BERHAMPUR: She has over a lakh poems and devotional songs to her credit, but Purnamasi Jani has never been to a school. And the 76-year-old tribal poetess, popularly known as Tadisaru Bai in the region, has never repeated any of her poems or songs.
Born in Charipada village under Khajuripada block of Kandhamal district, Purnamasi was married at a young age. In 10 years of her married life, she gave birth to six children but none could survive. To overcome the pain, she chose to lead a devotional life and accompanied some saints to Tadisaru hill near her village for doing 'tapasya'. Years later when she returned to her village, people regarded her as a saint and began calling her Tadisaru Bai. She then started singing devotional songs and writing poems.
“Normally, she remains silent throughout the day but when she meditates, Tadisaru Bai begins singing devotional songs”, said Bikram Jani, a villager. For villagers like him, Purnamasi is no less than god. The poetess earns a living by stitching Sal leaves.
In 1990, her songs and poems came to the notice of some writers who visited the area. They then decided to document her works. Today, around 5,000 of her songs and poems have been recorded by litterateurs and literary societies. Her biography was subsequently written by Dr Surendranath Mohanty and a teacher Duryodhan Pradhan compiled all her songs. The compilations, though, are yet to be published. Several researchers including those in Ravenshaw university have done their PhDs on her work and life.