Of all the North Indian languages, Oriya happens to be the least affected by Perso-Arabic influence and is nearest to the original Sanskrit. Though some scolars trace the origin of Oriya literature to the 9th century A.D., the language flows in a regular stream of poetry only by the 13th century.
In the initial four hundred years, we notice a reflection of different religious faiths, Buddhism, Saivism, Shaktism and Vaishnavism. We also find a considerable amount of folk literature. Sarala Das of the 14th century is the Vyasa of Oriya literature. His real name was Sidheswar Parida, but he adopted the name as he considered himself the Das (servant) of the deity Sarala Devi. The quality and fervor of his devotion is exemplified in the manner in which he has adapted the Mahabharata. His Vilanka Ramayana and Chandipurana are also well known. . Sarala Das is followed by a group of scholar poets who deliberately eschewed in Sanskrit and wrote in simple Oriya to serve the masses. They are Balarama Das (Oriya Ramayana and Mahabharata), Jagannatha Das (Bhagabata Purana), Anant Das, Yosowant Das and Achyutanand Das.
About the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th, the influence of Chaitanya and Jayadeva changed the pattern of versification in Oriya. Upendra Bhanja is the most outstanding poet of this emphasis. For erotic description and play of words, Upendra is specially noted. Vaishnavism propagated by the Chaitanya school produced welcome results in literature. The lyrical poet Baladeva Rath , Dinakrishna Das and Bhaktacharan Das are other outstanding poets. Later in period of time we may remember the lyrical singer Gopal Krishna and the blind poet Bhima Bhoi.
Prose was practically born in the British period, and it developed with amazing rapidity. Poetry found new ways of expression and new themes covering political, social and patriotic sentiments were handled by poets, novelists and playwrights.
In modern Oriya literature the brightest star is Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843-1918). He was poet, novelist, administrator, social reformer, printer, businessman and patriot all rolled into one. Strange to say, he had only two years of formal education. He undertook literal translation of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata into Oriya. His collection of stories and a novel Chaman Atha Guntha are particularly well known. This novel is a masterpiece of realistic fiction, depicting the victimization of innocent weavers.
Next to Senapati, comes poet Radha Nath whose magnum opus is a epic Mahayatra written in blank verse on Miltonic lines. Other distinguished poets of the modern period are Gopa Bandhu Das, Baikunth Nath Patnaik, Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, Mayadhar Mansinha and Guruprasad Mohanty. Kalindi Charan Panigrahi's Matira Manisa and Gopinath Mohanty's Amritara Santan (sons of nectar) have been translated into other languages. Mohanty has specialized in dealing with tribal life. His Mati Matala (the fertile soil, 1964) has won him Jnanpith award. Among the outstanding playwrights we may mention the names of Manoranjan Das, Bijaya Kumar Mishra and Biswijit Das.
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