(Last Updated on : 02/04/2012)
Jaga Mohan Lala was born in an aristocratic family of Mahanga in 1876. It was a remote village in Cuttack district
. He held a government job but had a deep interest in Oriya literature
. He translated Thomas Parnell's poem The Hermit as Bhrama bhanjan in 1868. This was the first Oriya book of its kind. Artistic by nature, he was attracted toward performance and was a good actor-director and gifted composer. In 1875 he erected a proscenium stage in his village and named it after his family deity as Radhakanta Rangamanch. The skeleton of this one still stands. There Jaga Mohan Lala started producing Oriya theatre.
As sufficient Oriya drama was not available, he wrote Babaji i.e. "The Holy Man" in 1877. This was the first play in modern Oriya, dealing with the misdeeds of the religious head, harmful effects of intoxication, witchcraft, and sorcery. This was written in simple language, with the intention of communicating a message to the common masses. The book when published was not welcomed by the critics and press. Lala's second play, Sati in 1886, depicted the atrocities of a princely ruler. Briddha vivah i.e. "Old Man's Marriage" and Priti or "Love" were not printed. The aim in all his plays was social reform through a scientific outlook, for which he selected the most effective medium. To some extent he proved successful in his mission. He was so bent on setting an example that he allowed his widowed daughter to remarry, something unthinkable in conservative nineteenth-century society. Jaga Mohan Lala died in the year 1931.
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