‘Language, literature and region form the triad of nationalism’

The Odia language movement reached its pinnacle when in 2014 it received the honour of a classical language status.

Published: 24th September 2023 07:56 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2023 07:56 AM   |  A+A-

Students checking out books at the stall set up at the venue and a section of the audience at Odisha Literary Festival 2023 at Bhubaneswar | DEBADATTA MALLICK / Shamim Qureshy

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: Language, literature and region constituted the triad of nationalism. It is the language issue that led to the emergence of the concept of Odia nationalism in the second half of the 19th century making Odisha the first state to be formed on the basis of language, said speakers at Odisha Literary Festival here on Saturday.

Speaking at a session on ‘Odisha and India: Nationalism in Odia Literature’, historian and author Nivedita Mohanty said though language is used for communication, it also carries cultural values and leads to social and educational reforms. “The linguistic movement did not end its journey by establishing the independence of the Odia language. It led to the ambition of a regenerated Odisha. Unless the state is developed on all fronts, prosperous and economically stable, the identity will not survive,” she said.

The Odia language movement reached its pinnacle when in 2014 it received the honour of a classical language status. It was a long and glorious journey from the year 1868 when it had faced the threat of obliteration, she said.

“As the language goes through a process of assimilation and rejection, one has to be careful that such a process does not destroy the strength of the language. The Adivasis should be supported to preserve and promote their language which will protect their history and culture. It should be the focus of the language movement as it would retain our unique diversity,” Mohanty added.

(L to R) Gourahari Das, Abhiram Biswal, Nivedita Mohanty, Sampad Patnaik | Express

Corroborating her, essayist and culture critic Abhiram Biswal said the real essence of nationalism is widely reflected in the writings of many iconic Odia writers, including Fakir Mohan Senapati, Madhusudan Das, Gopabandhu Das and Sarala Devi. Their ideas of nationalism were loaded with progressive notions of country and province and were not unmindful of enlightened humanism and cosmopolitanism raising questions of identity, ideology, autonomy and solidarity, he said.

“Gopabandhu and Madhusudan did not see Odia nationalism and Indian nationalism as contradictory. They viewed the two as complimentary. For the two, one could be global, Indian and Odia at the same time without injuring the project of nationalism. Nationalism in Odia literature has been historically secular, inclusive, pluralist, humanist and broadminded,” Biswal said.

Well-known writer and editor Gourahari Das said during the language movement Odias were battling three wars - against the zamindars for their existence, against the Bengal rulers for independent state and the Britishers to make the country independent.

Highlighting the writings of illustrious litterateurs like Godabarisha Mahapatra and Banchhanidhi Mohanty, he said, “Odia literature that flourished during the period was full with the flavour of nationalism. A Russian author had once said a great poet is the second government of a country. No government tolerates any adverse opinion. Despite this, the literature continues to flourish,” he added.       The session was moderated by scholar and journalist Sampad Patnaik.

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