Oriya, Bengali and Assamese
all come from the same Eastern Magadhi Apabhramsa and are
considered to be sister languages. In the 16th and 17th century
Oriya fell under the spell of Sanskrit. However, during the
17th and 18th centuries it followed a new line of approach.
Oriya has its origins in the 10th century.
The history of Oriya language
is divided 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 day). Oriya
literature upto 1500AD mainly covers poems and proses with
religion, gods and goddesses 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 date back
to the 12th century. The first great poet of Orissa is the
famous Sarala-Das who wrote the Chandi Purana and the Vilanka
Ramayana, both praising the goddess Durga. Rama-bibha, written
by Arjuna-Das, is the first long poem in Oriya language.
The next era is more commonly
called the Jagannatha Dasa Period and stretches till the year
1700. The period begins with the writings of Shri Chaitanya
whose Vaishnava influence brought in a new evolution in Oriya
Balarama Dasa, Jagannatha
Dasa, Yasovanta, Ananta and Acyutananda were the main exponents
in religious works in Oriya.
The composers of this period
mainly translated, adapted, or imitated 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 form of novels in verse
evolved during the beginning of the 17th century when Ramachandra
Pattanayaka wrote Haravali.
Other poets like Madhusudana,
Bhima, Dhivara, Sadasiva and Sisu Isvara-dasa composed another
form called Kavyas or long poems based on themes from Puranas.
The language used by them was plain and simple Oriya.
However, from the turn of
the 18th century, verbally tricky Oriya became the order of
the day. Verbal jugglery, obscenity and eroticism became the
trend of the period between 1700-1850, the most notable poet
being Upendra Bhanja (1670-1720). Other poets turned up in
hordes to imitate him but none could fit into his shoes, with
the exceptions of Bhima-Bhoi and Arakshita Dasa. Family chronicles
in prose and literature relating religious festivals and rituals
also covered a large portion of this period.
The first Oriya printing
typeset was cast in 1836 by the Christian missionaries. The
actual Oriya script closely resembled Bengali and Assamese
scripts but the one adopted for the printed typesets were
completely different, leaning more towards the Tamil script.
Three great poets and prose
writers, Rai Bahadur Radhanatha Ray (1849-1908), Madhusudana
Rao (1853-1912) and Phakiramohana Senapati (1843-1918) settled
in Orissa and made Oriya their own. They brought in a modern
outlook and spirit into Oriya literature. Around the same
time the modern drama took birth in the works of Rama Sankara
Ray beginning with Kanci-Kaveri (1880).
20th writers in Oriya include
Nanda-kisora Bal, Gangadhara Mehera, Chintamani Mahanti and
Kuntala-Kumari Sabat Utkala-bharati (quite tongue-twisting!),
besides Niladri Dasa and Gopabandhu Dasa (1877-1928). The
most notable novelists were Umesa Sarakara, Divyasimha Panigrahi,
Gopala Praharaja and Kalindi Charana Panigrahi. Sachi Kanta
Rauta Ray is the great introducer of the ultra-modern style
in modern Oriya poetry. Others who took up this form were
Godavarisa Mahapatra, Dr Mayadhara Manasimha, Nityananda Mahapatra
and Kunjabihari Dasa. Prabhasa Chandra Satpati is known for
his translations of some western classics apart from Udayanatha
Shadangi, Sunanda Kara and Surendranatha Dwivedi. Criticism,
essays and history also became major lines of writing in the
Oriya language. Esteemed writers in this field were Professor
Girija Shankar Ray, Pandit Vinayaka Misra, Professor Gauri
Kumara Brahma, Jagabandhu Simha and Hare Krushna Mahatab.
Oriya literature mirrors the industrious, peaceful and artistic
image of the Oriya people who have offered and gifted much
to the Indian civilization in the field of art and literature.