Fakir Mohan Senapati: Why It Is Important To Remember This Pillar Of Odia Literature

Fakir Mohan Senapati was born on the day of Makar Sankranti in the year 1843. Makar Sankranti on his birth year, was January 13. His birthday since long , however, is being celebrated on Makar Sankranti.

Fakir Mohan Senapati, regarded as the father of modern Odia literature, dedicated his entire life for the progress of Odia language. He also played a leading role in establishing the distinct identity of Odia language and literature. So, it would not be wrong to say that the story of Fakir Mohan is indeed the story of the “renaissance” in Odia literature.

This line from his first original poem Utkal Bhraman (Tours of Orissa) “When there is the bustle of progress everywhere, will Utkal be still in slumber ?” resonates with Odia nationalism.

The story of how Braja Mohan became Fakir Mohan is quite intriguing. It is a story of faith, which is so relevant to the present times. Born in 1843 at Mallikashpur village of Balasore district, Fakir Mohan afflicted with an unknown disease when he was seven years old. His grandmother Kuchila Dei, prayed hard for his survival and she pledged in a Dargah that if he recovers from the ailment, the boy would be turned a “Fakir” (Muslim mendicant). Miraculously, Braja Mohan recovered and as pledged by his grandmother,  came to be known as Fakir Mohan. Thereafter, he was made a “Fakir” for eight days during Muharram of Ramzan month every year and offered “Simi” at Pir Dargah with whatever he received as alms during that period. He emerged as a novelist of rare calibre not only in Odia language but also in Indian literature.

Senapati’s formal education began only when he was nine years old. Since he could not afford education, he is said to have even worked at his teacher’s house to pay the fee. Later, he got admitted to Mission School at Barabati and went to become a teacher here till 1871. After this, he became headmaster of Christian Mission School where he got in touch with the Collector of Balasore, John Bims. Fakir taught him Odia.

Sadly, this man, known as the father of modern Odia literature has been neglected both by his people and the state. Nothing has been done to keep his memory alive. Looking back, it seems he had a premonition that he would be forgotten, perhaps that is why he built an idol of his own at Mallikashapur village square when he was still alive.

Writers today rue the fact that the man who changed the course of Odia literature has faded from our memory. Unlike Prem Chand and Rabindranath Tagore, his works have neither been promoted nor translated into English.

Calling for the preservation of his works, educationist Abhiram Biswal had said on Fakir Mohan’s 176th birth anniversary last year, “ He was a multi-tasker. Fakir Mohan worked as a child labourer. He ventured into wood and paper business. He worked in press and also as an editor. He was a teacher and served as a diwan. He had experience and expertise in many fields, those reflected in his writings. That’s why preservation of his writings is all-so important.”

Fakir Mohan is best remembered for penning masterpieces like ‘Chha Maana Atha Guntha’ and ‘Lachhama’ (novels), and ‘Rebati’  and ‘Daka Munshi’ (short stories).

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