Little Window to Odisha - Prabhat Nath

Web Space Dedicated to my Odisha and Odia Language.

This is Prabhat Nath from Odisha. Currently I live in Hyderabad (India) and work as a Software Developer.
If you are not big enough to lose, you are not big enough to win.
Google Search
Feeds / Syndication
RSS / XML Feed

What is a feed?
Coming up...
Coming up...
Monday, October 23, 2006
Oriya - The Language of Orissa
Oriya is an official language of India and is spoken by over 35 million people all over the world. This article traces the origins and history of Oriya from the days of the Kalingas to its status in the present-day context.

Oriya is classified as a member of the Indo-Aryan language super family and is the official language of the state of Orissa. Modern-day Oriya has been discovered to have originated from the Prakrit form known as Magadhi or Pali, a language spoken across kingdoms and cultures across Eastern India over 1,500 years ago. With a very strong resemblance to the modern languages, Bangla (Bengali) and Ahomiya (Assamese), Oriya distinctively seems to be relatively uninfluenced by Persian and Arabic, despite Orissa's long history of administration by the Mughals.

Oriya is essentially considered to be a modified form of the Odri Prakrit form. This form of Prakrit is in turn derived from Sanskrit via the transitional Bibhasas. Modern Oriya vocabulary is estimated to be composed of 70% Sanskrit, 2% Hindustani/Persian/Arabic with the remaining 28% of mainly "Adivasi" origin. The history of Oriya has been mapped by historians along three main stages, Old Oriya (spanning between the 10th century AD and 1300 AD), Early Middle Oriya (between 1300 AD and 1500 AD), Middle Oriya (between 1500 AD and 1700 AD), Late Middle Oriya (between 1700 AD and 1850 AD) and Modern Oriya (spanning from 1850 AD till the present day).

Oriya literature has had a vivid and varying history through the ages. Until about 1500AD, Oriya literature mainly comprised of poems and prose depicting religion, with the stories and glory of the gods and goddesses featuring as the main theme. The earliest use of prose can be found in the Madala Panji or the Palm-leaf Chronicles of the Jagannatha temple at Puri, which has been dated back to the 12th century. The first great poet in Oriya history is the famous Sarala Das, referred to widely as the Vyasa of Orissa, Sarala Dasa's best-known works were the Chandi Purana and the Vilanka Ramayana, written in praise of the goddess Durga. Rama-bibha, written by Arjuna Dasa, is estimated to be the first epic poem in Oriya literature's history.

In the 15th century, the writings of Shri Chaitanya, which bore considerable influences from Vaishanavite traditions, brought in a new form of evolution in Oriya literature. The works of this period closely imitated, adapted and imitated the Sanskritic styles of literature with deep-set religious themes. Balarama Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Yasovanta, Ananta and Achyutananda were the main exponents in religious works in Oriya. A few prominent works of this period include the "Usabhilasa" by Sisu Sankara Dasa, "Rahasya Manjari" by Deva Durlabha Dasa and "Rukmini-bibha" by Kartikka Dasa. A new form of verse-based novel developed during the early 17th century after Ramachandra Pattanayaka wrote Haravali. Poets like Madhusudana, Bhima, Dhivara, Sadasiva and Sisu Isvara-dasa employed simple Oriya to compose epic poems based on themes from the "Puranas", called "Kavyas".

From the turn of the 18th century, Oriya literature was heavily influenced by the instrument of verbal wordplay. Verbal jugglery became the trend of the period between 1700 and 1850, with the most effective poet proving to be Upendra Bhanja. Other poets initiated the same tool as per the trends of the era, with Bhima-Bhoi and Arakshita Dasa proving to be the most effective succesors to Upendra Bhanja. Family chronicles in prose and literature relating religious festivals and rituals were another prominent mainstay in the literature in this period.

In the early years of the 19th century, Oriya literature underwent a significant metamorphosis to enter the modern era of literary styles. Three great poets and prose writers, Rai Bahadur Radhanatha Ray, Madhusudana Rao and Phakiramohana Senapati settled in Orissa and employed Oriya extensively in their literary creations. Their works introduced a modern outlook and infused a new spirit into Oriya literature. Concurrently, modern drama was born into the sphere of Oriya literature with the penning of the Kanchi-Kaveri in 1880 by the playwright and author Rama Sankara Ray.

This rejuvenation in spirit was carried forward by several prominent modern writers, with Nanda Kisora Bal, Gangadhara Mehera, Chintamani Mahanti and Kuntala Kumari Sabat Utkala Bharati, Niladri Dasa and Gopabandhu Dasa being the most prominent figures in the early 20th century.

The official development of the novel form in Oriya literature was realized by the stalwart works of several great Oriya writers like Umesa Sarakara, Divyasimha Panigrahi, Gopala Praharaja and Kalindi Charana Panigrahi. The poet Sachi Kanta Rauta Ray is attributed as the originator of the ultra-modern style in Oriya poetry. Other prominent modern poets in this age were the greats Godavarisa Mahapatra, Dr Mayadhara Manasimha, Nityananda Mahapatra and Kunjabihari Dasa. Other great progenitors of Oriya literature have been Fakir Mohan Senapati, Manoj Das, Kishore Charan Das, Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, and Gopinath Mohanty, with Fakir Mohan Sernapati widely recognized as the father of modern Oriya literature.

Some writers made notable contributions in literature by the translation of several classics from Western literature, thus assisting in the reorientation of Oriya literature with Prabhasa Chandra Satpati, Udayanatha Shadangi, Sunanda Kara and Surendranatha Dwivedi proving to be the prime facilitators of this process.

Critiques, essays and treatises on history formed another facet in Oriya literature, a development which emphasized the reinvention of Oriya literature. The most prominent personalities in this field of literature were Professor Girija Shankar Ray, Pandit Vinayaka Misra, Professor Gauri Kumara Brahma, Jagabandhu Simha and Hare Krushna Mahatab.

The modern Oriya script is a development of the Kalinga script, which in turn was one of many descendents of the Brahmi script. The earliest known inscription in the Oriya language, in the Kalinga script, dates from the year 1051. A key feature of the Oriya script is the curved appearance of the alphabets. It has been surmised that this appearance was the result of the long-standing practice of writing manuscripts on palm leaves, which have a tendency to tear if too many straight lines are utilized on the surface.

Oriya is a syllabic alphabet wherein all consonants have an inherent vowel embedded within. Diacritics, which can appear above, below, before or after the consonant they belong to, are used to change the form of the inherent vowel. When the diacritics appear at the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written as independent letters. Also, when certain consonants occur together, special conjunct symbols are used which combine the essential parts of each letter.

While arguably, a relatively young language in comparison to some other Indian languages, the vast panoply of styles in Oriya literature simply underlines the modern outlook of the Oriya people as a whole. Efforts currently undertaken by enable the digitization of this language will ensure that this powerful and vibrant language will continue to retain its unique place in the spectrum of modern Indian culture and history.

Useful resources:


posted by Name: Prabhat Nath @ 3:36 PM  
  • At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    It is very informative.

Post a Comment
<< Home
About Me

Name: Name: Prabhat Nath
Home: Location: Hyderabad, India
About Me:
See my complete profile
Previous Post
For your PC