Abstract: The last half of the nineteenth century in Odisha witnessed the rise of numerous periodicals, journals, and newspapers which bore the trends, issues, strife, and conflict in the society. The emergence of periodicals and journals fuelled the demand for short literary writings. The literary form best suited for the situation was the essay. Writers in late nineteenth century Odisha rose to the demand and fuelled it with essays on range of topics ranging from personal reflection to social satire. The present paper aims to trace the genealogy of the essay as a literary form in Odisha. The study will be of the nature of bibliographical study in order to form a tentative history of the origin and development of the essay as a literary form in Odisha. The paper will undertake a critical survey some major Odia essayists like Radhanath Ray, Saibhusan Ray, Biswanath Kar, and Gopal Chandra Praharaj and their major essays.
Bio First Author: Abhisek Upadhyay is a PhD scholar in the PG Department of English, Utkal University, Odisha. His interests lie in Comparative Literature, Bhasa Literatures, and Indian English Literature.
Bio Second Author: Shiba Sundar Raut is a PhD scholar in the PG Department of English, Utkal University, Odisha. He is currently working on the Geneology of the Essay in Odisha.
Keywords: genology, comparative literature, essay, literary history, Odia literature
The Geneology of the “Essay” in Odisha The last half of the nineteenth century Odisha witnessed the rise of numerous periodicals, journals, and newspapers which bore the trends, issues, strife, and conflict in the society. They were the chief medium of expression of the intellectuals of the time. The role of journals and periodicals were very crucial for Odia essay writing, as most of the essays were published in them. The name of some major periodicals which published essays at that time are Utkal Deepika(1866), Baleswar Sambadabahika(1868), Utkal Darpan(1873), Utkal Madhupa(1878), Pradeepa( 1885), Nabasambad(1886), Sambalpur Hiteisini(1889), Utkal Prabha(1891), Utkal Sahitya(1897). In order to understand the emergence of this literary form in Odisha, it is necessary to analyze the essays published in the newspapers and journals of the last half of the nineteenth century. The present paper will be of the nature of a bibliographical study in order to form a tentative history of the origin and development of the essay as a form in Odisha. The paper will undertake a critical survey some major Odia essayists like Radhanath Ray, Saibhusan Ray, Biswanath Kar, and Gopal Chandra Praharaj and their major essays.
Radhanath Ray (1848-1908)
He started his career as a teacher and became a school inspector. He knew English, Bengali as well as Sanskrit. Though he initially wrote in Bengali, he switched to Odia later on. He was the first Odia essayist and his essay “Bibeki,” which was published in Utkal Darpan in 1873, is arguably the first essay written in Odia. This long essay deals with the principles, ethics and ideals of human life. The essay begins with the rhetorical question: “Who will measure what sufferings, difficulties and scarcities that a man faces?” (Translation ours) In this essay, Radhanath Ray provides ways which can provide strength and solace to a man in such situations in life. This essay aims to establish people’s faith in principles and ideals. Ray expresses kindness and sympathy for the miseries of human existence. The essay is similar in many ways to essays like “Imitation of the Christ” in English, Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditation” in Italian, and ”Bhaktiyoga” by Aswin Kumar Dutta in Bengali, though it is difficult to establish whether Ray was directly influenced by any of these works.
The essay “Bibeki” can be thematically divided into four parts. In the first part, Ray has showed the ideal path for man after discussing the sorrows and suffering of the material world. In the second part, he talks about hubris in human beings. In the third part, he discusses the immaturity on the part of human beings. He classifies immaturity into “physical immaturity, “mental immaturity”, “moral immaturity”, and “compositional immaturity”. In the fourth part, he advises how to cope with the sorrows and sufferings of the world. The essay posits that if the strong can show kindness to the weak, then the sorrow and sufferings of humanity can be alleviated. The essay is of the likeness of a sermon given in order to make man forget all his sorrows and sufferings. The essay concludes that by bearing a strong heart, determination and cheerfulness, we can move away all sorrows from our life.
A perusal of the essay “Bibeki” brings back the memories of the essays of Bacon and Emerson in the west. Radhanath’s ideas are very much similar with the naturalistic and practical philosophy of Bacon. The study of the essay “Bibeki” reveals a reception of Bacon in Radhanath Ray. The essay displays erudite learning, sharp intellect, ideal thought and broad humanitarianism like Bacon. In terms of style too there is a lot of similarity as the essay makes abundant use of sanskritised words, long sentences, and archaic words.
Sasibhusan Ray The name of Sasibhusan Ray stands prominent in the history of Odia essays. His originality, pantheism, humanitarianism and love for culture have added a new chapter in the Odia literature. Rich in output, his essays bear the imprint of much experience and style of representation. Till the mid twentieth century, he ruled the realm of Odia essay by writing profusely in different magazines and periodicals. His essays have not been compiled together till date.
He was greatly influenced and inspired by his father Radhanath Ray from his early childhood. At the tender age of four, his father used to take him to the river Kathajodi and showed him different mountains. Besides this, he regularly taught him some essential human values such as liberalism, kindness, and forgiveness. Everyday he advised him that service to human beings is the most important duty of all. His father advised him to build relationship with all sections of people in the society. He also made him habituate with different festive rites from the early childhood. He gained great experience of life by attending different social festivals.
Sasibhusan, at first, tried his hand at writing in English. Later, he devoted himself for writing essays in Odia. His essays were published in different magazines such as “ Utkal Sahitya” , “ Mukura”, “ Nababharata”, “Shankha”, “ Jhankara” etc. In 1896, he published his essay collection “Dakhinatya Brahmana”. Apart from this he has penned some important essays on nature, problems of education, philosophy, general knowledge, literature like Aryarbarta Darshana (1911), and Pitrusmruti(1912).
In these essays he delves deep into different facets of human life. Some of his essays are based on experience of nature, reminiscences, education, ethical, philosophical, social, historical, and spiritual theme. His three books “Utkalara Rutuchitra”, “Utkal Prakruti,” “Palli” display Sasibhusan’s sincerity towards national integrity and deep love for nature in Odisha. His “Utkalara Rutuchitra” alludes to “Rutusamhara’’ by Kalidas. Kalidas’s “Rutusamhara’’ deals with love in nature where as “Utkalara Rutuchitra” is a work that deals with social life of people in Odisha. This book depicts different facts about different festivals of varied seasons, car festival and social life of Odisha.
The book ”Palli” stands conspicuous for its description of the serene beauty of rustic life. He also wrote essays cherishing the memories of deceased members of his kith and kin. In the essay “Pitrusmruti”, he shows his profound love for his father. In “Sri Ramachandra Bhanjadev”,, he reflects his concern for the premature death of his acquaintances and friends; whereas in “Vivekananda Smruti,” he expresses is admiration and devotion to the great modern sage, Swami Vivekananda.
Biswanath Kar (1684-1934)
Two essay collections which stand out in the history of Odia essay are Madusudan’s “Prabandhamala” and Biswanath Kar’s “Bibidha Prabandhamala.” Biswanath Kar’s essays stand out for their argumentative style. Most of his essays reveal his objectivity of judgment and his critical bent of mind. Biswanath Kar was a great orator of his time. His speeches were known for earnestness to bring a change and reformation in society. He not only possessed the ability for minute observation, but also had deep insight which is observed in his essays such as “Anantaprema” and “Mahashrota”. In his essays Biswanath Kar, tried to bring a reformation in the society as per the need of the time. In order to awaken the people from their deep slumber, he has expressed his revolutionary ideas in some essays like “Stree-Sikhya”, “Rakshasilila”. In “Rakshasilila” he describesthe ill-effects of sura (alcohol) and barangana(prostitute). He has criticized the men who have been distracted by these two demons and that such people ruin the society.
The endeavor put forward by Biswanath Kar to eradicate superstition and bad practices for the welfare of the society, is known from his strong views on female education, for which he wrote the essay “ Stree Sikshya.” “Swadhinata” is another of his essay in the collection “Bibidha Prabandha.” In this essay, Kar expresses the view that before trying to achieve political freedom we must strive for freedom from senses. In the essay “Bibekara Swadhinata” he highlights the significance of the freedom of conscience from selfish ends and in “Atmasanmanbodha” he posits that personal self-esteem is a pre-requisite for political freedom.
Gopal Chandra Praharaj(1864-1946)
A penetrating social insight is the hallmark of the essays of Praharaj. Praharaj’s use of satire and irony to expose the evils of the society shows influence of Fakir Mohan Senapati. “Bhagabat Tungire Sandhya,””Bai Mohanty Panji,””‘Mem Sahebanka,””‘Rojanamocha Ba DuniaraHalachal,””Nanaka Bastani,””‘Ama Gharara Halchal” are some of numerous essays he contributed to periodicals and journals of his day. The tradition of satirical writing heralded by Fakir Mohan in Chha Mana Atha Guntha finds its full flowering in the writing of Praharaj. Apart from Fakir Mohan, Praharaj shows direct influence of the American essayists Oliver Windel Holmes. For example, the inspiration for Praharaj’s ‘Bhagabat Tungire Sandhya’ is Holmes’ “Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.” Praharaj holds the distinction of writing satiric essays among all the essayists of his time. So much so that, Mayadhara Mansingh, in his History of Oriya Literature, crowns Praharaj as the greatest satirist in Odia literature.
Though the essay as a literary is foreign to Odisha, it was readily assimilated in the Odia literary tradition due to the English education introduced by the British Government, rise in literacy and the innate openness of Odia culture to foreign influences. The emergence of periodicals and journals fuelled the demand for essays. Writers in late nineteenth century Odisha rose to the demand and fuelled it with essays on range of topics ranging from personal reflection to social satire. The most significant aspect of the genealogy of the essay in Odisha is that the Odia essayists drew inspiration from both foreign as well as indigenous literary resources.
Works Cited Dash, Gourang Charan. Praharaj Granthabali: Gopal Chandra Praharaj. Cuttack: Vidyapuri, 2006.Vol.I.Print.