgya Kumar Mishra is a distinct voice, witty, ironical and fresh. Rajendra Kishore Panda (b.1944) can employ a verity of styles successfully, colloquial as well as literary. Chhotaraya (ÒRÐVeÐ¯) is lyrical and witty. Hara Prasad Das makes bold experiments in form and language. Harihara Mishra derives much of this inspiration and imagery from his native town, Puri, the citadel of Lord Jagannatha. He employs religious imagery and symbolism in a secular sense. Some of the other important poets of modern period are Brajanath Rath, Sourindra Barik, Nrusingha Kumar Rath, Prasanna Kumar Mishra, Hara Prasad Paricha Patnaik and Phani Mohanty. The emergence of a number of women poets is an important fact in the post-independence literary scene. Manorama Mohapatra Biswal, Pratibha Satpathy, Brahmotri Mohanty and Sucheta Mishra have brought in lyricism, grace and a feminine perspective to modern Oriya poetry. Satpathy has been the most prolific of the women poets and like Sitakant Mahapatra, has often blended myth and reality.
Upendra Bhanja (1680-1720), the author of Lavanyavati (mÐaZÔa[Ñ), occupies a prominent place in medieval Oriya poetry. He is known as the Emperor of Poets (LaÞ jcÍÐV). Born into the ruling Bhanja family of Ghumsar, a feudatory state in South Orissa, Upendra Bhanja is credited with nearly 70 books, some of which are still unpublished. His poems Koti Brahmanda Sundari (ÒLÐVÞ aÍkêÐ¨ jÊteÑ) (Beauty of Million Worlds), Premasudhanidhi (Ò`ÍcjÊ^Ð_Þ^Þ) (Treasury of the Nectar of Love) and Rasika Haravali (ejÞL kÐeÐafÑ) (Garlands for Connoisseurs) are some of the most beautiful poems of Oriya literature.
Baladev Ratha (1779-1845), the great musical poet of Orissa who was conferred the title of Kavyasurya (LÐaÔ jËdÔà) or the sun among poets is known for his magnum opus Champu (QÕ`Ê) consisting of 34 Oriya songs with short poems and prose pieces attached to each song. Ratha was a great Sanskrit scholar, singer, administrator and a versatile personality.
Fakirmohan Senapati (1843-1918), held as the father of Oriya fiction, was a man of parts who gained considerable repute as poet, scholar, and social reformer. He participated in the Oriya nationalist movement and started his writing career by translating and writing text-books for schools. His first original poem Utkal Bhramana (DLúf bÍcZ) (Tours of Orissa) was written when he was 50. Chha mana Atha guntha (R@ cÐZ AW NÊ) (Six manas and Eight Gunthas), his first novel and masterpiece, was serialized in a monthly magazine. Fakirmohan is now remembered for his four novels, 20 short stories, and autobiography and several pieces of poetry.
Kali Charan Patnaik (1898-1978) is undoubtedly the most important Oriya dramatist of the 1940s. While his predecessors dealt mostly with historical and mythological themes, he broke away from the established vogue and based his plays on social issues and contemporary Oriya society. The pioneering instinct of Kali Charan led him to set up his own theatre company named Orissa theatres in 1939 through which he gave a new direction to Oriya drama by writing and staging more than a dozen plays mirroring social problems. Bhata (bÐ[) (Rice) is one such play.
Mayadhar Manasingha (1905-1973) widely recognized as a poet, critic and educationist, Mayadhar was the first person to take Ph.D. in Oriya. The subject of his research was Shakespeare and Kalidasa (Òjµ`Þ¯e J LÐfÞ]Ðj). Though he has authored over 50 books, including A history of Oriya literature and quite a few other prose works, he is primarily recognized as a poet. His Dhupa (^Ë`) (Incense) has been acclaimed as the most outstanding work on poetry. Manasingha remained a teacher throughout his life.
Satchidananda Rautray (1916) is a major Oriya poet, acclaimed to be the harbinger of modern age in Oriya poetry. His literary career spans over 50 years during which he has contributed to different literary genres besides poetry. His principal works are PalliShree (`mâÑhÍÑ) (The Village Beautiful), Pandulipi (`Ð¨ÊmÞ`Þ) (The Manuscripts), Kabita (LaÞ[Ð) (Poem) and Swagata (jéÐN[) (Soliloquy).
Surendra Mohanty (1922-1990) recipient of several literary awards and President of Orissa Sahitya Academy from 1981 to 1987, Mohanty is a writer of short stories, novels, travelogues, criticism, features and biographies. He has written about 50 books belonging to different genres. His well known books are Mahanagarira Ratri (The Night of the Metropolis), Malarara Mrutyu (The Death of a Swan), Andha Diganta (@u ]ÞN«) (The Dark Horizon), and Mahanaivan (The Great Exit). His Nilashila earned him considerable popularity. Yadubamsa O Anayanya Galpa (The Yadubamsa and other stories) and Rajadhani O Anyanya Galpa (The Capital and other stories), KrushnaChuda (Ló»QËXÏÐ) (The Peacock Flower) and Ruti O Chandra (The Bread and The Moon) are his famous short stories.
Manoranjan Das (1927) has earned a legendary reputation in Orissa by writing plays. He took Oriya drama to new heights, probed deeply into the contemporary socio-political as well as psychological ethos as a whole, brought Oriya drama on par with new modern drama emerging elsewhere. His first play Janmamati (Land of Birth) came out in 1943 and his latest Nandika Kesari in 1985. In between, he had written 14 other plays, including Aranya Fasal (The Wild Harvest) which won him the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1971. His other plays are Jauban (Youth), August Na (The Ninth August 1947), Baxi Jagabandhu (aµÞ SNauÊ) (The Sacrifice of Jagabandhu), Agami (The Oncoming), Abarodha (The Seize), Kathagodha (The Wooden Horse), and Sabdalipi (The Word-script).
Manoj Das’s (1934) literary career spans over decades. He has written over 12 volumes of short stories in Oriya, eight volumes in English and more than eight books of miscellaneous writings in different genres. He has been the editor of reputed literary journals Diganta (]ÞN«) in Oriya and The Heritage in English. His principal works are Dhumrabha Diganta o Anyanya Kahani (^ËcÍÐb ]ÞN« J @_ÔÐ_Ô LÐkÐZÑ) (The Dusky Horizon and other Stories), Crocodiles Lady, and Fables and Fantasies for Adults.
Santanu Kumar Acharya (1934), an important novelist in the post-independence era Santanu Acharya rose to eminence with the publication of his first novel Nara Kinnar (Man and Half-beast). His other novel is Satabdira Nachiketa (h[Ð~Ñe _QÞÒL[Ð) (Nachiketa of the Century). His Karanjia Diary (Le&ÞA XÏÐHeÑ) is remarkable for its vivid evocation of the place and the people.
Sitakant Mahapatra (1937) is one of the major voices in contemporary Oriya poetry. Early in his life he was initiated into the grand epic tradition of Indian and Oriya poetry. Mahapatra combines in him a brilliant academician, a competent civil servant and a poet of rare talent. His Ph.D. thesis ‘Modernization and Ritual: Search for Identity among the Primitive Communities of India’, was published by the Oxford University Press in 1985. He is known for his poetic works such as Dipti O’ Dyuti, Sabdara Akash, Chitranadi. Mahapatra won the Jnanapitha award for his contribution to literature.
Novel writing started in India as a result of the Indian author’s exposure to Western literature, from mid-19th century onwards. Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843-1918) is the first major novelist whose Chha Mana Atha Guntha (R cÐZ AW NÊ) (Six Acres and a Half, 1897), dealing with the exploitation of the peasants by a landlord, is a classic in Indian literature. Senapati wrote in the tradition of realism. His writings dealt with the problems of ordinary men and women and they were written in colloquial Oriya.
After Senapati, the novel established itself as a literary form in Oriya and a number of authors wrote under the inspiration of the master. Social reforms seemed to be the concern of most of these novelists. In Kanakalata (L_Lm[Ð) (1925), Nanda Kishore Bal supports widow marriage and abolition of dowry. In Yugalamath (dÊNfcW) (1920), Chintamani Mohanty portrays the corrupt and lustful life of the mahants (saints). In Adbhut Parinam (@¡Ê[ `eÞZÐc) (Strange Consequences) Mryutyunjaya Rath deals with the theme of conversion of young Hindu to Christianity. In Nathudi (_Ð\ÊXÏÞ), Kuntala Kumari Sabat, the first major women novelist, talks of equality, social justice and dignity of labor.
Novels written between the late twenties and the forties have nationalism, the freedom movement and exploitation as their central themes. Psychological treatment of characters and influence of Marxism can be noted in most of the novels written during this period. Upendra Kishore Das’s Mala Janha (cmÐ Skð) (The Dead Moon, 1922), Vaishnav Charan Das’s Mane Mane (cÒ_ cÒ_) (Inside One’s mind, 1926), Lakshmikanta Mahapatra’s Kana Mamu (LZÐ cÐÜcÊ) (The One-eyed Uncle, 1947) and Kalindi Charan Panigrahi’s Matira Manisha (cÐVÞe cZÞi) (The Man of the Soil, 1934) are some of the major works of this period.
Kanhu Charan Mohanty (1906-94) is the most prolific and indeed the most popular novelist of the post-independence period. He has written about thirty novels and has received the Sahitya Akademi Award (jÐkÞ[Ô HLÐÒXÏcÑ `Êe²Ðe) for Ka (L) (The Proxy, 1953). Mohanty has not broken away significantly from the Senapati tradition, either in the choice of theme or style. He has written about Oriya rural society – the problem of marriage and love, caste and economic exploitation. Some of his important works are: Adekha Hata (@Ò]MÐ kÐ[) (The Unseen Hand, 1939), Shasti (hÐªÞ) (The Punishment 1945) and Ha Anna (kÐ @_ð) (The Famine, 1933).
Gopinath Mohanty (1924-93) is decidedly the most important novelist after Senapati. Besides novels, he has written volumes of short stories, essays and a grammar of the language of the Konds. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel Amrutara Santan (@có[e j«Ð_) (Children of Nectar, 1949) and the Jnanpith award for Mat-Matala (The Fertile Soil, 1964).
Most of Mohanty’s novels portray the life of the aboriginal tribes of Orissa. Harijan (1943) depicts the life of the untouchables in a society by Hindus.
Danapani (]Ð_Ð`ÐZÞ) (Bread and Water, 1955) is portrayal of an individual who forgoes everything in life, including the loyalty of his wife, to climb the bureaucratic ladder. Novels like Rahura Chaya (eÐkÊe RÐ¯Ð) (The Shadow of Rahu, 1955) and Laya Bilaya (waves of the Mind, 1961) probe the human mind in all its light and shadow. Mati-Matala records the transition of the village society as a result of the impact of several political and economic forces that have been generated in the city.
Nityananda Mohapatra (b.1922) and Rajkishore Patnaik (1916-97) have written a number of novels presenting their characters as psychological beings. Basanta Kumari Patnaik (b.1927) has written masterpiece, Amada Bata (@cXÏÐ aÐV) (The Untrodden Path, 1927) whose primary concern is the character Maya, before and after her marriage. Surendra Mohanty (1920-92), perhaps the greatest short story writer of the fifties and the sixties, has been successful as a novelist too. Neela Shaila (_Ñf Òhßf) (The Blue Mountain, 1969), a historical novel set in 18th century Orissa, has won Sahitya Akademi Award and has been a best seller. Andha Diganta (@u ]ÞN«) (The Blind Horizon.1964) is political novel which depicts the Indian society before and after independence.
Many novelists who published their works in the forties and fifties cannot be said to belong either to the pre or post-independence period exclusively. Though individually most of them may not have anything significant in theme or style, they have produced a considerable bulk of fiction and enriched Oriya literature. Mention may be made of Faturananda (1915-95) whose novel, Nakta Chitrakar (The Artist without a Nose, 1967) is the story of an artist, without a nose, in love with a pretty women.
With the publication of his first novel Nara-Kinnara (_e-LÞ_ðe) (The Man and the Half-Beast, 1962), Shantanu Kumar Acharya (b.1934) made quite an impact on the novel-reading public of Orissa. The theme of Nara-Kinara is the search for identity of an orphan boy, George, who lives in a slum. In novels like Satabdira Nachikata (h[Ð~Ñe _QÞÒL[Ð) (The Nachiketa of the century, 1965), Tinoti Ratira Sakala ([ÞÒ_ÐVÞ eÐ[Þe jLÐf) (Dawn after three Nights, 1969) Shakuntala Acharya has boldly questioned the accepted ideals of the society. Krusna Prasad Mishra’s (1933-94) Sinhakati (Women with a Lion’s Waist, 1959) depicts the protagonist’s aspiration towards higher values of life. Chandra Sekhar Rath’s (b.1929) Jantrarudha (One who Rides a Machine, 1966) is the moving account of the life of a priest, portraying the futility and meaninglessness of modern life. Neelamani Sahoo (b.1926) has written two novels with love and marriage as their theme. Sahoo has an intimate understanding of human character and situation and probes deep into human mind. Nrusingha Kumar Panda’s Kharabela (MÐeÒaf) (1989) and Jagannath Prasad Das’s (Ò]h, LÐf J `Ð[Í) (Land, Time and people,1992) are two important historical novels of recent times, Satkadi Hota, a prolific novelists, deals with middle class social life and values. Bibhuti Patnaik and Pratibha Ray are prolific and popular novelists. Ray has recently been in the limelight for her feminist perspective in novels like Yajnyaseni (dÐsÒj_Ñ) (1984). Chandramani Das, Jogindra Kumar Mohanty and Kanduri Charan Das have written thrillers mostly on western models. Gokulananda Mohapatra has the distinction of being the first novelist to write on scientific topics such as man’s journey into space. Jameshwar Mishra has made an interesting experiment by writing his novel, Khamari (McÐeÑ), in the colorful dialect of Sambalpur. Ramachandra Behera, Jashodhara Mishra, Hrushikesh Panda, Padmaja Pal and Jyoti Nanda are some of the novelists of the younger generation experimenting with new themes and forms.
Like the novel and the short story modern drama was the product of Oriya authors’ exposure to English literature. The first Oriya play was Babaji (aÐaÐSÑ) (1877) by Jaganmohan Lala (1838-1913). Like Radhanath Roy, Lala was educated in the Western system and worked under the British Government. He started a theatre of his own, Radhakanta Rangamancha, named after his family deity, staged his plays Sati (1886) and Priti. Lala had social reform as his major theme. Babaji is a successful play in the realistic mode.
Orissa had, and still have, a rich tradition of folk performances. Jatra (dÐ[ÍÐ) (opera) and Suanga (farce), Ramlila Bharatlila, Dandanata and Prahlada Nataka are some such forms. There was also a tradition of Sanskrit drama in Orissa. Murari Mishra, Vishwanath Kabiraj and King Kapilendra Deva wrote and staged plays in Sanskrit. Ray Ramananda, the Minister of Pratap Rudra Deva, built a stage in the Jagannath Ballav Math at Puri. It is even said that King Kharabela’s Hathi Gumpha was used as a stage for dramatic performances in the second century A.D. Most of the Sanskrit and folk performances were based on religious myths and were often a part of festivals or religious rituals.
Ramashankar Roy (1858-1917), a contemporary of Lala, was a prolific dramatist who wrote historical, social and religious plays. The other important playwrights before independence were Bhikari Charan Patnaik (1878-1962) and Godavarish Mishra. Past glory of Orissa and social reform were the themes of most of the plays written before independence. The most popular playwright soon before and after independence was Baishnab Pani (l882-l956). He wrote operas with themes borrowed from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. But he had also new themes like the Freedom Movement and economic exploitation and introduced prose dialogues in his plays. His dramas dealt with the lives of ordinary men and women. He seems to have written as many as two hundred operas. Pani truly continued the age-old opera tradition but made it contemporary and relevant. Pani staged his operas in different parts of the state. His popularity clearly proves the Oriya audience’s love for the traditional form.
Ashwini Kumar Ghosh (1892-1962), Kali Charan Patnaik, Gopal Chhotray and Bhanja Kishore Patnaik were prominent before and after independence. They had history, mythology and social problems as their themes and introduced various innovative techniques on the stage. Cuttack continued to be the center of dramatic activities and there was more than one professional theatre, which staged plays throughout the year. Ghosh’s Konarka (ÒLÐZÐLà), a historical play, and Patnaik’s Bhata (bÐ[) (Rice), a social play, were great success. These playwrights tried to be serious as well as entertaining and they laid the foundation of the post independence dramatic tradition.
Playwright, who have dominated the dramatic scene in the last three decades are Manoranjan Dash, Pranabandhu Kar, Kartik Chandra Rath, Bijaya Mishra Bishwajit Das, Harihar Mishra and Ramesh Chandra Panigrahi. Compared to their predecessors, this group has explored a greater variety of themes and techniques and has been more influenced by the western dramatic tradition. In their attempt to be modern they have sometimes alienated themselves from the masses. The growth of the electronic media and the death of the professional theatre have marginalized modern drama. Some of the successful dramatists have turned to the traditional opera form which is still popular among the masses.
The birth and development of the short story in Oriya is a twentieth century phenomenon. Though Orissa has a rich tradition of folktales and prose works, the credit for making the short story an important literary form goes to Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843-1918). Senapati is universally regarded as the father of the Oriya novel and the short story. In l898, Senapati published Rebati (Òea[Ñ), which can safely be taken as the first short story in Oriya. Written in colloquial idiomatic Oriya, it deals with the love between Rebati and a school teacher, which is expressed in a suggestive and subtle manner, which reminds one of Tagore’s The Post Master. Two significant traits can be recognized in the short stories produced in the first three decades of the twentieth century: a zeal for social reform and patriotism. Themes such as female education, child marriage, dowry, caste system, the relation between the landlord and the landless, etc, were widely favored. Writers who dominated the short story scene before Independence explored similar themes. The Freedom Movement and Marxism, however, inspired some to produce powerful short stories. Bhagabati Charan Panigrahi’s Shikar (hÞLÐe) (The Hunt) is one such story. Ghinua, a poor peasant who has been exploited by the landlord, chops off his landlord’s head and reports to the police hoping to be rewarded for his noble deed. Story writers who came to prominence after the Independence includes Gopinath Mohanty (1914-93), Surendra Mohanty (1920-92), Nityananda Mohapatra (b.1912), Raj Kishore Roy (b.1914) and Raj Kishore Patnaik (b.1916-97). Gopinath Mohanty, besides his novels for which he won the Jnanpith award, published several collections of short stories. In a style that is intensely poetic, Mohanty probes deep into human mind and presents the inner being of man in vivid details. Disintegration in the life-style of tribal as a result of their exposure to modern civilization forms the theme of many of his short stories. Surendra Mohanty, whose ornate literary style is in a sharp contrast to Gopinath Mohanty’s colloquial prose, explores a wide range of themes. Some of his popular stories are set against the backdrop of Buddhist India. Perhaps he is at his best when he portrays the modern youth of the metropolis, unemployed, lonely, without any definite aim in life, Nityananda Mohapatra, like Gopinath Mohanty, has presented his characters mostly as psychological beings. Rajkishore Roy, in a style that is a mixture of the literary and the colloquial, has portrayed the decline of values in modern times in a satirical vein. Ananta Prasad Panda has written with a socialist bias, often sacrificing art to propaganda. Sachidananda Routray (b 1915), who has won the Jnanapitha award for poetry, has also published three collections of short stories. His stories, like Bhagabati Charan Panigrahi’s, are a moving account of the life of the poor and the underdog in society.
In the last twenty years or so a group of powerful storywriters has emerged and the Oriya short story has attained a commendable status as a literary form. This group includes:
Neelamani Sahoo (b.1926), Basant Kumar Satpathy (1913-94), Kishori Charan Das (b 1924), Krushna Prasad Mishra (1933-94), Shantanu Kumar Acharya (b.1933), Manoj Das (b.1934), Akhil Mohan Patnaik (1931-87) and Achyutananda Pati. Though Neelamani Sahoo has not significantly broken away from the Fakirmohan tradition, his intimate observation of life and genuine sense of humor have made him the most popular of contemporary authors. Kishori Charan Das mostly writes about the upper middle class Indian life. A dominant theme in Krushna Prasad Mishra is the encounter between the East and the West. Shantanu Acharya is a bold experimenter in the techniques of the short story. He writes about the political, social and moral problems of the individual in contemporary society. Manoj Das’s stories easily remind one of Edgar Allan Poe and O’Henry. He is a story-teller par excellence who often blends realism and fantasy in the most artistic way.
At present, not less than fifty writers, both from the older and the younger generations, are engaged in story writing. Special mention may be made of Chandra Sekhar Rath, Satkadi Hota, Bibhuti Patnaik, Uma Shankar Mishra, Jagannath Prasad Das, Rabi Patnaik, Binapani Mohanty, Ramachandra Behera, Pratibha Ray, Yashodhara Mishra, Haraprasad Das, Jagadish Mohanty, Sarojini Sahu, Dash Benhur, Padmaj Pal, Hruahikesh Panda, Paresh Patnaik, Tarunkanti Mishra, Gaurahari Das and Susmita Bagchi. Most of them are well versed in western literature, live in cities or towns, write about the problems of the individual in society, with a strong psychological bias. Though Orissa is predominantly a land of villages, little is written about the village presumably because of the writer’s lack of contact with village life. Most of the writers publish their stories in periodicals and in the last five years the number of story collections published per year averages twenty-five.
The number of autobiographies written in Oriya is not large, it could be of about two hundred pages- but the quality of some of them is excellent. The first autobiography in Oriya, Atmajeevana-charita (AcúSÑa_ QeÞ[) (Story of My Life, 1917) was written by Fakir Mohan Senapati. It is an important social document of nineteenth-century Orissa and a classic in Indian literature. Gopal Chandra Praharaj, Harekrushna Mahatab, Godavarisrh Mishra, Neelakantha Das, Bairagi Mishra, Lakshmi Narayan Sahoo, Adhiraj Mohan Senapati, Kali Charan Patnaik, Rama Devi and Kalandi Charan Panigraghi have written their autobiographies, which record social events of pre- and post-independence periods, Almost all these autobiographies are written by political leaders, social reformers or authors, and these are records of their times than their individual selves. Baishnav Pani, a prolific playwright, interestingly, has written his autobiography with a frankness and courage hardly noticed in other works of its kind in Oriya.
Modern Oriya literature cannot be said to be rich in literary criticism, essays and features. Literary journals like Utkal Deepika (DLúf ]Ñ`ÞLÐ) (1866), Utkal Darpana (DLúf ]`àZ) (1873), Utkal Hitaishini (DLúf kÞÒ[ßhÞ_Þ) (1873), Sambalpur Hitaishini (jcém`Êe kÞÒ[ßhÞ_Þ) (1889) and Utkal Sahitya (DLúf jÐkÞ[Ô) (1898) published critical essays and book reviews and found a tradition of literary criticism in Orissa. Magazines like Utkal Sahitya (DLúf jÐkÞ[Ô), Mikura (cÞLÊe), Sahakara (jÐkÐLÐe) and Naba Bharata (_a bÐe[) kept the tradition alive in the pre-independence era. Gopiriath Nanda, Neelakantha Das, Binayak Mishra and Artaballabha Mohanty are some of the literary critics who dominated the critical scene of pre-independence era. In the post-independence period magazines like Jhankar, Dagara, Diganta, Istahar and Mulyayana have promoted literacy criticism in a significant way. Natbar Samantray, Krushna Charan Sahu, Debi Prasanna Patnaik, Jatindra Mohan Mohanty and Nityananda Satpathy are some of the important literary critics of the post-independence period. It may be noted here that most of the critical works published now are research dissertations originally meant for obtaining university degrees.
The general standard of literary criticism, understandably, is not always of a high order. Research articles, essays and features published in Oriya are growing due to the demand of Oriya dailies and magazines. Golak Bihari Dhal, Sadasiv Mishra, Shreeram Chandra Das, Chandra Sekhar Rath, Chitta Ranjan Das and Devakanta Mishra are some of the authors, who have made a significant contribution to the essay form in the post-independence period.
Children’s literature in Oriya is not adequately developed. Most of the books published are poems or stories, legends or folktales retold. There are few books on science and technology. Upendra Tripathy, Godavarish Mohapatra, Udayanath Sarangi, Balakrushna Kar, Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, Ananta Patnaik, Manoj Das, Durga Prasad Patnaik, Ram Prasad Mohanty and Dash Benhur are some of the important writers of the post-independence era.
Translation is an area in which much attention has been paid recently. Most of the books are translated into Oriya are Bengali novels. Almost all the Nobel-prize winning works are available in Oriya translation. Udayanath Sarangi, Lakshmi Narayarn Mohanty, Chitta Ranjan Das and Umashankar Panda have familiarized many Western authors to the Oriya readers.
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