Ganakabi's works come alive on Kumar Purnima
All arrangements are in place for the week-long birth anniversary celebration of Ganakabi Baishnab Pani to begin at his birthplace at Kothapada, a remote village situated on the banks of river Birupa, here on the occasion of Kumar Purnima on Friday.
Pani is remembered mostly for his contribution to Odia dance-drama. Sadly, Ganakabi's enormous talent was recognised only after his death. Hordes of people from various places visited Kothapada to pay floral tributes to the poet. The celebration is being observed not only in Kothapada but also every part of Mahanga and even in adjacent Salepur and Nischintakoili blocks. Literary and cultural activities have been lined up as part of celebration in the poet's memory.
An integral part of the celebration is the staging of Pani's dance-dramas. Pani was born to a poor Brahmin Sudarsan Pani of Kothapada village in 1882.
Satrughna, as he was named by his parents, was an ailing child. Unable to afford his treatment, his parents dedicated him to great banyan tree of Matha Bada Chhata in Puri for his well-being and changed his name from Satrughna to Baishnab.
Pani was encouraged to study by Bholanath Mishra, the then headmaster of Kothapada Middle English School. However, poverty forced him to drop out while he was in Class VII. But gifted as he was, Pani became a popular 'pala gayak'.
Besides Odia literature, Pani had grasp over Sanskrit grammar and literature. Following his second marriage to a washerman's daughter, Pani was ostracised by the conservative society at that time. But he never repented for it. Pani went on to form his own opera troupe and toured Kolkata and Jamshedpur where he performed and challenged stalwarts like Gopal Das, Mohan Goswami, Krishna Prasad Basu and Bala Krishna Mohanty. His plays were appreciated not just in Odisha but in West Bengal too. He became popular as Ganakabi (people's poet).
At the age of 21, Pani wrote his first dance-drama ‘Meghanada Badha’. Between 1903 and 1940, he wrote about 600 dance-dramas. Pani’s literary works were not only based on mythology but also touched contemporary social, political and economic issues. Pani was not only a litterateur but also a director and a music composer. The music composed by him is popularly known as 'Pani Music'. His dance-dramas like 'Susila Malati', 'Bijay Basanta' and 'Ambuja Mani' are considered masterpieces. The apt blending of humour and pathos distinguishes Pani’s plays from those being produced today. Krishna Chandra Dash, a science teacher who has been acting in Pani’s dance-dramas for the last 16 years, says the charm in Pani's works lies in the simple use of Odia literature and his music.
Though the Information and Public Relation Department has produced a documentary on Pani, the State Government is yet to take initiative to popularise his works. Locals feel that the government should set up a museum where Pani's manuscripts and other daily-use articles can be preserved for posterity.