(Last Updated on : 24/10/2013)
Oriya is the official language of the state of Orissa, a unique region in India, acknowledged at different stages of history as Kalinga, Udra, Utkala, or Koshala. The language is also spoken by minority populations of the neighbouring states comprising Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. The earliest established written texts in Oriya language are approximately thousand years old. As is witnessed in history of ancient India, Orissa had served as a enormous empire in the ancient and medieval times, which covered from the Ganges in the north to the Godavari in the south. During British rule, however, Orissa could no longer hold back its political supremacy and consequentially became parts of the Bengal and Madras Presidencies. The present state of Orissa took shape in 1936. As such, Oriya literature is a mish-mash of ups and downs from it ancient glory to slumping down into almost non-entity.
Oriya, Bengali and Assamese - all have come down from the same Eastern Magadhi Apabhramsa and are considered to be sister languages. Oriya is relegated as a member of the Indo-Aryan language super family; it is a descendent of Odri Prakrit and Ardha Magadhi. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Oriya literature fell under the bewitching spell of Sanskrit. However, during the 17th and 18th centuries, it followed a fresh line of approach. The history of Oriya literature can be classified into - Old Oriya (10th century -1300), Early Middle Oriya (1300 -1500), Middle Oriya (1500 - 1700), Late Middle Oriya (1700 -1850) and Modern Oriya (1850 till present times). Oriya literature upto 1500 A.D. largely comprehended poems and prose with religion, gods and goddesses as the prevailing theme.
The earliest utilisation of prose in Oriya literature can be witnessed in the Madala Panji or the Palm-leaf Chronicles of the Jagannatha temple at Puri, which date back to the 12th century. The first great poet of Orissa is the legendary Sarala-dasa, who penned the Chandi Purana and the Vilanka Ramayana, both extolling Goddess Durga. She also had adapted the classic Mahabharata into simple Oriya. Rama-bibha, penned by Arjuna-dasa, is the first instance of long poem in Oriya literature.
The next era is more frequently referred to as the 'Jagannatha Dasa Period' and stretches till the year 1700. The period commences with the writings of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, whose Vaishnava influence had ushered in a new progressive development in Oriya literature. Balarama Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Yasovanta, Ananta and Acyutananda were the chief exponents in religious works in Oriya literature. The composers of this period predominantly translated, adapted, or imitated the sublime ancient Sanskrit literature. A few prominent works of this period include the Usabhilasa of Sisu Sankara Dasa, the Rahasya-manjari of Deva-durlabha Dasa and the Rukmini-bibha of Kartikka Dasa. A new variety of novels in verse also had evolved during the commencement of the 17th century, when Ramachandra Pattanayaka penned the still irreplaceable Haravali. Other poets like Madhusudana, Bhima, Dhivara, Sadasiva and Sisu Isvara-dasa composed another variety, named Kavyas or long poems based on themes.
Ramachandra Pattanayaka's Haravali indeed had set the drift for the materialisation of a new kind of novel in verse during the outset of the 17th century. When stated in a different light, poets like Madhusudana, Bhima, Dhivara, Sadasiva and Sisu Isvara-dasa have compiled Kavyas or extensive poems based upon themes from Puranas. Between 1700-1850, Oriya language had turned more complex and the usage of words began to emit signs of trickiness. The Vaishnava poetical genre in Oriya literature was heavily dominated by luminaries like Upendra Bhanja Das (1670-1720), Baladeva Rath (1779-1845), Devi Krishna Das, Bhakta Charan Das, Abhimanyu, Samanta Sinhar, Bhima-Bhoi (1855-1895), Arakshita Dasa and Gopal Krushna. Upendra Bhanja Das's Kavyas, based upon Puranic stories, are still looked as masterworks. His Lavanyavati is one excellent such instance of Kavya. Extreme verbal manoeuvre, vulgarism and eroticism as the characters of Shringara Kavyas, became the overriding cult of this period, to which Upendra Bhanja undoubtedly seized the lead role. His creations including, Baidehisha Bilasa, Koti Brahmanda Sundari and Lavanyabati proved benchmarks in Oriya literature. Upendra Bhanja Das was bestowed with the title 'Kabi Samrat' of Oriya literature for his aesthetic poetic sense and verbal manoeuvring expertise. Baladeva Rath's Campu is an inimitable illustration of Oriya musical drama. Family accounts in prose and literature associated exhibiting religious ceremonies and customs were also brought out in huge numbers during this period. Samar Tarang by Brij Natha Badjena (1730-1800), the only instance of historical poem in Oriya literature and Catura Vinoda, a humorous prose work, were brilliant deviations from the literary practices in the current fashion of penning. The casting of the first-ever Oriya printing typeset in 1836 by the Christian missionaries was another milestone of the colonial period in Oriya literature.
In line with printing typeset, an impressive array of books began to be printed and periodicals and journals were also published. The first Oriya Magazine Bodha Dayini was published from Balasore in 1861. The principal objective of this magazine was to encourage and endorse Oriya literature and to attract attention to the careless slips in government policy. The first Oriya paper, The Utkal Deepika, made its appearance in 1866 under the editorship of late Gouri Sankar Ray, with able assistance from late Bichitrananda. The Utkal Deepika carried forward an enthusiastic crusade for bringing together the Oriya-speaking areas under one establishment, development of Oriya language and literature and safeguarding of Oriya interests. In 1869, late Bhagavati Charan Das initiated Utkal Subhakari to spread Brahmo faith. In the last three and half decades of 19th century a number of newspapers were printed in Oriya. High up in the prominence chart were Utkal Deepika, Utkal Patra, Utkal Hiteisini from Cuttack, Utkal Darpan, Sambada Vahika from Balasore and, Sambalpur Hiteisini (30 May, 1889) from Deogarh. The publishing of these papers during the terminating part of the 19th century designated the desire and determination of the people of Orissa to zealously safeguard the right of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, with a view to finally crusading for the freedom of the country from British oppression. However, another great service these periodicals had performed was that they had boosted modern Oriya literature and acted as a media to provide am all-encompassing readers-range for the writers. The educated intellectuals hence had come in close contact with English Literature and in turn, got influenced.
Rai Bahadur Radhanatha Ray (1849-1908), Madhusudana Rao (1853-1912) and Phakiramohana Senapati (1843-1918) were three outstanding poets who brought in a contemporary outlook and force into Oriya literature during the middle of 19th century. Radhanath Ray's Cilika and Mahayatra wholly state the profound influence of Dante and Milton. Modern Oriya poets include: Sachi Kanta Rauta Ray, Godavarisa Mahapatra, Dr. Mayadhara Manasimha, Nityananda Mahapatra, Kunjabihari Dasa, Prabhasa Chandra Satpati, Radhanath (distinguished for Mahayatra penned in blank verse), Kalindi Charan Panigrahi (Matira Manisha), Mayadhar Mansinha and Gopinath Mohanty (Amritara Santan). Sitakant Mohapatra, a bureaucrat and achiever of the Jnanpith Award, is also a name that fetches much consideration and attention in contemporary Oriya literature.
Even though the 12th century Madala Panji or the Palm-leaf Chronicles of the Jagannatha temple at Puri are deemed as the earliest form of Oriya prose, modern Oriya prose was in fact born only during the British period. Fakir Mohan Senapathi (1843-1918) was a inexhaustible poet and novelist during the imperialist period, who had translated the Ramayana and Mahabharata into Oriya. His novel Chaman Atha Gunta deals with the usurpation and maltreatment of village folks by the zamindar class. Rama Sankara Ray's Kanci-Kaveri (1880) led to the tremendous birth of modern drama in modern Oriya literature.
Nanda-Kisora Bala, Gopala Chandra Praharaja, Gangadhara Mehera, Chintamani Mahanti and Kuntala-Kumari Sabat Utkala-bharati, Niladri Dasa and Gopabandhu Dasa (1877-1928) were the most extraordinary Oriya writers, belonging to the 20th century. The most far-famed novelists in Oriya literature comprised: Umesa Sarakara, Divyasimha Panigrahi, Gopala Praharaja and Kalindi Charana Panigrahi. Genres like criticism, essays and history also became significant lines of composing in the Oriya language. Honoured writers in this field consist of: Professor Girija Shankar Ray, Pandit Vinayaka Misra, Professor Gauri Kumara Brahma, Jagabandhu Simha and Hare Krushna Mahatab. The two brothers, Ramashankara Ray and Gaurisankara Ray, were trailblazers in genres of drama, fiction and journalism. Visvanatha Kara and Nilamani Vidyaratna also had vigorously tried to uphold Oriya literature through their magazines.
With the crucial materialisation of the Soviet Union in 1935, a Communist party was established in Orissa and a periodical called Adhunika was printed in this regard. Indeed, the creation of Soviet Union was a pathbreaking influence and definition in Oriya literature, which was solely borne by the fact of Marxism. The age was thus renamed as the Pragati Yuga, still remaining a cult. Bhagawati Charan Panigrahi and Sachidananda Routray were the founding members of the periodical Adhunika and also served as writers and poets for the party. Bhagwati Charan Panigrahi later became a fiction writer and though Sachidananda Routray (also acknowledged as "Sachi Routra" or Sachi Babu) had penned some short stories, was primarily memorialised best for his poems. Sachi Babu is also regarded as the founder of modern poetry in Orissa. He was the principal figure to bring in two European trends of English modernism, comprising - the early aestheticist phase pioneered by Pound and T.S. Eliot (1910-1930), and the second wave of modernism of the 1930s poets (Auden, Spender, MacNeice, Isherwood) to Oriya literature by way of his poetry.
Oriya literature indeed was not only restricted to customary poetry and novel or short story, it was also intensely influenced by romanticism, renaming this period as Sabuja Yuga. Charmed by the romantic thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore, during the 1930s, when the progressive Marxian movements were in full flood in Oriya Literature, Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, brother of Bhagabati Charan Panigrahi, founder of Marxian Trend in Orissa, established a group circa 1920 named "Sabuja Samiti." The Samiti was formed together with two of his writer friends, Annada Shankar Ray and Baikuntha Patnaik. Conceivably this was the very short-surviving period in Oriya Literature and later sunk with either Gandhian thoughts or Marxian thoughts. Still later, Kalindi Charan Panigrahi penned his legendary novel Matira Manish, being influenced by Gandhism. Annada Shankar Ray however had flown away to Bengali literature. Mayadhar Mansingh was a distinguished poet of that time, though he was regarded as a romantic poet. He although was triumphant to keep himself distanced and aloof from the influence of Rabindranath Tagore.
Modern Oriya literature travelled as far as to delve itself in feminism and engross in successful women's writings. The starting of a woman's magazine named Sucharita in 1975 went a long way in facilitating women writers discover a 'voice'. In fact the magazine's appearance proved to be the pivotal turning point. The role of Sucharita in helping in the materialisation of women's writing as a potential body of work was never overrated in the critics circle. Jayanti Ratha, Susmita Bagchi, Paramita Satpathy, Hiranmayee Mishra, Chirashree Indra Singh Supriya Panda, Gayatri Saraf, Mamata Chowdhury are a few fiction writers in this period in Oriya literature. But among all the women writers, Sarojini Sahoo essayed a momentous role for her feministic and sexuality point of view in fiction. For feminism, Sarojini Sahoo is considered the undisputable and undefeated. According to Sarojini Sahoo, the women are "Other" from masculine point of view but as a human being, she calls for similar right as Plato had once recommended.