BHUBANESWAR: Is Odia language dying? Where is its literature heading? Has it kept pace with contemporary regional, national and international languages? Does it reflect Odia society of today?
All these questions were hotly debated at a session on ‘The Word in Odisha: Dead or Alive?’ at the concluding day of Odisha Literary Festival here on Sunday.
Four panelists stressed use of technology to promote Odia language and literature. They were unanimous that Odia literature needs more translation to transcend geographical boundaries and called for a bigger active role by non-residents Odias like Bengalis, Malayalis and Kannadigas do.
Noted litterateur Gourahari Das recalled how linguistic movement gave a new life to Odia language and literature in 1860s.
Legends like Sarala Das and Fakir Mohan Senapati set the era of modern Odia literature by displaying unmatched courage in the face of fierce challenges from Bengali.
Now English poses a new challenge but Odia literature has to expand its scope to remain meaningful, he added.
“One language dies every 14 days. As many as half of world’s 6,000 languages are expected to be extinct by end of this century as communities are abandoning their native tongues in favour of English, French or Spanish,” he added. Odia ranks 37 among these languages and sixth classical language in the country but still facing a threat from its own people and society as Odias do not respect their own language, he said.
Young writer Saqti Mohanty, author of ‘Ardhasatya’ and ‘Casino’, said only a few copies of popular Odia writers sell but demand for English novels is in lakhs. “Lack of quality literature, cinema, music and journalism as well as absence of pride in language and influence of orthodox minds are symptoms of a dying language,” Mohanty said.
“In order to promote the language, Odia needs to be included in Google search engine besides launching of an online course and making it compulsory in private schools,” he suggested.
Noted writer and senior IPS officer Debashis Panigrahy differed and said glorious days of Odia language and literature are not gone. Efforts have to be made to restore it.
“To revive and enrich the language, we must adopt an acculturation strategy involving all art forms including theatre, cinema, music and literature. We must use technology innovatively to advance the cause of promotion of Odia language. Though technology can sustain and stimulate literature, it cannot create literature. The prime job is to motivate youth to read Odia literature and write in the language,” he said.
Artist and author Tarab Khan pointed out Israel showed the way by displaying a strong national will which has revived a dead language like Hebrew.
“Imbibing culture through language, China has promotes theories of Chinese philosopher Confucius in a great way. Tamil Nadu Government provides incentives and subsidies to Tamil writers and publishers. Odisha should take a cue to preserve the language and cultural heritage of the state. Translation and digitisation of Odia literary works and making it accessible are the need of the hour,” said Khan, whose book “Dancing with the clouds” was published recently.
Panigrahy said, it is about time to rebrand Odia language and literature by developing a sense of cultural ownership among Odia people. Odia language must be treated as language of knowledge and science, he opined.