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Oriya poetry owes its origin to the Charyapadas, a form of Buddhist mystical verses, composed presumably in the tenth century A.D.Sarala Das’s Mahabharat, written in the fifteenth century, clearly shows that Oriya had already matured as a language and became the fit medium for a stable literature.Medieval Oriya poetry, composed between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries, consisted mostly of kavyas (romantic/narrative poems), Puranas ( narrative poems with themes borrowed from the Ramayana,the Mahabharata,the Bhagabata and folklore), Bhajanas (devotional poems), Champus, chautishas and Chhandas (poetic forms with a variety of themes). Medieval poets mostly depended on the Royal Court and the folk performers for popularising 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,the themes of which were borrowed from Greek sources. These blended the two literarytradition:the Indian and the western. Patriotism is a dominant theme in his work.

Madhu Sudan Rao (1853-1912), Gangadhar Mehar (1962-1924), Nanda Kishore Bal (1875-1928) and Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843-1918) were Ray’s contempories. 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 twentieth 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. It was followed by another group, called the Sabuja (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 Mansinha (1905-1973), Radha Mohan Gadanayak (b.1911) and Godavarish Mohapatra (1900-1938), Ananta Patnaik (1910-1988) and sachidananda Routray (b.1919), who belong to both Pre-and post-independence periods, are major poets of this century.

Mansinha and Gadanayak have written excellent lyrics,odes, sonnets and ballads on variety of subjects. Mansinha’s love lyrics in his collections Dhupa (sacred Flame) and Gadanayak’s collections of ballads in Smaranika (Rememberence are classics in oriya poetry. Godavarish mohapatra, who edited Niankhunta (Burning Pastle), 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 portry, (unlike Mansinha and Gadanayak, who generally preferred a conventional style and form) His themes range from Marxism to the disillusioment 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 strom when he published Baji Rout in 1943, a long poem that celebrated the martyrdom of a boatman boy who succumed to the bullets of British police. Rout Roy is a prolific poet and has published as many as twenty collections of poems. His Pallishri, dealing with Oriya village life,is as successful as his Pratima Nayak a poem that portrays the suffering and the predicament of a city girl. A winner of Jnanpitha award, 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 Jaganath 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’, is a land mark 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 perhapes 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 contemporaneity.  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. Chhotroy is lyrical and witty. Hara Prasad Das makes bold experiments in form and language. Harihar Mishra derives much of this inspiration and imagery from his native town, Puri, the citadel of Lord Jagannath . He employes 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.

Contributed By: Dr.Ganeswar Mishra