Personalities of Odisha – Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja
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Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja was born in 1670 (opinions differ between 1670 and 1688) at a small village Kulada near Ghumusara town of Odisha. Born in a royal family of Odisha , Upendra Bhanja had never eyed for throne. He rendered his full service to the Odia language and Odia literature by writing many kavyas and poets in the language Odia. 

Personalities of Odisha – Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja – The artwork by Saswat Debadutta

He got married with the sister of the king of Nayagarh. Then he again married the daughter of the king of Banapur who she was his second wife. His grandfather King Dhananjaya Bhanja wrote “Raghunath Bilash” and “Ratna Manjari” which were popularly known as “The Ramayana” and “A poetical romance”.

His father King Nilakantha Bhanja ruled the princely state but unlike his grandfather and father, he preferred his entire life to poetry rather than to ruling over a kingdom. He had a thorough training in Sanskrit classical literature and mastered Sanskrit dictionaries such as ‘Amara Kosha’, ‘Trikanda Kosha’ and ‘Medini Kosha’.

 Upendra Bhanja wrote in the last decade of seventeenth andthe early decades of eighteenth century and championed a style of poetry called ‘ Reeti’ in Sanskritpoetics. Though many poets in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries wrote in reeti style, UpendraBhanja is decided by the greatest of them all. Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja is known for his gift for lyricism and ornamental use ofwords. He had got the power of poet from God Rama ,for this reason, he has written
‘ତାରକ ମନ୍ତ୍ର ପରସାଦେ ,ମୋହର କବିପଣ ଉଦେ’

Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja wrote more than 50 books in which only 25 books are available now that described about the culture and various poets in Odia. Many hand written articles of Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja had lost due to the absence of printing press on those days. The “Baideheesha Bilasha”, “Subhadra-Parinya” and “Chitrakavya-Bondodhya” “Labanyabati”, “Rasalila”, “Brajaleela”, “Koti Brahmanda Sundari”,”Premasudhanidhi”, “Rasikaharabali”, “Kala Koutuka”, “Satisha bilasa”, “Damayanti BiLasa” and “Padmabati Parinaya” are the famous kavyas which were written by Kabi Samrat . The “Rasapanchaka” was the first published work of Kabi Samrat.

The “Geeta Abhidhan” was written by Kabi Samrat which added more value to the Odia literature. The title “Kabi samrat” was given by Mahendra Patnaik in 19th century in his poet. Upendra Bhanja had been entitled as “Bira Bara” in earlier as admitted by hum in his kavyas such as Baidehisha Bilasa, Subhadra Parinaya, etc.
“ବୀରବର ପଦ ଉପଇନ୍ଦ୍ର ମୋର ନାମ ।ବାରେ ବାରେ ସେବାରେ ମନାଇଁ ସୀତାରାମ ।”
The king of Nayagarh has named him Kabi Birabara. He contributed more than 35,000 words in various poets and kavyas for the Odia language and literature. He used separate distinguishable style of writing in his poets and kavyas.

The role of Upendra Bhanja can not be denied during the Riti Yuga period of Odia Literature. Without him the odia literature is incomplete. Even Utkalmani Gopabandhu Dash written in ‘Abakash Chinta’ in respect of Kabi Samrat’s poetry

“ହେ କବିଶେଖର, ଭଞ୍ଜ ବୀରବରକୋଟି ଉତ୍କଳ ସନ୍ତାନେ ,

ଆଜି ନବଯୁଗେ ,

ଧନ୍ୟ ଧନ୍ୟବାଦ କରୁଛନ୍ତିତୁମ୍ଭ ନାମେ,

ଗାଏ ତୁମ୍ଭ ଗୀତ ସଭାରେ ପଣ୍ଡିତ ,

ପଥପ୍ରାନ୍ତେ ହୃଷ୍ଟମନାବିଲେ ବୋଲେ ଚଷା ,

ଅନ୍ତପୁରେ ଯୋଷାନୃତ୍ୟାଙ୍ଗନେ ବାରାଙ୍ଗାନା”

The first Ph.D thesis on Bhanja was submitted by Dr. Satyanarayan Acharya, the First Researcher on Upendra Bhanja, in the year 1978 under UGC sponsorship. Consequently, in the year 1988 Dr. Abhimanyu Baral submitted the thesis “Odia reetikabya paramparare Baidehisha Bilasa” to Utkal University, Bhubaneswar.
The town of Bhanjanagar near Silk City Berhampur is named after him.

References : Orissadiary, ଉତ୍କଳ ପ୍ରସଙ୍ଗ ,History of Oriya Literature: Publisher, Sahitya Akademi, Delhi, eminent literacy luminaries of orissa Wikipedia

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A P Subhakanta Samal

By A P Subhakanta Samal

Teacher, Proud Odia. Passionate about History and heritages of Odisha. Founder and Chief editor of Shubhdristi (ଶୁଭଦୃଷ୍ଟି), A bi-monthly Odia e magazine and literature portal.