A worn-out princess as I always refer to her as; my motherland precedes a royal history of the Great Kalinga War that lined the path of Buddhism for the mighty and ambitious king Ashoka, the sacrifice of the innocent boy Dharma owing to the creation of the Arka Kshetra: the sun temple of Konark and the unending stories of our beloved lord king Jagannatha and his abode in Puri. Odisha, the Odra Rashtra which also goes by the name of Utkala, Kalinga, this divine land has been ruled by the Mauryans, the Pauravas, the Somavamsi dynasty, and subsequently handed to the Gajapatis. All notable kings of these dynasties have left their relics behind which stories narrate tales of piety and taken pride in their kinsmen. My city of birth, Bhubaneswar (the abode of God) has lived up to the reputation of the Temple City. Growing up here, I know that the umbilical cord attaching me to my home are the secrets crafted on her temple walls. The Lingaraj is a maze where wherever you go you find only Shiva, the Kedar Gauri is a white lotus painted with forbidden love, the Mukteswara is a stage where a dancer aims to attain Moksha, the Rajarani is a union of the divine and human soul, the Ram Mandir is the center where the hunger for architecture exceeds fanaticism.
Odissi which is often considered as the spoken language of my state is instead one of the eight graceful classical dances of India. This dance is not only an ode to the devotion of Odias, it is a culmination of the leelas of the one and only Lord Jagannatha, the centuries of Devadasi ritual, the folk dances of Chhau and Gotipua. Always performed Odissi classical music (another endemic art form), Odissi dance derives its postures from Krishna and its life from gurus like Pankaj Das, Kelucharan Mohapatra, Debaprasad Das, who have established the identity of this artform which now is internationally acclaimed.
No matter how much I try, I can never explain to you the feeling of living in Odisha because the exuberance of running into art forms in every other street and still finding your identity engraved in it is supposed to be inexplicable. Though my roots are from Cuttack and have grown up in Bhubaneswar; the Chandua (Applique art) of Pipili, the pure silk sarees of Brahmapur, the Tarakasi (Silver Filigree) of Cuttack, the Rasagola of Salepur, the Sambalpuri textiles from Sambalpur, the stone utensils of Nilgiri, the handloom culture of Raghurajpur, the Mudi mansa of Baripada, the sand art of Puri; everything feels, tastes and smells like me, like every other Odia. And the Pattachitras (palm leaf paintings) dating back to the 8th century which are still embossed in pages of literature and history books of painting are just reminders that I know only a pinch of the forlorn history of my state.
Odisha became the first state to be formed on a linguistic basis in 1936, even before the independence of India but very few know of the plight of thousands of Odias whose mother tongue was dying at the foot of the British rule, almost engulfed by Bengal. I write this with an aching heart that there was a time when my people went to school and learned everything else except getting to write ‘ଅ’ and ‘ଆ’. We will be forever grateful to the beloved sons of this land, Gopabandhu Das, Madhusudhan Das, and everyone else like them who brought back our crowning glory, our ever astounding language. The sixth classical Indian language has evolved from mouth to mouth, from page to page caught between various eras after its birth from Prakrit but she always clung to her pride even when we managed to do the littlest of things. She was proud when Sarala Das gave her shape on a page, she was proud when Jayadeva gave lines to the eternal love of Radha and Krishna using her primitive soul, she became prouder with every religious book the Panchsakhas wrote, she become prouder than that when she bore poets like Upendra Bhanj, Gangadhar Meher, Radhanath Ray. She advanced into the modern age and bore women like Kuntala Kumari Sabat, Prativa Ray; she gave birth to short stories in the hands of Fakir Mohan Senapati and Surendra Mohanty. She was still proud when legends like Akshaya Mohanty made her into evergreen songs and her novels became movies. And she is still proud of my generation which struggles to find their love tangled with their addiction to English but I bet she smiles every time we laugh and cry because we still feel in our mother tongue.
“Bhakti” by Gangadhar Meher
I will not call Thee an ‘Ocean of Mercy’ O, Lord of all my race! For what but a drop is the boundless sea In Thy infinite Grace? How could I tell, though wrapped in prayer, My little beads of the rosary When Thine is a million stars shimmering fair In effulgent pageantry. Can I be bold as to bow before Thee And take off the dust from Thy feet? When it dazzles and holds the land and sea And the multitudinous world in it. Thou that seest all things and art-wise And read our hearts as we Mayest accept as much of worship as lies In my breast for Thee. Even do I feel my heart is too small To enshrine Thee therein Can a tiny mustard seed hold at all The mighty Himalayas within? Whatever I wish to offer Thee is Thine However humble it is How could I venture worship One With things that are His? Thou art the Lord of all things big and small And Thy praise all-life sing Nothing in this world is mine at all Mine own self including. But what I am and what have With hope, I surrender to Thee O, Merciful! into thy Kingdom of Love Accept and receive me.
“Small and Big” by Kuntala Kumari Sabat
If small not shy at all In case I can grow old, A full-bloomed flower Can not blossom, Only blossoms the bud. Waxing ever to a pleine lune I can not grow more beyond, A full-bloomed flower Can not blossom, Only blossoms the bud…’’
“The Evil Owlet” by Ravi Singh
How prickly is the ride of life Undetected is the path, Breathlessly rowing, I can’t find The destination of the boat. Will the bright star rise at dawn Dispelling the dark night, The misrule of a tyrant monarchy Be overthrown by a fight? No longer will it last Your misrule, Your British rule, in a trice, it will blast The evil owlet- I have sounded at last….
Chithi mora tiki chadhei (ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ)/ My letter is a small bird by Akshaya Mohanty
ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ, ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ ଫୁର କିଣା ଦେଲି ଉଡ଼େଇ ସେଇ ଚଢ଼େଇ , କହିବ ଯାଇ, ସେଇ ଚଢ଼େଇ , କହିବ ଯାଇ ଲେଖିଛି ଯିଏ ଏଇ ଚିଠି ସେ ସେ, ତୋରି ପାଇଁ, ତୋ ପାଇଁ, ତୋରି ପାଇଁ, ତୋ ପାଇଁ ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ, ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ, ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ (My letter is a small bird, My letter is a small bird I made it fly with a little wave of hands That bird, will go and say, That bird, will go and say That the person who has written this letter He, is for you, is for you, is for you only, is for you only My letter is a small bird, My letter is a small bird My letter is a small bird, My letter is a small bird)
ସାଗର ସାଗର ସାଗର ବୁକୁରେ, ଲହଡ଼ି ଯେ ଢେଉ ଢେଉକା ସାଗର ସାଗର ସାଗର ବୁକୁରେ, ଲହଡ଼ି ଯେ ଢେଉ ଢେଉକା ଲହରୀ ଲହରୀ, ଆହରି ବୁକୁରେ, ପାଇଛି ମୁଁ ଶାମୁକା ଶାମୁକା ମୋର ଅତି ନିଜର, ଜାଣେନା ସେ ତ କାହାର ପାଇଁ ସେ, ତୋରି ପାଇଁ, ତୋ ପାଇଁ, ତୋରି ପାଇଁ, ତୋ ପାଇଁ ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ, ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ (In the body of the sea, waves are stacked one after another In the body of the sea, waves are stacked one after another After tolerating wave after wave, I’ve finally found a pearl The pearl is very close to me, she doesn’t know who she is for She, is for you, is for you, is for you only, is for you only My letter is a small bird, My letter is a small bird)
ଶାମୁକା ଶାମୁକା, ଶାମୁକା ଓଠରେ ଶିଶିର ହୋଇଛି ସାଇତା ଶାମୁକା ଶାମୁକା, ଶାମୁକା ଓଠରେ ଶିଶିର ହୋଇଛି ସାଇତା ଜାଣେନା ଜାଣେନା, ଜାଣେନା କେବେ ସେ ଶିଶିର ହେବ ମୁକୁତା ମୋ ମନର ସେଇ ଶିଶିର ମୁକୁତା ହେଲେ କାହାର ପାଇଁ ସେ ଆମ ପାଇଁ, ଆମ ପାଇଁ , ଆମ ପାଇଁ , ଆମ ପାଇଁ ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ, ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ, ଚିଠି ମୋର ଟିକି ଚଢ଼େଇ ଫୁର କିଣା ଦେଲି ଉଡ଼େଇ ସେଇ ଚଢ଼େଇ , କହିବ ଯାଇ, ସେଇ ଚଢ଼େଇ , କହିବ ଯାଇ ଲେଖିଛି ଯିଏ ଏଇ ଚିଠି ସେ ସେ, ତୋରି ପାଇଁ, ତୋ ପାଇଁ, ତୋରି ପାଇଁ, ତୋ ପାଇଁ ସେ, ତୋରି ପାଇଁ, ତୋ ପାଇଁ, ତୋରି ପାଇଁ, ତୋ ପାଇଁ (Conch, Conch, in the lips of the Conch, the winter has been preserved Conch, Conch, in the lips of the Conch, the winter has been preserved He doesn’t know, he doesn’t when that will turn into a pearl The winters of my heart turned into a pearl but for whom? It’s for us, for us, for us, for us My letter is a small bird, My letter is a small bird My letter is a small bird, My letter is a small bird I made it fly with a little wave of hands That bird, will go and say, That bird, will go and say That the person who has written this letter He, is for you, is for you, is for you only, is for you only He, is for you, is for you, is for you only, is for you only)
You see, Odisha is a lot more than “India’s best-kept secret”, the Odisha I see stretches far beyond its folk culture, the Odisha I see is the womb that I was born from and my mother’s existence is too divine to be a secret, my mother’s existence is too divine to not be worshipped.
By Ayushi Rout