Makers of Modern Odisha: Fakir Mohan Senapati

Born on January 14, 1843, at Mallikashpur in Balasore. Father, Laxman Charan Senapati and mother Tulsi Devi. He played a leading role in establishing the distinct identity of Oriya language and literature. Fakirmohan Senapati is regarded as the father of Oriya nationalism and the modern Oriya literature. He dedicated his life for the progress of Oriya language in the later 19th and early 20th century. The story of Fakirmohan is indeed the story of the “Renaissance” of Oriya literature. Besides he was a social reformer and educator who used his pen to criticize and correct the aberrations prevalent in the society. He is called the father of Oriya fiction.

He is aptly called as Thomas Hardy of Orissa. The four novels of Fakirmohan, written between 1897 and 1915, reflect the socio-cultural conditions of Orissa during the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. While the three novels, Chhamana Atha Guntha, Mamun and Prayaschita explore the realities of social life in its multiple dimensions. Lachhma is a historical romance dealing with the anarchical conditions of Orissa in the wake of Maratha invasions during the eighteenth century. He has written quite a few memorable short stories, such as ‘Rebati’, ‘Patent Medicine’ and ‘Randipua Ananta’. Fakir Mohan is also the writer of the first autobiography in Oriya, ‘ Atma Jeevan Charita’ .

Fakir Mohan’s first original poem ‘ Utkala Bhramanam’ (Tours of Orissa) appeared in 1892. It is not really a travel book but rather an unusual and humorous survey of the contemporary personalities prominent in the then public life of Orissa. His other original poems published are Puspamala (The Garland), Upahar (Gift), Puja Phula (Flowers of Worship), Prarthana (Prayer) and Dhuli (Dustgrains). Fakir Mohan Senapati translated single-handedly the whole of the ‘ Ramayana’ and the ‘ Mahabharat’. For having translated both the ‘ Ramayan’ and the ‘ Mahabharat’ single-handed and his wide versatility in the word of letters, he is popularly known as ‘ Vyasakabi’ in Orissa. He was also conferred the title ‘ Saraswati’ by the king of Bamra, the then feudal state. A great lover and a creator of new era in Oriya literature he was the founder of an organization called ‘ Utkala Bhasa Unnati Bidhani Sabha’, which was started in 1867 to create a new awareness among the people of Orissa and to propagate Oriya language. Died on June 14, 1918.

Source: Odisha Review November 2018